Before I even opened my eyes, I was smiling. It was finally over. This stupid charade was over. And Atë was out of Tartarus! Atë! My eyes flew open, and my arm reached out, fisting nothing but silk sheets. I sat up in bed, quickly looking behind me. Where was she? The hairs stood up on the back of my neck. I was having deja vu. My nightmare came flooding back. Where was she?
I ripped the sheets back, swung my feet out of bed, and immediately started searching the destroyed penthouse for her. The place was empty. Maybe she went to grab us breakfast? Does she eat breakfast? I don’t even know. Maybe I should call down for some? Wait, Atë killed the front desk people…so there’s no one to bring us breakfast. Why hadn’t the mortal police brigade shown up yet? Puzzler.
I went to the kitchen to see what I could scrounge up. I’m sure Atë would be back soon. She must have realized there would be no one to help us, so she went to get food. Sure. I fought back the feelings of insecurity. I’m the God of Darkness. I don’t get insecure. I had never felt this way before. I didn’t even know if that was what I was feeling. I found the espresso machine and made myself a cup. I was about to go out to the rooftop terrace, then remembered Amy was out there. I couldn’t help but feel bad for her. But such is a mortal life. Things happened every day, and clearly, her number was up. Of course, I felt guilty, but these women had to know the risk when signing up for a show to date an immortal, didn’t they?
I finished my coffee, and Atë still had not returned. I closed my eyes, hoping I could feel her? But I felt nothing. Maybe I should send her a text? No, you idiot, you should call. What do I say to her? You were impressive last night? No! You took me on quite the ride last night. I snorted to myself. I was awful at this. Last night was beyond hot. Dude, give up. I got dressed as best I could. All the buttons were missing from my shirt. A slow smile spread across my face as I replayed the moment Atë ripped my it open the night before. I grabbed my phone, texting her.
Erebus: You owe me a shirt.
I stared at my phone, waiting for the little bubbles of a reply to appear. A minute passed, then two, then three. Frustrated, I threw my phone into the pillows. Whatever. This is ridiculous. What am I doing? I don’t pine after women. I’m not pining…and she’s not just any woman. I stood back, looking at my reflection in a broken mirror. Did I do something wrong? I thought everything was going well?
My phone buzzed from underneath the cushions. My black shadows spread out underneath the pillows, searching for it. They curled around it like an extension of my hand. I glanced at the screen, a snarl escaping my lips.
It wasn’t her.
Chuck. Apparently, the show had stopped production. No shit. I rolled my eyes, ignoring his message. The network was calling me out for abandoning the show. If they only knew the truth. I took another look at the destroyed penthouse. It was time to leave.
In the lobby, I skirted the men in suits circling around the front office. They looked like Feds. Ducking my head, I slipped out the front door before I was spotted. Maybe Atë was still pissed off and setting me up? Classic femme fatale. Did I really just fall for the oldest trick in the book? She distracted me with sex, pinning me with murder, all so she could send me to mortal jail. Was this all payback for Tartarus? Tit for Tat, I suppose. It was a game of cat and mouse to her. She locked me up in that ridiculous dream realm of high school, then I helped lock her in Tartarus, and now she is getting her revenge. I mean, it is Atë. Full of surprises, that one. The corners of my mouth twitched as I was reminded of Italy. If she wanted to play, we could play. I let my smile come to fruition.
I made my way down the street to the God Complex. I needed a change of clothes. If I were going to find Atë, I’d rather be in a shirt that actually had buttons. In my flat on the 14th floor, I quickly grabbed a few things before heading back out. Thankfully, Olympia wasn’t that large, and it shouldn’t be too hard to find her. She would be causing chaos, no doubt. My phone buzzed with a text from Athena.
Athena: You should probably stay low for the day. I’m cleaning up the mess left behind. Don’t worry. I’ll cover for you.
Great, even Athena thought I was behind this. I tucked my phone in my pants pocket. I didn’t know if I should be irritated or if I should laugh. No matter, it’s not like I hadn’t been in trouble with mortal authorities before. I wonder how many people knew that Atë was out of Tartarus? My mind went to all the social media warnings I received during filming. All that time, I thought Eros was pulling one over on me. I let out a snort. I’d played the fool one time too many. With that thought, I headed out on the hunt.
As I walked down the streets of Greece, my mind wandered to the night before with Atë. Her lips and how she tasted in my mouth. Her supple skin beneath my hands. It was hard to believe any of it was real now.
After several hours of searching, I gave up. My mind wasn’t into it, not when my head was being flooded with images and thoughts from the night before. I’d have to look for her tomorrow when I’d had time to process the last 24 hours. I went back to the flat and settled in. It had been a while since I was last home, so it took me a few minutes to realize my new roommate seemed to be missing.
“Ebhot?” I called out.
It was very unusual for him not to greet me at the door, and even more so for him not to come when I called. My shadows dispersed into every corner of the flat.
I jumped up from the couch. “Ebhot?” I wasn’t sure why I kept calling his name. I knew deep down that he wasn’t here. My shadows returned to my side, coming back from their search empty. He was gone. She took him, or he went back to her. She was his real master, after all. My shoulders slumped. I was alone with my thoughts. Never a good idea. I jumped up from the couch. I needed to go see someone.
I rode the elevator up to the 69th floor. Eros and Clio. My impatience grew as I knocked and then ran a hand through my hair. The door swung open. Eros looked stunned.
“Thank, Rhea, you’re here!” he said, yanking me inside.
I was slightly confused by his reaction.
“Aren, it’s Erebus!”
Clio appeared, wobbling slowly from the bedroom. She had grown a tiny beach ball since the last time I had seen her. Her face searched mine before asking me how I was.
“I’ve been better.” I tried cracking a smile. I looked back to Eros, “What’s with you? Why are you yanking me in like that?”
Clio stood back on her heels, crossing her arms. “Yes, Lykos, why are you yanking him?”
Eros seemed to go pale. “No reason.” He sighed, letting out a loud whistle. “No reason at all…Drink? Water? I’m going to get drinks,” he said to me before disappearing into the kitchen.
Clio and I walked further in, getting comfortable in the living room. Why did Eros seem anxious?
I gave my head a shake. I called out to him, “I’ll have whatever you’re having.”
Eros returned with a whiskey for me and water for Clio. He proceeded to look me up and down. I couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking.
“You look less happy than Attie looked.”
I sat up at the mention of her name. “You’ve seen her? She was here? When?”
Eros cocked his head. “She came to brunch after she tried to kill me.”
I felt slightly relieved, if only for a brief moment. “So, it wasn’t just me then?”
Clio spit out her water. “Wait. What?”
Eros smirked. “Afraid you’re not special, E? You can be assured though, we didn’t fuck afterward.” Eros sat down beside Clio, patting her leg. “I’m fine. The office is a wreck, though.”
Clio whacked his hand away. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Eros looked back and forth between us. “Because she failed,” he said casually.
I cleared my throat, trying to bring the conversation back to Atë and me. “So, you haven’t seen her since then?” I tried not to give off too much desperation, but was failing.
Eros shook his head. “Negative, not since about noon.”
Clio was chewing on her lip. “Why?” Her brow furrowed. “Has something else happened?”
I leaned back, sucking in a deep breath before spilling everything…almost everything.
“Well…the show is over. Amy is dead. She was the last girl. I wasn’t going to pick her or anything. In fact, I wasn’t going to pick anyone. I decided last night…” I paused. Both Clio and Eros were sitting on the edge of their seats. “I came up with a plan that consisted of me quitting the show and going to Tartarus to get Atë out. But when I went to call it off with Amy, I found her dead, and Atë was there.” I scratched my head. “I still don’t understand how she got out.”
Clio smiled devilishly at her husband. “Yes…how did she get out?”
Eros’ lips twitched. “She’s been out for a while. She came here, and uh…found out about the show.”
Clio shifted in her seat, rubbing her belly subconsciously, while muttering under breath, “I always disliked that idea.”
“So, that’s why she was mad at you?”
Eros smirked. “She’s not a fan of my schemes when they involve her.”
Clio glared at Eros. “You deserved it then.”
I could see that the pregnancy was wearing on Clio.
Eros scoffed, confirming my sentiments. “You’re mean with this pregnancy. What happened to my sweet Aren?”
I looked down at Clio’s growing belly, hesitant to ask. “How much longer?”
Clio rubbed her belly in circles, ignoring Eros’ comment. “Two months. But you didn’t come here to make small talk, right?”
Eyeing Clio, I took a sip from my glass. The whiskey burned the back of my throat. I had danced around the topic long enough. Without giving them any details of what happened the night before, I admitted to being confused. “You guys told me she didn’t like me. She told me she didn’t like me. So why is she so pissed at me then? I don’t understand.”
Eros choked on his drink. “Are you serious?”
My forehead wrinkled. “Yes, completely.”
Clio’s fury at her husband only seemed to grow. She gave him another whack on the leg. “Erebus, I never said that she didn’t like you. That was my husband.”
“Yeah,” Eros spoke to Clio. “I said she didn’t like him, because she clearly loves him.” Turning his attention to me, he added, “Atë is not a roses and chocolates kind of girl.”
Clio shook her head in agreement. “She isn’t.”
I sat still, taking in the words that bounced around in my head. I remembered every minute from the night before. Then I thought of the empty bed this morning and the destroyed penthouse. “She is not in love with me.”
Eros snickered. I felt like I was missing something.
“She’s been in love with you since pretty much the moment I met her.”
Clio’s brow furrowed as she looked at Eros. “Truly?”
My eyes shot to Eros accusingly. “Did you dart her?”
“No. All feelings are her own, and yes, truly. She’s had a crush since she first met you, but she couldn’t do anything cause you were married.”
“Then you weren’t, but you know those pesky things like Tartarus got in the way.”
I looked away, ashamed of what happened. “Well, if she did, I don’t think she does anymore.”
Eros rolled his eyes. “Attie is stubborn, sooo stubborn. You two would have danced around each other for another millennia or two if I hadn’t stepped in. She needed a reason to confront her feelings, and you needed to realize that you were ready to face the disapproval of our family to be with her. So, I sent you on the show and got Attie out of Tartarus.” He shrugged. “Simple enough, really.”
Clio sat silently, sipping her water nonchalantly, as if her husband hadn’t just dropped a bomb of information.
“You let her out?! Don’t you think a little heads up would have been nice? Or better yet, stopped me from doing that ridiculous show!” I yelled, irritated by my friend.
Eros pointed to Clio’s stomach. “Was. Busy. Piranhas in the bathtub, pickles in the shower.”
I didn’t care for his excuses. “Yeah, thanks, buddy. I’ll remember that when you’re crying from having no sleep and are desperate for a babysitter.”
Clio pouted. “Hey, that’s not fair. I didn’t do anything.”
Eros put his arm around his pregnant wife. “Yeah, think about her,” he said with a smirk.
“Fine, I’ll take her and leave you with the little gremlins.”
Clio smiled, sitting back into the couch. “Oh, I like this idea.”
Eros’ mouth dropped in fake shock. “And here I was about to offer my help.” He stood from the couch in mock outrage.
But I sat up at the word help. When it came to Atë, I would take any advice I could get. “Help? How do I fix it? Do you think I still can?”
Eros looked to Clio. “What do you think, Aren? You think she’ll forgive him?”
I sat on the edge of the couch now, waiting for Clio to respond. Clio and Atë had been best friends. If anyone could guess how to make things right, it would be Clio. “For being a god that was in the longest marriage, let’s face it, I suck at romance.”
I was sure Clio felt sympathetic to me. She loved a great love story.
“Don’t give up on her. No matter how hard she pushes and says she doesn’t care. Don’t give up. It will take time, but I know it will work out.” She gave me a small smile.
I downed the rest of my drink. I learned a lot tonight. Maybe I already knew, but refused to see the truth all this time. And for that, I will be forever sorry for my actions.
“I will never push her away again.” I looked back and forth between the two, my tone serious. “If either of you leak a word of this…I have a reputation.”
Clio giggled as she pretended to zip her lips closed.
Eros frowned. “Don’t tell her I’m the one who got her out. I don’t want her owing me.”
I stood from the couch. “Deal.”
Both Eros and Clio stood, Clio slipped her hand into Eros’ reaching up and kissing him on the cheek. “Oh, one more thing,” Eros said and disappeared into the kitchen again.
I walked to the front door, turning back to face Clio. “If she comes by…can you let her know I’m sorry?”
Eros returned with something in his hand. “Baby shower for the raptors, bring a gift.” He smacked the invitation against my chest. “And I have a feeling you’ll be seeing her first.”
Looking the invitation over, I grinned. “Baby raptors, huh? I like it.”
Clio leaned up against Eros and smiled back at me. “Good luck Erebus.”
The next morning, I still hadn’t heard back from Atë. She’s pissed and had every right to be, if what Clio said was true. I had some serious reservations about mending any fences. Any excuses I made, up to this point, were null and void. I would have to do better in the future if I wanted to correct the stupid decisions I had made this last month and a half. For now, I just wanted to know that she was okay.
It took me the better part of the morning, but I found her. It looked as though she had been on a shopping spree. She was carrying half a dozen bags. Retail therapy, really? Murder spree, epic fight, sex, and shopping. I shrugged to myself. Yeah, that sounded about right. I didn’t want to interrupt what seemed to be a carefree morning for her. Now that she was out, I had all the time in the world to figure out what she was up to.