The Iron Queen

By: Kaitlin Bevis

Dedication



To Mrs. Saul’s fourth block freshmen. Thanks for putting up with me for an entire semester.





Chapter I



Hades



Watching my wife chase after a human boy was hell. The heavy rain drenched the thin fabric of her clothes in seconds, plastering them to her body in a way that would be appealing…if he wasn’t going to see her, too. I clenched my jaw. She just doesn’t want him to get hurt. It wasn’t as though I wanted any mortals caught in the crossfire when we faced Zeus either. Persephone was just going to charm the boy into leaving the park.

Tearing my gaze away from her as she scurried up the hill, I searched the parking lot for Aphrodite, or Zeus, or whoever he, she, it may be. I had the layout of Memorial Park memorized, anyway. Who was I kidding? The entire city of Athens, Georgia was embedded in my mind. The precaution was reasonable. Persephone spent most of her time here, and she was a magnet for trouble.

I followed her up the dirt-packed path in my mind’s eye. She’d be rounding the corner now well above the park, oblivious to the way the plants she passed leaned toward her. Persephone was beautiful. Vibrant. Light and vitality pulsed from her that like the first warm gust of a spring breeze promised everything would soon be new and alive again, that winter would thaw into life. Everything was drawn to her. Unfortunately.

My thoughts returned to the human boy she was following. I scowled. Rain fell, pinging against the transparent shield that kept me out of sight while I sat dry atop a metal picnic table. My fingers worried a spot of rust. I tried not to think too hard about whatever else might have touched the shining surface.

This realm was disgusting. Insects swarmed the park, and birds flew through the air, dropping waste indiscriminately onto the world below. I couldn’t wait to return to the Underworld. The surface had its charms, but I had no desire to stay for long.

Joel!

Persephone’s voice rang through my mind, and I tossed up a mental wall. It wasn’t just good manners preventing me from listening in. This boy had been in her thoughts every night. I’d seen the way he looked at her like she was something to be consumed, the way he touched her like her body was his for the taking, the way her heart raced when she felt his breath upon her neck. I clenched my jaw and studied the parking lot like it might change shape any moment.

She’d probably think less of me if I ripped him apart.

Not that her opinion was all that stopped me. It wasn’t my habit to go around killing mortal children, and not just because I’d have to deal with them in the Underworld. I liked humans. Just not when they groped my wife.

My heart thudded at an uncomfortable speed, filling my body with adrenaline. I couldn’t seem to catch my breath. My hands gripped the edge of the picnic table, and I leaned forward, muscles tensed. That was strange. I had no reason to be this anxious. He was just a kid, and Persephone was Persephone; she had no idea what effect she had. I couldn’t really fault him for being interested, and I had encouraged her to see other people. A spectacularly stupid move on my part. Not only was it condescending as hell to tell Persephone what she should and shouldn’t feel toward me, but I’d managed to push her into the arms of another man. It had taken all of two seconds for me to realize I really didn’t want her to be with other men.

Apparently on top of all my other charming flaws I’m over-possessive. Who knew?

I took a deep breath to force myself to calm down, but it didn’t seem to work. What was the matter with me? Channeling Persephone’s power away every night had given me a very unwanted front row seat to her developing relationship with Joel. I’d seen every kiss, everything, and not felt this before. It hadn’t been pleasant, but—

Cold dread filled the pit of my stomach, and I frowned. This didn’t even feel like rage. My heart was still beating a mile a minute, like it might burst free from my chest at the slightest provocation. I felt strange, no…terrified.

That was it. Fear. But why was I—?

It wasn’t mine.

My thoughts flew to Persephone, crashing through the mental wall. Her abject terror flooded my thoughts with such paralyzing force that for a second I lost the ability to move or breathe. All that existed was her fear. The boy spoke in a harsh voice, grip tight on her arm. I rose from the picnic table, ready to relieve him of that limb, when his words filtered through her thoughts.

…Hades.

I blinked. How would he know my name?

A red sports car squealed into the parking lot, and I swore. Hate to interrupt, I directed the thought to Persephone.

The boy locked gazes with Persephone and seemed to look through her to me. I knew those eyes. Images and thought fragments flashed from Persephone’s mind to catch me up, but I already knew everything I needed to.

Persephone, run! I tore through the parking lot to reach the path.

Hades, it’s Joel! He’s Zeus!

The whole story passed through my mind accompanied by waves of fear and guilt. Persephone gripping Joel’s arm to teleport but nothing happening, followed by her realization that Joel wasn’t from this realm. Her shock and horror when his glamour melted away. Why wasn’t she running?

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