(This is the fourth excerpt from my book, The Gods Defense, coming in April.)
Our heels clickity-clacked our arrival as we rounded the building to get to the main entrance and protesters near the edges of the pathway leading from the sidewalk turned to shout at us that it wasn’t too late and we could stop supporting the gods and just go home.
We walked around them.
Red ropes encased a path through the large lawn and all the way to the street. Guards stood every few feet, keeping the protesters away from the sculpted grounds. There were only a few well-dressed patrons hurrying inside and two by the cancellation booth.
Click, click, click, our heels sang, loud enough to hear over the shouting protesters. Or maybe that was just my heart pounding in my throat.
A guard by the cancellation booth stopped us. His name tag said ‘Bruce.’ Wasn’t that just a perfect guard’s name? I pressed my lips together to keep from giggling.
No, I wasn’t nervous. I’d just… had a lot of sugar.
He was a foot taller than me with strong features, solid blue eyes, and hair buzzed so short I couldn’t tell its color. If he wasn’t ex-military, I’d eat my Pashmina.
“Sorry ladies, a fair bit of people trying to sneak into the premiere. Names?” Bruce asked with a smooth Southern accent a little too close to Foghorn Leghorn’s to be real.
Or that could’ve just been me.
“Cassandra Berry, Tyler Carmichael and Millie Lehman.”
He nodded once and his eyes slid out of focus. He nodded again like someone was talking to him. Someone probably was. I shivered. Can you say creepy?
His eyes came back to me. “Of course, Apollo is expecting you. But you are the only one allowed up, Ms. Berry. I’ll escort you.”
Of course he would.
So much for barging in.
“She’s not going without us,” Tyler said, staring Bruce down.
The hairs on the back of my neck went up and Bruce stumbled back half a step.
I focused on Tyler, drawing up my Sight. Magic shown all around, blazing from the guards, Millie and even a few of the protesters.
Nothing streamed from Tyler. I never could see her magic like other peoples’ but I could sure as hell feel it.
The guard reached for his gun and Tyler’s lips curled up. “Even think about it, honey, and you’ll lose that hand.”
He let go of the gun, eyes rolling up again.
“Sorry ladies,” he said a moment later. “You are not invited.”
Tyler stepped forward and her and Millie disappeared.
I stumbled back, horror stuck in my throat.
“They’re fine,” Bruce said. “Apollo teleported them to Vanderbilt.”
I worked my mouth until my sound came back. “Why there?”
Bruce’s eyes went up again. “He says because he does not know where they live and that was a safe place where they would not end up in a wall.”
Oh, how thoughtful.
I called Millie and she answered right away.
“We’re fine,” Millie said. “We’re in the Renaissance room at the law school. Scared the shit out of some students studying in here. Tyler’s about to run back to downtown, but I think I’ve talked her into waiting for Uber. We’ll be back in a few.”
“I’m sure I’ll be fine,” I said. “This shouldn’t take long and then we can go dancing in our fancy dresses.”
Tyler said something and Millie sighed. “Tyler said don’t think about going in alone, wait for us… oh, there go the heels. And she’s gone.”
I rolled my eyes. Tyler kicking off her heels was like a guy rolling up his sleeves. It meant she was getting down to business.
Bruce shook his head. He heard that? “Apollo only has a few minutes, ma’am, and I really can’t let your friends in even if you did wait.”
“Sorry Millie. I’ll see you guys soon. Call Tyler and tell her to chill.”
Millie snorted. “I don’t think she has any other speed besides icy blast.”
“Isn’t this where you say, technically icy isn’t a speed?” I asked.
“Actually, icy is a speed. Heat is a product of molecules moving, so things with less heat-”
“Okay,” I said as Bruce’s face wrinkled up and his eyes danced. “I will see you guys after my meeting.” I hung up and tucked the phone back in my purse.
“Oh she’s fun,” Bruce said, offering me his arm. “Ma’lady.”
I took it. Everyone just assumed you were right-handed until you told them otherwise.
Yes, I felt a little silly for walking in on his arm like he was my escort in an old movie about the South, but it seemed rude to ignore him. He opened the door for me and walked me into the lobby.
A gentleman, my my.
The lobby was as spectacular as I remembered. Circular and very Greek with its white and light rose marble floors and columns. White velvet chaises were placed along the walls. Circles of four leather chairs made up little island groupings for conversation scattered here and there amidst the sea of stone. Gold statues adorned the columns and doorways, and a real crystal chandelier straight out of The Phantom of the Opera hung in the middle of the ceiling.
The ceiling was the best part. A straight up Michelangelo-esque depiction of stories about the Greek gods, mostly Apollo and the Muses.
Well-dressed people milled about and light chatter echoed along with classical playing in the background, but it was clear the show was going to start soon by how the few people left glanced at watches and cell phones. We walked to an elevator in the back and rode up to the fourth floor.
I chattered the entire time and Bruce nodded along, looking interested. Man, he had to have been paid well to play babysitter.
The elevator doors dinged open onto a floor I’d never been to before, and Bruce walked me down a hallway, my arm still in his.
The wallpaper was light gold in a leaf pattern. Paintings in the Renaissance style decorated the walls between doors that were probably executive offices. I was pretty sure some of the paintings really were from the Renaissance. The carpet was burgundy and so thick my heels sunk to their stems with every step.
I looked behind me; I was leaving a trail of little spikes in the carpet. Can you say decadent?
One thing you could say about Apollo was he had great taste.
There was a single door at the very end of the hall. It was white with a sort of tree design carved into it. A shocking plainness among that splendor.
A shiver ran down my spine like I was facing down a pit full of pythons.
The door… buzzed. I didn’t know how else to describe it. It was a low, bone rattling rumble. Like an old truck idling on the street, shaking just enough to make the world feel off without you consciously knowing why until you looked outside.
I focused on the door and couldn’t see anything besides the door. No colors, no shapes, no invisible spells over it. That either meant it was normal, or it was coated in magic so hidden and powerful even I couldn’t see it.
I knew which one I was putting my money on.
I stopped ten feet from the door, digging my heels into the carpet’s depths.
If Apollo wanted me to go in there, he’d have to come out and drag me in himself. And if I was right about where it led, he couldn’t do that.
I wasn’t positive because I’d never been there, but I’d bet money the door was one of the entrances to Olympus.