Becoming a martyr to save my turned-evil boyfriend was probably a bad idea.
I curled my toes inside my sneakers. The wind kicked up dusty sand around the high Sedona mesa and briefly obscured my view of everyone I was about to leave behind.
Crannik and the priests, huddled together in their robes like a rugby team of monks. Cloud and Danica, sorely out of place in this group of mythicals. Tanzy and Amity with their Siren auras burning brighter than the desert sun. And Dave…
I wasn’t sure I’d miss Dave.
But the rest?
The rest…I’d have to store them away, lock them in a hidden spot in my heart to keep them safe, protected.
Okay, fine. Even Dave.
Tanzy froze. Her eyes went wide. Her Siren gift of seeing the future gave her a split-second head start on being really upset with me.
I shoved one of Hestia’s last three dimension-crossing treats in my mouth and held tight to the thick cord that tied my heart to Jared’s.
Tanzy’s scream split the almost-peaceful scene before the world went silent.
Hopefully my dramatic exit wouldn’t distract my friends from the very real threat of the Greek god civil war that I’d just helped start.
The spirit void whipped around my body, and the powers-that-be strengthened their efforts to rip my soul through my skin. Yeah, yeah, I get it. Bodies. Not. Welcome. But maybe this trip would be shorter than my last few visits.
A cold film slid over my body, slippery and soft, and my feet hit solid ground. The darkness faded, the room came into focus…and there he was, his back turned to me.
The room pulsed a hazy purple light. I straightened my legs, willed them not to tremble. Smooth stone walls, a high ceiling, worn floors, they all radiated this gently pulsing light. It was a steady and rhythmic heartbeat, but the heart it mimicked couldn’t be mine. My heart sputtered erratically like a near-empty spray paint can, a clogged-up mixture of adrenaline, inter-dimensional travel, betraying my friends, seeing him.
Hestia’s cookie rested on my tongue. I swallowed it and closed the gap separating me from Jared.
His shoulders heaved as if he was having a hard time catching his breath.
I reached for him, and the spaces between the pulses of light grew longer, as if being this close to him slowed time.
His shirt was slicked through like he’d been running, and I distantly recognized weapons on the walls, workout machines, fighting dummies, training equipment. None of that mattered. I breathed him in, pressed closer, afraid to touch, afraid to not be connected. My fingertips grazed the air between us, tracing the outline of his spine, his hard muscles.
He inhaled, his back shuddered. “Korrina,” he whispered.
I leaned closer, the distance between us pushing and pulling like two magnets fighting against opposing forces. Every life-saving instinct I had shouted to run, fight, save myself. I ignored them all. In this moment, this splice of space that existed outside of time, Jared was mine.
Slowly, he turned, and slowly, I met him, each of us moving with aching caution, as if any sudden movement would break this bubble, would send reality rushing in.
He reached up, and my gaze found his blissfully brown eyes, not a trace of the poison that had turned him into a red-eyed, Siren-killing machine.
His hand cupped my cheek, his thumb grazed my skin. “Are you real?” he said, his words quiet.
I found his other hand, interlaced my fingers with his, and raised to my tiptoes. The thread of fate connecting my heart to his grew stronger, more intense, corded and braided into something unbreakable. Even if I could snap myself free, it’d leave a wound so big I’d never survive.
He leaned in, his thumb traced my lips, and still, I didn’t answer him. This didn’t feel real. I didn’t feel real. The distance between us closed, his breath warmed my lips, a feather-light tease. I ran my fingers up his arm, noting each hard curve, every new muscle, memorizing this new body that housed the heart I loved, convincing myself I was really here, he was really here.
His lips pressed into mine, and an electric current coursed through my bones. Our feet left the floor, the gravity-defying effect of a Siren’s unabashed love. He pulled back, and his eyes searched mine. “You really are here.”
I smiled, and my eyes filled with tears. “I made you a promise.” I pressed into him, covered his lips with mine, buried my fingers into the loose waves of his dark hair.
He deepened the kiss, and every bit of restraint he’d shown over the past year, every ounce of confusion, every trace of the new creature he’d become, it all turned to mist.
Time slipped away. The colors in the room shifted. Jared broke away from me and looked around like he had just woken up.
I didn’t want him to wake up.
“You can’t be here,” he said, a roughness filing the edge of his voice. He pushed me back, but held on to my shoulders, and his gaze darted around the room. “Korrina, you have to leave. Now.” The roughness in his voice turned sharp, fine-tuning the rising panic in his tone.
“Where are we?” I probably should have asked when I first landed here.
“Phorkys’s fortress. And if someone sees you…” His panic was addictive.
I took out Hestia’s two remaining cookies and shoved one into his hand. “Come with me. Place this in your mouth and hold on to my hand, and we’ll leave here. Forever.”
His hand clenched around the treat. Some emotion crossed his face—one I couldn’t identify, making me even more aware that he wasn’t fully my Jared. “You shouldn’t have come here.” He let me go and stepped away.
Immediately, I felt his absence, like I was standing on the edge of a bottomless hole. “Jared, please. We’ll figure the rest out once we get away from here.”
He ran his hand through his hair, pulled at the ends. “I can’t leave, Korrina. Don’t you get it? He owns me. Body, mind—“
He pressed his lips together. Anguish filled his eyes. Anguish, and something else.
The cookie in his hand crumbled, fell to the floor. The brown in his eyes dimmed. Reddened.
My Siren voice sensed the danger scenting the air. Honey filled my mouth, burned against the taste of his kiss. A red light began to flash inside the walls, faster and faster.
“The intrusion alarm has been triggered.” Jared’s fists clenched, and he took a step toward me, but this time, intimidation filled his every movement. Power. Strength. That otherness that he’d become. “You’re leaving me without any choices.”
“You are my choice, Jared. Always.”
Pain etched his features as he took another step.
My Siren song coiled in my throat, but I stood my ground. I’d come here with one intent. Save Jared. That hadn’t changed. That wouldn’t change.
“You never did make good choices.” He grabbed my hand and wrenched Hestia’s final cookie—my one ticket out of here—out of my grip, threw it to the floor, and stomped it to crumbs.
“What is she doing here?” A new voice entered the room. New, but not unfamiliar.
Jared went at-attention straight, tightening his hold on my hand. He spun me around, locked me between his chest and arm.
Colin stood at the entrance to the stone gym. The scars my mother had given him shortly after I’d been born pulled at his expression, giving him a permanent cock-eyed sneer. Little punishment for being a terrible ex-boyfriend to my mother, and being an even worse father to me.
I didn’t give Jared a chance to answer. I grabbed his arm, threw my weight against his grip, and slipped out of his embrace. My song sprang free, a dark purple beam of power that shot straight at Colin and hit him in the chest. Not as thick as it usually was, not as verdant with my newly discovered dyad power. A knot of concern curdled in my stomach.
Colin’s feet left the ground, and he flew back through the doorway.
Jared growled, put his head down, and tackled me to the floor. My song wrapped around him, picked up him, and pinned him high on the wall. My power stretched between the guy I loved and the father I hated, with nowhere to go and no way out.
And I was getting weaker. I could no longer hear Ania, the dark counterpart to my Elpida power and a surprising source of unrelenting strength.
Footsteps, many footsteps, thundered closer and closer. Footsteps that could not belong to any human smaller than Shaq.
Colin got to his feet, returned my power with his own green Siren Hunter magic. My power strained against his assault, and I fought against the urge to manifest the scepter of power attached to my soul. It was the one thing Phorkys craved above all else. Using it now would be as good as gift-wrapping and delivering it to him.
Though maybe, just by being here, I’d already done so.
“Give it up, Daughter,” Colin growled. “Your power here is dampened. You cannot fight all of Phorkys’s children at once.”
At his back appeared a multitude of misshapen, malformed monsters. Cyclops, half-crab creatures, snakes that hissed and fluttered wings on their backs.
Colin took another step forward. Jared slipped a foot or two down the wall. My power faltered. Colin noticed.
“Do you really think Phorkys would not have defenses at the ready to stop another Siren attack? Your ancestors fooled him once. It will not happen again.” He gestured at the walls. “His power is infused throughout this fortress, and you, by yourself, are far too weak to resist.”
My power flickered. Jared fell to the ground. Colin rushed forward, pulled out his dagger.
I pulled my song in close, coated myself with its purple energy, created a forcefield of protection.
It didn’t matter. The room flooded with Phorkys’s monstrous warriors. Jared tossed a rope around my middle. Colin grabbed the other end and tied my arms to my sides.
Green fire flickered at the end of Colin’s blade. Green fire that had the power to curse me as it had cursed my Siren ancestors, as it had cursed my Siren cousin Amity, as it had cursed my mother.
Jared was right. I didn’t make good choices.
Becoming a martyr had been a super-bad idea.