Rather, there was a man, glaring his hatred at her. Again.
She let out a sound of deep aggravation. "What is your damage?"
"Simple. I want my powers back."
Of course he did. What god wouldn’t want his powers back? But Lucifer’s hell would freeze solid before she ever allowed a psycho like this to have even an inkling of power. "Yeah, well, tough shit."
He curled his lip. "Don’t f**k with me, Artemis. I’m not in the mood."
"And neither am I, dumb-ass. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not Artemis."
Sin paused at her words and took a closer look at her. There were small things about her that were different. But the woman held the same green eyes. The same facial features. She was Artemis. He could feel the power emanating from her. "Don’t lie, bitch."
She kicked at him, but he sidestepped it. "Don’t you dare call me that, dickhead. I don’t take that from anyone, least of all someone like you."
"Give me my powers and I’ll gladly free you." And he meant that. Once he got his powers returned, he’d kill her and then she’d be free.
"Look, Brick Wall, I can’t give you what I don’t have. I. Am. Not. Artemis." She clipped each word as she spoke it.
He leaned over her so that she could see just how much contempt he held for her and her feigned conviction. "Yeah, right. Do you think I could ever forget the face that has haunted me for three thousand years? The face of the woman whose throat I want to cut?"
She literally snarled at him like a wild beast, "Get it through your head. I’m not Artemis."
"Then who are you?"
"My name is Kat Agrotera."
It was his turn to scoff. "Agrotera, huh?" He grabbed the netting over her chest and pulled her up so that they were eye to eye.
"Nice try, Artemis. Agrotera means ‘huntress’. Did you think I’d forget it was one of the names your followers applied to you? "
She struggled against his hold. "It’s also the epitaph that’s used by Artemis’s kori-that would be me, you moron."
He laughed in her face. "You’re one of Artemis’s servants? How stupid do you think me? You fooled me once, but not twice."
Kat let out a long breath as frustration consumed her. She actually had the powers to break out of the netting. But if she did that, she’d give him a really big tip on how much power she had and who she really was. That was knowledge a creature like this didn’t need to have.
No, it was better to make him think she was powerless and without consequence. "Believe it or not, I am."
He released her to fall back on the sofa before he gave her a repugnant glare. "Uh-huh. Artemis would never allow a kori near her who was her height. Nor one who had her eye color. She’s too vain for that. You’re too vain."
"If you want to be technical, I’m taller than she is. Didn’t you remember that part?" Sin hesitated. Honestly, he couldn’t recall Artemis’s exact height-it’d been too long since he’d last seen her. All he remembered was that she’d been over six feet tall. "I stand by what I said. Artemis would never allow a kori in her temple taller than her."
"News flash: She’s mellowed with age."
Yeah, right. "Sure you have… just like me."
The woman leaned her head back and let out an irritated growl. "Look, you seem to have issues I don’t want to even begin to know about. Let me go and we’ll both forget this ever happened. If you don’t, you’re going to be real sorry."
He scoffed. "Not this time, Artemis. You’re the one who’s going to regret this. I want my powers back that you stole from me. You tricked my ass and then you stripped everything from me except my life, and you damn near took that."
Kat went rigid as his words pricked a deeply buried memory inside her. But it was fuzzy and fleeting, and she couldn’t get a good handle on it, so she defaulted to what she remembered of the event.
"You were going to kill Artemis. She said you hated her… that you’d broken into her temple and tried to rape her and-" The words stopped as she realized the lie Artemis had told. How could a god from another pantheon have gotten into Artemis’s temple on Olympus without an invitation? It was something that hadn’t dawned on Kat back then. She’d been too young and too afraid that he would hurt or kill Artemis.
Back then, many of the gods had been at war with one another and those who policed them had been on hiatus. There had been many threats made against Artemis and several close calls.
But one thing would have been impossible. An outside god couldn’t enter the domain of another without invitation.
Oh gods, it was another half-truth…
He screwed his face up at her. "What are you talking about? Have you lost your mind?"
"No " Kat said as a wave of guilt consumed her. "I’m not Artemis. Let me go."
"Not until I have my powers back."
This was getting annoying… "And for the last time, I can’t give you what I don’t have "
"Then you’re going to stay in that net until eternity comes to pass."
She growled at him, "Well, that’s really intelligent, isn’t it? What are you going to do? Put drinks on me or just use me as a conversation piece whenever friends come over? And let’s not even think about what’s going to happen when I need to use the restroom, shall we? I hope you have a standing order at Sofa Express."
Sin wasn’t sure if he should be entertained or appalled by her outburst. He had to give her credit, though, she certainly had a way with imagery. "Well aren’t you a wealth of sarcasm?"
"Oh, just wait. I haven’t even started." She winced as she jostled her arm and pain must have shot through her shoulder.
Sin felt a prick of conscience over that and he hated himself for it. Let her suffer. What was it to him? Yet the part of himself that he despised most-the part that was still compassionate-begged him to help her.
But she was right. Her staying in that netting wasn’t going to do either one of them any good. "Look, Artemis, or, assuming this isn’t another of your lies and tricks, Kat, I have to have my powers back. It’s imperative."
"Sure it is. You just want them back so that you can kill Artemis and take revenge on her"
"I’m not going to lie and say that’s not true. It is. I want her dead in a way unimaginable. But I have bigger problems right now. And you just met one of them on that backstreet in New York."
Kat paused as she thought back to the creature she’d been fighting. It’d been scary all right. "I assume you mean that… thing that attacked me."
"Yes. The gallu demons are running rampant now and the Dimme are about to go free and I’m the only person alive who can push them back. If I don’t have my powers to fight them, the world is going to end. You remember what happened to Atlantis? This is going to make that look like fun and games."
"No offense, old man, Atlantis was destroyed before I was born, so I don’t remember squat about it."
But she did know the stories of how the continent sank.
She sat still for a moment, thinking. She knew Artemis wasn’t trustworthy. But she didn’t know if the same was true of Sin. Was he feeding her a line or was there truth to what he said? "What about those people last night? Why did you behead them and then burn them?"
She realized that was the wrong thing to ask as his eyes flared murderous rage at her.
"You spied on me?"
"Artemis told me to, so yeah."
His rage was so potent, she could honestly feel it filling up the air between them.
"Don’t look at me like that. I can spy if I want."
"And why did you spy on me?"
Kat squirmed a bit. Telling him that what Artemis had really wanted-his death-would most likely only piss him off more. So she opted for a more delicate explanation. "Artemis wanted to know what you were up to. She thought you were trying to kill her."
"Yeah, and as much as I want that bitch dead, right now I have bigger problem." He paused before he spoke again. "The reason I cut the heads off the gallu and burn them is that if I don’t, they come back like a bad horror movie reject."
That at least explained part of it, but it didn’t explain why he desecrated their victim.
"Why did you do that to the human?"
"Why do you think? One bite from the gallu and their victim becomes a mindless demon they can control. Desecration is far kinder than what they do to humans like her. Whenever a human dies by their hands, they have to be slain and dusted or they’ll be back, too."
Oh… No wonder he’d been frantically searching her for a bite wound before he’d knocked her out.
"Is that why you burned your arm last night?"
He nodded. "If you can catch it early enough, you can cauterize the wound and stop the poison from spreading through your body."
Yeah, but that had to hurt and it made her wonder how many times he’d done that in the past. "Out of curiosity… does Artemis know about the gallu?"
"I don’t know, Artemis. Do you?"
She sighed at his insistence that she was her boss. "I thought we’d gotten past this."
"Until I see conclusive proof, no. I stand by what I know about you, you bitch. Now give me my powers back."
Fury snapped through her veins at his denseness and insult. What was it going to take to make the man realize that she wasn’t Artemis?
Break the net and then break his bead…
That urge was so strong that it was all she could do not to yield to it.
Kat jerked at the sound of Artemis’s voice in her head.
"What’s going on? Why are you so angry? Is Apollymi bothering you?"
Kat rolled her eyes. "Stop spying on me."
Sin curled his lip. "It’s hard not to look at you sprawled out on my couch. Not to mention how funny that is coming from you given what you did last night."
She grimaced at Sin as she realized she’d spoken out loud.
"Katra? Tell me what’s wrong or I’m coming to check on you. It’s not like you to get this riled."
Now she’s concerned about me? Kat didn’t know what aggravated her more, being trussed up by a Sumerian ex-god or patronized by a Greek one.
Oh wait, the trussing definitely won this one out. It ranked right up there with eye gouging.
"It’s all right, Matisera," she said silently to Artemis. "I have it."
"And why is it I find that hard to believe?" Artemis popped into the room right in front of Kat, hands on hips. Dressed in a long white sheath gown, Artemis wore her vibrant red hair down so that it flowed around her body.
Kat cringed as she realized what the goddess had just done.
Sin spun around. His jaw went slack as he took in Artemis’s presence and realized that Kat hadn’t been lying to him. Obviously, she wasn’t the goddess after all.
To her credit, Artemis didn’t panic. Instead she merely eyed him as if he were a mild annoyance. "Wow, look what the cow dragged in." She cast a penetrating glare at Kat. "Why is he here?"
Sin cursed as he realized he’d just been played by both of them.
The handmaiden forgotten, he went for Artemis, but before he could reach her, the handmaiden somehow appeared before him. How the hell had she gotten out of the net? He knew firsthand that it didn’t give that easily. But that wasn’t here or there.
What mattered was getting his hands on Artemis.
"Calm down," Kat said, cradling her arm.
He shook his head. "Move out of my way, girl. I won’t be kept from what I want."
Artemis rolled her eyes. "And what do you want? Your mewling powers back?" He lunged at her, but Kat caught him about the waist and slung him to the ground with a strength he’d never imagined a woman could have-especially considering the fact that she had a broken arm.
She landed on top of him.
Pushing her away, he growled, "I don’t want to hurt you, but it doesn’t mean I won’t."
Kat glared at him. "Ditto."
He tried to move past her, but the woman was like Velcro. Kat attached herself to his body and kept him from reaching Artemis.
Artemis scoffed at their struggle. "Get out of the way, Katra, so I can zap him."
Sin paused as he finally calmed enough to realize something highly significant. He looked back and forth between Katra and Artemis.
And as he did so, he knew exactly how to get his upper hand back.
He pulled the long, ornate dagger out of its sheath in his boot before he grabbed Katra and held the blade to her throat. He cut a gimlet glare at Artemis. "Give me my powers back, Artemis, or I’ll take your daughter’s life."
Kat cringed as Sin spoke a truth that only the bravest of souls would even dare whisper. And never within Artemis’s hearing range.
Kat leaned back against him, away from the knife. "Damn, boy, you have an unholy gift for pissing off people." As was evidenced by Artemis’s shriek of outrage. "Why don’t you tell her that dress makes her look fat while you’re at it?"
He answered by pressing the blade closer to Kat’s throat. "I’m not playing, Artemis."
Artemis’s face turned to stone. "And neither am I."
Before Kat could even blink, the dagger left her throat. She was pulled from Sin’s arms by an unseen force an instant before the knife was ripped from his hand and plunged into his chest, three times. On the third time, it was left buried to the hilt where it slowly rotated in his chest.