I almost snickered. No wonder people preferred calling him Dr. Ace. That name of his was a spelling monstrosity, and wait a minute…did I read that correctly? My gaze snapped to Hadrian. “Nostradamus? As in the Nostradamus?”

“Yes.” Hadrian’s tone was absent-minded. “I won’t be long, but feel free to look around the lab while Aesculapius and I talk.”

“What exactly are we here for?”

“His test on the subject’s phalanges—-”

“Fa-lan-gees?” Here we go again. First, there was Kirkey, and now Falangees. How was it that I had managed to live and die without encountering these words? Looking up at him, I asked hopefully, “Maybe you mean…fallacy?”

“I could,” he allowed, “if it was possible to drown and burn such a thing into ashes.”

The contemplative tone of his voice didn’t fool me, and I said accusingly, “You’re secretly laughing at me again, aren’t you?”

“Of course not.”

“You are,” I said with a sigh. “I know you are, but it’s fine. I’d probably laugh at you, too, if it turns out you don’t know who Billie Eilish is.”

“I don’t.”

“Knew it,” I said smugly. “Guess that makes us even.” And I also ended up getting the last word, with the doors finally swooshing open to let us in.

While Hadrian went straight to the white-haired gentleman working behind a desk, I walked towards the first thing that caught my eye: a glass cabinet of curiosities, filled with bottles of colorful liquids. Interestingly enough, the first row contained samples from all five major rivers of the Underworld. The bottle labeled Lethe seemed no different from any bottle of sparkling water, only this one could obviously wipe your memory. The bottle labeled as Phlegethon, on the other hand, contained a bright orange liquid that seemed just one pop away from boiling out of its containment. As for the three other bottlers, there was Acheron (blue), Cocytus (purple), and good old hate-filled Styx, which was pure black.

Since the two gentlemen behind me were still talking in what I could only assume was Greek, I moved towards the dissection tables and tried not to think about how my corpse had probably been laid out on the same thing.

Most movies made it seem like the first thing you’d want to see when you woke up dead was your equally lifeless body, but that was just another piece of bullshit Hollywood liked to feed us. Some things were just too painful to see with your own eyes, and though I eventually managed to find out where I was buried, it was an address I had simply filed away in my mind. It was something I had liked knowing but never had any intention of actually visiting.

And let’s end it at that, Saoirse Sullivan. No moping about your old life!

I marched towards the only dissection table that was occupied, determined to keep all thoughts of the past at the past in my mind. The present was what mattered, and right now the present involved staring down at a tray of badly burnt finger bones.

“Also known as phalanges,” Hadrian murmured silkily as he came to stand next to me.

I coughed ‘show off’ under my breath, but this only made him smirk.

Oh, be still, my heart.

A man who was smart, confident, and with a sense of humor? That was as rare as finding Snorlax in the wild…and it was just my luck, to have found someone like him when I was already dead.

ON THE DRIVE BACK TO the city, I asked Hadrian about the results of the autopsy and saw his look of surprise when I did. “You truly want to know?”

I wrinkled my nose. “Did you think I was just humoring you back at the hospital?”

“Truthfully? Yes.”

“Then you should be happy to be wrong, shouldn’t you? You’re looking at the girl who watched all seasons and spin-offs of CSI,” I shared proudly, “and that includes the sadly short-lived CSI Cyber.”

“Impressive credentials,” he offered, and I couldn’t help snickering even though I knew 3/4th of his words were meant to be an insult.

“Just give me the deets, come on. I’ll be the perfect Watson to your Homes,” I promised. “You’ll see.”

“I can indeed see it quite easily,” he murmured, “and it’s quite frightening.”

“Stop being so mean,” I scolded him. “I liked you better when you were just Tall, Dark, and Handsome.”

“And I’m no longer that?”

“Now, you’re just Tall, Dark, and Hateful.”

He laughed.

“So if you want to be Tall, Dark, and Handsome again—-”

“I suppose I do.”

“Then answer my questions.”

“Fire away, milady.”

Milady? It almost had me distracted…until I realized that might just be what he was hoping for, and I raised my chin. “I’m not going to let you distract me, milord.” He started to speak, but I held my hand up in a bid for silence. “Question number one,” I announced. “Do subjects in Tartarus still retain their DNA even while they’re…” Being punished? Tortured? Serving their sentences?

Tags: Marian Tee Lord of the Underworld Romance