Apollo’s gaze wandered the huge ballroom. Somehow, he’d managed to miss Cathryn at the ferry landing. Instead of finding a lithe, brown-skinned ballerina, though, his eyes alit on a tall, silver-winged man. The fellow was turned away from Apollo, talking to someone the sun god couldn’t see, but there was no mistaking the metallic silver wings, rich olive skin, or pale green, knee-length hair.
“Oh, no. No fucking way!”
Dionysos wouldn’t do this to him. Would he?
The sun god shouldered carelessly through the throng of gods and mortals to reach his enemy’s side.
Well…yes, apparently he would.
The winged man threw his head back in laughter. Zephyrus’s eyes, which Apollo knew to be the deep green of a primeval forest, were crinkled shut in amusement. He looked wonderful, as always, wearing a semi-translucent white shirt and emerald green slacks. Zephyrus seemed to have fully embraced the modern mode of dress. Apollo couldn’t be bothered. Naked was his preference, and when he absolutely had to -- like tonight -- Apollo donned a barely-there white linen loincloth. His muscular body needed no further gilding.
In one hand, Zephyrus held a fluted glass of champagne. His other hand rested on the shoulder of…
Apollo’s heart stuttered. He came to a stunned halt just behind the green-haired wind god -- out of his line of sight. The youth Zephyrus had been chatting up, however, could see Apollo quite clearly. The boy frowned in confusion at the look of stunned horror Apollo knew he wore.
Zephyrus turned to see what had captured his companion’s attention. “Ahhh, Apollo,” he said, his voice as velvety smooth and harmonious as ever. “I’d like to introduce --”
Apollo ignored that perfectly pitched, infinitely sensual voice -- though it had always been difficult to do so -- and concentrated all of his attention on Zephyrus’s friend.
“Hyacinth?” the sun god breathed. He reached out a large bronze hand to cup the boy’s cheek.
The lad smiled and brought his own pale fingers up to cover Apollo’s. “Non. J'ai peur pas
,” he said. “Mon nom et Lucas
Apollo automatically translated, he knew most every language on Earth. No. I’m afraid not. My name is Lucas
. In French, the s
was silent. “Luca” was what the sun god heard. “Luca,” he repeated dumbly.
Of course it wasn’t Hyacinth. Hyacinth was dead and gone, many, many hundreds of years ago. Now, after that initial moment of shock, Apollo could see the dissimilarities. This boy was older -- twenty at least. And he was pale. Hyacinth had had a healthy golden tan to rival Apollo’s own. Lucas’s hair was shorter, as well. Black waves tamed sedately away from his high forehead. Hyacinth’s locks had been long and wild, shining ebony glory down past his shoulders.
But by Zeus, the similarities
From what Apollo could discern through the boy’s snug breeches and tailored jacket -- both of softest grey velvet -- Hyacinth and Lucas shared an identical body type: compact and lean like a runner, swimmer, or gymnast.
Hyacinth had been all of those…and more.
Lucas had also stolen Hyacinth’s dramatically arched brows and his wide blue-gray eyes. Eyes as deep and secretive as the Aegean Sea. His mouth, too, was the same; he had a fine upper lip, perfectly shaped so that the indent above it inexorably drew one’s eye to the exquisite contrast of his lush lower lip.
Sweat dotted Apollo’s forehead, dampening the corn-silk curls at his temples, as he remembered kissing that babyish pout, remembered suckling that gorgeous, swollen lip.
He forced himself to pull back from the memories.
Hyacinth. See there, the Frenchman’s jaw was narrower than Hyacinth’s. His cheeks more angular. Oh, but that cleft in his chin, that exclamation point of male beauty… it was exactly the same.
More erotic reminiscences tried to surface, and Apollo turned away from the heartbreak this boy represented. He looked to Zephyrus, his tormentor, instead.
“This is above and beyond, even for you, Zephyrus.” Apollo was so angry that he knew his eyes, a blue much truer than Hyacinth’s -- than Lucas’s -- swirled with cobalt flame. He couldn’t seem to control the savage contortion of his mouth, either. A feral snarl had skinned his lips back from his teeth.
There were few things as frightening to behold as Apollo, the god of heat, in a rage. A fact attested to by Lucas’s gasp of fright. The doppelgänger took a hasty step backward, almost landing on what Apollo was sure was his perfect little ass.
Zephyrus didn’t move an inch. Not even when Apollo fisted his hands in the front of the wind god’s shirt and hauled him up to his own eye level. Zephyrus wasn’t short, by any means, but the buff, seven-foot-tall sun god had a good eight inches on him.
“By Zeus’s dictate, I’ve left you alone these thousands of years, Zephyrus,” Apollo said, his voice harsh. “My restraint has limit, though. And you’ve just crossed it.”
“Pol…” Zephyrus’s hands came up to rest on Apollo’s where they were tangled in his shirt. His wings fanned the air.
“Apollo!” the sun god corrected. “You lost the right to call me Pol when you killed the boy you’ve so heartlessly resurrected here, tonight.”
“Apollo, then,” the winged god agreed mildly. “Do you remember Hyacinth’s younger sister, Livana?”
“I… What of her?” Apollo gave Zephyrus a teeth-rattling shake. Nothing more. Perhaps it was because it had been so long since he’d heard the eerie beauty of the wind god’s voice, or maybe it was because he’d forgotten how Zephyrus’s large, fey eyes could trap one’s gaze, making it difficult to think… Whatever the reason, Apollo was surprised to realize he was willing to listen to whatever paltry excuse Zephyrus was about to offer. He was still going to tear him limb from limb, of course. But first, he would listen to what Zephyrus had to say.
“Guys,” came a distinctive bass voice from the vicinity of Apollo’s elbow. “You’re going to have to take this outside.”
Apollo turned an accusing eye on their auburn-haired host. “How could you invite him, Dionysos, knowing how I feel? How --”
“Apollo,” he interrupted, laying a strong hand along his friend’s bunched forearm. “Zephyrus has always
had a standing invitation to my parties. You know I don’t get involved in these quarrels. That he hasn’t come until now was” -- his yellow eyes flicked to the wind god and he smiled -- “in deference to you
, I believe.”
Dionysos stepped away, smoothing the front of his brocaded vest before linking an arm through Lucas’s. “Now, I’m going to entertain this gorgeous lad while you two take this argument outside -- where it belongs.”
The sun god cursed and dropped Zephyrus back on his feet. “I’m expecting someone,” he said to Dionysos. “Can you tell her I’ll be with her soon? Her name is Cathryn. She’s --”
“She’s not coming,” Zephyrus interjected. “I --”
Apollo grabbed a handful of silky green hair and willed them both away to his palace on Olympus. They coalesced in the huge, slated courtyard. Lots of room there among the fanciful topiaries, and Apollo needed the room to kick Zephyrus’s ass all the way down to Hades.
Before the wind god had a chance to react Apollo had planted his fist in the center of Zephyrus’s handsome face, sending him reeling.
“Apollo!” Zephyrus held his hands up. “Hear me out.”
Apollo rounded on him again but Zephyrus flitted away. Damned fairy.
“Hear you out?” the sun god hollered. “Hear you out? You flaunt that…that imposter in front of me! Why? To rip my heart out just one more fucking time?” He was bellowing, so incensed he could scarcely breathe. “To show me what I could never have again?” Apollo lunged, cat-quick, latching onto one of Zephyrus’s wings. In a single smooth motion, he twirled, just like he’d done with the fateful discus that had ended Hyacinth’s life, and slammed the wind god into the castle wall. He leaned against Zephyrus’s back, keeping him pinned. “And then…and then
…you send my woman away. I’ve been working on getting Cathryn in bed for four goddamned months.” He rabbit-punched Zephyrus’s kidney. Three hard jabs. “I don’t know what you were thinking, Zeph,” Apollo said, tossing the green-haired god to the ground, “but I
think you’ve made a pretty-fucking-fatal miscalculation.” One gold-sandaled foot rose above Zephyrus’s vulnerable throat.
“He’s for you!” Zephyrus wheezed, using both hands to hold Apollo’s foot away. “I sent her home because Lucas is for you.”
It took a second for that information to sink in. A second in which he bore down on Zephyrus’s fingers until they mashed against his larynx. “Who is he?”
“He’s Hyacinth’s great…great…” Zephyrus coughed. His lips took on a bluish hue. “Pol, please.”
“Nephew,” Apollo finished for him. He twisted his foot to snap a few fingers before stepping away. “Of course. Livana had many sons, as I recall.”
“She did.” Zephyrus started to sit up.
Apollo kept him down with a well-placed kick to the jaw. “How on Earth did you find him?”
The wind god rolled onto his side, not bothering to try and rise again. “I’ve watched the bloodline all these years. Hoping…”
“Hoping to find him once more.” Apollo threw himself down across from his former friend, sitting cross-legged. “Well, congratulations. Lucas is an almost perfect replica.” He cocked his head to study Zephyrus. “Why offer him to me? I’d have assumed that you’d want this version all to yourself, since you killed the original because you couldn’t
Zephyrus sighed and pulled his broken fingers straight before leaning his head on his fist and studying Apollo. You wouldn’t know he’d just been beaten senseless by the relaxed pose he now held. The Olympian ability to instantly heal almost any wound made Apollo’s outburst little more than an annoyance. Albeit, a painful one.
Relaxed pose or not, the tremor in Zephyrus’s voice betrayed his emotion. “I’ve told you before, Apollo, I never wanted
Hyacinth to die. For the millionth time, it was an accident. I just meant to blow your disc off course. I was trying to let him win, for once, since I knew you never would!” His forehead furrowed, pale brows drawing down over dark eyes. “It was an accident,” he reiterated softly. “I wish --”
“You lie,” Apollo snapped. “You were jealous. Admit it! He chose me as his lover, and you killed him for it!”
jealous.” Zephyrus rolled onto his back, staring up at the evening sky. “I’ll admit to that. But not because he’d chosen you as his lover. After all, I had the honor of that position as well. I was --”
Apollo leaped on the wind god, straddling his hips and raising a massive fist high in the air.
Ever placid, Zephyrus lay still beneath him. Apollo searched his slanted eyes for even a hint of dishonesty. There was none.
“You didn’t know?” Zephyrus whispered.
“You’re a liar,” Apollo said again. Doubt tainted the words.
Zephyrus said nothing.