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Perhaps my first urban fantasy, this story was written and published before urban fantasy had that name. I want to give Shawna McCarthy of Realms of Fantasy the credit for pointing out the ending was much too short, and then giving me a second chance to submit it to her. This was the first published story that made me hope I could be a writer one day.


My last lover was a hero. A beautiful, chisel-jawed, shining-smile, bulky-pec’d man who dumped me cold for the first Queen of Forever that batted lashes his way. Let me say this straight right now: I didn’t expect him to stay with me — not for eternity. But when he came washing up on my shore, bruised and swollen and half-starved, we made a deal.

I’d take care of the multi-headed sea monster he’d gotten himself into trouble with and he’d stay on my island for the summer. In exchange for a little body heat, I’d dance for him.

Believe me, being supple-spined made for some spectacular dance positions.

But Perseus had all the moves. Tough as a sailor, charming as a midnight poet, and that smile. . . .

I, the good little monster, slogged through the cold salt water to face down his foe. I, the good little monster, got a knock to the head trying to lock the serpent into stone and I, the good little monster practically froze to death right then and there.

Would it have killed him to thank me? When I finally came to and made my way back to civilization, all I heard was: “Perseus cut off Medusa’s head, Perseus used it for a shield, Perseus saved the swooning beauty.” The lout hooked up with some queen, spread a bunch of rumors about decapitating me and using my head, my head to bring down the sea serpent. He left me, head intact and heart broken, behind.

Not even a farewell, Medusa, my almost love. Over the years, I’ve begun to wonder if he had it planned all along. Make the monster fall in love, send her out to fight while he puts a move on the queen, and pray the monster doesn’t surface until the wedding wine has gone to dregs.

I should have turned him to stone when I had the chance —before I fell in love.

A knock at my door broke my reverie. I crossed the living room, bare feet scuffing carpet and shooting static across my scalp. The snakes on my head swayed like they were high on hair spray. I swatted at them with one hand and looked through the peephole.

A dark-haired man stood against Seattle’s unbreakable gray. His skin was brown, almost black in contrast with his loose white cotton shirt. Wide shouldered, he was taller than I and strong-boned. Handsome. I did not look in his eyes, but I suspected they would be gray, or blue.

My heart raced and the snakes hissed. I do not believe in reincarnation or any of those other quaint attempts at eternal life. But when he smiled, I saw again the cliff, smelled again the salt breezes brushing my skin. A ship rounded the cove, sail swollen with wind, and the man on deck smiled at me.

The man outside my door picked up one of my rabbit statues from the flowerbed. He turned it over in his hand, stroking the stone fur and set it back down. He frowned and knocked on the door again.

“I don’t mean to intrude,” he called, “but I’ve been watching Jenny take your statues into town. Are there any left for sale?”

My mind told me to say no. He had all the makings of a hero, including an accent I could not place. But I needed the money. Being immortal doesn’t guarantee unlimited riches. My statues sell best during tourist season and the last warmth of summer had faded away weeks ago, taking the tourists, and my income, with it.

I crossed the room to the mantle and put on my mirrored sunglasses. The reflective lenses wouldn’t help much; it was me looking into other people’s eyes, not other people looking into mine that caused all the trouble. But if I were very careful, we wouldn’t make eye contact. The man would buy a statue, I’d have some money to pay Jenny to pick up my groceries, and I could go back to drifting through my memories.

“Come in.”

The snakes hung quietly at my shoulders, brown, not green as the myths would have you believe. With a bit of concentration, I can influence the observer to see them as beaded braids against my tanned skin. I am not beautiful like my far-sisters, the Sirens, who pose for those tasteful pornography magazines. When I put my mind to it, I can be passably exotic.

“Welcome to my home,” I said over my shoulder, “Mr. . . ?”

“Jason’s fine.”

I smiled. It was always comforting to hear old names.

“Jason,” I turned and stared at his forehead, “what kind of statues are you looking for?”

“I’m not sure, really. These are beautiful.” He wandered across the room, hands clasped behind his back as if he were in an art gallery. His hair was longer than I thought, drawn together in a band at the nape of his neck. Silk through my fingers, if I dared touch him.

Colorful stone birds clung to the ceiling, butterflies and dragonflies decorated the walls like polished pebbles. Two bear cubs held a sheet of glass between their shoulders and in the

corner, a fawn stood, its sweet face wide-eyed with fright.

“These are my earlier works.”

“You have more?” His voice warmed the room and I had the sudden urge to invite him to stay. It had been a long time since I had spoken with anyone, except Jenny, about anything. Immortality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

“There are a few statues in the back yard,” I said, moving past him. Warm fingers brushed my shoulder and I glanced back.

He was standing too close, hand slightly raised. He smiled and I wondered what his eyes would show me.

“Thank you for opening your door to a stranger, Ms. . . ?”

“Gorgriou.” And to fill the silence, “Are you a friend of Jenny’s?”

“No, not really. I helped her load one of your bigger pieces into her truck a few weeks ago. I’ve seen animal statues before,” he paused, his mouth pulling down into a slight frown again, “but none so . . . tactile. Since then I’ve watched Jenny come and go, bringing your groceries.” He shrugged. “I guess I became curious and wanted to see more.”

“Come this way,” I said, leading him down the hallway to the backdoor. He followed so closely I could feel the heat radiating through his cotton shirt. He should not be here. I should tell him to leave. Ah, Perseus, why did you break my heart? The snakes stirred, an odd scraping of scales that could pass for beads against beads. I whispered a calming prayer in a very old language and opened the back door.

Sunlight broke through the clouds, illuminating the yard like a gathering place of spirits.

Timing is everything.

I smiled, happy for the light that warmed the cool autumn day. The wind rose, bringing with it damp smells of earth and sweet pine needles. I thought of an island far away and breathed deeply of my memories.

“Striking.” Jason moved past me with solid, quiet steps.

Fox, coyote, and turtle stood with snake and raccoon. A deer that had grazed my herb garden one too many times stood frozen in mid-step. In the center was my favorite: a hawk perched on a slab of oak, wings stretched for flight, eyes searching a forbidden sky.

Jason walked among them, stroking fur and scales with appreciative fingers, his breath coming more quickly.

“Warm,” he said. “The textures are so lifelike — I almost expect a heartbeat.” He reached the end of the line of statues and shook his head. “You make it difficult to choose, Ms. Gorgriou.”

I opened half-lidded eyes. Sunlight makes me sleepy. “Oh?”

“There isn’t anything here I don’t like.” And he smiled.

I am a champion body language reader. But neither his body nor his voice told me what he meant by that. Did he want to buy all of the statues, or was he just trying to charm me? One glance at his eyes would settle my curiosity, but human statues only draw a good price if they are nude.

That thought brought blood to my cheeks and stirred up feelings I thought long gone. I shrugged and took a deep breath.

“You may take a statue for free — for the help you’ve given Jenny.” And then you can leave and take that damned smile with you before I start thinking of deals we’ll both regret, I added silently.

“Thank you, but these are worth paying for.”

“And also worth giving. Please, take one — any one, except the hawk.” The snakes shifted again although there was no breeze. I didn’t care if he noticed.

He bent, scooped up a statue, his fingers restless over its surface. “I’d love to see any new statues you may have in the next couple weeks.”

“Fine.” I held the door open with my arm and stared straight ahead at the forest that borders my backyard. “Thank you for coming by.” I looked over his head as he moved past me.

He took a breath, but I continued, “And thank you again for helping Jenny. I’m sure you can find your way out.”

The monster is tired now.

Silence, then the fall of footsteps through my house and finally, the thump as the front door closed.

I stood in the sun, cold and oddly vulnerable. The snakes rose, weaving in the pale sunlight, tongues tasting the air. I thought of ancient worlds and ancient deals. When I finally did come back to the present, it was nearly dusk. I sighed, and realized I hadn’t seen which statue Jason took.

I scanned the grass. The statues stared at me with glassy, unsettling eyes. Raccoon, turtle, fox, were all accounted for. Only one tiny statue I had tucked by the foot of the deer was missing — a thin, coiled snake.

I drew a shaky breath and walked back to my house. Gentle tongues flicked over my cheeks, as surprised as I at the tears that were there.

Two weeks slipped by beneath Seattle’s brittle rains. Jenny came with groceries and new books. We didn’t talk much, having nothing new to say. I gave her the last of my statues except the hawk, to take into the grocery store and sell for half their summer price.

She was loading the statues when I heard voices outside the door. I pulled back the blinds and peered out.

Jason stood in the bed of Jenny’s rusted white Ford, his back toward me. I watched, caught between fascination and envy as blond-haired, farm-fresh Jenny showed him the statues. He touched each one, tipped them to better catch the light, a slight frown on his lips, then, to my surprise, he handed Jenny a wad of folded bills.

She grinned and after a few words and gestures, they hopped out of the truck bed and got into the cab. The Ford growled and rumbled out of view.

Suddenly, I wondered about Jason’s motives. Was he really just a curious neighbor, or was he from some obscure environmentalist group? Were there tests that would reveal what my statues really were? I had once dropped a stone squirrel and found its tiny skeletal structure scattered in the dust. But if Jason dropped a statue and found the bones, would he believe I was so thorough an artist that I would create a complete skeletal structure? Perhaps, but what would I tell him about the stone lungs and stone hearts?

I paced the room, snakes writhing. The last thing I needed was a bunch of tree-huggers picketing my front lawn.

I could go to him and demand to know why he was so interested in my work. Intimidating people is something I do well. Of course, I’d probably attract the attention of my other neighbors and end up with an entire block of statues.

The idea had merit, but eventually the police would investigate.

The snakes rose, angry and hissing. If trouble came, I would handle it.

And if Jason came, I would handle him too.

I cranked up the heat in the house and curled up in my electric blanket, determined to lose myself to the peace of my memories, but all I could think of were the smiles of heroes I should have turned to stone.

I wasn’t surprised to hear a knock at the door a few hours later. I paced into the living room and peeked through the peephole, expecting to see Jenny there, with the wad of bills in her hand.

Instead I saw Jason standing in the rain, one hand shoved in the pocket of his denim jacket, the other holding a bottle of wine. Even wet, he looked good.

“Go away.”

“Ms. Gorgriou, it will just take a minute. I have a proposition that may interest you.”


“I’m not leaving until you let me in.”

Fine, I thought. I can take care of you easily enough. You’d make a nice addition to the backyard.

“Please come in, Jason.” I slipped my dark glasses on and unlocked the door.

Better talk fast, hero.

Jason came in and held out the bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. “I brought this to celebrate,” he said.


“You see, Ms. Gorgriou — may I call you Dusi? Jenny mentioned that was your first name.”

Jenny has a big mouth. I smiled sweetly. “Certainly.”

“Dusi, I haven’t been completely honest with you.”

Countdown to concrete, I thought.

Five. . .

“I am a field representative for a group based out of San Francisco.”

Four . . .

“Your statues caught my eye. They are so amazingly real, almost too good to be true.”

Three . . .

“So I had to investigate.” He smiled. “I’m glad you let me in the other day.”

Two . . . I fingered the edge of my sunglasses and lowered my gaze from his forehead to eyebrows.

“I am authorized to pay you four times your current asking price for your statues, provided you let us display them exclusively through our galleries.”

One never hit. I blinked, quickly looked back at his forehead. “Galleries?”

“In San Francisco. I’m vacationing. I already sent the snake statue down to the gallery director. He loved it!” He laughed, a rich, warm sound that sent shivers across my skin.

“He thinks you’re the discovery of the century and I couldn’t agree with him more.”

Discovery. I rolled the word in my mind and decided it was a much nicer way to say monster.

“How long would you represent my work?” I asked, thinking of the long touristless, and cashless, winter. “Is there a contract?”

He fished inside his jacket and handed me an envelope. “Five years, a substantial advance and renewal options.”

No more wondering if I could eat from month to month. I licked my lips and pulled out the papers. I took my time reading every word. It was a deal, after all, and deals and heroes don’t mix. But for once, this deal seemed wholly in my favor.

“Where do I sign?”

He gave me his pen, watched as I signed with large flowing letters. I used my full name, Medusa Gorgriou.

I smiled. “Now what?”


Late afternoon slid into night. We emptied the wine bottle and I learned about his job, which he loved, his life in San Francisco, which he loved to hate, and the woman who divorced him seven years ago. “I miss her,” he sighed, “but I knew it was only a matter of time. She and I are too different.”

He looked at me, trying to catch my eyes through my glasses. “Do you always wear those?”

“No.” It was my turn to smile.

“You are beautiful, Dusi.”

I laughed. “Meet my sisters and you would change your mind.” I tilted my glass and caught the last drop of red wine on the tip of my tongue.

“I’ve never seen anyone even half as graceful and,” he paused, searched the ceiling. I studied his profile and liked what I saw. Strong chin and hooked nose, and wide forehead lined with thoughts I could not see.

“Mysterious. Mystical.”

I averted my eyes. Close, Hero. Mythical.

He leaned forward, his hand sliding across the back of the couch to cup my shoulder. Heat spread against my skin and I closed my eyes at the sudden pleasure of it. It had been hundreds of years since anyone had touched me.

Warm breath brushed my cheek. I parted my lips, wanting to fall into his warmth, wanting Jason around me, inside me, the sharp wine taste of him like a sun against the storm. But he was a hero and no matter how much I denied it, I was still a monster.

Somehow, I turned my head, away from his heat, away from his touch. “It’s late, Jason,” I said in a voice far too calm for the emotions rushing through me.

He sat back, his mouth turned down in a thin line. “So it is.” He stared at my profile for a moment, studying me. Then he ran his fingers through his hair and took a deep breath.

“Dusi, I’m going back to San Francisco tomorrow. I bought several of your pieces from Jenny and want to be there when they are picked up. The gallery will probably have an unveiling of our newest discovery. You should come with me.”


Silence, except for the rain falling against the night.

It was the first time I had ever refused a hero. I liked it, and yet something inside me hurt.

“In case you change your mind, the phone number and everything else are on your copy of the contract.” There was something behind his words that didn’t belong in a hero’s voice. Could it be sorrow? For a monster?

“I won’t change my mind,” I said. Because I can’t. Too many people, too many chances to lose what I was finally gaining after thousands of years of wanting it — a chance to make my own choice, my own deals. A chance for respect.

He rose. “Well. Thank you, Dusi,” he walked to the door.

“For what?”

“Opening your door to a stranger.” He smiled and stepped out into the dark rain.

Ah, Perseus, why did you have to change me so? But it was not Perseus I saw in my mind. It was Jason.

Winter in Seattle isn’t beautiful, it’s just wet. I had enough money to buy new books, go out to a few movies and, with my sunglasses on, I even tried eating at a restaurant once.


In my mind’s eye I still stood on the cliffs of my past, but I no longer ached for an extinct world, being happy — happier, in the one in which I now existed.

But at night, a small part of me waited for the ship to sail around the cove, bringing a man whose smile had touched my heart.

When spring came, I threw myself into my work. Jason sent letters. I was the rage in San Francisco and the demand for my works were high.


Not bad for a monster.

I wrote him back. Just business at first, and then the letters became more personal. I didn’t tell him my secret, but I did mention my childhood in Greece and my brief love affair. He wrote poetry, which was not bad, and told me he had visited Greece and loved it and that he missed the moody skies of Seattle. I sent him a dozen roses on his birthday and ended up talking on the telephone with him for four hours. He was a nice man, I decided, even if he was a hero.

Spring brought days full of buzzing bees, little animals and plenty of statue material. I sat just inside my back door, tiny stone bees scattered on the carpet beside me. I held my hand out, coaxing a squirrel in from the backyard. My dark glasses lay at my side as I waited for the squirrel to stand the way I wanted it to before I gave it the eye.

The front door opened. I turned and looked across the hallway —

— into Jason’s eyes.

They were blue, with green, not gray, and rimmed with long, dark lashes.

I turned my head, unable to watch the change, unable to see him die. The squirrel jumped away and I stared at the carpet, hot with self-loathing. So the hero had gotten the bad end of the deal this time. Why cry? In a few thousand years there’d be another hero. But I knew that wasn’t true. Jason had been more than a self-serving hero. He had been a friend.


I looked up.

Jason smiled down at me, alive.

“I don’t understand,” I said.

He shrugged. “Does it matter?”

“I’m a monster.” My voice rose. “You should be dead. Stone!”

He nodded, taking the revelation too calmly.

“If I remember my myths correctly, you shouldn’t be alive either. Weren’t you supposed to be the mortal sister?”

“Don’t believe everything you read,” I snapped. “Why are you still breathing?”

Jason took my hands and helped me stand.

“You are not a monster in my eyes, Dusi.”

And as I watched, his eyes became the color of a dark sea. In them I saw endless reflections of ancient pain, sorrow and languid summer joys. Things no mortal eyes could ever hold.

“You’re immortal,” I said.

He nodded. “I did not want to die, still having the thirst for a world left unexplored. Hera heard my plea and granted me eternal life in return for my services to her. But her gift came with a price. I would remain alive, but could love no mortal woman.” He paused a moment, then, quietly, “Finding you has been the most wonderful gift, Dusi.”

“Why? Are you here to kill me, Jason? Am I your next golden fleece? Your next monster to conquer?”

He smiled that smile of his, and I found myself wondering if I could kill him.

“No, Dusi. After seeing the statues, I was honestly just curious. I had heard the tales of you, of Perseus, but thought you both long dead. When I spent time with you I realized it wasn’t curiosity that made me want to know you better.” He shrugged and then looked me straight in the eyes. “I’ve fallen in love with you, Dusi.”

That stopped all other questions short. I searched his face, amazed at the honesty there. I very gently touched his cheek.


“You have heard of it, haven’t you?” he dead-panned.

“Love,” I repeated, trying to regain my footing. “Isn’t that what comes right before betrayal?”

“Dusi, I would never . . .”

“Then I have two words for you: Prenuptial agreement.” How do you like that deal, Hero?

Jason seemed surprised, and actually, so was I. In the seconds he took to consider my offer, I relived centuries of self-doubt. Every other hero had run when I asked for anything more than casual promises.

Finally: “Are you asking me to marry you, Medusa? Because if that’s what it takes to be near you, to be a part of your life, then I’ll sign any paper you want.”

I blinked. For once, the hero had agreed to my deal.

“That’s part of what it takes,” I said, warming to this idea.

He raised one eyebrow, waiting.

“I won’t marry a man I’ve never kissed.”

He smiled and drew me against him. And for the first time, I saw laughter in his eyes.

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