Mt. Olympus, Present Day
Dionysus awoke, late. Not that waking up late was a problem for him where he lived. He could wake up at midnight or at six in the morning. No one would know. No one would care.
There were perks to not having responsibilities.
He stretched his long legs, feeling the satisfying pull of muscles that never needed to be exercised. He enjoyed the sensual glide of the silk sheets as they caressed his blemish-free skin and loved the warm embrace of the best—and best used—bed on Olympus.
He yawned, stretching his arms above his head, even though he never suffered from fatigue. Then he sat up, letting the sheets fall from his nude chest, and wondered aloud, “What should I do today?” He grinned because he could do whatever he wanted.
Jumping out of bed, Dionysus ambled to his bedroom window, heedless of his own nudity. His lazy grin widening, he gazed out the window, and pondered his options. The first thing that struck him was the beauty of the view, the perfection of the never-ending vineyards he had cultivated himself thousands of years ago. He could tend his grapes today. Not that they needed tending. They’d grow even if he ignored them for decades.
That was the beauty of Olympus. He didn’t need to take care of a single thing.
Still, it was nice to sit amongst the vines some days and soak in the atmosphere. Remembering how his worshippers would cart piles of ripe grapes to his temple to use as decoration and offerings. He never grew bored with sitting between the rows of vines, reminiscing while munching on the juicy fruit that was magically never out of season.
And yet, he just didn’t feel like enjoying the fruits of no one’s labors today. He was restless and had been for some time.
In the old days, he would have summoned his maenads, his bevy of female followers. They would have organized a drunken revel in his honor and partied all night. He chuckled at memories that would have scandalized most humans.
In the modern world, it wasn’t exactly politically correct to encourage maenads in this behavior. Nowadays, his girls would only end up in twelve-step programs.
No. There had to be something else he could do.
An image popped into his head, that of his cousin Eryx. He hadn’t seen Eryx for a while. Indeed, he’d only visited him once or twice since his startling … transformation. He wondered how he was doing, and if he was still as happy as Ares at a bloodbath. Yes, he’d visit with Eryx, and with his new wife Maia.
He smiled, pleased. “Well, look at that. I have a plan.”
There was a giggle behind him. Two feminine giggles, in fact. And then a sultry summons. “Dionysus.”
He turned, one dark eyebrow arched. Before him, in all their delicious glory, stood two naked water nymphs. Two of his favorite playmates. He looked them up and down, his eyes lingering on the moistening curls between both sets of heavenly legs. His cock leaped to attention. “Ladies.”
He nodded toward the bed, and the nymphs scrambled in, laughing in delight the whole time. Dionysus sauntered over slowly, his plan for visiting Eryx now wholly forgotten. What was the use of being a god if you couldn’t change your plans at the last minute anyway?
“I’m so glad you could join me, ladies,” he said upon reaching the bed. “I was just trying to decide how to spend my day.”
He rolled onto the bed, onto his back, and as soon as he felt the two delightful tongues sliding down his abdomen, he closed his eyes.
Oh, yeah. Life was good.
* * * *
Toronto, Canada, Present Day
Still grinning from his morning interlude with his nymphets, Dionysus walked the streets of Toronto, now fully clothed. As soon as Adelpha and Aminta had finished their delectable ministrations, he’d begun to feel guilty about abandoning his plan to visit his cousin. After all, Eryx and Maia had been through a lot lately. And so, after politely encouraging the departure of the pouting nymphs, Dionysus had waved his hand and arrived in the bustling city of Toronto where Eryx now made his home.
He and his wife lived in a detached house off St. Clair Avenue in the Italian section of the city. The kind of place that was perfect for raising a family. As Dionysus strolled through the area, he cringed.
“Raising families,” he muttered. “Gross.”
Still, it was a nice neighborhood, full of little mom-and-pop bakeries, gelato shops, and discount stores. Not exactly Mt. Olympus, but he knew Eryx was impossibly happy.
Which was good, considering what he’d been through.
He spied their street up ahead, but something else caught his attention at the same time. A smell. No, a perfume.
Coffee. He smelled strong coffee.
Determining the source of the gorgeous fragrance, he turned toward a little bakery, taking note of the name on the battered awning. Marino Brothers Bakery. Tempted, he walked inside and took a good look at the place. It was cute, kitschy, with salamis and breads ready for slicing, and row upon row of sinful-looking pastries behind the glass counter. There was a hot table with slabs of tender veal warming in homemade sauce. And, with a grin, he noticed a huge espresso machine at the other end of the counter.
Practically paradise. Eryx and Maia could wait a few minutes.
He paused before one counter, where a couple of beefy men were arguing over who was supposed to serve the next customer. But when they didn’t bother looking up, Dionysus just sat at the counter before the coffee machine.
Instantly, a female employee appeared before him. “Can I help you?”
He looked up at her. His cock soared, doing a rowdy dance of happiness.
He looked at her again. He didn’t know why he’d have such an intense reaction to her. By the gods, she looked … dirty. Well, not truly dirty, just very floury, as if she’d been baking all day. But underneath the layer of flour smudges was indeed a woman. One with lush curves and shiny, tawny hair and hazel eyes that were so keen they seemed to recognize him…
Her eyebrows rose when he didn’t answer. “Would you like a sandwich? A coffee, maybe? Anything?”
Say something, you idiot!
And yet he couldn’t make his lips work.
The tip of her tongue darted out to wet her bottom lip while she waited for his response. Once again, his penis thumped against the inside of his pants, more erect than the soldiers outside Buckingham Palace.
Talk to her, it seemed to say.
She looked around. Other customers were filing in, and the two men behind the counter were still arguing, ignoring the lineup. A small noise of exasperation escaped from between her wet lips. “Maybe I should just give you a minute.”
The woman turned away.
“No,” he called and then cursed himself for sounding so eager. “I, uh, coffee would be outstanding.”
He could tell she was trying hard not to look at him as if he were simple. “Coffee it is,” she said. It seemed as if she grinned—not because she wanted to grin at him, but because customer service dictated she should. And then she escaped to prepare said coffee.
Dionysus sat in shock. What the hell was wrong with him? There had never been one moment in his life when he hadn’t been smooth and disarming. Yet with one glance, this coffee girl had completely disarmed him!
And she wasn’t his type at all. For one, she was so industrious it was giving him a headache just to watch her. While the coffee brewed, she ran back and forth behind the counter serving all the customers the two men had ignored, filling boxes with donuts, ringing up orders with quick efficiency. She was a whirlwind.
But a very messy one. By Zeus, there were crumbs in her hair and blotches all over her T-shirt and sweatpants. When he compared her to the sexy nymphs who’d just been dampening his bed with their sweat and other choice bodily fluids, there was no comparison. This bakery girl needed a serious makeover.
And yet every time she sprang past, his dick gave a salute, as if acknowledging her as its commander.
She poured his coffee and headed back toward him, a curious look in her hazel eyes. As she walked, her boobs bounced so nicely his mouth went dry. The glorious bounce of full, silicone-free breasts.
As she laid the coffee before him, he felt a ripple of excitement in his gut. “What’s your name?” he all but barked at her.
She narrowed her eyes. “Josie. Josie Marino.”
He swallowed, struggling for something to say, desperate for a reason to keep her there. “Oh. Of the Marino Brothers Bakery?”
She rolled her eyes. “I’m just the sister.” She darted a look at the ineffectual buffoons behind the counter, then back at him. “And you are?”
“Dionysus Iros.” He thrust his hand at her, while images of another kind of thrusting pillaged his head.
She was about to take it, but noticed a glob of dough between her fingers. After wiping it on her apron, she shook her head. “Sorry about that. Nice to meet you. I haven’t seen you here before.”
And then the most interesting shadow flitted through her expressive eyes. As if she was contemplating asking when he’d return, but was afraid to.
He grinned, channeling every ounce of his love-god charm. “No, but I’m sure you’ll see me again, Josie.”
She blushed deep scarlet, and then smiled. The most intriguing smile he’d ever known. Shy and curious, tinged with doubt and temptation.
He was just about to offer to take her home and give her a much-needed scrub when he heard a squeal behind him.
He turned and saw a group of six beautiful, dolled-up Asian girls at the door. He knew them. He’d bedded each one not long ago. And they looked intent on getting him to repeat the performance. They squeezed in next to him at the counter and began pawing at him.
Feeling his heart sink for a strange reason, Dionysus turned to Josie. And then his heart really did sink.
She was glaring at him with undisguised loathing, her pretty lips pulled back in a sneer. “I’ll leave you to it, then.”
And as the oblivious women swarmed around him, clamoring for his attention, his eyes were riveted to Josie. His cock was riveted to Josie. Each time she walked by, his traitorous member pounded his fly, practically reaching for her. And each time one of the other girls jumped into his line of sight, it shriveled.
Dionysus shook his head, mystified.
By the great hairy balls of Zeus! What the fuck was going on?
There were usually two men Josie Marino had contact with at the ungodly hour of five in the morning. Not good contact. Certainly not sweaty, chest-heaving, “take me, take me” contact. And definitely not contact with Petter, the Norwegian male model who lived next door.
Nah. That would have been too perfect, wouldn’t it?
Instead, most mornings, Josie had to settle for haggling with her two least favorite men on the planet. Nelson Tate, the deliveryman from her most important supplier. And Dionysus Iros. Worst. Customer. Ever.
Because of the business, she just had to put up with Nelson. He’d been delivering dry goods to her family bakery for years. Had known her parents, schmoozed with her brothers, and basically enjoyed making life hell for her. Not that he was a vicious sort. He was just far too handsy for her liking.
In the case of Dionysus, he was just an early bird and a womanizer. And couldn’t function without the coffee she brewed first thing in the morning. Invariably, he was already waiting for her when she got to the bakery each day.
Oh, joy of joys.
Not that he was a horrible person either. He just intimidated her with his unearthly good looks. Men like him, not that most men came close to looking like him, rattled her. They were best kept at a distance.
Dionysus was so bloody perfect; Josie wanted to shake him to see if she could muss his seemingly unmussable hair. Most days, though, she just contented herself with a lot of grumbling in his presence. He unnerved her, with his sexy brown eyes and long, dark waves of hair any woman would die for. To say nothing of his body… No, it was best not to say anything about that smoking body at all. She couldn’t help hating him, just a little. No man should look so divine at dawn, when she felt about as put together as a cavewoman.
To makes things worse, the man acted as if he were a Greek god. His parents, in a tragic case of bad judgment, had even named him after one. It was no wonder he was so obnoxious.
On this morning, too, he was waiting at the door when she got there. Looking as if he’d just tumbled off the cover of GQ, and the birds weren’t even up yet. At least today he didn’t have a sleepy bimbo on his arm, like he often did.
“Mr. Iros,” Josie drawled, yawning, as she unlatched the bakery door. “You’re losing your touch. I haven’t seen you with a woman in, what, forty-eight hours?” She pushed ahead of him into the bakery, catching the scent of wine on him.
God, how much did the man drink? She was sure he dabbed a little bit of the stuff behind his ears, and splashed it on his face instead of aftershave.
On any other man, the strange cologne would have been a red flag. An indication he drank more than coffee in the morning. But on this man, it just smelled delicious. As if the scent were his pheromone, oozing out of every pore, inviting her to mate with him. In very dirty ways.
He chuckled, low and deep, and sauntered in after her as if he owned the place. Within seconds, he was seated at his usual spot at Josie’s counter. “Just be a good girl and fetch my coffee.” He lowered his shades and peered at her through sensuous dark eyes that should have been bloodshot at that time of the morning, but weren’t. “And don’t forget. Make it a tall, half-skinny, half-one percent, extra hot, two shots decaf, two shots regular latte with whip. And exactly…”
“I know, I know,” she interrupted. “One hundred fifty degrees. Has it ever been anything less, Your Highness?” She pasted on her sweetest of smiles and turned to prepare the elixir of the gods. She heard him huff as he flipped open the day’s newspaper.
“No need to call me that, Josie. ‘My Lord’ or ‘He From Whom All Good Things Come’ will do just fine.”
She reached for the one percent milk, and contemplated tossing in some heavy, artery-clogging cream just to soften up some of his sculpted muscles. A man with that kind of body had to be on some sort of special diet. With that brawny physique he must spend hours a day at the gym and ingest copious amounts of protein powders.
She snuck a peek at the bulges rippling under his sleeves, turning her head sharply when he grinned.
It was one thing to look like God’s gift to women. It was another thing to act like it.
Feeling frustratingly hot, she lashed out at him. “You know, I’m not a barista. This is just a small, family-owned bakery. I don’t understand why you persist in coming here with your outrageous coffee orders. Would you care for a pinch of Madagascar cinnamon while I’m at it? I could swim to Madagascar for you.”
She turned, only to find him already staring at her over the top of the paper. His expression said in no certain terms he already had an idea where to put her Madagascar cinnamon.
Josie, fifteen. Greek god, love.
Although she was usually able to keep up with their vocal sparring, she felt a little winded as he looked at her. He had annoyingly seductive eyes, eyes that sometimes dwelled a little too long on particular parts of her anatomy. Even now, they dipped down to her neckline, lingering, considering. She blushed, wishing she’d gotten up a little earlier to make an effort with her toilette. Oh well, the man had seen her in her sweats and an unmade face for months, and he hadn’t run out screaming yet.
“The reason I come here,” he said, grinning, “is because you, my angel of caffeine, make the best coffee in the world. And I’ve drunk coffee all over the world, so I know. But of course, I’m also drawn in, day after day, by your sweet and charming temperament. That, too, is unlike anything I’ve experienced. Now, where’s my coffee?”
She rolled her eyes and handed it to him, resisting the urge to spill some on his Armani suit. She watched him take his first sip, as she always did, because in the first two months of their acquaintance, he’d sent the coffees back, demanding she make them better. And as infuriated as it made her, she’d grown strangely proud when he’d started showing approval. Now, it was just a bizarre morning ritual. But it still surprised her some days to realize how much she wanted him to like the beverage.
How much she wanted to please him.
Her fevered mind produced a disturbing oh-so-hot image of her wrapping her limbs around his hard body like a horny pretzel. Pleasing him in other ways that had nothing whatsoever to do with coffee. With an audible swallow, she quashed the lurid picture, and tried to ignore the aftershock. The ripple of excitement working its way down her spine, around her hip, and right into her sex.
“So,” she ventured, trying to look like a normal person with normal urges. Wiping down the counter and trying not to listen to his almost sexual sighs of satisfaction at her coffee. “What gives? You haven’t brought any of your bed warmers here in a long time. Has Toronto run out of women?”
As much as Josie wanted to snicker at her own humor, she found she was holding her breath a little, waiting for his answer.
When Dionysus Iros started frequenting the Marino Brothers Bakery months ago, he’d usually bring his conquests with him. Josie had seen him with numerous girls of every persuasion. White, black, Asian, Outer Mongolian, Finnish, Maori, Pygmy. Every possible kind she could think of. He’d had them all. He’d kick them out of his always-warm bed, take them for an early consolation coffee at Josie’s, and then say, “Hasta la vista.”
The man loved women. Lots of them. Which was another reason he pissed her off on a regular basis. Of course, it had nothing to do with the fact he never once propositioned her. God, no. Sure, he was a constant fixture in her nighttime dreams. The star of the nocturnal reel of pornography that played over and over again in her head. Yes, for months, she’d gotten all hot and sweaty thinking of him, and then had to watch him with other women.
That didn’t mean she wanted him for real.
Besides, it would never work. She wasn’t really his type. Her legs weren’t seven-feet long. Her dress size wasn’t sub-zero. Her boobs were a respectable C-cup, rather than a double F. And, last she checked, her brain was still in working order. Most days, anyway.
But lately his perfect track record didn’t appear so perfect. It had been some time since Josie had seen him with a woman. Weeks, in fact. And there was something in his normally unflappable demeanor that was distinctly … flapped.
For a man who radiated charm and control, he was definitely stressed.
He stared at her, a little shocked. “What business is it of yours who I sleep with?”
“None,” she stated as if she didn’t care. “Just curious. There’s been a significant decrease in our coffee revenues since you turned monastic on me, that’s all.”
He laughed, and the baritone beauty of his voice shook her, reached deep down into each private recess of her body. Tickling her. Making her hate him even more.
“Josie, Josie,” he said, flashing perfectly even teeth which bore not a hint of coffee stain, even though he drank gallons of the stuff. “Maybe I stopped bringing those women because it was just too hard on them.”
She frowned. “What was?”
“Seeing you,” he replied, no longer quite so jovial, his anxiety showing in the tiny creases at the corners of his eyes. “After all, when confronted by all this”—he waved his hands at her body—“magnificence, it can be a bit much for a regular woman’s ego. Just look at you. The old sweatpants. The T-shirt encrusted with some sort of bakery sludge. Most of your hair pulled so lovingly back into a messy ponytail. And wait … could it be? Yes. That’s yesterday’s makeup I see.”
“Hey…” she began.
“But despite the fact you’re the most abrasive woman I know, and have no interest in personal grooming, I just can’t live without your coffee.”
She felt her whole body turn crimson, but there was no way she’d let him have the upper hand. Damned misogynistic, hot-bodied player. She’d known men like him. They were all the same. She grinned at him, even though she suddenly felt like crying. “You’re such a jerk.”
“And you’re…” He bit back the words on his lips and glared at her, his eyes flashing with sudden anger. He took a deep breath and exhaled audibly. “Never mind.” He waved his cup at her. “Another to go. If you please.”
There was a loud pounding on the bakery’s back door. She groaned, knowing it was Nelson, the deliveryman from hell. “Your coffee will have to wait. I have to let Nelson in. He’s got the flour for my cannoli.” She headed to the back room, relieved to be away from his intense gaze for a few moments. “Don’t steal anything while I’m gone.”
She turned and saw Dionysus frowning at her. “What is it now? Care to comment on my bad breath or toe fungus?”
He almost looked ashamed. Almost. As if being ashamed was a new sensation for him. “It’s just … Why do you always have to be the one to let Nelson in? I thought this was the Marino Brothers Bakery. Where are your brothers anyway? How come you’re the one who always gets stuck on this god-awful shift?”
If Josie didn’t know any better, she’d swear he looked almost protective of her. Which was clearly crap. “Mr. Iros, I think you’ve been around long enough to know I’m the one who does all the work around here,” she said, trying to keep the bitterness out of her voice.
There was another, more impatient pounding on the back door. She turned, grabbed her latest invoice and a clipboard, and headed for the back. Trying very hard to forget Dionysus Iros, God’s gift to women the world over, and his freaking one hundred fifty-degree coffee.
* * * *
Josie tried really hard not to pound the floor as she headed to the back door. No interest in personal grooming, her ass. It was more a case of not ever having the time to do frivolous, girly things like threading her eyebrows or cultivating a landing strip or … well, doing laundry.
Okay, so maybe Mr. Perfect had a point.
But maybe if he were responsible for keeping a small business afloat, he’d understand. As far as she could tell, he didn’t have a business of any kind. She wasn’t even sure he worked. He remained so vague about his career. Sure, he’d once mentioned something about being in the wine industry. With his expensive clothes and more expensive girlfriends, she just assumed he was in sales or was an executive of some kind. God only knew; he always smelled like he was sampling the stuff. Although, to his credit, she’d never seen him drunk. He just smelled like he lived in a vat of grapes.
Maybe he was a professional wine taster. Was there even such a job? Or was he the guy who squished the grapes with his feet? Did those guys still exist?
Whatever he was, it was actually kind of nice being able to breathe him in. It reminded her of her grandfather’s backyard, of the Concord grape vines he used to grow there. Row upon row of curly vines, laden with the jewel-like purple fruit.
That was what Dionysus Iros smelled like. A ripe Concord grape. So ready for the picking, the juices were just bursting forth from the sweet skin.
Josie felt a low tugging on her womb, just thinking of him. It was accompanied by the familiar sensation of feeling flushed. Practically pink all over. Before she opened the door to Nelson, she gave herself a vigorous fanning with her hand.
Not that it ever worked. The kind of fire created by Dionysus was one she couldn’t extinguish with a mere hand wave.
Damn, damn. Double damn.
“Hey, hey,” Nelson greeted her, carrying a box of flour past her into the workroom. “Mama Marino. How’s it hanging?” He put his box down on the counter and looked her up and down, an appreciative smile playing on his thick lips.
Josie bit back a remark. “I’m no one’s mama, Nelson.”
“Thank God for that, baby. I’d hate to see that sweet belly of yours get fat. When my sister had her kid last year, it all went downhill, trust me. And I do mean downhill.” He looked around the workroom. “Where’s Mike and Angelo?”
She inspected the box and made some notes on her clipboard. “When are my brothers ever here this early? They like to save the bliss of your visits just for me.”
“So,” he said, taking a small step toward her and removing his baseball cap. “We’re alone. Awesome. You know, Josie, I broke up with my girlfriend this week.”
She didn’t look up, was too busy checking her invoice against his. “That’s too bad, Nelson.”
“Not really. She was a bitch. Not like you.”
Her head popped up at his words, and she thought of Dionysus. “Not sure everyone would agree with you there, but thanks, I guess.”
“Anyway, it was time to move on. Don’t you think? We’ve been playing these games for so long.” He took another step in her direction.
This time, she stopped to watch him. His eyes took in every detail of her appearance, apparently doing their best to see under her clothing. He was staring blatantly at her chest, and for a second she thought his eyes might start to glow. They were trying so hard to detect her nipples under her shirt.
“What do you mean, games?”
He giggled. The man actually giggled like a girl. “You know, you and me. The chemistry. The heat. The obvious sexual attraction.” He closed the distance between them, backing her up against the counter. He pulled the clipboard from her fingers and put it down. Without any warning, his hands were sliding under her T-shirt. “Let’s do something about it.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” she cried, batting at his hands. “When have I ever told you I was interested?” She tried to pull herself out of the circle of his arms, but he was stronger than he looked. Lifting boxes of baking powder and donut sprinkles obviously developed one’s muscles.
“You never had to say a word, sweet cheeks,” he whispered. “It’s all in your eyes.”
And before she had a chance to react, he was kissing her. Kissing her neck, kissing her ear. Oh God, was that his tongue? “Stop it, Nelson!”
“When I’m good and ready.” He looked up and growled.
From out of nowhere, a two-pound bag of sugar appeared, slamming into the side of Nelson’s head. Josie watched, speechless, as the deliveryman fell back into the pile of sugar that had exploded from the package.
“What the…?” he cried from the floor, cradling his temple.
Dionysus stood over him, holding the package, staring down at him in quiet fury. Looking like a man who was trying to persuade himself not to commit murder. “The lady said ‘no.’”
And then Dionysus looked up at Josie with the strangest expression. As if he’d been terrified for her well-being, but hated the idea.
“Mr. Iros,” she breathed.
His shoulders slumped, and he tossed the sugar package onto the counter. “For crying out loud, Josie, just call me Dionysus, would you?” He stared at her for a moment, then leaned down and easily hauled Nelson onto his feet. “Now, apologize to the lady, and promise never to do that again.”
Dionysus laughed out loud in genuine amusement as he tightened his grip on Nelson’s collar. He got up close to Nelson’s face and said, seething, “You will apologize to Miss Marino. Now. Don’t make me repeat myself.”
Nelson’s face crumpled. He retreated so far into himself that he resembled those little apple people she used to see at craft shows. He’d obviously seen something in Dionysus’s eyes that scared him. Badly. He turned to Josie, swallowing as best as he could under the stronger man’s fist. “Sorry.”
“And you won’t ever touch her again, will you?”
“No,” he squeaked out, defeated.
Dionysus inhaled and let his prey go, smoothing down his collar. He grinned at him, then reached for the flour invoice. With one, clean rip, he shredded the document. “Oh, and by the way, this shipment just came free of charge. Now, you might want to leave before I forget my capacity for forgiveness.”
Josie clapped her jaw shut and stared at her hero. She wasn’t sure if she was more shocked that he’d come to her aid, or that he’d look so tortured while doing so. Either way, he’d done a very nice thing.
She’d have to put extra whipped cream in his coffee next time.
Nelson vacated the bakery and tore away in his truck. Only then did Dionysus turn to her, asking quietly, “Are you okay?”
“No sweat.” He grinned at her, back in control, then began to walk away. “Oh, and Josie…”
“Next time you see your brothers, tell them they either need to change your shift, or they need to drag their asses out of bed to help you. It’s not safe for you to be here alone like this. If they don’t change things, I’ll be forced to take my valued patronage elsewhere. And I know I’m your favorite customer. I’m sure you’d hate to see me go.”
With that, he grinned again and disappeared back into the bakery, the fragrance of taste bud-tantalizing wine wafting away with him.
And for ten whole minutes, Josie couldn’t move, so grateful her heart was thumping.
And so turned on, she needed a new pair of panties.
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