Excerpt from La Petite Mort

"May I be of service?"

The sudden, deep voice coming from behind her startled Bria. Fortunately the white cotton half mask over her eyes helped to hide a lot of her confusion. It also helped to disguise most of her embarrassment when she turned around to see who was talking to her.

The man towered over her. With glossy black hair and the deepest blue eyes she had ever seen on a man, his face alone was enough to stop traffic. He wore no mask, which surprised her. But what concerned her was not his alarming good looks. Nor was it those impossibly wide shoulders, complete with Superman muscles. No. It was the tiny white skirt he wore below the wide, gold belt about his narrow waist. A skirt that was barely long enough to cover his buttocks in the back.

Dear Lord! I hope hes wearing something underneath it! was her first thought, until the little devil sitting on her shoulder firmly rebuked her. Five will get you twenty hes not. Betcha if he gets a hard-on, it would peek right past the hem. What a bitch to discover a man who looked better in a short skirt than most women did.

"We seem to make a couple," the man continued, either oblivious to her staring, or not caring about the way she was oogling him. In fact, by the time Bria managed to drag her eyes back up to his, he was smiling.

"Uhh...a couple?"

Laughing softly, the man indicated her toga and his similar attire. "Im Hercules. And you are...who? Athena? Or perhaps Hera, the queen of the gods."

She had to have a personification? Bria opened the rusty gates on her mental files regarding Greek and Roman gods. Vague memories of an old college class came back to her, until a name clicked into place.

"Im Persephone, spending what time I have here on this earth to attend this masked ball," she managed to reply without stammering.

"Ah. Persephone. Queen of the underworld. I am honored to make your acquaintance." The man bowed over her hand before pressing his lips to the back of her wrist. The feel of his mouth on her skin sent a warm flood of desire surging through her, soaking the tiny thong she was wearing and leaving her moist between the thighs. Unconsciously, her eyes darted to the tiny skirt, but nothing stirred.

"My real name"

"Ah!" Hercules wagged a forefinger at her as his eyes sparkled with amusement. "No real anything. Not tonight. Tonight we are whomever we wish to be, doing whatever we so desire. And what is your desire, my queen?"

Well, hell, Bria. Nows your chance. Go for it!

"I want to die."

The words were out before she was aware shed said them. Her eyes remained glued to the tall hunk standing so intimately close, toga and skirt nearly merged. She waited for the look of condemnation or shock to cross his face. Strangely, Hercules gave her a small, sad smile.

"May I ask why you wish to die?"

"Because Im ready. Because theres nothing left for me."

Someone passed by. Hercules gave a nod to acknowledge the mans greeting. He also gave a signal to someone behind Bria. She assumed the man was well-known.

"Are you one of the hosts of this ball?" she asked, hoping it would lessen the growing discomfort she was feeling. Although she was on the verge of thinking she had made a mistake in coming here, she was closer to believing she should have kept her mouth shut and just soaked in the ambiance of the place. Have some fun, do a little flirting, maybe have a harmless tryst afterwards.

Oh, yeah, and wake up the next morning to prepare yourself for the coming week. Another opportunity to tackle the world and your asshole boss on Monday.

Hercules slid a tall glass of something cold into her hand. "No," he said, answering her question. "That honor goes to Madame Diana. I am simply one of her humble servants here to mingle among the guests. And to...see to their every need." The insinuation slid under her skin, setting fire to her blood vessels like they were tinder. Her eyes dropped to see his long fingers still curled around the glass. As she watched, he released the glass and slid over her hand, lightly caressing the skin between her thumb and forefinger before delicately brushing across her wrist.

Without realizing it, her eyes went from his hand to the slight movement of the white shirt. She stared as the material moved again, this time lifting upward. There was no doubt in her mind what was causing the skirt to move.

Bria fought against the heat washing over her. The room suddenly grew stuffy and too closed in. The door leading out to the foyer was right behind Hercules, but before she could make a move, the man seemed to read her mind.

"You need to drink," he told her, helping to lift the glass to her lips. "Nectar of the gods. It will help to clear your head."

Indeed, the liquid was cold, sweet, and packed a punch in its aftermath. Gasping, Bria breathed past the alcohol sliding down her throat. "Whoa. Potent."

Hercules chuckled. "Feeling better?"

"Yes. Yes, I am. Thank you."