Hekate didn’t return to the club that night. She couldn’t. Not after she had just attacked her best friend out of nowhere. Marcia had no choice. She had to return to Erik or else he would have had too many questions. Thankfully, Hekate disappearing wasn’t strange enough to warrant an interrogation when she got back.
This was the first time the Horseman had gone out of his way to find her directly. That she knew of, at least. The more Hekate thought about the evening, the more she realized it was all a game to him. By possessing that girl, he was able to toy with her, and even her friends. Erik was probably a toy to him as well. His goal was to hurt Marcia, which would have hurt me. He just didn’t expect Marcia to fight back.
He was surprised. But he knew instantly it was Moro’s brother occupying her body. He seemed familiar with them. Either way, he now knew Hekate wasn’t alone in this fight. Now, he had another target.
There was another reason the night was tugging so badly at her mind. Death…or War as it happens, was able to possess anyone. She had seen him in a couple of bodies by this point. War didn’t choose based on gender or age. He chose based on convenience. Who could hurt Hekate the easiest?
Only a text from Caleb was able to pull her from her worries. He was asking her to a movie and dinner for Saturday night. Although tempted to say no, she accepted his invitation. She refused to let any of this interfere with her life.
That might not be a bad idea.
“How do you figure?” she mumbled to herself as she changed into her pajamas beside her bed.
You’re right that you cannot let this disrupt your life. If not for yourself, then at least for the outside world. Better to keep up appearances. But there may come a time when it none of it will matter anymore.
Hekate snorted before releasing a dry laugh. She climbed into bed, flopping her face into her pillow. “You mean when War claims my soul and I go on a murder spree?”
That’s not what will happen.
“How can you be so sure?” she spat out, flipping onto her back. “What’s to say that isn’t what happens? You see what the brand has done to me already! At this rate, I’ll murder everyone in the school before this is all over and done with.”
He will take your soul, meaning you will be dead. Your body will be gone. But your soul will be turned into one of his demons.
She rolled her eyes. “That doesn’t mean I won’t go on a murder spree. That just confirms it.”
There might be a way to free you from the curse now that we know it isn’t Death.
“What difference does that make? They’re both Horsemen,” she said, refusing to become optimistic.
Death is absolute. There is nothing that can stop Death. All we can do is contain it. However, War is something that can be stopped. Not just maintained. If we are able to send War back to the Gates or strike a bargain, then we could potentially save you.
Hekate froze at the idea of a bargain. “What do you mean? Bargain with War?”
No. I doubt he would be willing.
“Then who?” she asked.
That is something we’re going to need to discuss with Selene. I’ll have to see what she says about the situation.
“Do what you want,” she said, effectively ending the conversation for the night.
That night, Hekate tossed and turned, only sleeping for a few hours. She couldn’t get the smell of blood to leave her memory or Marcia’s hurt expression when she attacked her. The image continued to remind Hekate of the man she had killed in the mall only a few days prior. She wasn’t sure what was worse: her nightmares or reality.
The dark circles were prominent as she stared at herself in the mirror. Although it was unusual for her, she chose to use some foundation to cover the darkness under her eyes. Not one for make-up, the process annoyed her. She was almost through blending it when she heard the doorbell ring.
“Mom! Someone’s at the door!” she called.
Though she received no response, Hekate could hear chairs moving and feet begin walking as soon as she yelled. After finishing applying the foundation, Hekate pulled out her eyeliner from the bathroom closet.
“Hekate! It’s for you!” Her mother called.
Groaning, Hekate threw the eyeliner stick onto the counter before rushing downstairs. Standing at the door was Marcus, one of her classmates. Slightly surprised, she paused on the stairs before continuing down to greet him. Although she had known him for years, they weren’t necessarily friends. More like, acquaintances. They had really only spoken a few times when he was transferred to their school a while back. He wasn’t mean or rude. They just didn’t travel in the same circles.
He stood at the door frame with his eyes down and hands behind his back. His cinnamon hair was all she could see of his head. Hekate stood only a few inches shorter than him, making it easier for her to crouch to get his attention. “Yes?”
As if shocked by her appearance, Marcus took a quick step back before his hazel eyes met hers. “Oh sorry. I found something last night and thought it was yours.”
From behind his back, he pulled out the jacket she had thrown aside the night before. “How did you know it was mine?”
He shrugged. “I thought I saw you wearing it last night. And it has your name on the tags.” Lifting the jacket, he showed her the tag that contained her name. She had forgotten she has used a permanent marker to write on the jacket a few months ago.
He grinned. “You’re the only person I know with a name that unique.”
“Oh,” she said, slightly shocked by his kindness, “Thank you. How long have you been going to The Crescent? I haven’t seen you there in a while.”
His lips turned up into a wide grin, revealing his slightly crooked bottom teeth. “I started going a while back. Just to see what it was all about. You and Marcia seem to be there every time it’s open for underage nights.”
Hekate reached to take her jacket, all while attempting to give him a grateful smile. “Yeah, she drags me out every time. Thanks for bringing my jacket back.”
Marcus started to turn as he waved his arm into the air. “No problem! See you at school.”
She watched him walk away for a few seconds before closing the door. He walked as though he had a limp, but it was extremely subtle. Not enough for concern.
Hekate’s mother peeked from around the corner of the kitchen. “Who was the boy? And why was he returning a piece of clothing?”
Hekate rolled her eyes as she dropped her head back. “He’s just someone from school. I left my jacket at the club last night and he found it. Don’t read too much into it. I can practically hear you thinking all kinds of crap now.”
“But you are going on a date today, right? With a different boy?” her mother asked.
“Yes,” she groaned before running back upstairs to her bathroom.
Her phone began to buzz against the bathroom counter. Hekate set down her eyeliner to see it was Marcia. She tapped the speaker phone option. “Hey.”
“Hey, is your date today?” Marcia asked.
Hekate was hesitant to answer. Not because of the date, but because of the guilt. Marcia wanted to talk as if everything were normal. As if I hadn’t attacked her. “Um, yeah. I’m getting ready now.”
There was silence on the line for a second. “Are-are you putting make-up on?”
Her eyes rolled into the back of her head as she sighed. “Yes, I am putting on make-up.”
The squeal over the phone caused Hekate to flinch. “I’m so proud of you, chica! Not that you aren’t already beautiful but now you can be absolutely breathtaking for the boy.”
“Yeah yeah,” she said, “But you know what else is interesting? Marcus stopped by.”
“Really, why?” Marcia asked.
Hekate shrugged, despite the fact Marcia wasn’t there to see it, “He found the jacket I left last night. He wanted to give it back to me.”
Marcia made a grunt sound. “That doesn’t surprise me.”
She paused, eyeshadow brush in hand. “What do you mean?”
Marcia chuckled before explaining, “That boy has had a crush on you for the past year. If he wasn’t so damn shy, he would have approached you months ago.”
Hekate felt the heat rise in her face again. She could see it through the foundation that matted her face. “No, he doesn’t! You’re being ridiculous!”
Marcia laughed again. “Child, you’re oblivious, and I love it.”
“You’re oblivious,” Hekate murmured.
“I called for another reason,” Marcia started, a bit hesitant.
Gulping back her nerves, Hekate asked, “What is it?”
“Date or not,” she said, “Keep your guard up. I won’t be with you to back you up, and Caleb won’t know what to do if War happens to show up.”
Her mouth dropped in surprise. “What?”
“You heard me. I don’t care how hot he is, or how guilty you feel from yesterday. You have a lot going on in that head of yours. So promise me, you’ll stay alert.”
Hekate paused for a minute. Marcia had the heart of a saint for not being angry about the attack yesterday. She had known Marcia for years, but it still surprised her.
“Promise me,” she repeated.
“I promise,” Hekate said.
Staring into the mirror, Hekate took in her new face. Marcia was right. Make-up did make a difference, especially with the dark circles under her eyes.
Listen to your friend.
“About the make-up?” she asked, sarcastically.
No. Stay alert while on this date. If you don’t, you’ll cause Marcia to worry even more.
“Hekate! Don’t you need to leave soon?” Her mother yelled from downstairs.
“Why do I have three mothers?” she whispered to herself.
Hekate could hear Moro chuckling to herself as she changed into her jeans and long-sleeve t-shirt. When her fit hit the ground after jumping down the stairs. her mother was ready to bombard her with more questions. So, she practically ran.
By the time Hekate had left the house, she was exhausted. Her mother practically chased her to the car, asking questions to find out anything she could about Caleb or even Marcus. The fact that Marcus had shown up to her house to return her jacket was jarring enough. An act of kindness shouldn’t have looked so suspicious, but to her, it screamed odd.
When she moved to put her car into park, she felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. A chill had run through her as soon as the thought entered her mind. It was possible Marcus had returned the jacket only to be kind. But there was nothing telling her it wasn’t a demon or even War, simply playing with her again. It wouldn’t be that far fetched.
Before she could think any more about it, she glanced towards the movie theater to see Caleb standing by the entrance, waiting for her. He was talking to a few girls Hekate recognized from school. They were laughing about something, while one of them hung onto his arm.
Hekate could feel the heat rise to her face. Seeing him laughing with them shouldn’t have upset her at all. But it did. The heat from her jealousy was mixing with the heat of the brand on her chest, causing a chain reaction inside of her. In the past, she would have waited in the car for a few more minutes, hoping the girls would eventually walk away.
But right now, she wasn’t feeling meek or shy. She was only angry. Slamming the car door shut, she started to make her way towards them. Only Caleb noticed her approach. This time his crooked smile was reserved for her alone. The group around him realized he was looking elsewhere and turned. They saw her, and they ignored her.
Hekate recognized them individually as she approached. Cecilia was no surprise. She was one of the most beautiful girls in school. With her jet black hair and blue eyes contrasting her dark skin, she was stunning. The two of them never had any issues in the past, but Hekate felt one was brewing now.
Amara and Jennifer stood on either side of her. They were shorter, but Amara stood out more with her bleach blonde hair. Both of them glared at Hekate as she approached. If their intention was to scare her away, it wasn’t working. Instead, Hekate laughed.
She joined in their laughter, making the three girls visibly nervous. “What did I miss?”
Caleb reached for her hand, shaking off Amara’s arm. “We were just joking around while waiting for you. Excuse me, ladies.”
Jennifer grabbed the hand that was holding mine. “Let us join! We can all hang out, I’m sure.”
The heat from her chest rose. When she turned to glare at them, all three girls wavered. It was Cecilia who sensed the threat first. Instinctively, she grabbed Jennifer and Amara’s hands and pulled them back. “No. I mean, we can all hang out later. You guys have fun.”
As Caleb pulled her away, Hekate could hear Jennifer and Amara asking her what her problem was. When she turned back to her date, Caleb was looking down at her. “Sorry about that. They saw me waiting and wanted to wait with me, I guess.”
“It’s no big deal. It’s not like they’re with us now,” she said as she shrugged. Although her intention was to come off nonchalant, her tone was still laced with poison.
As they approached the line for movie tickets, Caleb released her hand, only to wrap his arm around her waist. “Don’t let them ruin today. Have fun. You deserve a little fun now and then.”
She leaned into him and nodded without looking up. His warmth was allowing her to calm down, which in turn allowed her to ignore the brand on her chest. He was right. For once, Hekate wanted to have a day of fun and no worry. No worrying about demons or the brand. Just time alone. With him.
Because of their close proximity, Hekate barely noticed the movie. Every time Caleb would play with her fingers or move his hand to her leg for only a second, her heart would skip a beat. She was entirely focused on him and nothing else. When it was over, he glanced at her before grinning and taking her hand to leave.
They were only a few steps outside of the movie theater before he suddenly turned around. Hekate didn’t have time to blink or even think. His lips were on hers so fast she needed a second to mentally catch up. His hands cupped her face gently as he kissed her. It was intense. Enough to make her knees melt.
When he released her, his crooked grin took over his entire face. Hekate’s was beet red.
“What was that for?” she asked as she tried to take a deep breath to slow her heart rate.
“I just felt like it,” he said, turning with her hand in his towards the food court.
Her heart wouldn’t stop racing. The brand she had done so well ignoring had even begun to burn more. It wasn’t necessarily painful, but it mixed with the butterflies in her stomach, causing her to almost become nauseous. Her hand tightened around his in response.
When they arrived at the small burger restaurant that was inside the food court, he waited for her to take her seat first before finally sitting down as the hostess had instructed. Hekate couldn’t look him in the eye without grinning, remembering the kiss. The memory alone wouldn’t let her heart calm down.
Relax. Or you’re going to give me a heart attack.
Moro’s voice suddenly appearing in her head caused her to stiffen. Caleb had her attention for so long, she had completely forgotten about the other soul inhabiting her body. Hekate took a large sip of her water, attempting to calm her nerves.
Caleb didn’t miss it. “Are you okay? You seem nervous.”
She pinched her nose playfully. “I wonder why that is.”
In response, his grin reappeared. “I couldn’t help it. You were enticing during the entire movie. I was waiting for the right moment. Then I couldn’t take it anymore.”
Hekate narrowed her eyes, but she was smiling. “I still don’t understand why you want to date me. I’m nothing special compared to your fan club.”
He leaned back in his chair. “And you don’t see yourself very clearly. I actually irritated a few guys from school by asking you out right away.”
Her eyes widened in shock. “You’re joking.”
“Nope,” he said while shaking his head, “You were in high demand. But most of them were afraid to approach you. I couldn’t help myself.”
She could only stare at him in disbelief. None of the other boys in school gave her the time of day. Flashing through her memories, she couldn’t find one where someone had gone out of their way to talk to her. None except Marcus. But even then, he was mainly polite to her, not a friend.
“I think you’re making all of that up,” she accused.
He is right. You do not see yourself clearly.
Leaning forward, Caleb took her hand into his and began to pull at her fingers. “I would never lie to you. It’s just as I said. You don’t see yourself very clearly. I can see why they wanted to be with you though. You’re enticing.”
Hekate felt the heat spread all over her again. “You’re ridiculous.”
“And you’re cute,” he replied.
During their entire meal, Caleb made sure his foot was always either touching her leg or her own foot. Each time he shifted positions, she felt him move, and each time her heart leaped to her throat. They talked about school, the town, and even her after-school activity, gymnastics. He was impressed, and she was enamored.
Towards the end, they had gotten onto the topic of his family.
“What do your parents do?” She asked.
He took a bite of his french fry before looking up at her. “My dad works for a big company in IT. He’s always on call and working, but he loves it. Would be nice to see him on occasion, though.”
“And your mom?” she pressed.
Caleb sighed before answering. “She passed away from cancer a few years back.”
Immediately regretting the question, she pressed her leg into his. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring up a painful subject.”
“It’s okay,” he said while pressing his leg back into hers, “It isn’t like it was yesterday. She was sick for a long time. By the end of it, when she died, death was honestly a gift. She was finally set free of her constant pain.”
Hekate heard the words. She heard the familiar phrase but chose not to let it affect her date. Caleb wasn’t wrong in this instance. Death probably was a gift for someone who was in constant agony. But the brand felt like it was on fire the moment he said it. “I’m still really sorry. I know it can’t have been easy.”
He grinned. “It’s really okay. I don’t mind telling you.”
When he stood up, he held his hand out to her. “The goal is to get close to you anyway. Make you fall for me.”
Hekate chuckled. “So confident.”
“Of course,” he said with a warm smile.
As they walked to her car, she wondered if he was going to kiss her again. Although she would never admit it, she was craving him. Craving his touch, craving his lips. In all of her seventeen years alive, she had never felt this way before. It was thrilling, but also terrifying
She didn’t have to wonder long. The moment they reached her car, he pulled her face around for his lips to meet hers again. When their lips parted, she felt the heat on her chest expand over her entire body. The brand on her chest was still on fire, but she didn’t care. All she cared about was tasting him and savoring it.
His hands slid down to her waist, pulling her closer. She wrapped her arms around his neck, trying to rid any space left between them. Only when she couldn’t breathe anymore did she finally loosen her grip. They both separated only enough to lean their foreheads against each other.
“You are intoxicating,” he whispered.
“I try,” she said with a chuckle.
With a sly grin, he started to pull away. “If it wasn’t about to rain, I’d keep you here with me.”
She held onto his neck. “Why does that matter?”
“It doesn’t, really,” he said with his grin widening, “But I’d rather you get home safely. If you didn’t realize, it’s already dark and we have school tomorrow.”
He was right. The street lamps had turned on while they were distracted. Leaning in, she kissed him one more time. “I guess you’re right.”
“Drive safe,” he said as he started to pull away again.
She waved at him. “No promises.”
He chuckled as he disappeared into the sea of cars to find his own. Hekate slid into her car and sat there in silence for a few minutes. She wanted to savor the taste of his kiss while she could. For the first time in a while, she felt normal. A normal girl who went on a normal date.
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t last. You can’t hide from demons for long. Especially when a god is on the hunt as well.