Pan's Conquest (Entangled Covet)

Pan’s Conquest

Aubrie Dionne

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright ©2014 by Aubrie Dionne. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.

Entangled Publishing, LLC

2614 South Timberline Road Suite 109

Fort Collins, CO 80525

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Edited by Theresa Marie Cole Cover design by Melissa Kendall

Ebook ISBN: 978-1-62266-346-0

Manufactured in the United States of America First Edition February 2014

Table of Contents

To Debussy for writing “Syrinx”—my inspiration.


Syrinx sprinted alongside the river, breathless. Her bare feet fell silent in the mossy undergrowth, yet the burning sense of Pan’s pursuit followed her every move. He’d tracked her for days, all the way to the edge of the mythical forests surrounding Mount Olympus. If she could reach the waterfall and disappear in the caves before her scent caught the wind, she could lose him.

And lose him she must.

Jumping to a rock outcropping leading down the falls, she swore she would never let his invitations compromise her godly vows. She ducked behind cattails, catching her breath. The river mist sprayed her bare legs, soothing her and cooling the unwanted passion arising within her as she remembered the burning lust in his eyes. Anger burned through her. She’d chosen to embody the goddess of chastity, and no male god—especially not a wild philanderer—could change that. Why she found his godly merging of man and beast irresistible, she couldn’t guess.

She turned, ready to descend into the misty caverns under the falls, when laughter caught her attention.

A young mortal stood alongside the water, berry juice smeared over her mouth and cheeks. The girl leaned forward over the rushing waters, her simple blue cotton dress dangling too close to the edge. Something—or someone—lured her toward the depths.

Syrinx took one look down into the caves where her freedom lay, then changed her mind and dove into the rushing stream. A raven-haired nymph floated in the undulating river grass, holding a turtle just below the surface. Coral. Damn it. She’d lure the girl into the water, then tangle her in the reeds and watch her struggle.

Syrinx swam toward the nymph and knocked the turtle from her hands. The turtle swam into the reeds as Coral pushed her back. “I knew it. Only a Goody Two-Shoes would stop another nymph from their pleasure.”

“Mortals are not to be toyed with.” Syrinx grabbed Coral’s feet and dragged her down into the depths toward the falls. She’d take Coral with her if she had to. One tumble off a cliff would not kill a god.

Coral growled, “What else are they for?”

A splash behind Syrinx caught her attention. Syrinx turned around in horror as the girl sank into the murky reeds, her blond curls floating around her heart-shaped face. Coral lunged forward, and Syrinx held her back. Using her powers, she called to the river reeds, winding them around Coral’s ankles. Coral’s parents were both river nymphs, but Syrinx descended from Artemis, legendary mother of the wildland and the hunt. Her powers ran deep from the mountain’s core.

Coral struggled against her bindings, but could not break free. Syrinx swam to the place where the girl had fallen in and clawed at the tangled reeds. Nothing.

She checked the tide barreling toward the waterfall.

Her chest tightened. Had the girl already tumbled over? Syrinx broke through the surface, scanning the area hysterically. The girl stood on the riverbank, dripping water and laughing. Pan stood beside her, playing a melancholy melody on his reed flute. Green eyes, wild as the forest in the moonlight and intense as the raging river, settled on Syrinx. His bare chest shone tan in the midday sun. Hard abs rippled down to his waist, where the fusion of man and beast began.

Syrinx stood mesmerized as the girl turned toward her. She scowled as if Syrinx had tried to drown her. Before Syrinx could say otherwise, the girl ran into the woods, leaving her alone with the one god she wanted to avoid at all costs.

Pan’s lips curled into a grin. “Enjoying your dip, my dear?”

Syrinx stepped forward, rising from the water. Pan’s eyes followed the curve of her breasts as her wet dress clung to her body. She wanted to hate him, yet she reveled in the pleasure spread across his face. His admiration made her feel like the goddess she was. Just a few more steps and she’d be his.

“You saved the girl.” She sounded more accusatory then thankful.

“Of course I saved her. Not all of us have Coral’s thirst for tragedy.”

“Then why must you pursue me?”

“Come now.” He winked, and her heart skipped a beat. “I’d hardly call my pursuit of your chastity tragic.”

“Not tragic for you.” Syrinx scrounged up her willpower and inched toward the falls. She glanced at his muscular legs, then wished she hadn’t. A blush burned her cheeks. “Breaking my vow destroys everything I stand for.”

He gave her a suggestive smile and stepped forward. “I’ll make it worthwhile.”

She bet he would. Her mind wandered, wondering what those sinister lips tasted like and how it would feel to be claimed by him. He’d saved the girl, so he wasn’t as evil as she made him out to be. Yet he could have done it just to gain her confidence. Underneath his sly flirtatiousness, who was he? A child of the forest—wild and untamed, fickle and cold as the wind. She’d have him for a day, then he’d be on to his next conquest, and she’d have nothing. Not even her pride.

She didn’t trust him, and she couldn’t trust herself.

Syrinx backed toward the falls. The surge of water roared at her back.

“Please.” Pan held out his hand, and the pain in his eyes tugged on her heart. “Give me a chance.”

“And sacrifice my eternal honor for one night?” She laughed bitterly. “You can never make it worth it.”

Without another word, she spread her arms and fell back, sailing down the falls like an angel falling from the heavens. Adrenaline rushed through her, along with a bubbling sense of freedom and a strong pride in herself. She would not give in to her temptations. She was the goddess of chastity and she reigned supreme.

Syrinx hit the water and allowed the current to take her down the river. Floating on her back with her face to the sky, she watched the gods ride their golden chariots on clouds. Zeus cast lightning across the sky while Apollo sang poetry into the wind. Somewhere up there, Artemis smiled down on her with pride.

She reached the far banks of the forest and waded to shore. As she wrung out her dress, a voice followed her. “You truly want to be rid of him?”

Syrinx whirled around. Coral stood, dripping on the rocks, her black hair flicked across her face so only one crazy, black eye showed. Her legs were red with welts where the river reeds had grabbed hold.

“I don’t need your help.” Syrinx pointed to the falls several miles behind them. “I can take care of myself.” Besides, she wouldn’t trust that river nymph with a rock she wanted to throw away.

“He won’t stop following you.” Coral’s eyes grew desperate, as if she wished he would.

Murderer that she was, Coral piqued her curiosity. Syrinx shook her head, trying to make sense of this sudden show of friendship. “Why do you care? All I do is foil your…enjoyment.”

The black-haired nymph sniffed and turned away. “Some of us desire his affections.”

Syrinx scoffed. “You mean you want him?” She hid a rising streak of jealousy. What was getting into her? Pan was no more hers than the sun and the moon. He belonged to nature and no one else.

Coral gave Syrinx a jealous sneer. “All he can think of right now is pursuing you. Take you out of the equation, and he’s ripe for the picking.”

Syrinx studied Coral’s dark eyes. The cruel nymph may not be as powerful as she was, but she was more clever and sly than Syrinx ever wanted to be. Maybe she had a decent plan. “If I agree, will you vow never to drown another soul?”

Coral put her hands on her hips. “That’s asking a lot.”

Syrinx pursed her lips. “Maybe I want to tease him. Maybe I enjoy this sick, little game of catch and chase. I could drag this out for centuries.”

Coral pulled her hands through her knotted hair. “All right. I can’t promise you every mortal on this earth, but how about staying away from the innocent ones?”

Syrinx considered her answer. Coral would help her get away and stop drowning children. This was quite a deal. But could she trust her? The last thing Coral wanted was for her to have Pan, so what was the worst that could happen? Syrinx raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean to do?”

Chapter One
A Florist Called Ms. Rain

No more glades full of maidens, dances with nymphs, or eternal spring.
Pan ran his fingers along the dry reeds of his flute. The power of his magic vibrated the air columns with an almost imperceptible resonant hum. He was tempted to place his lips on the reeds one last time, but he’d have company before long, and he wasn’t about to seduce his butler.

Pan tilted his head, expecting his long hair to brush his shoulders, then remembering he’d cut it in the urban fashion of the twenty-first century, slicking it back with mousse so only a few strands curled around his forehead. Accustomed to listening to changes in the wind, the distant bleat of sheep, and the whispering of maidens in love, he could hear his butler’s distinctly measured gait from three floors away.

But Rutherford’s patient approach was not the reason he had hired him. The old man didn’t ask questions, and to a god posing as a mortal, lack of curiosity was a virtue.

Pan opened the top drawer in his mahogany desk and placed the flute under a stack of papers. If he was going to maintain his pretense as a convincing mortal, then he couldn’t use it. Besides, he didn’t need it. He was the god of fertility. Charisma oozed from his every pore. He’d won every female he’d ever wanted—whether maiden, nymph, or god.

Except for Syrinx. Beautiful, sensuous Syrinx.

A gentle knock came from the door.

Stifling a rare current of doubt, he pushed the drawer back into the desk with a squeak. Gods weren’t supposed to feel inferior, and it irritated him. “Come in.”

The door cracked open, and Rutherford’s bulbous nose poked in. “I assume you are presentable, sir?”

Pan rolled his eyes. Maybe he shouldn’t have put in that “ultimate protection of the client’s privacy” clause. “Yes, yes, come in.”

Rutherford opened the door. He wore the same kind of black-and-gray suit he’d worn the past year. Mortals lacked so much imagination. “Have you spoken with the florist?”

Rutherford nodded, peering at him from round, thick-rimmed glasses used by grandfathers and librarians. “She called back this morning.”

“And you insisted she come see the grounds?” Now Pan would see whether the old man deserved that big paycheck he’d conjured from thin air.

The butler bowed his head. “She’s on her way.”

Eager expectation filled Pan’s body, charging him with a wild swell of desire. “Excellent.” He smoothed the front of his cleanly pressed white button-down shirt and glanced at his reflection in the large balcony window. Would she recognize him?

He didn’t even recognize himself.

With his powers, he’d changed his eye color, giving up his sharp pasture-green gaze for a toned-down copper brown. He’d shaved his bramble of a beard, twisting mustache, and overgrown sideburns. Now his angular jaw and high cheekbones came out with sharp definition. Hair that cascaded around his shoulders in russet curls was tamed into short waves of a lighter, amber color. His skin, once smudged with dirt and tan as leather, was cleaned until a light dusting of freckles he didn’t even know he had spread across his nose. And of course, his oh-so-sexy horns and hooves were gone.
Shouldn’t walk around with those downtown.

But he couldn’t wipe that mischievous spark from his eyes or the way his gaze simmered like a fire waiting to be stoked.

He’d just have to hope thousands of years were long enough for her to forget.

“Can I get you anything else, Mr. Thomas?” It took Pan a second to return to reality. “Yes. Bring out a tray of hors d’oeuvres and the best bottle of wine from our cellar.”

The butler raised a bushy gray eyebrow. “Sir? Normally one wouldn’t offer food and wine to hired help.”

Pan had to be careful. He couldn’t look too eager. “You’re right. But, I value their services, so make it the second best.”

“As you wish.” With a stoic face, Rutherford bowed politely and left.

It had been a little over a year since he’d moved to the mortal world and hired Rutherford. Over that time, he’d come to appreciate his advice and his company, even if he didn’t want to admit it to Rutherford or even himself.

Pan walked to the balcony and scanned the vast gardens of his estate. He’d chosen sculptured rose bushes, beds of radiant butterfly weed, groves of wild lupine, and the lightest, prettiest blue hydrangea shrubs in the mortal world. It was enough to make any florist swoon.

Now I’ll know if it was all worth it.

It had to be. Syrinx had cursed him with her scorn. She injured his reputation, and he wasn’t accustomed to losing. When Coral, out of desperation, spilled the beans on Syrinx’s whereabouts, he’d given everything up to win her over. He wasn’t leaving the mortal world until he succeeded. Syrinx would be his.

“So tell me again why we’re trekking all the way up to this client’s house if the event isn’t for another two weeks.” Kaye mumbled with her barrette in her mouth as she pinned back her curly, black hair with both hands.

Syrinx turned their VW Bug around the corner, and a lawn so beautiful it reminded her of the ancient gardens of Babylon sprang up before them. That particular color of hydrangea blossom was beautiful and rare. She shook her head, trying to forget her memories for the thousandth time in the last five years. If she pretended hard enough, she could almost imagine herself born as a normal woman, struggling alongside everyone else to make ends meet pursuing her dream.

Kaye smacked her arm. “Earth to Sylvia.”

Syrinx narrowed her eyes, focusing on the road. “Because he insists we see the size of the estate to plan how many roses we’ll need.”

“Honestly, all he has to do is send us the dimensions. We’re not idiots.”

“Yes, but he’s the
, Kaye. And a very rich one at that.” Even though she could conjure money from thin air, she enjoyed playing the game, earning her food and shelter the way mortals did. When she first entered the human world, she used her powers to survive, which only drew attention to her and risked her identity being known. After learning how to exist without magic, she couldn’t imagine living any other way.

“Oh, all right. But there are a thousand other things we could be doing: filling May Phillip’s order for her mother’s birthday, watering the gardens, replanting the marigolds in larger pots…”

“We’ll be back at work soon enough.” Syrinx turned into a circular driveway and parked the car next to a fountain with water spewing from a mermaid’s mouth.
Centuries later, her friends were reduced to simple caricatures. It was too bad most of the gods had left the mortals to fend for themselves over the years. They’d lost their reverence for nature, among other things.

She glanced up at an eighteenth-century colonial summer house complete with gray brick turrets on either side and a wrought iron gate. Someone had taken a lot of care to restore the painted glass windows and the wooden beams in the facade.

“Good, because old mansions like this give me the heebie-jeebies.” Kaye shivered and stepped out of the car. “They remind me of Mr. Rochester’s crazy wife locked up in the attic or the movie where Nicole Kidman’s a ghost but she doesn’t know it.”

Syrinx had studied modern-day behavior by watching movies, although in the last five years, she’d learned to hold her own without the pop culture tutoring. She liked fantasy movies much more than horror, but she’d still seen enough to know her ghosties. “
The Others

“Yeah, that’s the one!” Kaye wrapped her arms around herself as they climbed the stone steps to large oak doors twice their height. “Hopefully, this one doesn’t have any ghosts.”

Syrinx laughed. “I doubt it.” Ghosts were confined to the underworld. Gods could roam the earth freely, but you’d find no chain-dragging skeletons here. Thank goodness, because Hades would have a field day. She wished she could reassure her friend that her spectral worries were for naught, but giving her any more information would only blow Syrinx’s cover. And she enjoyed playing along with the mortals way too much.

“Where’s the doorbell?” Kaye bounced on her heels. Usually, they wore sneakers and jeans while kneeling in the dirt, but Syrinx had insisted they dress up for this meeting because this was an important client. Kaye looked adorable in her beige pencil skirt and floral blouse. It reminded Syrinx she needed to take her on a girls’ night out soon. As the goddess of chastity, Syrinx didn’t need love, but Kaye might want to go looking. Setting up her friend would be more than fun.

“Looks like we’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way.” Syrinx picked up a large bronze ring and knocked three times.

They waited while a hot summer breeze played with strands of their hair.

“Looks like no one’s home.” Kaye moved to leave, but Syrinx grabbed her arm. Mortals were so impatient.

“Wait a sec.”

“Hey, do you think Mr. Thomas is a brooding, handsome older man like Mr. Rochester with a deep, dark secret?” Kaye glanced around the grounds.

“Honestly, you have a way overactive imagination.” Syrinx shook her head. “I’m sure he’s just as boring as any other man.”

Kaye’s eyes came to rest on Syrinx. Intrigue sparked in her gaze.

Reaching out to touch a strand of Syrinx’s hair, she said, “Your hair glows lighter each time you’re out in the sun. It looks magical, like…iridescent moonlight.”

Syrinx pretended to be annoyed. Kaye was brighter than she led on. Her wit coupled with her imagination brought her closer to Syrinx’s secret every day. Someday, she’d catch on to the fact that Syrinx never aged, got sick, or slept. “It’s called bleach.”

Just then, the door opened, and an elderly man with an elephantine nose peered down at them. “Ladies, I assume you’re from Sylvia’s Creations?”

“Excellent assumption.” Syrinx smiled and offered her hand. “Sylvia Rain. This is my assistant, Kaye Underhill.”

He shook both their hands. “Rutherford Hayes. I spoke to you on the phone.” With a wave of his hand, he led them in.

A crystal chandelier hung in the center of the foyer. Two grand staircases spiraled on either side to a balcony carved in wood. A vase of hyacinths sat on a large oriental rug, the flowers splayed out in the perfect arrangement only a true florist would notice.

“It’s beautiful.” Syrinx was impressed, and it was hard to impress a god who’d seen primordial spring envelop the land of the nymphs in all its glory.

“In a spooky, Mr. Rochester sort of way.” Kaye frowned.

Syrinx elbowed her in the arm. She should have left her pruning the roses.

Rutherford raised an eyebrow at her comment. “Master Thomas will be with you shortly.”

As Rutherford paced slowly back up the stairs, Syrinx pulled her friend aside. “Let me do the talking, okay?”

“Sure, silence the brains behind the organization.” Kaye winked at Syrinx, then gazed past her shoulder. Her eyes widened. She whispered under her breath. “Holy Mary, mother of hotness. Who is that?”

Maybe Syrinx didn’t have to take Kaye out on a girls’ night after all. She turned around.

A clean-cut young man in his late twenties claimed the balcony like the throne of a king. He wore a pressed suit that hugged the curves of his rugged shoulders and broad chest. The strong angles of his face and his smoldering copper-brown eyes drew her attention.

But the way he looked at her made her feel as though they’d known each other for centuries. She studied his face, looking for anything to bring up memories, but she could recall no man with such perfect cheekbones or a clean-shaven, strong-lined jaw. If she wasn’t in the modern-day mortal world, she would have sworn he was a god. But she’d known all of them, and they’d left the mortal world eons ago.

And none of them had ever turned her head the way he did.

He started down the stairs, his movements swift and definitive. “Ladies, may I introduce myself? I’m Parker Thomas, owner of the estate and grounds.”

He reached the bottom step and offered his hand.

Kaye took it immediately. “Kaye Underhill. Nice to meet you, Mr. Thomas.”

His eyes glanced over her, shining like molten caramel as they rested on Syrinx. He took his hand away from Kaye and offered it to her.

Syrinx took his hand, feeling rough calluses on his skin—uncommon for rich businessmen. “Sylvia Rain.”

“Sylvia?” He smiled in amusement.

A current of irritation bristled the hairs on the back of her neck. What was his problem? She’d chosen a perfectly normal mortal name. “Yes. You can call me Ms. Rain.”

“Ms. Rain, of course. What a fitting last name for a florist.” He said it as if he knew she’d made it up.

Syrinx straightened her shoulders. “We’ve come to take a look at the dimensions of the rooms you’d like decorated, as per your request.”

“Certainly. Thank you for coming.” He swept his arm over the room. “This is the main foyer and the room I’d like decorated from the balcony to the floor.”

Syrinx brought out her phone and started taking pictures. “All in roses?”

He followed her around the vase at the center of the room. “Yes. They are my favorite. The red ones, of course. They signify love and passion.”

She glanced at him and raised an eyebrow. “That will be costly.”

He waved his hand. “No matter. Whatever it takes.”

“I’ll provide a quote shortly.” Syrinx snapped another picture. Passion? That was like poison to a goddess of chastity. Who was this guy?

Kaye picked up a bronze statue of a man riding a horse and examined it. As she put it back on the shelf, she knocked over a porcelain vase and caught it before it tumbled off.

Syrinx gave Kaye a death look. Her assistant shouldn’t be manhandling the scenery, especially when she had a propensity to drop things. Kaye ignored her, following Mr. Thomas as he followed Syrinx. “What, exactly, is this party for? Just to help us plan, of course.”

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