And now, to help kick off Week 2, I'd like to introduce y'all to a wonderful lady who I had the pleasure of meeting at Coastal Magic as well. And now, here to share a holiday story from her Latter-Day Olympians series is Ms. Lucienne Diver!
I stared at the foreign object sitting in the middle of my desk in all its golden, gift-wrapped glory. It hadn't been there when I'd left, and now my assistant Jesus (pronounced Hey-Zeus) was claiming not to know a thing about it.
Jesus knew everything about everything that happened in the office. It all went through him, and if there were any package to be delivered, he'd have met the messenger at the door and delivered it to my desk with his trademark snark.
The fact that he was at a loss concerned me.
"Should I call the bomb squad, do you think?" I asked. I hadn't picked up the present. Hadn't dared shake it. I had looked for a card, completely hands off, but if existed, it was well hidden.
I'd had enough dealings lately with the Latter-Day Olympians—Greek and other gods running around modern day with a fraction of their previous power but all of their former foibles—to be suspicious. Mythology was full of evidence that all that glittered wasn't gold. Zeus had snuck in to seduce Danae as a golden rain. Eris, the goddess of discord, in retaliation for being left off a wedding guest list had tossed a golden apple into the reception, knowing the trouble it would cause when she announced it was for the fairest of them all. The resultant three-way catfight lead to the first beauty pageant, complete with bribery. The judge, Paris, chose poorly and ended up with the “prize” of the most beautiful woman in the world, nevermind that she was already married. Her husband, a king, took exception, leading to the Trojan War.
As I stared at the present, the ribbons flared out like little wings and the package fluttered right there on the desk, bobbing and weaving and then landing again, the ribbons settling back into their former configuration. So no pressure switch then. No unstable contents. The sender on the other hand...
"Hermes," I muttered between my teeth.
"Who?" Jesus asked, rubbing at his eyes like he could not just have seen what he thought he'd seen.
I struggled to remember the trickster god’s street name...well, one of them anyway. He had more aliases than my best friend Christie had shoes, and that was saying something.
"Herman Molyvos,” I answered.
"But how would he have gotten it in here?"
"Drone?" I said, knowing very well it was no such thing.
"But your window is closed," he pointed out, as if that was the only objection to my patently ridiculous response.
"I don't know then, the magic of Christmas. All the same, you might want to step back."
He gave me a funny look, but I was used to that. He took one step back. Then two. If I could have figured out a way to get him out of the room entirely, I would have, but we'd come in to discuss his Christmas bonus, and I knew he wasn't leaving my office without it.
"What do you think it's going to do?" he asked when he judged himself far enough away.
"There's no telling."
I took a step forward for each of Jesus's steps back until I could reach out and touch the gift box. It wasn't very large, but then, I wasn't really sure size mattered to the trickster god. I reached out for the ribbon, only realizing as I did that I was already half-cringing away, one eye closed to protect it in case something went wrong.
That was just silly. I steeled myself, took a deep breath and undid the ribbon, facing my fate head-on.
The ribbon came free with a trill of musical notes, like from a harp, and a puff of, yup, golden glitter. Then it did a little dance right there on the table and popped open on its own, something like a Chinese take-out container. Inside, something grunted, and the package rocked once before that something erupted into the air. I stepped back and watched in stunned amazement as a little white figurine, gleaming like alabaster flew up into the air, grunted again and circled my head. A flying pig. Well, boar. There were tusks and wings and a little piggy tail.
I chanced a glance away to see how Jesus was taking it, and he stood gaping like a fish, his right hand flashing out to bless himself.
And then the little figure dove back into the box and a letter rose in his place, unfolding as it did, floating in the air before me. But I didn't have to read. Hermes's voice came through loud and clear, burbling over with mischief.
You are cordially invited to my first ever annual ugly sweater party. I understand that it's a contemporary holiday tradition, and one of which I heartily approve. A celebration of the absurd. Since I can hear you now saying, "When pigs fly," I thought I'd arrange that on your behalf. Meet Chrysaor, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. You may note a certain family resemblance. Pegasus gets all the attention. T-shirts, album covers, plushies. But Chrysaor also sprung from Medusa's beheaded body.
"Not a thing to wear," you say. I've taken care of that too. If you'll so kindly reach into the box.
The note dipped twice toward said box, as though impatient that I comply.
"Don't do it," Jesus said. He seemed to have recovered some of his composure now. "An ugly sweater party...it's not worth the risk."
My lips quirked up at that. Jesus didn't do ugly. He didn't do tasteless or tacky. He despaired of me and the chili-pepper lights I had strung in my office for fun and because he severely needed to lighten up.
I braced myself for whatever might come and reached into the box. Something grabbed at my hand and the world seemed to twist around me. My stomach wrung itself out and my chest compressed like someone was using it as a springboard. I wasn't sure whether I gasped or screamed. I was sure my heart skipped several beats. My whole body seemed to miss...whatever it was supposed to be doing.
And then I landed, world still whirling like I'd spun too fast for too long. When it started to settle, I was handed a drink and Hermes's grinning face appeared before me. Along with the rest of him.
"I'm so glad you could join us!" he said, all hail-fellow-well-met.
I didn't know where I was. A loft somewhere, lit up for Christmas like the electric bill was no issue. White lights, red ribbons, silver and gold decor. Like something out of a magazine. And the guests...
Jesus appeared right beside me, looking stunned and horrified all at once. But perfect, as always. No ugly sweater for him. I looked down at myself. Chrysaor now graced the ugliest fuzzy blue sweater I'd ever seen, rearing like a horse...or his sibling Pegasus. He was still in his shimmering white but for a Santa hat that now sat jauntily atop his head.
"Well," Hermes said at the sight of Jesus, standing there bemused. "A plus one. I hadn't planned for that. I'll have to see what we can find for you."
Jesus grabbed my drink and knocked it back, grimacing when he realized it was eggnog, probably counting the calories. I don't think he had to worry. As far as I was concerned, medicinal calories didn't count, and he was going to need more before the night was through.
"What's all this?" he asked once he'd regained his voice.
"A Christmas miracle," Hermes said, snapping his fingers.
In an instant, Jesus's perfectly ironed button-up with the snazzy sharp creases had been replaced by Space Invaders-shaped white splotches on a field of holly-green with two reindeer in the foreground playing ping pong. What ping pong had to do with the holidays and how on Earth the deer were holding the paddles was entirely unclear. Jesus's eyes rolled back into his head at the sight of himself, and I had to practically carry him to a fainting couch, which, of course, the elegant room had not far from the tree and the grand piano.
"Thanks," I said wryly. "Now I'm going to have to give him the holiday bonus to end all holiday bonuses. Large enough to cover his therapy bill."
Hermes showed his Cheshire cat grin and before I could even think to slap it off his face, told me, "The check's already in the mail."
And then my friends closed in on me with good cheer and much of it, enough that I forgot to be cross and by the end of the evening, Jesus forgot even his own name. I'd remind him of it tomorrow and tease him with the pictures I'd taken on my cell phone but would never post.
I supposed a new tradition was born.
I tried not to be secretly thrilled.
I failed miserably.
Lucienne Diver writes the Latter-Day Olympians urban fantasy series for Samhain, featuring Greek mythology and a heroine who can, quite literally, stop men in their tracks. Long and Short Reviews gave the first in the series her favorite pull-quote of all times, "Bad Blood is a delightful urban fantasy, a clever mix of Janet Evanovich and Rick Riordan.” Sequels: Crazy in the Blood, Rise of the Blood and Battle for the Blood. She also writes the popular Vamped young adult series (think Clueless meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Her short stories have been featured in the Strip-Mauled and Fangs for the Mammaries anthologies edited by Esther Friesner (Baen Books), and the Kicking It anthology edited by Faith Hunter and Kalayna Price (Roc). Her essay “Abuse” appeared in Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories (HarperTeen).
Latter-Day Olympians, Book 1
The gods play…and mortals pay.
Tori Karacis’s family line may trace back to a drunken liaison between the god Pan and one of the immortal gorgons. Or…maybe it’s just coincidence that her glance can, literally, stop men in their tracks. While her fear of heights kept her out of the family aerobatic troupe, her extreme nosiness fits right in with her uncle’s P.I. business.
Except he’s disappeared on an Odyssean journey to find himself. Muddling through on her own, she’s reduced to hunting (not stalking, because that would just be weird) brass-bra’d Hollywood agent Circe Holland to deliver a message…only to witness her murder by what looks like the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Suddenly, all of her family’s tall tales seem believable, especially when Apollo—the Apollo, who’s now hiding out among humans as an adult film star—appears in her office, looking to hire her. She knows the drill: canoodling with gods never works out well for humans, but she’s irresistibly drawn to him. Maybe it’s her genes. Maybe not.
Given her conflicted feelings for one hot and hardened cop, it’s a toss-up which will kill her quickest. The danger at her door…or her love life.
Warning: Contains pot-boiling passion between a heroine who may—or may not—be a descendant of Medusa, and a hot god and a hunky cop with the…equipment…to handle her, even on her worst bad-hair day. Beware of killer kisses, trickster gods and bearded grandmothers Who Know Everything.
CRAZY IN THE BLOOD
Latter-Day Olympians, Book 2
Hell on Earth. It’s not just an expression anymore.
It’s an ill wind that carries bad news, and Tori’s just had a double load of it blow through her door.
Just a few weeks after she prevented some rogue gods from blowing L.A. into the ocean, more dead bodies are turning up near the leftover crater. Bodies that have been shredded by something too big to be…shall we say, of this world? Worse, Uncle Christos has disappeared after stumbling onto a deadly cult masquerading as the Back to Earth movement.
The connection: Dionysus. Yes, that Dionysus. He’s resurrected his bloody fertility rite, complete with frenzied female groupies who tear men limb from limb. And he’s lured Demeter, goddess of the harvest, over to his side by finding a way to get her daughter away from Hades for good.
Predictably, Hades isn’t about to let her go without a fight. Unless Tori finds a way to bring her back, he’ll abandon the gates of Tartarus. At which time all hell will, literally, break loose.
Between saving the world, the woman, the cultists and her crazy uncle, Tori’s giving up on getting to the beach before all the good spots are taken.
Warning: The wine country is going through a heat wave of epic proportions, and it's not all about the weather. Beware steamy gods with seduction on their minds or brimstone in their blood.
The Latter-Day Olympians series continues with RISE OF THE BLOOD and BATTLE FOR THE BLOOD, all from Samhain.