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Dear Penthouse Forum, I never thought it would happen to me …”

I stretched invitingly as hands skimmed over my backside, spreading my legs for better access to … whatever. I wasn’t thinking yet. I was barely awake. But feeling, I had that down cold.

In contrast, the hands were warm, almost a furnace against my skin, and that somehow made it all hotter. Slowly, memories of last night came back to me—Apollo’s hands cupping my breasts, his thumbs playing with my nipples while I sank down on top of him, my wings flaring out for balance …

Wings. My eyes shot open, and I tried to roll, but those same wings got in my way, keeping me on my stomach … or at least half on my side. Those lovely hot hands were gone, but the eyes staring into mine more than made up for the heat. They were, in fact, blazing like the sun.

Apollo. Bed. Gargoyle-like wings. Wrong. All of it.

The fact that it felt right showed just how messed up I was. Yesterday I’d been a bridesmaid at my cousin’s wedding, fought off a mother goddess who wanted to reenact Clash of the Titans, with me as one of her shiny new avatars, and broken up with my boyfriend … or, anyway, he’d broken up with me.

Today I woke up in bed with a god. It wasn’t as though we hadn’t been dancing around our attraction for some time now. Or that I wasn’t free to do what I wanted. Or that as rebound sex went, it hadn’t been … amazing didn’t even begin to cover it. Earth-shattering, mind-bending, insert-compound-word-here, because one single solitary descriptor just won’t do.

The problem was that I wasn’t sure it was rebound sex. I was terribly afraid that whatever was brewing between Apollo and me was something much more, and I didn’t know if I could survive it. The problem with a public figure—god or film star, and he was both—was that a) you knew too much about their past loves and b) you had to live it all out loud. I didn’t want to become a tabloid headline or a cautionary tale, like the prophetess Cassandra. I’d already been there and done that and wasn’t looking to repeat the experience. Although, the other experiences … Apollo’s hand was now moving over my hip, the one I wasn’t lying on, and my body was coming alive, reminding me that there were other experiences I’d practically kill to repeat. My eyes rolled back into my head as his hand slid down to the juncture between my thighs, which started to move farther apart all on their own like he had some kind of power over my body.

“Look at me,” he commanded.

I did, but I didn’t look him right in the eyes. Not at first. Too intimate. Too revealing. First I wanted to see what this was doing to him. I got an eyeful. A naked Apollo was a glorious thing. His golden mane of hair was wild and tousled from the night before. Bedroom hair to go with his bedroom eyes, rain swept turquoise right now, darker than their usual color of sun-kissed Mediterranean waters. His chest and shoulders were impressive, his washboard abs begging to be touched, tapering to hips that were made for skintight jeans … or nothing at all. Like now. But none of that was what held my gaze. His shaft was standing at attention and twitched as my gaze swept over it, as though I’d given it a caress. I felt an answering twinge between my legs and wanted Apollo to bury himself there. Last night, because of my new appendages, I’d had to be on top—not that I’d minded—but I was starting to get other ideas as well, and I wanted to try them out one by one.

Apollo practically purred at that. While he couldn’t read my mind, our mental link meant that he could sense strong emotions and right now they were creating a feedback loop with Apollo’s own lustful thoughts that were about to reduce me to instinct and incoherency.

Before that could happen, I put a hand to his chest, resisting the urge to stroke and then taste it. “Stop,” I said. It came out a lot breathier than I wanted it to. “What are we doing?”

“I’d rather show than tell,” Apollo said, his own voice ragged and his hand now exactly where he wanted it, doing exactly what he knew would send me over the edge.

I put my hand over his. “I mean, this can’t happen.”

Apollo’s lips quirked up, and his hand squirmed under mine. “I hate to tell you this, but it already did. If you’ll stop overthinking, it can happen again. I’d like that.”

He leaned in to kiss my neck, his breath hot against it. My eyes closed against their will and my breath hitched.

“I think you’d like it too,” he murmured. Then he bit down on my neck, just a little. Hard enough to feel but not hard enough to mark, and all my objections and any restraint went right out the window.

An hour or two later—because, dayum, gods and whatever I was becoming had stamina—we were sweat soaked and waiting for our breathing and our heart rates to come back within doctor recommended parameters.

I was curled up against Apollo’s chest, my wings furled tightly against my back, still unable to form coherent thoughts beyond ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod. Literally. God. Apollo. Mine. At least, mine for the moment. And ohmygod the things he’d done and we’d done and …

“I think we need to see the Grey Sisters,” he said out of the blue. Just like that.

It stabbed me through the heart that he was already back to coherency. But then, he was a god, and I was a mere … something … I didn’t know anymore. Maybe his mind hadn’t been blown like mine had. It was a reminder of why I hadn’t gotten involved with him before. Why I couldn’t now. He’d own me lock, stock and barrel. I was already half in the bag, the receipt in his hand, complete with return policy.

He must have felt my recoil, because he squeezed me tighter where his hand rested against my hip. “Tori, what’s wrong?”

I didn’t answer him, but I did rise, needing space. I couldn’t look at him, so instead I looked around the hotel room for my clothes. I didn’t find them and couldn’t remember what I’d done with them the night before. Shredded them, for all I knew. Before I could search, Apollo was out of bed and holding my shoulders in his hands, staring down at me and demanding that I meet his eyes.

I did, reluctantly.

“Don’t do this,” he said.

“Do what?” I asked nonchalantly, like he couldn’t feel me pulling back, no matter how much I pretended otherwise.

“Shut me out. I wasn’t thinking about the Grey Sisters while we were … you know. I mean, I was thinking about your wings, and how I’d like to take you up against the wall if they wouldn’t get in the way, but it wasn’t until we were lying together that I had a eureka moment that if anyone would know what to do about your wings, it would be them. I was thinking about the next time and how much more I’d like to do.” He grabbed my chin as I would have looked aside and held me so I wouldn’t break away. “I promise you, there will be a next time. And a next. And a next. You’re not getting rid of me now.”

I could have kneed him in the nuts or done a million other maneuvers to get free, but that would only give me physical distance. Emotional was another thing.

“I’m rebounding,” I told him.

Apollo eyed me, his lips pressed firmly together. “You tell yourself whatever you have to, but from the moment we met, we were inevitable.”

“The sex was inevitable, maybe,” I admitted. Because, why deny it? That ship had sailed. “But the rest? We all know how this ends.”

“So now you’re omniscient?”

“Maybe. I was yesterday. Or anyway, the mother goddess riding me seemed to know all. Today I have wings. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. Maybe the ability to cloud men’s minds. Or read them. I don’t imagine that’s terribly time consuming. Probably more of a bathroom book than the Great American Novel.”

“Now you’re babbling. And making sweeping generalizations about my gender. That’s like me assuming that all you’re interested in is the size of my wallet—”

“It’s not your wallet I’m sizing,” I cut in.

Apollo growled. It was a little bit sexy, dammit. “You’re getting me off point.”

“Then make it already.”

“You and I can work. There, I said it. You’re worried about some inequity of power. I get that, but, Tori, you’re not just another mortal. I don’t know just what you are, but it’s neither mortal nor pliable. You challenge me. You surprise and intrigue me. And despite everything you’ve done to push me away and my best efforts to let you, I have feelings for you that won’t seem to be squashed.”

The hope in my heart was just a tease, and I knew it. I couldn’t even hold a mortal lover.

How was I going to hold a god?

But he’d made one really valid point. I could feel the force of those feelings through our link, and the worst part was, they echoed mine. I’d tried not to want Apollo, which had worked only as long as the very appealing wedge of Detective Nick Armani was between us. Now …

“Fine,” I said, finally looking at him again. “I’m not saying we’re giving this a shot, but I won’t kick you out of bed for eating crackers.”

His brows lowered over his eyes, clouding those crystalline waters. “Why would I eat crackers in bed?”

“It’s an expression.”

“A damn silly one. I’d rather eat—”

“Never mind about that. You were saying about the Grey Sisters?”

“They know all … or can see it with that one crazy eye of theirs. If anyone can tell us what’s happening with you, it’s them.”

“If they don’t eat us first.”

“Well, there is that.”

The Graeae, or Grey Sisters, were a trio of women who shared between them one eye and one tooth. Given the latter, it had never made sense to me that they were also purported to be cannibalistic. What were they going to do, gum people to death? But that was how the tales were told. Rumor had it that knowledge seekers desperate enough to go to them for help, more often found themselves in the Grey Sisters’ cookpot. Perseus had tricked them out of the answers he needed to slay my ancestress Medusa only by virtue of stealing their single eye and holding it ransom for the information. But then, Apollo and I had faced down much worse already than three nearly blind, toothless old women.

“Don’t you have filming to do? What about your movie?”

“It’s on hold right now while our permissions are reevaluated in the wake of the Delphi disaster.”

“Which wasn’t our fault!” I said.

Sure, there was some major league reconstruction needed on the Pythian field, but that had had nothing to do with the film and everything to do with a titanic mother goddess with a mad-on for the latter-day Olympians.

“Which the authorities might absolutely believe if it hadn’t also been for the church.”

An earthquake coupled with the open flame of hundreds of tea lights. Come to think of it, the fire hazard aspect of the whole thing might have been a teeny bit our fault.

“So, the long and short of it is that you’re a free man.”

“At the moment,” Apollo said.

“And you know where to find the Graeae?”

“They haven’t moved in about a thousand years.”

“And you’ll order us breakfast?” I asked, hoping to slip that in. It was his hotel room, after all. He’d have to authorize the charges.

“What will you be doing?”

“Trying to figure out how to shower with these wings.”

“I could wash your back.”

A wave of need seemed to crash over me, but I fought it back. “I’m not even sure I’ll fit in the shower. I think two’s a crowd.”

He eyed me like he knew there was something more to it. Which there was. “What do you want to eat?”

You, I thought. “Everything,” I answered.

“One of everything, coming up.”

I disappeared into the bathroom and closed the door behind me, leaning against it for support. My legs were jelly, either from our exertions or in reaction to the events of the past week. Plus, I couldn’t shower with Apollo. And not just because of the wings. The last time I’d showered with anyone, it had been Nick in our hotel room, just days ago. Nick, the man I thought I’d end up with, who’d ditched me when the crazy world I’d dragged him into had beaten him down. When he’d stepped between me and trouble and gotten a blast of fiery dragon breath in the face. Third-degree burns. He didn’t blame me for them. Or at least he hadn’t said as much. What he did tell me was that I was walking a path he couldn’t walk with me. He was a police detective. He had responsibilities. Nothing about my dangerous don’t-ask, don’t-tell life fit in with that. Now he was out of commission, flying back to the States for further treatment.

And what was the first thing I’d done? Fallen into bed with his competition, Apollo Demas—Greek god of stage, screen, prophecy, the sun and, apparently, the bedroom. The fact that Nick had taken himself out of the running didn’t make me feel any better.

I started the water, as if it would keep Apollo from hearing me think … or sensing my conflict or whatever. It turned out that by pulling my wings in tightly to me, I could fit them through the door into the shower, and I was able to more or less soap up around them and sluice myself down, but long term something would have to be done with them. Everything was going to be tricky otherwise, from riding in a car to flying in an airplane—or even getting through security. Stakeouts and surveillance would be a special challenge. Hard to blend in when you looked like John Travolta in the movie Michael.

Gah, too much to think about. One thing at a time. Surviving the Grey Sisters with all my flesh still on my bones. I let the water wash away everything else.

It was amazing how much a shower could change your mood. I felt clean and fresh. I couldn’t quite wrap the towel around myself properly since the wings were in the way, so I looped it around my waist and left my chest bare while I brushed my teeth and hair and generally made myself presentable. I felt nearly alert as I stepped out of the muggy bathroom into the less humid air of the room. The scent of coffee and bacon greeted me, almost better than ambrosia.

“That was fast,” I commented to Apollo, who was staring hungrily not at the food, but at me.

“You look like an angel,” he said. I gave him a dubious look. “Fallen angel?” he tried.

“Angel of death if you decide to get handsy before I’ve had copious quantities of caffeine. And bacon. And maybe a croissant.”

He laughed and pushed the breakfast tray fractionally in my direction. “Please, help yourself. I don’t want to pull back a stump.”

The man—god—guy—learned fast. But his evening had been every bit as strenuous as mine, so I only took half the bacon and left him the pancakes, though I did fall on the scrambled eggs and chocolate croissant. When we finished I was feeling almost human, despite the fact that I was most assuredly not anymore, not entirely.

Apollo went off to take his shower, and about two seconds later, as I was trying to figure out how to cover up sufficiently to get back to my room for clothes that weren’t covered in blood and gore, my cell phone rang.

I had to dig under a pile of discarded clothes to find it, and answered probably an instant before it went over to voicemail. I hadn’t even had the chance to see who might be calling. The voice that answered my hello was like a slap in the face.

“Tori?” Detective Helen Lau said sharply. “What the hell is going on?”

Detective Lau was Nick’s partner … or had been before she’d flown off on the back of the dragon that had awoken from his sleep beneath the pinnacle of Mount Lee in LA, knocking the H off the Hollywood sign.

“Can you be more specific?” I asked.

“Did I not tell you to take care of him? What’s this I hear about Nick in a hospital in New York recovering from extensive burns? Needing skin grafts? What did you do to him?” My heart clenched, and all my self-recriminations came back to tackle me to the ground.

“Nick stepped between me and trouble and got burned for it. I’m so sorry. If I could go back …” I’d still have been possessed by a psychotic mother goddess and unable to change the outcome.

“You make this right. You know people. Gods and … whatever. You heal him.”

“He doesn’t want my kind of help, Helen. He flew off without even a goodbye.”

“So your feelings are hurt. Boo hoo. You’ll heal. He won’t. Not without your help. I’m on my way back. When I get there, you’d better have come up with something or I swear I will hunt you down.”

She’d do it too. Detective Lau was nothing if not serious. “You’re flying back?” I asked.

“Not a commercial flight. No one stamps your passport when you fly off on the back of a dragon. With food and rest stops, it’ll take me probably a day and a half, but I’ll be there and then we’ll have a reckoning.”

“Helen, I’m not in New York.”

“I don’t care where you are. You get help to him. Pronto.”

She hung up, and I was still staring at the phone when a very naked Apollo stepped out of the bathroom moments later.

“Who was that?” he asked at the look on my face.

“Detective Lau.”

“The Dragon Lady?”

Accurate on so many levels. “The same. She’s ordered us to fix Nick. Or else.”

“Or else what?”

“I didn’t get specifics.”

“First we fix you. Then we worry about Nick.”

“So you think I need fixing?” I asked, wings fanning out as my hands went to my hips, as if my feathers were ruffled. Only, I didn’t have feathers. I had black, membranous wings like those of a bat … or like some images of gorgons on ancient shields and pottery shards.

Apollo came over and kissed me. It was weird how normal it seemed, and how quickly. I stepped back and gave him a dirty look, letting him know he still had to answer. “No,” he said with a slow smile. “I think you’re perfect just the way you are.”

“You have a ‘but’ face.”

He looked like he was about to ask, and then I could see him get it. “But, he added, “you might be a little hard to explain to the paparazzi.”

A jolt hit my heart. Despite facing killer gods and goddesses, gargantuan Titans and multi-headed serpents, it was the thought of featuring in the tabloids that sent me running for the hills. “No paparazzi,” I told him, like he had control of such things. “None.”

Crap, how were we ever going to get out of the hotel without being swarmed? The press had arrived in force. With all the recent insanity, the police had their hands full with crime scenes and damage control. No one had time to bodyguard or babysit a Hollywood heartthrob. Apollo could have hired his own bodyguard, of course, but that would only have cramped his style and potentially exposed secrets he’d guarded thus far, like his godhood.

“Don’t worry,” he said, “I’ve got it all worked out.”

Telling me not to worry or obsess was like telling water not to be wet, but I did my best. “What am I going to wear?”

Apollo took care of that with a phone call and an excessive tip to the maid when she appeared with a bundle of clothes from my room, tucked into a pile of towels she’d brought in case anyone was watching. My pants fit. My shoes from yesterday were badly abused but still wearable, but shirts were out, and bra bands chafed my wings. Luckily, I was not of the size where a bra was an absolute necessity. Certainly not at the level of the stunning starlets Apollo was used to …

I shut that down. I was not an insecure person or one who obsessed about my appearance, and Apollo wasn’t going to make me that way. He wanted me or he didn’t. After last night, I couldn’t doubt that he wanted me, but for how long?

I whooped my mental ass, stole one of Apollo’s shirts—blessing him for his broad shoulders—and disappeared into the bathroom with a borrowed brush to do what I could about the wild mass of hair I blamed on the gorgon part of my bloodline. At least my serpentine locks didn’t actually have minds of their own. Apollo had some kind of hair gel that I decided to try despite the distinctly masculine scent, and for a wonder my curls practically transformed into ringlets on the spot and played nice. I vowed to buy stock in the product.

I was without makeup, but I never wore much in any case, and if I looked somewhat scary, maybe the Grey Sisters would think twice before eating my face.

Apollo was up next. There was a knock at the door a minute after he stepped out of the bathroom, looking amazing, as always. Upon answering it, we found a doorman ready to conduct us down the service elevator to the dock entrance through which supplies and laundry came in and out. And, apparently, special guests trying to avoid a media frenzy. Just outside the dock doors a car waited. I didn’t recognize the car itself, but the driver …

“Viggo!” I cried.

Apollo opened the back door and hurried me inside before I could draw attention. “Ms. Karacis!” our driver answered. “I am so glad to see you okay. But your back … You are carrying yourself with difficulty. You are all right?”

The wings flapped under Apollo’s shirt, fighting for space I didn’t have to give them. I just hoped Viggo wouldn’t notice. “Just a little stiff still,” I told him. “But what are you doing here? I thought you worked for Uncle Hector.”

“I have him on loan,” Apollo said.

“With a bonus!” Viggo agreed. “Hazard pay.”

I laughed. “Glad to have you aboard.”

Viggo took off as soon as Apollo was in beside me with the door closed, before we’d even had the chance to snap our seat belts.

“Where to?” I asked, realizing I still didn’t know.

“Oh, didn’t I tell you? We’re on to Metéora. The Grey Sisters’ cave is halfway up the side of one of the cliffs.”

I groaned. No wonder he’d waited to tell me until I was a captive audience. Viggo drove only slightly slower on the switchbacks down the side of Mount Parnassus than he did changing lanes in Athens, and my heart was entirely in my throat. I hated heights. And now I had to contemplate scaling the cliffs of Metéora to meet three carnivorous crones. My life, I thought, could not possibly get any crazier.

I was wrong.

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