Three weeks of happy nights and giggling mornings would have any normal woman swinging from the moon. Metaphorically, of course, because trust me, only a few people could handle doing that literally. I was not swinging from the moon or anywhere else, for that matter. I was full of anxiety as I stood in the bathroom doorway facing a dilemma.
A delicious quandary, but a perplexing one never-the-less.
Slung across the bed was a hunk of gorgeous, intelligent, gentle male. When I’d left the bed, he’d been fast asleep and close to drooling on my pillow while Arnold, his cat, licked his hand. That man, Anthony Bell, was the source of my current predicament. My feelings for him were growing exceedingly, annoyingly fast.
The feelings hadn’t been anticipated and shouldn’t exist at all. I growled low, rolling my eyes. There was a very thin line between should and shouldn’t. There was no haggling about justice, though. Justice just is.
To complete my current project, I needed to destroy the family of the man currently working his way into my heart. A family he adored. He adored them despite who they were, because he coveted humanity’s ideal of a nuclear family. He did this despite their innumerable and horrible sins.
I turned away, shutting the door. Unable to stare at him any longer, I instead stared at myself in the mirror. My hair was down. My curls were wild all over my head, trailing across the top edge of my nightshirt and adorning my shoulders. My confusion and annoyance shone brightly in my eyes. As I looked in the mirror, my usually brown eyes all but disappeared, leaving behind irises of shining silver. My power was on full display. If Anthony walked in right then, he’d definitely be confused.
My only issue with Anthony was his family. Family was not an excuse to ignore equity, balance, and justice. I’d left this world, and my family, for a long time because no one seemed to truly comprehend that. Everyone considered me overzealous, as though I was trying to create a utopia. I had no desire to create Utopia. Utopia was not an ideal. Utopia was perfection and, therefore, not balanced either. It was the scales titled incorrectly in the other direction.
Today, however, was the day. The day I walked into Alton Bell’s office and called him on his bullshit. I was a bit nervous about it, not because of the confrontation but because of Anthony. If everything went as planned by the end of that day, Alton’s connections to the industrial prison complex would be known to the world.
The legislators involved in his schemes would be outed, the shell companies exposed, and the full trickle-down dynamic within the hierarchy of the LA penal colony process revealed. It would be an epic unveiling of a systematic regime. One rigged to make sure there was always a steady stream of poor, black and brown, disenfranchised bodies sliding through the system. So many coming and going, the lost ones could easily be forgotten and snatched away unnoticed.
Alton Bell was just the tip of a very corrupt iceberg. He was, however, a prominent domino that needed to be pushed over, especially since the current bill he was actively trying to pass would undo the minor corrections made by S.B.-139. The current proposal was so bad that instead of setting the reform fight just back to zero, if passed, the fight would be in the negative starting day one.
It simply couldn’t be allowed to happen.
As the day to take Alton day drew closer, it became increasingly harder to separate my feelings for Anthony from the decision that needed to be made. Separate, but potentially connected, was some sort of internal flux that appeared to be preventing my internal scales from balancing and aligning fully, no matter how much I meditated.
Nothing I did balanced me.
I knew it must be connected to the damn summons. The call was getting louder. More urgent. A pressing hum in my being that made me long for something lost long ago but that I wasn’t sure ever really existed.
As a goddess, I have lived on earth, I’ve found peace among the stars, but Olympus is home. Home, whether it’s incarnated on the mortal plane or not. Where my father’s throne stands is my home.
I shook my head, my mirror image mocking me.
Those were my thoughts, but not my thoughts. Home was home, but I hated home. There was no balance there. No equity. There was him, his revered godlings and the others. I was one of the others. A forgotten blip of power, needed but not observed.
“Babe, you okay in there?” Anthony called out in his husky sleep-filled voice.
I turned on the faucet, letting the water run before splashing it across my face as I allowed the power to drain from my eyes. “Perfect, lover,” I called back. “Be out in a sec.”
He grunted, his head probably already buried back in the pillows. I quietly opened the door and tiptoed across to the bed, leaning down to place soft kisses along his spine.
“Mm… keep that up sexy,” he muttered.
I climbed up, straddling his back just above his ass. My fingers danced along his shoulders, offering up a playful massage as I threw in intermittent kisses.
He moaned and burrowed deeper into the bed. “Keep this up, and we’re not going to make brunch.”
I giggled, because yes, he made me giggle. “I’m fine with that.”
He turned, flipped me over, and pulled me against his side. “Im not,” he murmured, kissing my nose. “There are waffles and whiskey waiting for me and a game at 1.”
I groaned, wrinkling my nose. “Waffles are disgusting.”
“Mmhm…” I got distracted by the flecks of black in his brown eyes and never saw the tickles coming.
By the time he had tickled me off the bed and into the shower, 20 minutes had passed. Another hour flew by before we were ready to leave his loft. On our way out, I looked around wistfully, knowing I may never see the place again.
“And what will you have?”
I looked the menu over with a frown, knowing what I wanted but also wanting to be less predictable. In the end, my desire won out. “French toast platter, eggs over easy, and a pitcher of strawberry mimosas.”
Anthony chuckled as he handed the waiter the menus while glancing above my head at the big screen. Sports bars with brunch menus for the win. Come through DC, come through!
He just shook his head before taking a swig of his water. “What do you have against waffles? It’s honestly the best thing in this place.”
“They just present as something they aren’t. They live somewhere between pancakes and French toast. There’s really no way to evenly syrup them, it’s just…unbalanced and pointless.”
I looked up from my ramble and saw him staring at me with that adorable doe-eyed look he always wore right before saying something mushy. “You’re cute when you go on your balance tangents.”
“Only then?” I asked, arching a brow.
I watched his eyes go dark with desire. “No, also when you-“
“Who had the French toast platter?” The oblivious server interrupted.
I laughed, raising a finger.
Brunch was fun and went by quickly, far too quickly, in my opinion. As we waited at the valet stand for them to bring Anthony’s Jeep around, I pulled him to the side.
“I’m going to meet with your father today.”
He frowned and looked away. “Today? Why?”
“Because it’s over. Because we know enough. It stops today. He just needs to…”
He shook his head, “He won’t. He can’t. Please, DJ.”
At the sound of my nickname, I pulled back slowly, my hands finding their way to my short’s pockets.
“Please, what, Anthony? You said…”
He glanced around us then directly at me, leaning close. “If you do this, you’ll destroy him, my family.”
Rage is a coiling thing. It doesn’t come all at once. It twists and turns roiling and building unfurling within until it’s all you are in the moment.
I felt it spring in my gut. Felt the pull of my power floating beside the imbalance of my internal scales. I needed to see my father. I needed to find out why he’d allowed this world to become so imbalanced. I needed to go home.
I shook the power off and stepped away from Anthony. Using all my willpower, I held myself in check and glanced back at him. “How many families, lives, has he helped, aided, or facilitated the destruction of?”
Anthony glanced down, even as I saw the attendant rounding the lot in his Jeep. “You’ll destroy me.”
I paused. Looking from the Jeep to the man I thought I was falling for. “What?”
“I am…my hands aren’t clean, Dikê. I am my father’s son,” Anthony mumbled, standing tall and proud, eyes landing anywhere but on mine.
“Here you are,” the attendant announced rather loudly, handing Anthony the keys. Anthony slid him a tip, probably a twenty if it was like usual, and walked to the passenger door the attendant had left open.
He looked at me pleadingly, as though he didn’t know if I would get in the Jeep.
I hesitated, looking around, mentally weighing my options. I could take him out in a blink. My safety wasn’t a concern. His was. Could I handle it? Did I want to know whatever truth he wanted to share? Specifically, could I do it and not judge him? If I got in that Jeep, were we both getting out?
“Let me take you home, Dikê.”
I nodded slowly and walked to the Jeep. As I climbed in, I locked eyes with his. They were eyes I’d recently started, and ended, so many days gazing into. “You have twenty minutes, thirty if there’s traffic, to convince me the apple fell far from the tree, or I’m burning down the whole damn orchard.”