The final battle . . .
Aphrodite is in big trouble this time. She’s stranded on the island of the DAMNED--without powers and without her beloved Ares. Worse, she knows it’s only a matter of time before the demigods figure out she’s a goddess. If that happens, she’ll wish she were dead.
Help arrives in the form of an unlikely ally. But Medea has her own demands, and if Aphrodite wants to survive--not to mention find Hades and the weapons cache--she has to meet them.
But all their plans take a back seat when they find themselves in even more pressing danger. When Medea moved the island, she rendered it unstable. Now it’s breaking apart and sinking. In the chaos, the demigods have risen up, blaming the gods for their misfortune. Nobody is safe from the demigods . . . especially a Pantheon sympathizer like Aphrodite. And they’ve come up with a deadly test to uncover any imposters.
Aphrodite knows she can’t do this alone. It will take the whole Pantheon to get her out of this mess. Unfortunately, they’ll have to find her first . . .
Kaitlin Bevis spent her childhood curled up with a book and a pen. If the ending didn't agree with her, she rewrote it. Because she's always wanted to be a writer, she spent high school and college learning everything she could to achieve that goal. After graduating college with a BFA and Masters in English, Kaitlin went on to write The Daughters of Zeus series.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.51(d)|
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By Kaitlin Bevis
BelleBooks, Inc.Copyright © 2017 Kaitlin Bevis
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Persephone Previously ...
I OFFERED A smile to the man who'd tried to kill Aphrodite, though I could not keep my teeth from clenching. A camera streamed my every move to an island full of people who wanted my extinction. They had my husband locked up so far from consciousness, I couldn't even reach him in his dreams. And the man behind it all, their leader, Jason, sat across the table scowling back at my smile.
"Here." Orpheus, my head priest, unfolded a chair at a scorched plastic table and motioned for me to sit.
"Thanks." I drew in a deep breath that smelled of smoke.
"Not a problem." He held another folded chair, but before he could place the seat, Poseidon grabbed the blackened metal from him.
Shoving it beside mine with more force than necessary, the sea god plopped down and crossed his arms, glaring at the two demigods across the table.
Orpheus rolled his eyes. The famous demigod wanted nothing to do with this meeting, but Jason had refused to deal directly with us when he'd called to set up the meeting. "Well, now that everyone's here, shall we begin?" At my assent, Orpheus stepped back, fading into the background behind the camera. Unlike the girl who'd accompanied Jason, the two demigods looked like they could have been brothers. Both were tall, broad-shouldered, and golden to the extreme. Hair, eyes, skin. There were varying shades to the tones allotted within the genetic markers gods used to differentiate demigods, but the combination was unmistakable.
Jason was older than I'd expected. Not Orpheus old. Somewhere in his twenties, rather than thirties, but definitely older than me. I guessed that made sense given how long he'd been working against the Pantheon. But Aphrodite and Ares always made the rebellious demigods sound so young.
That shouldn't have surprised me. Aphrodite might not have been around since the ancient days like Ares, but she'd adopted all the same attitudes and assumptions towards humans. Hades called it perspective. I called it condescension.
And wasn't that attitude just the problem? After generations of the Greek Pantheon treating demigods like disposable pawns, they were fighting back with a vengeance. DAMNED: Demigods Against Major Nymphs, Elementals, and Deities, had one goal in mind: our extinction. And, honestly, I couldn't blame them.
"I'm assuming you're Jason?" I offered my hand, but Jason just sneered at it, though his companion had the grace to look embarrassed by his behavior.
Beside me, Poseidon, the scumbag of the sea, tensed at the snub. The sea god was tall and well-built, something he must have enjoyed showing off, because he almost never wore a shirt. Spiky blond hair completed a carefree surfer boy image. Until you looked at the ocean churning in his eyes.
I let my unanswered question stretch into awkwardness as I glanced around the strange meeting place Jason had selected. We sat in the burnedout shell of an old hospital cafeteria with a low ceiling, cinderblock walls, empty countertops that led to a shattered cash register, and row after row of partially melted plastic tables that smelled like they were still burning. I'd never seen anything like it.
After letting Jason squirm for a solid minute, I lay my hands atop the bubbled-up surface of the table and turned to his companion. "And you are?"
I already knew Medea's name, of course. Aphrodite and Ares had prepped me on what to expect from the unusual demigoddess. The two deities were living on the ominously named Isle of the DAMNED right now, glamoured to look like two demigods we knew — Elise and Adonis.
The waif-thin girl lacked the genetic features marking her as a demigoddess. Dark hair spilled over her shoulders, making her already pale skin look almost unreal. Terrified, violet eyes stared back at me as she whispered her name.
I exchanged a glance with Orpheus. Between her terror and general tininess, Medea looked far younger than her seventeen years. And she was Jason's wife? Like I needed another reason to hate this guy.
You have zero room to talk, Orpheus's sardonic look seemed to say. My husband was several centuries (okay fine, millennia) my senior. But looking at this girl, this victim, I suddenly understood why our age difference had been such a big deal.
It was hard to believe she was stronger than every demigod on that island.
"I'm Persephone." I forced my hands to unclench. "And this is Poseidon. Thank you for meeting with us today. I think it's long past time we talked. You have someone who belongs to me and, in return for him and some other assurances, the entire Pantheon is willing to negotiate with you."
Drawing in a deep breath, I fell back on the script Athena had drilled into me. Gods couldn't lie, and since I spoke for the entire Pantheon, it was important to choose my words wisely so I didn't lock us into any unintentional promises. "It's an unprecedented opportunity."
Beyond unprecedented. The Pantheon did not negotiate with mortals. But over the last few centuries, our numbers had dwindled to the point of extinction. Every loss had deep-reaching ramifications to our species as a whole.
If it came to a fight, we'd win. But we couldn't afford the casualties.
The negotiations went pretty well, considering. Right up until we got around to weaponry.
There wasn't much that could kill a god. Lack of worship, their own children (don't ask — it seriously just gets more messed up), and Olympian Steele. Hephaestus had developed the weapons centuries ago and promptly destroyed them all once he realized what he'd created. Somehow, these demigods had reinvented the wheel.
I swallowed hard, my throat Sahara-dry and foul-tasting when I reached the final sticking point. "You have to destroy your weapons."
"No way," Jason objected. "If you guys go back on your word —"
"Our word is unbreakable," Poseidon said through gritted teeth. The sea scum was not coping well with this whole negotiate with lesser creatures thing.
"Y-you'll find a way around it," Jason sputtered, his fist coming down on the warped tabletop. "You always do."
I winced at the pain in his voice. One of my people had likely done something to him in the past. Something terrible. And they probably hadn't thought twice about it.
"Look at me." I met Jason's eyes as I deviated from the script. "I will not let that happen if you agree to our terms. Return our people, get rid of the weapons, and I will make them keep their word. In spirit, not just by the letter. Okay? I promise you."
Beside me, Poseidon rolled his eyes in unsurprised resignation.
"Why should they listen to you?" Jason's voice sounded hoarse with panic, but hope glimmered in his eyes.
"Because." Poseidon casually inspected a smudge of ash that had transferred to his arm from the chair. "She's our Queen."
I stiffened, but didn't argue with the title.
Jason's gold eyes widened in surprise. "And if I refuse?"
"Then I stop allowing you to die." I hated the words even as I spoke them. "No matter what befalls you, your bodies would continue to function, to feel pain."
Despite popular perception, my Reapers didn't kill people. Though they were capable of severing a human soul from its body, they were strictly forbidden to do such a thing. They released souls from deceased bodies and guided them to the Underworld. "Demigods would remain sentient as their bodies rotted around them. Passage to the Underworld is a luxury I will not grant without my terms met." I hadn't wanted to even threaten something so horrific, but Athena had insisted that the consequences for refusal be real and terrifying.
"We are willing to negotiate with you," I continued, reciting the script as I forced my hands to go still in my lap. "To discuss terms, and agree to safeties and precautions. But we will not accept any negotiation that doesn't include the return of any gods you may be experimenting on or holding captive. Nor will we allow the continued existence of weapons that can be used against us. We created the ground you stand on and, as your astute friend here pointed out, we can unmake it. You've done a lot that we're willing to overlook in the name of peace. Don't squander this opportunity. You won't get another."
"This is sounding more and more like an ultimatum," Jason said through clenched teeth.
He wasn't wrong.
Poseidon gave me a dark look when I didn't deny Jason's accusation. "It's more ground than any mortal has gained before."
"Jason ..." Medea's voice shook and I tried not to feel like I'd just kicked a wounded puppy.
"We'd like time to think about this," Jason said stiffly, his chair scraping along the floor as he pushed it back, rising to his feet. "You understand. I speak for a collective and unlike you, I didn't have the benefit of knowing your terms prior to our engagement."
"Of course." There was a script for this reaction. "But we require something of a security deposit to ensure you have a reason to return to the table."
"You can smite us with a thought. Isn't that enough?" Jason slammed both hands on the blackened table, leaning closer to me.
Beside me, Poseidon went rigid at the threat in Jason's body language. Even Orpheus stepped forward before I met his gaze, telling him in no uncertain terms to stay back.
I lifted my brow at the looming demigod, my shoulders rising in a casual shrug. "No."
He had my husband, he'd nearly killed my sister, and he'd disabled two gods in my pantheon. I couldn't risk him slipping through my fingers.
"You have at least one of our people. I'd like some of yours. She'll do." When I nodded toward the girl cowering at his side, she jerked back as if I'd struck a physical blow. "And at least one other demigod and demigoddess of your choice."
Jason's voice went hard as steel. "Out of the question."
"One demigod and one demigoddess then," I countered, lowering my voice with every decibel he raised his. It was a trick I'd picked up from Athena to control the conversation. "That's my final offer, if you want to leave the table. Otherwise, you'll have to decide here and now if you'd like to meet our terms. Listen." I leaned toward him, willing him to understand. "This is a good deal. The best you can expect to be offered since, despite what you may think, you don't have the upper hand here."
Jason straightened, crossing his arms. "I think you wouldn't be sitting at this table if that was the case."
The sea god barked a surprised-sounding laugh. "Oh, trust me, son. The only reason your pathetic little island isn't twenty leagues under the sea is because she lacks a thirst for bloodshed. There is literally nothing stopping us from destroying every last one of you, except for her request that we try another way."
Poseidon was convinced that if we'd only let him suck the island beneath his waves, Aphrodite, Ares, and Hades would be fine. They were gods, after all. He really didn't seem to grasp the fact that the demigods had made us vulnerable. Fortunately, the rest of the Pantheon wasn't quite as bullheaded.
"So why are you letting her speak for you?" Jason demanded, sounding thoroughly unimpressed by Poseidon's outburst.
"Power," Medea whispered. The dark-haired waif flinched beneath my gaze.
Could she sense power? That fear in her eyes, was it because of me?
"Boredom," Poseidon said with a yawn, slouching back in his newly restored, gleaming metal chair. "You think you're the first group to go against the gods? You stand on the bones of civilizations so lost, your archeologists will never uncover them. We've been there. Done that. It gets boring after a while. We'd like to see what happens if we let you live." Poseidon gave him a nasty smile. "Could be interesting."
Jason's throat bobbed nervously at that. "You can have Adonis. He already knows you. Anyone else I send would be terrified. I won't put the others through that. Go ahead and summon him," he said, motioning to the girl at his side.
"Summon?" I glanced at Poseidon for clarification, but he looked as confused as I felt. "What do you mean, summon?"
"Something's off." Medea's eyes closed and sweat beaded on her forehead. "It feels different. Hang on." Her fingers folded around the edge of her chair, soot staining her pale palms. "This'll just take a minute."
"What is she doing?" Poseidon leapt to his feet, a salt-filled sea breeze sweeping through the cafeteria with his motion. "If you try something, then this entire —"
"She's just bringing you your demigod," Jason said, his voice calm.
Medea could do that? I looked behind the camera to Orpheus, but his shoulders lifted in a shrug. If any demigods could teleport, it was news to him.
Jason smirked at the sea god. "You didn't think we were going to let you set foot on our island to take him, did you?"
A figure with silvery hair and paper-white skin materialized in the room. Not Ares. The real Adonis.
"What did you do to him?" Medea leapt to her feet so fast, her chair fell to the tile floor with a clang.
I sat, stunned, a feeling like ice spreading across my chest. She could 'port people across realms without permission. That was ... that was ...
"He's a god," Jason said in a hushed whisper, "They turned him into a god."
Aphrodite had turned Adonis into a god after one of DAMNED's generals ordered his execution. But somehow, I didn't think that distinction would matter much to Jason.
Adonis stumbled into the table, his expression mirroring my shock and horror. "She didn't see them take me."
She? Oh. Aphrodite. He was covering for her, assuring the demigods that Aphrodite, or Elise as far as they were concerned, hadn't been complicit in sending Ares in Adonis's place. I fought back a wave of nausea as I realized just how bad this was. If Ares's cover was blown, Aphrodite's wouldn't be far behind, no matter how carefully Adonis phrased her involvement. She was helpless. Powerless. Injured.
Oh gods. I'd killed them both.
"She wasn't even conscious." Adonis spoke so fast he practically tripped over the words. Gods couldn't lie, so he had to choose his truths carefully. "Elise had nothing to do with this."
"Shut up, half-breed!" Poseidon's yell echoed through the wide room. He looked to me, as though begging me to do something, anything to control the damage, but I sat rooted to my chair, stunned into stillness as our entire plan fell to pieces.
There wasn't a script for this.
The demigods edged away from us, fear and betrayal written all over their faces. They were going to leave. I couldn't let them leave.
"Wait!" I leapt to my feet, my arm stretching across the table. If I could just reach them, I could keep them there. "We can explain. Just —"
Medea glanced at me, something flashing in her violet eyes. Hope, maybe? I could all but see gears turning in her brain. "How's this for an exchange?" she spat, letting go of Jason's hand.
Shoving the table to the side, I sprinted toward her. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I could have teleported the distance in an instant. But powers didn't come instinctively for me, and by the time I realized what I could have done, she'd grabbed Adonis and vanished, leaving Jason behind.
"Go," I shouted to Poseidon, aiming a blast of power at the camera.
He 'ported to the island in a whoosh of salty wind to fetch Aphrodite and Ares. Gods, let him make it before the demigods kill them both.
I drew in a deep breath and turned to face Jason, his face pale with horror as he realized he'd been left behind.
"What are you going to do with him?" Orpheus asked, cautiously stepping over the remains of the shattered camera.
There's still hope for a truce, I tried to reassure myself, my fingers brushing against the flaky, ash-covered floor where Medea had just stood. She left him, after all. That's an exchange. Not the one I'd asked for, but I'd take it.
"Persephone?" Orpheus's worried voice reached my ears. "They'll tear him to pieces."
He was right. I had to make sure my people didn't eviscerate Jason before Medea had a chance to see this through. "I'll take him to the Underworld."
"No!" Jason's feet scraped white lines into the scorched ground as he threw himself against the shield I'd cast to keep him from running away.
"This is for your own good," I assured the thrashing demigod before 'porting him away.
Excerpted from Venus Rising by Kaitlin Bevis. Copyright © 2017 Kaitlin Bevis. Excerpted by permission of BelleBooks, Inc..
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