Hell's Company

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Chapter 4

I woke up tucked into bed with a horrible taste in my mouth, accompanied by a pounding headache. One of the lights in my bedroom was still on and it was unbearably bright. I shoved my head under one of the many pillows as I groaned and pulled the blankets tighter as a wave of tremors passed through me. I threw them back as the strong urge to vomit hit me like a brick wall and a waste basket was shoved into my hands. I threw up three times before I could pull my head back and wipe my mouth. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome, Persephone.”

My head snapped up to look at Lord Luca. “What are you doing here?”

“Is that any way to greet one of the Lords of Hell? I think not.” Luca said smugly. “Don’t you remember last night?”

I groaned and rubbed my head. “Barely.”

“You started another fight by the bathroom and were about to pass out when I found you. I took you home. You begged me to stay.”

I gasped, in genuine horror and embarrassment. “You’re such a liar! I wouldn’t do that!”

He shrugged and grinned arrogantly, his facial expression pissing me off. “You did, but yeah, you were definitely drugged.” He sat back in the chair in the corner of my room and rubbed his face, looking incredibly tired and almost child-like, except for the stubble that was growing in. He sighed with exhaustion and my anger smoothed out, replaced by sympathy. “You’ve been puking all night and I had to force water and bread into you. You finally fell asleep a couple hours ago.”

“Have you slept?” I asked quietly.

“No.” He said gruffly but held out a bottle. “Here, drink some.”

I grabbed it greedily and chugged a few gulps, extremely thirsty and desperate to wash the horrible taste from my mouth, but I spat it back up and into the trash can. “That is not water.”

“Never said it was, but you’ll be super hungover so it’ll help with that.”

I shuddered and gave the bottle back to him, shuddering and swallowing back the urge to puke again. “Alcohol… is disgusting and a terrible idea.”

“Not always.”

“Always.”

“A prude, goody-two-shoes in Hell? Oh, I thought I’d never see the day.” He chuckled deep in his throat, the rumbling sound making goosebumps erupt over my skin. Even his voice was attractive to me.

“No!” I sputtered. “Did you see me last night? I was not being a prude then!”

“Of course, I did.” Luca glanced down at my torso and I followed, realizing I was still wearing my dress. I crossed my arms over my chest, cutting off Luca’s view of my assets, but was happy that he hadn’t undressed me while I was vulnerable. “You started two fights that I had to intervene. Ahh, and you think you belong in Sector Pride.”

A sharp pang of a memory hit me with a headache; Lucielle’s argument with Luca about the marking. I rubbed my head because I couldn’t look at him. It was still hard for me to figure out what that was about. “Hey, I’ll be right back.”

“Where do you think you’re going?” He stood up with an anxious expression.

“To change,” I grumbled with annoyance. Who did he think he was? He wasn’t my babysitter. I moved the covers away from my legs, which was a horrible idea. Immediately, both Luca and I saw that the slit had ridden up way higher than it was supposed to. I blushed a deep red and struggled to pull it back down, knowing that without a doubt I had just flashed the Lord of Sector Violence my transparent, lace thong. “Oh, my God.”

“Oh, he isn’t here, Persephone.” Luca groaned, closing his eyes as a smile spread across his face. One glance down at his form-fitting jeans told me he had thoroughly enjoyed what he had seen.

“I’m so sorry, I just… didn’t know. I’ll be right back.” I threw my legs over the side of the bed and tried to stand, but fell forward as the wave of dizziness hit me and my vision darkened until I could see nothing for several seconds; I felt Luca’s rough hands catch me anyways. “You think that wouldn’t happen once you’re dead,” I muttered under my breath.

“Sorry for what? Turning me on? Another first for a woman down here.” Luca brought me close to him, close enough so I could feel his heat, and then pushed me away.

“I’m just being polite, or trying to be.” I huffed, hurriedly rushing to my closet and throwing the door closed. I quickly found a plain tank top and a pair of shorts made out of soft cotton, not wanting to be choosey as it was still highly possible that I might throw up all over myself. I started stripping out of my dress and was about to take off my underwear when I felt a draft. I paused for a second and glanced around me, seeing the door open with Luca standing in its doorway. I flipped around and tried to cover myself, screeching, “Do you mind?”

“Not at all.” He said lazily, grinning with the smugness that would most likely always piss me off.

“Get out! I’m changing.”

“I can see that, as well as a lot of other things…” He trailed off and winked. I had been bent over, with my thong-clad ass facing the door when he entered.

Yeah, he got a view.

I blushed so bad it might be permanent. “Get out, Luca.”

“Fine then, you prude.” He sighed and closed the door wistfully.

“The gall of him,” I said under my breath, still utterly stunned from what just happened. I snapped into action and changed as quickly as possible, not knowing if he’d tried to sneak in again. A quick glance in the mirror revealed my hair was totally disheveled and my makeup was all but gone. “Man, I almost feel sorry for him having to deal with this mess.”

“What, is there a bathroom in there too?” Luca yelled.

I opened the door and stuck my tongue out at him. “No, of course not. It’s a closet.”

“I couldn’t ever understand why women need so many clothes.” Luca glanced behind me at the closet and shook his head. “Not today, not a year ago, not a century ago.”

“Christ, how old are you?” I gaped at him.

“It’s impolite to ask anyone their age, Persephone. No one cares about age here. No one gets visibly older.”

“So I’ve heard,” I muttered, crossing the room and resting my hand on the doorknob.

“Where are you going now?”

“To the bathroom. Would you like to hold my hand?” I growled, thoroughly annoyed with him.

“Fine then, whatever. I was just asking.” He mumbled as he sat back down in the chair, but muttered something extremely quiet under his breath. I was lucky I had good hearing. “Is this what usually happens when people try to be… nice?”

I didn’t say anything, figuring he hadn’t meant for me to hear, and went to the bathroom as quickly and quietly as possible. I checked my forearm as I was brushing my teeth, but I saw no mark. Why don’t I have a mark? When I exited the bathroom, he looked like he was in a stormy mood, not even glancing at me, so I wandered to the kitchen and grabbed the bowl of pomegranate seeds out of the fridge and brought them into the bedroom. Just walking around the apartment had worn me out so I sat down on the bed and popped some of the seeds into my mouth, savoring the taste and hoping I wouldn’t throw them back up. “Would you like some?” I asked quietly.

Luca was hunched over in the chair, but his eyes told me he was in another place.

“Luca, would you like some?” I asked louder, holding out my bowl to him.

He stirred and glanced at the bowl, immediately bemused. “Are those pomegranate seeds?”

“Yes. I asked if you would like some.”

“Sure.” He made no move to get up, as if he expected me to wait on him, and only leaned back to get more comfortable.

“I’m not getting up, if that’s what you’re expecting.” I smirked and snuggled further into the blankets as if challenging him. The sheets were a silken coolness and I shivered as the lack of heat wicked the warmth out of my body.

He looked bewildered, like that had never been said to him before. I saw his face contort, from wonder to annoyance, and then confusion, as he struggled to comprehend what just happened. Of course, his face was always serious and remained so, and I didn’t laugh, but I would have if it had been anyone else. His brows furrowed and he gave me a hard look, almost like a glare but lacking the conviction of one.

“Well? Have you changed your mind?” I couldn’t help but be amused.

He gave me a harder look but sighed, his shoulders rising and falling. The well-defined muscles flexed and worked as his arms pushed his lean body off of the chair. I closed my eyes in victory and opened them only when I felt the weight of his body lean against the side of my memory foam bed. He looked out of his element, for the first time since I laid my eyes on him, the Lord of Violence so at home in the Underworld. Was that a flush in his pale skin as his hand reached into the bowl?

“You must be hungry.” I whispered softly. “Unless you made yourself something during the night. I didn’t see any dishes, though.”

“I didn’t.” He said around a mouth full of seeds, the red juices staining his lips to an even more kissable shade of red. Everything in him contrasted; his dark hair and pale skin, the gray eyes and red lips, his towering height and the gentle way his rough fingers had held me last night, and the power condensed in his form and the lowering of his eyelashes as his way of saying thank you. Even his emotions constantly contrasted with each other. What was this man’s deal?

His eyes glanced back over at me and watched me savor the seeds. My mouth went dry as the corner of his turned up slightly.

“What?”

“Bound to this place forever. Isn’t that how the story goes?” He paused, meeting my eyes and smirking. “Well, you’ve certainly eaten more than six seeds. No visits back to the world of the living now.”

I scowled at him. I had heard the story many times, of course. That’s what happens when parents name their children after the people of myths and legends. I tried and failed to stifle a yawn. “Do you need me to make you something? I can try, but I probably won’t eat anything myself.” I half smiled and rubbed my stomach, which was struggling to digest the few seeds I had ingested.

“No, it’s fine. This is fine.” He said quickly, but quietly.

I handed him the bowl. “Eat some more. Have the rest, actually. I insist.”

He didn’t say anything, but set the bowl on his lap, eating slowly. I closed my eyes, feeling extremely fatigued and not wanting to completely stare at him while he ate. Eventually, he cleared his throat and spoke. “What do you plan on doing?”

“For what?”

“For the rest of eternity.”

“It’s been one night. I haven’t the faintest idea. But as of right now, I don’t think I’m leaving my apartment for awhile.”

Luca stared at me for a moment and laughed. “So you’ll be one of those people?”

“What does that mean?” I opened one eye sleepily, on the defense.

“One of the people who can’t handle being in Hell, who hide out for as long as they can because it’s the only thing that’s safe.” “Uh, maybe.”

His voice turned low. “I expected more from you.”

I was caught off guard. Why would he say that? “You shouldn’t expect anything from me. You don’t know me.”

“I can get a good feel of someone fairly quick.”

“Literally?” I grimaced.

“Occasionally.” I could hear the smile in his voice even after I closed my eyes. I didn’t reply. “You belong in Sector Violence, my sector, you belong to me.”

My eyes snapped open and I rubbed my forearm under the sheet, which was absent of a mark. “I belong to no one.”

“No?” He raised an eyebrow. “Everyone belongs to someone here, although very loosely. You had a choice, unlike the rest, yet you chose to belong to Lucielle.” He hissed in annoyance. “The judges were right about you, and I could tell from the moment I saw you. Fire. I saw it many times again at the welcoming party.”

“I don’t belong in Sector Violence.” I said firmly.

He waited for a moment and sighed. “Maybe not, maybe you’re right, maybe you deserve to stay locked up in your fancy apartment afraid of everything around you.”

“So what if I’m afraid? I’m human. It’s natural.”

“No one cares if it’s natural here. It means weakness and no one can afford to be weak. People can either bend and adapt, or they break. You’ll learn one way or another, though I’d rather have it being something you could recover from.”

“I am weak if that means I feel fear. I’m scared of leaving my apartment and being mugged, or kidnapped, or tortured, or raped, or put into any uncomfortable situations, which is apparently in abundance here. I don’t know how to defend myself.”

“That’s bullshit.” He laughed. “You don’t know how to defend yourself? I saw it at the party.”

“A few drunken punches means nothing.” I muttered.

“So, you’d come out of your apartment if you knew how to defend yourself?”

“I don’t know.” It was a guarded answer. I knew he was trying to get at something.

“Or are you too afraid? Then it would be just an excuse. Are you willing to learn?”

“Depends.”

“Depends on what?”

“Where would I learn?”

“I would teach you, if you could handle it, or are you too afraid?”

“Fine!” I yelled, breaking under his pressure.

“Fine?”

“Fine.” I said quieter, trying not to think about how badly I could regret it.

“Great.” Luca purred in victory, but fell silent and I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer; the overwhelming fatigue of the hangover making me fall back into the pillows. The sheets were finally warm, which increased my drowsiness, but I could feel the heat radiating off of Luca from where he perched on the bed. His breathing was becoming deeper, probably as he stewed with his thoughts, none of which I could accurately guess, and my breathing followed his. How I fell asleep with every molecule in my body reacting to the infuriating proximity of him, I didn’t know, but I fell into a dreamless deep sleep, never noticing how Luca had moved.

* * *

When I woke, my eyes still felt unbelievably heavy and my limbs felt like lead. I didn’t want to move and I didn’t want to open my eyes, but a certain energy pulsed through my veins that made me restless. I knew I wasn’t going to fall back asleep even if I wanted to. A curious warmth was beside me, a feeling I wasn’t used to, and it shifted every so often.

I peeked one eye open, rubbing the sleep away, and I was paralyzed when I saw Luca asleep beside me, lying atop the covers. He was asleep on his back, with one muscled arm supporting his head, looking incredibly peaceful and not intimidating in the least, but I knew. This was a man capable of so many horrific acts, who was the incarnate of fear and a ruler of Hell. If I was afraid of so many things, why was I not afraid of him? The strange, dangerous man was terrifying to all who saw him or came upon his wrath, yet he found me when I was vulnerable and drunk, took me home, looked after me all night, and continued to stay.

What was he still doing here?

Why hadn’t he left?

His free arm was lying between us, unconsciously resting against my thigh. I shivered, despite how warm he was. I couldn’t be this… close to him. Slowly and carefully, I tried to slip from the bed without him waking. He stirred, and my head snapped sharply to the side to watch him, but he only shifted positions and I exhaled my breath and left the room quietly.

My stomach was still upset, but I was unsure if it was because of the after effects of alcohol poisoning or just because I haven’t eaten anything solid since I arrived here. And Luca… He hasn’t eaten anything all night. I rifled through my kitchen, looking for something that’d be easy on the stomach but tasty to eat, and decided on homemade chicken noodle soup. I got out the ingredients; celery, carrots, onions, chicken stock, dried noodles, vegetable oil, spices, and a packet of chicken breast along with a cutting board, pot, frying pan, and various other utensils I’d use. I put the frying pan on the burner and threw in the vegetable oil and spices, cutting the chicken into little chunks. The other pan was filled with the chicken stock and was in the process of starting to boil. I threw in the chunks of chicken and immediately they started to sizzle. I stirred it around before returning to chopping vegetables, then throwing them into the pot of stock along with the bag of noodles. I hummed while I cooked, constantly flipping the pieces of meat until they were cooked thoroughly and dumping them into the pot of soup. Despite the noise, I heard a door swing shut and a lock click.

“Luca?” I called, leaving the kitchen to investigate if he was awake or not. The bedroom was empty, as was the bathroom.

He was gone.

“That’s rude.” I muttered, feeling uneasy. What had caused it? Had it been me?

I continued cooking the soup, determining that I’d still enjoy it with or without Luca, but something was nagging at my stomach and I was unable to determine what it was. When the vegetables were cooked and the noodles were soft, I turned the burner off.

There was a knock at the door and I jumped to get it, assuming it was Luca. I opened the door with a smile, which faltered when I saw who was on the other side.

“Hey, Persephone!” Michael smiled and sniffed. “Are you cooking? It smells wonderful!” He pushed past me and let himself inside. “Hot damn, Persephone. Nice fucking place you got here.”

“That’s what Fia said.” I chuckled. “And yeah, I’ll share the soup. I was making it for two anyways, but now I find myself serving for one.” I grumbled unhappily.

“Two? Did I interrupt something?”

“No.”

“Who was it?”

“Uh, no one.” I blushed and moved past Michael as he checked out my entire apartment. I got out bowls and spooned the soup into each of them evenly.

“Oh, come on, tell me. Who was the lucky guy? Or girl, I don’t judge.” Michael grinned and I rolled my eyes. “Was it someone you met at the welcoming party?”

“That’s Fia’s department, and um, not exactly.”

“Don’t hold out on me. You have to tell me. I’ll tell you who I was with last night or, well, I could try to describe her; I didn’t catch her name.”

“Not necessary.” I laughed.

“But you have to tell me. I want to know if I know them.” Michael continued to pester me, even after his mouth was full of soup, so I caved.

“Fine! I’ll tell you, but it wasn’t like that, if you catch my drift.”

“Okay, sure, but who was it?”

I busied myself with another spoonful of soup before answering. “Lord Luca.”

Michael looked up at me, gauging my facial reaction, and started choking, the soup spilling out of his mouth and back into the bowl. “You’re not joking?”

“It wasn’t like that!” I cried. “We didn’t do anything, anything. I got messed up at that party and someone put something into my drink and I was on the verge of blacking out when he got me. Apparently, he took me home and he told me he looked after me all night…”

“He told you? So he was here when you got up?”

“Uh, yes?”

“Un-fucking-believable.” Michael hooted, throwing his head back and finally returning to look at me.

I was clueless.

“He stayed the entire night with you?”

“Apparently. Michael, what the fuck are you so amazed about?”

“Lord Luca, a lord of Hell, with you, staying the night, but getting no sex at all? All of that is unheard of. Lord Luca never, ever, stays the night with someone he, uh, for lack of a better phrase, stays the night with, if you catch my meaning. It’s like his golden rule. Everyone knows that.”

“But nothing happened between us!”

“Are you sure he didn’t do anything to you while you were sleeping?”

“No, uh, yes. Wait, what?” I screeched. “You think he would do that?” My body ached, but not down… there.

“Specifically him, I don’t know, but I wouldn’t put it past anyone here. We’re all here for a reason. So you think nothing happened?”

“He said I was puking all night. I doubt he’d want to have sex with me while I was spewing bodily fluids, so no, nothing happened.”

“Which is even weirder, like I get why he would want to, anyone would, I mean, look at you. Not too shabby, even in the morning.” Michael’s eyes wandered a bit.

“Michael,” I warned sternly.

“What? Sorry! It’s just I can’t believe nothing happened and that he stayed the night.”

“Well, I guess that’s what happened.”

“When did he leave?”

“A few minutes before you got here. He didn’t even say anything, he just left.”

“Like mid-conversation?”

“No, he was asleep in my room.”

Michael’s eyes bugged out of his head. “You’re bullshitting me right now.”

“To be honest, I don’t even know why I would be bullshitting you. I don’t care about that stuff. You wanted to know, and I told you.” I snapped finally and Michael got the cue to drop it. He stared at me while he was eating, his chocolate eyes never leaving me, until it started to make me uncomfortable. “What, Michael?” I growled.

“Lord Luca saved you from the party, whisked you away to your apartment, stayed to take care of you, fell asleep with you, but left immediately when he got up without a word.”

I nodded hastily, trying to get him over the topic.

“What is it about you, Persephone? How the hell did you capture his attention?” Michael stared at me again, trying to study my face like he was searching for something physical. “I can see that you’re hot, and not trying to be rude, but lots of the hot girls end up here, and there isn’t a low supply, if you get what I’m saying. There’s not any real reason why the Lord of Violence should be interested in a Pride girl. We’re known to be fairly mild and, as you can guess, they’re very intense. I saw you just casually talking to Lady Lucielle your first day here, and she gave you the penthouse in this building. You’ve captured her attention as well. Why? How?”

“He’s not interested in me, Michael, clearly. He left while I was making him food.”

“There has to be something, Persephone, you’re not telling me something. Violence and Pride? They’re usually opposites.”

“Uh, I was supposed to go to Sector Violence…”

“How the hell did you get put into Pride then?” Michael glanced down at my forearm, trying to see my mark, but I rested it against the table so he couldn’t see that I didn’t have one.

“It was something the judges wanted, for me to be put in Violence, but I didn’t have a specific sin, really, so Lucielle gave me a choice while I was being sorted…”

“She gave you a choice? Unbelievable. All of this is unbelievable.”

“Will you let me fucking finish answering at least one of your damn questions? Christ, Michael.”

“Fine. I’ll shut up. Continue.” He mimicked zipping his lips shut and throwing away the key, finishing his bowl of soup.

“And I choose Pride, obviously. I don’t belong in Violence. I know I don’t. Lucielle did the tour thing, gave me this apartment, I started getting ready for the welcoming party, Fia came over, we left, and you know the rest.”

“But why would you not have a main sin if the judges said you needed to go to Sector Violence?”

I chuckled and scratched my head, unsure of how I should tell him. “Uh, funny story that one.”

“Oh, this one’s funny? This should be good.”

“I kinda attacked the judges when they tried to take me to the drop off point.”

Michael pushed air out of his lungs and shook his head at me. “Have not heard that one before. I just remember the judges being so calming…”

“Yeah, well, flight or fight kicked in for me.”

“I can see why that would interest the lords and ladies.” Michael got up and got himself another bowl of soup.

I set mine down with sudden realization. “Have you seen Fia?”

“Uh, no. I’ve been in my own sector. I usually don’t go to Sector Lust unless I’m with my buddies.”

“We drank off of the same laced drink. I told Lord Luca to find her and he said he would, but I haven’t heard anything from her…”

“If Lord Luca said he was going to do something, I’d believe him. Doesn’t usually go back on his word, though he rarely gives it to anyone.”

“But I don’t want anything bad to have happened to her…”

“I wouldn’t worry about it. It’s not like she can die.” Michael said offhandedly.

“Michael.” I hissed, which caused him to look at me. “I need to know. Based off life experiences, people don’t keep their word very often.”

“Then go find her.”

“I don’t know where she lives.” I said quietly.

“Ask around, I’m sure someone would know.”

“I don’t want to go by myself.” I blushed and hung my head, embarrassed that I was scared and trying not to think about what Lord Luca said. I doubt he wanted to help me out, with the way he left like that.

Michael looked at me, amused. “So the big, bad Sector Violence chick is too scared to go by herself?”

“I told you I don’t belong there.”

He chuckled, eyes closing briefly as he tried not to laugh. “Fine. I’ll tell you what, since I’m such an impeccable guy, I’ll take you to Sector Lust and help you find her, and we can go to Sector Gluttony afterward.”

“Why Sector Gluttony?”

“Best fucking food you’ll ever have in your life and death. I suppose I’ll have to be the one who integrates you to life here in Hell.”

“But we’re eating right now.”

“It’s good, but it’s only soup. You’re feeling better right?”

“Yeah, I guess. The nap really helped.”

“Hangovers cure themselves pretty fast here. Come on, get ready, you’re going to put a cramp in my style.” Michael joked and nudged me off my chair.

“Excuse me? You’ll be the envy of all the guys if I’m by your side.” I winked, but ran to my room to grab a pair of simple skinny jeans, a jacket I threw on over the tank top because putting on a bra was still just too much, and plain black flats. I wiped the smudged makeup off of my face and returned to the kitchen where Michael was waiting.

“No need to dress up for me, Persephone.”

“The thought never crossed my mind.” I laughed and glanced down, knowing I looked relatively average.

“No, you still look nice. A rare quality for women to have, if I’m going to be blatantly honest, as per usual.”

“Alright, sweet talker, let’s go.” I grabbed Michael and pulled him out of the apartment, making sure I had the bag of Fia’s stuff.

We left the apartment building and Sector Pride shortly after. It seemed like to get into any of the other sectors, you had to go through Center Sector, the hub that linked the five sectors together. The massive structure was completely dark and silent, and I wondered if Lord Luca was watching me from one of those reflective windows. I felt eyes on me but was unsure if it was just fellow residents or him because both were unnerving. I wrapped my arm around Michael’s and stuck close, not wanting to be grabbed or anything. I was hyper-aware of the people that passed, the looks they gave us, and the way their eyes wandered over me.

“So do you really not know what the sector leaders are?”

“No one knows, I told you that the first time.” Michael said roughly but softly, not wanting anyone to overhear. “But Persephone, if I can give you any kind of advice that you should listen to, it will be this; do not mess with the Lords and Ladies of Hell. What they say is law and they can do anything they fucking want. Obviously, you’ve done shitty with this so far but just stay away from them as much as possible. Nothing good comes with trying to get close to them. They are here to watch over us, keep us in line, and occasionally fuck some of us if they’re bored. They use us, Persephone, for anything to get what they want. They aren’t good.”

I thought over Michael’s words carefully and quietly replied, “They don’t seem so different from us. After all, aren’t we all here because we aren’t good… because we’ve used other people to achieve different things?”

“Yeah, but they are different. If you haven’t noticed that already, you will eventually, and that is a fact.”

I gulped, his words so serious, they dragged me into melancholy, but we passed through the gates to Sector Lust and it seemed like I was in a different world.

Sector Lust was full of neon lights in purple, pink, and red tones, casting a warm hue over the glamorous-looking buildings. The neon lights that appeared to have naked women moving danced, flickering as they advertised strip clubs, brothels, or nude bars. Like Fia had mentioned, nudity was not uncommon here. Many prostitutes littered the streets, completely naked or busy with clients in alleys. The sound and smell of sex were evident and I crinkled my nose, grimacing.

“Don’t like it here?”

“I was called a prude earlier, so I know I don’t belong here. Callista wanted me here.” I shook my head. “I try not to judge, though. Most people love sex.”

“You say it like you don’t.” He half-teased and then stopped smiling when he saw my expression.

“I have no interest in it.” I shrugged dismissively because I didn’t want to get into this topic with a male. They never understood. “So where are the apartments?”

Michael had opened his mouth, probably to ask me about sex, but it closed and reopened to answer my question. “The sectors are set up differently. Sector Pride, we have skyscrapers and apartment buildings like Sector Greed, but Sector Lust is like Sector Violence, and people just live above businesses and stuff. They’re all over. Most apartments are above clubs and bars.”

“I think Lucielle might have mentioned that. So where would Fia live?”

“Anywhere. You just need to ask around now. It’s not like there’s an absence of people.”

“But…” I protested, not wanting to speak to completely random strangers.

Michael shot me a look and I hung my head.

I dragged Michael with me and started asking around a group of prostitutes that were hanging together, passing a few joints around, and laughing. “Hey, I don’t want to bother you but I’m looking for a friend. She lives in this sector. Super new. She just got here yesterday. Fia Clarke; redhead, green eyes.”

Most of them shook their heads, but someone piped up, “I think I might know who you’re talking about. Didn’t she have to be accompanied home from the welcoming party?” She was a petite blonde with a curvy build, wearing a skimpy dress and a cosmetic store worth of makeup on her face.

“Yeah, actually. Do you know where she lives or who took her home? Did she get back safe?”

“Lady Callista was accompanying a few guards that were carrying her home. She didn’t look too happy about it and I think I heard her complaining about how she was forced to do it. I’m not really sure how she could be forced, though.”

Lord Luca, I thought silently, wistfully.

“Lady Callista?” Michael whistled and looked down at me. “Man, what is it with the two of you?”

“Michael, shut up.” I elbowed him hard in the ribs. “So do you know where she lives?”

“Yeah, I think so. They mentioned Club Erotico.”

I smiled. “Thank you so much. I’ll remember this.”

She glanced me up and down. “Usually don’t fuck with girls, but I can make an exception with you.”

“Oh, um,” I let out a nervous chuckle because I didn’t know what to say or how to politely decline.

“She cleans up real nice.” Michael winked. “But she’s taking a raincheck for now. Important matters to attend to.” He steered me away and pulled me from the group, walking at a fast pace down the street. “I believe I’ve been to Club Erotico a few times. Don’t judge me.”

“No judgment from me. I can’t believe Lady Callista took her home.”

“Fucking all the leaders must think you’re interesting. They wouldn’t deal with this shit from anyone else. Both of you would have been abandoned at the welcoming party and most likely taken advantage of. Neither of them would have helped you. No one would have.”

“Well, thanks for those inspiring words, Michael.” I laughed off the severity of it.

Michael gave me a funny look as we found Club Erotico, pausing on the sidewalk before it. “I think you’re changing things around here, Persephone, but I’m not sure if that’s good.”

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