I’m going to ignore him. His challenge is not going to work. I’m not returning to Olympus, no matter the temptation. But that strange pain in my chest has only gotten worse. I’m sitting on the porch of my Malibu beach house, relaxing in the sun, at peace with the sounds of the waves hitting the shore. All I can think about is Zeus’s challenge. He still knows me too well, even after all these years.
I could pop over for a visit, and be home in time for the next live show. Technically, I have finished all my pressing work until the live season finale, which is almost two months away.
Why can he still do this to me? Get under my skin with only a couple of words?
Grabbing the closest thing to me – a strange marble figurine I’m not sure when or where I purchased – and hurling it into the sea, the object moving faster than the mortal eye could follow.
It falls somewhere into the waves on the horizon, and I can almost hear my great-uncle grunt with annoyance. It used to be my sole aim in life to pester them. They made it too easy and were too big of targets, but now…things are different.
Sighing heavily, I fall back down onto the lounge chair I previously vacated, hearing Din and Las prodding up next to me, likely having just finished their dinner. The cats’ loud purring comforts me, their big bodies coming closer to mine.
Wait, what? I’m sure you’re thinking. Weren’t Din and Las the names of Eros’ little kittens? Well, they are, sometimes. You see, my brother is not the only one who is friends with mischievous gods. Ate gave me the pair before I left, winking as she did so. The goddess of mischief and delusion held a special place in my heart, though my tricks were always more light hearted than hers. But the bond of mischief gods runs deep, so I accepted them without question.
After all, what’s a gift between two tricksters? I didn’t know until a month later that they were not what they seemed. Imagine walking into your room on Olympus, finding two white tigers lounging on your bed, and they leap at you. Would you react calmly? I remember a girlish shriek ripped from my throat when they landed on me, taking me to the ground, licking my face in greeting.
In hindsight, it was an amazing prank. I did not believe so at the time.
Now with two kittens who change into massive tigers at will, they needed names. I lived to rile up my brother, Dinlas, so I named them after him, keeping it a secret from my irritable brother. The slight, little white kittens from the set earlier – much more subtle than a pair of wolves, if you ask me – could actually become large white tigers, though I can’t control them as well as Dinlas does with Hate and Jealousy.
Uncontrollable pair of kittens that shift into white tigers unexpectedly? Would you expect anything else of me?
Din and Las curled up next to my chair, tanning themselves in the sun’s rays, their claws digging into my deck as they positioned themselves. Patting Din’s stomach affectionately, my mind drifts back to Zeus’s challenge and the strange ache in my chest that won’t go away. Grinding my teeth, hating that he knew me so well. Still. After all these years. He knew this stupid challenge and this stupid ache would call me home more than any threat.
Curiosity. My ultimate weakness. Damn it.
I tunnel my fingers into my dark hair, gripping the strands, as if doing so would suddenly free me of this compulsive need to investigate Zeus’ taunt. I could just imagine showing up in Greece, in front of the no doubt hideous monstrosity he’s constructed to house us all. Would my mother wait impatiently on the doorstep, hoping to make amends for past wrongs? Would my father be there? My siblings?
How long would they be able to avoid poking at the shield I’ve built around my heart? Would it crumble immediately at the sight of them? The memories that link me to them? The ones I fled from?
Unbidden, my eyes drift to the arrows and quiver that are never far from me.
Damn it, why does Zeus have to be right?