Hit By the Cupid Stick by Abigail Owen
Elodie idly sipped at the fluffy pink drink some man at the bar had sent to her in an unoriginal bid for her attention. Some Valentine’s Day special with candy hearts floating in the frothy top. The holiday was only days away. She really was more of a whiskey girl, but if the poor shmuck wanted to pay for her drink, she wasn’t going to argue.
The uber confident man, dressed to the nines in a three-piece power suit, hair perfectly styled, teeth perfectly white, flashed her a smile and lifted his own glass in her direction. She caught the blip of hesitation that matched his aura, so she threw him a bone and tipped her drink in thanks.
She didnotsmile. Smiling would be an invitation, and three-piece-suit guy wasn’t her target.
The man next to him, however…
Dressed casually in threadbare jeans and a t-shirt that looked as if he’d slept in it, her prey ran his fingers through shaggy, dirty-blond hair that needed a cut. Not a single woman in here was giving him a second look. There was only one reason Elodie was.
The colored haze floating around him was as clear to Elodie as the crystals in her favorite bracelet. Not black, like many of the men she hunted, his was a muddy mix of brown, grey, orange, and red. Studying auras was like a siren’s road map of the human soul, telling her the most important information of who and what a person was in that moment.
She’d never—not in her two hundred years, seen a mix of colors quite like this. Self-involvement. Hopelessness. Self-control. Aggression. And anger. Lots and lots of anger.
As a siren, her job was to lure unsuspecting men to their deaths.
It had taken her only a single kill, when she’d matured and the hunger of her inner monster had first come upon her, to realize that she couldn’t do what she did togoodmen. But to men who deserved it? Violent men. Abusive men. Those who posed serious threats to women, children, or innocent animals... Yeah. She had no problem ridding the world of their kind.
Three-piece-suit tipped his glass again, like she hadn’t seen him a second ago.
What Elodie wanted to do was roll her eyes. What she did was lift her left hand and point to the diamond ring winking on her fourth finger. The ring she’d just slipped on under the bar. The one she’d bought herself just to deal with crap like this.
Three-piece-suit shrugged like that wasn’t a problem and she briefly toyed with the idea of teaching him a lesson, just a peek at her monster, before she dealt with muddy-aura-guy beside him. But the suit was harmless. His aura was almost entirely yellow. He wanted to be alpha, but he was more like a puppy dog panting for attention.
Give him a scrap and he’d never leave her alone. Deliberately she swiveled the stool, turning away.
“I hope you haven’t set your heart on the one I’m after,” a deep, annoyingly familiar voice teased from behind her. “Because I have dibs.”
A royal pain in Elodie’s perfectly formed ass.
Elodie closed her eyes and reached for patience. Sirens were supposed to be known for that particular character trait, but she never had been like her sisters.
“Chance,” she acknowledged, pasting an insincere smile to her lips as she faced him.
Even knowing what to expect, impressions still hit in rapid succession. Broad shoulders, trim hips, a face somewhere between rugged and boy-next-door with floppy sandy-colored hair that somehow still appeared styled, and laughing blue eyes. Always laughing, at least at her. Unlike that panting puppy at the bar, Chance wore his three-piece suit—the suit didn’t wear him. The red tie was a nice, if obvious, touch given what he was and the upcoming holiday.
If sin had a face, it would look like Chance Eroson. The man was as handsome as they came. Then again, a cupid would be. A child of gods, and a god himself, if a minor one, the man was genetically blessed. Same as Elodie. Which should make her immune.
It didn’t. Which was the most frustrating part.
Wanting him was a character flaw she hadn’t ever given into. As long as she didn’t count getting herself off to thoughts of him. Which Elodie didn’t.
Worse, his aura was…nothing. No color surrounded him. She’d found the same to be true of any creatures gifted with extra-long life and supernatural powers. Dragon shifters, berserkers, demigods, witches, it didn’t matter.
Did it bother her that she couldn’t get a read on him?
Absolutely. But she’d never admit it to him the same way she’d never admit to wanting him.
He’d better not be after the guy she was hunting.
Since arriving in New York some hundred years ago, she and Chance had clashed every so often. Usually when he wanted to hook some couple up, shoot them full of arrows that would make them fuck like rabbits and fall in love, and she had to intervene. The last time, he’d almost convinced her that the man in question would let go of his evil thoughts, thoughts the guy had never acted, for the right woman. That she would give the man a better outlook on life. A better outlet for his kind of energy too.
Almost. That man’s aura had told her a different story though.
Chance could have been right. People were capable of change. But that guy wasn’t. He may not have acted on his thoughts, but he would. Eventually.
She’d made Chance see it her way in the end.
Luckily, they hadn’t clashed over too many people. Normally, Chance got it right, as far as she could tell. Though the man seemed to get a thrill from successfully pairing odd couples no one else would have seen together. Chance was in it for the challenge. She was in it for the mission. Rid the world of people who would see it burn. That and to slake the thirst of her monster.
“Who are you after?” she asked. She even used a pleasant tone of voice.
He stepped in closer, spinning her stool so she faced the bar, then closer still. Not touching, but she could feel the heat of him, the length of him, at her back. He leaned down to put his lips to her ear. “Him,” he said in a low voice.
It had been a long time since a simple whisper had turned her on. She saw the worst in men. Even if she didn’t kill them, she could still read their auras. Their lust with no emotion. Their aggression. Their manipulation. All of which made it difficult to rev her engines. So the fact that her nipples tightened, pressing against the silk demi-cup of her bra was…distracting to say the least.
“That’s not helpful,” she said dryly. “As usual.”
His chuckle didn’t help the nipple situation any, sending a surge of warmth cascading through her.
“Three-piece suit.” Chance picked up her glass. “The one who just bought you a drink. Although, if he has his eye on you, it might make my job matching him a tad more difficult.”
Elodie’s muscles unknotted slightly. At least she wasn’t going to have to argue him out of this one.
“With who?” Curiosity popped the words out of her mouth before she could stop herself.
“Banana yellow shirt in the back corner.”
She searched behind three-piece-suit and found the woman in question. Not only was the lady’s shirt bright yellow, but so was her aura. Elodie smiled despite herself.
“I take it you approve?” he asked.
How did he know? He was standing behind her.
“Otherwise, you’d immediately argue.”
How did he do that? She knew a cupid could read the minds of humans—helped with the job—but he couldn’t do that to her or other supernaturals. But the laughter in his voice told her he’d still managed to read her reaction regardless, and knew she’d be irritated about it. He didn’t know that the irritation was because it meant he knew her better than she wanted. Dangerous to let him that close.
“Stay very still,” he said next.
Elodie frowned and started to turn, except a glittering golden bow and arrow appeared at her side, arrow already nocked.
He had to be joking. “Here?” she drawled. “You’re going to shoot them in a busy bar? Really?”
“They’re lined up perfectly. I couldn’t have picked a better shot.” His voice was harder now. Focused. Sexy. If that’s how he sounded in bed…
She shook off the thought.
“Hurry up.” She had her own job to deal with.
“You don’t rush love, baby girl.”
“Call me baby girl, again, lover,” she snapped. “I dare you.”
She wished she could see Chance’s face, because she suspected he was grinning. That title had always bothered her. “You’re right,” he murmured. “Lover is much better.”
Elodie gritted her teeth.
The glittering, magical bow raised above her shoulder. The humans wouldn’t see a thing. Not even his posture. Glamour of the gods meant they’d see something else. Probably him just talking to her.
“Very, very still,” Chance whispered.
Which was when she happened to shift her glance from three-piece-suit to muddy-aura-guy only to find his gaze trained directly on her. Eyes as dark as an oil slick glared with an intent that any human woman would have shivered at. But Elodie could see that damn aura.
Without thinking she gasped and straightened in her seat, jerking back at the same time.
She knocked right into Chance as he loosed his arrow. Instead of going through three-piece suit and toward banana yellow shirt, it went up, hit the mirrored ceiling, and ricocheted backward right at Elodie.
The moment seemed to move in slow motion, and yet too fast for her to react. The glittering arrow pierced right through her chest, but no pain bloomed with it. Instead the sensation was like warmth and happiness and a bolt of pleasure directly to every erogenous zone, all in one.
A grunt sounded behind her just as she spun. “I’m sorry. I—”
The arrow lodged in Chance’s abdomen suddenly disappeared in a fall of gold glitter. Her gaze connected with the god of love, and in that instant, she knew. She knew he was the one. She knew she’d found her match. Someone who could walk beside her in life who would be her everything and she would be his. At the same time, she also knew she wanted to hike up the skirt of her dress, unzip his pants and straddle the man. Right here. Right now.
Chance stared right back at her, his face etched with a thousand different emotions.
“What just happened?” she managed to ask through stiff lips. She already knew. Gods above, she knew. She was just hoping he might tell her she was wrong. But he didn’t.
They’d just been shot with his love arrow.
She knew how they worked, had even seen it first-hand a time or two. Those golden arrows were designed to pass through the first person struck so it could lodge in the second person, until their connection solidified when they locked eyes for the first time. Even if it was days or weeks later.
An irresistible, undeniable connection.
Which meant she and Chance were screwed.