Looking down at my evening dress, all I can think is how the hells did I get myself into this? I fidget with the sequins and think about how ridiculous it is that I am on a dating show. 

Most of the women have to share a room, but because I am here for a different reason, I get my own suite. The other women don’t like it, and I don’t give a damn. 

While packing for the cruise Medusa and I were taking, I’d received a phone call from my contact in the FBI. I wanted to spend as much time with her as possible. It’s not every day that an old flame is brought back to life, complete with her head reattached. It’s a long story. 

Alex is like my handler, except I don’t often listen to him. But the tone that came through the receiver had me paying attention. Apparently, Erebus had decided to go on a dating show, and someone was killing off the staff and contestants. Honestly, if I didn’t know that Atë was in Tartarus, I would have said she was responsible. 

The thought of Atë makes my stomach twist. I know she created all manner of chaos and problems, but she is still family. Her stay in the god’s version of prison will not be kind to her already unraveling mind. Perhaps that is why Erebus is doing the show. Maybe he is trying to help ease his loss. Hopefully, this will be good for him. At least it will be good for him as long as Atë doesn’t know.

I had the grand, dramatic entrance that any goddess should have. The women were awestruck, and their jaws dropped as I made myself known. I wanted to remind them that they’re supposed to be ladies and might want to tuck their envy away.

I had my one-on-one date with Erebus. We flirted and had naked massages. Honestly, if the lady running the establishment hadn’t come in, the reality television show may have become a pornographic episode. The next portion of our date was in the hot tub. I was surprised that the producers didn’t change the setting after our naked shenanigans. I was nervous as I joined him. Erebus was already sitting in the bubbling water. He gave me his dazzling smile, and for the first time, I really looked at him. He really was a handsome god. How could I have missed that? I had known him for eons and never really saw him. I chuckled as I entered the hot tub.

“What?” he asked me.

“I was just thinking to myself that I have never noticed how handsome you are.” I smile as I adjusted to the temperature and felt myself relax. 

A woman who worked on the show brought us some delicious fruity drinks. I usually wasn’t one for the fru-fru stuff, but damn, those drinks were delicious. We talked for what seemed like hours. Somewhere in between, the cameras disappeared. I guess they realize that there wouldn’t be any more naked wrestling. 

I truly enjoyed his company. I hadn’t realized just how much we had in common. He isn’t just a pretty face. He is smart, funny, and caring. There is a big heart underneath all the shadows and darkness. I can see why Atë loves him. I can also see why I can not take this any further. I have had love taken from me and refuse to do it to her. 

Don’t get me wrong. He has one hells of a body, and if he were anyone else, I might even consider seducing him into the thralls of passion and sweet release that accompanies it. But he isn’t another man. He is Erebus…Atë’s Erebus. 

Shaking the memories from my mind, I place the shoes by the bed and toss a matching purse beside them before going to get a quick shower. If I was going to look like an idiot on national television, I might as well sparkle.

I exit the bathroom wrapped in nothing but one of the plush towels. After being shipwrecked on an island full of psychotic natives, I feel the need to indulge in comfort and luxury. 

Perhaps I will spend some time by the pool before I go to see Erebus again. I really enjoy his company, but not in the way that the other women here do. 

As soon as my feet hit the plush carpeting of the room, I can feel it. The little hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and I grab my .45mm Taurus from the table with lightning speed, aiming it at my intruder.

A woman with long dark hair is crouching next to my suitcases, helping herself to their contents. Bits of garments fly playfully through the air and land soundlessly on the bed.

“Seriously? These are all practically beach outfits and sleazy nightwear,” she mumbles and picks up one of my lace undergarments, looking at it closely.

“Ooohhh, but this…gorgeous,” she continues to mutter. Her voice is too low to make out much more, and the darkness of the room doesn’t give me much advantage. It’s also hard to look tough in nothing but a towel.

“Can I help you with something?” I say loudly, but my intruder doesn’t even flinch.

“Miss, you have the wrong room.” My gun sights are trained on her just in case I need to, or just feel like, redecorating her.

“Miss?” she says as she turns to look at me. She is almost unrecognizable from the woman that I know.

“Shit, Atë, I almost shot you! A bullet to the face hurts like a son-of-a-bitch. When did you get out?!” I exclaim a little more excited than I care to admit. I move to the table that is now covered with my stuff and transfer everything to the bed. 

“I see you raided my minibar. Care for something better?” I smirk as I pull out a twenty-five-year scotch and two glasses. I pour the caramel-colored liquid into each.

“Sit and have a drink with me. You can raid my closet after.”

She shrugs and stands from what is left of my luggage and walks over to the table.

I hand her a glass, and she moves to the window. She sniffs the scotch cautiously. I take a sip of my own to show her that it’s not tampered with. Her calm rage only quelled by her insanity. I am sure we can thank her stay in Tartarus for that. I choose my words wisely, not out of fear but out of love. The last thing she needs right now is more fighting. She needs someone to show her they give a damn about her, no matter how she acts out. Not to mention the destruction from our fight would be catastrophic. I am sure my boys in the FBI would love that. I can hear the, you had one job, already. 

“So, Atë, why are you here?” One simple question at a time. I am unsure how much damage her stay in Tartarus has done and even less sure that she was simply let out rather than escaped. Was she on the run? My family would be pissed at me, but I would not be the one turning her in. There are some things that you just don’t do to family…at least I don’t.

She stares out the window coldly.

“Me? Business.” She takes a sip on the drink and tries to hide how good it is. “But the question is, why are you here? Dating pool that thin, War Goddess? Isn’t a dating show a little tacky for you?” She laughs coldly, never taking her gaze off of the window.

“Are you thinking of joining the show? That would make them shit their pants.” Neither of us laugh.

She turns to face me for the first time since I walked out of the bathroom.

“Something like that.” She stares me down. “I see you are having fun, though. A little naked wrestling with the God of Darkness. You know they have cameras everywhere?” She moves back to the table and takes a seat, crossing her ankles.

Unless you knew her, you would never know the crazy there is underneath that beautiful exterior. My heart hurts for her. I want to help. And not just her, but both of them. They both are so lost right now. Each is loving the other completely, but unwilling to admit it. I know how that feels, and it is not an emotion that I would wish upon anyone. I stare at her as she continues, “Especially when you get inside the head of the crew and corrupt them to do your bidding…” 

“Yes, I know there are cameras. I had to sell it. To explain why I am here. Ratings and all that. But it’s not why I am here.” I sit down in front of her. This was going to be a long night, but this is Atë… Erebus’ Atë. I have to help her, help them both. Normally I would be a sarcastic bitch right about now, but that isn’t going to help anyone.

She folds her arms in front of her. “So you’re telling me you travel all the way here just to talk to Erebus? Bullshit. What is the Goddess of Wisdom, war, and your ridiculous number of other titles, doing here?” 

I try to stifle a laugh at her description. I refill my drink and offer her more before I answer.

“Relax, Atë. I am not here for him…not unless he is going around killing people. He and I are just friends. He is nice to look at, but I have my eyes on someone else. It’s those other hussies I would be concerned with.”

She folds her arms tighter around herself and arches an eyebrow. “I’m not worried about the mortal bimbos…I have a plan for them. But you…you’re not here for him? At all? I saw everything. The laughing, the flirting, the…” The pain is evident on her face. Gods damn it. I don’t want to hurt her. I don’t want to hurt either of them. 

“Atë I am here on a case. The FBI called me. They have a murderer here and needed someone to go undercover. I would never do that to you. I shouldn’t even be telling you this, but I am stretched thin at the moment, and two goddesses are better than one. I am here undercover. I know how it looked, but I am not here for him, Atë.”

“Well, I know the latter is true because I have your pet, Anthony…or Alex. Whatever.” She pulls out her phone, and the screen illuminates to show Alex tied up and unconscious in a chair. Next to him is the producer of the show with a gun held to his head.

“Well, shit… I am never going to live this down. You really want the FBI breathing down your beautiful neck? You know you have to let him go. Damn it, Atë, this is going to be a fucking headache to fix when I finish with the case.”

She stares at me for a moment.

“How do I know you are not lying to me? That you are not here for him?” Her pain drips from every word, and it kills me to know that I am adding to it.

“Atë, I have never lied to you and don’t have reason to start now. I am here on a case. Some of us are actually trying to save the mortal world. At least most of them. The assholes can die. You know what I do for work. I would be wining and dining Medusa or the handsome Captain if there wasn’t some psycho killing off contestants.”

Her gaze doesn’t falter. “I’m not going to stop. He and I have unfinished business. So tell me then, Thena. We’re does that leave us? You need to catch a bad guy, and I need to get rid of anyone who touches him. You know, like that old saying, If I can’t have him, no one can.”

“Have you tried telling him how you feel instead of pushing him away? You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Sure, a rotting corpse catches twice as many, but then you will come out smelling too. This will accomplish nothing.” I really didn’t want to ask the next question. Honesty, I didn’t want it to be her.

“Atë, are you killing off the contestants?”

“You’re the Goddess of wisdom, you tell me, Theena. What’s it going to be? Just leave, and you can have your mortal Alex back. I’ll even throw in a grand prize of giving you someone to blame for your little mortal case.” 

“Atë, I can’t help you if you are not going to let me. Are you the one killing them?” I try to wait but soon run out of patience.

“Really, have you lost your mind? What are you thinking going around killing people? This isn’t going to solve anything. You can’t kill the world in hopes that he never moves on.”

Her eyes start to glow gold with flakes of ember fire in them as she clenches her teeth. “I gave up on people caring about me centuries ago, Thena. And that’s the problem. He snuck in…made me feel and then moved on in a fucking month. You want to help me? Take my deal and leave. I’ll give you someone to blame. But this…there is no happy ending in sight. He made sure of that the minute he left me in Tartarus to rot.”.

“I am sorry, Atë. I know that you are heartbroken, but this is not the way. You can’t just go around murdering mortals and expect no one to notice.”

“I told you what I want, and I will kill anyone who gets in my way. It’s not personal, just business.” 

“That’s the exact definition of personal, Atë. This isn’t business. You are broken-hearted and letting your rage loose on anyone who gets close to him.”

Atë doesn’t waiver. “Are you going to take the deal or not? I have places to be.”

“Atë, I can’t leave, and the killings continue. You understand that, right?”

She rolls her eyes, sighing. “Okay, fine, how about I only kill Erebus and all your precious mortals get to live? Deal?” I really wish I could take her offer.

“Atë, I think that’s between you and Erebus. I don’t think you really want to kill him. At least not violently.” I wiggle my eyebrows, suggesting they fight it out another more intimate way.

“No more naked wrestling, you have my word. If I had known you were watching, I would have approached it differently. Only because I know it hurts you. Once he votes me off, as long as I have a perp and the killings don’t continue, you have a deal. And you have to release Alex.”

A slow, wicked grin spreads across her face as she picks up her phone.

“Helen, please wake up Mr. Alex and take him home. Thena just made me an offer I can’t refuse.” The comment brings an involuntary burst of laughter.

I can’t help the burst of laughter, and still grinning offer, “So now that that’s settled, would you like more to drink?” She accepts, and for a few moments, we laugh and chat like old friends. For that short time, we are not broken. There are no murders, and life doesn’t seem so terrible. For a moment, we are all fine, and I wish that it would last forever.

Athena (Rainbow Brubaker)
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