The stone parish church the five us of appeared behind had to be hundreds of years old. The thing was obviously still in use and in great shape, but damn, it was old.
“You just had to bring us here?” Alex’s wide gaze was trained on the ancient gravestones scattered around the church, rising up out of the thick grass like misshapen teeth. Most of the tombstones were unreadable, the words and dates lost to time.
“I figured this was the safest location to appear in,” I explained. “The village isn’t big. Once we leave the church grounds, we’re pretty much in the town, and the last thing we need is to appear out of thin air in front of mortals”
“It’s so strange how you’re actually thinking about these things.” Aiden tilted his head. “I’m used to you not—”
“Giving a fuck?” I supplied for him.
I lifted a shoulder. Truth was, in the past I probably would’ve enjoyed scaring the shit out of some mortal, but now? The possible fallout of scaring the shit out of a mortal wasn’t worth the momentary amusement.
“But this is the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen,” she said, seemingly aware of Aiden and me.
“Really?” Aiden’s brows lifted as he twisted toward her. “Pretty sure the giant spiders in the Underworld were the creepiest thing we’ve ever seen.”
“Oh. Yeah.” Her brow pinched. “Forgot about those.”
Aiden stared at her.
“How in the world did you forget about that?” Luke asked, and then he turned. “Dammit. Where is he going?”
Deacon was already halfway through the uneven rows. He looked over his shoulder when Luke shouted. “This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen,” he yelled back, and I frowned. “You guys have to see some of these tombstones.”
Luke sighed heavily as he glanced at Aiden. “That’s your brother.”
“That’s your boyfriend,” Aiden shot back.
“True.” He let out another sigh. “I better go get him.”
It took a few minutes to round up Deacon and get going. “Lead the way,” I said to Luke, who I knew had done a lot of research on the village. Valuable research. Unlike Deacon.
Who could list the ghosts that supposedly haunted Pluckley.
The screaming man.
The schoolmaster who hung himself.
The Red Lady.
The White Lady.
Meanwhile, Luke knew where to go. “I figure the best place for us to scope out is this pub I saw. Seemed like a smart place to go. It’s kind of in the middle of everything.”
So that’s where we headed while Deacon beguiled the group with different ghost stories he’d heard.
My first impression of Pluckley was exactly how I’d imagined it. Rolling green pastures. Homes that are nearly as old as some of the trees, and narrow roads. The place was quaint, and I think Josie would’ve liked seeing it.
She probably would’ve liked to hear Deacon tell his stories, too.
I hung back as we walked along the road, keeping an eye on everything. There were no weird feelings or surges of energy, but I was staying alert.
“The houses look like something out of The Hobbit,” Deacon was saying, and I grinned. They sort of did. “And I thought it was rainy and overcast in Britain?”
Luke patted Deacon’s shoulder. “The sun does come out here.”
Alex responded to something Deacon muttered under his breath, and I was at once grateful to see that there appeared to be a lot of tourists snapping pictures, because if not, we would stick out like sore thumbs. I’d be worried about all the attention Deacon was drawing.
My lip curled.
This “being responsible” thing was fucking exhausting.
Aiden slowed down, falling in step beside me. “Feel anything?” he asked. “Like yesterday?”
“Nothing so far.” We hooked a right, and the brick buildings crowded the road. I glanced over at Aiden, and saw he too was eyeing everything closely. “That could change.”
“True.” He kept his hands loose at his sides. “I wanted to say something to you.”
Gods only knew what this was going to be. “Do I even want to know?”
A faint grin appeared. “I’m proud of you.”
I almost stopped walking when I looked over at him. I had no words. None.
He let out a low chuckle. “Shocked you into silence? I’m going to take advantage of that before you tell me to shut up. You didn’t go after Oceanus yesterday. The old Seth would’ve. And the old Seth would’ve thrown down with Zeus, no matter the consequence. You may have even killed him. At least, you would’ve put a hurting on him. The fact it appears you just talked with him shows how much you’ve changed, and I was wrong.”
Tartarus just froze the fuck over.
“I was wrong when I said it appeared you weren’t concerned and didn’t care,” he continued. “So, I wanted to say that I’m proud of you.”
I let his words sink in and then I said, “Shut up.”
Aiden smiled as he looked away.
There had never been doors here?
My mouth dropped open. I hadn’t been the only one to see them. Deacon had been with me the first time, and both of us had seen those doors. And besides, I’d walked through them with Medusa.
I snapped out my stupor. “There’s another librarian that works here. She’s this tall.” I lifted my hand as far as I could get it over my head. “And has really…curly hair. She wears sunglasses. Is she working?”
The librarian’s dark brows rose. “There’s another full-time librarian, but that doesn’t sound like Lilly. There’s Janice, and she’s here on the weekends and on Tuesday and Thursdays, but she has pin-straight hair and she’s shorter than me.”
Whoever she described was not who I was looking for, unless Medusa could shapeshift. And what did I know? Maybe Medusa could.
Another book flew up to the shelf, this one ending up on the shelf second from the top. “Are you sure whoever you’re looking for works here?”
Well, I had no idea if Medusa actually worked here or not. “Maybe not,” I said, backing up. “Thanks for your help.”
Turning around, I cut over to the left and then headed past the empty tables once more. What in the hell was going on? Had Medusa left the library, therefore taking the doors with her?
If so, that sucked.
Because what did that leave me with? A big fat nothing, because with Medusa gone, that left it up to my father to randomly appear and impart some useful information. Which was as likely as me deciding to never eat bacon again.
This was big. Huge.
The demigods’ icons, what they needed when their powers were unbound, were in that place Medusa had taken me to.
And that place had been under the library…and yet somehow outside it.
It had been one of the gateways to Olympus.
Full of frustration, I all but stomped my way back to the dorm. Once inside, I walked to the center of the sitting room and then I looked to the ceiling.
“Apollo?” I called out, wincing because I felt kind of foolish. My gaze flickered over the ceiling and I waited. Nothing. “Dad?”
Reaching for my braid, I ran my fingers over it as I tried again. “Apollo? If you can hear me, I could really, seriously use to talk to you right now.”
I moved closer to the doorway to the bedroom like I could, I don’t know, get better reception to Olympus or something. “I really need to talk to you about the demigods and the Titans. We have no idea how to entomb them or how to unlock their powers.”
The frustration began to give way to anger. “And the doors in the library are gone. How can the demigods get access to their icons if Medusa isn’t here? How in the hell can we fight the Titans? What are we supposed to do? It’s not like we can train them to fight. It would take months, if not years, to get them to the point where they can go toe to toe with a Titan. And not to mention, they’re basically human. They can’t be expected to be able to fight like we’d need them to.”