An hour before, Trent had wound his way through the streets below the office tower, headquarters of the Company where the Brothers ruled as general and kings. He passed long rows of small houses with pocked vinyl siding and weed-choked lawns. The few people out turned their heads as he drove past in his black Tesla Roadster. No doubt they thought he was another well-heeled minion on his way to do the Brothers’ bidding.
After he’d found a spot in the parking lot with a good sight line to the front door, he'd prepped his camera. Now that the Brothers had appeared, he started clicking. They were trailed by burly men in dark suits. He wasn’t surprised. Eventually, Trent would have to go through the bodyguards, but he didn’t think they’d give him much trouble. Persephone had given him the strength of a mountain on that first incredible night he’d enjoyed the blessings of her flesh. He sighed. He shouldn’t think about the Goddess now, not that way. His job was to follow the Brothers and develop a plan to rid Mother Gaia of their destructive presence. He needed to think about what Persephone had taught him.
The Brothers’ were guilty of grave crimes against the Earth, she said, clutching his forearms until her nails drew blood, her magical hazel-green eyes grown hard. No corner of the Earth escaped the Company’s foul petroleum, chemicals, polymers, and fertilizers. It had its greedy hand in pulp and paper, heavy equipment, finance and commodities trading, even ranching.
But what most enraged the Goddess was the Company’s holdings in the Athabasca Oil Sands in central Canada. The sands were large deposits of bitumen, extremely heavy crude oil, accessed either through surface mining, or from underground using steam and pumps. The surface mines left dried scabs on the once-pristine face of the boreal forest and muskeg bogs that had reigned over that stretch of the Earth for millennia. Contaminants leaked into rivers and streams from giant stinking pools of toxic tailings. More were pumped into the air by the incessant operation of heavy equipment and the mining processes themselves.
The Company was not the only problem. The Brothers poured hundreds of millions of dollars of their own money into politics in pursuit of their free-market dream of a world in which business did whatever the fuck it wanted. No regulations, no oversight, no constraint. Hundreds of millions more was ginned up through their network of toadies and like-minded industrialists.
“The money is a poison running through the veins of our Mother,” Persephone said. “And you, my blue-eyed captain, are the antidote.” She kissed him, her soft lips cupping his own, drawing him to her. Trent fell into her body, weak with love, his mouth open and imploring. All she needed to do was call him her captain and offer her touch and he would do anything for her.
When Persephone broke the kiss Trent found they were standing on the edge of an ugly scar gouged from a deep-green forest. He covered his nose and mouth against the fumes and wept at the sight. Though he’d been with the Goddess only a few days, it was if her heart had become his own through these strange trips. She would spirit him away thanks to some mysterious power and show him the Earth’s wounds. In his past life, he had been indifferent to Mother Gaia, caught up in his own petty appetites. Persephone had freed him from his shallow life and he was grateful.
The Brothers and their muscle got into a town car that pulled slowly away from the entrance, ending the photo session. Trent let them gain some distance, then tailed them until they reached the faux-medieval façade of the Brothers’ private club. The white-gloved doorman fawned and scraped as he held open the heavy door.
Trent was wearing a fine suit and would likely fit right in with the denizens of the club, but in a city this small he was sure the doormen knew all the elitist scum by name. He would have to get in through the back. He parked the Tesla and trotted down the quiet block on the right side of the building, amused to see a completely ordinary rectangle once he got past the fake turrets and deep-set windows of the façade. He slipped into the yard. Two young men in checked pants and white aprons stood by the kitchen door smoking. One had bad skin and stringy hair. He scratched himself and was oblivious to Trent’s approach. The other was muscular, with tattoos on his neck. He watched Trent with a dead-eye stare.
“Hello,” Trent said, giving an easy smile. “You two look like you don’t have much time before you have to get back to work so I won’t waste it. I have to get into that club. I’ll pay you.”
The tattooed one looked him up and down. “I don’t want to lose my job.”
“Eh, this job sucks,” said the twitchy one. “How much you gonna pay?”
Trent reached into his inside pocket and pulled out a money clip. He peeled off two hundred-dollar bills. “One for each of you. I’m dressed the part, just another pricey suit with an expensive haircut. They’ll think I’m a guest.”
With a smirk, the tattooed one glanced through the screen door leading to the kitchen. “You give me $200, I’ll do it.”
The twitchy one eyeballed his buddy for a minute, then chimed in. “Uh, yeah, $200.”
Opportunistic little fuckers. Trent realized he shouldn’t have pulled out a loaded money clip, but he wasn’t going to give these punks $200 apiece on principle.
“No,” he said, stepping toward them. Persephone had taught him to quiet his mind and feel the power of Gaia, one all humans could sense deep in their bones, even if the species had betrayed it long ago. He let that force fill him now. “One hundred apiece is enough.” He moved his six-foot-four-inch frame closer, loomed over them, a bill in each hand. “Take it and get out of my way.”
The two of them moved aside. The twitchy one looked ready to piss himself. The tattooed one stared as if Trent were a rattlesnake he’d just encountered in his kitchen cabinet. Neither took the money. Trent tossed it on the lid of the dumpster and passed into the kitchen.
Once inside, he tried to waltz through as if he owned the place. A security guard challenged him as he made his way past the sous chefs, busy with dinner prep.
“Why are you back here?” the man demanded. “Let me see your membership card.”
“Listen, friend, I forgot my card, but you’ve got to let me in. My harpy wife’s father will be here any minute and he can’t know I’ve been gone. I told the wife I’d be here all evening, but I was out spending some time with a lovely young lady, if you know what I mean.” As he spoke, Trent plucked out his money clip again. He peeled off two hundred. “Please, buddy. The rich old bastard will have my balls.”
The security guard chuckled and pocketed the cash. He jerked his head toward the door into the club. Trent mouthed a “thank you,” then exited the back section into the lavishly appointed central hall. A man dressed something like a livery footman asked him why he was coming out of the kitchen.
“Looking for a restroom,” Trent muttered, placing his hand on the wall as if unsteady. “I’ve got a migraine.”
“I didn’t see you go in there,” the footman said.
“I’m sure you simply weren’t looking. Now, please, where is the restroom?”
The footman gestured and Trent walked off with his hand to his forehead. While he lingered in the restroom, he decided he’d head for the wide archway through which he’d seen waiters hurrying with trays full of cocktails. He hoped the Brothers would be there, enjoying a pre-dinner aperitif.
He was right. The Brothers were in the study, a huge room covered from floor to ceiling with wood that glowed under tasteful lighting. Enough wood to deforest a village, Trent thought. His targets relaxed in leather wing chairs, a few stuffy old men beside them on a matching couch. The bodyguards were nowhere to be found, perhaps an indication that the Brothers felt secure in this private space.
A crystal decanter half-filled with brown liquid sat on an antique coffee table in front of the group. They all held tumblers. Trent figured it was bourbon. Figured these guys would drink American.
Lucky for him, a set of chairs was open not far from where they sat. A good place for eavesdropping. Trent settled in, ordered a scotch, and turned his ear their way. They were discussing a GOP fundraiser to be held in that very club a few days hence.
“Avery Collins, the talk radio host, is going to speak. I think we’ll pack the room. We’ll raise millions,” said Brother No. 1.
“We’d better,” said Brother No. 2. “The midterms are sizing up to be quite a fight.”
“Not in Kansas,” said one of their companions. “We have reliable conservatives here.”
The Brothers barely hid their look of disdain. For as much as Trent hated them because Persephone did, he also admired them. They were brilliant men. In his past life as a CGI software developer, he would have been happy to meet them. The life he had left only a few days before. Trent hid his chuckle by lifting his tumbler for a sip of scotch, a single malt from Ardbeg Uigeadail, Persephone’s favorite.
Yes, he had given up his privileged life for love. None of his buddies would believe it. All of them wanted to match his level of success with women. To be players. But Trent had never exactly broken hearts. He sought women like him, who viewed sex as a hobby. Many of the women he’d bedded were still his friends. Every once and a while they’d get together and fuck each other’s brains out. But now he knew he’d only behaved that way to fill his emptiness. He was more sensitive than he’d previously been willing to admit.
Trent squeezed his eyes shut. He couldn’t let himself think about Persephone’s duty to create more blades, all of whom would be allowed to touch her. His chest grew tight. He wanted her to be his and only his, but there was nothing he could do. Best to attend to his own duty with a single mind. He forced his attention back on the Brothers. Talked had drifted to tariffs and trade, but it was all right. Trent had the information he needed. He’d come back here during the fundraiser and kill these two. He finished his scotch in two quick gulps and went out into the hall. He lingered there, pretending to be fascinated by the portraits of illustrious club members. Really, he tried to spy where the office might be. Second floor, he guessed.
When the footman in the central hall ran to attend to some arriving members, Trent dashed up the wide staircase and down the corridor. Helpfully, the door to the office was hung with a bronze plaque that said, “Office.” Trent listened with his ear to the door. Not a sound. He eased a tool kit out of his pocket, picked the lock, passed inside and quietly closed the door behind him. He flipped on the lights.
Bingo. A big mahogany desk and file cabinets galore. He poked around until he found the schedule book, took a picture of the entry for the fundraiser with his phone. Then he searched through drawers and cabinets until he found the material to make himself a membership card. Unbelievably, it was an all-male club, so he would not be able to make Persephone credentials. He worried for a split-second, until he realized that no one would have the strength to refuse her entry. She had to be there. She was his escape plan.
“See how they dance,” she said without looking at him. “They hear the music of Gaia.”
Her beauty could make him weep, if he gave in. Cherry-red hair framed her profile with a silky curve. A straight, proud nose above plump lips, her skin coppery in the sunset light. Trent wanted to sweep her into his arms in a dramatic movie-star kiss, but instead, he told her about his plan, how he thought the club was the best place to hit because security was weak. She smiled and it made him feel as though he were falling into the sun. She planted her velvet lips on his cheek and ruffled his dark hair, humming with satisfaction that he had come up with something so quickly. Trent’s cock turned to steel at the thought he had pleased her. Persephone could tell. She slid her arm around his waist and kissed him savagely.
“My captain,” she whispered. “I want to lie with you, but the rules say I am only permitted to love you after you’ve killed for me, for Gaia.”
“I know, Goddess, but it’s so hard,” Trent rasped into her neck. “I want you so much it makes me insane. I love you.”
“I know you do.” Persephone led him into the serene room, with its pale yellow walls and watercolor landscapes. She gently pushed him onto to the king-sized bed and unzipped his pants. He leaned on his elbows, motionless, helpless. When she stroked him he moaned and reached for her. She stopped his hand and softly kissed him.
“No, precious. We can go no further. I’m not supposed to touch you like this. I’m a bad Goddess, but I want to make you feel good.”
With that, she nuzzled his ear and renewed her stroking. Trent’s body shook. He came, hoping it would tame his mad urge to crush her to him, to fuck her. It didn’t. She lay beside him after, which gave him some measure of happiness. “Why are you so sweet, my captain?” she whispered.
“How could I not be sweet to the most perfect being Mother Gaia has ever created?” he said.
Persephone pushed herself up. She held her forehead to his. “No. You’re sweet because you’re good and honorable, my captain. You always were, though you tried to hide it.” She ran her hand down his cheek. “Now, get cleaned up and take me to dinner, so everyone in the restaurant can look at us and envy how beautiful we are.
The time had come. Trent entered the club with his false credentials. He wore an impeccably tailored light gray suit in fresco wool with a royal blue tie that lit up his eyes like a tropical lagoon under the noon sun. People wanted to be near him when he looked like this. Man or woman, no matter the sexual preference, people responded to handsome. This way he could move more easily among the affluent crowd, get close to the Brothers without seeming out of place.
The trousers of his fine suit covered high black boots with Japanese kobun knives sheathed on each side. Persephone had taught Trent how to access the six-inch blades in a breath. How to slit a person’s throat on the exhale. The Brothers would die in a cascade of blood. He only wished it could soak into the soil, a fitting return to Mother Gaia.
The fundraiser cocktail hour was underway in the large reception hall to the right of the entrance. Trent requested a scotch from a waiter, observing the space as he waited. The room was done up as a tribute to the farmers of the Kansas plains. Paintings of corn, wheat, and sorghum in gilded picture frames adorned the deep green walls, joined by portraits of old white men with wizened face and hard eyes, not unlike those of the assembled crowd. Three absurdly ornate chandeliers were dimmed to create a flattering glow. The Brothers held court at the head of the room by the draped windows, their burly protectors standing a few feet behind them. So much for Trent’s hope that the bodybuilders would be MIA, as they had been the last time he was in the club. Of course, state politicians were at this fundraiser. Trent guessed that was the reason for the heightened security.
With scotch in hand, Trent slowly made his way toward his targets. No reason to let them leave this room for the dining hall. At times he would stop to chat with someone looking at one of the paintings, or he would snag an hors d’oeuvre from a passing tray. When he was about ten feet from the Brothers, he stopped and acted as though he were searching for a waiter. A few middle-aged men nearby told him one should be along in a minute because they’d ordered drinks.
“New in town, are you?” asked one man whose gut strained the buttons of his suit jacket. “I haven’t see you around.”
“Yes, but I’m just here on business,” Trent said.
“What business would that be?” said another.
“I’m going to kill the Brothers. Any moment now, actually. You tell them I did it for Mother Gaia. You tell them I did it for the Earth.”
In those long, slow seconds during which the men gaped at him, Trent slipped his knives from his boots and shot towards his targets. First the bodyguards. A quick pass along the tendons in their knees with his blades and they collapsed to the floor, unable to rise. Trent spun away from them. He tossed the one man between him and his targets into the nearest gaggle of people and circled around. Screams rose to bounce among the chandeliers.
The Brothers turned in sync, looking for the bodyguards. Greeted by the sight of them groaning on the floor, they wheeled to face the rest of the room. For a beat, Trent admired their lack of fear, or at least their refusal to show it. Men in their seventies, ready to fight. He whipped and slashed his blades against their throats to slice their carotid arteries, creating an arc of blood that splattered over the hardwood floor and their fleeing companions.
Time to find the Goddess. She had assured him she’d be waiting for him in the kitchen. He barreled through the panicked crowd. No one dared lay a hand on him. By the time he reached the central hall, a gang of security guards were converging. They wouldn’t stop him.
When they rushed, Trent pivoted to the side and punched the nearest in the throat. He doubled over, clutching his neck and making dry gargling noises. Trent got behind the guards and took out two with quick blows to the base of their skulls. Stunned, they staggered around, getting in the way of the other guards. No need to deal with the rest. He ran.
Persephone was in the kitchen, just where she said she’d be. She beamed at him and took his hands and before he could kiss her they were on the slope of an immense dormant volcano veined with snow. A forest lay beneath them, a vast carpet of green that rolled to the shimmering sea.
“Where are we Goddess?”
“The Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian Far East. The goddesses keep a cabin nearby, a cozy place. We can stay there for a while.”
“And I will love you?” Trent said.
“Yes, my captain. We have fed Mother Gaia her blood. For this time, I am yours.”
She took his hand and led him down the slope. Soon they were among the hushed trees, walking on a cushion of pine needles and dried leaves. They moved down a narrow trail as the birds gathered in the branches and foxes scampered in the underbrush, all chattering their welcome to the Goddess. Persephone paused to let a fox touch her hand. She patted its head. It stared at her, its gold eyes full of peace. Then it went to Trent and nuzzled his leg, so he bent to pet it. Birds landed at his feet, chirping and jumping.
“Is this a magic place, Goddess?”
“Only when you are here, my captain. They are thanking you for your sacrifice. It’s not an easy thing, to kill.”
Trent nodded. The whole thing seemed unreal to him. He might feel the weight of his actions tomorrow, but right now all he could think about was kissing Persephone, unwrapping her succulent body. By the time they made the cabin he was weak with desire. After he closed the door he stood in a shaft of light from the small window, as Persephone glided around the single-room cabin touching the rough-hewn walls.
“It’s good to be back,” she said. She glided to a porcelain basin and wet a cloth, stirring up the jasmine scent of the water. She gestured for Trent to come to her, then cleansed his hands and face of blood with a tender touch. He breathed in the jasmine air, hypnotized by her movements, by the feel of the soft cloth on his skin.
When she had washed him, she took his hand and led him to the bed, heaped with pillows and covered in a thick feather quilt the color of red wine. She sat down. Trent’s hand trembled within hers. Already hard, he fell to his knees in front her.
“Take off your dress for me, please, Goddess.”
She did as he asked. With tantalizing slowness, she pulled up the dusty rose cotton. When she revealed her breasts, his mouth watered, anticipating the feel of the perfect brown bud of her nipple. When she finished she put her hands in his hair and pulled him to her. He took the bud in his mouth and gently sucked while he caressed her thighs. Persephone arched her back with her arms flung to the side.
“Mmmmm, the artistry in your mouth,” she whispered.
The throbbing in Trent’s cock doubled in intensity. His heart swelled with the perfect happiness of pleasing her. He rose to find a kiss, cradling her head in his hand and nibbling at her lips. His tongue gently sought its partner. She opened to him and he fell into her pliant mouth, his kiss urgent and heady, until she was pressed beneath him. She pushed him off.
“You’re still clothed, precious. Undress. I want to see you. Feel you.”
Trent smiled so hard it hurt his cheeks. He threw his jacket on a chair and took off his shirt and tie. Persephone got off the bed to run her hands over his hard pecs, down his well-defined abs. She unbuckled his belt. He couldn’t move. Not with her hands so close to his engorged cock. She unzipped him and slipped her hands inside the rim of his pants, loosening them. He breathed heavily and fought to stop himself from grabbing her. Then, with a mischievous turn of her eyes, she shoved his pants down and took his cock in her mouth in one smooth motion. Trent groaned, His knees nearly buckled. He barely kept himself from exploding. Persephone took him deep once, then swirled her tongue around his tip. With a giggle she reached to knead his ass. She brought him full in her mouth again, sucking hard. He came with a groan and a shudder. When he was finished, she sat back to smile at him.
“Your turn, Goddess,” he said. He grabbed her by the shoulders and laid her on the bed. He put his knees on either side of hers and hovered, first delivering a lusty kiss then moving down to lathe her nipples. He pushed her arms over her head and grasped her hands, their fingers intertwined. He licked his way down her stomach as she cooed and squirmed. He spread her legs and dipped his face to her sweet, juicy pussy. His hardness returned. Flowers bloomed in his mind as he massaged her with his mouth, as he licked her clit, as he savored her taste of sweet cream and butter.
“My captain,” Persephone mumbled, writhing and rolling her hips against his mouth. He pressed in further, exploring, lifting her from the bed with his strong hands. With a last little squeak, the Goddess came, bathing his face in her honeyed power. Before his mind had held flowers bursting with color. Now he saw volcanoes erupting with hot liquid. His cocked screamed to fuck her.
“Now, precious,” she said, sliding up on the bed, spreading her legs, her green-gold eyes dreamy with pleasure and need. He slid into her and rose onto his knees with her flush to his body, feeling his strength and the sheer joy of using it to go as deep as he could inside his Goddess. He loved her. Absolutely. Perfectly. In such a way that Trent was erased and all that was left was a pool of timeless devotion. He swirled his hips and placed her on the pillow so he could pump and thrust. He picked up speed, encouraged by her sweet trills, by the movement of her hips in answer to his own.
For a long time they rolled in rhythm, Trent moaning and murmuring his love, his hands in her hair, covering her face with desperate, mad kisses. When Persephone slowed, he knew she was close. He matched her, calming the sweep of his cock and kissing her, gentle and wet. With quick, soft pulses of his hips he coaxed her to come to him. When she was ready she pulled at his hair. She held his eyes until the first wave took her then squeezed them shut as her body spasmed. Trent pressed himself deep as she rippled along his length, caressing him with her gorgeous climax. He couldn’t contain his yell of triumph as he came, as Persephone sang her pleasure beneath him. He rolled onto his side, still holding her close. He crushed his face to her silky hair.
“Persephone, you are everything, everything.”
They lay still in each other’s arms for a few minutes, then Persephone said it was time for her to feed him. They ate heaping plates of spicy vegetables and rice. She wiped his mouth and ruffled his hair and fed him grapes and pieces of orange with her delicate hands. They drank a golden wine that sparkled with its own light, the wine of the Goddesses of Gaia. It made Trent feel invincible. He carried her to the bed again and they kissed and fondled and fucked all night long, not stopping until the shy light of dawn began to play about their windows.
For three blissful days, they loved each other. They hiked to the rim of the volcano to explore each other’s bodies on its verge, two jewels in the barren dirt. They shared food and laughter and discussed their next target, a Chinese coal baron.
But on the third day in the cabin, Persephone told him she must leave. A truck would be waiting for him in the village eight kilometers distant to drive him to a town where he could get a flight. She didn’t want to say goodbye in some dreary Russian burg, but here, where they had shared so many special things. Trent teared up and clutched her to him.
“Don’t leave me Goddess,” he whispered. “I need you with me.”
“I’m sorry, Trent. I have my duty.”
He pushed back to look at her. “You called me Trent. You’ve never done that before.”
Persephone lowered her eyes. “You’re too special to me, precious. This is forbidden.”
“Love can’t be forbidden. It can’t be.” Trent kissed her. She moaned lightly in his arms before she broke away.
“Please don’t make it harder than it is,” she said.
“You’re going to create another blade aren’t you?”
“Yes. You’re aware of my duty.”
Trent hung his head. He didn’t want to sob.
“There is money in the account for you,” she said. “Lots of money. Take a trip to a place of which you’ve always dreamed, but not the United States. It’s too risky to return there without my protection.” She cradled his face in her hands. “We made our most dangerous target our first, but as time goes on and more of the powerful are slain, our mission will grow more difficult. You will become more warrior than assassin.”
“I welcome it, Goddess.”
“I would expect no less.” She brought his hands to her heart. “When the time comes I will find you.”
“Promise me, Persephone. Promise you’ll come back to me.”
“Of course I will. You’re my captain,” she said. With a delicate touch, she traced his lips. “Only Gaia can keep me from you.”