Once Upon a Time in Vegas by Stephanie Burke

Once Upon a Time in Vegas by Stephanie Burke

Once Upon a Time in Vegas

by Stephanie Burke

Changeling Press

eBook ISBN: 07293-02351

[ Urban Fantasy Romance ]

Some practical jokes just don’t work out the way they were intended, even for gods. Or brothers.

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Chapter One

“Get a haircut, you hippy.”
“I’m out.” Anteros threw his hands in the air as he rose to his feet. Disgust was plain on his face as he stared down at his older brother.
The ne’er-do-well was in another drunken haze, hefting a golden goblet to his lips–filled with Uncle Den’s best brew, no doubt. His state of disarray was shameful, his feathers ungroomed, his short blond hair a tousled mess that looked like it hadn’t seen a comb in days.
“No, wait.” Eros, better known by his government name, Cupid, struggled to sit up from his ungainly slouch and waved at his younger brother. “Wait. Just a minute…”
“What do you want, Eros?” Anteros ran his hands through his hair before turning to face his twin, frustration clearly showing in the lines of his body.
“I just wanted to, you know, check your plans for the day.”
“The day?”
“My day.”
“Your day is not really your day,” Anteros pointed out, wrinkling his nose as his brother squawked in indignation. “It is not, Eros. It is a day for people to bless the stupidity of a Roman priest who was marrying people against the wishes of the army and got beaten to death and his head chopped off for his troubles.”
“You would bring that up,” Eros groused.
“It is the truth.” Anteros pointed at his brother. “So you need to stop acting all high and mighty. It could have just as easily been Aphrodite day. They just needed someone to represent young love.”
Eros cut him a side eye and a nasty smirk before he sang to him, “Jealous, much?”
“Right…” he drawled, shaking his head sadly. “I am so out of here.” Anteros turned away, shaking his head at his brother’s antics. “I don’t even know why I bother.”
“Because you love me.” Anteros blinked as his brother just popped up in front of him. The blond bastard had a habit of doing that. Anteros stared into green eyes that were nearly identical in shape to his silver ones and blew out a breath.
“Just because I love you doesn’t mean I have to like you.”
“But you do,” Eros interrupted. “Like me. You can’t help but like me. You find joy in my youthful antics.”
“I find that you need to grow the hell up, Eros. We’ve got work to do.”
“Valentine’s Day work.”
“Valentine’s Day work,” Anteros agreed, running a frustrated hand over his face. “Now if we could get down to the work portion of the evening…”
“You need to loosen up.” Eros grinned, all happy and boyishly charming now that he was getting his way. “It must be hard to concentrate when you are in — well…” He waved his hands at Anteros’s suit, and the younger brother looked down at what he was wearing.
“What? What’s wrong with my suit?”
“It’s a suit, for Zeus’s sake.”
“It’s Armani,” Anteros growled, running his hands over the wide lapel of his jacket. It was tailored to fit his form perfectly. The cut of it emphasized the broadness of his shoulders and the narrowness of his waist. The sleeves were long enough to present just a bit of cuff, and he knew the contrast between the white silk dress shirt with its subtle red stripes glowed next to the rich cotton jacket. The two-button vest was cut low and presented the perfect framework for his red silk tie. The pants were cut to hint at the power of his thighs and calves as he moved and were long enough to cover his matching black-and-white socks. His Stacy Adams shoes were polished to a high glow, and his silver bow-and-arrow cufflinks and tiepin accessorized his outfit while giving him a handy place to store the props of his office.
“It’s a suit.” Eros threw his hands up as if he didn’t understand why he was being cursed with a brother in a suit. “How do you let your wings breathe? Come to think of it, when was the last time I saw you with your wings out?”
Eros got that strange look in his green eyes, and Anteros recalled years of brotherly bullying that usually wound up with him being slapped around, nuggied until his hair was in knots, and somehow made the butt of everyone’s jokes for weeks on end.
Anteros backed up slowly. “They breathe fine.” He spoke softly so as not to rouse the green-eyed monster his brother could become. “At night when I am home.”
“I bet you did something to them, didn’t you?”
Anteros groaned softly to himself, wishing he had some way of diverting his brother’s attention from his wings.
It has always been a teasing point for Eros, the condition of his beloved baby brother’s wings. Ares, when he chose to show them, was possessed of a magnificent set of black raptor wings. Their father was a hunter, a predator, the leader of the house of aggression — the only house to bear wings — and it showed in his every movement and in the elegant flap of his vivid black wings.
As his son, Eros had a set of ash-gray wings that were very much like their father’s, but tempered with the influence of their mother. Eros’s wings were more like owls’ wings — silent, deadly, and powerful.
As a god of long-term love and vengeance for love-forsaken, you would think Anteros would have a set of wings that combined long-term and violence… like a hawk or at least a buzzard. But no. Much to his dismay, Anteros was possessed of a magnificent set of butterfly wings.
“Butterfly wings can be dangerous,” his father had explained to him once as Anteros sought sanctuary from Cupid’s teasing in his father’s hall. “Some of them are poisonous and they will eat you, given half the chance. Yeah, butterflies can be little corpse-suckers and they swarm — oh, how they can swarm. Butterflies are really badassery in a frilly, colorful package.” Anteros remembered the evil look he shot his father while seated on his knee, which prompted his first archery lesson.
“If anybody fucks with you about your wings, shoot iron in their asses and see how well they fly when I kick their asses off this hunk of rock we call home.”
His dad was an awesome dad, but his older brother… “I know you did something to them, Anty. Come on and let big brother check and see.” Not so much on the awesome scale.
“Back away, Eros.” He didn’t like the glint in his brother’s eyes at all. Anteros moved farther back, which had the unwanted effect of moving him deeper into his brother’s Las Vegas penthouse, and tried to avoid Eros’ grabby hands.
“Come on, little brother. Let me see what you did. I bet you tried to paint them black again.”
“I was three!” Anteros growled.
“And you were so adorable too, paint spraying all over Mom’s bedroom when you tried to get away from our nanny and your bath…”
“Back away, Eros.” The bare-chested idiot was drawing closer, his own wings flapping happily as he set out to torment his favorite target.
“You may as well let me see, little brother. You know you are not getting out of here until I see for myself.”
“I didn’t come here for molestation,” Anteros roared, done with playing games. He was not going to back down from his brother like he had so many times in the past. He was fully grown, an adult, and a fully mature god in every way. He was not going to let Eros rule him.
And it was a scant five minutes later that he found himself frozen and chained in the middle of Eros’s living room, his suit in tatters around his feet while his brother coaxed his wings out of the pocket space where he had them hidden and into full view.
“There we are.” Eros chuckled as he tugged at one of his brother’s silvery pink wings. “That wasn’t so hard, was it?”
“That was a new suit!” Anteros roared, his curls flopping in his face, his chest heaving as he struggled to shake himself free of his brother’s magical bindings.
“You can’t win, Anty.” Eros laughed, tugging Anteros’s delicate-looking wings out to their fullest, making him twitch in aggravation.
As evil as Eros could be, he never hurt his brother’s wings. In fact, he’d kicked the asses of a lot of little godlings who teased him about them. Eros reasoned that since Anteros was his twin brother, created just for him, only he could torment him. So he teased, and he bullied, but he never really did any physical harm. Still, it was frustrating as hell that even after all these years Anteros couldn’t overpower Eros.
“It’s not my fault people seem to be going for raw sex and quick hook-ups instead of a long-lasting marriage, nowadays,” Eros went on. “It’s just the way the world works.”
Anteros grumbled, tugging at whatever invisible thing was holding his wrists above his head.
“Divorce rates are high, little brother, infidelity is on the rise.”
“Maybe if you were more careful about where you shoved your arrows…”
“I’ve never had any complaints.” Eros smirked.
“No, because they save them all for me,” Anteros snarled. “Every one of them, every low life, philanderer, whoremonger, and slut-sanctioned heartbreak victim winds up screaming at me for vengeance. And I give it to them however I can, and you just go on to make more.”
“Not my fault,” Eros denied, pulling a wing over his shoulder to delicately finger his feathers back into place. “Not all of them are stung by my arrow.”
“And the ones who aren’t follow the example of the ones who are.”
“Then they shouldn’t get caught.” Eros winced as he plucked a feather, and then snapped his fingers, magicking up a pot of ink and some paper. Dipping the feather into the crystal pot and using it like a quill, he began writing.
“You shouldn’t make it so easy.”
“Don’t blame me because it is my time to shine, little brother.” Eros pointed the makeshift quill at his brother, dripping ink on the no-doubt-expensive carpet. “If you concentrated on the love more than the vengeance, we would not be having problems with all these internet hook-ups…”
“I know you plotted that crap out with Zuckerberg, the jackass,” Anteros growled, struggling against the bindings again.
“And the bar hook-ups…”
“I know you and Uncle Dionysus came up with happy hour –”
“To go with the happy ending.” Eros nodded, scribbling happily on his paper again.
“And because of your actions, we are seeing the rise of the newest threat… ultra conservatism.”
Eros froze in his writing. “Wait — what?”
“Ultra conservatism.” Anteros sneered. “We are steps away from the chastity belt again.”
“No we are not,” Eros scoffed, but began to look a little worried. “What do you mean?”
“With so much free sex and free love, the powers that govern human politics are growing fearful that those who aspire to a life of joy and brotherhood are going to take over. There is no money in joy and brotherhood, Eros. If people got along, there would be no need to start wars.”
“I — I don’t see the connection, Anty –”
“Tighter restrictions on birth control.” Anteros was on a roll. “Contraception being offered at exorbitant costs and with added restrictions. Soon, people won’t want to have sex at all. It’ll cost too much and be too much of a hassle. But don’t worry. Video games have that covered.”
Eros paled.
“Yeah.” Anteros knew his face was looking like a cross between smug and evil, but he didn’t care. He was going to put Eros in his place. “No one will want to fuck anymore, brother. It’ll be too much of a hassle. Instead people will take to masturbation and self-love. Mom will get a thrill — you, not so much. Millions of people, content to stay inside and beat off instead of dealing with the hassle of actual human interaction. And the ultra conservatives will love that. I am sure arranged marriages can’t be too far behind. Bans on sex, bans on romance, bans on alcohol and recreational drug use… So much free love has them running scared, Eros. It has them twitchy, and they are making plans to control every aspect of human life. And you know what that means, big brother?”
Anteros was almost whispering now, and Eros was looking kind of sick. “It means no real love. Oh, there will be sex — secretive and furtive in dark corners and in parents’ basements — but no love buzz for you. It’ll all be fucking. Mindless fucking and getting revenge when the one you want to fuck goes and fucks someone else. Then we will see how much you shine, brother. And it is all thanks to you.”
Anteros was not aware of exactly when the bindings holding him disappeared, but suddenly he was free, and Eros looked like he was going to pass out.
“So… about that list of jobs we need to get to, send me an email. I find myself in a state of dishabille, and that must be corrected.”
He snapped his fingers, and the cufflinks and tie tack floated from the mass of material they were dangling from and dropped into his hands.
He ran his hands over his hair, pulling his silky black locks back into a tail and fastening it with his bow-shaped tie tack. He placed his arrows, once his cufflinks, into his ears as dangly earrings and offered his twin a smirk of his own.
“I’ll be seeing you… Cupid.”
Finally, after what seemed like a millennium, he had gotten one up on his brother. He flapped his butterfly wings and made for the door. The fact his brother was still standing in the middle of his living room, dripping ink all over his carpets, was the icing on the cake.
Anteros was feeling so good, he didn’t even bother to put on a shirt as he strode to the elevator and made his way out of Eros’s building. He flashed a smile at some very admiring looks he got on the way, and mentally made plans to contact his clothier to get a new suit. Maybe he would go with Saville Row this time.
* * *
“Bitch,” Eros grumbled, snapping back to himself as his little brother strolled out of his apartment like a cat that got the cream… all the cream. “Damn it, little brother.”
He really didn’t like it when the pupil surpassed the master at anything, and that stunning display of punching below the belt could have only come from careful observation of his personal technique.
Eros would have been impressed… if Anteros’s little attack didn’t smack of truth and sting in a way that only a sibling could sting.
This would not do. He had to put the little shit back in his place.
A smirk spread across his face as he realized how.
“Indiscriminate fucking, huh?” He chuckled, tossing his paper and quill into the air, absently waving them away as they exploded into a million pink sparkles. “Maybe a little fucking is what you need to get that stick out of your ass… and I know just the person… Ha ha… hahahah… hahahaha – cough — ha…”
His laughter was loud and evil… until it devolved into a choking fit that had him dropping onto his couch breathless, but still chuckling. “Anteros, you are not going to know what hit you. But when we are done, you won’t be able to throw that shit up into my face again. Indiscriminate fucking… right.”

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Read #excerpt of Once Upon a Time in Vegas by @FlashyCat #MMromance #urbanfantasy Click To Tweet