“Seth. Josie.” Zeus’s voice carried like thunder. “I assume the reason you two are here must be of extreme importance.”
“Or extremely reckless,” Hades answered with an accent that reminded me of Erik’s. “Considering who is standing before us, I’d go with reckless.”
“If I didn’t know better, I’d think you’re still upset over losing Aiden and me as your servants,” Seth replied, and I could hear the smirk in his voice. “I bet that ticks you off daily.”
Hades, who I’d seen briefly before, leaned forward in his throne. His smile upped the whole creep factor. “You have no idea, but be careful, Seth. It’s funny how fate can change so quickly.”
I stiffened, not liking the way that sounded.
A beautiful blonde with waves of hair sighed heavily. “You sound like a child who didn’t get their prized toy, Hades.”
Hades looked over at her, his handsome face slipping into an impressive frown. “Do you want to talk about prized toys, Aphrodite?”
My head whipped back to the goddess in the gauzy white dress. Oh, my word, that was the Aphrodite?
She giggled, lifting a shoulder. “I haven’t lost any of mine.”
Hera arched a brow.
Crossing his arms over his chest, Seth cocked a head to the side as a male god I’d never seen before chuckled. He was dressed like he’d just gotten back from a Jimmy Buffett concert, complete with cargo shorts, sandals, and an ultra-bright orange and red Hawaiian-style shirt.
“Do you actually have something of value to add to the conversation, Dionysus?” Hades demanded.
The god of partying snorted. “No. I’m not going to even pretend that I do.”
My brows lifted.
“That’s not even remotely surprising,” another goddess chimed in as she pinched the bridge of her nose. She was dressed like a mortal in a high-powered business position.
Dionysus looked over at her. “You know what I think, Athena? You have a massive stick shoved—”
“Don’t finish that sentence,” a goddess who I was pretty damn sure was wearing overalls cut in. Like, legitimate overalls. “Use your words better.”
“Use your words better?” Dionysus let out a high-pitched laugh. “You’re as corny as a cornfield.”
Another god snapped something in return, and suddenly it was like Seth and I weren’t even standing there. They were too involved in bitching at each other, determined to have the last snarky remark.
Seth sighed as he glanced over his shoulder at me.
All the while, Apollo sat there silent and staring above us like he wasn’t even there. I couldn’t really believe it—that the gods really were this petty. I’d heard Alex and Deacon’s stories—even Luke and Seth had talked about how they behaved, but I’d always figured it was some sort of exaggeration. I mean, they were gods—ancient beings who could either destroy the entire world or rebuild it.
And they were sitting up there arguing like a bunch of spoiled brats.
I couldn’t take it a second longer. My patience stretched and then snapped. Stepping forward, I went shoulder to shoulder with Seth. “Are you guys done yet?”
Seth jolted beside me, but I got their attention. Their incessant bitching stopped. All eleven stared at me.
A trickle of unease curled down my spine. “While you guys are bickering over toys and cornfields, Cronus has taken over an entire pure community and is threatening one of the largest cities in America. I’m sure you guys are aware of this.”
“Josie,” Seth warned under his breath.
I ignored him. “We came to you for help. Not to get front-row tickets to family fight night.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw a faint smile ghost across Apollo’s face, but that could’ve been wishful thinking.
“You are…” Hera placed slender arms on her chair as she inclined her head. “You are very much like your father.”
I stiffened at that.
“And you?” She looked at Seth. “I never thought there’d come a time when you stood in front of us, quiet and not threatening us.”
“The day is still young,” Seth replied.
Hera laughed softly. “We are aware of what Cronus has done.”
“Then you have to be aware of why we’re here,” Seth interjected. “We need you to unbind the remaining demigods.”
“That’s not going to happen,” a god who’d been silent spoke up, drawing my attention. I could see the resemblance to Gable.
Seth dipped his chin. “That’s it, Poseidon?” he asked, confirming my suspicion. “It’s not even up for discussion? What about you, Demeter?”
The goddess in the overalls smiled sadly. “You do not understand why we refuse to do this.”
“You keep saying that. All of you. That we don’t understand,” Seth snapped. “How about you explain it in a way that we can?”
It was Apollo who answered. “Because it would not make a difference.”
Hearing his voice was like a punch to the chest. It had been so long since I’d heard him speak.
“The demigods would not last in a fight with the Titans. Not when there are so few of them. I told you,” Apollo said. “The demigods cannot abide.”
“You didn’t tell me that,” I said, sucking in a sharp breath as he finally looked at me. I held his eerie white gaze for a moment and then focused on Demeter. “We need their abilities unbound to stand a chance. If not, the Titans will destroy Chicago and they won’t stop there.”
“Or Seth could always bring them my head,” Zeus offered.
“That’s starting to sound more and more like the better option,” Seth returned.
The clouds in the glass ceiling thickened and the light dimmed as I fought the urge to elbow Seth. “So both of you are going to refuse to unbind your demigods?”
“Our refusal is not something we do lightly, child. We know our children will fail now that we have lost so many of them.” The sadness in Demeter’s smile crept along her face, and I honestly believed that she was saddened by all of this. “Poseidon and I would be severely weakened, as was your father. We would be among the first to fall if it came to a battle with the Titans. We have to prepare for that moment and be at our best.”
Swallowing the sudden knot in my throat, I dared a quick glance at Apollo. He was watching us, his expression intent. “Then if you think it would be pointless to unbind the demigods, and that you’re preparing to go to war with the Titans, then why don’t you do something now? You defeated them before.”
“Now that’s a good question.” Seth smiled the kind of smile I knew ticked off most people.
“We had Ares then,” answered Athena, and then she glanced down to where Zeus sat. “And we did not defeat the Titans alone.”
Seth started to frown. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“It means the fables mortals teach are partly correct.” Athena lifted a bare shoulder. “And the teachings that are taught in our schools are not a hundred percent accurate. More like seventy percent or so.”
I opened my mouth and sort of stared at them while I tried to figure out what to say. Hadn’t I felt like something had been missing in the whole Titans versus the Gods mythology I’d read in the Myths textbook?
“What part of what we were taught was not true?” Seth demanded. “The one where you used the helmet of darkness to steal Cronus’s weapons?” he asked of Hades, causing the god of the Underworld’s lips to thin. “Or is you striking him down with lightning the false part?”
Zeus’s jaw hardened.
“We fought the Titans for a decade, neither side making ground. It was a bloody, destructive war.” Hera grasped the arms of her chair. “That is true, and eventually, we did entomb the Titans. There is a mixture of the real and the unreal in both legends.”
“We had help,” added Apollo, and I felt his stare shift to me. “There are legends among mortals that involve the Hekatoncheires and the Cyclopes.”