Home > The Sea Witch (Wicked Villains #5)

The Sea Witch (Wicked Villains #5)
Author: Katee Robert

Chapter 1

 

 

Zurielle

 

 

Three simple rules have been ingrained into me from birth:

1. Never leave Olympus.

2. My family members are the only people who value my safety and well-being, and as such, my loyalty to them should be my first priority at all times.

3. Never trust the Sea Witch.

Tonight, I’m breaking all three.

There might be time for regrets later, but as I watch Olympus disappear into the horizon behind me, I can’t dredge them up now. My sisters will be fine. They’ve never felt the city borders quite as acutely as I have. They’re happy in a way I can’t replicate. Maybe I could have settled before I met Alaric, but that possibility is long gone.

Now, I only have one path available.

I try very hard not to think about my father during the long bus ride to Carver City. I’m his youngest, the baby to be protected at all costs, for all that I’m twenty-three and lost my innocence right around the time my mother lost her life. Even if she were still among the living, no one stays sheltered in Olympus for long. Not when they move in the circles my father does.

I push the thought away and close my eyes. The future. The future is all that matters. My father will forgive me eventually, especially once he realizes I did it for love. Is there any more honorable motivation?

And I do love Alaric. Those weeks I spent with him over the winter were the happiest I’ve ever had. He’s kind and sweet and so incredibly respectful. What father wouldn’t want his daughter with a man like that?

I allow myself to sink into the warm memories to pass the time. It feels like between one blink and the next the bus shudders to a stop and the driver announces that we’ve reached the station. I move with the others to file out the doors and collect my bag.

Carver City looks much the same as Olympus. Tall buildings that threaten to block out the sky. People who go about their own business and spend their lives happily ignorant of what goes on in the shadows. Of the power players who hopscotch between what’s right and what’s wrong, because the only thing that matters is what they want. They posture and perform for friends and enemies alike.

It makes me tired just thinking about it.

I pull my phone out and bring up the address. It took me several long weeks to dredge up the courage to respond to the Sea Witch. Ursa, that’s her name. Somehow it doesn’t make her seem any less intimidating than the other. She’s not to be trusted. It doesn’t matter now. She’s only a woman, albeit a powerful and dangerous one. I am capable of taking her help without giving her anything priceless in return.

I hope.

As I stop at the curb, debating whether to call a cab or use an app to get a ride, a shiny black car melts out of the traffic and pulls to a stop in front of me. I stare at it blankly before giving myself a shake. Coincidence. That’s all it is. I’m sure it's waiting for someone else.

The window rolls down, and the first thing I see is red—red lips curved in a sinful smile. Then the woman emerges from the shadows inside the car. She’s Black and curvy and has a mass of locs that go from dark brown to a crimson at the ends that I envy. My father never let me color my hair “unnatural” colors, even after I turned eighteen, and so though my hair is technically red, it’s a deep red that’s almost brown.

I know who this woman is even before she speaks. “Ursa.”

“The very one.” I don’t know much about her beyond what my father’s ranted about when he drinks too much. A woman who threatened everything he held dear. One who tried to kill him and take his place as Poseidon’s second-in-command. A witch who likes to drown her victims to boost her reputation; someone who tried to drown him before he managed to win the war and drive her out of Olympus.

She must be my father’s age—somewhere in her late-forties to mid-fifties, but she looks younger than I expect. Or rather, she has the kind of ageless beauty that could put her anywhere from thirty to sixty. Her smile widens, though it doesn’t reach her dark eyes. “You’re looking for me, I presume.”

I am, but I haven’t quite caught up with the fact that she’s here. I expected her to wait for me in her home, to set the tone for me to be the powerless woman begging for aid and her as the only one who can give it to me. I didn’t expect this.

Then again, what is this but setting the tone in a different kind of way? She knew what bus I’d be on. Knew I’d be here at exactly this time and place. She must be watching me.

Getting in cars with strangers is a very basic rule that I’ve never had a problem following, but it’s silly to reject the ride when this is the woman I’ve traveled to see. The only one who can help me.

I lift my chin. “Yes, I’m looking for you.”

“Very good.” She leans back and rolls the window up.

I blink at my own reflection distorted back at me. I look impossibly young and naive, and I’m pretty sure there’s a crease on my face from where I had myself propped up against the window on the bus ride. I’d hoped to clean up before meeting her, because first impressions matter. Oh well. One works with what one has.

The driver’s side door opens up and a tall Black woman with short cropped hair emerges. She gives me a once-over and shakes her head, but she doesn’t say a word as she puts my bag into the trunk, and opens the door for me. It’s too late to back out now. I’ve come too far.

I climb into the backseat.

When I was small, my sisters used to threaten me with the Sea Witch whenever they decided I was being annoying. If you don’t act right, the Sea Witch will come and take you away. It used to terrify me as a child. Now she terrifies me for other reasons. A woman doesn’t come by a reputation like hers without some kind of truth behind it. But she is only a woman, flesh and blood just like me. Or that’s what I tell myself as I try to shake the feeling I’m a mouse who’s just cuddled up to a cat.

Her presence fills the space, squeezing my chest even though she’s retreated to the other side of the seat and isn’t touching me. In the dim interior, I can see that she’s wearing a wrap dress with a dark pattern almost like bubbles on it. It’s pretty and obviously expensive, but a printed dress should make her more approachable.

It doesn’t.

She’s studying me the same way I’m looking at her. I don’t want to know what verdict she comes up with. I’m not at my best. I dressed for comfort instead of making an impression, wearing my favorite faded jeans, a tank top, and knitted cardigan that’s fraying a bit in spots.

The silence spins out between us, strangely loaded. Even knowing better, I can’t stop myself from breaking it first. “I don’t trust you.”

“You shouldn’t.” She shrugs a shoulder. The move draws my attention to her impressive cleavage, and I immediately jerk my eyes back to her face. Ursa is attractive, but it’s more complicated than beautiful. She’s powerful. She’s not even doing anything other than looking at me, and I’m fighting to draw each breath.

All the lessons I’ve spent a lifetime learning go right out the window. “What do you want with me?”

“I want to help you.” There it is again, her wicked smile that does nothing to reassure me. “I have something of a soft spot for Alaric. This is a favor to him.”

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