The Struggle

Page 2

I shook my head. “I don’t . . . How is this possible?”

The nymph turned to the ocean and then his lifted his hands, spreading his arms out. “Everything is possible.”

This couldn’t be real, but as I turned around, I knew . . . Dear gods, it was real, and I was half the world away from Josie in less than a second. I could barely process it.

We stood on the thin strip of white sand and rock of Andros, the northernmost island in the Cyclades. Mountainous and full of water-fed valleys that bore the fruit I used to sneak as a child, it was barely tame.

The weirdest damn sensation itched under my skin as I took in the path leading to the stairs climbing the steep hill. Taking a deep breath, I lifted my gaze to the sprawling sandstone home that was perched atop the highest peak. It was a monstrous building, three stories with several wings that, if it were the same, contained nothing more than marble statues and oil paintings depicting the gods. Balconies surrounded the upper two levels, with many nooks and crannies to hide in.

The veranda wasn’t empty.

“What the . . . ?” I trailed off.

There were people out on it, scores of them staring down at where we stood, and I could sense the aether in the pures and the fainter traces in the halfs.

The house should’ve been vacant. There was no reason for any of the staff to have remained after Mother had died.

“Who are these people?” I demanded.

The nymph inclined his chin. “Some were your mother’s staff, her servants . . . her confidants. They are now yours. Others came when you awakened. They are also yours.”

What the hell? “I don’t want them here.”

“Their master has finally come home.”

Master?

“Did you think it would be different?”

“Yes.” I frowned as those on the veranda, one by one, lowered themselves onto their knees and bowed their heads. Oh hell. “I thought it would be empty, for starters.”

The nymph chuckled.

Crossing my arms, I exhaled roughly. “I have no use of them.”

“Oh, you will find use of them, I am sure.”

I slid him a sidelong glance. “I’m really going to get tired of repeating myself. I have no need of servants. Gods. Those halfs should be freed.”

“Those halfs are here of their own volition. They are here because it is where you are, as I am here because of you,” the nymph said. “I am here to help you.”

“Why? Why would you help me?”

The nymph smiled. “My kind has walked this realm long before man—before the gods from Olympus overthrew the Titans. We were here even before the Titans ruled.”

Well, that sounded like a really long time ago, in a time period called I Don’t Give a Fuck. “What does that have to do with anything?”

Those odd eyes twinkled. Actually twinkled, like a pair of tiny stars. “We believe that the time for change has arrived once more.”

The question of what kind of change was due to arrive died on the tip of my tongue. I wanted no part of whatever the nymphs believed in or wanted. I had my own goals. I would ferret out whatever foxhole the Titans were hiding in and I would gladly destroy each one. They would be no threat to Josie.

“What is your name?” I did ask.

One eyebrow rose. “Ewan.”

I snickered. “Ewan the Ewok.”

The nymph frowned.

“Never mind,” I sighed and started forward. “Goodbye, Ewan.”

“Do you want to know about love?” he asked.

Rolling my eyes, I kept walking.

“Love is the root of all that is good, and the root of all things that are evil,” he called out. “Love is the root of the Apollyon.”

The fine hairs on my arms rose, and I stopped. The pures and halfs on the veranda waited, the women’s pale blue and rose-colored dresses billowing in the breeze. Something about what the nymph was saying rang eerily familiar.

“Fate is afoot,” he continued. “Things cannot be undone. Fate has looked into the past and into the future. History is on repeat.”

Slowly, almost against my will, I turned around. The nymph stood where I’d left him, but there was something ancient and wise in his gaze.

“Know the difference between need and love.” Ewan’s voice carried on the salty breeze. Those amethyst eyes rolled back, revealing all-white pupils.

“Oh hell no,” I muttered, actually wanting to take a step back to stop what I knew was coming.

The nymph glided forward and spoke the words that had been meant for the first Apollyon—for Alex—and brought life to a prophecy once unfinished.

“For what the gods have feared has come to pass. The end of the old is here and the beginning of the new has been ushered in.” His voice rose, carrying out to sea and over the cliffs. “For the sun child and the new god will give birth to a new era and the great creators will fall one by one, reshaping our homes and hearths, reaping man and mortal alike.”

Oh, fuck me sideways.

Sun Child? New God? Give birth, and reapings? Yeah, I wanted no part of this. “You know, you can—”

“A bloody path has been chosen,” he went on, because of course. There apparently was no stopping this. “The Great War fought by the few is coming, and in the end, the sun will fall and the moon will reign until the new sun rises.”

My brows rose. Sort of sounded like a normal day to me.

“Know this,” the nymph seemed to bellow. “The strength of the sun will be needed to conquer, for the strength of war and cunning will not be enough. Love and need must be reconciled. If not, the great land will perish, for the bull is in the house of the lion.”

Well.

I officially had no words. At all. None.

Ewan the nymph dropped to one knee. “Goodbye Seth, the God of Life . . .”

A shiver blasted down my spine as a bolt of lightning struck off the coast, slamming into the ocean.

The nymph bowed its head. “The God of Death.”

Chapter 2

Josie

The floor of the massive mansion that belonged to Gable’s mother shook and rattled like it was nothing more than a piece of cardboard.

Shooting off the couch, I let the thin, soft-as-a-dream blanket fall to the floor as the rumbling became sound, a building roar that shook my chest and raised tiny goose bumps along my arms.

Eyes wide, I turned in a slow circle as books tumbled from shelves, smacking off the floor. Above me, a crystal chandelier, one that probably cost more than a car, trembled and clanked. Teardrop-shaped crystals fell to the floor, shattering into pieces. A tall, slender lamp toppled over, smashing its pale gray shade. Behind me, more books hit the floor.

“What in the world?” I whispered, voice hoarse and tired—tired from the tears that had been burning up my throat.

Something—something big was happening, and it could be anything. A horde of daimons. Another ticked-off, supercharged Titan. A wave of shades that had escaped from Tartarus. It could . . . it could even be Seth.

No.

He wouldn’t be doing this, whatever this was, no matter what Alex and Aiden believed about him. He wouldn’t put me in danger of the house caving in on me.

Snatching my titanium dagger off the end table, I darted around falling books and tore open the door, hitting the brightly lit hallway just as an explosion of thunder deafened my pounding heart. Glass shattered at the end of the hall, no doubt a priceless vase rendered to nothing more than shards. The house shook again. Art canvassed slipped from the walls as I raced into the grand atrium, my gaze immediately zeroing in on the scorched spot where Atlas had once stood.

The spot where the Titan had died.

And not too far from there, Solos had taken his final breath. That space on the floor was clear, wiped clean of blood, but for a split second I saw him staring down at his chest, at the gaping hole where his heart had been before his knees had given out. He’d been dead before he hit the floor, and he hadn’t deserved that. Solos should still be here.

Swiping the memory aside, my gaze flew to the glass double doors. They were closed, but the way the panes of glass shook I doubted they would stay intact much longer.

I gasped as another quake hit the house. The floor rolled and rippled under my feet like water, lifting me up. I stumbled to the side, throwing my arms out to steady myself.

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