They walked into the house, the three mastiffs trotting at their heels. Persephone guided her through to a large, bright kitchen at the back of the house, with picture windows looking out onto more lawns, flowers, and a lake with an island and a folly.

She prodded Psyche into a chair at a farmhouse-style table with a delightfully battered, wonky top, and headed for the kettle. “I’ll start us on the great British default, and we can go from there.”

As Persephone was making the tea, the dogs made themselves comfortable. One snuffled his nose under Psyche’s hand, his big brown eyes begging for scritches, another flopped down on the floor and rested his head on her foot, while the third lay down in the middle of the path Persephone would need to take to the table. The one at Psyche’s feet began to snore.

Persephone returned with tea and biscuits, skirting the furry mountain in her way with a fond eye roll. “I never thought I was that much of a dog person, but these three are a bit adorable once you get over their ridiculous size.”

Psyche studied her friend as she settled into the seat opposite. “You look happy, and not just jolly holiday happy, but deep in your bones content.”

Persephone’s smile was radiant. “I am, and you’re supposed to be Hermes, delivering a package and finally discovering where I am.”

Psyche grimaced. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be. Just give me the story.”

By the end of Psyche’s recital, Persephone was on the warpath. “If that woman thinks she can get away with exploiting people, and frittering away her budget on petty whims, she is way overdue for an internal audit.”

She reached for her phone. “Let me get Hades started on the money side of things, and I’ll have him send Hera some very pointed questions about Aphrodite’s HR practices at the same time. In fact, I’ll write them for him, it’ll save time.”

Psyche watched Persephone scribbling notes and let herself relax. It was warm and the chair was surprisingly comfortable, and she had a dog snoozing on each side of her, their deep even breaths slowing the pace of her thoughts. Her head felt so heavy, Persephone wouldn’t mind if she just rested it on the table for a moment…

She woke to the pressure of a hand on her shoulder. A much bigger hand than Persephone’s.

Jerking upright, she found herself gazing into eyes the blue of tropical seas; as the deep, smooth voice she’d missed so much murmured her name.

She drew in a breath that sounded horribly like a sob and lunged forward, then scrambled awkwardly back as his arms came up to catch her. “You’re hurt.”

Eros shook his head. “The burns weren’t deep, I’m fine.”

She bit her lip, holding back tears. “But…”

He pulled up his t-shirt, revealing a broad, muscled chest with faint burn scars splashed across it. He took her hand and placed it over the most scarred area. “See? Fine.”

Her fingers flexed against his skin, and he leaned into her touch as she carefully traced the marks the acid had left.

He lifted her hand away, and stood, then drew her up as well, and folded his arms around her. She slipped her arms around him and found a perfect spot for her head, resting on his shoulder, her face tucked into his neck, he smelt of summer and salt. His arms tightened and he pressed his lips to her forehead. She looked up and then he was kissing her and nothing else in the world existed.

The world intruded far too soon; they broke apart as Persephone said loudly. “If you two could pause the romance of the ages, here’s your box of tricks for Aphrodite.”

Psyche laughed. She was drunk on Eros’s kisses, and ready to take on anyone. “I’d better get it back to the office. She was quite clear on wanting them for this evening’s event.”

Eros leaned over and took the box from Persephone. “We’ll get it back to the office. And then you and I have a meeting on the top floor.”

That sobered her. The only department on the top floor, other than Arachne’s, was the CEO’s office, and Psyche doubted they were off to discuss fabrics with the weaver.

She grimaced at Persephone, then hugged her goodbye. Eros guided her through the house and outside, to where a dark silver sports car waited. He opened the passenger door, helped her in, and handed her the box. Settling into the driver’s seat he fired up the engine and turned them down the driveway.

Once they were on the motorway, the car purring as it ate up the miles, he took one hand off the wheel to rest on Psyche’s thigh. “Just making sure you’re really here.”

She covered his hand with her own but said. “You’re the one who disappeared.”

He grimaced. “My mother whisked me out of hospital as soon as I got the all-clear and dumped me in her country retreat. She told me you’d gone off to Greece with your flatmates, hid my phone, and changed all the coffee in the house to decaffeinated.”

Psyche stared at him. “What?”

He looked embarrassed. “I run on coffee. If I don’t have a decent mug of the stuff first thing, then top up regularly until lunchtime, I drowse all day.”

Psyche bit her lip on a laugh. “Maybe you just need more sleep?”

Eros shrugged. “Maybe, but then Mother wouldn’t have her top photographer on hand at all hours.”

He squeezed her leg. “Anyway, I finally managed to find and recharge my phone yesterday, just in time to cop a right serve from Janet, phoned Heracles, who brought my car, and some real coffee, down this morning. I was dropping him back in London when Persephone took her turn at yelling at me.”

Psyche asked. “Did you believe Aphrodite, when she said I’d gone on holiday?”

Eros replied. “It made sense, I’d shoved you away, and left you. Why wouldn’t you go somewhere you’d feel wanted?”

She shook her head. “Not there, not with them.”

“So what have you been doing in the past couple of weeks? Other than dealing with my mother at her nightmare best.”

Psyche began a light-hearted rendition of her experiences at Z Corp, Eros was not amused.

He made a call. “Hera? … No, no, I’m fine. You know what she’s like … Yes … No, I’m on my way into the office now, and I have Mother’s intern with me … Could you have a chat with Harmonia about the tasks she was set? … Oh they’re a long way from usual, or acceptable … thanks, see you soon.”

He hung up and smirked. “Between Hades’ snap audit of PR expenditure, and now Hera’s review of her HR practices, Mother is going to have some explaining to do.”

Psyche could feel herself shrinking. “She’s not going to be very happy with me.”

Eros shrugged. “That’s her problem, not yours.”

“But she’ll fire me.”

“She can’t fire you. Your contract is with Z Corp as a whole, not PR, and it’s up to Hera who stays and who goes.”

Psyche frowned. “But if you hadn’t called Hera, it would just be my word against hers, and she and Hera are friends.”

“Frenemies more like.” Eros took the turn into the car park beneath the Z Corp Office, “Don’t forget Persephone’s present.”

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