The Mermaid’s Tale is the bar I set up in the Olympus Administration building when Zeus called us home to get jobs. I love my little brother dearly and thought this small bar would do. It is on the fifteenth floor of the building, which has plenty of space for a personal residence as well. I’d given Kai that part of my floor, and the rest was dedicated to the bar. I haven’t spent much time there, though I have heard the good reviews. Kai keeps me updated via the golden conch shell braided into my hair, and I do my best to check-in. Although, the past few months I haven’t been as diligent. Another thing I’ve let slip through my fingers.
The doors open and I step out of the elevator. I shudder as the saltwater air and the smell of beer tickles my nose. Ever since I quit drinking, the smell of alcohol makes me feel sick. Maybe that is why I have avoided this place with a passion. I walk down the left side of the hallway and through the open double doors. The bar looks like a classic fisherman’s hang out. Nets drape from the ceiling along with fish hooks, life jackets, and other gear. Kai has done a good job making the place aesthetically pleasing.
I take a seat on one of the stools at the bar. I rest my bare feet on the metal rails, the cold against the soles invoking an involuntary shiver. I look around as I wait for someone to take my order. The bar itself is at the center of the space. The beauty of the Mermaid’s Tale is that it enjoys the physical protections of the God Complex, but the moment you step onto my floor, you smell the sea and hear the ocean. If you look out any window, you’ll see the rolling waves. I used to have a back door leading to a dock. But, with the new security protocols, the illusions would have to suffice. The tension that had locked my shoulders slowly fades away, and I begin to relax. Aside from the smell of liquor, this is my environment.
A figure slides in front of me, a bright smile spreading across his dark face as he looks at me. Kai. It has been a while since I have seen him. He has tied his black hair into dreads, keeping it away from his face. He studies me with his dark brown eyes, seeing more than most. The curse of knowing me for so long, I suppose.
“I haven’t seen you in a while. You look like shit,” he says. Kai was once my advisor in Atlantis, the right hand of the king, but as I lost more control, he fell with me. Though his vices differ from mine, we are both on the long road to recovery, stability, and normalcy.
I laugh at him, though the sound is a hollow echo of what it once was. “Thanks. Now, tell me why I am here, old friend. You made it sound urgent.”
Kai’s face shifts from cheerful to serious as he looks around. “A man came by the other day bragging about finding a key with the Atlantis symbol. I thought it was just some sailor making up a tale, but when I saw the thing…”
Kai shakes his head, his mahogany-brown eyes shimmering with color and a hint of the ocean. I wonder how long it’s been since he stepped foot in the sea. “You need to see it, Pose.”
My brows furrow with confusion. So many mortals have claimed to find Atlantis, discovered a map, or something else that led them there. Atlantis is hidden. Only its inhabitants and my family know how to get there. Even if you know how to get there, unless you are a citizen, you need a key from me to get in. I only give those I trust absolutely a copy. I nod to Kai. “So, where is it?”
Kai grabs a towel, wiping his hands before nodding his head toward one of the booths. “He is a regular. He spends most of his time here unless he is on the seas. He says this place gives him luck.”
I snort at the thought, turning in my chair to observe the man. He is younger than I expected. Sandy blonde hair and a square face. He has a scar that trails from his cheekbone to his jawline that looks fresh. My brow raises in interest. He has the look of someone who was born to sail. Even from here, I can smell the ocean curled around him. Some mortals are created with the call. Few can truly resist it.
“I’ll be right back,” I say, getting up.
“Go get him, Posie.” Kai laughs before going back to his customers.
I slide into the booth, smiling at him across the table. At a glance, I look much like the rest of the men in here. My hair is far too long, my beard covering my cheeks, the scent of the sea clinging to me. It’s only the observant ones that will catch on. Or the unobservant ones who will notice my bare feet. He raises a brow at me before breaking out in a toothy smile.
“How can I help ya?” the man says, taking a swig of his beer.
My nose scrunches from the smell as I rub my hands together. “I’m hoping you can. I heard you found a key.”
The man laughs boisterously, the edge of the sound softened by drink. “Not just any key! A key of Atlantis! Found her when I was fishing for Mπακαλάος.”
I smile indulgently at him, biting back a scalding retort. “Can I see it?”
The man looks around before pulling the object from his pocket. He holds it out for me in the palm of his hands, and I freeze. My breath is trapped in my lungs, my muscles locking on bone, time standing still as I stare.
The key is a shade of deep-sea blue. An A is etched in the top, surrounded by seaweed. But it’s the things that are invisible to the mortal eye that make me want to snatch it from his palm. Golden runes, spells of old, even older than me, are etched into it, visible only to a God of the Sea. But it’s more than that. It’s the fact that I recognize it. The last time I saw it was when I gave it to him. My breath moves in my chest, time returning, boisterous sounds of patrons horning in on my pounding head. That carefully held tether on my temper…snaps.
This island is a treasure, so distant from any landmass or gods, no one would ever think to look for me here. I can sort my thoughts in my head, drink on the beach, tan in the sun without the responsibilities dogging my every step. I need to get someone to cloak the island completely, as such a thing is beyond my power. It will keep it hidden from all prying eyes. Except for one.
The sun is shining brightly in the sky as I wait for him to arrive. I slipped away from him in the night after he passed out, his body covered in a sheen of sweat and bliss after I exhausted him. Closing my eyes, I can taste his skin, his lips, his moans as we made love. When he came, he gave me a gift I thought never to receive. “I love you, Poseidon.”
There is a gift that I want to give him before…before everything has to end.
A shadow blocks my light again, and my lips twitch in amusement. “You know. I will get you back for standing in my light.”
“Aren’t you full of yourself?” Nerites snickers huskily, the sound of his voice making me shiver with want.
I open one eye, smiling up at him. “Sit.”
He sits beside me, lowering himself to plant a soft kiss on my lips. It warms my body more than the sun ever could. I grip the back of his neck, kissing him harder. He laughs against my lips before pulling away. He knows me too well.
“You summoned me?” he asks.
I sit up. “Yes. I did. I have something to give you.”
Nerites tilts his head, smirking. His eyes heat as he licks his lips slowly. “You mean more than what you gave me last night?”
My body stiffens, following the path of his tongue with my gaze as I shift against the sand. Shaking my head, I laugh, pulling an object from my back pocket. “That will be later, my okeanós.”
Nerites scoots closer, trying to get a glimpse of the gift. I keep it hidden for a few more seconds before revealing it to him.
“A key?” he asks, confused.
“Yes. One that has access to the things I most care about,” I say.
Nerites looks up at me. “And what are you going to do with it?”
“I am going to give it to you,” I say, smirking at him. “The man who will protect the things most important to me.”
I hope he knows the significance of this. I love him deeply. But if the words ever cross my lips…I won’t be able to do what I have to. So I’m giving him a key to Atlantis, hoping he realizes it’s in place of the words I can never say.
Nerites’ cheeks turn pink, and he places a hand on my jaw, kissing me deeply. I smirk into the kiss, pushing him back onto the sand. Straddling his hips, I take control, worshiping his body and wishing I could give him everything.
“I will protect it always, Poseidon,” he moans into my kisses. “Forever and always.”