Asher’s broad shoulders twitched against the trendy form-fitting shirt he was wearing. The ripple of his muscles was evident under the cloth, and something flipped inside her belly. It had been a long time since she had been driven by anything other than bestial desires. If she were in her other form, she would have sniffed the air to inspect if he was feeling the same heat she was. But she was no longer a beast.
Except she was. It had taken them decades to stop thinking of themselves as immortal goddesses, and it would also be the reverse. It had been so long since someone considered her with longing—and for her to feel that same pulse within her—Euryale wasn’t sure what to make of it.
“How much do you grasp of how things work today?”
She scoffed at him. “I’m a monster, but I’m not living in a cave. That’s for legends. I made my home in Casper, Wyoming after all. I can function—I have a glamour that allows me to move in human circles. I keep to myself and don’t socialize, but I get by. I can assure you I act appropriately in polite company. I’m not going to turn around and eat them. Although,” she grinned and allowed her shields to slip, “mortals can be tasty.”
The image she projected of eating a man who had mistaken her human form for a weak one was designed to shock. To Asher’s credit, he displayed no emotion.
“Good. That will make this easier.” Euryale was disappointed. He took her for who she was now and not a monster, something she hadn’t experienced in a long time.
“What do you have in mind?”
“Our cover is that I met you when I vacationed here last, and we fell in love. It’s been a long-distance relationship. You’re moving to Los Angeles to live with me. To answer your question, I think the reason that the gods asked for our help is because we can find out things a god could not. We’re both creatures whose weapons are sound, and it may come in handy in battle.”
Euryale met his gaze and tried to probe his mind but found that his shields were good. Almost, but not quite as good as hers.
“Asher, that’s nonsense. The real reason they came to us is that we are expendable.”
He nodded. “That too.”
Marwan stirred and then blinked. His eyes were a light brown and so penetrating that she was caught by his stare. Something moved in her belly and tendrils of responsiveness shot through her limbs, leaving her breathless.
She kept her shields up without thinking. Stealth and subterfuge were so much a part of who she was that she had long ago learned to keep her thoughts private. As a goddess she had good shields, and she wasn’t sure if Marwan understood all she was capable of. She would keep it that way. He had been careless with the god. There may be others lying in wait to accost them. Utu was powerful, and where he went, more may follow his lead. He also had followers and they could be anywhere. One may have even been their driver. There was a reason Stheno preferred not to keep the company of deities.
“I’m going to purchase a swimsuit and go to the pool.” She neither invited nor didn’t invite him. She just waited.
Marwan nodded and stretched. “I will take a shower and determine our next move. I’ll get some food as well. There’s a restaurant I glimpsed nearby—any requests?”
She shook her head. “Get what you think is good. Protein, and if they have desserts, something sweet. They have room service. Order what you think I’d like. I’m going to swim.”
She was aware of his gaze lingering on her even after she left. It had been a long time since a man was able to take in her human face and not have it be a mask. The façade that the gorgons had kept up as monsters allowed them to pass as humans, but the glamour didn’t extend to intimate contact. As a monster she used her glamour ability to move in human society, but she never portrayed a stunning figure of a woman. Pretty women drew undesired attention.
Just ask her sister, Medusa.
Now, in her goddess form she was conscious of her red hair, curly like her snakes once were, although after his haircut, short and easy to maintain. Her original face was once again revealed to the world, and she wasn’t used to masculine attention. To be sure, some men were always attracted to strong women, but more liked the beautiful, submissive types. The women who let the men run the household and deferred to their mate.
That was not her.
She purchased a swimsuit from the front desk and carried it to the nearby massage-slash-sauna area to change. The pool was large and luxurious, a welcome oasis in this hot environment. Stheno had it pretty much to herself, with a handful of children dancing around the concrete. As she understood it, there were about a hundred rooms or detached cottages facing the gardens in the middle of the grounds. The hotel called them “magnificent,” but she had been privileged to behold the Hanging Gardens of Babylon before those impossible gardens had been swallowed by the desert. Very little could compare to that.
They may go past the lands where those Gardens had once existed when they made their way to Sumeria. It was hard to be certain with such things. The fact she harkened back to them just now made her wonder at the connection. Many things were more linked in this life than people were aware of. Stheno filed that away for future consideration. It may be that those ancient grounds had something to say to her. She would have to investigate further.
She began swimming in laps, both enjoying the long pool and getting some exercise. The other occupants of the pool were splashing about with loud enthusiasm. Children were like that—they made the best of any situation.
She was so intent on her workout she didn’t grasp right away that everything had fallen silent. Stheno went to turn a lap, and then noted that the boy who had been splashing a moment before, was now immobile. Everything was still except her.
A shape slid toward her in the pool.
When Gaston scrambled to his feet, Olivier followed suit. When in Rome…or France. He craned his neck, unsure of what had commanded Gaston’s attention.
Then he saw her.
The most beautiful woman he had ever seen stood before them, flanked by a man as big as he. Her amazing face was a study in confusion. She studied first Gaston and then Olivier, furrows marring the perfection of her honey-colored eyes. Those orbs were like the rest of her, sweet and delicious. He could drown in them.
Gaston offered the woman his hand. She placed her hand in his bigger one and allowed him to guide her to a chair. The new man took one of the empty seats, lowering himself down carefully as though the wood might not hold his weight.
Olivier could identify.
The waiter came over, but Gaston waved him off.
“Olivier, these are the ones we were waiting for. This is Chrysaor…and Medusa.”
“Crazy what parents will name their kids.” She’d been introduced as Medusa, but it didn’t mean this gorgeous woman was the Medusa. Despite what his uncle said about gods and prophecies. “I’m Olivier, and I still don’t get why I’m here.”
Awareness kicked him low and hard, sending his blood pressure rising. It wasn’t just her beauty. Something in him recognized her as someone he had known all his life, although they had never met. The tips of his ears grew hot as a streak of white-hot longing swept over him in a wave. The absurdity would have entertained him if not for the fact that he couldn’t speak around the desire thickening his tongue.
“This is Medusa. The very one. She is alive.”
“That’s impossible. This whole thing is ridiculous.” Olivier was inches away from getting up and storming away from the café. They were mocking him. “The old tales were partly true. I get that. I learned from my great-grandparents. I’m living proof. Still, the fact remains that Medusa was a hideous monster slain by Perseus centuries ago. Even if that’s mostly myth, she is dead.”
Gaston cleared his throat. “It’s complicated.” He gestured to Chrysaor. “But it is nonetheless true. She is Medusa, who has been restored to her original form, and he is her son. Chrysaor.”
Olivier struggled to try and remember the myth. He couldn’t recall if Medusa had children or not. Even if she did, it didn’t matter. They would be dead like her, and long buried. He was being played for some kind of fool.
“Who are these men? Why are we here?”
The idea that this man and this woman could be mother and son was ridiculous. This had to be some elaborate scam to trap the American gargoyle for an as-yet unknown reason. It could all be a long con by his so-called uncle. He didn’t know much about Gaston. The sensible thing to do would be to get up and leave, and to heck with the elder gargoyle. Nothing held him there—he had no obligation to his companions. His stone powers moved within him, and for an instant, his nails turned gray. The control to change their arms alone was a hard-won talent and he knew better than to reveal it. That secret was sacrosanct in his line.
He didn’t move from his chair. Awareness pulsed through him from the balls of his feet to the tips of his ears. She had a creamy complexion, her jet-black hair making the paleness of her skin more acute. A hint of red touched her skin as though it hadn’t seen the sun in a long time. Her penetrating gaze bored into him and awakened the desires that lay deep in his psyche.
Olivier shook his head. He should go. Yet he stayed. Pressure built in his head, making it difficult to think.
“They are men who can help you,” Chrysaor said, and then gestured to the strangers. “This is Gaston, and this is…” He waited for Gaston to supply the word.
“Olivier.” Gaston bowed his head. “He is my nephew.”
She gave them both a sniff and studied Olivier. “I sense the unfamiliar in you. It’s a family trait. You’re…” She breathed in and then out, her gaze boring into his soul. “You’re a gargoyle. How are you walking around during the day? Why are you not upon buildings?”
She studied him and his cock twitched. Olivier tried to keep a cool demeanor but sweat gathered under his arms. It was like in his high school boxing days when he’d taken a hit to the solar plexus and was reeling on the ropes.
“Gargoyles are not what legends say. As you are not.” It was Gaston who spoke, while Medusa’s attention stayed on Olivier. A shadow crossed her face, seeming to darken her mood. His plummeted as well at the mere sight of unhappiness on her. Ridiculous. He hadn’t even known the woman ten minutes.
She focused on Gaston, her appraisal peremptory and quick. “That is true,” she said before turning back to her son. “Thank you for the supplies. Why did you move me? That cave held protection and safety. Stheno has long informed me of that.”
Chrysaor’s smirk was enigmatic. “I have long been aware of your location, but it was better to let things continue as they were. My aunts did not know that I knew. You were important to them, but your children were not. They never sought me out—if they remembered my existence at all. Never mind that. We have things to discuss.”
The pressure behind his temple increased, and Olivier could almost hear voices inside his mind. He stayed rooted to the spot, staring at Medusa.