Sign Steal Deliver by Carrie Pulkinen
Hermes leaned back in his chair, lacing his fingers behind his head and extending his legs as he soaked in the scene. A group of college boys whistled as a woman riding a powder-blue Vespa rounded the corner. She parked on the curb in front of the guys and slid off the scooter before stepping onto the sidewalk and turning toward Hermes.
His breath caught, and his pulse kicked up as she checked something on her phone. As the messenger god, he held an affinity for those in the courier business, and as a hot-blooded man, he couldn’t deny her beauty. Though mortals rarely ever prayed to the Olympians for assistance these days, he’d be happy to bless this delivery woman with a little extra speed and safety on her journey.
As she slipped her phone into her back pocket and strode toward the gods’ rental home, one of the college kids caught her by the wrist. “Where you going, sweetheart?” he drawled.
Hermes leaned forward in his chair as a strange urge to protect this woman he’d never met overcame him. Well, maybe it wasn’t completely strange. She was a courier, one of his people, but this urge felt stronger than anything he could recall.
“Hmm…” A slow smile curved the woman’s lips, and she placed her free hand on the boy’s shoulder. “I’m going to pick up a delivery. Where are you going?” Her voice was seductive, a purr that could give Aphrodite a run for her money.
The guy let out a cocky laugh and released her arm, which she immediately slid behind his back. “How about you forget the delivery and come inside with me?” he asked.
She stepped back and tossed a black rectangular object at the guy’s chest. Was that his wallet? Hermes chuckled. It sure was.
The guy caught it, a baffled expression contorting his features as the woman dangled his watch in front of his face.
“How about you learn to treat women with respect?” She dropped the watch into his hand, turned on her heel, and marched toward the gods’ house. Pausing at the foot of the porch steps, she took a deep breath and blew it out hard, shaking her head as if to chase away thoughts of the confrontation.
Hermes rose to his feet, unable to fight his smile. She was a courier and a thief. Be still my heart.
“Great form,” he said as she climbed the steps and stopped in front of him. “The wrist flick when you snagged his wallet was a nice touch. Very professional, but why did you give it back to him?”
“I didn’t need it.” She tugged her phone from her pocket again and swiped the screen. “Are you Cole Black?”
Cole was Hades’ alias among the mortals. Z didn’t want them to use their real names—anonymity was supposedly best—but Hermes couldn’t bring himself to go by any name other than his own. What was the point?
“I’m with NOGS,” she continued, pronouncing it like a word rather than letters, “here to pick up a delivery.”
He laughed. “Surely your employer doesn’t allow you to call your company NOGS. No respectable courier service would go by such a name.” N-O-G-S would be the correct pronunciation. It had to be.
She pointed at the letters on her shirt. “NOGS.”
He pursed his lips, wanting ever so badly to press the issue—NOGS was the most ridiculous name he could imagine—but she seemed agitated, almost as if the mere presence of a god didn’t faze her. Intriguing. He stepped toward her. “Who taught you to pickpocket?”
She cocked her head, giving him a curious look. “No one.”
“Your skill level speaks otherwise.”
Her brow arched. “Is Mr. Black inside?” She held his gaze, moving closer and placing her hand on his shoulder…the distraction. Her other hand reached behind him as she brushed past, and, had he been mortal, he might have missed the faint sensation of his wallet lifting from his pocket.
But Hermes wasn’t mortal—nowhere close—and he did, in fact, sense her trick. Before her lithe fingers could claim their prize, he spun, clutching her by the wrist with one hand, while simultaneously whisking her necklace free and clutching it in his fist. “Nice try, dearest, but no one steals from the god of thieves.”
“Oh, you’re a god, are you?”
“In every sense of the word.”
Hermes grinned. Would she speak to him this way if she knew who he really was? Gods, he hoped so. The woman was fierce.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“Well, Kathryn of N-O-G-S, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“I’m sure it is.” Her voice dripped with sarcasm. “Are you Cole Black or not? I’ve got a job to do.”
“Indeed you do. Cole is inside.”
“Thank you.” She rang the bell, and Hermes returned to his seat in the wicker chair, staring out across the road, while watching the alluring Kathryn from the corner of his eye.
Hermes—and all the gods—had been attracted to plenty of mortals over the eons. He’d always had a soft spot for travelers, traders, couriers, and thieves…but something about Kathryn appealed to him on a deeper level. It almost felt as if a thread of his fate had been woven into hers, and only now that he’d met her had it been pulled taut.
Crazy, he knew. As if the Fates would send him a soulmate after all these millennia. No, this was a case of a man being attracted to a beautiful woman. Nothing more.
Hades answered the door, and Kathryn’s gaze swept over his tattooed arms before meeting his eyes. “I’m Kathryn from NOGS.” She glanced at Hermes, a playful smile tugging on her lips as if she said it as a word just to irritate him.
Oh, game on, my little herald.