Frederica Fitzgerald is just one day shy of her sweet sixteen when she’s nearly run over by a tall, dark dreamboat on a big black horse. Freddy can deal with the running over part- no harm done. The problem is the rider, Mr. Sex Bomb himself: Polydegmon, son of Hades and heir to the Greek Underworld.
Freddy’s hooked on Polydegmon from the start (although dude, togas went out of style several thousand years ago), being near him is enough to make her tingle down to her toes. He’s got secrets he isn’t sharing, though, and trouble follows him closer than his own shadow: rabid dogs running around the suburbs, insane crows stalking Freddy’s every moment, and, worst of all, the feral fairies of the Wild Hunt trolling her hometown for their next bit of human game.
The closer Freddy gets to Deg, the weirder her life becomes, until Freddy discovers something about her own past that changes everything she ever thought she knew about herself. And her world…
Author website link: http://heirtotheunderworld.com/
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Publisher’s Website: http://www.sapphirebluepublishing.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=97
The agony of geometry class had ended at last, and Frederica Fitzgerald shot out the back gate of her high school, beating the swarm of her fellow students to freedom. Her mom had told her that morning to make sure she was home early to work on her geometry homework. Freddy trudged uphill to her house without seeing anyone, bummed that she had to ditch her friends in favor of the Dreaded Math.
The sounds of the high school quickly faded away as she walked deeper into the residential streets. Quiet prevailed in her neighborhood, with only the swaying rustle of pine trees and the scuff of her sneakers on the road for background noise. The road didn’t have a sidewalk, but it wasn’t used much by cars. Keeping well to the side anyway, her thigh occasionally brushed the rusted metal of the road divider as she walked. She glanced over the divider now and then, gazing down the incline to the hillside dotted with pine trees and frosted with their needles. The smell of the needles prickled deep in her nose, chalky and dry.
The promise of a storm loomed in the sky and, with a sigh, Freddy pulled the hood of her sweatshirt over her hair.
Yesterday was gorgeous. Sunny. Warm. Now the sky looked like a sludgy dish drain.
She dug her MP3 player out, tucked her earbuds in, and cranked the volume on an old Regina Spektor album, resigning herself to a long, and potentially wet, walk home.
She’d only taken a few steps, though, before halting. Her nerves prickled, a bizarre tension gripping her. The air itself seemed wrong, too thick, sparking with a strange power that weighed her lungs down as she breathed in. She whipped her head around, worried someone was following her, but the road was empty.
A black horse suddenly appeared beside her, almost on top of her, in the road. As she frantically retreated from the huge, bucking animal, she backed into the guardrail so hard she toppled over the side. When she collided with the ground, the air painfully whooshed out of her lungs. Pine needles crunched beneath her body as she slid down the slight incline.
Laying there for a long moment-gasping and shaken as she stared at the canopy of pines-Freddy tried to understand where the horse had come from. Even with her earbuds in, she should have heard the horse coming, should have seen it on the road ahead of her.
Had a freaking horse just materialized out of thin air?
The horse whinnied and she bolted upright, irrationally scared the animal would jump the guardrail, but then she noticed the animal’s rider, muscles straining in his bare arms as he brought the horse to heel with a sharp tug of the reins. The brutish horse glowered at her, but his agitation eased at last.
Freddy gulped in a breath, and her heart stopped trying to batter its way out of her chest.
The rider dismounted, leather soles flapping on the pavement as he landed. A floppy straw hat screened his face from view, and he kept his back to Freddy as he soothed his stallion.
She watched the rider’s back with growing annoyance. Okay, so calming the horse was important so it wouldn’t kill someone-like me. But was the guy so hard-pressed by his now-calm horse he couldn’t ask if she was okay?
The rider wore some kind of historical costume, a molded leather breastplate over a short-sleeved blue tunic. A woolen cloak in a darker blue draped over his left shoulder and fastened to the right one by an ornate plant-shaped pin. He didn’t have any pants on under his tunic. Seriously weird. Sturdy leather sandals laced to mid-calf completed his ensemble. Freddy wasn’t an expert, but she thought he was going for a sort of Greco-Roman look.
Why he’s wearing his costume out and about, trampling people on a monster black horse, I do not know.
After a minute more had passed, with the rider still crooning to his horse and ignoring her, Freddy snapped out, “Oh, don’t bother about me. It’s cool. I don’t mind that your horse nearly killed me.” Nerves still shocky after the close call, her voice broke. Embarrassed, she swallowed the lingering fear, not wanting the rider to see her so scared.
The rider turned to her, mouth open, eyes wide as they flitted all over her face. He half-stepped toward her, his voice harsh and low. “Who are you?”
As far as heartfelt and concerned apologies went, this one was somehow lacking.
If he’d apologized or, hey, asked if she was all right, Freddy would have been fine. But his total lack of concern nearly undid her control, causing pointless, immature tears to pool in her eyes. Her legs wobbled and her hands trembled when she tried to stand so she plopped back down onto the ground cover of pine needles, the dead brush poking at her legs. Deciding that anger was more soothing than bawling, Freddy glared at the shadowed face under the bizarre hat. “What are you wearing?”
He blinked. “Beg pardon?”
“Your clothes.” She gestured up and down to indicate his whole outrageous outfit. “You’re going for a Roman solider, right? Is there a reenactment around here or something?”
Wariness sprang into the boy’s eyes, and another flash of annoyance zipped through Freddy. If he was that embarrassed by his hobby, why was he riding around in public wearing his costume?
He spoke slowly, scanning the ground with his eyes. “Yes. There is a gathering of reenactors up the hill.” At first, she’d figured he was faking the weird accent to go with his costume. But the more he talked, the clearer it became that, no, he really did talk this weird all the time. English is probably his second language. He had the faintest trace of an accent, nothing she recognized, but the formality of his words and the precise, clipped way he talked showed he wasn’t from SoCal. That made sense, not too many Roman reenactors in America, after all. “I was running late, you see.”
Figures. She clenched her teeth in irritation and narrowed her eyes. “Is that why you were riding your horse like a freaking idiot?”
The rider laughed suddenly, a sincere, bone-deep rumble. “Yes, I am an idiot. Beg pardon. But you should learn to look where you are going.”
Freddy popped her mouth open in violent indignation. “You ran me over, pal.”
“Are you injured?” He moved forward and pushed his hat off his head.
Freddy got her first good look at him.
To call him attractive would be a modest assessment.
Basically…the guy was hot. Tall. Dark. So handsome it made her teeth hurt. She stared at him, suddenly aware that pollen and dirt covered her, that pokey pine needles clung to her clothes, that she was grubby and sweaty and totally not hot just then. Hiding her embarrassment, she straightened her spine and met his stare.
His eyes glinted, an odd amber color that caught the light and made her stomach flutter, her mind blanking out with white noise as she reveled in his hotness.
His smile broadened as she stared at him. Leaning over the guardrail, he offered her his hand.
Rolling her eyes, Freddy forced herself to stand unassisted, still pissed about the “look where you’re going” remark. With shaky hands, she collected her MP3 player from the ground, praying it wasn’t broken.
She clambered over the guardrail without help, too. “Enjoy playing dress-up!” she tossed off as she stalked past the rider and his stupid horse with her chin high, intent on continuing her interrupted walk home. She had geometry homework to do, and this guy-hot as he was-seemed a little too arrogant for her tastes.
Even if he was a stone-cold fox.
The rider followed her, towing his horse behind him. “Where are you going? Perhaps I can escort you there to make amends.”
“I am going away from you.” Freddy redoubled her pace, feeling the first faint stirring of alarm that maybe the boy was dangerous somehow. Why was he following her?
He fell easily in step beside her and leaned over to peer at her face. “Do I know you?”
Freddy tossed her head, turning so her hood shadowed her face, hoping to signal she was not in the mood to be flirted with. “No, you don’t.”
“Perhaps I know your father.”
Freddy paused and looked over at the guy, especially at his meticulous historical costume. Her dad used to perform on the local Renaissance Faire circuit, and this guy seemed like a good candidate to be a RenFaire fanboy. “Do you go to the SoCal RenFaire?”
He smiled, absently reaching behind to stroke his horse’s long nose as the animal shifted from foot to foot, looking antsy. “I do. Your father works there, yes?”
She half-shrugged her shoulder. “He used to perform in the jousts. Then he made swords. He’s retired now.”
“I think I remember his booth. And you. You helped him run it.”
Freddy stopped and faced him. She gave a slow nod. “Yeah, but I was a lot younger then.”
He gave a self-deprecating snort and a small eye roll. “So was I, and far too shy to talk to the pretty girl with dimples at the sword booth.”
Heat splashed over her cheekbones, and she fought not to smile and flash said-dimples at him now. This adorable boy had thought she was cute as a gawky eleven year old?
So, what did he think of her now?