I stood in the foyer of a swanky highrise in the middle of Olympus, dressed in an all-black Valentino two-piece suit. After what felt like months of planning this ridiculous reality show, Love Me or Love Me Not was about to start. I cursed Eros’s name over and over. I should have said no. I’m not ready for this. A camera crew surrounded me at a respectable distance, not wanting to encroach upon any would-be first impressions. I paced on the spot, waiting for the first car of eligible bachelorettes. My mind raced over all the reasons I shouldn’t be doing this dating show, but only one reason stuck out in my head as to why I should. Atë wasn’t coming back. She was in Tartarus for the rest of time, and more importantly, she didn’t want me. If anything, this show would act as a distraction.
As the first car pulled up, my shadows went on high alert. They formed a wall, protecting me from the unknown. The producers ran through their expectations for the show with me repeatedly. The first girl would come out of the car, introduce herself, and head to the penthouse suite. For the next few weeks, this would be a home base for the bachelorettes.
They tried convincing me to stay there too, but I put my foot down. I needed my own space. I needed to be away from the show and the lights. Besides that, I wasn’t alone anymore. There was someone, something else, in my life I now had to take care of. Ebhot, Atë’s imp, had been living with me for the past few weeks. It took some getting used to, and to be perfectly honest, he was a pain in my ass most days. But it was the only physical thing I had left of her. After all that I had done, caring for him was the least that I could do.
A producer off-camera cleared his throat, bringing me back to the present.
The first woman to exit from the town car had me gasping for breath. I looked from her to the producer off-camera, who wore a crooked smile. The woman had long lanky legs, but was not nearly as tall as the real Nyx. Her honey-gold hair was tossed over one shoulder. Her dark complexion striking against the cream-colored evening gown. This mortal was striking, but her beauty was nothing compared to the real thing, and the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth. I shot another quick glance off-camera. The producer seemed pleased with his little surprise. Fucking mortals, when this was over, I would have to remember to wreak a little chaos of my own. She walked across the pavement, smiling. Her blue eyes sparkled as she said, “Hello.”
I rolled my shoulders back, taking a deep breath. “Good evening.”
She leaned in, giving me a hug. “How are you?” she said, taking a slight step back. I could hear her heart hammering in her chest.
“I’m okay.” Little nervous. I wasn’t about to admit it. “What’s your name?”
“Dahlia,” she smiled, then batted her eyelashes at me.
“It’s nice to meet you.”
“I hear you’re the King of Dark Places?”
My brow rose at her comment, I didn’t say anything, allowing her to finish her train of thought.
“I would love to see what you have hidden in your dark spaces,” she said, winking at me.
I laughed nervously, unsure of how to respond. Then with the sudden realization, the cameras were still rolling, and the producers were looking for great television, I decided to jump into this awkward role they had forced me into. Leaning close to her, I smiled slyly. “Those are for when people have been really bad.”
Dahlia bit her lip before pursing her lips. She held out her hand. Inside, my stomach twisted in knots, unsure if I could really pull this sham off. I raised her hand to my lips, kissing it softly. “I’ll see you inside.”
Once Dahlia passed through the door, the next bachelorette exited the car.
This mortal woman didn’t look like the youngest bachelorette. In fact, in the older days of mortals, she would be known as a spinster. She was beautiful, but I was surprised that the show would pick someone who was considered older by mortal standards. That’s a joke. I’m the oldest one here. Her blonde hair was pulled back. She was mature, confident, and elegant. My fake smile still plastered across my face, I greeted her, “Good evening.”
She spoke without pause. “Good evening, Erebus. My name is Clare. I’m excited to be here, excited to make a match with you. I know that we will have lots in common. You and I have lots to talk about. I’ll see you inside.” She leaned forward, kissing me on the cheek before stalking off towards the door.
I watched her walk away without blinking. She was someone who clearly knew what she was looking for. She’s going to be disappointed. I sighed deeply before looking back at the car, waiting for the next bachelorette. This process repeated several times, meeting one bachelorette after the next. None of them brought any spark or hope of interest. I ran over the names and something about each of the women from the first car to remind myself of everyone’s names. Fourteen women would be a lot to juggle, considering I was only ever used to one. However, I had kept track of a lot of children. There was Dahlia, the Nyx look alike; Clare, older and confident; Demi, spunky and loud; Jaimie, brazen; Ashley, beautiful and shy; and Hannah, a big smile with an American southern accent.
The second town car was supposed to enter, but instead, a flashy red sports car pulled up. I was surprised at who was behind the wheel. Medusa stepped out in her gorgon form, snakes writhing around her head. This could be interesting.
She paused next to the low-riding European-looking vehicle and straightened herself out. She wore red heels that matched the color of the car. It had been decades since I had seen her.
“Hello, Erebus,” she said with her head lowered, keeping her eyes averted as she walked up to me.
“Well, this is a surprise.”
“For me, too. I’ve never done anything like this before.” Her snakes seemed to calm a little as she looked up, careful to keep her eyes locked on me.
“Me either, in all my years on Earth, I can safely say, this is new and will go down in the books.” I smirked.
Medusa transformed in front of me. Instantaneously, no longer in gorgon form, but her snakes remained. I gave a nod to them and looked suspiciously at the producer off-camera before laughing to myself. He looked terrified.
“Well, welcome to Love Me or Love Me Not,” I said, smiling at Medusa, now in her human form, all but her snakes that is.
She looked nervous and more out of her element than I felt. I wanted to say more, but I was supposed to keep the introductions sweet and short. Chatter was to be left for upstairs at the cocktail party. “I look forward to catching up with you upstairs.” We smiled at each other with some form of familiarity, before she continued to the penthouse suite. Oh, what I would give to see the mortal faces when she walked through the door.
Before the next car came, the cameras stopped filming, and the producer and a stylist came from off-screen. The stylist had a lint roller in hand and started tending to my jacket while the producer spoke.
“Great—great, wonderful!” He shifted on his feet.
He was full of shit. I knew when I was being lied to. I glanced over his shoulder for the next car, but it wasn’t there. What was going on? The producer looked nervous speaking with me. I was told, the host of the show, Harrison usually dealt with the Bachelor. But for whatever reason, he was keeping his distance from me at the moment. Maybe he didn’t like immortals? I couldn’t care less. I had been dealing with the producers this whole time. Why change now?
“So, we’ve gone over the rules…”
“Ah, yes, THE RULES.”
He droned on, reminding me of my signed contract about immortal behavior and how they wanted it kept at a minimum. Where’s the fun in that? I guess Medusa’s arrival had put them on edge. I couldn’t understand how they didn’t know she was coming onto the show, though? I would have to ask her about it later.
“A little fun is exciting, but let’s not get carried away with the theatrics. There’s enough drama between the women. We don’t need to add anything.”
I rolled my eyes at him and patted him on the shoulder, patronizing him. “Okay, Chuck. Whatever you say.”
The next car rolled up, and the next group of ladies exited one by one. I repeated my memorization technique. Gigi Hades, a hot model with a horrible last name; Corrine Olympiopopis, can you get any more Greek with a last name like that? It wouldn’t be hard to remember her. The next two girls were twins, Emma and Harley, both blonde cheerleader types, the complete opposite of what interested me, although I have heard opposites attract. I’ll just call the last two women, Brunette One and Two. I couldn’t see myself with anyone here. This was a waste of time, but dating these days was so unconventional. Maybe I was wrong about the first impressions. Fat chance. At least after speaking with Medusa, I felt some mild comfort knowing I wasn’t the only immortal around. Consorting with all these mortals would make me want to climb the walls.
I looked around. The cameras were still rolling, and yet the last car had rolled away. I waited for something to happen, and then I saw her. I blinked twice and even rubbed my eyes. I couldn’t believe what I saw. She wore a crimson red, skin-tight, low-cut dress. I had never seen anything like it before. Two complimentary slits trailed up both legs to her hips, a strip of crimson material slid in between her legs as she walked forward on three-inch gold heels that could rip anyone’s throat open. The rest of the dress flowed behind her. Her black hair was in long, loose waves draped over her shoulder. She looked magnificent. My heart hammered in my chest, the world as I knew it came to an abrupt halt. As she got closer and closer, I felt myself gasp for air. How did she get out? That’s not possible? My eyes truly focused on the woman approaching me. For one brief moment, I had hoped, but I knew better. My heart sank.
“Hello.” The stranger gave me a great big smile.
I turned it on again, not only for the cameras but for this beautiful look-alike as well. “Hello,” I managed.
Her confidence radiated from her. “I’m here. The waiting is over.”
The wind blew her hair back, showing her bare collarbone and milky skin. I had to steady myself. Even if she wasn’t the real thing, her presence was a reminder of the unrequited love that I was now running from at full tilt.
“And what’s your name?”
She flipped her hair back onto her shoulder, smiling. “Amy.” She rested a hand on her tall, slim frame and gently twisted her hips back and forth. “Ready to get this party started?”