A cult. It was a freaking cult.
I must have been muttering aloud because Luca shot a glare my way and hissed, “It’s not a cult. It’s only two meetings a month.”
It was most definitely a cult, but so far, it seemed harmless enough. At least it would have been if they hadn’t been using my name. Movement in the periphery caught my attention, and I noticed several cloaked figures moving silently along the walls. I was still stunned that the party had turned into a cult meeting and couldn’t do anything other than gape open-mouthed. I knew I should do something. At least I thought I should. So far, they hadn’t done anything other than standing around looking stupid and whispering to each other. Nothing I had seen tonight had given me any clues to the crumbled statues that had been popping up all over, though.
Luca wrapped his arm around me and pulled me close, tucking me against his side. “Stand up straight and smile. They’re coming.”
I stiffened, the orders grating on my last nerve, but did as he asked. I felt ridiculous, and just as I was about to say so, all of the candles winked out. Well, that was a nifty little trick. I wonder how they did it.
Four women in long silk robes walked up onto a platform and stood with their heads bowed, their faces hidden behind the oversized hoods on their cloaks. Everyone in the room quieted, some even going to their knees. I’d smile, but there was no way in hell I was going to get on the ground for these imposters.
Next to me, Luca dropped his arm and grabbed my hand, holding it tightly. As one, the women lifted their heads and lowered their hoods. I didn’t know what I was expecting, but I was disappointed. They were just women, normal women. Yes, they were beautiful, but to have a room full of followers on their knees? I just didn’t see it.
Luca’s grip tightened, and I cut my eyes over to him. He looked like he was ready to burst from excitement, and I wondered what was supposed to happen. The women stepped down and slowly began moving throughout the huge room. Everyone stood still while they…examined them? What the hell was going on?
Every so often, one of them would speak softly to someone, and they would leave. Every time someone left, Luca’s grip tightened. I pulled my hand free and glared at him. His eyes widened, and I looked over my shoulder to see one of the women walking up to us.
She leaned in close, and I could feel her breath on my cheek as she said, “You are chosen, my child.” I looked to Luca for guidance. What the hell was that supposed to mean? He gestured for me to leave through the same exit as the others had. I froze, unsure of what to do. Should I leave and say nothing, or release my snakes and show them who I was?
Luca shoved me, and I stumbled. How had I thought he was the sweet one? I couldn’t decide what to do, so even though it grated, I did as I was told.
I found myself in a dimly lit room filled with several beautiful women. Looking around, I noted that there were no men chosen. Odd, I would have thought that since it was women doing the choosing, there would have been at least a few men.
No one spoke, so I kept quiet and waited. It was killing me just standing there doing nothing, but I worried about making a move too soon. And I would definitely be making a move. I wasn’t sure what that move would be yet, though. Everything could still end up being completely harmless. I wasn’t happy with my name being used, but other than finding out what the crumbled statues were and who was responsible, there wasn’t much left for me to do.
Finally, the four women entered. They shared some knowing glances then directed their attention towards me and the others waiting.
“Welcome,” the first said.
“You have been chosen,” said the second.
“You are worthy of the gods,” the third whispered.
I barely repressed an eye roll and forced my snakes to remain calm.
The fourth woman stepped forward. “You will receive a gift from the goddess herself. She speaks through us and has chosen you. Share this with no one. For her gifts are only for the worthy.”
One of the women standing next to me actually whimpered. I cut my eyes toward her, and she looked like she was about to burst into tears.
The woman continued, “Bow and receive your blessings.”
The other women dropped to their knees. Since there was no way in hell I was getting on my knees for anyone, I only bowed my head. If it wasn’t good enough for them, then they’d find out what the real Medusa would bestow upon them.
The first woman moved to stand in front of me. “You do not fall to your knees?”
I bit my tongue, unable to respond without showing them who I was.
“You are strong. You will receive the first gift. As our mother Medusa respects strength above all else.” Her hand disappeared into the folds of her cloak, retrieving something that she then held out in her closed fist.
I met her eyes and waited.
“This is for you and you alone. It will bring you power as you’ve never known. Cherish it always and know that the goddess Medusa and her power shines down upon you.”
Assuming she expected me to, I bowed my head once more. Curiosity had me holding my tongue and holding out my hand. There wasn’t anything I could give anyone that would contain any power, so I couldn’t wait to see what they had.
Slowly, she opened her hand, and something small dropped onto my palm. It was so small, I couldn’t even feel its weight. I closed my hand over the object and watched as she repeated the action to each of the others standing next to me. After each of us had our blessing, we were led out of the house. I kept my hand closed, afraid I’d drop whatever the object was because it felt so small.
The other women left quickly, probably finding their cars or the people they had arrived with. I debated what to do. I could just teleport out of here and leave Luca and the cult to find out what I had been given. Or I could wait and see if anything else happened at the party.
The choice was made for me when Luca found me moments later. He wrapped me in a bear hug and spun me. “I knew it would be you. You were the most beautiful woman there!” he said laughing and finally set me on my feet. “Let me see it.”
I stepped back and put my closed fist behind my back, unwilling to show him whatever it was before I had a chance to examine it. “I’m not supposed to show anyone,” I replied, repeating what I had been told.
He stepped forward, reaching for me. “Don’t play games. Give it to me.”
My snakes hissed, fighting free of the bun, but thankfully Luca was so focused on trying to see my hand he didn’t notice. “Okay, okay, wait just a second.” I was trying to stall for time. I should have teleported out when I had the chance, and since I didn’t want to give away my true identity, I couldn’t do it now.
He stalked toward me, presumably to take it by force, but before he reached me, a group of people came around the corner.
I saw my chance and took it. I rushed forward and disappeared into the crowd, then teleported the moment I was sure Luca couldn’t see me.
Since I couldn’t teleport directly to my floor in the God Complex, I teleported to Luke’s house. I knew he’d be there waiting to hear from me and saw I was right when I almost knocked him over when I popped into his living room.
“Whoa! You almost gave me a heart attack! I thought you were just going to call since you wanted to handle this one on your own?” he asked the moment I materialized in front of him.
“Well, I can go home and give you a call then,” I huffed out.
He grabbed my arm. “You know I don’t want you to do that. I’m happy to see you.” He stepped closer and looked down at me. “‘I’ve missed you.”
I felt heat rush through my body at his words and took a deep breath, reminding myself why I was here in the first place. “And I missed you. But right now, we need to see what this is and figure out where to go from here.” I quickly caught Luke up on what had happened at the party, then held out my closed fist and opened it carefully, exposing a small…scale?
“Is that what I think it is?” Luke asked, disappointment dripping from his words.
“If you think it’s a snake scale, then yes, that’s exactly what it is.” We both stared at it like we were expecting it to do something. After all, it was supposed to be a gift from a goddess, right? Shouldn’t it do something?
Finally, I let out a breath and said, “It isn’t anything special. It’s just a scale.” My snakes had freed themselves from the scrunchie holding my bun in place and poked their noses at it.
Luke scratched his head. “Unless there’s some kind of magic on it, I got nothing.”
“Same.” I carefully set the scale on the kitchen table, and with a groan, sat down, defeated.
“Did you find out anything about the statues?” Luke asked.
I perked up and said, “No, I didn’t.” This was just a piece to a larger puzzle. I wasn’t going to give up. I just needed to figure out what my next step would be. “Luca obviously knew more than he let on. He was expecting this. I think we need to find out what else he knows.”
“I bet he does, and I think it’s time for you to let me help find out what that is,” Luke said, adding the last bit with a wicked smile, and I knew he was right. We were just getting started.