I tried to keep my voice low and reverent. It was hard. This guy was ridiculous. “The one greatest goddess, Medusa, took a long journey all alone to find the power of the sun.” I glanced at Luca, and he was staring at me intently. Geeze, this guy really was nuts. I had to bite the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing.
He nodded, completely captivated by my story, so I continued. “She traveled far and wide until she found the path. The path to the Tears.” I gripped the tiny vial tighter. “She followed the path for us.” I stopped, as if I were trying to compose myself. I was. But because this whole thing was ridiculous, not because I was overcome with reverence, as he seemed to be.
Luca put his hands over mine, over the vial that he wanted more than anything. “It’s okay. Did she tell you this? Did she come to you?”
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes like I was trying to gather my strength, and nodded. “She did.” Luca gasped loudly. “She came to us because she said we were found worthy of her. Of her power.”
“I knew you were special the first time I saw you,” Luca whispered, his eyes wide.
The feeling of his hands over mine made my skin crawl, and I could feel my snakes starting to writhe beneath my hair. I silently willed them to still and took in a slow breath, trying to calm myself before continuing. “She came to us. She told us the story of her search and her need to find something of power to share with us. She was lost to us for so long. You know that, right? She was lost to history and myth.” I tried to look at Luca with wide eyes and bit my lip. Goddess, I hoped he was buying this load of bullshit. I was getting tired of shoveling.
He nodded. “She was. But she shouldn’t have been lost. She was the best of the goddesses. She should have been their queen.”
Hmm, well, I couldn’t argue with that. Barely suppressing a smirk, I continued. “She found her way back. Her way back to us, but she needed more. She wanted more. For us. So she found us the Tears of the Sun. Power. Power for us chosen few.”
I made the mistake of glancing at Luke. His shoulders were shaking with silent laughter. I was going to kill him after this.
“It’s okay. Go on.” Luca’s hands tightened almost painfully over mine.
I gritted my teeth, my patience for this game wearing thin. “She only meant this power for us. Not for men. Not for you.”
I considered where I wanted to go with this. I pulled my hands away from him. “Um, I’ve heard some things. Have you ever met with other women? To try to find out what the gift was, or maybe even to take it for yourself?”
Luca scowled and glanced at my brother. He wasn’t laughing now. “Does it matter?”
I stood up and put some space between us. “It kind of does.” Luca’s gaze kept dropping to my closed fist. I knew he wanted it, but I was curious how far he’d go to get it. Or, more importantly, how far he’d gone.
After another glance at Luke, Luca said, “I may have had other friends who were chosen.”
Now we were getting somewhere. I didn’t know how far I wanted to take this. I still needed to find out who was behind this stupid cult, but it was clear I didn’t need Luca for that. He didn’t know anything. He was just desperate for power. “You are worthy. Aren’t you?”
He relaxed instantly. “Yes. I knew you could see. Share the power with me.”
I nodded. “Oh, don’t worry. I’ll share the power. You’ll see the power Medusa wields.”
Luca’s eyes lit up, and relief washed over him. “We’ll share in the power.” He glanced at Luke with disdain. “He can leave. He doesn’t need to be here for this, does he?”
Luke put his hands up in a surrendering gesture. He clearly wasn’t having any fun. “Don’t worry about him. He doesn’t want any part of this,” I assured him.
“Share it. Share the power. Now!” he demanded, advancing on me.
I put the vial behind my back and moved away from Luca. “I will. Relax. She said only the strong could share in the power. Only the worthy. Are you strong? Have you done anything to prove your strength?” I asked. I wondered if he’d admit to any of the crimes Luke thought he could be linked to. That would make it easier for me.
“Oh, I’m strong. I’ve done plenty to prove it.”
“Like what?” I asked. I took several steps back, moving away from Luca. “I don’t think you’ve ever done anything.” I glared at Luke, hoping he’d get the message to stay back.
Luke nodded stiffly.
Luca turned his back on Luke and rushed toward me. He grabbed my arms, squeezing, and said, “Enough of this. Share the power! Give it to me, now!”
I’d had enough. I was ready to end this game. “Have you killed? Have you proven you’ll do anything?” I demanded, my voice hard.
Luca smiled. “Oh, yes. I’ve killed.” He pulled me against his chest, squeezing my arms painfully, digging his fingers in. “And I want that power.” He glanced back to assure himself Luke wasn’t going to try to interrupt us.
I glanced at Luke, too, and gave him a wink. I waited until he stepped back and closed his eyes before I focused my attention on Luca. “Oh, I fully intend on showing you the power.”
He smiled and relaxed his grip. He leaned into me, slowly breathing along my neck to whisper in my ear. “Give it to me now.”
“Oh, you think you can take it? You think you can force yourself and your will on others?” I whispered.
He slammed me against the wall. “Yes!” he screamed.
I wondered if he thought it was weird my brother wasn’t doing anything to defend me. I still had the vial gripped behind me. He didn’t know it was worthless. I didn’t know what he thought he’d gain from it, but it didn’t matter. I let a laugh bubble out. “You think you have power here?”
“I have all the power!” he yelled, spittle flying out of his mouth.
“Oh, you poor little man. You want power so badly you follow false gods.”
“Medusa is not false! She is my queen!”
“Is she now? She isn’t false. You are right there. But this little cult worshiping these worthless trinkets? That is false.” I tossed the vial on the floor in front of his feet. It shattered, sending shards of glass everywhere.
Luca dropped to his knees, ignoring the glass, and grabbed the petal.
“What power do you think she has that she’d share?” I asked.
He looked up and said, “I don’t care. Power is power. And it’s mine now.”
I smiled as I let my snakes free. They rose around me, hissing in anger. “No. The power is always mine.”
Luca looked confused for just a second. Then I watched as the blood drained from his face as he realized who I was. He released me as if his hands were burning and pressed himself to the opposite wall.
“Yes. I have the power. You’ve never had any. You’ve killed in your pathetic attempt to feel as if you were more. But you’re not.” I folded my arms across my chest and wondered what to do with him.
He threw himself at my feet, pressing his forehead to the ground. “Please, I beg you.”
I laughed again. “Did any of the women you murdered beg?” I wanted his confession. The thought that he’d been praying on a group dedicated to me filled me with rage. “Did they beg you not to kill them? Did you spare them?” I could see it in his eyes. They did, and he didn’t care. He didn’t spare anyone. Everything he was suspected of doing was true. I wanted a confession to it all, but confirmation would do.
I checked to make sure Luke’s eyes were still closed and sank fully into the Gorgon before touching Luca lightly on the top of the head. I let my power spread through him slowly. His head snapped up, and just as he started to scream, his face became stone. I watched as the transformation moved slowly down his body. I could have made it happen in an instant, so quickly he never would have even known what happened. But that was too good for him. I wanted him to feel it. I probably should have started with his feet, but then we would have had to listen to his screams. Once completed, I wiped my hand on my jeans and pushed the Gorgon down beneath my skin. “It’s done.”
Luke glared at the statue. “Are you going to leave him like that? Or do you want me to get law enforcement here, and you can change him back?”
I considered his question. “I’m not sure. He admitted he’d killed, but without details, do you think they’d have to let him go?” If he was able to make bail, I knew he’d disappear. I wasn’t willing to risk it.
“There’s no way to know for sure. I’m okay either way.”
I reached down and touched the rough stone of his shoulder and concentrated. I was hoping the murders would be at the surface of his thoughts, and I’d be able to get some information to give the police. Once I had all the information I could get, I pushed as hard as I could, tipping him over. The statue cracked into several large pieces.
“Hungry?” Luke asked, throwing his arm around my shoulders.
“I could eat.” I smiled as we headed out.