I woke in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. The sheets were soaked, and my head pounded like a freight train was running through it. I sat up in a strange bed. What city was I in now? Rubbing the back of my neck, I tried to shake the nightmare. I didn’t scare easily. I enjoyed darker things, but not this. I kept seeing her on the floor shaking, her arms wrapped around her knees, rocking back and forth. The endless screams and cries echoed in my head. I jumped from the bed and ran for the bathroom, the pain in my head excruciating. I flipped the lid open to the toilet and rid my stomach of its contents. After, I made my way to the sink to splash cold water on my face. Get a hold of yourself!
The guilt ate at me. She sat in Tartarus rotting, and I was on a fucking dating show. What the fuck am I doing? I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t have kissed Amy. It was less than eight hours since our date, and I already couldn’t make good on my promise to leave the past in the past. Not when Atë haunted my dreams, not when I knew she was in hell. I should be there for her. I should have ignored her when she pushed me away. I asked her to give me anything to show me that she loved me, and she threw it in my face.
“I never cared for you. How could I? I used you.”
I stared myself down in the mirror, anger and hatred building. I was a fool. Her voice continued to laugh at me, all the way from Tartarus.
“And you know what the funny part is? I would have left you the second I had a chance.”
I’m a joke to her. No! It was real. My head continued to argue with my heart as my gut lurched again, I fell to my knees, my head back in the toilet. In case there was any more doubt, she yelled one more time, my head crippling. “I don’t want you. I don’t want you here, and I don’t want you to come back.”
The last charming ceremony ended with me sending Lexi and Jordan home. Harley was sad to see her sister leave, but one twin was enough. I didn’t need to break up a family or have two sisters fight over me. It was all just a game, and eventually, they would all be gone. Everyone leaves. My mood hadn’t improved since I woke in the middle of the night. I hadn’t bothered to go back to bed. What was the point? After I had puked my guts out, I debated calling the whole thing off. But then the dark side of me woke. If I was staying, it was going to be out of spite. I would show her. Everything would be easier knowing she would hate me. I hated myself.
Standing outside on the balcony of my suite, I looked at the mountains. We were in Switzerland. Athena and I had a one-on-one date scheduled for this afternoon. It was time to find out why she was here. I pulled a jacket over my denim shirt and departed for the spa where we would meet.
The day was dark, probably a product of my mood. I hadn’t bothered to reign my shadows in, and they followed my dark mood everywhere. I arrived at the spa before anyone, no crew, no Chuck, and no Harrison. The girl behind the counter looked terrified as I paced back and forth in the lobby. A massage therapist came out to greet me and asked if I needed anything. Before I realized it, I snapped.
“No, I don’t fucking need anything!” The lights flickered as she hurriedly left the room.
“Whoa there, big guy. Do you plan on scaring everyone here?”
I turned around to see Athena standing with her arms folded over one another. I grumbled to myself, quietly apologizing for my mood.
“I’m sorry, the mouse over in the corner didn’t quite catch that? Was that your lame excuse for an apology?”
I rolled my eyes at her. “I’m sorry. I didn’t sleep well last night.” Like any excuse I made was going to make up for my pathetic attitude. I took a step towards her, taking her in. She was a lot smaller in the mortal world than she was in Olympus. Her blonde hair was woven neatly into a French braid. She unfolded her arms, her blue eyes warming slightly.
“So, I heard that your group date didn’t go as well as hoped. Someone tried their hand at flying and didn’t quite stick the landing?” She didn’t seem convinced. We hadn’t spoken about it the night she arrived.
“Yeah, it was the weirdest thing. One minute she was at the top, ready to come down, and the next flat as a pancake on the rock.” I shook my head.
The crew came in behind her, Chuck followed on their heels. “Sorry, we’re late. Can we get you two to reenact your entrance? Maybe something upbeat and pleasant?” Chuck raised his brow at me.
I rolled my shoulders, moving my head from side to side, cracking my neck. “Sure boss,” I said sarcastically, but still reigned in my shadows.
Athena and I put on our TV smiles. She moved in for a hug as the cameras snapped to life. The massage therapist I had scared away earlier came rushing back in. She looked relieved to see other mortals there. “Welcome to the Fabulous Antiquity Golden Spa, here in wonderful Switzerland.”
Athena and I looked at one another and laughed. It was like she had rehearsed some lines or was possibly even given lines. She ushered us into a smaller pine wall room with two massage beds. “Looks like we are getting a couple’s massage.” I looked at her to see how comfortable she was going to be with this.
“Hey, I’m game if you are,” she said and headed to change into the provided plush, white robes. If she were shy, you would never know it.
“Perfect.” I moved around behind the partition, following her lead.
“I won’t peek if you don’t,” she said with a laugh. “Or do,” she added.
I grinned slyly at her. “Athena, I never knew you to be so forward. As a matter of fact, I don’t know too much about you. Last I heard, you cut off Medusa’s head. Should I be careful in what I say?”
“Actually, I can’t take credit for that particular act, but there are so many more interesting things I could tell you,” she flirted.
I came out from behind the partition and lay face down on the massage table. “Oh? Do go on. Your presence here intrigues me.”
“What? Can’t a girl go on a date with a handsome man?” She teased as she walked around my table to hers, lightly tracing a well-manicured finger across me as she went. “So I have never actually had one of these before. Do we keep the robes on or take them off?”
“I think it’s whatever we are comfortable with,” I said, looking up from the hole I had shoved my face so gently in. I watched Athena cautiously.
“Okay, off it is,” she said as she turned her back to me and seductively slid the robe off her shoulders and down the length of her back. She was only wearing a delicate red thong and didn’t have any tan lines. She peeked over her shoulder and caught me looking. “Peeking? You naughty man,” she said as she let out a full and joyful laugh before laying on the table.
I gulped some much-needed air before sitting back up to slide off my robe. I had forgotten about the hidden cameras, and now my bare ass was on display for the whole world to see.
“Why E, who knew all that was under those clothes. I should have come on the show sooner.” She smiled and winked at me before putting her head in the hole in the table.
A few minutes later, two therapists came in to start our massages. The room went deathly quiet.
Athena let out a moan, obviously on purpose, to break the awkward silence. “That’s delicious… The massage, too.”
As the woman kneaded her knuckles into my backside, all the anger I had bottled up melted away. The nightmare of Atë in Tartarus quickly slipped out of my mind, and I started to enjoy all the noises coming from the table beside me.
“You’re awfully quiet over there. Need me to come show you how it’s done?” Athena asked with a giggle.
“I’m not a man of many words. I much rather show my affections.”
“Oooh? Now I’m intrigued.”
Athena’s head was still lowered. She didn’t see me get up from the bed and excuse the two ladies. I grabbed some oil and lathered my hands before sliding them over the supple, feminine muscles of her back. It was nice knowing I wouldn’t break her with a simple touch. I hadn’t realized how I would react to another immortal being here. Maybe it was because she felt a bit like home that I was more comfortable around her. I leaned down and whispered in her ear, “How’s this?”
“Oh, Gods, that feels amazing,” she said with a breathy moan, obviously enjoying my touch. “If you stop, I’ll have to kick your ass.”
“I would like to see you try.” I laughed full-heartedly.
“Oh, you have so much to learn about me. I never shy away from a good tussle,” she said as she twisted her body and grabbed me, causing us to both tumble to the floor. She laughed as she tried to pin me to the ground. Either she didn’t know about the cameras or didn’t care. Her body splayed over mine, and we were laughing when the manager of the spa came rushing in. She must have heard us fall to the floor or the crashing of the things that we brought with us. She scowled at us.
“What exactly is going on here?”
Athena laughed as she looked me in the eyes. “Busted. Looks like we are going to get detention.” She laughed and nipped my nose playfully before getting off of me and returning to sit on her table. The manager continued to scowl as she left the room.
I could feel my cheeks grow warm. Blushing! Was I blushing? That’s ridiculous. I don’t blush. Only silly little school girls did that. Athena stifled a giggle.
“So what’s next on the agenda, sweet cheeks?” Athena asked, her smile beaming brightly.
“A hot tub outside, with some champagne.” I smirked.
“That sounds fun! I’ll get changed and meet you there.” She picked up her robe, donned it quickly, and left the room, swatting my ass as she went.
I grabbed my robe, shaking my head. I surprise even myself sometimes.
We spent more than a few hours in the hot tub, talking and enjoying one another’s company. I hadn’t realized how much we had in common. I wasn’t sure where it was going to lead, but we certainly had a solid foundation for friendship.
The next day was followed up by the strangest date I had ever been on, by far. It was a two on one date. I was told that typically, halfway through the night, I would have to choose one girl to go home while the other would stay. The producers chose Jamie and Demi. I think they were hoping for some drama to ensue. Friends turned enemies and ripping one another apart for their chance to date an immortal. I don’t think anyone could have predicted what happened.
After taking the girls to an amusement park and dinner on the beach, they propositioned me. Yes, Demi and Jamie thought that a good time could be had by the three of us, if we were a couple or a threesome as the math worked out to be. After I politely declined, the two free spirits decided to leave the show together. I could only sit back and laugh and wish them the best. Truthfully, I knew they were better off with each other than staying and taking a chance with me.
The week ended with another group date, Hannah, Gigi, Amy, and Harley. Each trying to prove themselves worthy of dating me. Amy and I had taken off during the group date to talk more intimately. This time there was no kiss. At the charming ceremony, I had to cut Gigi and Harley.
It had been a week of ups and downs. With the nightmares that plagued me every night this week, I wasn’t sure I was ready to love again. The memory of Atë was always at the forefront of it all, reminding me to move on. Every morning I woke up and choked down the bile, every morning I tried not to let my heartbreak show. Every morning, I repeated her words, “I don’t want you. I don’t want you here, and I don’t want you to come back.” They pushed me and drove me. I had discovered my being on this stupid show may not have been the love I wanted or longed for, but I was forming friendships and possibly even something more.