As I woke, I stared at the phone on my bedside table for a few long moments. I had tracked down Amphitrite’s number. My sweet Amph, how I missed her. Of all those that might be in the God Complex, she was the only one I would allow to call me Aph or any variation. My love life might have been a complete wreck, but I would always have one of the most incredible best friends. I loved Hestia just as much, but I felt she deserved a visit in person.
If Amph was still somewhere I couldn’t reach, a text was probably my best option. My fingers froze over the screen, staring down at the blank message. What could I say to a best friend that I’d completely abandoned? I sighed before forcing my fingers to type out a basic message. The least I could do was apologize and test the waters to see how she’d react to my being back.
Me: Hey, Amph. I made it back to the GC. I miss you. Forgive me? Over coffee and sweets?
I hit send before I could delete it and panic over writing another text. I had enough genuine panic to deal with for the day.
I dressed quicker than I normally might, needing to get on with gathering information. Once I knew where he was, then I would panic over my clothes and how perfect my outfit needed to be. He’d be lucky if I didn’t show up in a crown and ballgown.
My frustration quickly rose as everyone I asked for information refused to help me. Did they think I was up to my old tricks? My intentions were pure, if a little selfish. But I hoped that by making amends and trying to work things out, Heph and I could both have peace. After the fifth obviously fake iteration of I don’t know how to get ahold of him, I decided that I would have to put that desire aside for now.
Perhaps someone that still enjoyed my company might give me information, like his number. My next thought was that I could always extend an olive branch to Ares. He was the father of our children, and we could at least find friendship together. I hoped. Though I knew how easily tempted I was, and seeing him so soon was probably the worst idea I’d had since I returned.
Before I could decide on what to do next, I felt and heard something I hadn’t in a long time. It was enough to distract me away from thoughts of former lovers. Someone was in distress and praying to…me? I knew the voice. She had been a patient for a time before I had gone on my bender. What worried me was that I knew her bad habits. I knew how reckless she could be, and I knew what I had helped her to find in the way of intimacy and coping mechanisms. While I could tell that she wasn’t praying to me by name, I could feel that it was for me. I knew she wanted my help.
I wasn’t even sure that my powers were working again, but I teleported myself to her without issue. There was no thought behind it, just a need to find her. I took a quick moment to make sure I had made it in one piece before looking about the room. My stomach churned. She was tied to a St. Andrew’s Cross, and I could tell by her screams, pleas, and beaten back that she’d been trying to make him stop for some time. She weakly uttered her safe word, which she had disclosed to me in one of our last sessions. That was enough for me to act. Before I could decide how to explain my presence, I was between them, my arm coming up as he brought the cane down. It broke across my skin and stung for a mere moment before my other hand wrapped around his throat.
“Does the term fake dom mean anything to you? Because from what I have seen, you are very familiar with the term.”
His attempts to break my hold or hit me didn’t phase me. I was furious at his treatment of the sweet woman that had only wanted his help in dealing with her demons. Perhaps that was why my hand tightened on his throat before I had thought it through. The purple coloration of his face made me smirk for a moment before I shoved him away. He fell to the floor gasping, and I barely resisted the urge to kick him or shove the stiletto heel of my shoe through his leg.
“Go. Before I decide to make you a permanent fixture of this dungeon,” I growled out between gritted teeth. There was no satisfaction as he scurried for the door, cursing me with difficulty. He’d have a lovely bruise of my hand on his skin for a few days at least. It wasn’t enough, but it would do. For now.
Did I trust my powers to get us somewhere? No, that would not be smart with a passenger. I looked around and was relieved to see her clothes and belongings. She had a car. The best-case scenario was that she drove herself, and there would be a way for me to get her to safety. Moving quickly, I got her down from the cross and gingerly as I could, my frown deepening at the way she sagged in my arms.
She was going to be useless for information, but she needed the rest. This was the first moment that I cursed myself for never learning to drive, for just hiring a driver instead. If she hadn’t been in my arms, I would’ve hit myself. It took some shifting, but I supported her against my body with one arm while my other hand fished out my phone so I could call Micah.
One thing I loved about having my mortals was that they accepted my strangeness and requests with few questions. I paid them well for their silence, after all. Micah just took the girl from my arms, helped me wrap her up, and put her in the back of the car. He was silent all the way back to town until he needed to know where to take her.
After a moment’s thought, I said, “Tori’s. I would take her to my home, but there are rules. And I would rather not risk that male showing up at her home and making things worse.”
I felt like I had failed another person, that all I was capable of doing was failing people. I deserved worse than a cane being broken across my arm, but the self-flagellation would have to wait for another day. Lost in thought, I didn’t notice we’d arrived at Tori’s until Micah turned the car off.
“Thank you,” I murmured, quickly getting out and opening the car door for him.
Tori looked at the girl in Micah’s arms and asked, “Is the guest room okay? And does she need clothes?” I answered yes to both, loving her for her care and acceptance.
It took a few hours for her to wake. As she stirred, I petted her hair, murmuring her name over and over. “Callie. Callie. Calliope,” I whispered as soothingly as possible, my fingers running through her thick umber hair. When those hazel eyes opened, I saw hope, and then I watched conflicting emotions pass over her face as she started trying to put together what had happened. At her tears, I felt my heart ache. All I wanted to do was reach out and take her pain away.
“I thought he was the real thing. I was showing him collars and—how could I be so stupid?” she whimpered. And when she tried to move, she yelped in pain. My first instinct was to take it from her, to take her to someone that could heal her. “I’m so sorry. I don’t know how you found me, but thank you,” Callie whispered as she reached out to me. A smile spread over my lips as I took that hand and squeezed it gently.
“I wish I had been able to get to you sooner. Is there any way that I can help you?”
“Not unless you can help me find another job. That piece of crap fake top convinced me to quit mine.” There was more I could tell, but I also thought I knew what it was. He’d made her completely dependent on him. Nodding, I ran my hand over her hair once more.
“I can help you. And I believe Tori was kind enough to offer her guest room. Work for me, Callie. Tori and Micah will help you get settled once you are healed and will help you find a new place of residence.” There was no question that he either knew where she lived, had access to it, or had convinced her to move in with him.
Callie sobbed but nodded, and I turned to Micah. “Micah, get her address and hire whoever you will need to go retrieve her things.” Micah pulled out his phone to begin making arrangements.
I knew things would get settled more firmly when she was healed up, but at least I knew she would be safe. It helped that her profession was one I was a great fan of. I had started the day in search of my estranged husband, and instead, I had found a personal chef. Or at least she would be once she was healed and settled in.
Callie’s tears had slowed, and I could see her body was dragging her back into sleep. I stroked her hair again and whispered, “Rest. We will deal with everything else later.” And we would, but her ex just might not survive me dealing with it. I still had a little goddess wrath within me, and I had plenty of frustrations to take out on him. No fury and all that, right?
Perhaps later, I would contemplate my need to collect humans, to surround myself with them. For now, I would focus on destroying one without it leading back to me or my kind, of course.