For the Love of a God

By: Rosanna Leo

Before her eyes betrayed her again, Maia fled down the aisle, her gypsy skirt billowing behind her, Holly Hobby bag pressed against her chest with shaky hands.

Eric stood there, stunned. Feeling quite hollow. It was a feeling he hadn't had in a long time.

He'd made Maia cry. It sickened him.

Dammit, why couldn't he be more like Dionysus and not give a shit? He was suddenly wondering if this new project was worth all this torment.

Unaccustomed to feeling sorry for himself, he straightened his Kenneth Cole tie and marched down the storage aisle. There was no time to worry about emotional mortals. He had work to do.

Maia Douglas would just have to dry her own damn tears.Chapter Five

Maia considered her day. It had sucked for a number of reasons.

Eric Lord wanted to deport her statue (and yes, she did think of Eryx as her statue, thank you very much). To make matters worse, Dino and Sheila had insisted on bombarding Maia with questions all day. What had the director wanted to talk to her about? Was he firing anyone else? What were his plans for the Greek gallery? Was Eric Lord's body as lickable up close as it was from a distance? (And yes, the last question was from Dino.)

It took all Maia's energy just to shrug off her friends’ curious demands. Especially after she'd decided the boss's body was indeed very lickable.

Lord was unlike any museum nerd she'd ever met. He was too golden, too sculpted. He looked like he could ornament an old Greek urn, rather than administering the museum housing the urn.

He'd driven her to distraction all day and she was exhausted. She'd been holed up in the quiet Greek gallery for most of the day, making it her impromptu lab, working on Poseidon's sculpture. Eric Lord had been there most of the time, too. Talking to other executive big shots, explaining his sacred vision to them. From Maia's perspective, all he really seemed to be doing was waving his hands around a lot and trying to look important.

But he'd also watched her work. At first, it wasn't in an obvious way, but she'd felt his eyes upon her for most of the time. Silently assessing her. No doubt evaluating her skills, and deciding if she belonged on the scrap heap with Etruscan Mark.

But then he'd grown more blatant, tried to rattle her concentration. Employing his own breath-stealing brand of handsome-man guerrilla tactics, he'd popped up every so often, peppering her with questions. Questioning her techniques.

"Aren't you going to use some sort of synthetic resin for your restoration of the sculpture?"

"No,” she'd shot back. “Or do you want Poseidon to look plastic instead of marble?"

Concentrated on her work, he'd ignored the dig. “What about Fomblin?” he asked, referring to a product used in many restorations.

Maia had turned back to Poseidon, her eyes narrowed, analytical. “Not on this baby. The patina is still good. I don't like chemicals. They're too harsh. I don't want any spotting."

Eric had drawn closer, his eyes on her, on her gentle hands, as she swabbed at the sculpture with a wad of cotton. “What are you using, then?"

"Distilled water. Sometimes, simple is best. No greasy oils, no chemicals costing you a mint.” Her eyes darted toward Eric and then back to the statue. “Just a little love."

He'd grinned at her. “Love?"

"Yeah,” she'd whispered. “And time. So many conservators try to rush the job for anxious administrators. This museum knows I take my time, using uncomplicated methods. No synthetics, no sandblasters for me. Just TLC.” She'd turned to him again. “Didn't you know that's why you pay me the big bucks, Mr. Lord?"

And then, to her horror, she'd snorted out a laugh.

But Eric's gaze had held no derision, as she'd expected. Rather, it held what seemed to be reluctant admiration. He'd pointed to Poseidon's cracked nuts. “What about those? I don't imagine H2O and some good lovin’ will help those."

"No. I will need to fill them in a bit, but my aim is always to be the least invasive possible.” She'd stared up at the sea god's patrician face with awe. “After all, a statue like this shouldn't look brand new. It should look like a piece of history, with all its bumps and bruises, its light and darkness. It should transport us back in time."

He'd stared at her with an intense look which made her want to scream, faint, and orgasm all at the same time. And then he'd interrogated her for another fifteen minutes. Finally, he relented. “I should let you get back to work. Thanks for explaining your methods."

And yet Maia couldn't help feeling it wasn't so much of an explanation as a defense. Eric Lord put her on guard. Made her feel vulnerable, exposed.

Now, at the end of the day, she wanted nothing more than a hot bath, a beer, and her bed. And not necessarily in that order.

The only good thing about the long day was she had done some good work on Poseidon. In due time, his crotch would be well-loved and as new as possible.

She looked around for Dino and Sheila, and then remembered they'd said goodnight about an hour ago. They both had hot dates. She was happy for them, but wondered when it would be her turn to get hot and sweaty with something other than her pillow. Or her non-existent dream man.

She was on her own. Too bad. It was the perfect night to head to the pub across the street to drown her sorrows, but she certainly wasn't going by herself.

She was picking up her satchel when she heard a noise behind her. She turned to find Eric Lord standing a couple of feet from her, grinning. Her body was seized by an uncomfortable hot charge of electricity.

He was so lip-smacking sexy. Downright edible.

"You did good work today. I know I grilled you a little bit."

"A little bit? I'd hate to see your idea of a lot. I've never had a director shadow me before."

"I'm not trying to micromanage. I just like to be involved."

"It's okay. And, despite my hysterics, you didn't fire me today, so I guess it could be worse."

"Funny.” He smirked, but his expression soon warmed. “Actually, it was fascinating watching you work. Poseidon himself would be very proud of what you did today, Miss Douglas."

"Right.” She sniffed. “I'm more likely to get a reaction from Chicken of the Sea than the god of the sea."

Eric laughed out loud. She didn't know how wrong she was. In the old days, his randy uncle Poseidon would have probably shown his appreciation by screwing her senseless and then dragging her down to the watery depths with him. Dismissing the disturbing image, he said, “Look. We got off to a bad start.” He offered her a guarded grin. “I make it a policy to get to know my staff. No time like the present. How about I buy you a drink?"

Maia's eyes popped. She blinked. And tried not to resemble the village idiot. “Okay. If you're buying, sure. But it doesn't mean I won't fight you on changing the gallery."

His lips curled in the same disarming grin again. “I wouldn't expect any less."

And without knowing quite how it happened, she found herself being led across Yonge Street to the Mad Irishman Pub. As they crossed the busy road, Eric put his hand on the small of her back. For some reason, she felt safe with his hand there. Warm and safe.

Maybe it was because the cars were just peeling away from them. Even though they were jaywalking, all the cars came to a halt before Eric. It was like Moses crossing the Red Sea. Maia couldn't count how many times she'd almost been hit in the past by unfeeling downtown Toronto drivers. Yet those same drivers couldn't make enough space for Eric Lord.

It must be his shiny blond hair. His golden highlights were a blinding beacon.

Dye job, she decided.

They got to the pub, and he led her to a plush half-circular booth tucked in the back. As he let her pass him to get into the booth, he placed his hand on her back again. Once again, a blazing heat trailed from his fingers through her clothes and right into her pores.

What was it with this man? She'd known menopausal women who didn't feel so hot to the touch all the time.

She sat down and blew up her messy bangs with a breath, feeling hot herself. She then watched the waitress drool all over Eric as she handed them menus. Maia made a face, but plastered on a happy grin when she saw him looking at her. They ordered. A Guinness for her and a cranberry juice for him.