The one positive of that night is that I’ve restarted my relationship with Khione. It feels good to have made up with her, to have her help. We parted on good terms, knowing we could always turn to the other if we needed them. And when it comes to the possibility of Seth rearing his ugly head again, that could be a very big advantage for me.
“Boys!” Khione steps between us. “What’s the matter with you? The first time the three of us have been together in centuries and all you can do is trade insults and push each other’s buttons? Haven’t you got anything else to say?”
I don’t like the idea of that. I was meant to be cleaning up this city, making it safer. Huge, unexplained explosions are not going to win me any friends. And tonight was meant to be my night. My chance to be on the front foot. Somehow I’m now behind, and there’s still the impact of the snowstorm I got the Goddess of Winter to bring down to deal with. Right now, though, I have to focus.
“Have you ever run a city?” I demand, my hackles up. “Do you know what it’s like having everyone sniping at you? Plotting against you?” I suck in a breath. I don’t want to show her weakness, but I can’t help it. “This is the easiest thing I’ve ever done.”
Sure, I’m going to have a hell of a lot of explaining to do, but this is where I want to be. Not only has Springfield restarted my abilities, but it’s shown I’m just as good as I ever was, maybe better. I always knew there was a risk with Kinnesberg, and I had kept an eye on her. It was hard, especially when we spent so much time in bed together. I’d hoped I might be wrong, that things wouldn’t work out as I predicted. It just goes to show that I’m the great trickster, and there’s no one better.
“Look, Darnell, it doesn’t give me any glee to be doing this, but this looks like an enormous scandal. I’ve got to be on top of it. I’ll give you forty-eight hours, then I’m reporting, with or without your comment. Trust me. I think you’ll want to respond.”
I pause as I reach the kitchen sink, my attention caught by the view of the city outside the open window. A light breeze flicks past me, cooling my naked body. I continue to stare, the lights dotting the skyline reminding me how alive this place is. Hopefully, soon I will be in charge of all that’s before me.
“What are you doing here?” For a second, I’m certain every patron in the café goes quiet at Aphrodite’s words. She stays firmly seated on the beige sofa, her attention only briefly flicking to the sweet treats I’m offering.
I take in a deep breath, enjoying the intoxication of the moment. I stood in front of that huge crowd and loved every second of it. Who would have thought that the great trickster, the god so used to staying in the shadows, could have so much fun in the spotlight?
She really is wonderful, and things have never been so good between us. It’s almost like the unpleasantness of being accused of killing someone dealt with that awkward moment between Kinnesberg and me a few weeks ago. We’re closer than I ever expected, and it feels good. Right. Like we were always destined to be like this.
“I cannot imagine your pain.” I can. He’s mourning for someone very special, and, in my own way, so have I been. “But what I can tell you is that I am not the person that caused that. I do not know who took your daughter away from you, but will you allow me to help you on that quest?” He says nothing.
“No.” It’s the hardest lie I’ve ever uttered. I loved her, and yet I took her life. I was trying to change for the better, for her. Instead, I did the worst thing imaginable, and I still don’t know how I did it. Clearly, these thoughts, or some version of them, cross my face because Kinnesberg stands and pads across the carpet. She gets so close I can feel her breath on my face. It’s hot, heavy.
I no longer want to be the obsessed planner who will step over anyone to get what he wants. Who lets his doubts and criticism manifest themselves into voices that do more harm than good as they did that horrible night when I killed the woman I loved.