(This is the 8th and final part of my 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.’)
We circled each other, eyes glued, bodies crouched.
She darted in with the speed of someone who’d been honing their skills since they could walk and threw a low kick. I spun out of the way, turning it into a roundhouse. She stepped into me, ramming my thigh so hard I almost fell.
I bounced back with my hands up.
We were just testing each other, seeing the others’ moves. If she wasn’t trained in aikido, I’d eat the grass at my feet.
She came in low again, probably used to fighting taller opponents. I went low, ready to block…
She snapped her leg up in a swinging kick, catching me under my chin.
“Ugh.” My head snapped back and I stumbled. Little birdies danced around my head with black polka dots and only my training kept my hands up as she closed in again and punched at my face.
I focused my speed and caught her arm, twisting it behind her and yanking up. A broken arm would end this fight real fast.
She stomped my instep and I dropped her arm. She threw her head back and I jerked away. I punched her in the kidney as she turned and she made a small noise.
I punched her again in the same spot and she said something harsh in Hindi, dropping and sweeping my feet.
I jumped over her leg and she slammed a fist into my gut as she came back up.
The air left me in a rush and I doubled over.
Her knee came up almost in slow-mo and I caught it and her shin and twisted.
“URRGGGGG!” she howled, crumbling to the ground.
About damn time. I clutched my stomach, gasping for breath. Now what? Did Zeus have to officially end the match, or what?
What was that?
Her leg wasn’t bent at a funny angle anymore and she lurched to her feet.
“What…?” I breathed.
She clocked me across the jaw. I went down like a vase knocked off its stand.
You have to knock her out, Apollo breathed through my mind. Otherwise she’ll just heal, so will you if she breaks anything. Bruises won’t heal though.
And it didn’t occur to you to tell me this earlier!
She kicked and I caught her foot, twisting again. Her ankle snapped and she went down. I hauled to my feet too slow. She crawled away and was back up again two seconds after me.
Use your speed.
We circled each other again. Her nearly black eyes were flat and emotionless. A fighter to the core. I had to respect that.
I went in with speed gushing through my muscles, making them fast and fluid as a cat’s. I hit her face with a jab-hook combo and my knuckles split as blood flew from her nose. I kneed her in the stomach and she doubled over. I fisted her short hair and slammed her head into my knee.
She staggered back the second I let go, still standing.
Damn, no wonder they chose her. The girl could take a beating.
I breathed deep, limbs shaking.
She came at me and did an outside-inside kick at my head. I jerked back, willing speed into my legs so I could run forward and…
She reversed mid-kick and nailed me with a side kick right in the gut.
“Ehh…” I choked, pain blooming in my left ribs. Cracked. I held my side and a second later something warm and wiggly went through it.
Crack!, sang out.
Huh, my ribs were still sore, but the sharp pain of the break was gone.
She came at me with a series of punch-kick combos and I blocked the best I could. A hook caught my right eye and I retreated as pain exploded.
I kept backing up and she followed, throwing careful kicks and punches.
I made my mind focus speed into my legs.
I rushed forward as she threw her next punch, slamming her stomach with a front kick. I followed as she fell back, punching her in the face. I grabbed her arm, swung around and pulled it up.
She howled and I kept pushing my speed. This was the most I’d ever used it. I’d probably pass out as soon as the adrenaline receded.
I grabbed her neck and wrapped her in a choke hold.
Her arm cracked back into place and she flailed as I squeezed her neck harder.
Slowly she stopped moving. Her arms dropped, then her legs. I held on for a few more seconds to be sure, lowered her to the ground, and let go.
She stayed on the ground as I stood.
“The winner,” Zeus’s voice boomed above, “is my surrogate.” Cheers filled the stadium and I scowled. I didn’t even have a name to most of these creatures. I was just a surrogate. “Ravana’s challenge has been answered. He has been proven weak.”
Apollo appeared next to me on the field. “You were marvelous.” He smiled, reaching for my face.
“Shut up.” I knocked his hand away. “I’m your magically security blanket, but that doesn’t make me your pet, your slave, or your sex toy. We clear?”
His smile stayed in place. “Crystal.”
“Wonderful. Since this whole thing was just to get my powers, I don’t have to work for you either.”
“That, I do not agree to.
“I still need a good criminal attorney.”
I blinked. “I thought you need a corporate one. Why would a god need a criminal attorney?”
“Our people are charged with crimes sometimes. And we do want to work within your system, you remember.” He grinned, leaning forward and giving me a little wink. “So we pay for their defense in your courts.”
“But you don’t need me. Get someone else.”
“I want to keep you close. You already agreed.”
Deal with it, his voice said.
“Show me the door because I’m getting the hell out of here.”
“We still need to join.”
I clenched my teeth and pain like a hundred concurrent root canals stabbed my jaw. “Ow!” He reached for me again and I smacked his hand down. “Stop that!”
“I can heal you.”
“I don’t want you to. I don’t want anything from you except my mom.”
“You have her. She’s waking right now.”
I sagged. “Just like that?”
He reached for my jaw again and I didn’t stop him as his fingers traced it like I was made of spun sugar. “Yes.”
The ache in my jaw eased. It didn’t even hurt as I said, “Alright, do the joining so I can go see her.”
He nodded, fingers gliding up to my eye. He traced a circle around it and the soreness there eased, too. “Normally we have a ceremony for this.”
He smirked, eyes focusing on mine as his hand slid to cup my head.
“Wait…” I tried pulling back. “What are you…?”
He pulled me into him, lips cutting off my words.
His mouth was warm and tasted of lemons as it forced mine open. Why had the flavor changed from the peppermint it was earlier? His lips were harsh and demanding as he wrapped his arm around my waist and pulled me into him. He forced his tongue into my mouth, then eased up, kissing instead of attacking.
He made a small noise, tongue finding a rhythm with mine and my eyes slid closed. I put my arms around his neck, angling my hips into his body.
What? No! I wasn’t going to kiss him back.
But my mouth apparently had different ideas because I didn’t stop. Warmth seeped into my mouth and crawled down my throat, caressing like soup on a frigid winter day. It spread through my belly, making everything tingle. And damn if I didn’t want to jump up and wrap my legs around him right there.
He let me go and my eyes popped open as I sucked in oxygen. We were standing in a small, flower flooded courtyard right in front of the white door.
I stepped out of his arms, glaring.
“We are joined,” he said with a small bow. “Thank-you. That was very en…”
I slapped him as hard as I could. He barely twitched. “Don’t do that again. You know that’s assault, right?”
“As is slapping someone.”
“Don’t EVER force yourself on me again.”
“It was just a kiss, it’s not as though I…”
“I don’t care.” I stuck my finger in his face. “Never. Again.”
Apollo raised an eyebrow but nodded. “I swear to not kiss you…”
“Or try anything else sexual.”
“Or to try anything else,” he licked his lips, “sexual with you until you ask me to.”
“Until I ask you!” I crossed my arms, then uncrossed them again, my hands wanting to talk too. “Fine. Whatever.”
“Alright. I’ll see you Saturday and we’ll talk terms.”
I tossed my hands up. “I can’t just up and quit. I have to give notice.”
“I’ll talk to your boss. You’ll need a few days to get things in order, but he’ll let you quit.”
I believed him.
“I’m going to go see my mom.”
He held out his hand and a gold, silky bag appeared in it. He handed it to me and I looked in to see my dress, shoes, Pashmina, purse, and gun. I got dressed the best I could without stripping off the exercise clothes in front of him. The top looked ridiculous with the sports bra underneath, but oh well.
“Until then, Cassandra,” he said as I opened the door.
I walked back into the luscious hallway, flipping him the bird as I marched away.
My new boss just laughed.
# # #
My head jerked up.
Filaduchi crossed his arms and leaned against my office’s doorway. “When you said Apollo was sure he’d get you if you were in a room with him, he was right?”
“Yes.” I nodded, putting the bamboo tree he gave me as an office warming gift into the box already holding my photos and diplomas. I couldn’t even look at him. “Um… I don’t know if you took a look at the file yet, but after Dionysus’s interview, my assault guy took the plea. And my, uhhh,” I cleared my throat, “files are all alphabetized by the defendants’ names.”
My eyes glued to my desk as I opened the top drawer and started pulling out my office supplies.
“I’m sorry,” I cut him off. I couldn’t take that gentle tone. I wanted him to yell at me or get mad or… something.
“Leaving like this. Not…” I gulped, blinking back tears.
“Not being able to turn Apollo down?”
“Yes. I swear it wasn’t the money. It was going to take me a lifetime to pay off my student loans, sure, but…” My throat clogged. I couldn’t bear it if Filaduchi thought I’d sold out for money. Apollo already said I couldn’t tell people about the solstice and the possible Armageddon. Humans had to think nothing had changed and keep worshiping the gods. It was the only way the gods would be able to recover even a tiny bit of their lost powers after the twenty-first.
I could tell Filaduchi about my mom, though.
When I got to Green Hills Home two nights ago, the long term care facility was closed to visitors since it was near midnight. I talked the night guard into letting me in. When I got to my mom’s room, she was up and surrounded by doctors. I hugged her for an hour, making them ask her questions to determine if there’d been any brain damage around me. She’d hugged me back, telling me she was fine, stoking my hair, still being a mom even though she was the one who’d lost 7 years of her life and needed the comforting.
She was so proud when she heard I’d grown up to become a lawyer.
I finally met Filaduchi’s eyes, blinking back tears.
“Everyone has a price, sir.”
He nodded. “I knew that.”