Venus rising book 3 aphr.., p.1
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       Venus Rising: Book 3 Aphrodite Trilogy (The Daughters of Zeus 6), p.1

           Kaitlin Bevis
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Venus Rising: Book 3 Aphrodite Trilogy (The Daughters of Zeus 6)


  Table of Contents

  Praise for Kaitlin Bevis’s Daughters of Zeus series . . .

  Books in the Daughters of Zeus series

  Venus Rising

  Copyright

  Dedication

  Prologue

  Chapter I

  Chapter II

  Chapter III

  Chapter IV

  Chapter V

  Chapter VI

  Chapter VII

  Chapter VIII

  Chapter IX

  Chapter X

  Chapter XI

  Chapter XII

  Chapter XIII

  Chapter XIV

  Chapter XV

  Chapter XVI

  Chapter XVII

  Chapter XVIII

  Chapter XIX

  Chapter XX

  Chapter XXI

  Chapter XXII

  Chapter XXIII

  Chapter XXIV

  Chapter XXV

  Chapter XXVI

  Chapter XXVII

  Chapter XXVIII

  Chapter XXIX

  Chapter XXX

  Chapter XXXI

  Chapter XXXII

  Chapter XXXIII

  Chapter XXXIV

  Chapter XXXV

  Chapter XXXVI

  Chapter XXXVII

  Chapter XXXVIII

  Chapter XXXIX

  Chapter XL

  Chapter XLI

  Chapter XLII

  Chapter XLIII

  Chapter XLIV

  Chapter XLV

  Chapter XLVI

  Chapter XLVII

  Chapter XLVIII

  Chapter XLIX

  Epilogue

  Please visit these websites for more information about Kaitlin Bevis

  Acknowledgements

  About the Author

  Praise for Kaitlin Bevis’s

  Daughters of Zeus series . . .

  “Daughters of Zeus is hands-down my favorite mythological young adult series. It’s very hard not to love these books.”

  —Rally the Readers Reviews

  Of Persephone . . .

  “I loved, loved, loved this book!”

  —The Tale Temptress

  “This book had me hooked from the first page and didn’t let go until I’d turned the last page! The writing style, the voice, of the whole book is so compelling, so engaging! The tone is witty and funny, as it takes an ancient myth and modernizes it.”

  —Readers Dialogue

  Of Daughter of Earth and Sky . . .

  “I highly recommend Daughter of Earth and Sky to anyone looking for a young adult tale of love and friendship.”

  —Long and Short Reviews

  “This book was STUPENDOUS!! I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning to finish, which I haven’t done in quite a while.”

  —Walking on Bookshelves

  Of The Iron Queen . . .

  “I highly recommend The Iron Queen as well as the rest of the series to readers looking for a gripping young adult fantasy.”

  —Long and Short Reviews

  “The world is masterfully crafted, and once you have entered it, you will find yourself constantly wishing to go back.”

  —Lynette at Escaping Reality One Book at a Time

  Of Aphrodite . . .

  “Kaitlin masterfully weaves each new mythology retelling.”

  —Escaping Reality One Book at a Time

  Books in the

  Daughters of Zeus series

  The Persephone Trilogy

  Persephone

  Daughter of Earth and Sky

  The Iron Queen

  The Aphrodite Trilogy

  Aphrodite

  Love & War

  Venus Rising

  Venus Rising

  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: 978-1-61194-752-6

  Print ISBN: 978-1-61194-767-0

  ImaJinn Books is an Imprint of BelleBooks, Inc.

  Copyright © 2017 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.

  ImaJinn Books was founded by Linda Kichline.

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

  ImaJinnBooks.com

  BelleBooks.com

  BellBridgeBooks.com

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  Cover design: Debra Dixon

  Interior design: Hank Smith

  Photo/Art credits:

  Woman (manipulated) © Maksim Shmeljov | Dreamstime.com

  Background (manipulated) © Mega11 | Dreamstime.com

  Shell texture (manipulated) © Mariia Pazhyna | Dreamstime.com

  :Ervf:01:

  Dedication

  To the Athens Area Writers Group members both past and present. Writing is a solitary sport, but thanks to you guys, it’s never lonely.

  Prologue

  Aphrodite

  I’M NOT PERFECT. But I was designed to be. Once upon a time, Zeus sculpted me from foam and death. He made me into a puppet. A box. A symbol. A thing designed to be perfectly obedient to him.

  I bent and twisted beneath his onslaught of lightning and thunder, but when the storm cleared, I remained. Fragile and broken, but still alive. His death released me from his vision of perfection, leaving me free to find my own. That’s when I discovered how far from perfect I truly was.

  I’ve been called promiscuous, shallow, arrogant, self-centered, annoying, and worse by beings who physically can’t lie. They’re not wrong. I’m riddled with flaws. I am neither strong nor brave. I cling too tightly, love too freely, and fear that without my beauty, there’s nothing left of me. Nothing real.

  But life goes on, regardless of my uncertainty. As time passed, I had no choice but to learn to stand on my own two legs, shaky as they might be.

  Here’s what I’ve learned. I’m nobody’s statue or posable doll. I am neither a box nor a symbol. Yes, I’ve been loved by war, struck by lightning, hugged by spring, and mauled by the sea, but I’m more than a victim. I am greater than my story.

  I’m real, flaws and all, and that’s terrifying. Every day, I become someone else. Someone stronger. Wiser. Better. I’m becoming myself.

  But that process isn’t always pretty.

  Chapter I

  Persephone

  Previously . . .

  I OFFERED A smile to the man who’d tried to kill Aphrodite, though I could not keep my teeth from clenching. A camera streamed my every move to an island full of people who wanted my extinction. They had my husband locked up so far from consciousness, I couldn’t even reach him in his dreams. And the man behind it all, their leader, Jason, sat acros
s the table scowling back at my smile.

  “Here.” Orpheus, my head priest, unfolded a chair at a scorched plastic table and motioned for me to sit.

  “Thanks.” I drew in a deep breath that smelled of smoke.

  “Not a problem.” He held another folded chair, but before he could place the seat, Poseidon grabbed the blackened metal from him.

  Shoving it beside mine with more force than necessary, the sea god plopped down and crossed his arms, glaring at the two demigods across the table.

  Orpheus rolled his eyes. The famous demigod wanted nothing to do with this meeting, but Jason had refused to deal directly with us when he’d called to set up the meeting. “Well, now that everyone’s here, shall we begin?”

  At my assent, Orpheus stepped back, fading into the background behind the camera. Unlike the girl who’d accompanied Jason, the two demigods looked like they could have been brothers. Both were tall, broad-shouldered, and golden to the extreme. Hair, eyes, skin. There were varying shades to the tones allotted within the genetic markers gods used to differentiate demigods, but the combination was unmistakable.

  Jason was older than I’d expected. Not Orpheus old. Somewhere in his twenties, rather than thirties, but definitely older than me. I guessed that made sense given how long he’d been working against the Pantheon. But Aphrodite and Ares always made the rebellious demigods sound so young.

  That shouldn’t have surprised me. Aphrodite might not have been around since the ancient days like Ares, but she’d adopted all the same attitudes and assumptions towards humans. Hades called it perspective. I called it condescension.

  And wasn’t that attitude just the problem? After generations of the Greek Pantheon treating demigods like disposable pawns, they were fighting back with a vengeance. DAMNED: Demigods Against Major Nymphs, Elementals, and Deities, had one goal in mind: our extinction. And, honestly, I couldn’t blame them.

  “I’m assuming you’re Jason?” I offered my hand, but Jason just sneered at it, though his companion had the grace to look embarrassed by his behavior.

  Beside me, Poseidon, the scumbag of the sea, tensed at the snub. The sea god was tall and well-built, something he must have enjoyed showing off, because he almost never wore a shirt. Spiky blond hair completed a carefree surfer boy image. Until you looked at the ocean churning in his eyes.

  I let my unanswered question stretch into awkwardness as I glanced around the strange meeting place Jason had selected. We sat in the burned-out shell of an old hospital cafeteria with a low ceiling, cinderblock walls, empty countertops that led to a shattered cash register, and row after row of partially melted plastic tables that smelled like they were still burning. I’d never seen anything like it.

  After letting Jason squirm for a solid minute, I lay my hands atop the bubbled-up surface of the table and turned to his companion. “And you are?”

  I already knew Medea’s name, of course. Aphrodite and Ares had prepped me on what to expect from the unusual demigoddess. The two deities were living on the ominously named Isle of the DAMNED right now, glamoured to look like two demigods we knew—Elise and Adonis.

  The waif-thin girl lacked the genetic features marking her as a demigoddess. Dark hair spilled over her shoulders, making her already pale skin look almost unreal. Terrified, violet eyes stared back at me as she whispered her name.

  I exchanged a glance with Orpheus. Between her terror and general tininess, Medea looked far younger than her seventeen years. And she was Jason’s wife? Like I needed another reason to hate this guy.

  You have zero room to talk, Orpheus’s sardonic look seemed to say. My husband was several centuries (okay fine, millennia) my senior. But looking at this girl, this victim, I suddenly understood why our age difference had been such a big deal.

  It was hard to believe she was stronger than every demigod on that island.

  “I’m Persephone.” I forced my hands to unclench. “And this is Poseidon. Thank you for meeting with us today. I think it’s long past time we talked. You have someone who belongs to me and, in return for him and some other assurances, the entire Pantheon is willing to negotiate with you.”

  Drawing in a deep breath, I fell back on the script Athena had drilled into me. Gods couldn’t lie, and since I spoke for the entire Pantheon, it was important to choose my words wisely so I didn’t lock us into any unintentional promises. “It’s an unprecedented opportunity.”

  Beyond unprecedented. The Pantheon did not negotiate with mortals. But over the last few centuries, our numbers had dwindled to the point of extinction. Every loss had deep-reaching ramifications to our species as a whole.

  If it came to a fight, we’d win. But we couldn’t afford the casualties.

  The negotiations went pretty well, considering. Right up until we got around to weaponry.

  There wasn’t much that could kill a god. Lack of worship, their own children (don’t ask—it seriously just gets more messed up), and Olympian Steele. Hephaestus had developed the weapons centuries ago and promptly destroyed them all once he realized what he’d created. Somehow, these demigods had reinvented the wheel.

  I swallowed hard, my throat Sahara-dry and foul-tasting when I reached the final sticking point. “You have to destroy your weapons.”

  “No way,” Jason objected. “If you guys go back on your word—”

  “Our word is unbreakable,” Poseidon said through gritted teeth. The sea scum was not coping well with this whole negotiate with lesser creatures thing.

  “Y-you’ll find a way around it,” Jason sputtered, his fist coming down on the warped tabletop. “You always do.”

  I winced at the pain in his voice. One of my people had likely done something to him in the past. Something terrible. And they probably hadn’t thought twice about it.

  “Look at me.” I met Jason’s eyes as I deviated from the script. “I will not let that happen if you agree to our terms. Return our people, get rid of the weapons, and I will make them keep their word. In spirit, not just by the letter. Okay? I promise you.”

  Beside me, Poseidon rolled his eyes in unsurprised resignation.

  “Why should they listen to you?” Jason’s voice sounded hoarse with panic, but hope glimmered in his eyes.

  “Because.” Poseidon casually inspected a smudge of ash that had transferred to his arm from the chair. “She’s our Queen.”

  I stiffened, but didn’t argue with the title.

  Jason’s gold eyes widened in surprise. “And if I refuse?”

  “Then I stop allowing you to die.” I hated the words even as I spoke them. “No matter what befalls you, your bodies would continue to function, to feel pain.”

  Despite popular perception, my Reapers didn’t kill people. Though they were capable of severing a human soul from its body, they were strictly forbidden to do such a thing. They released souls from deceased bodies and guided them to the Underworld. “Demigods would remain sentient as their bodies rotted around them. Passage to the Underworld is a luxury I will not grant without my terms met.” I hadn’t wanted to even threaten something so horrific, but Athena had insisted that the consequences for refusal be real and terrifying.

  “We are willing to negotiate with you,” I continued, reciting the script as I forced my hands to go still in my lap. “To discuss terms, and agree to safeties and precautions. But we will not accept any negotiation that doesn’t include the return of any gods you may be experimenting on or holding captive. Nor will we allow the continued existence of weapons that can be used against us. We created the ground you stand on and, as your astute friend here pointed out, we can unmake it. You’ve done a lot that we’re willing to overlook in the name of peace. Don’t squander this opportunity. You won’t get another.”

  “This is sounding more and more like an ultimatum,” Jason said through clenched teeth.


  He wasn’t wrong.

  Poseidon gave me a dark look when I didn’t deny Jason’s accusation. “It’s more ground than any mortal has gained before.”

  “Jason . . .” Medea’s voice shook and I tried not to feel like I’d just kicked a wounded puppy.

  “We’d like time to think about this,” Jason said stiffly, his chair scraping along the floor as he pushed it back, rising to his feet. “You understand. I speak for a collective and unlike you, I didn’t have the benefit of knowing your terms prior to our engagement.”

  “Of course.” There was a script for this reaction. “But we require something of a security deposit to ensure you have a reason to return to the table.”

  “You can smite us with a thought. Isn’t that enough?” Jason slammed both hands on the blackened table, leaning closer to me.

  Beside me, Poseidon went rigid at the threat in Jason’s body language. Even Orpheus stepped forward before I met his gaze, telling him in no uncertain terms to stay back.

  I lifted my brow at the looming demigod, my shoulders rising in a casual shrug. “No.”

  He had my husband, he’d nearly killed my sister, and he’d disabled two gods in my pantheon. I couldn’t risk him slipping through my fingers.

  “You have at least one of our people. I’d like some of yours. She’ll do.” When I nodded toward the girl cowering at his side, she jerked back as if I’d struck a physical blow. “And at least one other demigod and demigoddess of your choice.”

  Jason’s voice went hard as steel. “Out of the question.”

  “One demigod and one demigoddess then,” I countered, lowering my voice with every decibel he raised his. It was a trick I’d picked up from Athena to control the conversation. “That’s my final offer, if you want to leave the table. Otherwise, you’ll have to decide here and now if you’d like to meet our terms. Listen.” I leaned toward him, willing him to understand. “This is a good deal. The best you can expect to be offered since, despite what you may think, you don’t have the upper hand here.”

 
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