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CHAPTER 12. Zeus raked him with a scathing glare as he stopped right before him and tugged the belt of the robe into a tight knot
Zeus raked him with a scathing glare as he stopped right before him and tugged the belt of the robe into a tight knot. "You are insane."
Strangely there was a calm serenity inside Jericho that didn't react to being goaded. How odd. Normally such a dressing-down would have had him going for Zeus's throat.
Maybe Delphine was rubbing off on him because he swore he could hear her telling him to calm down.
"No," he said slowly. "The only insanity would be for you to ignore me. The Skoti and Oneroi need their emotions in order to effectively fight against Noir."
Zeus shook his head. "They'll turn against us. You can trust me on that."
How stupid could one god be? Was he blind? "In case you haven't noticed, they've already done that. And they're picking apart your pantheon one god at a time. The Oneroi and Dolophoni are almost nothing more than, pardon the pun, a bad dream."
Jericho crossed his arms over his chest confidently. "If you give them back their emotions, their loyalty to the pantheon might win out over their current lust and ambition. Plus, Noir will have nothing left to offer them. The only reason they're there now is to have the emotions you banned from them. Restoring them is the only hope you have."
Zeus curled his lip. "How do you know?"
"You're still alive right now, aren't you? Even though I have dreamed of nothing but slaughtering you for all these centuries. Even though I hate you with every piece of me. You're still alive because of the loyalty I have to being Greek. And the hatred I feel for Noir having tried to use me. That's what we need to reawaken in them."
Zeus scoffed. "None of that motivates me to spare them."
"Then tell me what will."
Zeus narrowed his eyes as he considered it. Jericho swore he could hear the gears grinding in the god's mind. "What exactly are you offering?"
Don't do it, you idiot. Tell him his life.
But he knew threats wouldn't get him what he needed. Zeus was the only one who could lift the ban. This wasn't the time or place for arrogance or bluster.
They needed this.
Do it for Delphine's future . . .
This was her freedom he was asking for. Her life. Somehow that made it easier for him. "Whatever it takes to end the curse you should have never given them."
Zeus cocked his head as if he heard Jericho's thoughts. His gaze darkened threateningly. "This is over that little Oneroi I sent after you, isn't it? You don't care about the others. You only want her to be free." He laughed mockingly. "I'll be damned. The mighty Cratus brought low by a common sleep god. Sending that hot little ass after you actually worked."
"Don't call her that," Jericho growled. It was all he could do not to attack over it. Delphine wasn't an object and be damned if he'd let even Zeus reduce her to one.
Zeus laughed again, making Jericho want to punch the arrogance right off his face. "You think if she has her emotions back she'll be able to love you, don't you? Care about you. Nike told me she'd be the one weakness you couldn't deny. And she was right. There's nothing like a pretty face to weaken a man, especially one who was banned from sex as long as you were."
That was probably the last thing Zeus should have reminded him of because right now he was holding on to his temper by a very narrow margin. "Leave her out of this."
Luckily, the god knew when to back down. "Fine. You asked me for a favor and so I'll grant it on one condition."
"And that is?"
"Once we have the Skoti reined in. you'll be my dutiful slave for the rest of eternity."
"Fuck you." Jericho's response flew out of his mouth before he could stop it. Was the bastard out of his gourd? Did Zeus really think he'd be that dumb ever again?
Zeus shrugged as if the fate of their entire pantheon didn't rest on this decision. "Then no deal. I only hope your little Oneroi is a better fighter than they are. Otherwise . . ."
Jericho was aghast at his nonchalance. "Are you completely stupid? If Noir gets his foothold on gallu ruled Skoti, you're all doomed. We're all doomed."
"My dreams are protected—a precaution I took long ago. My only fear is Noir, and with you out of the way, that's one less tool he'll have." Zeus smirked. "Yes, you want to spite me and fight for him, but you won't. Not now. Not after you've seen your beautiful Delphine. You won't hurt her, will you?"
"Why? Does the truth offend you?"
Roaring with anger, he extended his wings and seized Zeus by his throat.
The god didn't flinch as Jericho held him against the wall. "Go ahead. Kill me," he goaded. "Release my powers back to the Source. But if you can't handle them, and we both know you can't, they'll go to Noir and make him all the more powerful. Or worse, they'll rupture the universe and kill every living thing. Is that what you want?"
Jericho tightened his grip, wanting to kill the bastard. He wanted to bathe in his blood and taste his entrails. . . . "I hate you."
"Hate me all you want. But it's your decision in the end. You can help them by agreeing to my demands, or refusing and then watching them all fall to Noir and Azura. Which will it be?"
Jericho shook his head, trying to understand Zeus's rationale and selfishness. "How can you not care about what happens to them?"
"I'm not without a degree of compassion, but I've never shirked at what needed to be done. Ever. I slaughtered my own father to rule this pantheon. Do you think for one minute I'd hesitate at killing the rest of this pantheon to guard my place as king?"
Jericho squeezed his throat as he imagined Zeus lying dead at his feet. But in the end, he knew Zeus was right. With his human heart, he wouldn't be able to absorb those powers. It would kill them both and empower Noir.
Or it would destroy them all.
"So what's it to be, Cratus?"
Delphine froze as something painful ruptured inside her. It felt as if her heart had burst open and was sending fire throughout her veins. Crying out, she fell to her knees, clutching her chest. Every breath cut through her. Every agonizing heartbeat.
What on earth was happening to her?
Terrified it was a new attack from Noir and his army, she looked about the hall where the other Oneroi and Skoti were also writhing in pain. None of the Dolo-phoni seemed to be affected by it.
"What's happening?" she asked M'Adoc.
M'Adoc was gasping and groaning. "He did it. It's our emotions being unlocked."
Could it be . . . ?
It was only when the burning stopped and her unlocked emotions swept through her that she realized exactly how hollow she'd always been. Everything around her was more vibrant and sharp. Every sound, every taste. The light was blinding as emotions flooded through her. Hate. Love. Sympathy. Fear. Sadness. Happiness. She was laughing and crying. Cringing yet wanting to shout in joy.
"Breathe," M'Adoc said in her ear. "Let it settle down."
She tried her best, but it was so difficult. So much for Azura having unlocked them—that was nothing compared to what she felt now. The goddess must have only unlocked the human part, because that was no comparison to this. "How do humans handle them?"
"Some handle them better than others, and they're more used to it since they have them from birth. You'll get used to them, too . . . eventually."
He seemed to have recovered.
She was another matter. It was all too raw.
Until Jericho showed up. A shout rang out from the Oneroi and Skoti who welcomed him back. But he paid them no attention. His gaze was only for her as he made his way straight to her.
Tears blurred her vision as he scooped her up in his arms. "Thank you," she breathed.
He inclined his head before he flashed them out of the hall to where her room was.
She put her hand on his face, resting her thumb on the eye patch that he'd replaced. The joy and love she felt for him were unbelievable. Never in her life had she felt the like.
"How did you talk him into it?"
"Don't worry about it, it's not important."
Yes, it was. He had no idea what it meant to her to finally understand the part of her that had always been blocked. No wonder the Oneroi had gone Skoti. The sensation was so heady and intoxicating. She wanted to experience everything. To feel all emotions as deeply as possible.
"You are amazing, my Jericho."
Jericho froze at the words, which cut deep into his heart. "What did you say?"
"You are amazing."
"No, what did you call me?"
She smiled up at him. "My Jericho."
Strange how the thought of belonging to Zeus disgusted him on a level of pissed-off he could barely comprehend. But being owned by her . . .
It would be heaven.
Closing his eyes, he kissed her deeply, needing to feel her in his arms. For her he had twice bartered his freedom. But at least now he knew the one single truth.
She was worth it.
Noir went ramrod stiff as he felt the powerful wave piercing his realm. It stank of Olympian. Most of all, it reeked of Zeus.
What was that bastard up to?
It wasn't until he looked at the Skotos beside him that he understood. Zeus had freed them all. Their emotions were coming back to them.
A jubilant shout rang out as they embraced each other like long-lost siblings.
Azura popped in beside him. "What the hell is this?"
Noir curled his lip in repugnance. "The Olympians. They're trying a new tactic." He moved past her to where his demons glanced around, dazed. "Gallu! Convert any Olympian you can find. Now!"
The gallu attacked, but the Skoti, who were now in full control of themselves, fought back with unprecedented skill. The drugs they'd used to numb them had vanished from their systems the instant their emotions came back.
Azura turned toward him with fear in her eyes. "This isn't good."
"Don't panic. It's a temporary setback and nothing we can't overcome." Noir used his powers to seal their realm. While he couldn't stop the Skoti from leaving, he could prevent anyone or anything else from coming in.
For now that would keep them from being attacked until he found a way to counteract this latest twist. Jericho was resourceful, he'd give him that. But he was no match for Noir. Noir knew how to motivate people.
And now that he had Kessar and his gallu . . .
He was going to win this no matter who he had to kill.
"So the prophecy is true."
Dressed in navy slacks and a dark blue top, Zeus turned at the sound of Hera's echoing voice. He'd been planning to return to the hall where the other gods would be dining by now, but this stopped him dead in his tracks. "What are you doing here, Hera?"
His wife manifested just inside the doorway that led from his bedroom to the main hallway. Tall with dark auburn hair, she was one of the most beautiful of all goddesses. And even though he cheated on her from time to time, he knew that she had no equal. Truly, she was exquisite and bold. His perfect match.
"I just wanted to say how surprised I am that you're blithely acquiescing to a prophecy you once fought so hard to avoid."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Oh, come now, love. You know exactly what I'm talking about. It's the very thing that you've been fighting against since the day you banished the emotions from all the Oneroi. We both know there was no dream. No Oneroi who played in your sleep. They wouldn't have dared, no matter how angry you made them. It was Tiresias's words that caused you to slaughter and subjugate them all."
His breathing ragged, he glared at her. How dare she bring this up? It was something he'd relegated to the far past. Something he'd more than taken care of centuries ago. The prophecy had been averted and the world set to rights.
Still Hera went on, oblivious to his mounting anger. "On the fifth of June, a child born of man and of the heavenly gods will summon forth the greatest of Titans and lay the mighty Zeus low. In her hand spins the will of the Fates, and the great Kosmetas of the Olympians will be no more. For she will wield the ultimate power and she will walk in the world of man and in the world of dreams. Her love, her compassion will be the end of the Olympian order and a Titan will again rule them all." It was the curse his father had bestowed on him after Zeus had castrated him.
You will be ruined, and I will laugh as you fall. . .
Zeus's fury exploded. "Stop it," he snarled, ready to blast her.
Hera was relentless. "You know it's true. The very day Tiresias told you about the Oneroi baby that had been born—the one who would one day dethrone you, you called out the Furies and the others to pursue them all by claiming you'd been assaulted in your sleep. You especially made sure those half-blooded daughters who were prophesied to be the ones to replace us were brutally slaughtered. What was it you said, 'Leave none alive,' and so the Dolophoni and others drenched the earth red with the blood of half-breed infants. No one dared to question the great Zeus, whose word is law. But we both know the truth. You didn't want their emotions banished and their daughters slain because of a dream that never occurred. You wanted to maintain your place as the king of the gods."
He sneered at her. "I didn't see you standing up for them then."
"How could I have stopped you? You were a god possessed, and I wasn't stupid enough to stand in your way. Only Cratus was, and that baby that you sent everyone out to kill. . . did you know it survived?"
Zeus went cold at the question. "What? It's impossible. Dolor swore to me that he'd killed the baby. He tortured Leta with tales of how her daughter had died. How he'd gladly massacred it."
"Dolor wanted to cause her pain and he slaughtered a child, all right. But it wasn't hers. Her baby lived."
In that moment, he wanted to kill his wife. "Why didn't you tell me? How could you have kept this a secret?"
"I didn't know about it until now." "What do you mean?"
"The demon they returned with, Asmodeus. I was having a nice, long chat with him about Noir's plans and the demon's future here among us Olympians. He told me that he overheard Jaden tell Cratus Delphine is the daughter of Leta and her human husband. She is the baby Cratus was sent to kill. The baby he refused to harm."
No . . .
Zeus staggered back as the implications hit him fully. How could he not have seen it?
Because prophecy was never meant to be thwarted.
I am the king of the gods . . .
No one was more powerful than he. Not even those three bitches called Fate. He would not be overthrown by some half-blooded human abomination.
He was Zeus. The king of all the Olympian gods, and all the power that went with it belonged to him.
But what set his fury roaring was the knowledge that he'd unknowingly put Delphine together with Cratus. He had sown the seeds of his own destruction.
Because of Nike. That little bitch would pay for her part in this. If he survived.
It's not too late.
No, he could still stop them all. Cratus had a human heart and had bound himself to Zeus. Nike was already trapped and in Noir's hands. They could easily leave her there to die.
As for Delphine . . .
He met Hera's dark gaze. "They both need to be put down."
He arched his brow, surprised by her backing. Normally she fought against his edicts. "You agree?"
"I certainly don't want to be replaced by a half-human byblow. We are the rulers of Olympus, and by the Source and all its power, we will remain so. No matter what it takes."
A slow smile spread across his face. It was good to have his wife on his side of an argument for once. "Then summon the Phonoi." Murder, Killing and Slaughter, they were triplet goddesses who thrived on taking lives. Without conscience or mercy, they would attack. And best of all, they knew how to kill a god and not rupture the universe.
Zeus laughed at the thought of unleashing their destruction. "I have a new victim for them."
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