- The Darkest Lie
Of course, her mother remained where she was. “I never knew what you saw in him, why you watched him so covetously. Paris, Lucien and Galen were the pretty ones, though one could hardly call Lucien pretty anymore.” Rhea’s face scrunched with disgust. “Sabin was the strong, determined one. Strider the fun one. Any of them would have been better than him, the wild one who enjoyed fighting.”
Like that was a crime. Still, Scarlet clenched her jaw to keep her rebuke inside. One, she didn’t want her mother to know how much Gideon still meant to her. Not that he meant a whole hell of a lot, she assured herself. Defending him would be like shouting her feelings (small as they were) from a rooftop. Two, she hated that anyone, especially Rhea, was seeing him like this, weakened and hurting, and prolonging the discussion would only encourage the goddess to stay.
“Now they’re all evil and in need of extermination,” her mother continued.
“Funny that you say that, since you’re just like them. Strife.” Oh, yes. Rhea was possessed by the demon of Strife. She might deny it, but Scarlet knew the truth.
Rhea stiffened, a predator who’d spotted prey after a too-long fast. “Utter that word again, and I’ll entice your lover into my bed. I could do it, you know, and there would be nothing you could do to stop me. I grow prettier every day.”
Do not react. Not to the jealousy suddenly beating through her, or the consuming fury. Again, that would only encourage the goddess. “Do whatever you want. Later. For now, just leave us,” she said, knowing the order would grate on Rhea’s nerves. “I have a few things to discuss with him and then you can have him.” There. That should throw her mother for a loop.
At first, Rhea didn’t obey. She sauntered to the other side of the bed and ran the sharp tip of a nail up Gideon’s leg, stomach and then throat. Gideon latched onto her wrist and growled. She laughed that tinkling, dead laugh.
“Bitch,” he croaked, and then hunched over on another moan.
“You know, I think I’ll have him anyway.” With a smile that returned every bit of her satisfaction, the queen disappeared, leaving Scarlet alone with her husband.
Finally Scarlet was able to climb up the bed as she’d wanted. Very carefully, she settled beside him, her pulse hammering at the base of her neck. “Are you a prisoner?” she asked, smoothing the hair from his damp brow.
He leaned into her touch. “Yes.”
A lie, she knew, because his answer wasn’t followed by another moan. “Why are you here?”
Some of the ice around her heart melted; she couldn’t stop it. So. He had meant to seek revenge. “Killing him won’t make you feel any better,” she said softly.
Their gazes met, a heated tangle. “Not willing to…find out.”
“Cronus won’t allow you to do that. So why did he bring you here?”
Gideon’s smile was brief yet still pained. “He doesn’t need my help with the Hunters. I didn’t ask him to bring me here so I can recover from the truth I spoke. I don’t plan to make my way to Tartarus.”
“You spoke the truth? In the forest?” Scarlet flattened her palm over his cheek, thumb tracing the bruise under his eye. “Stupid man. Believe me, if I thought it would ease my pain, I would have found a way to kill Zeus long ago.”
“Scar.” He reached up with a shaky hand and cupped her nape. His grip was weak, but she knew what he was doing. Offering comfort. Comfort she had been denied for so long.
Tears suddenly burned her eyes.
Dangerous. Too dangerous. She couldn’t allow this. Couldn’t rely on him like this. Not for anything, even something as simple and wonderful as comfort. What would happen the next time she needed consoling and he wasn’t nearby or didn’t want to offer it? She would need it, wouldn’t know how to cope without it.
She straightened, and he was too weak to follow her movement. His arm thudded back on the mattress.
You are hard. Uncaring. “It’s treacherous here in Titania,” she said coldly. “You jailed many of these Titans, and they’ll be all too happy to kick you while you’re down.”
“Care. I do.”
He might not, but she foolishly did. “We should return to Earth.”
Sweet, resisting man. “Gideon—”
“What if Zeus wasn’t the one to take my memories of you and Steel? What if he didn’t remove them to keep me from kissing him?”
That…that made sense, she realized. Zeus had been so powerful, he very well could have removed Gideon’s memories to prevent the warrior from killing him for Steel’s death. Although the gods and goddesses of memory were usually the only ones capable of such a thing. Zeus could have paid one of them to do it, however.
With each new thought, rage sparked inside her. The same rage she’d born in her cell, the same rage she’d carried with her since her escape, but stronger. So much stronger. Zeus might have stolen more than her son. Zeus might have stolen her future.
Why she’d ever been content to let him languish, she didn’t know. It was so unlike her. Perhaps someone had screwed with her mind, as well.
“I’ll help you reach him,” she said with such deadly calm even she was scared. Rivers of blood would flow. Screams would echo into a thousand midnights.
She wanted to go now, this second, to finally act, but morning was fast approaching and she would fall into that undisturbed sleep, unable to care for herself.
In this, she realized she did need Gideon and she would allow herself to use him. Tomorrow… Oh, yes, tomorrow. Vengeance.
“He will suffer,” Gideon said on a ragged breath, mirroring her thoughts. Once again, he moaned in pain, but his next words rang out clearly. “I swear it.”
ZEUS’S MENTAL doorway was closed and locked with a Do Not Disturb sign draped on the knob.
For hours, Scarlet waited in front of that doorway, clawing and kicking and pounding, something that usually bathed the target in fatigue. Even gods and goddesses. Yet the entry remained closed.He was awake and fighting the lethargy with a strength he shouldn’t have possessed. Not with his slave collar. But he would have to sleep eventually. Everyone did, even deposed god kings. And when he did, she would be there.
However he’d convinced her to allow him to suffer from afar…she might never know. The fucker had killed her son in front of her, and had likely taken Gideon’s memories of her. He was the reason her heart had withered and died. He was the reason she had cried herself to sleep so many nights. And he could very well be the reason she’d felt abandoned, alone, forsaken and used.
None of that mattered to her demon, however. Must feed, Nightmares said.
She understood, knowing well the consequences of denying her other half what he needed. He wouldn’t want to, but he would be forced to feed on her.
So, though she would have preferred to stake out the Greek for all of eternity, she approached Galen. And, to be honest, hurting him would calm her down. Somewhat.
Thankfully, his doorway was open. His dream was as turbulent as before, only this time it was all his own. Over and over he relived what she’d shown him. His helplessness. His weakness. His defeat at Gideon’s hand.
Nightmares drank in his terror, luxuriating in the emotion even though the demon hadn’t caused it, before scenting someone else’s fear and moving on. And then another. When the demon was finally sated, Scarlet steered them toward Gideon’s doorway. It, too, was open.
Her warrior slept. What thoughts drifted through his mind?
Walk away. A command from her sense of survival.
Can’t. A cry from the most feminine part of her.
She was trembling as she stepped inside, and what she next saw left her gasping. There she was, wearing a beautiful red gown, yet chained in front of a strong, struggling boy who appeared half human, half demon. Zeus stood behind the boy, a curving knife in hand, glinting silver. Around them was a crowd of people cheering.
Not a memory, she realized, because Gideon had some of the details wrong. He was simply creating a scene from what she’d told him.
For a long while, she debated: show him the truth or leave him to the illusion. An illusion that would be much easier to digest than reality.
He needs to know. Who spoke to her this time, she didn’t know.
Did he, though? Sometimes she would prefer not to know herself.
He needs to know. For Steel. Steel deserved a father who knew how he’d lived—and died.
With that, Scarlet’s reservations vanished. For Steel, she would do anything.
Trembling, she reached out and waved a hand over dream Scarlet’s gown. That was the easiest correction to make and a good place to start. The material disappeared as if her palm was an eraser. Then, with another wave of her hand, she repainted her clothing. A dirty white robe, stained with blood. Ripped at one shoulder. She added cuts and bruises to her face and arms.
Gulping, she eyed the crowd. Using both hands, she wiped them away, leaving herself, Steel and Zeus, and a figure cloaked in darkness. A being whose feet didn’t quite touch the ground, the hem of his black robe blowing in a wind no one else could see. The being who would accept and cage Steel’s demon.
Without the cheers, a near-deafening silence took over.
Next, she changed the surrounding hippodrome where Zeus had often hosted his chariot games to an abandoned temple. White alabaster columns rose all around, dewy green ivy climbing their beveled lengths. There were steps that led to a cracked marble altar, each stained crimson from the many sacrifices that had taken place there.
That done, she turned her attention to Zeus. Her fingers curled in as her mind shouted avoid! She might snap. But she didn’t stop. His gold and purple robe was the first to go. In its place, she painted armor. Silver. Etched with jagged yet beautiful butterflies that matched the tattoo on her back, as well as the tattoo on Gideon’s right thigh. Between each of the butterflies was a glowing bolt of lightning.