Now she was actually here.
And it was scary and invigorating to know that those legends were real. That things she’d taken for granted as fiction weren’t. Wow.
Just like the stories told, Olympus was breathtaking. The weather was perfect. Not too hot. Not too cold. It was like a mid-spring day. The sky was so blue as to be unreal in its celestial hue, and the mountains around her were lush and green. The air was fresh and laced with a sweet scent. She’d never experienced anything like this.
Dreamy was the only word for it.
But what fascinated her most was that she could look down and see the world below in all its glory through the misty clouds that kept the gods isolated from the world.
"This is incredible."
Kat smiled. "Yeah, I know." She looked around with pride. "I was raised here."
Geary couldn’t imagine having a childhood like that. "Really?"
"Yes." Kat pointed to a large circular gold building at the end of the golden cobblestoned street. "That is Artemis’s temple. When I was a little girl, I used to sneak out of it and run to there"-she pointed to another temple at the opposite end-"to Athena’s temple, and play with her owls." She laughed at the memory. "It used to make Artemis crazy."
"They have a long-standing feud with each other over some nonsense that happened aeons ago. And Artemis wanted me to stay as far away from Athena as I could."
"But you couldn’t resist, huh?"
Her smile widened. "Not really. According to Artemis, I’ve made a lifetime study of irritating her."
Geary laughed as she looked around and saw three fawns sprinting across the walk ahead of them. The deer vanished into the woods, where she swore she glimpsed a centaur running. "I can’t believe this is real."
"Oh, believe it. Scary as it can be." Kat pointed to a huge hall made of gold and ivory that was on a hilltop above them. "And that is where Zeus resides with Hera. It’s the great hall where everyone gathers to mostly bicker and complain."
It was as magnificent as the rest of the area. Truly, it was like walking in a dream. "Is that where we’re going?"
"No. Persephone doesn’t play politics. Even though Zeus is her father, she only goes there when she’s summoned, especially since Hera can’t stand her because she’s one of Zeus’s bastards. She tries her best to stay out of their business." Kat pointed to another of the buildings down the street. "She’ll most likely be hanging out at her mother’s temple."
Geary followed Kat as she crossed the street and they were almost run over by a blur.
"Hermes!" Kat shouted. "Watch where you’re going!"
"No time…" A faint voice drifted back to them as he vanished out of sight. It strangely reminded Geary of the Roadrunner cartoon, as nothing but dust was left in his wake.
"That happen a lot?" she asked Kat.
"Yeah, he’s always in a hurry. You have to be really careful or he’ll run you down. It’s like being hit by a Mack truck, too. Bloody bastard."
Okay… no hostility there.
But luckily no one else tried to mow them down as they walked the short distance to the smaller domed building. Geary paused outside to look up. It was only about half as tall as everything around it and not very large. Though it was still beautiful and bigger than any home Geary’s family had ever owned, it lacked much of the awe factor that the rest of the buildings around it had. "Why is this so small compared to the others?"
Kat shrugged as she looked up at it. "Demeter isn’t one for pretense. She’s very simple compared to the
Moving forward, Kat opened the door to a massive foyer that was made of marble so white, it hurt her eyes to look at it. The entire room was surrounded by columns that were carved to look like people.
And as Kat and Geary entered, one of the male statues on her right opened its eyes to stare at them.
"What brings you here, Katra?" the statue asked in ancient Greek.
Kat was completely unfazed by the fact that a living statue was addressing her, while Geary gaped at it.
"I want a word with Persephone."
"She is in the garden," a female statue answered before she pointed to the opposite set of doors. "But she is not in a happy mood, so be warned."
Befuddled, Geary trailed along through the doors that opened of their own volition into a massive garden atrium. The wind was gentle as it stirred the scent of hyacinth and lilac. "Ooo, nice."
At least that was what she thought until they heard someone cursing. Repeatedly and with relish.
"Gardening is crap, Mom," the light, cadent voice whined from the bushes in front of them. "I hate it!
Look at that. My manicure’s going to be completely wrecked and for what? Dig the earth, plant some crap, do this, do that. Blah!"
The bushes rustled before a small woman wiggled out from between them. Geary hid her smile as a very petite and extremely beautiful blond woman stood up. Dressed in dark green overalls and a white T-shirt, she had dirt smeared across one cheek and on the tip of her nose. Her hands were covered by large gardening gloves while green and brown leaves were stuck in her upswept hair that still managed to be breathtaking on her. She slung her hands out and sent the gloves flying to the ground.
"Hi, Kat," she said as if completely unperturbed by the fact that they’d overheard her complaints.
"I wanted…" Kat’s voice trailed off as a small set of flowers started to move toward the woods.
Persephone blasted them with some kind of energy from her hands. She laughed, then sent her gloves to go pull up more flowers.
"What are you doing?" Kat asked with a frown.
"Revenge," Persephone said proudly. "It’s a small revenge, granted, but it’s these little things in life that mean so much."
Kat cocked a brow and looked at Geary before she asked for clarification. "Revenge on who and for what?"
"My mother, who else?" Persephone gestured around the lush garden. "Sticks me in this godforsaken place nine months out of the year and thinks I ought to be grateful for it. Meanwhile all I want is to be
with my husband…" She gave them a meaningful look. "Have you any idea how hard it is to go nine months out of the year with no sex when you’re married to such a fine piece of male anatomy that he should have been the god of fertility instead of the god of death?" She paused in her tirade as she finally saw Geary over Kat’s shoulder. "And you are?"
"She’s a friend. Megeara, meet Persephone."
Persephone frowned sternly as she raked a gaze over Geary’s body. "You’re not the Fury Megeara, are you?"
"No, but I was named after her."
"Ah." Persephone extended her hand as her features softened. "Nice to meet you then."
"So," Persephone said, looking back at Kat. "What brings you two here?"
"We"-Kat indicated the two of them with a wave of her hand-"are in need of some serious help."
Persephone scoffed. " I’m in need of some serious help." She sighed as she gave Geary a hopeless smile.
"I know we just met, Megeara, but bear with me. I’m so horny I could die and my mother’s answer to my complaints… weed her prized garden. Weed! What is she, insane?"
This was definitely more than Geary wanted to know about the goddess.
"Yeah, and on that happy note," Kat said with a hint of laughter in her voice, "it’s your husband who brings us here."
"Oh, what’d he do now?"
"Made a pact with a Dream-Hunter who wanted to be human. Now the Dream-Hunter has been killed and we’d like to get him back from Hades."
Interesting summation Kat had come up with. Geary would have never been so succinct.
Persephone screwed her face up. "That’s a bummer. You know Hades doesn’t like to let anyone leave.
Ever. He’s kind of attached to those souls."
"I love Arik," Geary said, her voice cracking. "I’ll do anything to get him back."
Both of the women cringed at Geary’s words.
Persephone motioned for her to lower her voice. "Don’t say that too loudly around here. There are a lot of folks who would take you up on it, and bargaining with a god is what got you guys into this mess in the first place."
"I’m sorry," Geary said quickly. "But I do love him, with all my heart."
Kat sighed. "The gods have really screwed her over. They’ve taken almost all of her family, and given that, I was thinking that we might be able to help her just this once."
Persephone shook her head. "You know the rules, Kat."
Geary frowned. "What rules?"
"Quid pro quo," Kat said irritably. "You have to give something in order to get a favor from a god."
Oh, that was just wonderful. But it still didn’t stop Geary. She had to get Arik freed. "Tell me what I have to do."
Persephone looked surprised by Geary’s response. "She’s an eager little bunny, isn’t she?"
"She’s desperate, Seph. Of all people, I think you can relate to what it’s like to be taken away from the one you love."
Persephone nodded. "Yeah, and you picked the right moment to approach me on this. I’m really missing my Hades."
Suddenly Geary remembered the ring D’Alerian had given her. "Wait!" She pulled it out of her pocket.
"One of the Oneroi gave me this. He said to give it to you and to tell you that Neco wanted to call in his favor."
She saw the pain in Persephone’s eyes as she took the ring from Geary’s hand. Persephone’s eyes shimmered from tears as she traced the scrollwork on it with her fingertip. "How was he doing?"
Kat gave her a sad smile before she answered. "Well."
Persephone placed the ring on her thumb before she nodded. "Well, there you have it. Neco is trading in his favor for this, so it’s Neco you owe."
Who is Neco? Geary mouthed the words at Kat, wanting to understand exactly what was going on. And who she owed for this favor.
"Neco is D’Alerian."
Geary was floored by the news. "Why would he trade his favor in for me?"
Persephone brushed away her tears. "Because my brother is a gentle man. He doesn’t like to see anyone suffer and he hates injustice. I imagine this is his way of making amends for something he feels they’ve taken from you."
Still, Geary didn’t understand. "Isn’t that hard to do for someone who doesn’t have any feelings?"
Persephone didn’t respond.
Kat, on the other hand, scowled at the much shorter goddess. "The curse on them is weakening, isn’t it?"
Persephone gave a subtle nod. "But you can’t tell anyone, Kat. No one. I won’t have Neco punished again. Father was more harsh on him than the others because he was his son. If he ever learns this…"
"Don’t worry," Kat assured her, "I won’t tell anyone. Keeping secrets is what I’m best at."
"Good," Persephone breathed. "They’ve all been through enough."
Geary shook her head. "But I don’t understand. I thought the Oneroi were the sons of Hypnos and Morpheus?"
"Some of the Oneroi are," Persephone said quietly. "Neco is my half brother. He was born of Zeus and D’Aria, one of the original Oneroi. So long as one of their parents is an Oneroi, then they inherit those powers and are given those duties."
Geary rubbed her brow as she tried to make sense of it and fit it into her mind. "You guys have the most convoluted family trees."
Kat laughed. "Believe me, we know."
"Yeah, and you don’t ever want to try and figure out Kat’s. It’s scary." Persephone craned her neck to look around the yard. "Come on, guys, we have to hurry. If my mother returns and finds me gone, she’ll launch a tornado or something."
One second they were in the sun-filled garden, in the next they were in a dark, stinking cavern. Geary held her hand to her nose in an effort to squelch the awful smell. "What is that stench?"
Screwing her features up in distaste, Persephone waved her hand in front of her face. "Cerebus’s dinner.
We picked a bad time to come."
She led them down a narrow corridor and through a door that opened into a large throne room.
Geary paused in the doorway as she saw the glistening ebony walls. But what held her enthralled was the gorgeous man sitting on a black throne that was made of what appeared to be bones. With shoulder-length black wavy hair, he was absolutely stunning.
Dressed in black leather armor, Hades had a presence that truly suited a god of death. It sent a ripple of fear over her, but even so, she understood why Persephone had been attracted to him.
He was compelling.
And as Persephone neared him and he saw her, the look of joy on his face actually made Geary’s heart ache. He rose slowly to his feet.
"Seph," he breathed as if he were dreaming.
Persephone ran to him.
Laughing, he scooped her up in his arms and twirled around with her. "Oh, my precious Seph." He laughed again before he kissed her soundly.