There’s a moment of complete silence between the four of us. Then Dinlas starts laughing. When neither Nyx nor I join in, he scoffs, “You guys aren’t actually buying this, are you? Do you know how many people show up every day claiming to be one of our kids?”
That’s a good point. But, that doesn’t explain the eyes. Nobody alive but my family knows what her eyes looked like. Anyone else wouldn’t know that this would be the way to strike at me. Yet I clung to my denial; there is no concrete proof that she’s related to me, besides the surface.
I frame her face in my hands – gently this time – her iridescent eyes huge in her face as they connect with mine. “You…you’re my daughter?” I whisper, ignoring my brother’s annoyed grunt.
Hedone visibly swallows, keeping her eyes locked on mine, though she pulls away from my hands, murmuring, “I can prove it.”
She reaches for a chain around her neck, Dinlas immediately jumps forward, grabbing her hand to stop her movement. Always so distrustful, my brother, and with lingering Titans still out, he’s right to be. He warns, “Slowly.”
Hedone curls her lip at Dinlas in annoyance, making him drop his hand. I bite my lip to keep from smiling, well she definitely has the sass down.
With over dramatic movements, glaring at Dinlas as she does, she pulls out the chain, and when I see what’s at the bottom of it, I move on instinct.
Snatching it in my hand, I close my fist around it, taking a couple of breaths to prepare myself for what’s inside.
Pulling back one finger at a time, both dreading and longing for what was inside. When I summon up enough courage to look at what is on the end of that chain, my breath leaves me, and my entire life feels altered.
Her wedding ring. Melted and reformed from one of my golden arrows, identical to the one I could never make myself get rid of. The hum of power radiates from the ring, exactly like the feeling that comes through me whenever I hold one of my arrows.
When Dinlas moves closer to look, I wrap my fist around it, preventing him from seeing, and giving me the chance to compose myself.
“Where did you get this?” I growl.
Hedone loops the chain from around her neck, allowing me to back away from her slightly. “My mother gave it to me.”
I could feel their eyes on me, but I couldn’t move, sitting there frozen, staring at my closed fist. The ring’s power radiated down my arm, both familiar and not.
Nyx comes to stand beside Dinlas during the moment of silence, and I can feel both their hearts reaching out to mine. Without words, I know why. Because they figured it out.
Her mother is…her mother is…
I can’t bring myself to say her name, even in my own head.
So I run.
I pop directly into the woods at a full sprint. I just…I need to clear my head.
Dinlas pops directly into my path, but I step to avoid him, continuing my headlong race. He does so twice more before he accepts that I’m not stopping to talk. I can’t stop, stopping will make it real. Stopping will mean it’s true. Stopping will mean…it will mean she took even more from me than I thought.
My breath leaves me in a rush when Dinlas tackles me to the ground.
“What the fuck, Dinlas?” I roar when I regain my breath.
My brother shrugs, coming to a stand, reaching out a hand to help me up. “You wouldn’t stop.”
With those words, my purpose for running comes rushing back, and I try to step around Dinlas to continue my run. This time he punches me in the gut.
I bend over, wheezing, and Dinlas takes the opportunity to lecture me.
“So you have a daughter you didn’t know about, big deal. That makes you just like the rest of the family.”
Narrowing my eyes on my brother, I sweep my leg out unexpectedly, making him land hard on the forest floor. “You don’t understand. You don’t know.”
Dinlas recovers quickly, grabbing my ankle and yanking it out from under me, preventing me from sprinting away. He rolls to pin me to the ground, forcing me to inhale dirt and grass as he pushes my face into the territory. “Because you won’t tell me!”
Dinlas is stronger than me physically; I could never beat him in a typical match of strength. Unless I cheat.
I throw my elbow back, clocking him right in his jaw, enabling me to escape his hold. Rolling away, I leap back to my feet, facing him, watching as he kneads his face.
“You don’t want to do this, Din. Trust me,” I whisper, my voice breaking a little. Just talking about it like this is putting me in danger of another flashback.
Dinlas cracks his neck, rolling his shoulders repeatedly, spoiling for a fight. “Oh no, I really do.”
Just like that, we lunge at each other. Fists landing with horrifying crunches of bone. Between blows, Dinlas keeps growling, “Just. Tell. Me. What. Happened.”
As rage covers my vision, I return his punches, the anger giving me inordinate strength, and between returning strikes, the truth slips from me. “She! Took! My! Wings!”
The statement astounds Dinlas enough to drop his guard, allowing me to land a solid punch to his face. His head snaps back, his eyes watering, but he doesn’t return the blow. “What did you just say?”
The rage leaves me in a rush, despair seeping into replacing it. “She’s the one who cut off my wings, and now I find she took my daughter from me, too?”
“She – she’s the one who cut your wings off? Why did you say you did it?” Dinlas murmurs, his astonishment at my confession evident in his ever-lightening eyes.
My laugh is cold and emotionless. “Because I still love her! Because I knew Miteras would stop at nothing to kill whoever did this to me! I – I lied to protect her, like the pathetic, lovestruck fool I am. Even after everything she did, I can’t bring myself to hate her.”
Dinlas’s mouth drops in horror, and I can feel his empathy through our link. He begins, “Eros…”
I cut him off. “I don’t want to talk about it, Dinlas. Let’s just figure out why Hedone is here, and never speak of it again.”
I pop back to my floor before he can say anything more.