“You want me to become a model.” I level C with the flattest gaze I can muster, careful to keep my lips from twitching.
He must know I find the idea ridiculous. He knows everything.
“Aren’t I a little long in the tooth to just now be starting a modeling career?” I’m only thirty-two, but most models peak around twenty-five.
“It’s not a career; it’s a job. And I know you’ll be good at it.” He arches a brow.
I don’t find C as intimidating or antagonistic as Sei and Hades always do, but then, I’ve always been more secure in who I am than those two. I’ve accepted C as our supernatural grandpa, and I don’t try to outwit him every five seconds. So he knows the future. So what? I know it too—the important bits.
“Where is your mind off to?” C’s question tears through my daydream.
“Sorry. I was thinking of all the hot women that come with the job description. Maybe I can be a model after all.”
He shakes his head, but he’s smiling fondly. “Will you ever grow up?”
“You’re the one who sees the future. You tell me,” I say, wagging my eyebrows.
He tuts and produces a business card from the inner pocket of his tailored suit jacket—always dressed to the nines, this one. “Be here at eleven sharp. Ask for Martina. Tell her I sent you.”
“Martina.” I hum. “Sounds hot.” I’m not attracted to a specific type of woman, though I do prefer them curvy. Every woman has her own type of beauty, if you look closely. Willing is the asset I look for the most. I want enthusiastic bed partners.
C says, “She’s indeed a beautiful woman. Smart and funny, too.”
Something about his uncharacteristically playful tone makes me do a double take. Is he setting me up with her? He’s never done this before, which means— “Is she my soulmate?” Fuck, that sounded needy.
My brothers and I will ascend to Olympian status. We’ll become immortal and rule the world. Assuming we all find our mates and bond with them in this lifetime.
Sei’s already bonded to his, the lucky bastard. The others won’t be far behind. They all know their intended females, except for Ares, who refuses to let C tell him who his mate is. He says knowing his intended will take the fun out of the conquest. And of course there’s Denny, who won’t bond with his mate because he likes being human and isn’t interested in living forever.
He and Ares will change their tunes once the rest of us are happily bonded. Because I have to believe it will happen to me too, even if we haven’t been able to locate my soulmate yet.
Which may have just changed.
C is quiet a couple of heartbeats—mine, not his. We all know he’s not human, but I’m not sure any of my brothers has noticed he has no body scent or pulse. I like the way my heart beats. Sei didn’t give up his heartbeat, so I’m keeping mine after I ascend.
“You must go,” C says.
He hates being asked questions, but this is serious, so I need to insist. “Tell me, please. Does this have to do with my ascension?” My head feels light at the prospect. I want to ascend, but more than that, I want to find The One. Will I miss sleeping around? No. Because it comes at a cost even my brothers don’t know about.
“That it does, my boy. Remember, I’ve never steered you wrong. Perchance Ares is correct, and you’re better off not knowing who your mate is. See how knowing in advance ended up for Poseidon?” His tone is grave, and I might fall for it, but A) Sei is perfectly happy with Irine, even after the scolding he got from C for abandoning his duty, and B) I’m pretty sure this is what C meant to happen all along.
Like I said, though, I’m not gonna antagonize the future-seeing old man. I look the card over. Beneath the address and land-line, there’s a cell-phone number, scrawled in red ink. “Says here Her and His Models is downtown. Parking around Syntagma will take a fucking miracle, and if I take the metro, I need to leave now to be there by eleven.” I scratch my chin. “Unless you can think of a better way for me to get there?”
Hopefully, he’ll offer to blink me. The guys and I suspect he yields an arsenal of unknown powers, other than the almost-all-knowing thing, but we know for sure he can teleport.
“Call your brother,” C says.
“Are you suggesting I have Sei blink me to Her and His Models?” I feign shock. Sei has been the black sheep since he abdicated.
“Assuming Poseidon can get away from his betrothed long enough to offer his assistance.” Sarcasm isn’t C’s strong suit, but his eyeroll is spot on this time.
“I’ll try that. Thanks.” I give him a half-hug.
My apartment isn’t as vast as Sei’s preferred lodgings, but it’s spacious, and the fifteen seconds it takes to cross the living room as I walk C to the door feel heavy with… something.
“I’ll check in later,” I say.
C smiles. “I know you will.”
That’s why I’m his favorite. He doesn’t say it, but I hear it.
C’s out the door. I close it behind him and look through the keyhole. No sign of him. He disappeared in thin air, as I expected. One day, I’ll find out who he really is, but for now—
“Oh mighty Poseidon?” I sing-song in my head, as I turn back toward the living room. “Come rescue your brother?”
He materializes in front me, naked but for a towel around his hips, and dripping water. His nostrils flare, as he swivels his head left to right. “I see no threat,” he says, arching an eyebrow. “You said you needed rescuing.”
“Not my fault you think I’d call you mighty in any serious situation.”
He gives me the finger and drops onto my couch. “So why did you call?”
I cross my arms. “You’re making a mess of my cushions. I like those cushions.”
Sei snorts, and by the time the sound fades, he’s dry and dressed in jeans and a white T-shirt.
This. I wanna be able to do this. And the blinking. I don’t care about the ruling-the-world stuff, though I’d like to make people happy if I can.
“You were saying?” He sounds bored. Of course. What can be challenging for a god?
“I’m supposed to be at an address near Syntagma Square in an hour, and I don’t want to deal with Athenian traffic. Blink me there, and I’ll buy you coffee.”
The second eyebrow joins the first in aiming for his hairline. “Coffee first. You make it. And I want a cinnamon biscuit too.”
Truth is I make a mean cappuccino freddo, since that fortnight I spent as a barista. It’s almost insulting that Sei guzzles it down within seconds.
“Materializing in the middle of Syntagma Square will turn heads.” He scrunches his nose. “I vote restroom. Does the station have one?”
“How should I know?” Not like I use the metro often.
He taps his foot impatiently and does that annoying, noisy thing, where he sucks on his straw although there are only a couple melting ice cubes in the glass. “Look it up, dumbass.”
I glare and snatch the glass from his hand. “You’ve ascended. Can’t you tap into the hive mind or something and find the blueprints?”
Slowly, as if burdened by the weight of the world, Sei climbs to his feet. “Leave the glass,” he says.
I comply automatically, not because he was once my future king—did I lose you there?—but because he’s my favorite older brother, and I’m used to doing what he says. When he’s not being an annoying prick.
He grabs my hand, and my super-comfortable sofa fades away, together with the rest of my apartment. My stomach flips on itself as I lose sensation in my extremities—yes, all of them—and then we’re standing on solid ground again. Tiled white floor. Smells surprisingly clean, for a public men’s room, but two urinals sit beside the three closed stalls. Fluorescent lights shimmer overhead, and so does Sei’s form before solidifying beside me.
“I didn’t get my satchel.” I frown, but it’s to hide how impressed I am.
“You mean your messenger bag?” Sei twirls his fingers, and the small bag that holds my ID, driver’s license, keys, and wallet appears hanging from his hand. He holds it out, and when I sling it across my body, asks, “You good for getting back on your own?”
Possibly, but I’d rather not if I can avoid it. “Only if I have to.” I bat my eyelashes.
“Jerk.” He cuffs the back of my head. “Call me when you’re done. On the phone. And don’t take too long.”
“It’s an interview.”
He shakes his head, a lopsided grin on his lips. “I mean, don’t fuck her.”
Holding my hands in the air, I turn toward the door that leads outside. “Can’t make any promises.”
“Then I’ll personally make sure you’re walking home.”
I fist my left hand and extend the middle finger, as I turn the doorknob with my right one. It doesn’t turn. Shit. “Fucker’s locked,” I say.
Sei snorts, but another sound gets my attention. Rapid breathing, coming from one of the stalls at Sei’s back. Someone else is in here, and they know Sei and I appeared in a locked room. Damn it, I should have noticed sooner, but I’m used to tuning out my superhuman senses of hearing and smell. Yes, those are my pre-ascension superpowers. Sei got mind control, and I got dog-senses. I’m not bitter; it’s a fact. Hopefully my ascension will even the field.
I tilt my head toward the stall and raise my eyebrows. “You okay in there?”
Sei groans. “I’ll erase their memory,” he thinks at me.
“Relax, dude. We don’t know what they heard,” I think back. Aloud, I say, “You can come out. We’re good guys. Just happened to misplace the key.”
The heartbeat I picked up goes faster, and it’s the only sound coming from behind that door. The guy is scared shitless—ha—and won’t be coming out anytime soon.
“Finish up your business, relax, and come out here,” Sei booms. Heavy with power, his voice reverberates in the small space.
I hear water flushing, and the door is thrown open, to reveal a pale-faced man with thinning white hair. His checkered shirt sports humongous pit stains, and his pants and underwear are bunched around his ankles.
Sei throws his head back. “For Olympus’ sake, man, get dressed.”
I try not to laugh or look at the man, who hurries to tuck himself in.
“You’ll unlock this door and hand the key to my brother,” Sei orders the man. “You never saw us in here. This bathroom is out of order. You have called in a plumber, but nobody except him”—he points at me—“can come in for the next hour.”
“Hour and a half,” I say.
“Hour.” There’s no room for negotiation in Sei’s mind. If Martina is The One, I’ll have to be fast. Or take the metro back.
The sacrifices I’m willing to make for my soulmate…