(This is the fifth installment of my short fiction story, The Gods Defense. If you’re just seeing this, all the parts up until now are posted on here. Just find the Categories widget on the right and click on ‘My Writing.’)
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My eyes felt like I slept with sandpaper tucked under the lids.
Oh, that would be my contacts. I rolled to my side, blinking up tears until the dried up husks of plastic wetted and slid back into place on my eyeballs.
Why did I fall asleep with my contacts in?
Why was it so light in my room?
And why the hell did I feel like I was wearing a medieval torture device?
I opened my eyes fully, blinking a few more times. My right eye still felt a little off. I pushed my contact to the side and blinked it back into place. There, that felt better.
I lay near the edge of a gold decked canopy bed big enough to host a party on. The curtains and comforter were some thick yet silky material and the head was covered in perfectly arranged throw pillows in autumn colors. Gentle light came through the gaps between the curtains.
I was in my red gown, which explained the crunched ribs, but why was I…
The blood dropped from my face like an express elevator and I forced myself to breathe deeply. Oh God, I’d been coming to meet Apollo and was somehow drugged.
Two guesses where I was now.
Don’t panic. Don’t panic. Don’t panic.
I had to focus. I did a quick evaluation. My hair was down, my shoes, purse, and Pashmina were gone, but my gun was still a solid weight on my hip. I pulled it out and checked inside. Still loaded, so I hadn’t been frisked. I smiled.
Bullets couldn’t kill gods, but they could make them think twice about coming after you.
Oh what fools these immortals be.
I slid to the edge of the bed and peeled the curtain back just enough to peek out.
I was in what I was assuming was a bedroom. The rose carpets were ankle deep if they were a centimeter. A long couch took up an entire side of the room. The thing could probably seat twelve. Paintings and statues lined two walls I could see. A giant window filled with the night sky took up the third.
No one was there, though.
I put my gun back and climbed off the bed. I walked around, peeking around the bed. No one.
The other side held what looked like a bar made of clouds. It was all fluffy and white, but boxed into a counter shape that ran halfway around one wall and turned to take up about five feet, cutting out a little square. A door was just to the side of it.
I went to the counter first. I know, I know, bad curiosity. I poked it and it the fluffy whiteness swallowed my finger, barely wisping as I drew it back.
Okay, I admit, it was cool.
In the middle of the cloud-boxed area was a carved fountain about five feet tall and three feet in diameter. The statue in the middle of a woman pouring liquid out of a pot was made of solid marble and gems. Her skin white with pink veins, her hair sparkling black, her eyes sapphires, her lips rubies. The liquid flowing out of her pot and into the basin was pure silver, like liquid moonbeams.
I didn’t know what made me more uneasy: the liquid I was pretty sure was mercury or the fact that the girl looked like me.
Well, like me on a really good skin and hair day when I was wearing red lipstick, but still, basically me.
I whirled with a gasp, my heart so high in my throat I was surprised I couldn’t taste blood.
Apollo was barely three feet away.
He hadn’t been there the whole time. Of that I was sure. The first time we met, he was playing human to talk to lawyers fresh from taking the bar. I didn’t know it then, but he was basically interviewing for someone to be his counsel.
I’d known he wasn’t human right away. He’d set my teeth shaking like that door had. I’d just thought he was another psychic at the time. He was impressed I’d sensed his power at all.
The point is, if he’d been in the room, I would’ve felt it.
I crossed my arms. “Kidnaping, Apollo? Really? I don’t know what you think you’re going to accomplish by this, but I’m not going to agree to work for you just because you threaten to hold me hostage. There are plenty of lawyers out there. Go bug one of them.”
Pretty good speech considering I could barely breathe.
Apollo wasn’t movie star hot like a lot of people thought gods should be. He looked like he belonged on a college campus: physically mid-twenties, about five ten, with solid but not overly large muscles, skin a gold-kissed tan, short, buttery yellow curls and sharp features: pointy, almost girly chin, high cheekbones, long forehead, aristocratic nose.
He was wearing a black suit that probably cost more than I made in a month, with a sky blue top and patterned gold tie. Shouldn’t a god have been lounging around his bedroom in a toga or something?
The only things that’d make him stand out at a Vandy Law party were his eyes. Amethyst with dark-blue six pointed stars around the pupil. He could hide them with a simple illusion and walk down the street without turning more than the average strapping young male’s amount of heads.
“Yes, but you’re so much more fun to bother than someone who actually likes me.” He smiled with full lips. My stomach tightened.
Again, he was good looking, but not mouthwatering. So why was I struggling to breathe? Why were my insides melting into goo like marshmallows?
I blamed his voice. It wrapped around my skin, thick yet silky… huh, kind of like the curtains around his bed. Was that a coincidence? Or maybe just my overactive imagination?
“Ohhhh,” I said with my widest eyes, letting my hands fly in front of me. “So if I’d been nice to you, you’d have left me alone? Geez, if I’d only known then, we both could’ve saved ourselves a lot of trouble. See, in our time, we’re mean to people to let them know we don’t like them and to leave us alone. If I’d known in your time that girls were mean to get a guy’s attention, I would’ve been nice to you.”
“What is it about your sarcastic abilities that is so infuriating yet charming all at once?”
Was that a rhetorical question? Probably.
“Let’s cut the bullshit. What do you want?”
He met my eyes. “You.”
I blinked, taking a step back. That was very straightforward for Apollo.
And I was in his room. Trapped… at his mercy… oh shit! I took another step back. Sure I had a gun, but as I said, it wouldn’t kill him. It’d hurt him. Maybe I could…
“Oh,” he waved a dismissive hand, “not for sex. Though that would be nice. I want… actually, I need your power. I was not positive before, but I am now since you knew the door was an Olympian entrance.”
He frowned at me. “If you had agreed to meet with me earlier…” He forced a smile, waving his hand again. “No matter, though. What’s done is done. And I do like the symmetry of today. Even if we are cutting this dangerously close. One and two being three and nine being that squared is beautiful mathematics. Of course, the…”
“Apollo,” I interrupted, putting on my sweetest smile, “if you don’t stop talking in riddles and tell me what the hell’s going on, I’m going to punch you on principle.”
He drew a deep breath. “Right. You are linear.”
I scuzzed him. “What… No, never mind.” I shook my finger. “Just tell me what you meant by all that, and make whatever stupid offer you want to make so I can say no and go home.”
He smiled, eyes focusing on mine as his lips twisted into pure condescension. It changed his entire face. No longer the carefree playboy. Without the help of any illusion or spell, his face morphed into an arrogant god’s.
“Please don’t tell me you’re naive enough to think I’m going to let you go home?”
“You can’t keep me here.”
“Of course I can.”
“You can’t make me work for you.”
“There, you are correct.” He walked towards me and I darted to the side. He just went past and to the bar. He reached into the clouds and pulled out a bottle of amber liquid. He set it on the top and it stayed there. “However, I merely wanted you to be my lawyer. Two birds with one stone and all that. I need your powers. And to use them, I do not need your cooperation.” He reached into the cloud again and pulled out two bar glasses. “Drink?”
“I’m not stupid, Apollo. You don’t eat or drink anything from the gods. Then you would be able to drag me back once I get out of here.”
He shrugged and the bottle slid into the cloud as he pushed the glasses back in. “I thought you refused because you used to be an alcoholic.” He pulled two bottles of water out of the clouds and held one out to me.
I shook my head. “Am an alcoholic. There is no used to be.”
“And you started drinking after what happened to your mother.” It wasn’t a question. “Quit cold turkey your 2L year after going into therapy.”
I kept my face cold and blank. “Am I supposed to freak out now? Ask you how you know all that?” My lip curled up. “Not going to happen. She’s in Green Hills Home and I was in therapy through the school’s health center. I’m sure both have records any teenage hacker could get into.”
The hint of a smile touched his eyes. He was still holding the bottle out to me. “You need water, Cassandra. The knockout dust needs to be fully washed from your system.” His voice was like a web brushing over my brain: soft, barely there, threatening. “Take the bottle, Cassandra.” I wasn’t sure if the last part was out loud or in my mind.
I reached for the bottle. My fingers slid onto it. The cool surface was wet, but not. Kind of like putting your hand in water when you’re wearing gloves. I knew when I took my hand away, my fingers would be perfectly dry.
Take my hand away? Why would I do that? I wanted the water.
I jerked my hand back, rubbing it on my dress, using the motion to slide my hand through the slit and grab my gun. I had it out and pointed at his head in the beat of a hummingbird’s wing.
He actually looked surprised.
That was satisfying.
“Now, Cassandra,” Apollo said, lowering the bottle finally, “will shooting me do any good?”
“It’ll make me feel better.”
“You do know no human could have moved that quickly, right?” His body language said he was calm as a spring morning, but his eyes followed the gun.
“I know somehow my mental powers can be solidified into speed, but that doesn’t mean I’m not human.”
He nodded slightly. “That would depend on your definition. Let us just say, you are as human as I am.”
I snorted. “I don’t know what kind of game you’re trying to play with this whole thing, but I’m going now. Follow, and I shoot.”
I walked to the door backwards, keeping the gun on him.
“This is growing tiresome,” he said by my ear before my eyes realized he wasn’t in front of me anymore.
“AH!” I jumped. I couldn’t help it. He tore the gun from my hand and tossed it so fast my brain had to take a few seconds to review it in slow-mo before I got what happened. By then he had my arm in a steel grip and twisted it tightly as he pulled me into him. It didn’t hurt, but it would if I tried to get away.
I was on my tiptoes and pressed into his chest with his arm locked behind my back, his other one keeping mine twisted, and our faces separated by a few inches of height and not much else before I knew it.
His eyes flicked from my lips to my eyes and he smiled. “You will learn how to control your speed, to follow others’ speed, too,” he said into my mouth. His breath tasted like peppermint.
He lowered his face. His lips grazed mine.
I jerked my head back, thrashing against his grip. He held my arm tighter.
I stopped struggling pretty skippy. “You keep doing that,” I growled, “I’m going to get skin-burn.”
“Stop struggling then.”
“Don’t try to kiss me then.”
“Ahhhh, I do love the taste of spunk.” He leaned in again.
I stomped his instep and bit his pouty lower lip as hard as I could.
He let me go.
I stumbled back, wiping my mouth furiously. The faintest hint of copper-tinted blood hit my tongue. Did any of it get in me? What would it do if it did? I spit, fancy carpet be damned.
Apollo touched his bleeding lip. His eyes were hot as they met mine. “How did I know you’d be a biter?”
“What the hell are you trying to do?”
The heat went away, like I’d imagined it. “Teach you.” He frowned, licking the blood off his fingers. “You moved very fast just then.”
“You…” I held up a finger. That was only one of the many, many problems with dealing with Apollo. I honestly didn’t know if he was really attracted to me and trying to seduce me, or if he just liked to make me think he was because the sadistic ass liked games. “You did that to get me to use my speed?”
“Yes.” He pressed his lips together and when they came back they were unbroken. “We have a meeting in an hour and I would like to see what you can do.”
“I’m not a prize pony. And what’s this we shit?”
“You’re going with me. I have selected you to be…” He spread his hands. “I’m not sure there’s a word in this time for it. Our powers would be joined. Ah!” He snapped. “I have chosen you to be my familiar, so to speak.”
“I’m not a pet, Apollo.”
“Oh, I do know that. The analogy only goes so far as to say you help increase my powers. You are…” he shrugged, “an extension of myself.”
“No.” I shook my head, inching back. My gun was just two feet away. “No, I’m really not. I’m me.”
His mouth twisted to the side. “No. I’m not explaining this very well. I’ll show you.”
“No!” I held up a hand, taking a big step back. “Really, I’m good.”
“It won’t hurt.” He stepped forward and I took another back. My gun was right by my feet. “I promise. The joining, it is quite pleasant really. We’ll…” His head jerked towards the door and my eyes followed automatically. Nothing.
He turned his head back towards me, slowly, like something out of an old horror movie. Anger sparkled around him in red and gold fireworks. I could almost hear them sizzling as they hit the ground.
I’d never been able to see emotions on him before.
“They’re defecting.” His voice was cold enough to freeze mercury. “Any more explanation will have to wait. Come.”