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The iron queen, p.1
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       The Iron Queen, p.1

           Kaitlin Bevis
 
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The Iron Queen


  Torn between two worlds...

  WATCHING MY WIFE chase after a human boy was hell. The heavy rain drenched the thin fabric of her clothes in seconds, plastering them to her body in a way that would be appealing... if he wasn’t going to see her, too. I clenched my jaw. She just doesn’t want him to get hurt. It wasn’t as though I wanted any mortals caught in the crossfire when we faced Zeus either. Persephone was just going to charm the boy into leaving the park.

  Tearing my gaze away from her as she scurried up the hill, I searched the parking lot for Aphrodite, or Zeus, or whoever he, she, it may be. I had the layout of Memorial Park memorized anyway. Who was I kidding? The entire city of Athens, Georgia was embedded in my mind. The precaution was reasonable. Persephone spent most of her time here, and she was a magnet for trouble.

  I followed her up the dirt-packed path in my mind’s eye. She’d be rounding the corner now well above the park, oblivious to the way the plants she passed leaned toward her. Persephone was beautiful. Vibrant. Light and vitality pulsed from her like the first warm gust of a spring breeze promised everything would soon be new and alive again, that winter would thaw into life. Everything was drawn to her. Unfortunately.

  ___

  “If you love Greek mythology and young adult books, this series is a perfect choice!”

  —Jess at Such A Novel Idea

  “What a powerful whirlwind end to this section of the series!... There’s so much heartbreak in this book. So much emotion. A great book!”

  —Reader’s Dialogue

  The Daughters of Zeus Series

  by Kaitlin Bevis

  Persephone

  Daughter of Earth and Sky

  The Iron Queen

  The Iron Queen

  The Daughters of Zeus Series

  Book Three

  by

  Kaitlin Bevis

  ImaJinn Books

  Copyright

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), events or locations is entirely coincidental.

  ImaJinn Books

  PO BOX 300921

  Memphis, TN 38130

  Ebook ISBN: 978-1-61194-654-3

  Print ISBN: 978-1-61194-636-9

  ImaJinn Books is an Imprint of BelleBooks, Inc.

  Copyright © 2013 by Kaitlin Bevis

  Triton (short story) copyright © 2015 by Kaitlin Bevis

  Published in the United States of America.

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.

  The Daughters of Zeus trilogy was originally published in ebook-only by Musa Press.

  ImaJinn Books was founded by Linda Kichline.

  We at ImaJinn Books enjoy hearing from readers. Visit our websites

  ImaJinnBooks.com

  BelleBooks.com

  BellBridgeBooks.com

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  Cover design: Debra Dixon

  Interior design: Hank Smith

  Photo/Art credits:

  Woman (manipulated) © Inara Prusakova | Dreamstime.com

  Woman (manipulated) © Syda Productions | Dreamstime.com

  Texture (manipulated) © Olgakorneeva | Dreamstime.com

  Frame © Liudmila Metaeva|Renderosity

  :Aqij:01:

  Dedication

  To Mrs. Saul’s fourth block freshmen. You guys were amazing. Thank you for putting up with me for an entire semester.

  And to my readers. You have no idea how much I value your reviews and insights.

  Chapter I

  Hades

  WATCHING MY WIFE chase after a human boy was hell. The heavy rain drenched the thin fabric of her clothes in seconds, plastering them to her body in a way that would be appealing... if he wasn’t going to see her, too. I clenched my jaw. She just doesn’t want him to get hurt. It wasn’t as though I wanted any mortals caught in the crossfire when we faced Zeus either. Persephone was just going to charm the boy into leaving the park.

  Tearing my gaze away from her as she scurried up the hill, I searched the parking lot for Aphrodite, or Zeus, or whoever he, she, it may be. I had the layout of Memorial Park memorized anyway. Who was I kidding? The entire city of Athens, Georgia was embedded in my mind. The precaution was reasonable. Persephone spent most of her time here, and she was a magnet for trouble.

  I followed her up the dirt-packed path in my mind’s eye. She’d be rounding the corner now well above the park, oblivious to the way the plants she passed leaned toward her. Persephone was beautiful. Vibrant. Light and vitality pulsed from her like the first warm gust of a spring breeze that promised everything would soon be new and alive again, that winter would thaw into life. Everything was drawn to her. Unfortunately.

  My thoughts returned to the human boy she was following. I scowled. Rain fell, pinging against the transparent shield that kept me out of sight while I sat dry atop a metal picnic table. My fingers worried at a spot of rust. I tried not to think too hard about whatever else might have touched the shining surface.

  This realm was disgusting. Insects swarmed the park, and birds flew through the air, dropping waste indiscriminately onto the world below. I couldn’t wait to return to the Underworld. The surface had its charms, but I had no desire to stay for long.

  Joel!

  Persephone’s voice rang through my mind, and I tossed up a mental wall. It wasn’t just good manners preventing me from listening in. This boy had been in her thoughts every night. I’d seen the way he looked at her like she was something to be consumed, the way he touched her like her body was his for the taking, the way her heart raced when she felt his breath upon her neck. I clenched my jaw and studied the parking lot like it might change shape any moment.

  She’d probably think less of me if I ripped him apart.

  Not that her opinion was all that stopped me. It wasn’t my habit to go around killing mortal children, and not just because I’d have to deal with them in the Underworld. I liked humans. Just not when they groped my wife.

  My heart thudded at an uncomfortable speed, filling my body with adrenaline. I couldn’t seem to catch my breath. My hands gripped the edge of the picnic table, and I leaned forward, muscles tensed. That was strange. I had no reason to be this anxious. He was just a kid, and Persephone was Persephone, she had no idea what affect she had. I couldn’t really fault him for being interested, and I had encouraged her to see other people. A spectacularly stupid move on my part. Not only was it condescending as hell to tell Persephone what she should and shouldn’t feel toward me, but I’d managed to push her into the arms of another man. It had taken all of two seconds for me to realize I really didn’t want her to be with other men.

  Apparently on top of all my other charming flaws I’m over-possessive. Who knew?

  I took a deep breath to force myself to calm down, but it didn’t seem to work. What was the matter with me? Channeling Persephone’s power away every night had given me a very unwanted front row seat to her developing relationship with Joel. I’d seen every kiss, everything, and not felt this before. It hadn’t been pleasant, but—

  Cold dread filled the pit of my stomach, and I frowned. This didn’t even feel like rage. My heart was still beating a mile a minute, like it might burst free from my chest at the slightest provocation. I felt strange, no... terrified.

 
; That was it. Fear. But why was I—?

  It wasn’t mine.

  My thoughts flew to Persephone, crashing through the mental wall. Her abject terror flooded my thoughts with such paralyzing force that for a second I lost the ability to move or breathe. All that existed was her fear. The boy spoke in a harsh voice, grip tight on her arm. I rose from the picnic table, ready to relieve him of that limb, when his words filtered through her thoughts.

  . . . Hades.

  I blinked. How would he know my name?

  A red sports car squealed into the parking lot, and I swore. Hate to interrupt, I directed the thought to Persephone.

  The boy locked gazes with Persephone and seemed to look through her to me. I knew those eyes. Images and thought fragments flashed from Persephone’s mind to catch me up, but I already knew everything I needed to.

  Persephone, run! I tore through the parking lot to reach the path.

  Hades, it’s Joel! He’s Zeus!

  The whole story passed through my mind accompanied by waves of fear and guilt. Persephone gripping Joel’s arm to teleport but nothing happening, followed by her realization that Joel wasn’t from this realm. Her shock and horror when his glamour melted away. Why wasn’t she running?

  Get out of there, now!

  I couldn’t keep the panic out of my thoughts. If Zeus hurt her...

  Our plan, she protested.

  She wouldn’t. Only a fool would risk going through with our plan now. We’d intended to trap Zeus by having him stand on an entrance to the Underworld so we could bring some of my realm up and around him. A little slice of Tartarus. It had worked to imprison some of the Titans before, and it could work with him. But not like this. Not with her alone and hopelessly overpowered.

  But this was Persephone. The girl who had fled the safety of the Underworld to confront Boreas with nothing but righteous indignation on her side. It was foolish of me to expect her to do anything else.

  I swore and scrambled up the hill. Just teleport. Leave!

  I can get him to the entrance. Hades, this is our best chance.

  Her determination pounded through me coupled with her desperate need for this to be over. She wouldn’t run. If I couldn’t reach her in time...

  A bright light seared my vision as I rounded the corner. She screamed, intense pain flashing through her and reverberating to me. I stumbled, blinded by her white-hot agony. Another flash. Pain flared through her, exploding within my mind in a cacophony of anguish. My vision cleared for a split second, and I saw the ground rush toward me. Then everything went black.

  Chapter II

  Aphrodite

  PERSEPHONE’S anguished scream echoed through the park. I’d rushed over as soon as she called me for help, but knew I was too late. The air hummed with energy, setting my hair on end as I jumped out of the cherry red convertible I’d “borrowed” from some random guy.

  I sloshed onto the wet pavement, twisting my ankle in my haste, and made a mental note not to wear heels next time Persephone needed me.

  Not that she made a habit of calling me when she needed something. She must really be desperate. I hurried up the wooded running path and almost tripped over a crumbled shape. Hades. What could have knocked Hades out?

  “Aphrodite.” A voice as smooth as silk sent shivers up my spine.

  I cast a shield and jumped in front of Hades. Zeus emerged from a grove of trees holding Persephone like some knight out of a painting. Her limp, dangling arms swayed as he walked. Golden hair, so bright against her corpse-pale skin that it didn’t look real, cascaded in waves toward the ground. He strode toward me, strong and radiant. Like the sun had reached through him just to get a little closer to earth. The scene would have been breathtaking, like something out of a storybook, if it wasn’t for the sinister expression on his face.

  Damn it, I’d hoped it would never come to this. She was my sister and my friend, and I’d stabbed her in the back by pretending “Joel” was anyone other than Zeus. Yes, he’d forced me to help him, but that was no excuse. I never wanted Zeus to win. But now he had Persephone, and with her, access to the Underworld and the living realm. We were all doomed.

  “You said you wouldn’t hurt her.” I’d meant to sound defiant, angry, but it came out petulant and scared.

  “I said I didn’t have to. There’s a difference.”

  I closed my eyes. Of course there was. “You’re leaving me here, aren’t you?”

  Zeus grinned. “I’m sure you’ll make yourself useful.”

  I was surprised it still hurt. I’d known from the beginning I was no more than a pawn to Zeus. He’d created me from the remains of Uranus to give me unprecedented levels of charisma and then abandoned me in the world without the knowledge to control the charm.

  Charisma, or charm, is kind of like mind control if you know how to use it. I can smile at pretty much any human and make him do what I want, but uncontrolled it’s dangerous. Like, Trojan War dangerous. Used without direction, it steers humans toward their baser instincts. They become obsessed. Anything could have happened to me, but either way, it served Zeus’ purposes. He had backup plans for his backup plans.

  Now he was leaving me with two very pissed off deities who would move heaven and earth to find Persephone. No telling what they’d do to me.

  Did Persephone even know how lucky she was? I’d sell my soul for just one of the followers she collected everywhere she went. To be someone worthy of worship instead of the obedient abomination Zeus created, stripped of my free will and forced into servitude.

  Zeus shifted and grabbed the necklace Persephone wore. “Tell Hades”—he cast a knowing glance at the shield behind me with a smirk—”and Demeter I’ll take their realms in exchange for the girl.” The silver chain snapped, and he tossed the necklace toward me. “Give him that.”

  Before I could answer, he vanished.

  Plucking the necklace out of a puddle, I shook water off the small green plant that sat anchored in a wire basket and dried the pomegranate charm on my shirt. Oh yeah. Hades was definitely going to kill me when he came to.

  I’d run, but it wasn’t like I had a choice. Zeus created me with an extra special tweak. I was loyal to family. Loyal to the point of obedience if they outranked me enough. That was why I was almost glad I was still “useful” to him; I had a feeling the minute he didn’t need me anymore, he’d ask me to swear fealty and give him all my power. Suicide by devotion. And I’d have no choice but to oblige.

  If I swore over everything to him, would he release my soul to the Underworld? Would I finally be free? Or would he keep me, my thoughts and memories, and everything about me that was me locked in his head in case he ever found it useful?

  I sat beside Hades and pulled my knees to my chest. Hollow. I felt hollow inside, like Zeus had carved out everything that mattered, everything I cared about, and left me empty. Hopeless. The rain dripped down my face, mimicking the tears I didn’t dare cry.

  Chapter III

  Persephone

  GETTING STRUCK BY lightning hurts. A lot. Most people die long before they fully process the pain of a storm’s worth of voltage passing through their body in the blink of an eye. I don’t have that luxury. Instead, I discovered something that hurt far worse than becoming a sadistic deity’s living electrical conduit. Healing from a lightning strike at godspeed.

  When I came to, my body felt like it was pulsing molten lava through my veins with each heartbeat. Gods! An inhuman moan tore from my throat. What happened? It wasn’t until the bed shifted I realized I wasn’t alone.

  Hades. I let myself relax. Relief calmed me enough for unconsciousness to threaten to pull me back under, so I forced myself to take steady breaths. It was too soon to open my eyes. I knew how to stay conscious through horrific pain. Thanatos taught me that.

  I breathed in too deep
ly, and a bolt of pain lanced through me. When I shifted positions to get comfortable, a low moan worked its way up my throat. There was no comfortable. The lightning had seared every single nerve ending in my body. Healing from this didn’t feel good at all.

  His hand brushed the hair out of my face.

  “Hades?” I croaked, struggling to open my eyes.

  He shushed me, stroking my arm. I leaned into his touch as the memories rushed back—Hades finding out about Thanatos and killing him, destroying his soul, planning to trap Zeus, waiting at the park for Aphrodite, and realizing Joel was there. What happened to Joel?

  The voice shushed me again, and the hand on my shoulder didn’t feel comforting anymore. His touch felt... wrong. My eyes flew open, and I bolted upright.

  With a horrible certainty I turned to see who sat next to me on the bed.

  Chapter IV

  Hades

  THE WORDS SWIRLED on the page of the book I read into an indecipherable vortex of black ink. It was obvious I was dreaming, and not just because the brain is incapable of processing the written language in its sleep. I dislike dreaming. With a frustrated sigh, I set down the book, careful not to wake Persephone sleeping beside me even though I knew she wasn’t actually here.

  My whole body hurt enough that the novelty of feeling physical pain was lost on me. The pain and the dream meant something important, something bad. A deep sleep like this meant I’d lost consciousness somehow. What could hurt me?

  Beside me, Persephone sighed and moved closer. Yeah, something was wrong. However ambivalent I tried to be in the waking world, the scenarios that played out in my head when I pictured us in bed never featured Persephone sleeping or me reading. In dreams at least, I deserved more action.

  I studied her sleeping form, struck by how still she was. Awake, Persephone was in constant motion, so full of life she almost glowed. Beautiful, but sometimes that never ending motion made it hard to just look at her. Brushing a strand of hair from her face, I wished I could feel happy, at peace, or what not. Shouldn’t I? We were together after all, with all our secrets and hang-ups out in the open at last. Instead, all I felt was dread and fear and pain.

 
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