So this is a spoilerific post. If you haven’t read Daughter of Earth and Sky, continue at your own risk.
I’ve seen several emails from readers praising all things Hades and wondering why she was ever remotely tempted by Joel. The answer to this is actually fairly messed up.
Well applied charm works by rationalizing the foreign thoughts and impulses into something the victim wants to do. Several times during Daughter of Earth and Sky Persephone had thought patterns like this.
“I could do my run at three instead,” he suggested. “We could run together.”
“Do you have time for that? With college about to start and everything?” I didn’t want to sound too reluctant, but I really enjoyed the solitude my runs provided.
“For you, I’ll make time.” He gave me an easy grin. “Just not right now. I should head out. Do you need help getting to your car? Or can you drive? I could take you home . . . ”
I laughed at his hesitation. I lived a bit outside of town, and gas wasn’t cheap. “I’m fine. I’m meeting someone later, so I should stick around.”
“Great.” He sounded relieved. He met my eyes. “Are we on for tomorrow?”
“Sure!” I needed to practice being human before school started, and Joel was about as normal as a human could get.
And just like that she’s running with Joel daily. Here’s another example.
“Sorry, Joel.” I brushed the grass off my legs. “I should probably be going.”
He caught my eye. “Aw come on, how long does it take to drink a smoothie?”
I found myself smiling. “Fine.”
And here’s another example.
I felt a pang of guilt flash through me when I saw Joel waiting for me at the bridge. Melissa was right. I was leading him on. I wasn’t sure how it had happened. We’d progressed from our daily jog, to a daily jog and smoothie. Then to a daily jog, smoothie, and occasional dinner. Now it was a daily jog, smoothie, occasional dinner, and occasional movie. We weren’t going out, and I had no interest in dating anyone other than Hades, but every time Joel suggested something and looked at me with those big blue eyes, I found myself agreeing. It was just so easy to be normal around him. For those short bits of time, I could forget about Hades and Thanatos and the Underworld.
“I gotta say, I liked your other outfit better.” Joel motioned to my Disney princess running shirt and pink shorts.
I laughed nervously. I hadn’t switched into different running clothes because Hades had made that comment, but because the way Joel looked at me sometimes made me want to wear a shapeless sweat suit. But this was Georgia. Sweating to death was a distinct possibility.
Joel grinned at me, and I forgot all about that. He was too nice to lead on. I needed to end this.
“You ready?” Joel asked, eyes searching mine.
“Yup!” We could talk after the run.
I ran faster than I ever had, beating Joel and my goal. I collapsed on the grass when I finished my third mile, grinning like an idiot.
“You’re in a good mood,” he noted.
I pushed myself up on my hands. “Hanging out with Aphrodite, running with you, it’s weird, but . . . ” I struggled to explain it. “I feel like I get to be me again, for just a few minutes. It’s really nice.”
“Who else have you been?” He sat beside me, eyes lingering appreciatively on my legs. He caught my reproachful look and gave me an impish smile. “You can tell me anything you know. I won’t tell anyone.”
And suddenly I wanted to tell him. Not everything, but Joel was so easy to talk to, I bet he’d understand what I was going through better than most of the gods.
And one more…
He met my eyes, leaned closer, and I knew he was going to kiss me. I thought of stopping him. I shouldn’t have led him on this long. But . . .
I let him kiss me, releasing him from the charm that would compel him to forget this conversation. His lips on mine were warm and eager. Completely different from a kiss from Hades. Hades was always fighting a battle with himself, trying to hold back. Joel had no such reservations.
My stomach turned at the thought of Hades, and I pushed Joel away. This was wrong. I didn’t want to do this. Why was I doing this? I knew it was just kissing, but I didn’t want to kiss anyone else. I just wanted Hades.
“What’s wrong?” Joel’s bright blue eyes searched my face.
I stared at him wondering that myself. What was wrong? Joel was a perfectly nice guy, and I liked him before.
See. Aside from a passing mention in the first book, Persephone didn’t willingly give Joel the time of day a single time during the entire book. He spent the entire book slowly forcing her trust, forcing a relationship, and working with Thanatos and Aphrodite to isolate her from everyone else she could turn to. It’s pretty messed up.