It was late. The plane had landed several minutes ago and Malcolm and Eden were preparing to get off.
When Eden walked down the last few steps of the boarding ramp she noted her surroundings.
The air was hot and warm. She could see city lights and the salty sweet smell of the ocean tickled her nose.
“Where are we?” She asked.
“Los Angeles California,” Malcolm answered.
Eden scrunched her nose.
“How do you know one of the muses is here?”
Malcolm took her back from her hands without saying a word.
“Erato always finds her way to a location like this. Besides, I had one of my sources tell me of a location she may be.”
She nodded. Her head felt fuzzy and though she wanted to get this entire ordeal done with as soon as possible she was utterly exhausted. All she could focus on was keeping her eyes open.
“What time is it?” Eden asked.
“Nine thirty-two,” Malcolm answered, placing a hand against her lower back, guiding her toward a limousine.
“A limo?” Eden laughed. Malcolm was the most extravagant man she had ever met.
“When a good friend of mine found out I was visiting he insisted he have his chauffeur pick us up. We will also be staying at his residency.”
The chauffeur opened the door for them and the two climbed inside.
Eden let out a yawn as she buckled her seat belt. The chauffeur loading their bags into the back.
Her eyes were heavy. Her limbs weighed down with exhaustion. It had been a horribly long flight. Even in the luxurious jet.
“Come here, love,” Malcolm said softly as the chauffeur started the car.
Eden didn’t even hesitate. She allowed her head to fall into his lap. Her eyes already closing.
Malcolm’s deft fingers began to lightly comb through the long dark strands of her hair.
She wanted to remain conscious to enjoy the endearing touch. But mere moments later she had fallen fast asleep.
Eden’s eyes gradually opened. She realized she was being set down onto a bed. She sleepily took in the dimly lit room around her. It was sleek and white with light blue accents. A massive pair of glass doors were on one of the walls. Leading to the beach.
She realized Malcolm had carried her from the car into the house. She felt his warmth draw away from her as he placed her body under the fluffy white duvet.
He pressed a lingering kiss to her forehead and pulled away. Whispering something she assumed was along the lines of ‘goodnight’.
“Malcolm,” she said groggily. She reached out and grasped his arm.
“Are you sure, love?” He asked. His voice thick.
“Yes,” she whispered.
“I don’t want to sleep alone,” she added. Her nightmares had gotten progressively worse lately.
The thought of waking up in a shaky cold sweat and being unable to locate Malcolm in the unfamiliar house terrified her.
“Please,” she said. She knew she sounded desperate. She didn’t care.
Malcolm gently removed her hand and placed it on her stomach. Kissing her head and briefly exiting the room.
Eden suddenly felt confused. Why did he leave?
When he returned he was wearing black sweatpants. And well, nothing else.
Eden was definitely awake now. The dim light cast deep shadows across the muscular contour of his body.
Malcolm noted her stare.
“I could sleep with a shirt if that would make you more comfortable.”
Eden shook her head. Too quickly probably.
“No that’s okay,” she assured. Her voice raspy.
Though there wasn’t much light she didn’t miss the tiny smile that he now bore on his face.
He walked over to the bed. Pulling the covers back and getting in on the opposite side. Eden immediately moved over and curled up against him.
“You are becoming quite bold, Ms. Glace,” Malcolm murmured against her hair.
A shiver ran down her spine.
“Shut the hell up and hold me.”
Eden smiled softly as she felt his arms snake around her waist. She gasped as he suddenly pulled her on top of him.
“Shut the hell up and kiss me,” he commanded. His voice husky.
A wide grin stretched across her face and she giggled.
She brought her hands up and held his face with her hands. Pressing a slow kiss against his smiling lips.
“Goodnight Mr. Apollo,” she teased.
Malcolm seemed satisfied and allowed her to settle back to her original position. He kissed her hair.
“Goodnight Ms. Glace.”
“We’re going to a strip club? Are you serious?” Eden asked in disbelief.
“Yes,” Malcolm replied fastening a button on his suit coat.
“Wait are you wearing a suit to this?”
Malcolm rose a brow.
“I always wear suits,” he clarified.
Eden realized he was right. She had never seen Malcolm in jeans or causal clothing, The thought made her brow furrow.
Eden dug through her suitcase. All her wardrobe consisted of soft colors, sweaters, skirts, button ups and jeans. She didn’t want to dress provocatively, but she also didn’t want to show up in a baby blue turtle-neck and combat boots.
She eventually settled on a small black dress. It was a long sleeved V-neck that went to her mid thigh.
Genevieve had bought it for her on her twenty-first birthday and insisted they out and get dangerously intoxicated. Eden smiled when she recalled the memory of Genevieve climbing to the top of a building and proceeding to remove her clothing. Eden eventually had to climb up after her and get her off of there before she completely stripped.
The dress was more form fitting than Eden remembered. She eyed her reflection. Her warm brown eyes and chocolate colored hair paired with the black dress made her look almost dangerous. She wasn’t used to seeing herself look anything but soft and simple.
She pulled her hair up into a low bun and stepped into a pair of heels Malcolm had brought for her. He was extremely prepared it seemed, and it was rather comforting. Because Eden had never felt more scattered in her entire life.
Eden walked out of the bathroom.
“You look stunning,” Malcolm muttered walking toward her and placing his hands on her shoulders. Moving his hands down her arms until he held her two hands in his own. He was eyeing the dress as he did so. Or more like, he was eyeing her.
Eden felt a blush spread across her cheeks.
“Once we get Erato we will see what she knows and begin to find the others,” he explained, tucking a stray hair behind her ear.
“Are you ready?” He asked.
Eden nodded. Her stomach churning.
When they arrived at the club she instantly felt uncomfortable.
The air inside smelled of sweat and alcohol. There were people gambling and naked or next to naked dancers milling around.
Eden had no issue with whatever occupation people chose. However, nudity was something that never failed to put her at unease.
A man walked up to Malcolm.
“Malcolm! What brings you here tonight? Can I get you two a table? A drink? A dancer?”
He had dread locks. Diamonds and gold on his teeth and various glistening chains around his neck.
“Ever so hospitable, but I am afraid I will have to decline, Quib.”
Quib clapped Malcolm on the shoulder and began to make small talk. Eden also noted the many rings on his hand. He looked like a walking jewelry store. And not the kind of jewelry rappers or pimps sported, girly, pretty glistening gems. Wedding rings and diamond crusted hoop earrings.
Eden took an instant liking to the quirky man.
“I am actually looking for someone. I believe she is one of your dancers.”
A sly smile spread across Quib’s face. Showing off his quite literally sparkling smile.
“I knew it, I knew you’d come around I was starting to think you went for the other team,” Quib winked.
Eden expected Malcolm to scowl. Or give one of his cold passive aggressive retorts.
He did nothing of the sort. He simply gave the obviously intoxicated man a small smile.
“Not for that purpose. I believe she goes by Nixie?”
Quib’s eyes lit up.
“Oh, Nixie! My top girl!” Quib exclaimed with an unusual amount of enthusiasm. How many drugs was he on?
Quib put his fingers to his mouth and whistled loudly.
“Nix!” He hollered.
Eden’s brow furrowed. There was no way anyone could hear that from afar. The music was practically ear shattering.
A look of surprise crossed Eden’s face as a woman popped up moments later. She snuggled up to Quib. Pressing her chest against his side as she placed a flirty kiss against his cheek.
“Hi Quibby!” She gloated.
Eden was taken aback by her beauty. She had medium brown skin, and caramel eyes that looked like you could melt in them. She also had a shock of long straight pastel pink hair that cascaded down her back.
Eden would have looked longer but the girl was in nothing but a black thong and what looked like stickers covering her nipples.
“Mal!” She squealed as her eyes landed on Malcolm. Nixie practically jumped on him. Pressing herself flush against him.
“Hello dearest friend,” Malcolm smiled, gently patting her head. Eden realized she had been glaring at Nixie.
“I’ll leave you two kids to catch up. Nixie give the man and his lady whatever they’d like. It’s on me,” Quib insisted.
“What was your name, pretty lady?” Quib asked her, flashing a reflective smile.
“Eden Glace,” she replied with a shy smile.
“Pleasure to meet you, young lady,” Quib grinned, kissing her hand.
Eden laughed. Something about the absolute eccentricity and ridiculousness of the man put her at ease.
“I’ll be around and about if any of you need me,” Quib announced doing finger guns with his hands as he walked away into the crowd of people.
“Malcolm I missed you so much!” Nixie whined.
She looked as if she were leaning in to kiss him by the way her lips puckered and how her face came closer to his.
Malcolm turned his cheek and respectfully pushed her away.
“What? I thought you were over your phase of liking boys,” She pouted.
Eden cocked her head to the side.
“Sexuality is fluid, Erato. You of all people should know that,” he scolded. Not looking the slightest bit embarrassed.
“Besides you know I haven’t taken a male lover since before Ecaterina,” he said disapprovingly.
He looked over to Eden.
“Ecaterina?” She asked in disbelief.
“Oh my great god!” She whispered. Erato also gave her a hug.
Eden was too shocked to return the gesture. This girl was the most bubbly being she’d ever met.
“You look exactly the same, I haven’t seen you in hundreds of years,” she smiled.
“Erato has only known you in your first life and two others,” Malcolm explained.
Suddenly Erato looked scared. She began to shake her head.
“Malcolm we’re not trying the ritual again are we?” She asked. Her doe like caramel eyes wide.
Malcolm’s lips pressed together, and he gave her a grave look.
“I am afraid we are. And I desperately need your help to do it.”
Erato gave Eden a pained look, then looked back to Malcolm. She hesitated for a moment.
“I am at your service, Apollo,” she replied. Her expression suddenly serious.
“Excellent we need to leave now.”
“Let me just go get changed,” she replied disappearing into the sea of people.
Eden’s head hurt and her feet were starting to ache.
“So you used to have a boyfriend?” Eden asked curiously.
“A few yes, female lovers as well. That was before I met you.”
“I guess when you look as good as you do everyone wants to fuck you,” she noted.
“Are you implying something, Ms. Glace?”
She blushed and looked away from his tactile stare.
Erato came back. She now wore a black hoodie and jeans and a large black bag. Even in the casual attire she still looked stunning.
“Alright let’s go before Quib notices I’m leaving.”
As if calling him over Quib showed up. He looked Erato up and down with a disapproving gaze.
“Nixie your shift doesn’t end for another five hours, what do you think you’re doing?”
He folded his arms across his chest and looked at her bulging bag.
“Did you clear out your locker?” He accused.
Erato gave him a sheepish smile.
“Yes, I’m sorry Quib but I’m leaving. It’s been fun working here but I’m needed elsewhere,” she apologized.
Quib’s eyes darkened.
“You have a contract with me, little lady. Debts you need to repay, You can’t just leave.”
“Watch me,” she huffed as she turned to leave.
Quib grabbed her arm and yanked her back. Erato yelped in pain.
Malcolm stepped forward. Towering over Quib.
“I will pay off whatever debt she has and more, Quib. Don’t make this difficult.”
Quib scoffed not releasing his hold on the muse.
“I don’t care. I know who she really is. And her fancy schmancy powers have made this business more money than its ever seen before.”
Eden’s eyes widened. He knew about Erato’s abilities?
“She agreed to work here until I die. I intend on holding her to that.”
It came to Eden’s attention that three other men had emerged. They were in suits and did not look happy. One was holding a gun.
“Quib. I will pay you enough money to buy a thousand of the most luxurious clubs. Don’t do something you will regret,” Malcolm answered nonchalantly eyeing the security guards.
“The lady stays here,” Quib said through gritted teeth. He yanked back on Erato’s arm again. Pulling her behind him.
“I am afraid that isn’t going to happen,” Malcolm said. His eyes looked dangerous.
Eden gasped and felt all the color drain from her face.
Someone had grabbed her from behind.
And she felt the cool metal of a gun barrel pressed against her temple.
Malcolm’s eyes snapped to her. His jaw had started to twitch and his fists were clenched.
“Take Erato to the back and lock her in the spare room until this is handled,” Quib said to one of the security personnel, forcefully shoving Erato into him.
“If you move even a centimeter your lady dies."