“Isle of the Blessed?” I echoed blankly.
“Commonly known as Heaven.”
My brows furrowed. If Heaven was the Isle of the Blessed, which was apparently accessible by a tunnel of light…that I did not see…didn’t that mean…
A gasp of horror escaped me. “Are you telling me I’m bound for Hell?”
Say no, say no, say no!
But instead, Tall, Dark, and Heartless started interrogating me like I was a suspect for homicide.
“Have you committed suicide?”
“Have you killed any other human being?”
I shook my head.
“Have you seriously thought of it?”
“I’m not a murderer, okay?”
“Are you guilty of any kind of act that you were fully aware could cause another person unnecessary and grave suffering—-”
“Whether physically, mentally, emotionally, or psychologically?”
I started to say no, but then a memory drifted into my consciousness, and I asked guiltily, “I bullied my parents into paying for ballet lessons that I ended up hating. Does that count?”
“No.” Hadrian’s tone was dry. “It doesn’t count.”
I perked up. “Then does that mean…”
“Yes, you are not bound for Tartarus.”
His strange use of terms finally hit me. Tartarus? Isle of the Blessed? “What’s up with all these Greek mythology terms?” I demanded. “Why don’t you just use the word Hell?”
“Because Hell, which is another term for the Underworld, is a vast realm, and your idea of it only pertains to the region of Tartarus.”
“Underworld…like in Greek mythology?”
Something flashed in Hadrian’s eyes. “You know of it?”
“I may not like books, but I’m not an idiot. Of course I know what the Underworld is. I did watch Hercules, you know—-” I saw the way his lip curled at the reference, and I couldn’t help bursting into laughter. “Oh my. Are you one of those intellectual snobs who think knowledge can only be obtained from hardbacks?”
“Better that,” he said coolly, “than an animated film that dares to turn gods into laughingstocks.”
I only got a grunt in response, but one with such a lofty tinge of contempt that I had to suppress another smile. “How do you know so much of these things?” I couldn’t help asking.
“It’s part of my job.”
“Talking to ghosts?”
“Like a psychic?”
I saw him frown as if seriously weighing the relevance of this term to his job, and then after a moment, he said simply, “No.”
“Is it why I can touch you and vice versa?”
“Can’t you just tell me what your job is?” I asked with a laugh.
I started tugging his sleeve. “Come on, please.”
“Why does it matter what job I do?”
“Because I only date guys with actual jobs, and in case you’re wondering – no, I don’t consider any kind of criminal activity as a career.”
“Is that your way of saying you want to go out with me?”
If I had still been in my teens, I wouldn’t have even dreamt of answering him with the truth. Would have been too insecure to even consider it. If I had been in my twenties, I’d be weighing my options and gauging his level of interest, just to play it safe. But since I was in my late thirties (and forever would be), I was at that age where I knew and loved myself enough to take even the craziest, occasional risk.
“Can I ask you a question first?”
The sudden huskiness in my tone had Hadrian’s gaze gleaming. “Go on.”
“You really didn’t lie about not being married?”
“I’m recently divorced, if that means anything.”
“It doesn’t.” I watched the interest in his eyes change into something else as I spoke, and my toes curled. “May I ask one – um, no, may I ask two last questions?”
Just one word, but this time, Hadrian’s voice had deepened and turned more velvety.
“Does hooking up constitute a sin?” I might always be game for wild, hot sex, but not if it screwed with my chances for meeting my parents in Heaven – oh no, wait, make that Isle of the Blessed.
“Oh, thank God.”
His eyes gleamed. “And your second question?”
“Is something very easy,” I said with a wink. “All I’d like to know is if you know anyone who’d be interested in, say, hooking up with a redheaded ghost?”
“I think…” Hadrian reached up to trace my lower lip with his thumb, and I almost died at the sheer sensuality of it. “The ghost already knows the answer to that.”
“Oh my God, you’re hot.” The words had him chuckling, and even the mere sound of it was sexy as heck, too. Leaning close, I whispered into his ear, “You were right earlier.”
“I want to go out with you.”
There was a beat of silence, and I found myself holding my breath even though I wasn’t really breathing anymore. Was he going to pull over? Was he going to kiss me? Was he going to—-
“Hold that thought.”
—-do something I didn’t see coming? Apparently, yes. And I couldn’t help choking out a laugh. “Seriously?”
“What if I said no?”