I was kneeling next to another body. I know, I know, I’m tired of seeing dead bodies, too, but what are you going to do? When I was cursed, I was a monster. I was still a monster, but I had my humanity back. My humanity and newfound control over my gorgon form. I had recently learned that I had something else, as well. I had power over the stone. Since then, Luke had been helping me, which was why we were both leaning over yet another body.

“Are you ready?” Luke crouched next to the head and waited for my signal. 

I nodded and waited for him to open the body’s eyes and turn his face away. I then changed into my gorgon form. I looked into the dead man’s eyes and watched as he turned to stone. “Keep your head turned. He’s stone, but I want to wait for a few minutes, instead of turning him back right away.”

“You think there might be a time limit? That makes sense. Why don’t you change back and we can go to lunch, give it a couple of hours, then come back and try?”

“All right, waiting a little bit longer is a good idea. Give me a second.” I changed partially back into my human form, leaving my snakes. It seemed like people stared at me when I was in either form, so if they were going to stare, I figured I might as well be comfortable. “Okay, I’m ready.”

I watched as Luke stood up, dusted off his jeans, and headed for the door. I took a moment to admire the view. The black t-shirt he wore was stretched tight across his broad shoulders and hugged the muscles of his back. When he got to the door, he glanced back and caught me staring at his ass. The corner of his mouth quirked up in a self-satisfied smirk. 

“Just keep walking.” I shook my head. He knew he looked good, and he didn’t need me feeding his ego. 

“I didn’t say a word,” he said with a laugh.

“Should I teleport us to a restaurant?”

“Don’t even think about it.”

“What? I have a good feeling this time.” I didn’t. It was fun watching Luke’s face pale anytime I mentioned teleporting, though. I wasn’t sure why I had so much trouble whenever I tried to take him with me. I was starting to feel guilty about all the failed attempts. Okay, so I didn’t feel bad. It was pretty fun. I supposed that was the problem. I wasn’t focusing as much as I should have been. 

Before he could respond, his phone rang. I caught the look of relief that crossed his face before he could hide it and laughed. “Relax, I was joking.”

He stepped outside to take the call, so I took the opportunity to step into his office and raid his candy stash. He always thought he could hide it from me. I laughed as I put the empty wrappers back in his hiding place. 

Luke found me in the office, tossed his keys on his desk, and said, “Lunch will have to wait.” He handed me a scrap of paper with an address written on it. “Word must be getting out about what you can do. See? You’re already capable of great things. It’s the FEDs this time. They need some information from someone. You up for it?”

I glanced at the address before answering, “Of course, do you want to come?” 

Luke’s face paled, and he said, “No, that’s okay. I have work I can catch up on.”

“Baby, teleporting isn’t that bad.”

“I’m sure it’s not. It’s your aim I have a hard time with.” 

“Suit yourself. I guess we’ll have to finish this test when I get back. See you later.” I waved and popped out. 

I went straight to the address Luke had written down, and of course, it was another warehouse. What was it with warehouses? Hadn’t anyone heard of office buildings? Hotels? Shaking my head, I headed towards the front of the building and was startled to see so much law enforcement. Something big must have happened. I was a little bit disappointed thinking about all the wasted bodies. 

I found the door and was surprised no one tried to stop me from entering. I walked in and scanned the faces to find out who was in charge. It usually wasn’t too hard to spot the boss. They wore authority like others wore a designer suit. 

A woman drew my gaze. The sight of her took my breath away and almost stopped my heart. It couldn’t be. I’d know her anywhere, even after all this time, and it was her…Athena. I had been terrified I’d run into her and did everything I could to avoid it. I knew I couldn’t put it off forever, but I wasn’t ready. Fear slammed into my chest at the thought of another curse, or even the same one. I didn’t want to lose my humanity. I couldn’t go through it again. “It can’t be,” I muttered under my breath.

I watched, still in shock, as she turned at the sound of my voice. She couldn’t have heard me, not with the amount of noise in the building, but it was like we were drawn to each other. Our eyes locked, and everyone else in the room fell away. Time stood still. It was just the two of us. Memories of the past rushed through my mind. I could almost smell the smoke from the candles around her temple. 

She was suddenly standing in front of me. I hadn’t even noticed her move. I wasn’t sure how long we had been silently staring at each other. “What are you doing here?” I finally asked, although I was afraid to hear the answer. Goddess, please don’t let her be here to curse me. I didn’t want to lose my humanity again. I wouldn’t survive. My mind raced to come up with a reason for her to be here that didn’t end with me locked in gorgon form. Or worse. 

She stared at me, shock evident on her face, and asked, “How in the hell? You’re dead!”

“Obviously, it didn’t stick.” I tensed, expecting an attack. My snakes, sensing my fear, lifted to frame my face, preparing to strike. Just as I was thinking about running from the room, Athena wrapped me in a hug. I stood frozen in place, arms locked at my sides, my eyes suddenly filled with tears. Blinking them away, I asked, “Umm…I thought…I thought you hated me?”

 

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