I read over the note twice before crumpling it. The host, Harrison Rex, was losing his mind. The ramblings in the letter were chaotic at best. This show seemed to be unraveling all around me. Producers were jumpy, and crew members were missing, not to mention the mysterious accident the second week into the show. Now the host was blatantly accusing me of furthering my own status and using women to fulfill some personal vendetta. This was a man who had barely spoken two words to me since the first night.
I glanced over at the alarm clock on the bedside table. I was supposed to meet Ashley in half an hour for our last date. Am I seriously going to go through with this? I ran a hand through my hair, pausing before grabbing a bottle from the minibar and heading out to the balcony. I sucked in the salty-sweet air of the Ionian Sea. It was good to be home. Even if I wasn’t back in the God Complex, I felt more at peace here. Being home meant I was closer to her. I knew it was silly, but it was almost like I could feel her. Here I was, on a dating show with the end result being engaged. The very idea was preposterous. It had been weeks of dates and drama, and as hard as I tried, I still couldn’t stop thinking about Atë.
Even more crazy was the next step in this process, overnight dates. My stomach rolled. I hadn’t been with another woman, well, ever. I had never been a promiscuous god. Sure, I knew the rumours, every last one of them. I may have helped spread one or two of them, but unlike other gods, I was loyal to the bitter end. And now the very thought of having to be with someone…anyone other than Atë, made me want to be sick.
I watched the sunset, taking a sip from my glass, the bourbon coating the back of my throat. I was reminded of the sunset on Mount Olympus, the one I watched after I captured Hyperion. My chest tightened at the memory. Atë had been there for me then, every step of the way. Even when she was trying to take down her father, she had found a way to check in on me. Our little game of truth or lie had become blurred in the end, but it had been her way of maintaining contact. Maybe I had given up too easily. Truth be told, I had been lying to myself. I wasn’t over her, and I never would be. Even though I denied it, I knew she had lied to me about her feelings, and I still let her go. I was scared of being hurt again. At that time, my marriage had only been dissolved a few months, and my feelings for Atë had caught me by surprise. But no matter, they were real and if anything, these last few weeks proved it.
I was…in love with Atë. It was always going to be her.
I swallowed the last of the bourbon. I had to end this. I couldn’t go on with this stupid charade anymore. I needed to see Ashley and Amy. This game of cat and mouse was over. Atë would just have to deal with me coming to see her in Tartarus. I could go to Zeus and plead her case again. I’d try anything to get her out.
I rushed out of the hotel room and down to the lobby where the car was waiting for me. When I arrived, the restaurant was empty. Looking down at my watch, I saw I was early. My gut churned, I did not want to wait another minute. I scribbled a note and left it with the cameraman. It simply read: I’m sorry. I’m in love with another.
I would have to go to the penthouse to end it with Amy. The car pulled into the front circle of the luxury tower. I waited for the car door to open, but it didn’t. That’s odd. I stepped out and noticed the doorman that usually greeted me was missing. Maybe he is on a break? I walked through the empty lobby looking for anyone, but an eerie quiet had settled here. Something was definitely wrong.
My shadows spread out, searching for the problem, quickly alerting me seconds later. I hesitated before going to investigate, my arms prickling at the familiar sense. Death was here. My heart pounded in my chest. What was happening? Walking over to the front desk, I saw two feet sticking out awkwardly. Behind lay the overweight doorman, I had joked with the first night and one of the night staff. Both were crumpled in a heap, their necks snapped. What the fuck! Then it occurred to me who I was there to see, Amy! Before I realized it, my feet were moving.
I ran to the elevator, knowing this had to do with me. This wasn’t anything a twisted mortal would do. The minute it took to get up to the penthouse felt like twenty. Stupid fucking mortals and their shit technology. Move elevator! The ping announced my arrival as the double doors opened to the elaborate penthouse the girls had stayed in the first week. The lights were flickering, a vase of flowers lay broken underneath a flipped table.
“Amy?” I called out, knowing she wouldn’t answer.
I stepped out cautiously, letting my shadows do their work. The penthouse was in disarray. A struggle had definitely taken place. I was confused. Why would anyone want to hurt Amy? Something Ares had said triggered at the back of my memory. He had warned me about this. I walked through the penthouse, stepping over items that had been thrown. Had Amy been running away from someone?
“Amy?” My worry for her grew. This stupid show, I knew it was a bad idea, and yet I ignored everyone. My own selfishness drove me here and now look what happened? My eyes went to the tinted windows of the rooftop patio, the pool light had been turned on. My head started to pound with a familiar ache. I opened the door and immediately saw Amy’s body facedown in water stained red with her blood.
“Looking for someone?”
My heart stopped at the sound of her voice. It was heavenly, even if it was underlined in hate. I turned to face her. She was lying back relaxing on a recliner, eating from a fruit tray that had been by the pool.
“What can I say, murder makes me hungry.” She stood, straightening out her black flowing dress. I pretended not to notice the large slit up the side that exposed her thigh.
I ogled her. I wanted to run to her. I wanted to say something, but my mind had gone blank.
“What, no greeting? Aren’t you happy to see me?” She shrugged slightly. “Probably not, though, given your recent activities…” Her eyes shifted to dead Amy.
“This is… how? I don’t understand. Atë, how are you here?” My mind rattled a million miles a minute. “If you escaped, you will never see the light of day again. We need to get you back before they notice.” My legs finally decided to move towards her.
She snorted. “Do you even care?”
My eyes went to Amy for a split second. Atë must have noticed because her face was still. Her expression remained calm and cold as she said, “Of course not.”
I stopped myself short of grabbing her by the arm. “Of course I do.” The pain in my head increased. “I’m just surprised you are here.”
Her eyes narrowed as anger danced across her features. “Are you sure?” she paused. “I mean, I have been here for what? Eight weeks, and you didn’t even notice.”
“What?” I shook my head in confusion. “What are you talking about?” I looked over at Amy’s lifeless body. She had been a close body double, but Atë wasn’t impersonating her. Poor Amy bobbed, soaked and bloated. She was as dead as they come.
“Oh, well, allow me to jog your memory.” Atë stepped forward an inch, extended her arms, and spun slowly. Her black mists danced off her body as she changed from Atë to Harrison in front of my eyes. “Look familiar, buddy?”
My legs shook as I stumbled away from her. She had been here this entire time? How had I not known? How could I not have sensed that it was her? I rubbed at my temples as the pounding inside my head increased. And there it was, that familiar ache of our connection. Suddenly I was angry.
“Why would you let me go through all this?” I said, waving a hand in the air. “Do you realize what bullshit this was?”
Her form changed back, and her gold eyes were dark slits as she focused in on me. The ground shook beneath us. I could see she was struggling to keep it together.
“Me! Let you? I didn’t let you do anything! This is what you wanted! And don’t even try to deny it! Do you know I looked for you when I got out? Like a fucking idiot! Eros said you came by and saw them, that you were broken. Because of me. And then what? I came here. You don’t look broken to me, Erebus. You actually looked quite happy!”
The ground rumbled again under my feet. Her theatrics didn’t phase me. “If I look happy, it’s because you are here, standing in front of me and not behind the wall I put up in Tartarus.”
“Bullshit! I’m not playing this game with you anymore, Erebus. Your pretty words won’t work on me again.” She vibrated with anger. “If you cared about me, you would have come back. Instead, you spent your days here, rock climbing, taking private helicopters, and enjoying massages with War Goddesses.”
I growled at her, “Are you fucking kidding me? You sent me away! You said you didn’t want me. Told me not to come back!” I threw her own words in her face, even if I knew she had been lying then.
“Because I had to!” The patio shook as the inside lights flickered, I hadn’t noticed how they hung precariously. “I was in Tartarus…for the rest of eternity. What were you going to do, huh? Sit outside my cell until the stars burned out like a lost puppy? Is that what you wanted? How is that fair to you?”
Sitting back on my heels, I looked at her, taking every inch of her all in. My breath caught in my throat. “It would have at least been nice to be given a choice. But you took that away from me.” As angry as I was, I knew she was right. My eyes softened. “Do you know why I went to you that night? I was pissed that everyone was carrying on with their lives while you were rotting down there. I couldn’t pretend anymore. I knew then what you meant to me.”
Her gold eyes bleed back to brown as her features soften. The infrastructure stopped shaking as she took a step closer, her eyelashes batting at me. “I mean something to you?”
Smiling at her, I closed the gap between us, looking into her eyes, my chest tightening.
“Yes, Atë. I mean, maybe not at first…” I said, remembering how annoying she had been in the earlier days, but things had changed. Her beautiful eyes looked into mine, I could see her. Really see her. And then I knew it was a lie. I took a tentative step back. “What do you think you’re doing?” My shadows were on her in a second, I grabbed her wrist, pulling it forward to see the blade she held in her hand. “What the fuck is this, Atë? Just what the hell are you trying to pull?”
“Oh, this? It’s called killing you.”