Home > Heart of Fire (Blood of Zeus #2)

Heart of Fire (Blood of Zeus #2)
Author: Meredith Wild

Chapter One






“Here begins a new life.”

My rough whisper is absorbed by the still air of Kara’s bedroom, which has become a perfect haven for the last twenty-four hours.

It didn’t feel right, let alone safe, to hang out at my place downtown after the man claiming to be my long-lost father—and, oh yeah, the allfather of Olympus and every immortal being in it—came for a casual drop-in last night. Not long after, the paparazzi were spreading like an oil spill along my street, making the view of the Hollywood Hills a pastoral scene by comparison.

The stars over the sleepy slopes are slowly consumed by the approaching dawn as I repeat the line once more. Dante’s words have always felt like those of a soulmate, but not once in the hundreds of times I’ve read from La Vita Nuova has the sentiment resonated so strongly. Or inspired such a yearning to fight it.

But fight what? I’m where I’ve begged fate to bring me, for days and months and years. But I was never specific about those pleas. Maybe that was my slip. I never said the truth had to be sane. Or logical. Or believable.

Because it’s absolutely none of those.

I blink hard, expecting to wake up and laugh off this bizarre fever dream. When I do, it’ll still be yesterday morning at my place, when my naked body was warmly wrapped around the woman who’s taken over so much of my heart, mind, and soul. No stranger will knock at my apartment door, saunter in, and make a claim so wacky I should be wondering what flophouse he’s wandered in from and how much crap he’s pumped into his bloodstream before doing so. Because that’s the logical thing to think when a guy tells you he’s the king of the gods. Worse, that you and he have twenty-seven years of Father’s Days to catch up on.

Then Z had to drop his third bomb—a smaller explosion by comparison but a stunner all the same. Even now. Perhaps even more so, considering how small, innocent, and soft Kara seems in the big bed behind me. That peaceful tilt of her lips. The sprawl of her dark, thick waves against the luxurious white linens. The wistful way she curls her hands. Even the symmetrical, slender ovals of her fingernails.

She looks like an angel.

But she’s my perfect little demon.

And I’m beginning to truly believe that she’s all mine.

I turn back to the window, my mind wrestling with the possibility. It’s bad enough that the claim is so dominant in my senses and my blood…the blood that shouldn’t want her. Thanks to my DNA, I crave nothing but her.

And there’s fate, toying with me again. Because any second now, I could lose her because of the DNA that’s her curse and the destiny to which it’s bound her. Spitting on that covenant hasn’t won us any favors, despite how my father—or whoever the hell he is—has offered to intervene on our behalf. Yesterday morning, I was desperate enough to trust the man. I didn’t have any other choice. I still don’t. Unless…I do. Unless all of this really isn’t happening. Unless Z really is just a tweaker in a Skid Row trash bin right now instead of negotiating with Hades like he promised.

But do I really want to test that theory?

“Maximus Kane, please tell me you aren’t awake before the birds.”

There’s the answer to my query. Right here on the air, in all the sweet edges of Kara’s sleepy rasp. In the sight of her, filling my hungry gaze, silky and curvy beneath the sheet as she stretches. Most of all, in every exquisite angle of her inquisitive stare, conveying that she’s missed nothing about my brooding silence.

Beneath the track pants I slid into a few hours ago, things start to stir. Needless to say, I don’t feel like brooding anymore. Not by a long shot, now that she’s awake and focusing on me again. That expression makes yesterday’s rushed escape all worth it. True, as safe houses go, I could ask for a lot worse, considering the sprawling patio, good-sized library, every conceivable modern amenity, and this killer view. But at this moment I’m not referring to the trees, the hills, or the Hollywood sign.

Being here, with this breathtaking beauty, is like a dream. Right down to this very second, in which I’m as excited as the first time she ever touched me, then changed me.

I shrug, attempting a show of casual charm. “More worms for me. I’ll even share.”

Kara sits up, curling her knees into her chest. “Trade you the worms for what’s going on in that beautiful head of yours.”

Another shrug, making up for more flustered vibes. I can lecture to hundreds of students at a time, but this sole female can undo me with one damn look. “Sleep and I have never been best friends,” I finally say. “Few hours a night, and I’m good to go.”

“Hmm.” She tilts her head. “That makes sense, I guess.”

“You guess? Why?”

“Well, considering everything.”

“Everything like what?” My intention isn’t a confrontation, but I need to hear it from another source besides the inside of my mind. “Just say it again, Kara. For me.”

She jogs up her chin. “Everything, like you being a demigod.”

Her gaze glitters now, reminding me of the sparklers Jesse and I played with during our boyhood summers. I want to smile, slammed by memories of happiness and hope, but right here and now, the memories are disjointed. Different.

“You can say it too, Maximus. And if you need to talk about it…well, I won’t be freaked out.”

“No.” I lower to the mattress with an audible heave. “I’ll be freaked out.”

“Why?” Her confusion is sincere. I feel that as fully as her warmth, spreading through me as soon as she uncurls and presses against my side. “You had to have an idea. At least a small one. You were already asking questions. You openly shared them with me.”

I wrap a hand around her wrists. “From now on, I share everything with you.”

She sets a sigh free, heating the ball of my shoulder. “Even now?” she presses. “Even knowing what I am?”

I’m compelled to turn, dragging her in at the same time, until she’s nestled in my lap and engulfed by my embrace. The sheets, which are the texture of spun butter, gather even tighter around her. “Especially now,” I tell her, stroking my knuckles along her cheek. “Knowing who you are.”

Though she quirks her lips, the spark of levity doesn’t make it to her eyes. “Right,” she mutters. “Who I am. Kara Valari, spawn of the demons who royally messed up your existence.”

“No.” I extend my grip to her nape, squeezing gently to demand her attention. “You’re Kara Valari, the brave and brilliant creature who defied her family and the fate they were dooming you to. You’re the demoness who dared to say that wasn’t okay, but you’re also the human being who stood up for so much more. You stood up for us.”

At last, her big eyes and full lips get warm with confidence. Not a lot but enough to make me relax my grip.

“So…you really believe it? That we’re—that I’m—”

“A demon?” I smile at once, then lift my upturned lips to her smooth forehead. “I was halfway to figuring that out already, beautiful. I’m the guy who read all your grandfather’s screenplays to get to the bottom of it, remember?”

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