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Amelia’s ARC Team Bonus Scene

Zeus

“Poisoning wasn’t part of the deal, Demeter.

I use the same tone for Demeter as I’d use for bitch, if I used such language with my sister. Demeter came here to negotiate with me, and now look. Me, with an unconscious Persephone draped over my arms. When she wakes up—if she wakes up—she’s unlikely to thank me for catching her before she cracked her skull on my floor. 

Demeter flicks tears from the corners of her eyes. One blink. Two. No more evidence of the wrenching tears she was crying only moments ago. Her expression is quite placid for a woman who has just poisoned her daughter.

“Well, how was I supposed to transport her?” My sister pulls a compact from one of the deep pockets in her linen dress and flips it open. A small brush inside assists her in the project of applying blush. Blush. I cannot imagine why she thinks she needs blush in this moment, but she is a psychopath, and we are here inside my whorehouse for a variety of reasons.

The first reason has always been that she manufactures drugs, and things in a whorehouse are much easier if a person has ready access to things that will make whores and clients more comfortable. 

The third reason is—again—that she is crazy. I bring her here every so often to determine the degree. To see where the fault lines in our businesses yawn open, to see if there’s any sign of the girl she used to be. 

And I have made a grave miscalculation.

I see it now, of course, now that she’s already in my office. Now that Persephone is already breathing short, shallow breaths.

Fuck me.

She’s light in my arms, not surprising for her petite frame, though Demeter doesn’t seem to register that I’m standing here like an errand boy with her half-dead daughter in my arms. Life leaching from her. I’ve been here before, in this place with this girl in my arms. But that’s not possible. This has only happened the once. 

“Dead or alive?”

Demeter snaps the compact shut and drops it back into her pocket and flashes an amused smile at me. It reminds me so much of my father that my stomach clenches. “What are you talking about, silly boy?”

It’s the boy that does it. That cracks something at the base of my spine. What emerges from that rupture is panic wrapped in rage. I’m not supposed to feel this anymore. I’ve made it my business not to feel this anymore, but the sensation crawls hand over hand up my spine until it wraps itself around my neck. This was not part of the deal. This was supposed to be a trade, not a murder scene.

“Were you going to transport a dead body, or a live one?”

She giggles. “What does it matter to you?”

“It doesn’t,” I lie. I can feel how much this matters in my bones. It’s tugging the skin away from my muscles. It’s beating down the inside of my chest. Demeter can’t know any of this. She can’t know how deep the knife carved when Katie died. “I’m only curious, sister mine, why you would risk killing your own daughter if you want her back.”

Demeter cocks her head to the side, her bronze curls spilling over one shoulder. “That’s not my daughter.”

There’s something different about the weight in my arms. Chilled air prickles the hairs on the back of my neck like the whisper of a ghost. “Demeter,” I say with numb lips, “you don’t recognize your own daughter?”

She raises a finger and points. “She is not my daughter. You double-crossed me.”

“I’m not the one who came here with poison polish on my fingernails.” 

Demeter crosses her arms over her chest with a pout. My heart thumps in a mad rhythm. This is my office. That is my furniture. All the colors are correct. It should be fucking fine, but nothing’s right. “I made it easier.”

“For who?”

“For you,” she insists. “I did it for you.”

“I want nothing to do with Persephone.” Persephone is the third rail. An electric wire. 

A petulant sigh. “That’s not Persephone.”

There’s nothing for it but to tilt my head and look down. Hades’ new plaything came here all by herself, and now she’s hovering between life and death. It’s possible Demeter has had a full psychotic break and can no longer recognize her own child, but—

I focus on Persephone’s face.

My entire body jolts, an involuntary startle, and Demeter giggles again. “Happy birthday,” she sings.

It’s not my birthday.

And the woman in my arms is not Persephone.

It’s Brigit, and she’s coldly pale, eyes glassy and staring at some point beyond me. Beyond all of us.

“No.” I shift her into one arm and use my other hand to stroke her face. “No, no.” The scene doesn’t compute. Persephone did come here. She came here to negotiate with me for some bullshit or other, for her love of Hades, and Demeter was already here. I was going to broker a deal between the three of us. A false deal. I wasn’t going to let Demeter leave with Persephone. I’m not stupid. The last time Persephone was in my whorehouse, Hades brought the Feds. There are no more chances with him. Now I’ve lost Persephone and Brigit, no, no, fuck, not Brigit—

“No, no, no,” mocks Demeter, doing a neat twirl in place as if she’s standing in a shower of petals. “No, Brigit, don’t die. Don’t slip under the poison spell.”

“You can’t do this.” White fear, dark rage.

Demeter stops. Shrugs. “I’ve already done it. More than once, silly.”

Move.

There is a call to be made. An actual phone call, to Carina Jain, who will be here in time to save Brigit. She always comes when I call. That’s her highest purpose in life. So interesting how everyone has a price. Every person can be bought. What can’t be bought is time. I keep Brigit close with one arm and dig in my pocket for my phone. Swipe the screen. Dial the emergency number. 

Someone plucks the phone from my hand.

I hear it hit the floor at the same moment I turn around. My sister has gone too far.

It’s not my sister driving her heel into the screen of my phone with studied precision.

Brigit sucks in a rattling breath in my arms. My father lifts his head, a satisfied smile painting his face. “I came to congratulate you on your new position.”

“You’re dead.” Brigit’s not breathing. Her body is a new dead weight, ready to succumb to the forces of gravity and then the dirt. Brigit in the ground, Brigit where I can’t reach her. “This isn’t happening.”

He glances at Demeter and the two of them share a conspiratorial laugh. “She’s dead.” He gestures to Brigit in my arms. “I’m proud of you, son.”

Demeter slinks to his side and puts her arm around his waist, leaning her head against his chest. “Daddy,” she says. “I missed you.”

Acid burns the back of my throat. I’m a house of bones, tumbling down. Something in this room should serve as proof that neither of them are here, that I am not here, but nothing works. It doesn’t work.

The door opens on a gust of wind and Hades strides in. Who told him the news? Who told him that I waited here, a beaten-down man with a blown-apart chest? He ignores Demeter and Cronos. Their silver eyes track him on his way across the floor.

To me.

Brigit is so heavy now that I can’t move her, can’t get my hands free to stop him from killing me. Death cloaks his eyes in black. No blue left. Not a hint of the sky. Desolation lives there. The void. 

“A coin for the ferry,” he says, but it’s not a coin he slips onto my tongue but a pill. My mouth closes around it and he reaches to cover my mouth, one big hand over my lips. There are no choices left to make, other than to swallow. Pretty fucking ironic, if you ask me.

All the times I’ve beaten the shit out of him, and my brother’s going to deal the killing blow.

Maybe we’ll both sink down into the floor and earth when he’s finished with me. There’s no letting go of Brigit now, I see—I couldn’t put her down if I wanted to. No part of me wants to put her down. I’d rather die with her. Convenient, since that’s what’s happening. He takes a step back to observe his handiwork.

I didn’t feel the full weight of my panic, of the tearing in my chest where my heart used to be, until now. It’s already ebbing away. I’ve spent so much of my life insisting on survival, and why? This is better. Hades, that fucker, was correct. He wanted to disappear into the kingdom of darkness years ago. I should have let him. I should have begged him to take me with him, but I was too proud to beg.

Pride. It’s a mindset issue, really.

I open my mouth to tell him so and discover that my mouth doesn’t work. Black on black. So much darkness in his clothes, in his body, and now it’s seeping into me. It’s already in Brigit, stopping her heart and choking off her air supply. The black closes in at the corners of my vision. Hades watches. Behind him, Cronos flickers in and out of view. Demeter, too. The walls—they’re not right. Changing color and shape as my eyes cloud over. This is it, then. Hades in my fucking office. Death becomes him. The stone weight of Brigit in my arms.

He turns his head. “It’s done.”

I don’t know who he’s talking to.

It doesn’t matter.

I’m dead, and I’m so fucking relieved. 

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