The kitchen door cracked open and Deacon stuck his blond head out. “Is it safe . . .” He trailed off, eyes widening when he spotted the horses, the men, and Hades. “Yep, I’ll just keep Gable distracted a little longer.”
The door shut.
Hades’s smirk grew as he surveyed the room, his all-white eyes beyond eerie, and I just stood there, arms dangling at my sides. The dagger was forgotten in my hand. There were dead things reduced to ashes on the floor—the floor that was currently split wide open. There were horses—giant warhorses I was pretty sure were not of normal size, and Hades—the god of the Underworld—was standing a mere handful of feet from me.
“Should we bow or something?” I whispered to Luke.
Luke slid me a sidelong glance and murmured, “I’m just not going to move or draw any attention to myself.”
“Too late,” Hades said, turning to us. “A half-blood and Apollo’s daughter. I figured we’d be meeting under different circumstances.”
I shivered, thinking “different circumstances” probably meant our deaths.
“What were those things?” Aiden asked.
Hades nodded up at the men. They hooked their super-special lassos to their waists but did not dismount. They sat upon their horses, eyes straight ahead and as silent as graves. Turning in unison, their heels dug into the sides of their horses and turned to stand sentry by the rift.
Understanding dawned, and my stomach dropped. I realized who the two men were—Hades’s servants. His men. They were what Seth had pledged himself to become upon his death, to serve under Hades, taking Aiden’s place.
I suddenly felt sick.
“Those creatures were held in the pits of Tartarus, deep within the fire caverns,” Hades explained, swiping his booted foot through the pile of ashes. “They were once daimons.”
I needed to sit down.
Even Alex paled.
“Did you believe when daimons die they simply cease to exist?” Hades queried, tone smug. “No matter what they tell you, everything is sorted out in the end.”
“Kind of like Hogwarts?” Alex asked.
Hades inclined his head to the side.
Alex sighed. “Never mind.”
“The daimons spend eternity being burned alive and then put back together, only to suffer the same fate nearly at once.”
I really needed to sit down.
“Sometimes I change it up. Burying them alive in just enough lava to sear the skin away and then let them dig their way out of rock and soil is fun,” Hades continued with a shrug. “The torture drives them insane.” He paused. “Then again, they were daimons. Not much going on between the ears anyway.”
“Okay. Could’ve lived forever without knowing all of that,” Alex said slowly. “But what were they doing up here?”
A fissure of energy rolled through the room, followed by a blinding bright, golden light. Electricity poured in, pure power, lifting the tiny hairs all over my body. The light receded and in its place were two forms.
Hades sighed. “Always have to make a grand entrance, don’t you?”
Apollo stood by the staircase, and beside him was Hercules. The sun god—my father—stepped forward, and his all-white eyes sparked. When he spoke, fury sharped his tone. “What have you all done?”
My father looked like he was only a few years older than me, which was as weird as it sounded. He wasn’t dressed like Hades or how I’d ever imagined any god to look.
Apollo was wearing faded jeans and a tight black shirt.
I’d first met him when I was a young, lonely girl, and he was just a strange man who went by the name Bob, who gave me candies and dolls. Looking back, I totally got how incredibly creepy that was, but for a short summer, he’d been my only friend.
And now he was my father—my absentee father who randomly appeared and disappeared within minutes, and I hadn’t been around him long enough to see him like this, truly angry.