“This is insane, Cassandra. I mean, a part of you realizes this, right?” Kieve crossed his arms, watching as I spread out the tools I’d purchased from the shop. Crystals, herbs, and strange liquids I couldn’t safely say were not blood surrounded me on the floor.
I glared at him. “Listen, you can go if you want. You might not even be real, either.”
He sighed, exasperated. “Oh yeah, like I can leave you in some strange hotel room after fainting, manically doing witchcraft because some crazy shopkeeper thinks we’re Greek Gods. Plus, last I checked, I was real.”
“Then be quiet,” I commanded, spreading the black salt in a circle on the hotel carpet. I knew it sounded crazy. I knew that taking the advice of some witchy shopkeeper, wearing hippie clothes, and smelling of marijuana was probably not the best idea. But something wasn’t right. I knew it as soon as she said the name Hekate. It felt like a lingering dream, one that you just can’t remember fully.
Kieve knelt to be at my level and found my eyes. They were generally our favorite attributes about each other, but now I found it hard to look back. He put a finger under my chin and gently forced me to meet his gaze. “How can I help you?”
I shook him off and looked at the crumpled notebook paper in my hand, trying to make out the shopkeeper’s handwriting. “Can you get some water out of the bathroom?” I asked.
“Yep.” He rose.
I stood. I reached up and pulled his lips to mine. He didn’t resist, his mouth warm and soft as I kissed him.
“What was that for?” he asked after I broke away.
I didn’t respond right away. Instead, I took a minute to drink him in, examining the slope of his nose, the shape of his lips, the way his eyes softened when he looked into mine. The way his messy hair brushed his shoulders. His scruff. Even his damn earlobes. Uncharacteristic emotion rose in my throat, and I stubbornly swallowed it down. “I don’t think you and I have the best history where I’ll be going.”
He smirked. “Worse than being with other people and forced to sneak around like teenagers?”
“Yeah, I think it might be a lot worse.”
He looked thoughtful. “Maybe we can just stay here? Do we have to turn back into what we were—gods or whatever?”
I glanced down at the ritual I was setting up. The candle flames shivered. I noticed what I swore was something shimmering around the items, almost like a thin purple cloud. Maybe he was right. Maybe I could just stay. My life wasn’t terrible. I had money, a successful career…a kind of husband. A hot, younger man as my paramour. What did I have in my other life? Immortality? Power?
My thoughts were broken by the sound of howling dogs. I startled, turning back to Kieve.
He was gone.
I cried out and reached for him in a panic, but there was nothing left but swirling clouds of ash. Before I could react, the building shuddered like an earthquake hit, the hotel windows and mirrors shattering in an explosion of glass. I crouched on the floor, shielding my body as shards nicked and scraped at my skin. I heard wailing souls, smelled autumn leaves and bonfires. My skin tingled, and my body ached with the sensation of being pulled.
And then, miraculously, I woke up.
I was in a warehouse, the place where I’d originally fallen out. The vestiges of the party illusion were scattered around the floor, including pieces of glass from broken mirrors. It was also littered with groaning, rousing gods still dressed in party clothes. It smelled of spilled, stale alcohol, and the sun peeked through a cracked open door.
I saw Ate next to me, rubbing her head. She looked up at me, and all my memories came flooding back. I was Hekate again.
“What happened?” I sputtered.
She looked about as dazed as I felt. “I don’t know, but we need to get out of here.”
We linked hands and simultaneously ported, landing in the safest place I knew—my house in the Underworld. My mind was a wreck. I was a relatively strong goddess but after days of being under Phobetor’s Nightmare Spell and then stuck for who knows how long in a life that was not mine, it was proving to be a bit much.
Ate looked off. Her normally fiery eyes cooled to a low shimmer. “What was your life?” she asked.
I snorted. “Some hotshot publisher/actress from New York. Banging Phobetor, again. But a younger version…which was kind of nice, actually.”
Ate snickered. “Of course you were.”
“What about you?” I asked.
She tried to look indifferent, but I could see traces of emotion on her face. “I was married. With kids. Pregnant, too.”
I blinked. “Wow.”
She offered an air of dismissal, fluffing her hair and straightening her skirt.
“Anyway. Let’s get back to business. We have some hearts to rip out.”
I nodded, pushing the whole Nikolas/Phobetor/Kieve mess out of my mind. It was time to end this, once and for all.