The lights from the gala lit up the Paris night sky with a thousand different colors, making it feel as if the stars themselves have fallen. Several mortals laugh and talk as they make their way inside. People are leaning on their dates, dressed to the nines with jewelry that cost probably half as much as the building itself. Cars pull up, dropping dozens of people, and yet I still do not see him.
I sigh, adjusting my loose-fitting off the shoulder red dress I wore with one hand. The slight shift in position sends the hem dancing playfully across the floor, revealing the matching shoes beneath. A high slit in the skirt teases with glimpses of toned thigh with every step I take. I had pulled my hair back into a messy bun, with my dagger tucked discreetly inside. I know they are going to check everyone upon entering, and I want to save my powers for what I have planned.
After the last car leaves, I decide to make my move. Hopefully, he will show. Every lead I have points to this place, day, and time. I turn, checking one last time as I slip in between a couple heading inside. The lights from the gala make me pause, and I squint as I take in the space. Statues line the front and side walls, artfully interspersed with paintings. A few dozen people are already gathered around various pieces. Waiters walk past, handing out drinks and food of every variety. I pass one, grabbing a glass and chugging it back before getting another. He raises his brow at me, and I wink and smile back. I look around, running a single finger over one statue of a man with no arms, and laugh at the feel of the fake marble.
Pffft selling fake art now? I like whoever the curator is already.
I shake my head, snatching another drink and giving the passing waiter my empty glass. I spot a spiraling staircase that leads upstairs and decide that would be my best bet. The higher up, the easier to spot your target, or whatever Artemis would say. I take the steps two at a time, already annoyed. From up here, I can see the whole room a little better. I shoulder an old couple out of my way. They sneer, and I flip them off, telling them to beat it. As usual, they listen and leave. I rest my arms on the balcony edge, watching the people down below as they mix and mingle around the displays. I sip my champagne, my annoyance threatening to become anger. If I am wasting my time for all of this to be an empty bust, I will be livid.
I pull my phone from my cleavage and text Dolos, letting him know I will skin him alive if he is wrong. All he sends back is a smiley face emoji with its tongue out. My phone doesn’t light up much more besides Eris sending me a funny meme and Clio sending more pictures of her twins. I don’t get a message from Erebus, nor do I expect one. He has been weird lately, weirder than usual. Almost like he is hiding something from me. Well, trying to. It irritates me more than I want to admit, honestly. He blames it on work or something, but what the fuck kind of DJ job makes you act like that? Something else is going on, but I decided to hide my insecurities in hunting Kronos. The gala goes on as expected, with the same boring oohs and ahhs over these overpriced knock offs. I have to be about eighteen champagne glasses in before I almost give up, and that’s when I see him.
The air in the room seems thicker as everything I had helped orchestrate comes rushing back to the surface. How I ripped Tartarus from the ground up when I helped him escape, how I did every sick and dirty thing he asked of me for the promise of destroying my family. My heart beats faster in my chest as my nostrils flare. This is it. I will no longer be anyone’s pawn.
I watch for a second as he mixes and mingles with a crowd who are none the wiser that the fucking king of Titans is right next to them. He has about four or five goons around him. All dressed in the same matching black suits he wears. Hate fills my gut, making my hands shake with rage. That’s when I know why I can’t sleep, why I have nightmares, why I feel so fucking lost. I had been used so purely and left to rot in Tartarus for it. And I know in this second that his death alone will make me feel better. I will wave his head as a warning to all who think they can get away with fucking me over again.
I move to the edge of the staircase, reaching up and removing the dagger that held my hair in place. The dark silky locks tumble down my back. I grip the hilt hard enough it should draw blood as I move slowly down the steps, my eyes never leaving my target. He hasn’t sensed me yet, but he soon will. I need to move fast. I reach the end of the staircase and stop, my body feeling like I am suddenly in quicksand. I struggle to step forward as I look down, my brows furrowing.
“What the fuck?” I hiss, watching bands of shadows creep closer, holding my ankles in place. It takes me a split second to realize what is happening before I am swallowed whole by darkness.
My ass hits what feels like concrete, and I scramble to my feet, fixing my long dress. I look around at what appears to be a large, dark abyss. It isn’t even a room, just a hollow black expanse. Then I hear it. His voice low and demanding, “And just what do you think you’re doing?”
Erebus’s damned shadows pulled me from the fucking gala, encircling me and dragging me to him. Dammit. I spin around in no particular direction as a gust of wind suddenly whips my hair from my face.
“What the fuck, Erebus!” I shout.
It doesn’t take long before he manifests out of the very darkness he is made of. He is wearing what looks like black jeans and a matching sweater with the arms rolled up. My eyes narrow as my heart thuds a little bit harder, but for a very different reason than when I saw Kronus. Erebus and his stupid, perfect hair. He takes a step forward, looming over me. It is all he can do to try to intimidate me, and it rarely works. It just makes me feel the opposite emotion he wants, which usually leaves us both hot and bothered, but right now isn’t the time or place. I have to get back and finish what I started. So if he wants a fight, he will get a real one this time. I am pissed. I begin to respond, but he cuts me off before I can utter a sound.
“No.” He holds up a finger and presses it to my lips. I try to speak again, “A ba ba ba…” His finger presses harder on my mouth. “Stop trying to talk, or I will make this even more difficult for you.”
My gaze narrows before I use my free hand to slap his hand off my mouth. “Are you insane? How did you find me! Also, terrible timing! Take me back!”
“I warned you.” It is all he says before I feel an iron grip wrap around my entire body, holding me in place.
“Oh, come on,” I snap, struggling in place.
“Now, listen, and for once, shut up. Do you not understand the terms of our agreement?” He holds up a hand. “Don’t answer that. It’s a rhetorical question. Why is my son telling me these stories of you trying to exact revenge? Hmm? I thought you learned your lesson? Do I need to take you back to Tartarus? Because so help me, Chaos.” He turns away from me, rubbing a hand across his face in frustration.
“There will be no revenge on Kronos as much as it pains me. For fuck’s sake, I hate the guy just as much as you, but this needs to stop.”
For fuck’s sake, can I not trust anyone? Dolus ratted me out. Then Erebus’s words hit me.
“Oh, you would take me back to Tartarus, wouldn’t you? I fucking knew it. How about you just let me get back to what I was doing, and you don’t have to worry about it, hmm? No one asked you to show up in th—”
“You have given me no choice but to threaten you with things that make my stomach churn!” Erebus yells, spinning around to face me. “Do you not care about anything or anyone other than yourself? You know what happens if you go back on your word! You know you are forcing me to do Zeus’s bidding. I don’t want to take you back to Tartarus, but that was the agreement between the stupid mortal doctor and Zeus. Are you so blinded by hate that you would give up everything?”
I scoff, my voice breaking for a split second. “Everything? What’s everything? I don’t have anything.” I shake my head, the only thing I can move as I spit words like venom at him, “I don’t have a home. That’s yours. My family? Better off without me, as you can see. You? You’ll never…” My voice trails off before saying the one thing I don’t want to. I take a deep breath and control my emotions once more.
“I’m not even seeing my therapist anymore, Erebus. Did you even know that? No, you’re just like everyone else. You are busy going on with your fucking lives. Well, guess what? I can’t, okay! I can’t! I feel like my entire being is being split apart every fucking second of every day, and I can’t make it stop. Now I have a chance to, and you are stopping me.”
“Excuse me? What do you mean you’re not seeing your therapist? And it’s not my home. It’s our home.”
“Whatever, it doesn’t matter.” I blow a strand of hair out of my face, struggling once more.
Erebus grabs me firmly by the shoulders, making me stop. He uses a free hand to make me meet his eyes. I turn my head from his grasp as he tries to make me focus, but I am too pissed. “Would you stop and listen to yourself? Stop blaming others for your insecurities! Damn it! What do we have to do to make you understand we want you in our lives?! Believe in yourself. Believe that you are worth it! You are worthy of all the love we give you! Do not let your rage and hatred blind you to what’s in front of you! I lived my whole life looking for revenge. It gets you nowhere! It’s not worth it. All you do is become a shell of your true self. I can’t live like that again! I won’t! If you are so determined to let this revenge consume you. Then I can’t be a part of your life.”
My head snaps towards him as he says those words. He stares at me, a somber expression on his face. One hand strokes the side of my head, fixing my hair in place, his eyes roaming me as if he is memorizing every strand and detail, and I know without a shadow of a doubt he absolutely means what he says. He meets my eyes once more, both hands holding my face as he speaks.
“It’s me, or you can chase after the revenge that will never fulfill you. It may make you happy for a few brief shining moments. But when that’s over, know I won’t be there.”
It feels like the wind is knocked out of me as visions of Tartarus dance across my subconscious. The image of when he left me plays through my mind. My back was against the cold stone tiles as he stumbled from the cell and out of my life for a thousand years. The silent cries I tried to hide for years afterward. The feeling of being completely alone and knowing he wouldn’t come back, and he hadn’t. I had said damning things there too, and this was just the same. I had pushed and pushed, and it worked. He will no longer be here if I keep this up, and it breaks me. It hurts me more than I want to admit.
“W-what does that mean?” My words seem almost impossible to get out.
The shadows fall away, and the breath rushes back into my lungs. It is freeing and also the coldest I have ever felt. He steps back from me. “I’m not sure how to be more clear?”
I stumble a little, stepping forward. “Where would you go?”
Erebus looks down at the ground as if the sight of me hurts him now. “Does it matter?”
In that second, I realize that it does matter. It matters a whole fucking lot. He always finds me. He found me when I first got back and then again in Italy. The list goes on. But what if he wasn’t there anymore? Who is going to find me then? I know I am not ready for him not to be there. “You’re going to leave me?”
“I’m not. I’m giving you the choice. You can stay here and carry on with your plan. And after you can go home to an empty house and never see me again. Or you can come with me now.”
I feel the prickle of tears against my eyes, knowing he hit a part of me that is afraid to lose him again. But he asks for so much. I turn my head, looking behind me as if I could see the gala itself. My vengeance and rage want me to end Kronos. To find some peace or redemption that I feel like I lost, but my heart, my fucking heart, desires something else. I sigh, swallowing what feels like a lump in my throat, and turn back toward Erebus. I don’t say anything as I hold the dagger out towards him with the blade facing me. It’s a silent agreement on my part. The one thing that can kill Kronos, and I’m giving it up. For him.
Erebus raises a brow at the blade before looking at me. “Are you sure? You come with me now, and there’s no looking back.”
I bite my lower lip for a second before nodding my head, the pros and cons weighing themselves in my brain. I know I can’t live without him, even if I am not ready to admit that to him out loud yet. “I know.”
He places his hand on mine, taking the dagger from me. I watch as he twists his ring, sending the blade into a black hole. He looks at me again as he reaches out, curling a piece of my hair behind my ear before holding out his hand for me to take. “Let’s go home.”