Blinding Night is the new dark romance by Chantal Gadoury, and it's here in just a couple of days!
Get the novel on October 2nd. Today, read two sneak peek chapters exclusively on The Parliament House blog...
With a simple wave of his hand, the door of the apartment opened. I wanted to ask him what his secret was to his ‘mystifying’ magic tricks, but it was probably too invasive. Besides the growing list of other more important questions, I knew every magician had their secrets. In his case, his secrets were far too great.
Inside, the apartment was quiet; deathly still. I wondered how many days I had been in the hospital. How many days had my parents been dead? The reality of my situation struck me like a hot bolt of lightning and my chest swelled like the ocean during a storm. I would never hear my father say ‘Sunny’ again. I would never hear his laughter or share a seat at the table with him anymore. Tears clouded my eyes as I walked towards the small sofa in the living room.
Darce didn’t say anything. He stood quietly by the door. I could feel him watching me; his eyes bore straight into my back. I wouldn’t cry, not right now, not when I didn’t know the man who had brought me back. So, I sucked back my tears and faced him with newfound confidence. I tried to look as stern and serious as my mom.
“You had better explain now.”
With a deep sigh, he crossed his arms over his chest, pulling the suit taut over his shoulders. He looked older when he did that – and by older, I mean ancient. It didn’t show in his face, but rather his dark eyes. How old was he anyway?
“Once I begin, do you plan to interrupt me with a series of questions? No doubt you have already listed them since we left the hospital.”
“Oh, yeah… I have questions,” I said, nodding. “But go ahead, explain.”
“Maybe you’ll want to sit,” he said, lifting his full brow and extended his hand towards the sofa. “It might be better for the both of us.”
I wrinkled my nose in confusion, but did as he suggested. I took a seat on the far side of the sofa and watched him as he dragged a chair from the kitchen table into the living room. He positioned himself comfortably far enough away that I felt relaxed. Again, he crossed his arms, but a little less defensively this time.
“Summer,” he began softly. “I–”
“How old are you?” I asked, mimicking his stature by crossing my arms.
“Where are you from? Clearly you’re a tourist, too.”
He tightened his jaw, biting back a smile.
“That didn’t take you long,” he said amused.
“Just answer the question,” I snapped.
“It’s sort of a complicated answer,” he replied with a shrug. “But for your own peace of mind, we’ll call it twenty-eight.”
Twenty-eight? Wasn’t he kinda old to be picking up girls at hospitals?
“My own peace of–”
“Are you going to let me explain?” He interjected a bit more forcefully than before. I bit my bottom lip and gave a curt nod. Darce leaned forward and pressed his elbows into his knees.
“In a different time...long, long ago–”
“Are you seriously about to tell a story?” I asked annoyed. Just as I was about to stand up, Darce threw his hands up, his expression pleading.
“Listen,” he said, shaking his head. “You’re familiar with Greek Mythology, yes?”
“What in the world does that have anything to do with this?”
“Yes or no?” he hissed as his brow rose curiously.
“Yes,” I snapped and glared. “Yes, Jesus. I am. I had to study mythology in high school. I don’t think anyone is allowed to graduate without reading The Odyssey.”
He stared at me closely, narrowing his dark eyes.
“Then, are you familiar with the story of Persephone and Hades?”
I exhaled and raised a brow, “Yes. The story about the seasons. She was stolen away and she had to be returned to her mother in the end.”
“She wasn’t stolen.” He shook his head.
“Pretty sure I recall something about the God of the Underworld falling madly in love with her, and Persephone’s mother being completely against it. Anyway, he steals her away from home.”
Darce’s face turned pale.
“But what does an ancient mythology story have to do with you?”
“What if I told you the story that you know, the story that had been told over a series of generations, was wrong?”
I shrugged. “I guess I’d say that’s what happens when a story is super old?”
Stories tend to get messed up all the time. It’s like a classic game of telephone. Somewhere along the way, the truth is lost and the story becomes something entirely different. I didn’t understand how this applied to Darce, or my hospital escape though.
“Wait.” I wrinkled my nose. “I’m so confused. Do you collect people just to correct history or something? Are you some sort of time traveler?” I had seen Doctor Who a few times with my dad. Was time travel suddenly a real thing? I mean, he had healed me after all. Maybe he set the clock back on my body before the crash. Then, as if he could read my mind, I saw the corner of his lips rise in laughter. Apparently not.
“I suppose you could say I’m a sort of time traveler. I’m a great many things to humans. But...” he hesitated with the weight of his next words, “I suppose you would know me better as the God who stole away the bride of Spring.”
I blinked. Wait, what? His expression remained neutral, as if he were just speaking casually about the weather.
“Did...my dad hit you with the car? Is that what this is all about? Are you here to seek some sort of sick revenge?” I felt my stomach knot. “I’m sure we can figure something out in the court system. Greece has a court system, right? Or are you not from Greece?”
“What?” He asked, shaking his head. “No! Didn’t you hear me? Why do you keep asking me where I’m from—does it matter?”
“I think I heard you say you think you’re a God?”
“I am a God. The God of the Underworld.”
I jumped up from the sofa and pressed a hand against my forehead. “Aren’t you Asian?”
“What?” He asked, wrinkling his brow as he glared at me.
“How can you be Asian and a Greek God? Don’t you know how—”
“What makes you think Gods have any sort of race?” He quickly retorted.
“Gods aren’t confined to race or religion, Summer. We are...everything.”
“I think you need to leave,” I said, gesturing to the door. “You’re crazy. I think you need to get yourself up from this sofa and get your crazy ass out the door.”
“I can’t really do that, Summer,” he said. “I can’t leave now.”
“Why are you here? Why...why did you come to collect me? If…If you’re this ‘God,’” I emphasized his title with finger quotes, which I often reserved for special occasions like this, “...are you here to take my soul?”
“More like awaken it.” He murmured.
“Awaken my soul?” My eyes were wide. It was all I could do to keep myself from laughing out loud. Whatever was in the water here, I needed to steer clear of it.
“I’m here to help you remember who you are,” he said firmly. “I’m here...to take you back home.”
“Home? Like America? Because that’s home to me. And now,” I glanced around the apartment; all of my parent’s belongings surrounded me. My dad...mom...they were gone, “I’m not sure I have much of a home to go back to.”
“Home is in the Underworld,” he said, without skipping a beat. “With me.”
“Hell no,” I replied, shaking my head. “I’m not going anywhere but back to Rhode Island.”
“You said it yourself. There’s nothing back there for you. Your parents are dead. Your best choice is to come with me.”
“I don’t even know you!” I argued, but my body was shaking from the truth of his words. He was right. Absolutely, unmistakably right. “I’m... I’m totally not going to go live in a place that’s—”
Not real. This is not real. This cannot be happening. I froze. Everything hurt again, my chest, my heart; it was all crashing down around me like a dream I couldn’t escape. I was back in the car, tumbling through the darkness and fear of a world I didn’t want to come back to. A world where I was completely alone. A world where a stranger offered me a home that shouldn’t have been real in the first place.
My voice came out in a whisper, “Can’t you just leave now? Please? Can’t you just… leave me alone? I… I just want to be left alone.”
“I can’t. Not now,” Darce replied. “I’ve been waiting...searching for you...for thousands of years. I’m not going to just walk out that door without you.”
“Searching for me?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “For thousands of years?” I didn’t even know how to respond to that. “I hate to disappoint you, but you’re going to have to.”
I crossed the room and threw open the door. “Leave now, please.”
“I hate to disappoint you,” he said, obviously throwing my words back in my face. “But I’m not going to.”
“You’re demented,” I scoffed. “You honestly think you’re Hades?”
“Everything in my life so far has pointed to that fact.”
“I’m going to call the police,” I threatened. “If you don’t leave…I swear, I will.”
“Please, go ahead,” he said, turning his lips into a smile again. “I’ll just make them leave.”
“They’ll think you’re crazy too. They’ll cart you off to some padded cell.”
Darce rolled his eyes and shrugged, “Please, Summer. Be my guest. Call them. It’ll just be another opportunity to show you that I’m who I say I am.”
“Hades,” I repeated. “God of the Underworld.”
“You’re really Hades.”
He chuckled with a nod, “Yes.”
“Aren’t you supposed to have blue hair or something? Aren’t you supposed to look dead?”
“If you’re trying to be funny—”
I clicked my tongue and shrugged, “Don’t blame me, blame Disney. They’re the ones who drew you that way.”
“I’m not a cartoon, Summer.”
“And I’m not an idiot.”
“I never said you were.” He was clearly frustrated. I could see it in the stiff set of his shoulders. “I know this is a lot to take in. But I’m not lying to you. What would I have to gain from that?”
“Do serial killers have anything to gain but a body to torture?”
“Don’t you think if I was a serial killer, I would have shoved you into the trunk of my car? Tied you up? Do you think any serial killer brings their victims back to their own home?”
Touche, god of the Underworld.
“I have no cause to lie to you,” he continued. “I’m here to help you.”
“And take me to some fictional world—”
“It’s very real,” he interjected. “Where do you think souls go when they pass on?”
“Heaven?” I questioned softly. “Hell?”
Darce nodded. “Think of me as the keeper of spirits. My home is only the beginning of the journey for a departed soul.”
The longer I stared at him, the harder I struggled with the notion of believing him. I didn’t know what to think.
“How do I know you’re telling the truth?” I asked, shaking my head.
“What will it take for you to believe me?” He asked, raising a brow. “Try me.”
He sat still, watching me with an amused expression. As if he were waiting for me to request the impossible. Maybe I should have. If I could have three wishes, what would I ask for? Darce was the genie in this case, and he did say anything.
More than anything, I wanted things to go back to the way they were. Before the accident, before my parents accepted their offer from National Geographic. I walked to the side of the sofa and paused.
“Is this how you really look? Like...really?” I asked, glancing over him.
He was too beautiful to be the God of the Underworld. Shouldn’t he look like a skeleton or the grim reaper? For some reason, I couldn’t stop thinking about the blue haired Disney character. Was he like the devil? Painted to be beautiful and perfect, and yet...cruel, dark and evil underneath? Did I really want to get involved with someone like that? He had made it sound like I didn’t have much of a choice, especially if I was who he claimed me to be.
“No,” he murmured. “This is just a human disguise.”
Darce rose to his feet and shoved his hands into his dark, black pants. He looked like a lazy model, striking a pose for a vogue magazine ad. His dark curls brushed against his right eye. And to think I had been popping pimples in my mirror back in Rhode Island almost a week ago. I was pretty sure this guy—god—had no idea what it was like to struggle with things like acne.
“Are you curious to see?” he asked, raising his brow.
“I’m not sure that I want to,” I replied, shaking my head. Fear tightened in my stomach. I had seen way too many horror movies about ghosts and demons—I certainly had no interest in seeing one in real life. God—or rather, Gods—only knew what his true form looked like.
“Suit yourself,” he said with a shrug.
“If you’re really the God of the Underworld, surely you can show me… like,” I grappled to find words, “Memories, or images. Proof that it’s real. That you’re real.”
“So images in your mind would prove to you that I’m real?” He chuckled.
“Doesn’t that sort of defeat the purpose of solid proof?” He flashed his perfectly white teeth. He was right. I sounded like I was the one losing my mind now. He walked towards me, his hands extended out. Lifting his forefinger to my temples, he pressed gently.
“Tell me what you want to see,” he invited. His eyes studied mine as the corner of his lips pulled into an amused smile. He was teasing me. A strange tingle ran down the length of my spine. As I stared up at him – caught his dark, sobering gaze—I was surprised to find truth lingering in his face. There was no hint of deception.
“Your home,” I managed. He nodded in agreement.
“Alright. Close your eyes,” he commanded as he tilted my head back. I held my breath, still so very unsure of his intentions, but I did as he asked and closed my eyes. His fingers began to move in a circular motion, until I began to see a haze underneath my eyelids.
The haze erupted into a beautiful view of sunshine, and the ocean. The sea was so blue. And all around me were wild brown fields of tall grass and grey stone. In the corner of my eye, I could make out a small stone structure, facing the sea.
“Look down,” I heard him murmur beside my ear.
As I looked down, my breath caught in my throat. Underneath my feet was an astounding, circular, white mosaic. It looked to be much older than I was by the way the stones were chipped and losing their color. I took a step back, revealing a more defined flower shape, in the sea of small stones. As I tilted my chin, I wondered if maybe it was the shape of the sun instead. It was too hard to tell. Too much of it had been ruined by the passing years. Suddenly, the earth began to shift, and I watched as the ground began to move—open.
I moved my hands to his shoulders, holding on tightly.
“I have you,” he whispered reassuringly. The earth opened and together, we fell into the darkness. There was the sound of trickling water all around me. As I lifted my mind’s eyes above, I could see only a tiny sliver of sunshine.
“Come,” he beckoned. Before I could blink, there was a boat before us. And then somehow, we were in the boat - traveling deeper into the darkness.
“What lies beyond this veil is what you know as the Underworld,” he said.
The darkness was thick—as thick as it had been in my dream. The dream of the dancing man and red seeds. What did it all mean? I opened my eyes before we traveled any further. Back in the bright living room of the apartment, my fingers had tightened into the dark fabric of his shirt as I met his hard, blackened gaze.
“Do you believe me now?”
Maybe. Perhaps a little bit too much. I sucked in a breath and tried to show indifference by shrugging. But who was I kidding? He took my mind and transported me somewhere new, somewhere I hadn’t thought existed before we met.
“I can take you there, within the day if you want to see.”
“I didn’t ask that,” I replied curtly. “Where?”
“Here, in Greece, of course. On the other side.”
At least we wouldn’t be traveling far. If the police came looking for me—they wouldn’t have far to look. In fact, I would be right under their noses. Six thousand feet or more, in fact. They would have to dig for me.
“And to get there, you expect me to jump down into some nameless pit?” He couldn’t be serious, could he? While I was fascinated by all that I saw, my heart beat wildly in my chest. My palms were sweaty too. Despite being slightly terrified, I did my best in keeping a poker face.
“Then what? We hop on a boat and sail into a never-ending void to where? What do you expect me to do once we’re in your Underworld?”
He stared at me darkly. He appeared to be pondering my question and waited an annoying amount of time before he finally answered.
“To remember,” he said softly.
“Remember what exactly?”
“Who you truly are.”
Who I truly was? I slid my hands away from his shoulders and took a step back.
“And w-who do you think I am?” I asked, taking another step back towards the sofa. He watched me carefully.
“I know who you are.”
“Who?” I asked more insistently.
The dream seemed to come back to life again before my eyes. I had been a young woman, dancing with a dark lord. He had offered red seeds— Seeds. Pomegranate seeds.
“You want me to say it?” He asked, tilting his head. “I think you know. Your expression says it all.”
I hesitated. He was right. I had had a hunch earlier, but now I was sure. It almost didn’t sound as crazy as it did thirty minutes ago, but still. I didn’t want to say it. I was unsure my voice would carry the answer he wanted to hear.
“Persephone?” I hit the mark right away.
Darce grimaced at the sound of her name. His black eyes were pained. If goddesses were immortal, how could he think I was her? I’m human. She belonged to the story I had been forced to read in my seventh grade English class. And even if it were true, how could I ever manage to be her? Everything I knew about Persephone pointed towards an abundance of beauty and radiance. All of which, I didn’t have. None of this made any sense at all.
“I’m not Persephone, that’s impossible. She’s...” A goddess “...and I’m…not.”
But as I searched the perfection of his features, I found the same sort of stark sadness I felt within myself. It was the pain of grief.
“It’s not impossible,” He murmured with a sigh. “I know it doesn’t make sense now, but it will. You’ll have to trust me.”
I parted my lips.
“You’ve given me no reason to trust you.” Maybe it wasn’t entirely true. He had, after all, delivered me just as he had promised, to my father’s apartment.
“You’ll have to figure out how to trust me along the way,” he said. It didn’t sound like a friendly suggestion, but more like an order I would be forced to follow. “Go pack your things.”
“Pack my things? I’m not going with you.”
“You are,” he growled and lifted a finger towards the hallway. “I’m not leaving you here. Go.”
“You’re not the boss of me,” I snarled just as hard. Maybe I sounded like a 5-year-old, but I really didn’t care.
Darce stretched to his full height, which was more menacing than his glare, and walked towards me with a powerful stride. I backed away, easing my hands up to stop him just as he came a little too close. As his dark gaze held mine, I felt a sort of affluence—as if suddenly, my body and my mind were no longer my own. I turned and walked quickly into my room. My hands worked on their own, gathering the few belongings I had tugged from my suitcase; I hadn’t unpacked since arriving. I tried to stop myself. I internally screamed at my hands to stop moving, but they continued. I suddenly knew he was doing this to me. He was controlling me.
“Stop!” I shouted. “Stop it!”
He leaned against the doorframe with his arms crossed.
“You asked me to prove who I was to you. Is this good enough? Hard and solid proof.”
My hand lifted the handle of my suitcase and hoisted it to my side. My eyes raked over the white Ikea comforter I had only slept under once, feeling the same longing I once had when I first saw it in the store. I could hear my dad’s laughter in my ears after I had thanked him for the gift. My eyes began to fill with tears.
“Please,” I begged softly. “Just stop this.”
I felt my arms suddenly grow heavy—they were mine again. I let out a whimper as I released the suitcase and glared at him. Rage filled my chest. I charged him like an enraged animal, yanking at the perfect, wrinkle-free fabric of his shirt. I pulled him down to eye level and squeezed his shirt until the color in my knuckles faded to white.
“Don’t you ever do that to me again. Do you understand? God or not, you have no right to control me.”
Darce lifted his hands and bit back a smirk, easing himself out of my grip. I didn’t care who he was, or who he thought he was, that was uncalled for and totally wrong.
“I’m sure no one has ever told you what an asshole you are, so let me be the first to say you’re a cut above the rest.” I let go of his shirt and stepped back.
“I’m not afraid of you or your magic tricks.”
“You’re right. No one tells me what an asshole I am, unless it comes from my brothers,” he replied, smiling. “But who could ever really take Zeus seriously?”
I stared at him with wide, unblinking eyes. He was nuts. A bizarre man with a God complex. That was it.
“You just keep your...stupid controlling abilities to yourself,” I said with more gumption than before. I turned towards my bed and tugged the blanket off of the mattress. It was all I had left, and I would be damned if I didn’t bring a piece of dad with me.
Darce looked between me and the blanket inquisitively. “You’re taking the blanket?”
“My dad gave me this. I’m not leaving without it,” I growled.
His jaw tightened, but he nodded as if he understood perfectly.
“So you’re coming then.”
“It’s not like you’re giving me any other choice.”
“There are always choices, Summer,” he paused and looked off towards the door, “You have more questions, I’ve no doubt about that. If you come with me, I can answer everything. If you stay here, alone and without protection, you’ll never know for sure, will you? You’ll never know about the shadows that follow you or the strange dreams you’ve been having. You’ll never get the chance to know the truth.”
I felt my eyes go wide and my jaw drop to the floor. How could he have known any of that? My hands started to shake at my sides, so I curled them into my arms and bit my lip to keep from crying. He was dead-on about everything. I didn’t have anything left. I had too many questions, and while he came off as a total nutcase, a part of me believed him. Wanted to believe him. It’s not that I always felt different, but rather I felt like more than who I was.
“Your choices are slim, but they are your choices.” He took a deep breath and squeezed his eyes shut, as if he were making a hard decision. Then, in a breath, he moved to the door and swung it open.
Seconds ticked by as I watched him retreat into the shadow of the hallway. I inhaled sharply, acutely aware of how afraid I was and how badly I wanted him to stay.
Darce stopped mid-step and turned quickly on his heel. “Yes?”
“Grab the other suitcase,” I ordered sternly before he had the chance to turn and leave my bedroom. “The one by the kitchen table.”
If I was going to disappear forever, into a dark, deep cavern of death, I was at least going to bring the small things that brought my life joy; my art supplies - drawing and painting alike. Darce didn’t respond. Instead, he walked smoothly back to the living room area and glanced at the small table in the kitchen. My painting case was still there—untouched from our arrival.
“Anything else?” He asked before walking towards the door.
“A minute to say goodbye,” I said softly and glanced at him.
“Go on then.”
I rolled my eyes. “Alone, please.”
He watched me closely. I could see the layer of distrust just lurking beneath the darkness of his eyes.
“I’ll meet you down in the car,” I promised as I shoved my blanket into his chest as a sign. I wasn’t going anywhere without that blanket. As long as he had it, then I was sure to follow.
Thankfully, it was enough. Darce gave me a curt nod in response and turned to leave.
“Don’t be long,” he called from over his shoulder. “I don’t like to be kept waiting.”
Get the novel on October 2nd.