A leather jacket, jeans, and a midriff top made the outfit. It was about as fancy and dressed up as I was getting. Family get-togethers weren’t my thing. Ever. Not even before. Individually, the deities of Olympus were hard enough not to judge or despise, but in a collective group of mock festivity and ego? Yeah…it was better for me to avoid that altogether. Especially since I still hadn’t seen Daddy Dearest. My welcome packet had essentially said, don’t come for me unless I send for you. And he had yet to summon me.
Until this damn party invitation. He and his peacock couldn’t really strut unless we were all there to watch, I guess. Irritation bubbled in my core. I shouldn’t have come.
The truth was, when the random invite had shown up, I’d decided to accept it for one reason, and one only…the chance to put my eyes on them again.
I still had no answers. I was chasing chaos to find balance, and that was a dangerous game. I still didn’t trust myself with another face-to-face, but one could see without being face-to-face, especially at a party.
One taste wasn’t enough. You never listen, Justice.
Internally, I rolled my eyes as I leaned against a nearby evergreen. I’d been spending a lot of time in the park across from Carla’s apartment building. She wasn’t dumb, young, or trapped in a streaming television show, so her curtains were almost always closed. I didn’t actually get to see much, but I liked being close to her. Even though I had accepted I couldn’t trust myself near her until my balance was restored.
Well, she’s not really the problem. It’s April. She’s the one your blades are itching to meet.
I focused on the weight of Balance and Truth in my hands and groaned inwardly. My life was completely unhinged. My scales were tipped. I was always five seconds from raging or slicing my Ex-whatever-Carla-was’ current girlfriend to shreds. And I couldn’t do anything about it unless I figured out how to rebalance myself. I was sure I could only do that with the help of the God of Chaos. Which was great since I was also sure I couldn’t trust myself around them for fear of becoming completely unbalanced.
Or just jumping their bones, whichever form they happened to appear in.
I contemplated some of the photos I’d come across during my research and licked my lips. I groaned, closing my eyes, only to open them seconds later to the sight of April closing the shades for the day. A growl reverberated through my core, and I was extremely thankful my kopides didn’t match well with the short leather jacket I was wearing. If I had them with me…my eyes flashed silver as the growl deepened and slipped past my lips. I vanished in a dusting of stars, reappearing outside the address on the invite.
By address, I mean a minimal cryptic script that read: The Warehouse Down The Street From the GC. Because, of course, that’s what it said.
I stared in shock when I arrived. My silver eyes morphed to warm brown as the power faded from them, triggered by the sheer force of my disbelief. The place looked like a dump. I’d been expecting something swanky and upscale, like a loft. I mean, we were deities. Some things were just expected. Admittedly, the rumors I’d heard said Big Daddy Z had gotten cheap in his new mortal-loving age, so, maybe…
I glanced around, watching a few others enter. I couldn’t make out who was who, which was fine by me, but the invite had specified no mortals, so I knew all attendees were floating somewhere in the hierarchy of the powerful and crazy. I stuck to the shadows, slowly making my way inside.
Inside was…slightly better, like a trashcan with a silk liner. You could hardly tell the place was a crumbling site of destruction. The walls were draped in black silk, and tall, standing cocktail tables littered the large space that separated the three different bars. Gods and their drink.
Predictably, I made my way to find my first glass…or bottle. I didn’t know why I’d thought this was a good idea.
Kaleidoscope eyes and a horrid lack of self-awareness.
I ignored the voice, finding the darkest corner possible and melding into the shadows. I’d see what I’d see, and then I’d leave. Tonight was Carla’s yoga night, and she liked to do it with the windows open and fresh air surrounding her. I could be near her instead of with family.
Then I saw him. His boorishly cracked jokes while also pontificating. Apparently, he hadn’t been the one to throw the party. Yet, he showed up. Odd.
But I still couldn’t get a meeting. A low growl rumbled through my chest as I tried to keep the annoyance from showing on my face. He was always such a great patéras, that one. I didn’t have a chance to get too consumed by my anger because the room began to fill quickly. I was slightly in awe that so many had answered the summons and come back and showed up to this shindig. Knowing that BDZ hadn’t sent the invite made it increasingly weird that I had even been invited since I had contacted so few since my return. Ruin had been very tight-lipped over our last few meetings about who was back and who wasn’t, so surely she hadn’t sent the request.
It’s not like she was known to be a Chatty Cathy, Justice. But speaking of lips, see any you’d like to lick…again?
I hated that fucking voice. It was a taunting asshole, still separate from my internal voice but giving no indicator as to whom or what it truly belonged. Regardless, at the moment, it was pointing out the delectable chaotic inspiration now directly across the room from me.
I gulped, my heart racing as I downed the rest of my drink and slammed the glass on the table. Too close.
Turning away to walk swiftly in the other direction, I heard, “Thanny!”
I didn’t stay to hear the rest.
I grabbed another drink from the shifty-looking butler as I made my way to the other side of the party. Derelict warehouse? Only one waiter? Whoever was in charge of throwing the event definitely sucked. It was like someone said gala, and they’d thought they meant apples, and still ended up bringing in Market Fresh.
Of course, you’d be thinking of apples.
I pulled my jacket tighter, leaning back as I took note of the other walls for the first time. The place was covered in mirrors with intricate designs all over them. The designs were gorgeous and detailed. They almost looked like…
I glanced around, keying in on the other conversations. Nobody knew who’d thrown the party. Some were just excited because, apparently, we never just get together anymore.
Something was off.
That was confirmed almost seconds later as the lights in the building suddenly lowered, and loud chanting filled the room. I took a deep breath, watching as the black silk covering the walls wavered in and out. My palms itched, and I instantly wondered why the fuck I’d come to an Olympus party without Balance and Truth.
The mirrors I’d just spotted began to glow, pulsing with energy, the symbols above them lighting up further as each second ticked by. My eyes were drawn away from the center to a far section of the warehouse where a mirror glowed so brightly it seemed to tremble. Δίκη pulsed from its center like a heartbeat.
It was pulling me, calling me…
Probably shouldn’t answer that one, Justice.
Warm wetness slid across the top of my foot. The tip of his tongue snaked and curved with the tattooed design that wound its way from my middle toe to the top of my melanin-rich brown thigh. The design was of a toe ring, morphing into a snake made of barbs, its scales flashing from deep silver to green with peeks of spots of red blood, ending in a cuff around my thigh.
His tongue was now licking its way along my calf as soft pleas fell from his lips. “Please, Justine, may I stand?”
I shook my head no, just for the thrill of watching his head fall lower as the sounds of his whimpers deepened. “You’ve been bad, Elroy. What happens when men are bad and don’t do as they’re told?”
Elroy shook his head vehemently, his curly, dirty-blond tresses covering his face. “I wasn’t bad. I tried to make them pay, but them bitches banded together.” He sniffled, rocking back on his heels, so he was looking up at me. “They said they deserve healthcare, that they’re unionizing.”
I threw my head back, cackling loudly. The sole of the foot Elroy had just kissed came up and caused a crunching sound as it connected with his nose.
Blood gushed everywhere. The dark red hue coating his pale flesh, dripping along the unfortunate green of his button-down shirt, and coating the warehouse floor sent a tingle along my spine. Something about spilling a weak man’s blood had always brought me joy.
“Elroy! What happens when men are bad and don’t do as they’re told?”
Curled on his side, hand gripping his nose, he struggled to speak through tears and blood, “Th-they ar-ar…fuck, pluz don’t killmah, Justine. Please don’ killmah…”
Death wasn’t an option. There was no payment in that. But pain…pain was an option. I was looking forward to that option. I knelt slowly, moving my foot to avoid the blood trails dotting the concrete, wishing I’d kept on my boots. “Elroy…”
“Th-they ar-ar trezited luk boyz.” His reply was hard to understand, but I could still make out the second half of the mantra. Men who are bad and don’t do what they’re told are treated like boys.
I patted his head, nodding mine as I locked my hazel brown eyes with his green ones. “I don’t care about your employee complaint issues, Elroy. That’s not my department. I’m finance. Collections, if you will. You pay me…regardless.”He groaned, still trying to bracket his nose and stem the flow of blood. I stood, turning away in disgust. “Get my money, Elroy. Don’t make Big Z come down here to balance your books for you.”