“And how do you expect me to do that without threatening my relationship with Kate?”
He shrugged. “That is up to you, brother. I am only the messenger, after all. If you do not wish for the twins to be captured, then so be it. But I was under the impression that this was as important to you as it was to me.”
Henry clenched his jaw. Castor was rightfully a citizen of the Underworld, and every day he spent on the surface was another reminder of Henry’s failings as a kip lings aing. He had to be returned to his rightful place, and Walter’s pride dictated his need to ensure that Pollux no longer thumbed his nose at the council. “Which brother is Kate with?”
“Ella believes she is with Pollux,” said Walter, and Henry took a deep breath. He needed no other information. Whether it was the right thing to do or not, his hands were tied.
“Very well. I will find a way to keep the twins apart. But you have twenty-four hours—I will give you no more than that.”
Walter inclined his head. “I assure you it will be enough time.”
His brother walked down the aisle and back the way he’d come. Once he was gone, Henry exhaled and closed his eyes, and the still air of the Underworld changed to the breeze of the world above. He stood in a field near the edge of a Greek forest, and as he cleared his mind, he reached out, searching for the familiar.
Ah. There. He may not have had the hunting skills of certain other members of the council, but with close proximity, it was not difficult to find the others.
He pushed the thought outward, and for several seconds he heard only the chirping of birds and the rustling of leaves. At last, however, a thought returned to him, and even without a voice, Henry could sense James’s wariness. Henry did not blame him, all things considered.
What do you want?
I would like to know where you are.
You really think I’m going to tell you?
Henry closed his eyes again, and this time he landed amongst the trees. I am not here to antagonize you.
Yeah? Sure could’ve fooled me.
Less time to receive a reply. James was much closer now. Is Kate with you?
Where is she?
I don’t know.
Henry clenched his fists. Yes, you do.
She’s safe. She’s with Pollux.
“Safe” and “with Pollux” are mutually exclusive.
Too bad. It’s her six months off, and you have no business going anywhere near her.
Henry closed his eyes, and this time when he opened them, James and one of the twins—Castor—stood only a dozen feet away. Their reaction was immediate; James stepped in front of Castor, who turned the color of chalk, and once again Henry and James were facing off. A villain and a hero. Funny how those roles were so interchangeable between them.
“You can’t have him,” said James, a distinct gravel in his voice.
“I will only ask you this one more time,” said Henry. “If you do not answer me, I will take Casey to a place where not even you will be able to find him. Where i
James pursed his lips, and his eyes hardened, but he said nothing. Of course he did not. To him, this was a challenge—a chance to win a battle in their never-ending war. Everything else came in second to him, even Kate’s safety. Even Kate’s life. James must have known that if there was a way to kill her and exact revenge upon Henry, Pollux would find a way to do it. Yet he did not care.
Henry drew a long, deep breath, forcing himself to keep calm. “Now is not the time to get into a pissing contest. Her very existence could be at risk if you do not tell me where she is—”
“She’s immortal now,” spat James. “And Lux isn’t the monster you think he is.”
“My brother would never hurt her,” said Castor, his voice quaking, but he had a steely look in his eyes that Henry admired. Courage in the face of his ultimate fear. No wonder the twins had the reputation they did.
“As I would never hurt you,” said Henry. Doubt flashed across Castor’s expression, but that came as no surprise to Henry. Castor trusted him as much as Henry trusted Pollux. “If anything happens to her, James, it will be on you.”
James rolled his eyes, and every fiber of Henry’s being screamed at him to blast him back to Olympus. But he kept calm, as he nearly always did. Despite what his brothers seemed to think, anger rarely led to resolutions.
“Very well. Then consider this your doing.” One moment Henry was in front of them, and the next he stood beside Castor and touched his shoulder.
James’s eyes widened, and he made a grab for Castor. By the time he reached him, however, Henry ensured he touched nothing but air.
That night was one of the longest of my life. For hours I followed Lux through the forest, attempting to retrace our steps and find his brother, and I was exhausted by the time the sun rose. Even waiting through one of my mother’s marathon surgeries to help give her cancer-riddled body a few more months hadn’t been that mentally draining.
“Lux, we’ve passed this spot five times already,” I said, dragging myself over a fallen tree. “He’s not here.”
“He has to be somewhere.” Lux shoved aside a low-hanging branch so hard that it snapped in two and fell to the ground.
“Somewhere else then.” And if we didn’t find him soon, I was afraid Lux would be the one to snap. He’d managed to regain some semblance of control after we’d lost Casey and James, but his eyes were wild, his muscles rigid, and he snarled everything he said to me. When he decided to speak at all.
“Maybe we should stay in one place,” I said. “James and Casey will find us.”
Lux shook his head and ducked down to check behind a boulder that couldn’t possibly hide both of them. “He knows I’m looking for him. He knows to stay put, even if they’d have an easier time of finding us.”
“Why’s that?” I said, tucking a loose n rhlock of hair behind my ear. I would’ve given nearly anything for a ponytail holder, not to mention a hot shower and a soft bed.
He gave me a strange look that made me feel three inches tall, and without bothering to answer me, he turned back to his search. I huffed. Fine. Another secret. Not that the gods didn’t have enough of them already.
“Maybe we should go back to the cabin,” I said. “They’re probably waiting for us—”
“No they’re not,” said a singsongy voice behind me, and I jumped. Lux flew around, focusing on something—or someone—over my shoulder.
I turned, and as soon as I saw the blonde leaning against a tree, I let out a sigh of relief. Finally, someone who might know what was going on. “Ava? What are you doing here?”
She wore a hiking outfit of khakis and a tank top that showed off her curves, and her blond hair was swept over one shoulder in a fashionable braid. She’d even tucked a flower into the end. Stupid of me to expect anything less. “Helping you, of course.”
Lux bared his teeth. Apparently he and Casey had been away from civilization for way too long. “Like I would ever accept your help.”
“Like I was talking to you,” Ava scoffed. “Kate, let’s get out of here. Daddy said Henry’s worried about you.”
I blinked. Henry was worried? “Why?”
“Because if there’s one twin to get stuck with, Lux isn’t it. I’m supposed to bring you back to Athens.”
“Is Henry waiting?” I said, my heart pounding. I’d been certain I wouldn’t see him until September, when I was supposed to return to Eden to take up my duties as his queen. But the thought of spending the summer with Henry, or at least seeing him before then, made my chest ache in the best way possible. After all of the uncertainty between us, the thought of him waiting for me made a delicate bubble of hope inside of me expand. He wanted to be with me, his stupid six months away rule be damned.
Ava hesitated. “Er, no.”
And there went that bubble.
“I mean, I’m sure he’ll come see you,” she said quickly. “Just—you know. He’s not there now is all.”
“Then where is he?” said Lux. “Where’s my brother?”
Ava shrugged. “Don’t know, don’t care.”
“Ava don’t be like that,” I said.
“What? It’s not like he wants my help anyway.”
I twisted around to face Lux, but before I could ask, he scowled. “I would rather be forced to eat my own liver every day for the rest of eternity.”
“See?” said Ava cheerfully. “It’s settled. Let’s go.”
She reached for my hand, but I yanked it back. She may not have wanted to help Lux, but I was already neck deep in this. I wasn’t about to abandon him when he had no one else. “e ulse. How did you know where we were?”
“Ella told me, of course.”
“And how did Ella know where we were?”
Silence. Ava’s eyes widened innocently, and Lux swore so loudly that a flock of birds exploded from the branches above us. “You told them,” he roared.
“Me? How could I have possibly known?” she said, but there was something about her voice that triggered a red flag in my mind. I’d heard her tell enough lies, both big and small, to recognize her attempts at hiding the truth when I heard it.
“Ava,” I said in a warning tone, “if you want me to go with you, then you need to spit it out. Now.”
She sighed dramatically. “Oh, fine. Not like it matters anyway. I was going to join you and James. I mean, it’s sort of rotten you invited him to Greece, but not me, you know? So I was following you, waiting for the right moment, and then—”
“And then James hunted us down and led her right to us,” said Lux. “Bastard.”
I glared at Ava. “I’m sure he didn’t do it on purpose. Unlike you.”
“Oh, no, he knew I was there,” said Ava in that same singsongy voice. “He always knows.”
I gritted my teeth. The last thing I needed was for them to shatter my trust in another person. Especially James.. “It doesn’t matter. Let’s just find Casey.”
Ava’s face fell. “I thought you were coming with me.”
“Yeah, well, I changed my mind.” I started down the path, but neither of them followed. “Lux, are you coming or what?”
“Not with her walking behind me.”
Terrific. Now I was babysitting two children. “It’s not like she can kill you.”
“No, but she can do—and has done—much worse,” he muttered, and I stopped. Out of all the people on the council, I would’ve expected Ava to have the most compassion for others, especially Casey and Lux.
“Ava?” I said. “What did you do to them?”
“Nothing serious,” she said, and I narrowed my eyes.
“I’ll be the judge of that.”
Lux started to pace between two trees, careful never to turn his back on Ava. “Casey and I were involved in helping our father pick a husband for our sister, Helen. She—” he glared at Ava “—appeared in our chambers one night and tried to seduce us in exchange for our vote for her favorite candidate.”
“It wasn’t just that,” said Ava, a note of hurt in her voice. “I also offered you both any girls you wanted, you know.”
Lux ignored her. “We turned her down. The safety of our sister was more important to us, and she took offense and cursed us.”
My mouth dropped open. “Ava!”
She sighed. “It wasn’t like it was a big curse or anything.”
“Any girl Casey falls in love with, I fall in love with as well,” said Lux. “Which doesn’t sound too bad until it’s put into practice.”
“Oh.” I frowned. It really didn’t sound that bad at all. But after spending the past six months watching what unrequited love and jealousy could do to a person, I could only imagine. “I’m sorry. Ava can fix it though, can’t she?”
“Sure,” she said. “As soon as Casey’s safely back in the Underworld and Daddy’s dealt with Pollux.”
Lux snarled, and I launched myself between the pair of them. “Hey. Hey. Lux, stop it. Ava, just do it, would you? It’s been thousands of years. They’ve been through enough already.”
She shrugged. “Would if I could, but I can’t. Daddy would have an apocalyptic fit.”
Walter. My frown deepened. Henry in a bad mood was dangerous enough, but throwing in the King of the Gods—right. “Fine. Then we’ll figure it out, and once this is over, you’re going to talk to Walter and tell him you’re lifting the curse. I don’t care what you have to do or how much you piss him off. It’s happening, or I’m never talking to you again.”
Her eyes widened, but this time the expression of hurt on her face was real. “You’d do that to me just because of them?”
“Yes, just because of them. I mean it.”
Her brow furrowed, and after several long seconds, she sighed again. “Fine. But you have to come with me now and leave the tracking up to James, else the deal’s off.”
“You promise you’ll undo it if I go with you?” I said, and she reluctantly nodded.
“Cross my heart and hope to—”
A twig snapped, and as Ava fell silent, Lux went rigid all over again. He prowled toward the source of the sound, somehow moving noiselessly despite the underbrush, reminding me of a panther. A pissed-off panther that hadn’t bothered to put on a shirt yet.
Before Lux could pounce, however, James stepped out from behind a tree. I shrieked and ran toward him, tackling him with a hug.