Mortals, Gods and a Muse by Suzette Vaughn

What if you were Sherry Duncan, successful romance novelist with a bad case of writer’s block, And what if you meet someone who could pass for an ancient Greek god, a would-be lover who was rich, who could cook and who only had eyes for you? And what if your life suddenly became more full of intrigue and romance the lives you write about?

 

Chapter One

I’m sitting on a beach in the best looking bikini I could buy. I just want to find some peace and quiet, and more sunshine than the human body should be able to absorb. I love the sun. No, I don’t just love it; I worship it. The way it heats the body and rejuvenates the soul. I love the white sand under my bare feet, minuscule pebbles massaging away my nightmares. Too bad it can’t chase away my living night-mare…which is normally the water at the end of the sand but right now, it would be my current muse. All right, she’s not exactly living but she is my own personal hellhound.

See, I’m a writer with a few issues. No more than the mass populace…at least I hope no more than most. However, I do suffer from writer’s block. Yes, all writers at some point will suffer from this debilitating disease. It’s not going to kill me, but more days than not I feel like it might. At times, I swear my head will explode if I can’t find something coherent to write. On really bad days, I would take something incoherent.

So, you understand that writer’s block is bad but I suffer even more. Most writers will tell you they visualize their characters. They actually hear them talk inside their heads. You could classify this as a sickness, akin to schizophrenia; but I promise we’re all harmless. Okay, I can’t say all. Yes, I’ve met a few that even I won’t socialize with.

Imagining people who aren’t there is bad, but I can top that. I don’t just visualize my characters…I see them. Please don’t call the men with the little white coats. I don’t like the way the coat fits. It’s not comfortable to have my arms strapped to me like that. I don’t need to give myself a permanent hug.

One of my visitors was a clean freak and I loved her. My house had never been so spotless, although she did kill all of my dust bunnies.

I miss those little guys.

Then there was the intellectual. She reorganized my house by alphabetizing everything. Do you know how hard it is finding the cocoa next to the coffee? Bad, right? Worse yet, they were both on my desk next to the computer. I’m glad she didn’t decide that they should all be next to the commode. Why couldn’t she just leave them on the counter? Oh well. That was just the way she did things.

One morning, I discovered she rewired my computer. I knew something was wrong when the Air Force came knocking on my door wanting to know why all of the satellites had been rerouted into my computer. I just shrugged. Glitch, maybe?

Then, if I made the smallest typing mistake or grammar error, she would irritate me by reorganizing everything again, this time by color. Of course, this sent me back to searching for my coffee. I found it in the soil of my fern three weeks later because it was brown…the soil, not my fern.

Once, my heroine was a sorceress. I don’t want to discuss the mess in my house that month. Of course, she had to show up a year after my clean freak. I wonder how the intellectual would have color-coded eye of newt?

Even worse than that…yes, I said it…my current heroine, Star. The good part about her is she is still new and only sad because she’s lonely. So, what makes her worse? She keeps bringing strange men to my house. The first one knocked on my door and asked if I could tell him where he was, my little Star standing behind him trying to look innocent. I understand she wants me to find her a man. The problem is…you guessed it…writer’s block. So, she is out there looking for her own.

The second poor man was as scared as I was. It didn’t help that he was sitting on the chair to my vanity table when I stepped out of the shower. Good thing I already had my towel wrapped loosely around me. He left his number on the way out the door as I tried to explain that he must have walked into the wrong house. Wrong neighborhood and wrong city, but I didn’t mention the last two.

So, I have chosen to hide. Yes, I’m hiding from a woman who doesn’t exist. Sad, isn’t it? This state of affairs I’ve gotten myself into. So now, I’m sitting on a beach in the Virgin Islands…I wonder how they got that name. No one who spends any time here can stay that way. Just look at the gorgeous men. Tan skin and dark hair, sun-glinted at that. Excuse me for one moment, while I wipe up the drool.

And there’s another of my problems: I can’t concentrate. One minute I’m trying to find Star a man, the next my mind is thinking of why the Virgin Islands are so wrongly named.

Those men I mentioned before are not helping the situation. I’ll be having a normal thought pattern of how to find Star her leading man, and wham! A gorgeous hunk of male body walks by and my brain takes a hike.

I can blame that partly on my last…how do I put this? Run in with the male species. I give up. I’m tired of trying to find my own hero. How can I find hers?

Then there are the other people around me. The natives and half the guests think I’m nuts. What would you think of the person talking to herself? Yes, I’m talking to Star but it seems no one can see her except me. Since arriving on the island, I only found one man she led my way. I stopped her before he came to his senses.

My hiding didn’t go as planned. She found me. So I’m sitting in the sun, basking. Star is sitting next to me in her own beach chair. Laptop in front of me…still nothing. Some good-looking guy will walk by and her eyebrows rise to the heavens. Still nothing. If I don’t get her gone, and the next one in, my career is over.

Even worse…what? You thought I was done? Star doesn’t have her voice yet. Let me guess. You don’t understand? There is a certain order to the way characters materialize, at least for me. It’s not just a poof and they are there. Now, sometimes the order changes but still no poof. With Star, she was a floating head. Not too bad, but when I woke to a semi-translucent head first thing in the morning I was glad I live alone. The scream I let out echoed through the house.

She was a floating head for about six hours, then her body started to form. I’ll be the first to say she has a nice body. Thankfully though, clothes always come with the bodies, at least so far. It’s not a nice thing to be jealous that your muse has a better body than you do.

I stand at five nine, so I’m not short. I’m also not stick thin or have alabaster skin. Star does. She’s somewhere around five eleven, long blonde silky hair, electric blue eyes, and perfect skin. You like that in a girl? Good! You take her and she can bring strange men to your door and your bathroom. Unless you are the poor strange man, then maybe an application and references are in order. She is mine, after all. She came out of my head, kind of like a daughter…a fully grown, fully annoying child. I guess you have to keep reading and hope my rambles get better.

“What do you want him to look like?” I question the blonde next to me.

I get a shrug back.

“What do you want him to do?”

Another shrug.

“You could help me out a little here.”

Solemn eyes. I didn’t know such powerful blues could look so down.

“What do you want to do? Where do you want to live? What do you want in general?”

At least this time I got a smile from her. Then I noticed the blonde passing by. “You like blondes?”

Another shrug. I have never had this kind of problem getting one of my characters off my shoulders and in the arms of their lover. Of course, normally the males come first. They are easy and tell me exactly what they want. They almost demand.

“Miss, if you don’t turn over…”

I heard the voice but it didn’t register until Star jumped up from her chair.

Rolling over to see where she went, I found her looking over a well-made body. Her palms went up in a “what do you think” gesture. Hmm, what do I think? Tall. Lean. Strong. A little hair on the chest, but not Sasquatch. Good masculine features.

He was staring at me. Oh man, I didn’t hear what he said.

“I’m sorry can I help you?” I tried to say it nonchalantly.

“If you don’t turn over, you are going to burn.”

His accent made my toes curl. Star agreed with a weak-kneed movement.

“Thank you.” I reached behind me and flipped off my computer. Turning back, he was walking toward the water, Star right behind him.

“Star!” I was louder than I wanted.

Mr. Body turned around, “I am sorry?”

“Nothing. Thank you, again.” I waved. Now I felt stupid times two.

Star came trudging back, kicking sand on her way. Flopping down on the chair, she looked down the beach away from me.

“Get over it, girl. What am I supposed to do? Excuse me, Sir, can you take my muse off my hands? Or, better yet, can I follow you around for a few days and use you for a book? That’s a lovely accent you have, where are you from?”

The last one got Star’s attention and she nodded her head profusely.

“Does anyone other than a writer use the word profusely?”

She kicked sand in my face for the last question.

Once I finished spitting the sand out of my mouth, I focused back on the dark man in the water.

“Must be Italian, maybe Spanish. I can’t quite place that accent. Beautiful body, dark skin, dark hair, I didn’t notice his eyes, did you?”

Another strong nod, then a finger point to her eyes.

“Blue?”

Hands to the sky in a “Hallelujah” motion.

“I can’t wait ‘til you find your voice. You understand that gives him an odd combo, right?”

Her eyes rolled; I swear if they moved any further to the back of her head they would come out the other side.

“Fine, you like odd. Of course, since you can’t talk yet, who knows, you might sound like him.”

Another headshake, not so strong, and her feet played in the sand like a scolded child.

“No, huh. You know what you sound like?”

A perfect smile. Even I have one tooth that isn’t straight. To err is human. Star’s not technically human, that’s why the perfection. The human god in the water would like her, I’m sure. Although, I’m not sure he is exactly human either. Maybe one eye is lazy or one arm is longer. Maybe he laughs like a donkey.

Reaching back, I grabbed my laptop and powered it up. I wrote his description. I pictured him on a boat but the names eluded me, both his and the boat’s. This is getting frustrating. Writer’s block strikes again.

One of the scantily clad women came around with a tray of Piña Coladas. I grabbed two and dropped some money on her tray. Her smile made me wonder if it was too much. When I looked back up from downing half a coconut, blue eyes were smiling my way. This time they didn’t belong to a blonde.

“One of those mine?” Brazen and spoken beautifully, no wonder Star was already swooning over him.

“Sure, grab a seat, a coconut, and chill out.”

“Chill out? Proves you’re American.” He flopped down on the chair

“That I am.” Here’s my chance, “And you are?”

“Lysander Eros.” He stuck out the hand that didn’t have my coconut in it.

I wrapped my fingers around his palm. Strong hand. Firm shake. Tingling toes.

“Sherry Duncan.”

He cocked his head sideways and then nodded, as if agreeing that was my name. I knew his name but still had no idea where the accent was from. He let go of my hand and I typed “L E” on my laptop. Eros sounded so familiar. He wasn’t giving in, so I had to.

“Interesting name.”

“Sherry is French, no?”

“I was talking about yours. Yes, and Duncan is Irish. Where does Lysander Eros hail from?”

“Here.” He opened his arms as if he were welcoming the entire island.

Unbelievable! He takes one of my coconuts and then doesn’t give up what I’m asking for. Probably one of those male chauvinists who think women are only good for babies and cooking. I’m a little jaded. Can you tell? Sorry, but if you went through my dating life, you would be cautious too.

There was Peter. He ended up as an underwear model. Good for him too, because he didn’t have a brain cell to spare. Yes, I went after him for the body. Eros, sitting next to me, put Peter’s body to shame.

Then there was Ray. He was just fun, a different bar every night. I burnt out after nine months of getting nothing done. My agent was happy to see him gone.

Oh, the biker. What was his name? I guess his name doesn’t matter now. Biker; I don’t mean Lance Armstrong in spandex. I’m talking full leather, chaps, and tattoos. The United States looks beautiful at sixty miles an hour on the back of a bike. Here’s a point from your friendly Aunt Sherry…if you find yourself on a bike going down the freeway, keep your mouth shut. It’s hard to pick the bugs out of your teeth, and I don’t care how much protein they say bugs have, they just don’t taste good.

That was over four years ago. Beyond that, trust me, you don’t want to know. Those are also only the ones that made it into a bed with me. I don’t want to mention the three blind dates, or the two off the Internet, and especially the guy that spilled the beer down my shirt, in hopes that I would remove some article of clothing right there. Hope he enjoyed the bar tab as I walked out the door.

Back to the god sitting next to me. He was probably some Third World oil tycoon with a harem of wives…women only to serve him. Forget that. Eros, god of love. That’s why that sent the synapses moving. I couldn’t stop the laugh as it escaped.

“You find something funny?” The accent was gorgeous even if he was annoying me.

“God of Love.” Why lie? Maybe I’d find out more this way.

“Mythology, you know it?”

“Some.”

My turn to be vague. I wasn’t going to tell him I studied it in college, a lot of good that did me. It helped only a little in writing romance novels, not that it helps anyone get a job unless you want to run a museum, somewhere in Greece at that.

“Some is better than none. Do you know where the name Lysander comes from?”

Goody, now he wanted the brain to move into overdrive to find that answer. I’m lucky I know where Sherry comes from and it’s my name. Should I mention to him at some point that I’m a huge history buff?

“Spartan warrior.”

“Close. Naval admiral, then king. Just shows not all American females are dim.”

Nor are we going to bow down to a good body. Okay I did, but only once!

“Nothing to it, basic history lesson. Eros was a Greek god if I remember right?”

Spartan, Greek. Eros, Greek. Hmm, would Lysander Eros be Greek?

“Greek is right.”

“Then you would be Greek?”

“Right again.”

Oh yeah, I’m good. The power of deductive reasoning; who says it’s lost to our generation?

He looked a bit evil. “Have you eaten lunch yet?”

It sounded like idle conversation. I knew better. Lunch? Now he wanted to be nice. I learned everything I needed from him and he wants to offer now. Star caught my attention from the corner of my vision. If I thought her previous head nod was profuse, this one was setting off Richter scales all the way in Eros’ homeland.

“What do you have in mind, Spartan?”

One eyebrow cocked at my use of his ancestry, then an approving nod. Not that I care if he approved.

He clasped his hands together. “I prepare excellent grilled fish.”

“Ah, rule one, don’t go to someone else’s place. What about a restaurant? I know most of the shacks are good around here.”

“I have a boat.” The smile he gave with that statement bordered on devilish.

Synapses went off again. I pictured him on a boat, just didn’t know the name of it. So logic time again.

“What’s the name of your boat?”

“Does not work that way. You must see my boat.”

I could see the boat, doesn’t mean I would have to go on it. I just needed the name. I stood up without a word, put my laptop in the bag, then my SPF 50, grabbed my coconut and started off down the beach. American with attitude, at its finest. I will admit I wanted to give the bathing suit bottom that was slowly riding the wrong way a good tug, but with the god of love watching, I didn’t dare. I hoped it wasn’t as obvious as it felt.

“Why do you work on vacation?” He asked as he caught up, not even out of breath.

“Who said this was a vacation?”

“Who comes here that isn’t on vacation?”

“Me, apparently.”

“Me too. Then we spend time…not working, together?”

Star jumped out in front of me. I jumped in return. She put her hands on her hips and tapped one bare foot in the sand.

“Are you all right?” Lysander questioned.

“Fine, just rethinking your offer for lunch.” I tried to smile as my heart rate headed back toward normal.

If all else failed, Star would go for help. She had led three men my way already, why not an officer of the law if I needed it?

“Lead on, Eros.”

“Very good.” He offered his hand. I took the offer and he walked with me. “What are you doing here?”

“Trying to satisfy my newest muse.”

“You have a muse?” His strong features didn’t mask the surprise on his face.

“I think all creative types have one. Mine changes with each new project.”

“Most have a muse for life.”

I looked up into the blues…stunning blues at that. Dark and brooding like the ocean in the middle of a hurricane.

“Mine leave when I find them a mate.”

Why was I telling this guy anything, let alone everything?

The last comment got me an odd look, eyebrows pointing to the nose and all. Figuring he was ready to call the loony bin wasn’t a bad thing. If someone thinks you’re crazy, they are less likely to do something bad to you. Never hurt your own kind, right?

What is the worst he could do? Tie me up and take me to Greece? A plane would fly me back.

Dump me off in the middle of the ocean from his boat? Okay, that one doesn’t sound very fun.

Grill me like a fish? I don’t think they make a grill that big, especially on a boat.

“Is your muse talking to you?”

Wow, forgot he was there for a moment.

“No. She doesn’t have a voice yet this round.”

“Is it always a she?”

“No, many times the male comes first.”

“Why have you not found this one a mate?” Eros kept my hand in his as we stepped up onto the dock.

“Star won’t tell me or show me what she wants.” So, it’s a half-truth.

“Star sounds infuriating.”

“She’s at least frustrating. I came here planning to leave her at home but she followed me.”

“Persistent muse.”

“That she is.”

I watched him head down between two boats. I stopped. I consider myself brave. I’m just not stupid. I could see Star already on the top level of the boat doing a jig. Irish jig? Maybe? She doesn’t look Irish to me though, and do I exactly know what a jig looks like?

The boat. That’s right. That’s why I’m here. When he said boat, I imagined a cute little houseboat, hardly big enough for us to stand on at the same time. What I was looking at was a small cruise ship. Okay, small isn’t the right word. Large, maybe not to house four hundred, but I’m thinking forty at this point.

I shook my head, trying to focus on the other real human around. He seemed to be the only one, then that theory went out the window as a couple passed behind me. They waved, Eros waved back.

The guy yelled, “Tonight at Malachi’s?”

Eros responded, “See you there?”

The girl hanging on the guy’s shoulder said, “Of course, Lysander.”

My turn to roll my eyes as dramatically as Star had on the beach. The girl batting her eyes at Lysander couldn’t have been more than twelve, at least not in my book. She was flirting to the core. I recognized it because I remember a time when I did it.

I stopped that kind of flirting somewhere around twenty-seven; too late to start again. Or, is it? I started toward the ramp he used to get onto his “boat”, sneaking a glance at where the name should have been painted. Nothing but a smooth white surface stared back. No name.

I stepped onto the back of the boat, which was no more than four feet deep, then up a small set of stairs onto the deck. It seemed like I was transported into a mansion. I looked over the railing just to prove to myself that the water was still there.

I wouldn’t forget about the water again.

As I continued, I wondered how a “boat” could be built like this. I looked across the sitting area hiding in the shade created from the upper deck. The round cherry-finished table was big enough I could lay down on it, with bench style seating covered in rich fabric in the same circle shape. On the other side was what looked like a living room with large pale blue couches, sofas, and individual chairs.

Lysander wasn’t in view.

“Hello?”

“Hello,” came another accent. Okay, same accent, different voice. A man in all white stepped down the stairs; same basic features as Eros but not quite as dark, and a few inches taller.

“I’m sorry. Eros came in here, didn’t he?”

“Yes, he went to his room to clean up. May I take your bag?” He offered his hand.

“No, the bag stays with me.” I clutched it, afraid he would try to take it anyway. Trust issues. Deal with it.

“He said you could go up and wait for him.”

“Thanks.”

I was even more worried now as I watched him walk down the stairs and off the boat. I’m supposed to find my own way around, as if I’ve ever been on a boat like this. Fishing in a lake doesn’t count. That boat was probably smaller than his dingy. Dingy. There’s an odd word. I’ve also been on a cruise ship. Just the thought made my body shudder.

I turned back towards the front of the boat. Star was waiting impatiently next to the stairs. I shot the “don’t” look and scooted past her. Upstairs was as outrageous as the down. A deck to my back with a grill and seating around the railing, a table in front of me, and a dining room through the door. Still no Greek.

I carefully made my way through the formal dining room, past the table with seating for ten, to find a kitchen on the other side. At this point, I’m almost ashamed of my house, and I have a nice house. I live in twenty-five hundred square feet, but my house doesn’t have a Viking range, fridge, and whatever else that company makes. This “boat” does.

I’m drooling over the kitchen when he comes from the hall I had yet to go into.

“You like my boat?”

“It’s a quaint little pad, isn’t it?” I’m not about to tell the god I’m impressed.

“Yes it is. My father’s is bigger but he also has five of my younger sisters that travel with him.”

“Interesting.”

Bigger? And they wonder what causes tsunamis.

“So what is the name of your boat?”

“Guess.” He motioned toward a seat at the bar and started toward the fridge.

Guess, he says. Thanks. If I could do that, I wouldn’t be sitting here asking. I’d already know for my muse. Speaking of which, where did she disappear to? Up to this point, and the plane ride down, she hadn’t left my side.

Lysander had changed his clothes in “getting cleaned up.” Nice black shirt to set off the defined body. Cargo shorts that looked comfy. Not a bad outfit.

He came from the fridge with his hands full. Some fish with the heads still on them, some beautiful lettuce, olives, oil, and some kind of cheese joined the party.

“Do you always watch people that intently?” he asked, his eyebrows up slightly on the symmetrical face.

“It’s part of what I do. Also, I’m still trying to make sure you’re not some kind of serial killer.”

Lysander pulled a very sharp knife from the block on the other side of the kitchen from me. He moved and I attempted to run.

***

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