Esher (Guardians of Hades Series Book 3)
Prince of the Underworld and Lord of Water, Esher was banished from his home by his father, Hades, two centuries ago and given a new duty and purpose—to keep our world and his from colliding in a calamity foreseen by the Moirai.
Together with his six brothers, he fights to defend the gates to the Underworld from daemons bent on breaching them and gaining entrance to that forbidden land, striving to protect his home from their dark influence. Tormented by his past, Esher burns with hatred towards mortals and bears a grudge against Hades for forcing him into their world, condemning him to a life of battling to keep a fragile hold on his darker side—a side that wants to kill every human in the name of revenge.
Until he finds himself stepping in to save a female—a beautiful mortal filled with light and laughter who draws him to her as fiercely as the pull of the moon, stirring conflict in his heart and rousing dangerous needs long forgotten.
Aiko knows from the moment she sets eyes on the black-haired warrior that he is no ordinary man, just as she’s no ordinary woman. Blessed with a gift, she can see through his stormy façade to the powerful god beneath, and the pain and darkness that beats inside him—pain she grows determined to heal as she falls deeper under his spell and into his world.
When the daemon bent on turning Esher against his brothers makes her move, will Esher find the strength to overcome his past and fulfil his duty, or will the lure of revenge allow the darkness in his heart to seize control, transforming him into a god intent on destroying the world?
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His black hair grazed his temple, and she drank her fill of him, still finding it hard to believe she was walking with him to her home. Her grandmother would be proud of her. That feeling beat in her heart. She had taught Aiko to give aid to those who needed it, especially if they were from another place.
This man certainly was.
His blue eyes took on a troubled edge, and he slid them towards her, angling his head slightly in her direction so he could see her. She smiled and looked away, not wanting to upset him. When his gaze left her again, she snuck another glance at him.
He was handsome, with fine black eyebrows and long inky lashes that framed his deep blue eyes, and a straight nose and softly curved lips that were a shade or two darker than his skin in the low light. Sculpted cheekbones were accented by long sideburns that reached the lobes of his ears, and the sharp angle of his jaw. There was a coldness to his face though, the lack of lines around his eyes and mouth telling her that he rarely smiled or laughed. Why?
When he frowned at her again, she looked away and kept her eyes off him this time, not wanting to upset him.
His gaze moved away from her, but then came back to rest on her, and she kept hers fixed ahead of her, pretending not to notice the way he studied her.
Because instinct warned he would react harshly if she made it clear she was aware of him staring.
As they turned a corner onto her street and passed a small park, she swore he wanted to move closer to her, but he tensed and distanced himself instead, and his eyes left her. She looked at him, keeping her head forwards so he wouldn’t notice. His eyes scanned over the low buildings that lined the street, most of the windows dark.
Aiko wanted to know his thoughts as he became absorbed in looking at everything but her, but held her tongue instead, not wanting to appear rude.
She hadn’t met many foreigners, and had certainly never met anyone like him.
When she crossed the road, he followed, and when she stopped in front of one of the square modern buildings, he halted with her. As she pulled her backpack off, he stepped backwards and looked up the height of the two-storey building.
“Smaller than I thought.”
She slid the key into the lock on the glass door and twisted it. “It’s only a clinic. We have a few beds, but mostly father treats local people and prescribes medicine.”
She pushed the door open and walked into the dark room, years of living in the cramped building allowing her to move through the pitch-black space without hitting anything. When she reached the door to the office, she reached inside and flicked on the light. She turned to tell the man to come in.
He stood right behind her, his eyes stormy again as he looked around, his shoulders tensed as he scanned the darkness, as if he was expecting trouble.
“Father normally leaves this light on, but I prefer to turn it off when my parents are away.” She set her backpack down on the chair by the desk, and pointed to the gurney. “Have a seat.”
The man eyed it with suspicion, but moved past her and arranged himself on the padded bench. Aiko didn’t fail to notice the way his lips twisted as he sat, or the way his left arm tightened on his ribs.
“Is it just your hand that’s hurt?” She edged closer to him.
His eyes darkened a full shade, but around his pupils they seemed to grow brighter, turning cerulean. Not the lights.
She changed course, heading towards the white cupboards instead of him, giving him a moment to forget her question. He was hurt, but he didn’t want her seeing it.
Because he didn’t trust her.
Maybe it had been a mistake to insist on helping him.
Aiko paused with her fingers on the metal handle of the top drawer. It didn’t feel like a mistake though. Helping him felt like the right thing to do. She had said she would take care of his hand, and that was what she would do. She owed him that much. She wouldn’t press him to let her see his other injury, or ask him how it happened, because now she felt sure it hadn’t happened on the train.
He had been injured before saving her.
Yet he had still stepped in to help her.
“My parents are away visiting family.” She opened the drawer as she rambled, filling the tense silence and giving him a clear sign that she wasn’t going to press him for answers. “I was going to go, but university is too busy right now.”
She found the bandages and opened a fresh roll, and grabbed the scissors and tape too. She placed them on the black seat beside him and found the cotton wool and saline solution, and a tray to place all the dirty items in when she was done with them.
When she pulled a pair of disposable gloves from the box and tugged them on, he frowned at her.
“You seem used to this.” He nodded towards the items next to him when she looked at him.
Aiko shrugged and removed her short black jacket, draping it over the back of the chair, and rolled up the sleeves of her dress. “I grew up in a clinic, and I’m studying medicine at university. Can you take your coat off for me?”
He released his ribs and tugged the right sleeve of his coat up his forearm, making it clear he wasn’t going to be removing the garment. Because he didn’t want her to see the wound he was trying to hide.
She pushed the need to see it and tend to it to the back of her mind and focused on the one he would let her see and treat.
When she took a step towards him, he tensed and she flicked her eyes up to meet his. His were brighter, a sunny summer sky that deep inside she knew was a bad sign and not a good one. She kept still, watching the war rage in his eyes as his irises grew darker around the edges. She had never seen eyes like his, but then she had never met a man like him.
When his eyes settled, and he released the breath he had been holding, she risked moving. He didn’t tense again as she approached him, keeping her eyes off him to give him time to calm himself.
His voice was gravelly when he spoke. “Is university the reason you were out so late?”
He was trying to fill the silence now, to take his mind off what she was doing, and she went along with it, wanting him to be as comfortable as possible. She soaked some of the cotton wool in the saline solution on one side of the tray, and then slowly turned towards him.
As she reached for the makeshift bandage he had wrapped around the wound, she answered him so he would have something to focus on other than what her hands were doing. “I had work tonight, and afterwards I met my friends in Shibuya. I meant to be home earlier than this, but it’s so easy to lose track of time.”
She drew the white handkerchief away from his arm and her eyebrows briefly knit as she looked down and spotted a tattoo peeking out of the blood on his wrist, just above a thin black bracelet that sat flush against his skin.
He noticed where she was looking and tensed, and she swore he was waiting for her to mention it as she turned and placed the soiled cloth on the tray.
It had surprised her, but she wasn’t one to hold with the traditional view of tattoos. She doubted he was yakuza.
Aiko focused on her work, carefully wiping the blood on his arm and hand away with the saline solution until she could see the wound—a three-inch-long gash that ran at a diagonal across his forearm a few inches above his wrist.
And his tattoo.
A beautiful dark blue trident on the inside of his wrist.
“You shouldn’t be out so late at night,” he muttered as she dabbed the gash with the solution, making sure it was completely cleaned.
Clearly, he shouldn’t be out so late at night either. It meant bad things for both of them, but at least she hadn’t ended up with what looked like a knife wound. He must have been in a fight. Under the bright light of the inspection lamp, she had spotted more cuts on his neck, and a few on his face. Plus there was the one he didn’t want her to know about.
How deep was that wound?
She risked a glance at his right side as she turned to toss the used cotton wool on the tray and reached for the bandages. His black coat was wet from the rain, making it impossible for her to judge how much blood he had lost. She frowned as she spotted a single tear in it, barely an inch long.
A stab wound.
He needed treatment, and she wanted to give it to him, but she kept her tongue in check and didn’t mention it.
The wound on his arm must have been from the same fight, and it was already sealed and healing. The one he was hiding might be healing just as rapidly. Which only made the feeling she had grow stronger. He hadn’t come with her for treatment. He had come with her to ensure she reached her home safely.
“This looks good.” She carefully wrapped the bandages around his arm. “It should heal nicely. Hold this.”
He placed his fingers on the end of the bandage where hers had been. She picked up the scissors and cut the ribbon of cream material, and then grabbed the tape and snipped off two long pieces.
She placed one just below his fingers, brushing them.
He snatched his hand away as if she had burned him.
Aiko pretended not to notice that too, or his sharp intake of breath and the way his eyes drilled into her, and that feeling rose again, warning her to move away from him. She refused and placed the second piece of tape, and smoothed them both down carefully.
Her fingers slowed as she looked at his arm.
Silvery scars spiralled around his forearm, from halfway down to his wrist.
She reached out to touch one.
He shoved the sleeve of his coat down, stealing them from view, and she jumped, her entire body tensing as she quickly drew her hand to her chest.
Words warred on her lips and in her heart, an apology battling a desire to question him, to know what sort of life he led to have such deep scars, to end up wounded and act as if it was nothing.
“Thanks,” he muttered, the word hollow and devoid of the emotion that normally accompanied it.
“Would you like some tea?”
He was off the gurney before she could even finish that question, his long black coat swirling around his legs as he strode from the office.
“I should go.” He was in the doorway of the clinic by the time she left the office, his figure nothing more than a silhouette in the light coming in from the street. He looked back at her. “But thank you.”
He was gone.
Aiko stared at the doorway for a heartbeat and then hurried forwards, but there was no sign of him in the street. It was as if he had simply disappeared.
It wouldn’t surprise her if he had.
His words rang in her head, his deep voice a soothing sound as she replayed them, focusing on the last three.
A thank you that had been genuine.
He had reluctantly thanked her for tending to his wound, but then she had offered him tea and he had thanked her from the heart?
Or was that thank you for something else?
She closed her eyes and relived that moment, and the way he had looked at her.
The way his blue eyes had glowed in the slim light.
It struck her that he hadn’t been thanking her for the offer of tea.
He had been thanking her for not breaking his trust.
For not hurting him.
Aiko tipped her head back and watched the patchy clouds racing across the inky sky, revealing hints of stars between them.
If she could call him a man.
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Felicity Heaton is a New York Times and USA Today international best-selling author writing passionate paranormal romance books. In her books, she creates detailed worlds, twisting plots, mind-blowing action, intense emotion and heart-stopping romances with leading men that vary from dark deadly vampires to sexy shape-shifters and wicked werewolves, to sinful angels and hot demons! If you’re a fan of paranormal romance authors Lara Adrian, J R Ward, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Gena Showalter and Christine Feehan then you will enjoy her books too.
If you love your angels a little dark and wicked, the best-selling Her Angel series is for you. If you like strong, powerful, and dark vampires then try the Vampires Realm series or any of her stand-alone vampire romance books. If you’re looking for vampire romances that are sinful, passionate and erotic then try the best-selling Vampire Erotic Theatre series. Or if you prefer huge detailed worlds filled with hot-blooded alpha males in every species, from elves to demons to dragons to shifters and angels, then take a look at the new Eternal Mates series.
If you want to know more about Felicity, or want to get in touch, you can find her at the following places: