“You’re saying that’s not a bookstore then?”
“You’ll see.” Hadrian took my hand as we started walking. He opened the door for me, and I stepped inside…and well, it was just as he said. I did see, and what I saw was…breathtaking. This was indeed the furthest thing from a bookstore, and I felt myself trembling at the sheer wonder of it.
A rugged outline of mountains surrounded us, and above it was a sky painted in the most wonderful blend of purples and blues, on which streaks of light, silvery bright like Hadrian’s eyes, zoomed, swirled, and danced like an endless display of fireworks. It took a while for the truth to sink in, and when I realized I was looking at a sky full of shooting stars, I knew right away we had somehow entered another world.
I turned to Hadrian and saw him watching me with veiled eyes. “Where are we?”
“My home.” His voice was soft, and despite the slight smile still playing over his lips, he also appeared absolutely serious.
“You live here? For real?”
My lips pursed. “That depends. Can I live here, too?”
“If you want to.”
I closed the distance between us and smiled up at him. “Then I love it.”
His gaze gleamed. “Good.” And then he took my hand in his, and we started walking down an unmarked road.
“Where are we going?”
“To see the rest of my home.”
A cave waited at the end of the road, and my brows furrowed when I felt hot air steaming out of its shadowy entrance.
His grip tightened as we took a step inside the cave. “Ready?”
“Ready for what?”
“This.” It was as if an invisible hand had swept the darkness out, and light had come swooshing into the cave…in the fiery shades of an inferno. The air was crackling hot, sparks of electricity literally bursting in random little pockets, and I had a feeling the only reason I wasn’t dying of heat exposure was because I was already, well, dead.
The walls of the cave were made up of glowing hot lava, and so was its domed ceiling. Even its floor was made of moving, molten rock, and my heart was already in my throat, waiting for that moment Hadrian and I would suddenly find ourselves falling into a whirlpool of brimstone. But we didn’t.
I turned to Hadrian, whose handsome face remained unreadable.
“Where exactly are we?” I asked hoarsely. “And don’t just say it’s home.”
“Where do you think we are?”
Hell, I thought right away. And if this place that looked like Hell was his home…
“H-Hadrian…” I swallowed hard. “Please don’t tell me…”
He frowned. “What?”
“Are you the Devil?”
Hadrian appeared torn between disbelief and exasperation. “That’s your conclusion?”
“What else is there to think when this is Hell?” I wailed.
Hadrian looked pained. “Underworld, Saoirse. We’ve already talked about this before. This is the Underworld.”
A sigh of relief escaped me, and when I saw Hadrian roll his eyes, I said defensively, “I didn’t grow up Greek, okay? 9 out of 10 people would take a look at this place and think the same thing.”
Not in the mood to hear Hadrian use logic to prove me wrong, I quickly interrupted him with a change of subject. “Are you allowed to bring me here? Wouldn’t your boss get mad?”
And after that, he simply looked at me, and I found myself looking back at him while the craziest ideas started preying on my mind. If he was…then that meant…which was why…no, no, no.
“Impossible,” I said out loud.
“That I’d be the Lord of the Underworld?”
That meant he was. Wasn’t he?
“And that the reason why those ghosts had come to your help…”
“Is because just as the Lord of the Underworld is born to repel souls to keep his subjects in line, his Lady has the gift of drawing souls close…”
No freaking way.
“Just like you did.”
This time, I said it out loud. “Shit.”
But Hadrian only smirked. “Welcome home, milady.”