Before heading up to the two-level penthouse, I met with the host of the show, Harrison Rex. He waited for me by elevator. As soon as I approached, he turned to the side, hands clasped behind him. He looked to be about five foot five with an overpriced tailored suit. What caught me off guard was the familiar feeling I felt once his eyes met mine. Strange. A smile edged the corner of his mouth before he spoke.
“Hello.” I reached forward to shake his hand. He seemed to pause for a second before reaching for my hand. Mortals. Afraid of Gods. Although I didn’t blame them necessarily. He took my hand and shook it firmly. A jolt of electricity ran up my forearm. The hairs along it stood on end. Strange. Releasing his hand, I shook it off as a form of static electricity or my nerves being on edge. We turned, waiting for the elevator to open.
I knew the ladies were waiting. Maybe this was that so-called pump up the Bachelor speech I was supposed to have before the rest of the evening went on.
“Nervous?” he asked, glancing at me.
There were no camera crews or producers around. It was just the two of us. “I guess. More unsure of what the hell I’m doing here.”
“Ahh, don’t be so hard on yourself,” he said, patting me on the back with one hand. “You’re a God, right? Women falling at your feet is a normal thing for you, huh?” he asked, turning and flashing a smile. The elevator dinged as the doors in front of us opened.
I stepped forward. There was no need to put on an act. “Not really.” I raised my brow at him. I thought he would have known about my past. “I was kind of married for a million or so years.”
The doors closed as we stood opposite sides. Harrison seemed to relax, where I was less than.
He shot me a quick grin, raising a hand nonchalantly. “Exactly my point. It’s time for you to get back out there. And what better way than this? Am I right? Besides, it’s not like you have anyone special, anyway.”
What kind of speech was this? I looked down at my feet. “Well…not anymore.”
He smiled, which honestly wasn’t the most pleasant. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought I had pissed this guy off in a past life or something.
“Well, you don’t have to worry about that now, big guy. So, I’m assuming they went over the events for tonight with you?”
“Yes.” I sighed, looking up at the elevator ceiling. “I talk to the women, get to know them, and pick the ones I want to move forward.”
He nodded in response. “Good good. Also, I spoke with the producers, and due to a personal matter on my end, we will not have that much contact throughout this little endeavour. Mortal stuff, you know?”
I didn’t, but I also didn’t really care. “Yeah sure, whatever you say, Harrison.”
The elevator soon dinged once more as we arrived at the foyer. Harrison stayed back as I stepped out, but I heard his voice from behind me.
“Go get ’em, tiger.”
I wiped my palms onto my suit, ready to put the act back on. Why am I wasting everyone’s time? I should just end this now. Before I could, the camera crew was there along with the producer.
The foyer opened up immediately into a sunken living room, the size of most mortals’ houses. With ceiling to floor windows, you could see all of Olympus from up here. It was a spectacular view. All the ladies had gathered and were waiting for my arrival, and each had a cocktail in their hand. I was told the whole process for this evening would take until dawn. Between separate camera crews following the drama around the penthouse and individual interviews, the cocktail party would entertain everyone while I sat down with each woman and had more of an intimate meeting.
I stood on the first step and faced them like I would with any of my mortal crowds. “Good evening.” I smiled.
The group answered back with an exuberant echo. Taking a deep breath, I started to regurgitate the opening toast I had planned.
“You all look very stunning tonight.”
The ladies gave a collective thank you, all of them beaming their disgustingly bright white teeth my way. If this was going to work, I needed to remember why I was here. I needed to put my head into it. I needed to forget.
“Let me start by saying thank you for coming. Thank you for taking a chance in this journey of love, albeit a bit strange and nothing I have ever done before. I’m looking forward to finding my mate and for someone to love. I will be honest, I am not perfect. I know you may have some expectations about me being a God and being faultless. But as my ex-wife could tell you, that is simply not true.” I couldn’t help but look over to Dahlia. She gave me a curt smile. “But I am hoping we can be honest with each other and real. If you’ve come here looking for a thrill or pure curiosity of what it’s like to date the Dark God, then you have come to the wrong place.” I thought of what Harrison said to me, not moments before.
I raised my glass that had so kindly been given to me by Clare. “Here’s to the future and finding love in all the dark places.” I smirked.
All the ladies in the room smiled or giggled. The whole scene was beyond awkward. No sooner had my glass left my lips did Clare grab my hand. “Can I borrow you?”
I could hear a quiet murmur among the other girls. I was warned that this would happen.
“Sure.” I gave her a warm smile and excused us from the group.
Clare led me to a quiet corner of the monstrous penthouse and proceeded to tell me her entire life story. She was headstrong and well-spoken and certainly deserved to find someone who would love her. I definitely wasn’t going to be that person. I kept up the smile and nodded politely, like I knew the producers wanted.
Emma came to steal me away. I could hear Clare muttering as we walked away. One by one throughout the night, each girl repeated this process. Dahlia was a cheap mortal knock off of the real thing. I was not interested, having put myself through misery for a few millennia already. I wanted the next relationship I entered into to at least be fun.
I noticed that most of the women stayed away from Medusa. They all looked petrified of her snakes, all but one. Brunette #1 had dipped too deep into the complimentary champagne and was now heckling Medusa. I chuckled to myself, knowing that wouldn’t end well for either of them. I pulled Medusa away from the pestering mortal. We went out onto the balcony and looked out over downtown Olympus.
“How are you making out?” I leaned against the railing. “Are the women being friendly?”
”As much as can be expected. It has been a new experience, that’s for sure. I haven’t decided if that’s a good thing or not yet,” Medusa said, laughing.
Not a single woman dared to interrupt our conversation. Turning, I looked around at the camera crew. I wanted to admit I was feeling the same. I was unsure of even going through with this whole ridiculous scenario. Then she gave me an awkward smile, and I realized she was on the other side of this. Maybe she had actual reasons for being here. It is possible that another immortal is looking for love in all the wrong places. I immediately felt guilty for her part in this charade, and I knew I couldn’t let her stay. I didn’t want to hurt her.
“Listen, Medusa. I don’t know what’s going to come of all this. Maybe just one fantastically bad display of how immortals live carelessly and extravagantly…” I sipped from the glass of bourbon I had been carrying around. “Are you sure this is the right place for you?” My forehead wrinkled in concern. I looked past the solid glass door into the penthouse at all the glitzy mortals trying to be something they weren’t. “You are more admirable, clever, and intriguing than anyone else here. You don’t need a mortal dating show to prove that.”
Medusa turned around, looking out over the balcony. I could see her face blush even in the dark lighting.
“I –I…ah,” she stammered, at a loss for words.
I put my hand over the top of hers, looking her in the eye. “Immortal to immortal? I’m not what you want or need. I don’t want to lead you on.”
“I appreciate your honesty, Erebus.” She smiled. “You know I heard a rumour Harmonia was going to come on the show, but when Zeus got word of it, he kiboshed it.”
“Harmonia, really? Interesting.”
“You know, Erebus, there are goddesses out there that are interested in you. Why pursue a mortal? It’s not like they’re anything special.”
Medusa’s words repeated over in my head mockingly. She had to be joking. Other goddesses interested in me? It didn’t matter, none of it did. There was only one I wanted, and she had made it perfectly clear she was not interested.
“Shall we go inside?”
No sooner had Medusa rejoined the group, when Brunette #1 walked over, no stumbled over to her, splashing her drink down the front of Medusa’s dress. Her snakes hissed and writhed. Brunette #1 was so drunk, she wasn’t even phased. She hiccuped then giggled as she put out a finger, taunting Medusa’s snakes.
“So, what do you feed them?”
The snakes hissed loudly. Every mortal that stood within five feet of the two took ten steps back. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Medusa warned.
The producer looked at me, expecting me to step in. But I knew better than to get in the way of Medusa.
“You don’t actually attract men with those reptiles, do you?”
The brunette, the one who’s name I couldn’t be bothered to remember, circled Medusa like she was a hawk circling her prey. The mean girl didn’t realize the trouble she was getting herself into. Medusa looked over at me and smirked before turning her attention back to the drunk girl.
“Are you that stupid? Or do you have a death wish?”
One of the producers nudged me, trying to get me to do something. My shadows had another idea. They stretched out, dimming the lights in the room. The rest of the girls went quiet, while the producer tried to intervene. I quickly pulled him back, clicking my tongue, “Tsk, tsk, tsk. If you want to keep your head, I would stay out of it.”
The brunette sipped from her drink. She was a sloppy mess. The free alcohol was there to loosen the girls up, make them feel comfortable around one another. Clearly, some loosened up more than others. She stood in front of Medusa, with her hand on her hip. “So tell me, do you have to turn all the men you love to stone before you can seduce them?” She wobbled on her feet, catching herself before falling forward. But it was too late, one of Medusa’s snakes whipped out nipping her. The girl screamed, grabbing her neck. “What the fuck!”
I reigned my shadows back in and went to Medusa’s side. The camera crew cut filming, and immediately the producer spoke up. “Okay, Erebus, we need to talk.” He raised a brow at me before ushering us off to another room away from the drama.
“We can’t have this.”
“Have what?” I laughed to myself.
“Medusa has to go.”
“Why? That girl provoked her, and she had it coming.”
The producer stood quietly, just staring at me.
“Gods, you mortals need to make up your minds! You want a god as your bachelor, but don’t want him to use his powers. You have a room full of women vying for my attention. Drama is going to ensue, which, correct me if I’m wrong, I’m pretty sure you want. And when it happens, now you want to get rid of the goddess. All because a mortal couldn’t hold her liquor and keep her hands to herself.”
The producer waved his hand in the air. “If Medusa was a mortal, the rules wouldn’t change. The ladies all signed contracts. We have a zero-tolerance policy on violence.”
I frowned. “If Medusa goes, so does the drunk.”
“Fine. You can axe them both during the charming ceremony.”
It didn’t matter that I wasn’t planning on keeping Medusa around. I didn’t like the producers calling the shots. If I was forced to stay here and carry on with this charade, I was doing things my way. I’d had enough of the mingling and was ready for the evening to end. Harrison returned briefly to gather the ladies in the grand room for the charming ceremony. I would ask each girl I was interested in, to stay by giving her a charm bracelet.
My plan was to send Dahlia, Medusa, the drunk brunette, and Clare home. The only problem was Clare seemed to be missing. Some of the girls had overheard her complaining that she was only there so she could become next in line to star on the show. Apparently, she had no intention of falling in love with an immortal. Everything she had said to me was just her listing off her resume for the producers. It was probably a good thing she didn’t show up for the ceremony. My shadows were itching to do some harm.
I’d had my fill of mortals for one evening. I quickly rattled off all the names of the girls who would stay, each happier than the next. When I held the last charm bracelet in my hand, I looked at my two choices, Medusa and Amy. I knew what I had to do. Even though I had no intention of keeping Medusa around, a part of me wanted to just so I could have some immortal company. But then I would be in breach of my contract. The producers had a clause that allowed them to choose one bachelorette each show, until the family meetings. This round, they picked Amy, the one bachelorette that would be a constant reminder of what I was running away from. No matter how hard I would try to forget Atë, it would be impossible.