Nike quickly informs me of her plans for the evening, and I practically beam with pride at her ideas. I’m definitely a bad influence on her. Together, we plot a massive amount of mischief for the entire event, which will send the rest of the family reeling for the rest of the night, while we escape back to the OA.
Deliberately – in order to make it appear as if we had not just been plotting deviously for the last hour together – we appear at the island warming separately, even pretending to greet each other for the first time. Nyx has truly outdone herself with this whole event, and she’s even gone through the trouble of planning out events for all of us to participate in. The primordial greets the newcomers joyfully, but something about her smile is strange. Off.
I’m not able to speculate on the primordial’s mood further, as the first event is announced and numerous deities prepare to comb the island for the prize. I’m not planning on participating, but this is a great opportunity to cause some trouble. Sending Tory a subtle wink, I disappear back into the forest, waiting for an unlucky relative to stumble into my path. I don’t have to wait long before Aunt Demeter comes stumbling by. She must have been hitting the booze early, and her inebriation allows me to graze her in the back with an arrow. She pauses, looking around for a moment, confused. Before she can notice the golden arrow of mine embedded in the tree behind her, I place my hand on my quiver, the arrow magically returning. With my family members, I’ve learned to do things the subtle, secretive way, which makes the return of my arrow paramount. I mean, you think I would just leave an arrow like that? I would never get away with anything that way. No, with family, it’s all about never letting on what’s happened, I’ve gotten extremely good at it over the years. Most of my relatives will never even know what happened.
Sneaking back towards the party, snickering to myself, I return to the clearing in the middle of another one of Nyx’s planned contests. Something about best dressed, or whatever. All the gods are lined up for her to judge, so I take my place, eventually joined by my somber brother.
“You know, you could at least pretend to be having a good time,” I murmur to him, goading his anger. The easiest way to get my brother out of his melancholy mood is to provoke his anger, something I excel at. Hard to think about a broken heart when you’re thinking about ways to kill your brother.
“Don’t start with me,” he growls through clenched teeth.
As if I was going to listen to that, I don’t listen to anyone, not even myself most days.
I knew that he wasn’t as devastated as he used to be – the ache in my chest from him lightened slightly – but it was still there. When the other gods begin lining up, the pain in my chest becomes more acute for a moment when his gaze lingers on our aunt, Artemis, who was sitting with the satyr, Iain, at the buffet table.
No fucking way. There is no way that the person who broke Dinlas’ heart is Artemis. It’s impossible. Inconceivable really. Laughable. But…
Turning my head quickly between them comically, my brows shooting up in astonishment. Is Artemis the one Dinlas is pining for? The one who broke his heart? Dinlas wouldn’t confess to me about the source of his heartache, not that I blame him, we don’t exactly have that kind of relationship. But still, Dinlas and Artemis? Together?
I’m so floored by this revelation, I’m actually speechless. Picture that. Me. Speechless. The god of love, famous for always being ready with a snarky remark, is actually so blown away, that I’m rendered mute. I mean, this is Dinlas, with the perpetual frown and the angst, sitting in his warehouse, brooding over a cup of coffee. And Artemis. Who’s, well, she’s Artemis. She’s one of the three deities immune to my arrows – I can still read their heart’s desire if I try really, really hard – but, I could prick her with hundreds of arrows with no effect.
It feels like the world has shifted, and it was going to take me some time to adjust. As a result, I’m silent for the rest of the contest, barely registering when Dinlas actually wins. I come to just enough to slap my brother affectionately on the back, raising a single brow at him. “Drink to celebrate?”
He frowns, eyeing me suspiciously, before stepping away to give a small acceptance speech, transferring his prize to Iain, the satyr who’s accompanying Artemis. My eyebrows shoot up at the move, realizing he is trying to be the bigger man while making amends with the satyrs at the same time. I stop myself from rubbing my chest again.
Damn it, Dinlas.
When he finishes his little speech, I gesture with my head towards where the brews are being set up, waiting for him to walk with me. His wolves trot obediently after him, and I idly wonder where my own animals are; the last time I saw them they were playing with each other in kitten form, so they should be safe for the time being. They’ll find me if there’s trouble, they always do.
Sitting side by side, each grasping a brew, I wait for him to take a sip of his brew before I state, “So, you and Artemis?”
He chokes at my bald observation, confirming my suspicion. Still coughing, he asks, “Wh-what do you mean by that?”
Shooting him a droll look, I scoff, “Please. Don’t forget who you’re talking to.”
“It’s nothing,” he growls back to me, his wolves’ ears perking up at his harsh tone.
“Uh huh, sure it is. Tonight, you’re drinking your troubles away.”
Pushing his brew aside – while holding on to mine – I fill four separate shot glasses of some clear alcohol I swipe from a passing satyr. I know Nyx created this brew for this event, and that it would supposedly make you forget what planet you’re on. In quick succession, I take each of the four shots, finishing with a swig of my brew.
“You’re four shots behind now, brother. Do try to keep up.”
Dinlas’ fathomless black eyes narrow on me, and again the ache in my chest lessens as his anger rises. That’s all it takes.
“It’s on, Cupid.”
So predictable. Idly, I finger one of my shortened gold arrows, pulling it from my thigh holster, twirling it around my fingers as we drink. When he turns away momentarily, reaching for more shot glasses and alcohol, I use the opportunity to empty my glass of brew, into which I had spit the four shots I’d just chugged into.
I mean, you didn’t expect me to play fair. Who said Love was ever fair?
Other gods join the competition, and Dinlas is so focused on beating me in our own little battle, that the ache in my chest doesn’t even flicker when Artemis joins the drinking contest. Dinlas and I are separate from the brew drinking competition, more concerned with beating each other than the rest of our family. Sibling rivalry and all that. Which does not mean I’m not going to take this opportunity to cause trouble. Would you expect any less of me?
Narrowing my eyes on my aunt, I ask with a faux innocent tone, “You know, there’s something different about you, Aunt Artemis.”
She chokes on her drink. “There’s absolutely nothing different about me.”
Dinlas kicks me hard beneath the table, which I ignore. I tap my arrow against my lower lip as if in thought. “You know, I can’t put my finger on it, but something’s definitely changed about you.”
My aunt blushes, her gaze darting away, even as she continues with the competition. I check a victorious look, returning my focus on cheating my way through my shot competition with Dinlas.
Somewhere around shot number thirty, Dinlas concedes. Which he should have done fourteen shots earlier, but I can be patient. Not often, but I do have moments. I drink one more shot – actually drinking this one – and clap Dinlas on the back.
“Just like old times, eh?” I ask, deliberately slurring my words, conscious of the other gods watching. A third of mischief is acting, another third is plotting, and the last third is sitting back and enjoying the result of the first two. The satyr, Connor, escort of my Aunt Hestia, is easily annihilating the competition of the brew drinking competition. I guess it’s true what they say, no one can outdrink a Scotsman.
I’m not here to outdrink everyone, just to make my brother’s heart ache a little less, so I’m not going to go head to horn against the satyr. Plus, I locked Nyx’s favor up a long time ago. When Dinlas sends a completely unsubtle look at Artemis, I swallow a curse. This calls for drastic action.
Standing up from the drinking contest, I fake-stumble, reaching out to Dinlas to steady myself, at the same time, nicking him with the arrow I’d been playing with all night. He won’t even know something’s happened. Like I said, I’m extremely good at this.
Striding away from the competition, fake-stumbling, I feel the ache in my chest already begin to lighten. With any luck, Dinlas will have forgotten all about Artemis in the morning.