Four

Kinsey scrambled to her feet, dusting off her backside as she did.

Smiling with amusement, Hades moved farther into the room, running his hands over the front of his black suit to straighten it out. He looked impeccable, from his military-short dark hair all the way to his shiny black shoes. Coming into the room behind him was a whip-thin girl with a spill strawberry blonde hair and ivory skin. She held a pomegranate in one hand and was picking the seeds from it, tossing them to the ground with a frown on her face.

"You came, how lovely," Hades rasped, reaching up to loosen his red tie, the only splash of colour on him except for the flashing gold of his eyes.

"I didn't have much of a choice, did I?" Kinsey sneered.

Hades continued to smile. "Well, no, but you could have made it much harder on yourself, so I thank you for being smart about it."

The girl who had followed him in snorted and sauntered over to the chaise, flopping down on it and finally taking a bite out of the fruit in her hand. Kinsey spared her a glance before returning her attention to the man standing before her, his shoulders set almost lazily. There was nothing lazy about the sharpness in his eyes as he watched her, however, and she shifted uncomfortably, picking at the black polish on her nails.

"What can I do for you, sir?" she forced past clenched teeth.

"Oh, come now," he waved a dismissive hand over his shoulder. "I just wanted to see how you have been faring these past several months?"

"I'm sure," she drawled, and the other girl let out a bark of laughter. Kinsey turned to her. "Who are you?"

"I'm Persephone," the girl replied, the tone of her voice implying a very obvious duh. "But you can call me Phe,"

It was said as a command and not a suggestion. This girl is Persephone? Kinsey wondered, and finally took the time to properly examine her. She was wearing a short black dress with a corset-like bodice, clunky boots, and wide gold bands circled her wrists. Her eyes, outlined harshly with kohl, looked like bright shards of blue bottle glass and whenever they flickered to Hades, they darkened with annoyance.

"You'll have to excuse her rudeness," Hades said, his voice coated with frost. "She is always very irritable the first few weeks,"

"Can't blame her," Kinsey muttered.

Both of them heard her—not that she'd been aiming for any form of subtly—and while Persephone laughed, Hades' eyes darkened and his lips thinned out. The hell hound, which had been lounging in front of the fire, perked up as if sensing its master's irritation. It probably had.

"How are you faring?" Hades asked abruptly. "Is Rainier teaching you properly? I can speak with him, if he is not,"

Although the idea of Rain getting reprimanded was appealing—more than appealing, if she was being honest—she had to admit that he was, in fact, training her properly. So she shook her head. "No, he's doing fine. I'm doing fine."

"Good, good," Hades murmured, clasping his hands behind his back and brushing past her to the chess set.

Kinsey turned on the spot to follow his movements, crossing her arms over her chest. He leaned over the set and fingered a knight on the white side of the board. He moved it forward a few spaces but since Kinsey had no idea how to play chess, she couldn't tell if he was winning or the person who was playing the black pieces was. Not that she actually cared.

"Do you have any concerns?" he asked, turning back to face her.

The light from the fireplace flickered across his face, sharpening his cheekbones and darkening the hollows beneath his eyes. It wasn't hard to see him as the God of the Underworld. Kinsey gave a one-shouldered shrug. "No, I—wait, yeah."

It was obvious he hadn't been expecting her to say yes, because he looked up with mild surprise. "Do you? Please, explain."

Kinsey glanced briefly at Persephone, who had stopped eating her pomegranate and was leaning forward, an eager look on her face. She cleared her throat and looked back to Hades. "It's just...yesterday Rain and I found a man that had had his soul taken from him early."

"Did you now?" Hades sat down in an armchair and rested his left foot on his right knee.

Kinsey's irritation spiked; he didn't sound like he was worried at all. Or interested. If it was her, she'd be pretty damn worried about it. And interested. She ground her teeth together and took a deep breath. "Yes, sir. I just thought you'd like to know."

"Well, thank you for the information," Hades tapped his fingers against the arms of the chair. "I will keep a weather eye on the horizon, so to speak,"

It was a clear dismissal. Kinsey snapped her teeth together, the sound very audible even over the crackling of the fire, and turned to leave, her back ram-rod straight. She had just reached the doors and pushed them open when Hades called her name. Taking in a slow, deep breath, she turned to face him with a tight smile.

"Sir?"

He was petting the hell hound absently and didn't bother looking up at her. "If you find anymore of those bodies, please do not hesitate to inform me."

"Of course," she nodded curtly.

She left, with Persephone's giggle following her all the way out of the building.

...

When she returned to the world of the living, the first thing Kinsey did was take a deep breath of crisp, fresh air. And then she realized that she was back in the cemetery where she had started. Which wasn't at all where she had been aiming to reappear at. She'd been aiming for her apartment and had clearly missed it by a long shot.

"Where have you been?"

She whirled around and found Rain standing before her, his arms crossed over his chest. She hesitated in answering his question because all she could think was that he had waited for her to return. Why had he done that? It wasn't like she had asked him to.

"Well?" he raised his eyebrows.

Kinsey brushed her hair away from her face. "I over shot it a little," she explained. "And then big boss man wanted to see me."

Rain froze, his hand half way through his hair, and pinned her with his green gaze. "Hades wanted to see you? Why?"

"Wow, don't be so shocked," she gave him a bland look. "I dunno. He just...wanted to check up on me. Or, that's what he said anyway," she shrugged. "Look, I don't really give a flying rat's ass what that man wants with me, all right?"

"Maybe you should," Rain snapped and stalked past her.

Bewildered, Kinsey spun and watched him march away, coat flapping out behind him. She ran a hand through her hair and hunched her shoulders, scowling at his retreating form. Now what had she done? Lately, it seemed all she could do was piss him off. Not that he didn't do the exact same to her, but his fuse seemed incredibly short all of a sudden.

Grumbling about boys and all their PMSing, she zipped her jacket up and left the cemetery, closing the gate firmly behind her and starting off down the sidewalk. It took her half an hour of walking before she reached the general vicinity of Bourbon Street and her apartment and after a quick internal debate, she headed for Bourbon. She really didn't feel like going to The Wolf, so the first human bar she passed was the one she entered. When her ears were assaulted by the off-key, out of tune screeching of a man drunk off his rocker, she realized with horror what bar she had chosen to enter. The Cat's Meow. She was about to turn around and bolt when someone by the bar caught her eye.

Frowning, Kinsey pushed and shoved her way through the tottering, laughing crowd until she reached the bar. She slid up in between a gaggle of tittering women and her person of interest. She slapped her hand down on the black bar top and leaned forward.

"Not the kind of place I'd expect to see you,"

Theo jerked around, grey eyes widening when he caught sight of her mere inches away. "Whoa, ah, hi."

"Well?" Kinsey raised an eyebrow. "Here to enjoy the music?"

"Er," even in the dim light of the bar, she could see him flush red. "No."

She cast her gaze around the place, fingers tapping absently against the bar. "What then? Entertainment? The women—dude, are you trying to get laid here? 'Cause, man, bad choice."

If it was possible, Theo went even redder and ducked his head, clearing his throat. "No, that's—I was...I was looking for you."

"You were what?" Kinsey dead-panned, hand curling into a fist.

"I was looking for you?" he repeated, eyeing her hand warily.

"Why?"

His gaze snapped up to hers and he set his shoulders. "Because I want answers. I want to know what you are."

Kinsey laughed.

He actually thought that she would tell him that? He was delusional! Nothing had changed from the night before; she wasn't going to tell him a single thing about herself or the Reapers. He could beg until he was blue in the face but the answer would still be no. Shaking her head and ignoring the wounded look he was giving her, she tried to control her laughter.

"Uh, ha, no," she gave him an incredulous look. "That's not going to happen. Ever,"

"Why the hell not?" he demanded, sounding almost exactly like a child about to throw a temper tantrum.

Kinsey slid off the stool she'd been sitting. "Because you don't need to know."

"I beg to differ!"

She spared him a bland look before turning and making her way towards the exit. She could hear Theo cussing as he came after her and she glanced at him once over her shoulder, amused to see that his way had been blocked by a couple of tipsy tourists. As a woman took the stage and began to blare out a horrible rendition of some country song, Kinsey slipped back out onto the street.

"Hey!" Theo yelped when he finally stumbled out of the bar behind her. "I'm not giving up!"

Her laugh sounded cruel, even to her own ears. "Quit while you're ahead. I'm never going to tell you anything!"

He planted himself in front of her. "I can be rather persuasive."

"Yeah?" Kinsey eyed him. "I'd like to see you try,"

He flushed unhappily and didn't say anything else. She smirked and pushed past him, heading farther down the street. She pushed her hands into her jacket pockets and paused, turning slightly to catch a glimpse of him standing forlornly on the cobblestones.

"Have a nice life, Theo. Don't let the monsters get you."

Kinsey expected that to be the last time she saw him. It wasn't. For the next week, she saw him every night. And every night he asked her the same question. And every night she told him to piss off. Apparently, when he said he wouldn't give up, he really and truly meant it. She had never been so annoyed by anyone. Ever. Even Rain hadn't been this irritating. But it seemed that Theo didn't get the message. He was like a fly that wouldn't leave her alone, always buzzing around when she least wanted to see him. And no matter how many times she swatted him, he always came back to life.

"What is with that guy?" Elodie finally demanded as the two of them sat in a booth at The Wolf. "Is he, like, stalking you?"

Kinsey's mouth twisted into an unhappy smirk. "I wish."

"What does he want, anyway?" the blonde grouched, playing with her empty martini glass.

"Ah," Kinsey huffed. "He wants me to tell him about us. You know, Reapers. I won't, but he seems to think that he'll wear me down,"

Elodie glanced across the bar to where Theo was leaning against the wall, looking thoroughly uncomfortable with his surroundings. "You know, he's kind of cute..."

"Oh, Gods," Kinsey groaned. "Please don't start!"

Elodie didn't look at all sorry. "Hey, I'm just telling the truth. I mean, compared to Rain he's not much, but on his own..."

"Why are you comparing him to Rain?" Kinsey demanded, slouching lower in her chair and shooting the blonde boy a furtive glance.

"Oh, please," Elodie laughed incredulously. "Rain's a hottie, it's hard not to,"

Kinsey wrinkled her nose and didn't reply. She supposed the other girl had a point to what she was saying. Rain was quite good-looking. She wasn't sure if she would call him a 'hottie' but maybe that was just because she was biased about his personality. She could admit, however, that Theo was generally nice on the eyes. For a human. Slightly horrified with her train of though, she jerked to her feet and pushed away from the table.

"Right," she huffed. "I'm going to go, ah, searching for some souls. You coming with?"

Elodie stared up at her with amusement. "Sure, why not?"

Kinsey grabbed her jacket off the back of her chair and shrugged it on, heading for the door. From the corner of her eye, she noticed Theo straighten up and take a step towards them, but she turned her head slightly and gave him a death glare. He froze on the spot and then quickly shrunk back against the wall, face flushing unhappily.

"You are so mean," Elodie snickered, giving her a small push in the shoulder.

Kinsey sniffed. "You say that like I should care."

The other girl just shook her head and laughed softly. Kinsey stuck her nose in the air and left the bar with a huff, stomping down the street. Elodie followed along in her wake and when they reached a less densely populated area, both of them unfurled their wings and took a running start into the air.

Kinsey scanned the ground from above, using the air current to drift lazily through the sky. Elodie was doing the same a few feet over, her hair spinning out from the messy bun atop her head. They were silent—quite the miracle for the blonde—as they soared over cemeteries, searching for souls in need of Reaping. What they found was something completely different.

As they passed over Masonic Cemetery, Kinsey caught sight of flickering blue light. She angled her wings to drift lower and tried to get a better view. What she saw made her anger and irritation spike. A lone figure was standing before a tomb, both of which were encircled in blue flames. Her mouth twisted in a silent snarl and she snapped her fingers to gain Elodie's attention.

"Necro," she growled, gesturing downwards.

The blonde girl's face clouded with a rush of anger. "Mother fuc—let's go."

Kinsey didn't need to be told twice. She folded her wings in tight against her back and plummeted downward, flaring them out just in time to catch and slow herself. Her feet hit the hard-packed earth and she tucked her wings away as she stumbled to a halt. She unwrapped her whip from around her hips and stalked towards the necromancer without waiting for Elodie. There was no way she was going to let some stupid necro ruin all their hard work by raising the dead.

"Hey!" she snarled when she was close enough. "What the hell do you think you're doing!"

The necromancer whirled around and broke out into a big grin when he spotted her. Micah said, "Well, hey there, Red! Fancy seeing you here!"

Kinsey snapped her whip out and wrapped it around his left wrist, tugging just enough to get her threat across. "Get the fuck out of here, necro."

Micah was eyeing his wrist warily but looked up then and fixed her with his amber gaze. "Why should I?"

She jerked on the whip and it bit into his skin, drawing a thin line of blood. "If you want to keep your hand, I'd do as I say if I were you," she snapped.

He winced and tried to pluck at the thick silver wire. "I'm right-handed, toots. Go ahead."

Kinsey narrowed her eyes and glared at him. The blue light from the flames still flickered, casting dark shadows across the planes of his face and making his eyes look like to burning embers. Her palm was slick against the whip handle and she tightened her hand around it until her knuckles blanched.

"Kinsey," Elodie finally reached them and placed a hand on her shoulder.

Micah's eyes lit up. "Kinsey, huh? Nice to meet you, I'm Micah."

She gave the other girl an annoyed look and Elodie shrugged sheepishly. With a growl, she let the whip fall away. She didn't miss the look of relief that passed over his face as he rubbed at his wrist and she stepped past the line of smouldering fire until there was only a few inches of air left between herself and the necromancer.

"What the hell makes you think," she seethed, "that you can just raise the dead whenever you like? They don't want to be raised and we sure as hell don't appreciate it,"

Micah scanned her face, a small smirk curling the edges of his full mouth. "It's what we do, Red. What makes you so sure they don't want to be raised?"

She stared at him incredulously. "Who would want to live in a rotting corpse? I'm sorry—actually, no, I'm not—but I really don't see the appeal."

"Hm," he hummed thoughtfully and lifted a hand to pluck at the strand of silver beads around her neck. "I could show you appeal,"

Kinsey recoiled with disgust, knocking his hand away. "You can stick your appeal up your fat ass, necro."

"My ass is very shapely, thank you," Micah pouted, a devilish gleam in his eyes. "You can take a look, if you'd like," he reached teasingly for his belt buckle.

The sound of her fist making contact with his face echoed across the cemetery, and the flames went out as he let out a yip of pain, hands flying to his nose. Kinsey stepped back with a satisfied smirk and glanced at Elodie, who seemed to be trying to hold back laughter. Micah turned back to face her, blood coating his chin, and glared daggers. Even she had to admit he looked pretty damn terrifying like that.

"You broke my nose, Red," he ground out.

"Your point?" she raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms.

He advanced on her, dropping his hands to his sides. "An apology would be nice."

She tightened her hold on her whip. "But I'm not sorry, so it would be pointless."

His hand shot out and grasped her chin, leaving bloody fingerprints on her skin. "Apologize, Grim."

She stared him down defiantly, reaching up to grasp his wrist and press down on the shallow cut her whip had made. "Let go of me or you'll regret it."

Micah tightened his grip on her and jerked her closer until she could feel his hot breath on her cheek. She snarled, digging her nails into his wound and gathering blood beneath them. Elodie abruptly popped up beside them and shoved her way between, placing a hand on each of their shoulders and pushing them apart. Kinsey glared at him over the other girl's head, hands clenched into tight fists at her sides.

"Better watch yourself, Red," Micah said in a low voice. "Blondie may not be here next time to save you,"

Kinsey opened her mouth to tell him she didn't need anyone to save her—she could save herself, thank you very much—but was interrupted when a high, shrill scream tore through the still air.