The Pledge (Pandora's Harem 2)

By: Angelique Armae

1





All nightmares are a bitch. But when they come in the form of a two-hundred-and-fifty-or-so-pound angry lioness, they are downright insane. Of course I only have myself to blame as any person with half a brain would have backed away from an oversized burlap bag that had something huge moving about inside it. But not me. Not Pandora. Yes, I’m that Pandora, the curious imp who popped the lid on her infamous box of sins. And this morning I am right back where I started, thanks to my insatiably inquisitive mind. Even now I’m curious as to what Nasty Kitty will do next, even a bit tempted to stoke her just to see how she’ll react.

Bad Pandora. I simply cannot help myself.

I crouch on the top of the fridge, my only options being to stay put and pray for my three Spartans to find their way back from the dream plane, jump down and be eaten whole by Hungry Cat, or rely on Zeus’s magickal book that up until now really hasn’t done anything good other than bring me my trio of guardians. In fact, this morning’s little mess started with the book. I just couldn’t help myself when it opened on its own and revealed a spell that said it could make dreams come true. I was thinking the incantation would bring back my lost box, not force my Spartans to collide with the dream world, bag a lioness and dump her on my sofa, then vanish.

I can manage just about anything, from run-ins with the Greek god Moros—the god of Doom who sends souls to their deaths—to dealing with Chaos—Moros’s wicked grandmother who stirs up trouble everywhere she goes.

But what I don’t have a frickin’ clue about is how to handle a madder-than-hell lioness who is currently prowling my living room, her tail swatting everything in its path from the crystal lamps on the end tables to the vase of a dozen red roses on the corner stand—a belated birthday gift from Ares, my surfer dude Spartan. I can’t even express my grief at seeing the shredded-to-bits sofa cushions. Talk about razor-sharp claws. Kitty can probably trim a yard full of hedges in seconds.

The big cat swipes the rug with her massive right paw. She looks up at me, then leans back on her haunches.

Crap.

I’m guessing she’s accessing the distance from the living room to the top of this fridge. This was so not the wisest of options. Even if the lioness can’t make the jump, she certainly can climb. What’s one countertop to a cat that size? Pittance.

If only I had remembered that three seconds, ago.

I sigh.

Down below, Bitchy Kitty growls as she’s temporarily distracted by a piece of shredded cushion foam. Thank the gods for dear old viscose and static electricity, or I’m certain Kitty would be sitting next to me this very second. And probably nibbling on my flesh.

I have a few moments to think.

The lioness fumbles around the living room trying to shake off the unwanted piece of couch seat.

She thumps that tail again, this time directing her ire on the coffee table. It’s a decent whack, too, not some inconsequential little flick house cats swish about. No siree.

Crack.

And so goes the table’s surface. A thin vein creeps across the glass, splintering the tempered slab into a marbleized piece of junk. I am so going to remain in the poorhouse, the longer I have to keep dealing with these crazy-ass Greek gods. Zeus’s book really needed to come with a set of directions. Maybe if I think hard enough on that thought, he’ll send one.

Right. Fat chance on the Olympians helping Little Old Pandora.

Kitty turns around and catches her claws on the rug. She shakes her limb, pulls up half the carpet.

She looks like a wild beast in a cage. And considering my entire apartment only consists of nine-hundred square feet in total, including the bedroom and hall closets, the washer and dryer alcove, and the tiny vestibule leading to the front door, this cage is going to get really small, really fast. And then there’s the matter of Kitty’s feedings. I believe right now she’s mistaking me for a slab of raw meat, because the drool falling from her lips is screaming lunch. Big time.

Inching to the edge of the refrigerator, I peer down at the huge cat, meet her eye to eye.

She freezes. Then sinks back on her haunches for a second time, her bold, confident glare locked on mine.

Oh, crap. How could I forget cats consider direct eye contact a challenge? As in a fighting challenge?

Mistake number two. Bad, bad, Pandy.

My naughty new pet glowers up at me and roars. The loud noise goes right to my core, stirs my soul and knocks me flat on my butt. My head cracks against the wall. Stars fill my vision.

Yep. I definitely don’t know how to handle a lion.

I take a deep breath and try to regain some sort of composure, but the second I see straight again, I’m staring into the brilliantly flecked, golden eyes of Cranky Cat.

She slams her paw down on my left shoulder and scowls at me.

Ouch. Getting pinned by a two-hundred-fifty-or-so-pound furry princess is no fun.

“You’re going to pay for this Pandy.”

Whoa! What the fuck? I know my Spartans can read my mind, even the gods can. It’s one of the flaws of me being human—any number of souls tied to Mount Olympus can access my thoughts. I’m working on blocking them out, but it’s a process I’ve only partially accomplished so far. “Please tell me I just imagined your voice in my head?” Great. Now I’m talking to a lioness as if she gets this shit.

“I do, Pandy. I really do get your shit. So much so, I’m I want to know where your three little turds are hiding?”

I raise an eyebrow, not really sure what Miss Kitty is referring to, though the confusion should be more about the fact this big cat can communicate with an immortal human. Somehow the shock dissipates, goes away in an instant and gets replaced by a totally accepting mind that sees nothing wrong with having a totally sane conversation with a lioness. Wow, I really am getting used to being Pandora and being part of the Greek gods’ magickal world. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Kitty leans closer, sniffs my neck, then my arms, my chest. She backs off. “You slept alone last night.”

“I did, but what’s it to you?”

“Nothing, but I would have thought after that fiasco with Moros two nights ago, your boys wouldn’t have let you out of their sight. Especially, Leo. He’s a stickler for protecting what he considers his.”

Bitchy Kitty is definitely not your average cat.

“My run-in with Moros is none of your concern. Unless you’re working with him, and if that is the case, then I think you and I are done talking.” I still can’t get out from under the lioness’s weight, so not wanting to talk to Mean Kitty doesn’t help me much.

“I am not one of Moros’ minions,” the lioness answers. “He has his brothers to do his dirty work and trust me, they do it well enough that he doesn’t need any one else. However, to answer your pathetic question, everyone in Olympus is aware of the race that’s on to find your missing box. Just because Moros is the god we all prefer to avoid, doesn’t mean we don’t keep tabs on his doings. The competition between the two of you is quite entertaining.”

The hunt for my missing box is no game. At least not to me and not to all of mankind. When I unleashed hell on earth by lifting the box’s lid, the only thing that remained inside was Hope. And it is Hope that stands between Moros condemning every single soul to doom and it’s why he wants to get to the box before I do because he wants to destroy Hope. And I won’t let the world end that way.

Thoughts of my three Spartans flutter through my mind.

“How do you know Leonidas?” I have to ask, though the twinge of jealousy snaking through my heart really doesn’t want an answer to that question.

A whiff of expensive perfume, one bearing hints of jasmine, wafts under my nose. Kitty has good taste.

“Leonidas belongs to me,” the lioness says in my head. “I’m the goddess he swore an oath to in exchange for a favor I granted him. And now that he and his two cohorts just interrupted a race I was in on the dream plane, I’m calling in that oath. Leo owes me. And he must pay up. Now.”

I know nothing of this story. In fact, I don’t even remember a mention of such a thing in my studies of Greek Mythology. Yes, there have been famous oaths taken by humans in honor of the gods, but none that I recall having involved my Leonidas. At least, none that I know of as not everything recorded about the gods is accurate. “Leonidas has never said a word about owing a goddess.”

“Are you calling me a liar?”

Perfect. Nothing like earning the wrath of a lioness who can down you whole in a single bite. “No. I’m just saying the dude you’re describing doesn’t sound like the Leonidas I know.” I pause. “Do you have a name?” My head is drawing a total blank when it comes to this sly kitty and I’m chalking that up to the crack my skull took a few minutes ago because with a degree in Greek mythology, I should know this crap.

She backs off and shifts form. The cat who had pinned me to the top of the fridge is now a woman dressed in a short, white chiton cinched with a braided belt and paired with gold sandals. Her light brown hair sits in one of those chic, messy buns at her nape. “If it weren’t for the fact you’re Pandora, the Imp, I’d be insulted by your failure to recognize me.” She lets out a deep breath. “Humans are such powerless creatures. I don’t know how you all survive being so…simple.” She gives me a perplexed look, one that says she truly is boggled by the fact us humans have fulfilling lives without having god powers.