The "talk" was bad enough, but how many teens get told that they're a goddess? When her mom tells her, Persephone is sure her mother has lost her mind. It isn't until Boreas, the god of winter, tries to abduct her that she realizes her mother was telling the truth. Hades rescues her, and in order to safely bring Persephone to the Underworld he marks her as his bride. But Boreas will stop at nothing to get Persephone. Despite her growing feelings for Hades, Persephone wants to return to the living realm. Persephone must find a way to defeat Boreas and reclaim her life.
The branch crashed in front of me, scraping my legs. I ran for the parking lot as fast as I could. The frost closed in, surrounding me. I’d never been claustrophobic, but as the frost cut off my escape path with a solid white wall, I panicked.
Fog rolled in, like cold death, cutting off my view of the park. It curled around me, brushing against my face, arms, and legs. I turned back to the tree and ran faster, my dress tangling between my legs as the fog and icy wind blew against my skin.
The parking lot is the other way! my mind screamed. The other way was cut off by a mountain of ice. I felt as if I was being herded. By ice?
I slipped on the icy ground, falling face first into the frost. Ice crept up my toes and along my legs. I thrashed and screamed. I felt the fog becoming a solid mass above me, pinning me to the ground. The ice piled around me. Am I going to be buried alive?
I dug my nails into the frigid snow in front of me and tried to claw my way out of the frosted death trap. I was so panicked I didn’t feel it when my nails broke against the impenetrable wall of ice, leaving red crescents of blood welling up on sensitive skin. An hysterical sob worked its way out of my throat as I gouged red lines into the ice. The ice was above my knees, snaking its way up my thighs. I shivered.
Shivering’s good, I reminded myself. It means your body hasn’t given up…yet. The cold was painful, like a thousand little knives pricking my skin. A violent tremor went up my spine, sending waves of pain through me.
“Help me!” I screamed, knowing it was futile. I was going to die here.
Except I couldn’t die. Could I? Mom said I was immortal, but was that all-inclusive? Did I have a weakness? Was snow my Kryptonite? If I got hurt, would I heal or would I be trapped in an injured body in pain forever?
I suddenly didn’t know if immortality was a good thing or a bad thing. The cold hurt. I was kicking, screaming, and clawing my way out of the frost, but for every inch I gained a mountain piled around me. I thought I heard a man’s laughter on the wind, the sound somehow colder than the ice freezing me into place.
The ground before my outstretched hand trembled. The shaking increased. The earth lurched beneath me. The surface cracked and the sound was so loud that for a moment all I could hear was high-pitched ringing in my ears. The ground split into an impossibly deep crevice. My voice went hoarse from screaming as I peered into the endless abyss, trapped and unable to move away from the vertigo-inducing edge.
Persephone thought she could go back to her normal life after returning from the Underworld. She was wrong.
The goddess Aphrodite is born among the waves with more charm than she can control. Zeus is stalking Persephone and her loved ones, and Thanatos is no longer content with Persephone's silence.
He wants her soul.
Persephone can't tell anyone about Thanatos' betrayal, and it drives a wedge between her and Hades. Her mother is still keeping secrets, and Melissa's jealousy of Aphrodite threatens to tear their friendship apart.
Alone, Persephone turns to a human boy for comfort. But will their relationship put him in danger?
Sacrifices must be made, and Persephone must choose between her human life and her responsibilities as a goddess. If she doesn't, she could lose them both.
But will either life be worth choosing once Zeus is through with her?
I'd been here before. My bare feet glided over the leaf-strewn path, unharmed by the rocks and twigs crunching beneath me. Massive live oaks draped with Spanish moss created a canopy above me, transforming the forest path into a tunnel of speckled sunlight. The air was heavy with humidity. The moist heat pressed against my skin and stole the breath from my lungs. By the time I reached the path’s end, my Eeyore nightshirt clung to my skin.
"Dungeoness." I came to a halt when I recognized the sprawling ruins of the ancient ivy-covered brick and stone manor.
Athens Academy took my class on a week-long trip to Georgia's coastal islands freshmen year. Cumberland Island was a major highlight because of the sea turtles, wild horses, and these ruins.
"Good job, Persephone,” I muttered, kicking at a branch. “You’ve figured out where you are, but how did you get here?" I knelt to pick up a smooth, white stone, tucking damp tendrils of hair behind my ears so I could see better. The rock looked and felt real. I ran my hand over the smooth stone, turning it over and tracing the shape. The weight of it in my hand reassured me.
I turned, hoping the path held some answers, but it was no longer there. I stood on the grass-covered shoreline looking out to sea. In the distance, a girl stood thigh high in the ocean, clad in a gown of strategically placed sea foam. Although her back was to me, I could tell she was perfect. The curly ringlets of hair cascading down her flawless cream skin matched the intense orange of the sky as the sun sank in the sea.
I glanced down at my sun-kissed skin, self-conscious. She was really pretty. A movement caught my attention and I glanced up as she looked over her shoulder, aquamarine eyes meeting mine. Then she spoke. I was shocked to hear Boreas' cold voice roll off her tongue. "Zeus lives."
I stumbled backward. Boreas, the god of winter. My mind flashed back to that horrible day in the clearing last winter. Boreas’ cold laughter. His fingers digging in my hair as he pulled me across the frozen ground. Melissa’s eyes widening as she choked on her last breath. The rush of power that gave me the strength to put Death himself, and Boreas, under my control.
A soul for a soul. I’d bargained with Thanatos, the god of death, and killed Boreas without a second thought, saving my best friend.
Now images shoved their way through my thoughts: Cumberland Island, two sunsets, lightning cracking in the sky. My mind screamed against the onslaught. I gritted my teeth and forced myself to think the word that would make it all stop.
I bolted up in bed with a gasp. A weight in my hand made me look down. I unclenched my fist, revealing the white stone from Dungeoness.
Zeus will stop at nothing to gain access to the living realm and the Underworld, and as the only living god with a right to both, Persephone’s in trouble. Captured and tortured beyond the limits of her resolve, Persephone must find the power to stand against Zeus. But will she be strong enough?
Meanwhile, Hades contemplates desperate measures to rescue his queen. Persephone never thought of herself as dangerous, but there’s a reason gods never marry for love. A being with the power to destroy all of creation shouldn’t place more value in one individual than the rest of the planet. But Hades...Hades would break the world for her.
To save the world and stop both Hades and Zeus, Persephone must make a difficult choice. One that may cost her everything.
Watching my wife chase after a human boy was hell. The heavy rain drenched the thin fabric of her clothes in seconds, plastering them to her body in a way that would be appealing…if he wasn’t going to see her, too. I clenched my jaw. She just doesn’t want him to get hurt. It wasn’t as though I wanted any mortals caught in the crossfire when we faced Zeus either. Persephone was just going to charm the boy into leaving the park.
Tearing my gaze away from her as she scurried up the hill, I searched the parking lot for Aphrodite, or Zeus, or whoever he, she, it may be. I had the layout of Memorial Park memorized, anyway. Who was I kidding? The entire city of Athens, Georgia was embedded in my mind. The precaution was reasonable. Persephone spent most of her time here, and she was a magnet for trouble.
I followed her up the dirt-packed path in my mind’s eye. She’d be rounding the corner now well above the park, oblivious to the way the plants she passed leaned toward her. Persephone was beautiful. Vibrant. Light and vitality pulsed from her that like the first warm gust of a spring breeze promised everything would soon be new and alive again, that winter would thaw into life. Everything was drawn to her. Unfortunately.
My thoughts returned to the human boy she was following. I scowled. Rain fell, pinging against the transparent shield that kept me out of sight while I sat dry atop a metal picnic table. My fingers worried a spot of rust. I tried not to think too hard about whatever else might have touched the shining surface.
This realm was disgusting. Insects swarmed the park, and birds flew through the air, dropping waste indiscriminately onto the world below. I couldn’t wait to return to the Underworld. The surface had its charms, but I had no desire to stay for long.
Persephone’s voice rang through my mind, and I tossed up a mental wall. It wasn’t just good manners preventing me from listening in. This boy had been in her thoughts every night. I’d seen the way he looked at her like she was something to be consumed, the way he touched her like her body was his for the taking, the way her heart raced when she felt his breath upon her neck. I clenched my jaw and studied the parking lot like it might change shape any moment.
She’d probably think less of me if I ripped him apart.
Not that her opinion was all that stopped me. It wasn’t my habit to go around killing mortal children, and not just because I’d have to deal with them in the Underworld. I liked humans. Just not when they groped my wife
My heart thudded at an uncomfortable speed, filling my body with adrenaline. I couldn’t seem to catch my breath. My hands gripped the edge of the picnic table, and I leaned forward, muscles tensed. That was strange. I had no reason to be this anxious. He was just a kid, and Persephone was Persephone; she had no idea what effect she had. I couldn’t really fault him for being interested, and I had encouraged her to see other people. A spectacularly stupid move on my part. Not only was it condescending as hell to tell Persephone what she should and shouldn’t feel toward me, but I’d managed to push her into the arms of another man. It had taken all of two seconds for me to realize I really didn’t want her to be with other men.
Apparently on top of all my other charming flaws I’m over-possessive. Who knew?
I took a deep breath to force myself to calm down, but it didn’t seem to work. What was the matter with me? Channeling Persephone’s power away every night had given me a very unwanted front row seat to her developing relationship with Joel. I’d seen every kiss, everything, and not felt this before. It hadn’t been pleasant, but—
Cold dread filled the pit of my stomach, and I frowned. This didn’t even feel like rage. My heart was still beating a mile a minute, like it might burst free from my chest at the slightest provocation. I felt strange, no…terrified.
That was it. Fear. But why was I—? It wasn’t mine.
My thoughts flew to Persephone, crashing through the mental wall. Her abject terror flooded my thoughts with such paralyzing force that for a second I lost the ability to move or breathe. All that existed was her fear. The boy spoke in a harsh voice, grip tight on her arm. I rose from the picnic table, ready to relieve him of that limb, when his words filtered through her thoughts.
I blinked. How would he know my name?
A red sports car squealed into the parking lot, and I swore. Hate to interrupt, I directed the thought to Persephone. The boy locked gazes with Persephone and seemed to look through her to me.
I knew those eyes. Images and thought fragments flashed from Persephone’s mind to catch me up, but I already knew everything I needed to.
Persephone, run! I tore through the parking lot to reach the path.
Hades, it’s Joel! He’s Zeus! The whole story passed through my mind accompanied by waves of fear and guilt. Persephone gripping Joel’s arm to teleport but nothing happening, followed by her realization that Joel wasn’t from this realm. Her shock and horror when his glamour melted away. Why wasn’t she running?
Get out of there, now! I couldn’t keep the panic out of my thoughts. If Zeus hurt her…
Our plan, she protested.
She wouldn’t. Only a fool would risk going through with our plan now. We’d intended to trap Zeus by having him stand on an entrance to the Underworld so we could bring some of my realm up and around him. A little slice of Tartarus. It had worked to imprison some of the Titans before, and it could work with him. But not like this. Not with her alone and hopelessly overpowered.
But this was Persephone. The girl who fled the safety of the Underworld to confront Boreas with nothing but righteous indignation on her side. It was foolish of me to expect her to do anything else.
I swore and scrambled up the hill. Just teleport. Leave!
I can get him to the entrance. Hades, this is our best chance.Her determination pounded through me coupled with her desperate need for this to be over. She wouldn’t run. If I couldn’t reach her in time… A bright light seared my vision as I rounded the corner. She screamed, intense pain flashing through her and reverberating to me. I stumbled, blinded by her white-hot agony. Another flash. Pain flared through her, exploding within my mind in a cacophony of anguish. My vision cleared for a split second, and I saw the ground rush toward me. Then everything went black.
Persephone’s anguished scream echoed through the park. I’d rushed over as soon as she called me for help, but knew I was too late. The air hummed with energy, setting my hair on end as I jumped out of the cherry red convertible I’d “borrowed” from some random guy.
I sloshed onto the wet pavement, twisting my ankle in my haste, and made a mental note not to wear heels next time Persephone needed me.
Not that she made a habit of calling me when she needed something. She must really be desperate. I hurried up the wooded running path and almost tripped over a crumpled shape. Hades. What could knock Hades out?
“Aphrodite.” A voice as smooth as silk sent shivers up my spine.
I cast a shield and jumped in front of Hades. Zeus emerged from a grove of trees holding Persephone like he was some knight out of a painting. Her limp, dangling arms swayed as he walked. Golden hair, so bright against her corpse- pale skin that it didn’t look real, cascaded in waves toward the ground. He strode toward me, strong and radiant. Like the sun had reached through him just to get a little closer to earth. The scene would have been breathtaking, like something out of a storybook, if it wasn’t for the sinister expression on his face.
Damn it, I’d hoped it would never come to this. She was my sister and my friend, and I’d stabbed her in the back by pretending “Joel” was anyone other than Zeus. Yes, he’d forced me to help him, but that was no excuse. I never wanted Zeus to win. But now he had Persephone and, with her, access to the Underworld and the living realm. We were all doomed.
“You said you wouldn’t hurt her.” I’d meant to sound defiant, angry, but it came out petulant and scared.
“I said I didn’t have to. There’s a difference.”
I closed my eyes. Of course there was. “You’re leaving me here, aren’t you?” Zeus grinned. “I’m sure you’ll make yourself useful.” I was surprised it still hurt. I’d known from the beginning I was no more than a pawn to Zeus. He’d created me from the remains of Uranus to give me unprecedented levels of charisma and then abandoned me in the world without the knowledge to control the charm.
Charisma, or charm, is kind of like mind control if you know how to use it. I can smile at pretty much any human and make him do what I want, but uncontrolled it’s dangerous. Like, Trojan War dangerous. Used without direction, it steers humans toward their baser instincts. They become obsessed. Anything could have happened to me, but either way, it served Zeus’ purposes. He had backup plans for his backup plans.
Now he was leaving me with two very pissed off deities who would move heaven and earth to find Persephone. No telling what they’d do to me.
Did Persephone even know how lucky she was? I’d sell my soul for just one of the following she collected anywhere she went. To be someone worthy of worship instead of the obedient abomination Zeus created, stripped of my free will and forced into servitude.
Zeus shifted and grabbed the necklace Persephone wore. “Tell Hades”— he cast a knowing glance at the shield behind me with a smirk—“and Demeter I’ll take their realms in exchange for the girl.” The silver chain snapped, and he tossed the necklace toward me. “Give him that.”
Before I could answer, he vanished.
Plucking the necklace out of a puddle, I shook water off the small green plant that sat anchored in a wire basket and dried the pomegranate charm on my shirt. Oh yeah. Hades was definitely going to kill me when he came to.
I’d run, but it wasn’t like I had a choice. Zeus created me with an extra special tweak. I was loyal to family. Loyal to the point of obedience if they outranked me enough. That was why I was almost glad I was still “useful” to him; I had a feeling the minute he didn’t need me anymore, he’d ask me to swear fealty and give him all my power. Suicide by devotion. And I’d have no choice but to oblige.
If I swore over everything to him, would he release my soul to the Underworld? Would I finally be free? Or would he keep me, my thoughts and memories, and everything about me that was me locked in his head in case he ever found it useful?
I sat beside Hades and pulled my knees to my chest. Hollow. I felt hollow inside, like Zeus had carved out everything that mattered, everything I cared about, and left me empty. Hopeless. The rain dripped down my face, mimicking the tears I didn’t dare cry.
Getting struck by lightning hurts. A lot. Most people die long before they fully process the pain of a storm’s worth of voltage passing through their body in the blink of an eye. I don’t have that luxury. Instead, I discovered something that hurt far worse than becoming a sadistic deity’s living electrical conduit. Healing from a lightning strike at godspeed.
When I came to, my body felt like it was pulsing molten lava through my veins with each heartbeat. Gods! An inhuman moan tore from my throat. What happened? It wasn’t until the bed shifted that I realized I wasn’t alone.
Hades. I let myself relax. Relief calmed me enough for unconsciousness to threaten to pull me back under, so I forced myself to take steady breaths. It was too soon to open my eyes. I knew how to stay conscious through horrific pain. Thanatos taught me that.
I breathed in too deeply, and a bolt of pain lanced through me. When I shifted positions to get comfortable, a low moan worked its way up my throat. There was no comfortable. The lightning had seared every single nerve ending in my body. Healing from this didn’t feel good at all.
His hand brushed the hair out of my face.
“Hades?” I croaked, struggling to open my eyes.
He shushed me, stroking my arm. I leaned into his touch as the memories rushed back—Hades finding out about Thanatos and killing him, destroying his soul, planning to trap Zeus, waiting at the park for Aphrodite, and realizing Joel was there. What happened to Joel?
The voice shushed me again, and the hand on my shoulder didn’t feel comforting anymore. His touch felt…wrong. My eyes flew open, and I bolted upright.
With a horrible certainty I turned to see who sat next to me on the bed.
Sometimes Love isn’t enough.
A young woman sits on the beach and contemplates the existence of Sirens.
A young woman sits on the beach and contemplates the existence of Sirens.
There is no uncertainty in my steps as I stride to the shore as the surf strikes mercilessly against the sand. I shiver as the breeze shifts my hair against my shoulders. The course grains of sand scrape my skin and slide slowly between my fingers as though siphoned through an hourglass.
I stare at the sand, considering the seconds of my life silently slipping past my fingers. Should I savor these? No, I decide, tossing it away. My feet step through the sandy shower without hesitation. We were sixteen when we stood side by side on this shore, skirting the waves splashing our bare feet. The sand squished between our toes, and our feet got stuck if we stood too still. As the sun rose over the ocean waves, setting the sea sparkling in the light he seized my arm and pulled me close; with no money for a gift, he promised me the sea.
The sand is so white that the light of the moon bounces off it, bathing the beach in a luminous glow. I silently step through the shore like a specter, a spirit, a shade, a shadow of my former self, and remember when a night like this was enough to make me believe in magic. It seemed so magical my nineteenth year. We stood on this shore and wed while friends and family beamed as we said our vows. Behind their sweet smiles, they took bets on whether I was pregnant. As the sun set, everybody lined up to cast their seashells into the ocean with a wish for our good fortune. His blue shell flew the furthest, only I saw it wash ashore.
It was foolish of me to disregard such an omen.
But then I was a fool.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Her young adult series "Daughters of Zeus" is available wherever ebooks are sold. She also writes for truuconfessions.com and Athens Parent Magazine.
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