A Heartthrob Hades and a Cursed Office Clerk: Read an Excerpt of THE GAMES GODS PLAY by Abigail Owen

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If there’s anything we’ve learned from mythology, it’s don’t mess with the gods. In The Games Gods Play by Abigail Owen, one cursed soul gets tangled up in divine distraction when she’s selected as Hades’s champion. Read on to learn more about this spicy, new romantasy, out September 3rd, through an excerpt and artwork from the deluxe limited edition, available for preorder.

The Games Gods Play by Abigail Owens edges

The Games Gods Play by Abigail Owen

The gods love to play with us mere mortals.
And every hundred years, we let them…

I have never been favored by the gods. Far from it, thanks to Zeus.

Living as a cursed office clerk for the Order of Thieves, I just keep my head down and hope the capricious beings who rule from Olympus won’t notice me. Not an easy feat, given San Francisco is Zeus’ patron city, but I make do. I survive. Until the night I tangle with a different god.

The worst god. Hades.

For the first time ever, the ruthless, mercurial King of the Underworld has entered the Crucible—the deadly contest the gods hold to determine a new ruler to sit on the throne of Olympus. But instead of fighting their own battles, the gods name mortals to compete in their stead.

So why in the Underworld did Hades choose me—a sarcastic nobody with a curse on her shoulders—as his champion? And why does my heart trip every time he says I’m his? I don’t know if I’m a pawn, bait, or something else entirely to this dangerously tempting god. How can I, when he has more secrets than stars in the sky?

Because Hades is playing by his own rules…and Death will win at any cost.

Excerpt – Chapter 4

Hades’ barely-there smile turns condescending. “Was that so hard?”

It’s too…deliberate. Like he’s decided to play this a different way. Only that makes no sense.

But gods don’t have to make sense, I guess.

Drawing the notice of any of them is a bad idea. They are capricious beings who might curse you rather than bless you depending on their mood and the way the breeze is blowing. Especially this one.

“Now, let’s talk about what you think you were doing,” Hades says.

I frown, confused. “I thought you already—”

“And with the Crucible starting tonight, even,” he continues in a disappointed voice, as if I hadn’t spoken.

I sigh. “Do you want an apology before you smite me or something?”

“Most would fall to their knees before me. Beg for my mercy.”

He’s toying with me now. I’m a mouse. He’s a cat. And I’m his dinner.

I swallow hard, trying to force my heart back down my throat. “I’m pretty sure I’m dead either way.” Of course I am. Let’s not heap even more humiliation on my early end. “Would kneeling help?”

His silvery eyes—not dark like I thought at first, but like mercury—swirl with cold amusement. Did I say something funny?

“Is that why you’re here?” I ask. “The Crucible?”

Hades has never participated, and Zeus is hardly his favorite sibling, so why is he at this temple, really?

“I have my own reasons for being here tonight.”

In other words, Don’t ask gods questions, reckless mortal.

“Why did you stop me?” I glance at the temple, ignoring his tone entirely.

Instead of answering, Hades taps his thumb against his chin. “The question is, what do I do with you now?”

Is he enjoying my predicament? I’ve never thought much about the god of death—I’m a little busy with surviving mortality first—but I’m starting to really not like him. If Boone acted more like this, I’d have gotten over him ages ago. “I assume you’re going to send me to the Underworld.”

Seriously, stop talking, Lyra.

Hades hums. “I can do worse than that.”

Just like with Chance, backing down now isn’t an option. “Oh?” I tip my head, pretending like I don’t already know. “I do hear you are creative with your punishments.”

“I’m flattered.” He gives a tiny, mocking bow. “I could make you roll a rock up a hill and never make it to the top, only to start back over every single day for the rest of eternity.”

That already happened to Sisyphus ages ago. “I’m pretty sure Zeus came up with that.”

His lips flatten. “Were you there?”

I shrug. “Either way, it sounds like a vacation. Peaceful, undisturbed labor. When do I start?”

My mouth is going to get me permanently dead.

I’m waiting to end up in the Underworld any second, or maybe for Hades’ famous bident to appear in his hand for him to skewer me with.

Instead, he shakes his head. “I’m not going to kill you. Yet.”

Really? Do I trust him?

He must see the wariness in my eyes, because a muscle tightens in his jaw like he’s irritated I would doubt his word. “Relax, my star.”

I hesitate at the endearment. It clearly means nothing to him. When he doesn’t immediately talk, I manage not to as well, and instead I take in more details about the god standing before me.

He’s not exactly what I expected. I mean, beyond the obvious dark and brooding thing. It’s his clothes. He’s wearing worn boots and jeans, for Elysium’s sake. The jeans sit low on his narrow hips and are paired with a sky-blue button-down shirt rolled up at the sleeves to reveal forearms a deeper tan than I would expect from someone who lives in the Underworld. Who knew forearms could be sexy?

Over the shirt, he wears vintage leather suspenders that I suspect meet in the back at the top of his shoulder blades, side holster–style. The metal rings on the suspenders look like they have a purpose that he’s not using them for right now. Are they for weapons? Or does he have a bad back?

“Do I pass inspection?” he drawls.

I jerk my gaze back up to his face. “You look different than I thought.”

Both eyebrows twitch up. “And what did you expect? All-black clothing? Perhaps a full leather getup?”

Heat flares up my neck. Something like that, actually. “Don’t forget the horns. And maybe a tail.”

“That’s a different god of death.” He makes an exasperated sound, then mutters something about abhorring expectations.

Meeting those expectations, I think he means. Strange that I have something in common with a god. I may be cursed, but damned if I’m going to let it dictate who I am.

“Your home in the Underworld is Erebus,” I say pointedly.


“It’s called… Wait for it.” I hold up a hand. “The Land of Shadows.”

Someone should duct tape my mouth shut.

Hades slips his hands in his pockets, casually relaxed in a leashed predator sort of way. “I always thought that naming was unoriginal. It’s the Underworld. Of course there are shadows.”

This conversation seems to be going off the rails a bit. “I guess.” And then, because my brain can’t help itself, I actually consider what he said. “I mean, technically, you’re not the god of shadows or even the goddess of night.” Now I’m on a roll. “And if the fire-and-brimstone thing is true, then it seems like it would be quite well lit down there.”

His eyes glint at me like sharpened knives.

I can’t tell if he’s offended or surprised by my running commentary.

Unfortunately for both of us, I have a good imagination—and a lot of opinions. “You have a perception issue, if you think about it.”

I have a perception issue,” he repeats.

“Yes, you do. If they can’t see for themselves, mortals will believe what they are told. I was always told that Hades is shrouded in darkness, smells of fire, and is covered in tattoos that can come alive at his will.”

His gaze trails down my body with such slow deliberation, it sends the heat from earlier crawling farther up my neck and into my cheeks. “And yet you’re the one dressed in black and with tattoos, my star,” he points out.

I follow his gaze to my black fitted shirt paired with jeans—so it’s not all black. One sleeve has ridden up slightly to expose the pale skin of my wrist where the black ink tattoo peeks out. Two stars. A third star is on my other wrist, and when I put my arms together, they form Orion’s Belt.

One of the few things I remember before being taken in by the Order is watching Orion move across the sky outside my bedroom window. The constellation is an unchanging, ever-fixed mark in the night.

Is that why he called me his star twice now? I tug the sleeve down.

“So…” He comes out of his casual leaning to step closer. Close enough that I can breathe him in, which is when I learn that the god of death smells like the darkest, most sinful, bitter chocolate.

“What’s your name?” he asks.

I definitely do not want a god knowing my name. “Felix Argos.”

Hades doesn’t call me on the lie. Just watches me, gaze assessing like he’s debating something. A creative new punishment for me, probably.

“So…” I mimic his earlier phrasing and glance to the side of the temple and the way down the mountain. Escape is so close. Just out of reach, like the open door of a birdcage with a cat sitting outside. “What happens now?”

“What did you mean about being cursed?”

Ugh. I don’t want to talk about that. I hedge instead. “You don’t know?”

“Tell me like I don’t.”

“What if I don’t want to?”

He lifts a single eyebrow, and I get the message. Trying not to clench my teeth, I refuse to think about how Hades is only the second person I’ve ever shared this with.

After taking a deep breath, I say in a rush, “Twenty-three years ago, when I was still in my mother’s womb, she and my father came here to make an offering and pray for blessings on the birth. Her water broke, and your brother apparently took offense at her defiling his sacred sanctuary. As punishment, he cursed her baby—me, as it happens—that no one would ever love me. There. End of story.”

His gaze turns colder, so calculating that I take a step back.

“He made you unlovable?” he asks as though he isn’t quite sure he believes me.
I give a jerking nod.

That curse is why my parents gave me up. They said it was the debt, but I know otherwise. It landed me in the Order of Thieves at three years old. It’s why I have no ride-or-die friends. It’s why Boone…

Up until tonight, I’ve tried to convince myself that things could have been worse. I mean, I could have ended up as kraken fodder or with snakes for hair and stone statues as my friends.

But it led me to this moment. Facing a different god. A worse god.

One who obviously finds my curse interesting. Why? Because Zeus gave it to me? The current King of the Gods is a dick. That’s one thing

Hades also agrees with me on. The question is, what is he going to do with me now?

From The Games Gods Play by Abigail Owen. Copyright © 2024 by the author and reprinted by permission of Red Tower Books.

Artwork From the Deluxe Edition of The Games Gods Play

A map of Olympus from the deluxe edition of THE GAMES GODS PLAYA map of Olympus from the deluxe edition of THE GAMES GODS PLAY
Interior map illustration by Elizabeth Turner Stokes
Foil stamped case from the deluxe edition of THE GAMES GODS PLAYFoil stamped case from the deluxe edition of THE GAMES GODS PLAY
Foil-stamped case. Cover art and design by Bree Archer and LJ Anderson, Mayhem Cover Creations
Original art on the end papers from the deluxe edition of THE GAMES GODS PLAYOriginal art on the end papers from the deluxe edition of THE GAMES GODS PLAY
Endpaper illustration by Kateryna Vitkovskaya

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