Watch out Reverse Harem lovers, because here comes the Cupid's Captive Series!
Seminoles pitcher Ellie Beaufort has just helped her team win the Women's College World Series. Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, is tired of hearing Ellie's name on the lips of every mortal and wants her dead. To save her, Cupid hides Ellie in his castle.
When Cupid's twin brothers, Phobos and Deimos, the gods of fear and panic, discover Cupid's secret and threaten to tell their mother (Aphrodite), Cupid has no choice but to shoot them with his arrows. Phobos and Deimos fall in love with the mortal and do everything in their power to protect her . . . and seduce her. Ellie is captivated by the brothers and finds herself falling for them both.
Cupid and his brothers soon discover that Ellie was sent by the Fates to mark the beginning of the "reckoning" for the Olympian gods.
This story is for readers aged 17 and older.
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Chapter One: Mothers
The drizzle over Oklahoma City hadn’t dissuaded fans from packing the stadium below, where the Women’s College World Series had just ended.
Eros, better known as Cupid, hovered in the summer clouds beside Aphrodite above the celebrating team and its fans, wondering why his mother had brought him here. His golden curls clung to his face, damp from the drizzle, in the same way that his mother’s hair clung to her neck and shoulders. He pulled his hands from the pockets of his trousers to straighten his bowtie, which was also damp and probably ruined.
Beneath her breath, Aphrodite said, “Enjoy your victory while you can. You aren’t long for this world, number thirty-two.”
Cupid scanned the players below. “Who’s number thirty-two?”
Aphrodite put her hands on her hips—a gesture he’d come to associate with anger. Even in her long blue gown and heels, she could be intimidating. “That makes one person who hasn’t heard of her. Come on, Darling. Her name has been on the lips of every mortal in America for months.”
Cupid lifted his palms and shook his head.
Aphrodite nearly spit when she said, “Ellie Beaufort.”
Cupid had heard of her. He’d received countless prayers from young men and women who’d apparently fallen in love with her. He now understood his mother’s annoyance. The less she was worshipped, the weaker her powers became. It was true of all the gods. His best strategy was to downplay and distract. “She’s an exceptional athlete, Mother. Nothing more.”
The goddess of love glared at the field below, where number thirty-two sat perched on the shoulders of her teammates, laughing with glee. “She does have a certain je ne sais quoi about her, no?”
Cupid knew better than to take his mother’s bait. “I don’t know what they see in her,” he lied.
“They call her a goddess,” Aphrodite said. “The most beautiful creature alive.”
Ellie Beaufort’s black curls draped across her slender shoulders. The chocolate hue of her skin wasn’t particularly striking. Her full lips and brown eyes were nothing extraordinary, and although her cheeks were pleasant, especially when she smiled, they weren’t so pleasant as to explain the woman’s overall beauty. Cupid could not fathom why the sum of such ordinary traits resulted in Ellie’s exceptional appearance; but there it was: a thorn in his mother’s side.
“Her popularity will soon pass,” Cupid said.
Aphrodite shook her head. “I want you to kill her for me.”
Back in the stables at Mount Olympus, Cupid commiserated with Pegasus, who had a hurt hind foot. Two days ago, they had secretly followed Hermes and Hecate to the northeast of Greece to a rushing brook amid rolling hills outside of a tiny village, where Hermes and Hecate liked to fish. The swift messenger god and the goddess of witchcraft, who’d been shot with Cupid’s arrows eons ago, shared a deep love but had never acted on it.
This was beyond Cupid’s understanding. While it was true that his arrows couldn’t force love between people, they were powerful enough to overwhelm even the strongest gods and goddesses possessing an iota of desire in their hearts. So why hadn’t Hermes and Hecate shared so much as a lover’s kiss?
Should I shoot them again? Cupid had asked Pegasus telepathically.
The winged horse had nodded his reply with a wink.
Then Hermes had suddenly straightened his back and had looked around from where he sat on the bank, as if he’d sensed their presence. As Cupid and Pegasus had attempted to fly away, Pegasus’s right hindfoot got caught in a crevice. The white horse panicked and tugged when he should have god-traveled. Something in his foot popped, causing Hecate and Hermes to drop their fishing rods and fly toward Pegasus. Cupid had barely managed to god-travel Pegasus and himself away to avoid being discovered.
For two days, Cupid had searched for Apollo, hoping the god would heal the horse, to no avail. Cupid thought the foot would have healed on its own by now, but it was still tender to the touch. In addition, Pegasus had been unable to fly. This could mean only one thing: Hecate had hexed him. If she had done so wittingly, she would have visited them by now, to learn why they’d been spying. Cupid suspected that she’d cast a blind spell, unaware of her victim’s identity, but hoping to out a powerless deity.
Fortunately, Pegasus hadn’t been summoned by Zeus and had managed to hide out in the stables.
“Don’t worry,” Cupid reassured his friend. “I’ll find Apollo. Meanwhile, your powers should come back anytime now.”
He was only speculating. There was no knowing how long Hecate’s hex would last.
Cupid gave the horse’s flank a final stroke before flying away.
The search for Apollo to help Pegasus had been Cupid’s excuse to his mother for putting off the deed she wanted done. He took no pleasure in killing innocent mortals. Over the years, he’d developed a talent for distracting Aphrodite whenever a mortal beauty emerged into global popularity. He’d simply shoot another arrow into his mother’s heart in the presence of Ares, Cupid’s father, and the two lovers would be off to Paris for months on end, after which, the beauty of the day would have been long forgotten. But, like Apollo, Ares was nowhere to be found. And Aphrodite’s patience was thinning.
“What do you want with Apollo?” Artemis asked Cupid, where he’d found her at the edge of her favorite hunting grounds.
“Pegasus has a bad foot that won’t heal.”
“Have you seen your brother, or not?”
The goddess shook her head, her brown hair tumbling behind her in the wind, before she fit an arrow to her bow.
Cupid flew away in disgust. Her arrows were not like his. Hers killed innocent beasts.
After hours of questioning the other gods, Cupid abandoned his search and went home, where Psyche was boiling something on the stove.
“Where’s Deacon?” Cupid asked of their satyr servant.
“Today’s his day off,” Psyche said as she added pepper to the pot. “Welcome back.”
He loved his wife but not her cooking—though she did look cute in an apron, which she wore tied around her waist over her short red skirt. He patted her bottom and kept his thoughts to himself.
She kissed his cheek. “Your mother came by to see you.”
Cupid sighed. “Of course, she did.”
“What’s got you so agitated, my love?”
Cupid told her about Ellie Beaufort and his mother’s wish.
Psyche’s emerald eyes widened. “You aren’t going to kill her, are you? She might as well be me. Don’t you remember? Your mother sent you to kill me for the very same reason.”
Cupid kissed her silky dark hair. “I can’t marry every pretty girl my mother wants dead.”
“What choice do I have? You know how my mother is.”
He worked with his mother nearly every day to carry out the destinies of lovers. She was also his strongest ally, after his father, Ares. It was best to keep his mother happy.
Psyche stirred the boiling pot of what smelled like stew—though the aroma wasn’t always an accurate indicator of the pot’s contents when Psyche was the cook. “I’ve never understood how she can be so kind, so loving, and so compassionate one minute and so cruel the next.”
“She takes after her father,” Cupid said.
Psyche put down her spoon and cupped his face. “Not you. You are nothing but pure love and…”
Her lips were too near his to resist interrupting her with a kiss. He cradled her head as he pressed his mouth, hard, against hers. Her lips were moist, her breath hot. Desire shot through his loins.
“The stew can simmer,” Psyche said in between kisses as she pushed him toward their bedroom. “Oh, what you do to me.”
He gave her a lustful laugh as he swept her up in his arms and carried her to bed.
Ellie raised her hand and said, “here,” when the professor called her name.
Ellie didn’t recognize any of the other twenty or so students in the class. Most of her teammates had gone home for the first few weeks of summer to rest before practice would start up again.
Not Ellie. She was stuck retaking Freshman Comp. And she was a junior.
She supposed she was better off at Florida State than at home, for many reasons—the biggest of which was the unsolicited attention she’d been receiving from the media. She’d already done one commercial for Nike at the urging of her mother. Although Ellie liked the money, she hated being in the limelight. Ellie’s coach had said she could protect Ellie from reporters on campus, but she could do nothing for her if Ellie went home.
The other students in the classroom smiled at her. That happened to Ellie a lot. People congratulated her, even though she had no idea who they were. “Good game,” they would say, and she would say, “Thanks.”
But they rarely said anything else.
Ellie gazed through the window overlooking the fountain, which was empty, probably for maintenance. It was strange how you could be in a crowded room and still feel alone—even when people knew your name.
But Ellie wore her mask, like she always did in public. She took a slow, deep breath, reminding herself that she would get through this, one day at a time. She wouldn’t allow herself to consider the alternative, even though it was there, at the edge of her mind, her constant companion.
For Ellie, the softball season couldn’t get here fast enough, when she could return to autopilot, where everything came naturally, and she didn’t have to think.
As the teacher went over the syllabus, Ellie tried to pay attention, but her head was killing her. All she wanted to do was run. During the off season, she ran every day, listening to her favorite band through her earbuds. She couldn’t wait to feel the wind against her face and the sound of Juicy Jenkins wailing out her tunes. For now, Ellie focused on her breathing to help her get through the class. She knew that, with each passing breath, time would pass, and that was the trick of living—to pass the time.
After class, Ellie picked up some food from the cafeteria and carried it back to her dorm, where it was quiet, especially on the third floor, where the softball players lived. Her stomach hurt, but she knew she should eat. She collapsed on the sofa in the living room and set the Styrofoam container on the coffee table, willing herself to open it. When nothing else sounded good, she could usually count on mac and cheese, but even it didn’t sound appealing today. Without the distraction of softball, her old friend had returned to torment her.
The voice in her head reminded her that there was no point or purpose. A person was simply alive one day and dead the next, and nothing in between really mattered. The voice made her question why she had come to Florida State. Although some of her classes had been interesting, like psychology and astronomy, most of them seemed like a waste of time. Life in general was a waste of time. Life was a waste. It was nothing. She was nothing.
She stuck the container of food into the refrigerator of the tiny kitchen and went to her bedroom to change into her running shoes. Now that softball season was over, the only way to keep the darkness away was to run.
Before she’d finished tying her laces, her phone vibrated. Ellie glanced at the screen. Her mother was calling.
“Hello, Mom,” Ellie said into the phone.
“Where you at?”
“My dorm. Why?”
“I thought you was coming home for a few weeks,” her mother said. “Donna told me Shalynn’s already home. You were supposed to ride back with her. I can’t afford no airplane ride. I got bills.”
Shalynn was Ellie’s roommate, recruited by Florida State from the same high school in Louisiana.
“I told you, I got summer school.”
“Why you got summer school?”
“I failed English. I have to retake it. I told you.”
“Dammit, Ellie. I need you here. I was looking forward to a break, you know, from watching Jonivan.”
Jonivan was Dominique’s son. Dominique was Ellie’s sister, who was two year’s younger and was a single mom, just like their mother. Dominique got a job at a bank making more money than their mother made cleaning houses, so, except for one client that let her bring the toddler with her, her mother quit her job to babysit Jonivan.
“Well, I’m sorry. I’m stuck here,” Ellie said as she rubbed at her temples. The pain in her head had sharpened.
“You won the World Series for that school, and they gonna make you retake English?”
“Mom, it doesn’t work like that. Besides, I didn’t win it all by myself.”
“You sure as hell did. I know you don’t believe me, but I watched you on TV. I saw you pitch. Three up and three down. Almost every inning. That was you.”
Ellie smiled. Her mother rarely said such things. It felt good. “I still have to pass my classes.”
“Are you even trying?”
Ellie frowned. “Yes.”
“I’m gonna ask Shalynn if you been skipping classes, and you know her momma gonna make her tell me the truth.”
“I don’t skip classes, except when I don’t feel good.”
“Well, hell. That’s all the damn time.”
Ellie had wanted to say, “Ain’t that the truth,” but she held her tongue. The doctors hadn’t been able to find anything wrong with her, and when one of them had mentioned depression, Ellie’s mother had rolled her eyes and had asked, “You mean it’s all in her head?”
Ellie sighed. “What do you care if I go to school? You’re not paying for it.”
“Don’t you talk to me like that. I’m still your mother. You got responsibilities here at home.”
Taking care of Jonivan was not Ellie’s responsibility, but it would do no good to say that out loud. “I gotta go, Mom. I gotta study.”
“You be sure and do that. You hear me? Don’t be lying to me.”
ended the call and buried her face in her pillow.