Pandora's Box

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Chapter 10

I still enthralled by the beckoning lights of the city that drew closer and closer, much like last time. It was stunning and enthralling than during the day. There was never an end to the busy life that seemed to linger all day and night. Enjoying the sights with the music in the background was distracting enough to force me to focus on that instead of the awkward tension in the car and what was happening tonight. Arriving upon our destination, it already appeared to be quite busy with lots of cars parked alongside the building and people coming and going.

“Why a hotel?” Muttering, I followed War as he left the car. He smirked, shrugging his shoulders.

“Who knows.” A man approached us, dressed nicely and War handed his keys to the valet and approaching me much to my surprise he held out his arm. “Shall we?” Smiling faintly, nerves growing to where we were headed, I hooked my arm around his, following him up the stairs of the hotel. A man at the front of the hotel gestured in directions for guests and War approached him, holding out the letter. The concierges’ eyes flickered over the sheet before looking up at us.

“What luck do you bring?” He asked, eyes staring us to the bone but I had no answer.

“We bring our own luck.” War answered coolly and the concierge rolled his eyes, muttering under his breath. The man’s eyes flashed the colour of ember with ashes and reaching into the cash register he stamped the letter, leaving a bronze print and handed us the letter back.

“Take the elevators, and follow the Roman ways of yes or no.” With that he turned us away dismissively and confused, we both headed to the elevators.

War grumbled as we entered the elevator. “How the fuck do you go down?”

“What was a Roman signal?”

“...I’m an idiot.” War muttered after a few seconds of silence and looking up the camera in the corner he gave a solid thumbs up. At first nothing happened and started to give another thumbs up until the elevator suddenly jumped, making me jump, terrified and War clasped my forearm.

“I hate these machines and it’s my first time.” I mutter but the elevator suddenly goes down and it’s such a weird sensation of dropping in a large box.

“I felt the same way when I first tried an elevator. It was certainly an uneasy sensation. I also don’t recall this place having an underground hall.” War muttered, watching the lights flicker above us and I shifted nervously as we still continued to drop. “Wouldn’t surprise me.”

Reminds me of those never-ending stairs at that house.

“You brought the pearls.”

“Yes, figured it might suit the theme tonight.” War chuckled.

“Indeed. May I?” He turned to me and I nodded, unable to say anything as he pulled the pearls from the box. He slung the pearls around my neck, clasping it at the back of my neck and letting the cool, smooth texture lay softly at the bottom of my throat. A strange, almost jarring sensation crossed over me as soon as the pearls touched my skin, feeling so far away all of a sudden, a surge running through within that had me seeing things, feeling things, a strange surge falling over me so I couldn’t breathe-

The elevator came to a jarring holt, making me gasp in shock, my eyes snapping open and suddenly it was light again and I was in the elevator with Warren who looked at me confused and warily, his hand on my shoulder. My knees buckled slightly from the jarring, sudden stop from the elevator.

“Are you okay? You faded away for a second there!”

“I just, the pearls, they’re just...odd.” I fingered the pearls at my throat and War followed where I nervously played with my necklace and his brow raised. “What is it?” War frowned, suddenly raising his hand and touching the pearl.

“It’s gold now.”

What?

But before I could question it further the elevator doors opened with a cheery ding, revealing our stop which had us both stepping out of the elevators, stunned and awestruck.

Oh, my goodness!

“Wow.” War whistled beside me as we both stepped in huge, beautiful, glorious foyer with a grand staircase leading up, splitting into stairs cases leading left and right. The place was a mix of marble and stone, colours of pale golds, white and grey marble and deep burgundy. Many glass lights followed up the stair banisters, illuminating the way far the large crowd that moved up the staircase much like a line up.

Even War looked impressed as he whistled lowly again, still awestruck.

“You don’t see this often.”

The crowd was quite a... unusual mix.

Many were dressed stunning, golds, whites, or black evening gowns, their arms, necks, and hands glittering and shiny as they were adorned heavily with jewellery. Some had jewels glittering on their faces and their bodies, since quite a handful of figures were dressed in a very intriguing manner. The foyer was a cacophony of upbeat, excited chatter as everyone followed each other up the stairs.

“Very extravagant indeed.” I laugh and War escorts me into the crowd lining up at the foot of the stairs where two men, dressed in dark red and gold suits with a white porcelain masks stood in front of the stairs, taking everyone’s invitations and handing them something. When it was our turn, one took our invitation, checking for the stamp and placed the invitation in a box with a slot and pulling out a hand from a large black box, gave us both masks.

“Pan and his over-the-top parties.” War muttered, starting up the stairs with me beside him as he tied the ribbon at the back of his head, and I couldn’t help sniggering at the placement of his mask. “Oh, shush you.” He grumbled. His mask was a simple black mask that covered the top half of his face and fitting perfectly on his nose. His eyes matched starkly with the black of the mask, which was edged with gold. Mine was a similar black and gold mask, but lace black material with gold lace twined in through, with gold and black feathery designs on the right side.

“I think we are dressed to impress.” I laughed, standing before Warren and slowly spun around, the skirt swaying around my legs until it fell back down in place as War glanced at me, a slight chuckle escaping him as he reached up for my mask, adjusting it slightly.

“You are, without a doubt.” He whispered so quietly I almost missed out what he said. He stared at me through his mask, still touching either side of my mask, his knuckles brushing against my jaw.

“Move along love birds.”

Flinching in surprise, War’s hands dropping from my face, his touch still lingering like a burn left behind, a woman in a flowing, short silver dress, decorated with diamonds that looked so delicate it could’ve been part of her skin glittering in the room threw me a saucy wink and smile behind her silver mask as she walked up the stairs with her partner. “There’s plenty of time for that inside.”

I looked at War confused who looked briefly confused but a flicker passed over his face, almost nervous and a grimace crossed his face as he groaned inwardly.

“Damn, please don’t be what I think it is...”

“What is it?” War grimaced, a strange pained look, almost awkward expression passing over his face as he avoided my eyes.

“We’ll see.” His voice strained, he took my arm, slinging it through his and we walked up the stairs after the crowd hiking up the skirt of my dress until we passed through two large Oakwood doors that led into a large hall that had my jaw drop.

Again, wow!

“Wow,” I gaped in awe. “This place is something alright.” The foyer was stunning but this was very different indeed. The lighting was slightly dimmer than the foyer, a darker golden with an almost pink or reddish hue tinting the dimness of the room, that gave it a strangely, sultry atmosphere. Tables lined all around, decorated with crisp white table clothes and gold borders around it, crystal flowers in simple black vases and golden cutlery. Very golden indeed.

A large floor was open, much like a dance floor where people gathered around, a loud hum in the air as people chattered, drank and laughed in delight. A stage across from us, in front of the dance floor stood out and above the crowd, the lights out, wine coloured, heavy curtains were closed up over the stage. And there above were quite a few balcony’s that overlooked into the crowd, couples and people mingling up in the balconies. But it was what was revealed on either side of the large ballroom. Like a private setting room, with lace, see-through curtains hung over most of the private sections but the shapes and shadows of the figures beyond that twisted and writhed behind the curtains...

“Are they-”

“Yep.” Warren’s voice was strained, lips pursed, though his eyes looked highly amused as he noticed my stunned expression, his lips twitching forcibly. “Pan is very well known for his well...particular parties.”

“I didn’t think these were his types of his parties.” I looked away from the scenes unfolding behind curtains that still did very little to hide the activities beyond. Not to mention the sounds coming from around.

Oh, sweet mother in heaven...this is not what I expected.

“Not all of them. But most I would assume. Pan is very, well, intimately familiar with many figures; man, woman, human or not.” I watched, stunned when I noticed a couple figures on the balcony looking down at us appeared to be in the midst of a tryst, with very little to hide them or their naked upper bodies. There were even the sounds of cheering somewhere in the halls.

Oh Christ, my eyes! That was too much!

Some figures disappeared into darkened corners of the hall, eager to be involved in the parties heavy, sensual antics. The room was full of sensuality, lust and excitement. I could feel it myself. It was like the air was being pumped with such intoxicating sensations and smoke they gave rosy hues and blushing erotica. The couple, or well the threesome above us was really getting into it and War pulled me away, muttering quietly and covering my eyes.

“Bloody corruptions...innocent eyes...I won’t hear the end of it.”

I couldn’t help laughing at Warren who guided me closer to the middle of the room, near the dance floor which only had few couples dancing on. The music was lively, directing the movement of those on the floor in fluid motions. The crowd was mixed and unusual, people of different cultures and countries, and certainly inhuman.

“Do God’s get involved in these parties?” War frowned at the question, shaking his slowly.

“I wouldn’t believe so. Maybe they do. But could depend on the god. Most God’s prefer to remain in their silver towers or wherever they are. Most aren’t from here.”

“If anything, it would be mostly the inhuman. I can see quite a few nymphs alright. They are known to be frisky.” The way he said those spark a green lick of fire inside me and I grimaced inwardly. At that very moment, a couple of women, petite and graceful, almost like they were floating on air, dressed uniquely, plenty of skin showing sensually, their eyes followed Warren, sultry smiles crossing their beautiful elven faces as they passed by us.

I’ll bet you know, indeed.

“I can’t say what’s here and who. But most definitely not human here.” War continued as if he didn’t notice the women who passed by him and I couldn’t help smile faintly. We stood at the edge of the dancefloor; I was looking through the crowd for anyone who stood out as the host of the party but since I didn’t know what he looked like I couldn’t pick out Pan.

“Do you see Pan?” War shook his head, eyes narrowed as he appeared to be observing the crowd slowly, intensely as we moved through the crowd. I picked a passing server with a flute with sparkling wine and took a sip only to gag at the bitter, dry taste. “What in the name of the wine god’s name is that?”

“Champagne.”

“It’s gross, tasteless.”

“...You’re never not amusing.” I rolled my eyes at him and grinning he turned back to the crowd, his grin fading.

“Do you think Pan might not come.” War thought about that but shook his head quickly.

“Nah, he likes the attention. I’ve never heard of him missing his own parties. He puts time and work into them. Highly doubt he’d miss it after all his work. He’d be the last to arrive though. Make a grand entrance.” Shaking his head, War took my glass of champagne and drowned it quickly, taking a refreshing sigh. “Until he arrives, we wait. Also look out for anyone suspicious who might seem to know who you are. Could be part of anything. And I’d like for no harm to come to you at least.”

My throat grew dry as I watched him lick his lips subtly, running a hand through his hair, a shaky breath escaping me, my heart fluttering at his words. War turned to me, seeing me looking at him, I looked away bashfully, focusing on the crowd that was gathering more onto the dancefloor, skirts floating and dancing, jewellery, diamonds glittering as they moved. The music had grown in volume and watching the crowd reminded me of a distant memory, long ago, back home, on the eve of my wedding night.

“Shall we?” I found myself asking the question and War’s lips twitched as he looked down at me, a strange expression passing by his mask.

“Isn’t that my question?” I shrugged.

“You took too long.” He laughed suddenly, making me laugh along and he took my hand, pulling me into the dancing crowd and it was then I realized just how close we needed to be.

Oh lord, isn’t this what you wanted. Oh god yes, but I can barely focus.

His hand rested on my lower back, pulling me into him, his other hand still holding mine while my hand gripped just above his elbow and he pulled me along with the dancing crowd. It was like a sea of rhythm and movement, and War pulled me along as easily and gracefully while my steps flurried beneath me, managing to keep up to his steps. My skirt flying around my legs, brushing over his thighs as he released me, keeping his grip on my hand as he pirouetted out away from him. With a quick pull, I was spinning back into him, my back stopping against his chest. I laughed, my breathing heavy as he swayed alongside with me, I could feel his smile behind me as he spun me out again but followed me this time, catching me and pulling me by the waist into him until there was barely any space between us.

My breath escaped me, leaving me breathless, warm and my skin flushing, my pulse fluttering beneath my skin in a sensual hum that rushed through me. The crowd and music were a distant hum in the background that could not pull my attention for it was on the person before me who remained unmoving, despite his heavy rise and falls of his chest, the black of his eyes that swallowed up all things, including me into their depths. His hands burned hotly through my dress onto my waist, leaving his imprint that had not faded since that night.

I could feel it. His imprints, his touch as if we were right back in that car, our breathing, our voices the music humming in the background as we fell into desires and longing.

I long for it. I am longing for so many things it’s hard to keep up. But this...I care for him. Oh, I care, I can feel. I am feeling for him.

His hands trailed up my side, up my bare arms, leaving goosebumps in their wake, caressing over my shoulders until his hands slowly curved over my jaw, either side of my face, holding me in place. His eyes caressing every inch of my face, his eyes suddenly flashed red. The very red that incited fear and terror into me long ago and not too long ago but now, there was no fear. No urge to back away. Just an urge to stay where I was. Or move closer. My heart constricted, my chest tight, begging for air, a breath that only he could give me-

“Pan, I-”

“Warren...” I sighed wistfully, his eyes falling on my mouth as I leaned into him, or he was leaning into me. Either way, we were drawn to collide and I didn’t care to stop the crash. His thumb brushing against my throat froze, his eyes starting as he stared down at me, and suddenly, crash diverted. Like cold water, he pulled away from me, his hands dropping from my face and suddenly reality was brought back. A harmonious crowd fluttering and dancing around us, the sensuality in the room left a bitter feeling in my chest like the champagne.

“Warren,” He didn’t answer, at first. Pulling me back into a dance but now there was space between us and I felt cold and frustrated, disappointment settling heavy in my chest.

“We should focus.” Warren muttered quietly. “Pan could be arriving soon. The last thing we want is for him to get be crowded by his lovers.”

“I see.” I kept my voice neutral as I glared over his shoulder, hurt lingering like a sour bite. “I’ll bet they don’t leave him be.” As if he was eager to move on from everything he spoke coolly, easily, dismissively.

“Word has it, he’s quite creative.”

“Does he avoid those he gets intimate with?” War slowed down slightly, catching my glare and his brow quirked.

“Wow.” Warren nodded dryly, lips pursed, eyes narrowing slightly. “I didn’t see that coming.” He glared down at me. “You want to do this now?” I blinked up at him, slowly pulling from his arms, barely avoiding a couple that spins past us and raising my chin at him as I glared back, hiking up my skirt.

“No. I’m good. We have more important things to focus on anyways than being petty and feeling shame.” With another glare at him, I spun on my heel and walked away, dodging dancing crowds as someone cursed behind me.

“Shame? What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” War snapped from behind me, suddenly pulled to a stop as Warren grabbed my forearm. Turning to him with a sneer, I wrenched my arm out of his.

“Don’t make it any harder for me. Shame on you for laying a hand on your brothers’ jailer, seduce me to win yourself favours. I don’t care! Just stop being hot and cold and be straight for Zeus’s sake!”

Warren looked as though he had been slapped, his grip releasing from my arm and without waiting, I quickly excused myself, hiking my skirt up as I headed for the bathroom for a quick cool down.

I held the sink tightly, as I was left breathing heavily, staring at the reflection of a girl I barely recognized.

Well, I ain’t much of a coward but god, I’m horrible.

I wasn’t sure what to say after all of that but a huge linger of regret was left stuck in my chest, bothering me horribly. He didn’t deserve that, no matter what. Even if he was trying to gain favour...What happened to me not making assumptions and distrust? Daphne practically led me to him, urging me to trust her word and saving my life countless of times counted for something.

With a heavy sigh, I left the bathroom back into the hall where the crowd seemed much bigger now. I couldn’t see Warren anywhere which was a shocker since he could probably tower over a majority of the people in here. Resigning myself, I squeezed myself through the crowd looking for Warren.

A hand suddenly wrapped around my shoulders making me jump in surprise.

“Pretty girl, where ya - hic - going?” The man slurred, gripping me tightly to him, the heavy stench of alcohol making my nose twitch.

“I’m going to find my friend.” The man shook his head, which I noticed through his pale brown curls were two horns curled at the top and he moved differently, his legs angled under his pants.

“Don’t, hic, bother with them. Hic, come keep me some loving, hic.” I tried to move out of his grip but he continued to pull me in.

“Please don’t touch me. I want to go back to my friend. I’m sure you can others to love.” He pouted.

“But me want loving from pretty girl.” His hands gripped my waist, dragging me in and I raised my hand to his chest, pushing him back which ended up being quite easy since he was stone drunk.

“No thank you. I’m good.”

“Rude,” He grumbled and suddenly wrapped his arms around my waist. I struggled against him, shoving against him but he didn’t release me as we stumbled through the crowd which didn’t seem to notice my struggles. “Come make love, hic. I’ll be whoever you want, like your, hic, friend.”

Hell no.

Scowling, I gripped his wrist tightly as I almost tripped over his feet and finding my balance briefly, I struck out my foot, kicking his shin. Yelping, he released me, hopping on one foot as he gripped his shin in pain. “Stupid little shoes and their sharp points and stupid, mean women.” He grumbled, almost stepping on my foot. I almost tripped back, to avoid his hand reaching for me again as he did not seem eager to give up. Only for a hand to catch his wrist, spinning the horned man around, who stumbled dizzily. Warren pulled me away, putting himself between us as he led us away from the handsy fella.

“Come back, hic, pretty little whore-Oomph.” There was a solid thump, as Warren threw back his elbow briefly, and someone coughing, gasping as though winded badly. I pressed my lips tightly together to stop the flicker of amusement but Warren pushed me through the crowd away.

“Warren, I’m-”

“Pandora, are you-”

We both started at the same time as I turned to face him. We stopped immediately, both staring at each other before I giggled nervously.

“I’m just-”

“Are you-” With a loud gasp and sudden silence, the music came to a jarring stop and the lights turned off, and everything went completely black.

“Warren?” I gasped.

“I got you.” I felt his arm around my shoulder, pulling me into him, almost protectively. We were left staring blindly into blackness when suddenly a bouncy tune started to thump around us and a single light landed in the back of the room over a couple who looked confused until a figure popped out from behind, the crowd gasping in awe.

“Aren’t we looking golden here my lovely people.”

The lights turned on and off, the person appearing in different areas around the room, pulling men and women into a quick spin as he sang along with the band. He pulled two women away from their partners, gracefully pulling them into him as they stood stunned but he danced them both gracefully and smoothly, tipping them over, swaying alongside their bodies as he faded into the dark once again. I was left looking around blindly, following his voice which faded in and out around the crowd until the lights landed in the middle of the dancefloor, following him as he gracefully bounded past the crowd, backflipping his way to the stage to where he landed with a loud thud and struck an extravagant pose until the room went black again.

I was in awe and clapping frantically, incredibly awed much like a kid when I first saw music and dancing and entertainment and felt Warren follow me as the room lit up but not very much, leaving the crowd in the dark and the stage lights back on the stage to where the person stood once again. He was tall, slender build, wearing a stunning dark, wine coloured tux jacket with a black buttoned shirt beneath and red bow tie under his collar. A black top hat sat atop his thick, dark curls but he wore no pants, not bothering to hide his goat legs, covered in thick brown hair and shiny, polished hooves. Bowing he addressed the crowd.

“Welcome my lovelies, my friends, my lovers,” He tilted his hat slightly, eying the crowd with a cheeky grin. I heard several swoons and few squeals. War sighed, shaking his head. “To an ordinary night made wonderful by your appearance and hopefully the shiny’s you have hidden somewhere.” A few cheers and excited whistles. “I see some new faces here tonight.” Pan surveyed the crowd, a delighted grin gracing his cheeky face, he scratched his beard. “I look forward to becoming acquainted with you all.”

“You weren’t kidding,” I muttered to War. “He is quite the lover type indeed.” War hummed in response.

“But until I am free to do so my lovelies, first we must get through the events of tonight. I told you to bring your own luck. I have many of my own, that which I am more than happy to give to my lovelies.” With a grand gesture, he raised his arms and the curtains parted dramatically. “But for a price of course.”

In awe the crowd cheered and clapped and I glanced at War, slightly bemused and he rolled his eyes.

“Are we feeling golden tonight my lovelies for a bring many wonderful, strange, unique items from past, into this present for your future.”

Oh, dear God.

“Our first item we have here...” He gestured to the stage in which a figure in black, with porcelain masks pushed a large cart on stage, a large wooden box resting atop it. “I have some many items, first we have two engagement rings made of pure gold, almost two thousand years ago, made from the fires of the drakes that lived within Mount Vesuvius.” Immediately there a wild cheer and hands raised, numbers being shouted. Pan leaned dramatically towards his audience, hand cupping his ear. “I’m hearing four grand. Going once, going twice- I hear five grand! Sold!”

“Didn’t expect an auction.” War sighed but I noticed his eyes intensely focused on the items revealed one by one by Pan to the crowd. The fascination and intrigue on his face was hard to hide and I couldn’t help laughing in amusement.

“You think you’ll get something?” He shrugged.

“Wouldn’t be my first.”

“I’m hearing ten thousand for these feathers from the mighty Pegasus! Going once! Going twice! Sold! To the lovely lady in white there.” He winked salaciously at the woman who sighed heavenly. “It’ll be a perfect match for you my dear.”

“You said you haven’t been to a party of Pans.”

“I haven’t, but there have been auctions I’ve been keen on.” War touched his ear briefly, giving me a sly look. “I have connections and a few trust worthy friends out there.” I laughed, turning back to the stage where the crowd was moving in closer, many eyes stuck upon the faun who didn’t have a single issue with it.

“May I say, what a wonderful crowd you are and you all certainly brought your own luck indeed. You’ve made me a very happy one, and I can’t wait to show my lovelies how happy you’ve made me.”

“But until then, I have one more item to go.” Pan’s voice dropped low dramatically as if he was edging on extreme excitement. “An item that is one of a kind, there are no others. Nothing even close to it. So be prepared.” Leaning into the crowd, the lights covering him completely, he pulled his hat off his head almost in awe, kneeling on the edge of the stage as he spoke to the crowd, enticing them in. I found myself leaning in, eager, my ears out, heart pounding in excitement and joined in the excitement of the crowd.

“But I must warn you my dear ones, for this item, is a pure work of art. It is beauty, it is elegance, it is history and legend all in one. It is an item that brings desire and fear and it created one of the worst catastrophes many millenniums ago.”

Every instinct in me tensed.

“Created in the hands of the God’s of Olympus themselves...” Rising swiftly, arms out in reverence where someone walked on stage. The whole room went silent, or it was me, my whole body going cold as the world titled and faded on that stage.

No... No, it cannot be! Please, for the love of all that is...

“Ladies and gentlemen, may I present...” Sweeping his arm to the trolley with a black silk cover and the item laid atop took a breath out of every person in the room. Warren’s grip tightened on my arm as I felt myself barely able to breathe, a clawing hand gripping in my chest.

“The one and only...”

No! Please! Not that!

“...Pandora’s Box.”

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