Chapter One: Mount
Gertie stood in the foyer of the great hall on Mount Olympus, waiting for Hector to finish his tour with Hephaestus. Hector had invited her to join him to see the magical forge, but she’d wanted him to have this chance to be alone with his father. She hadn’t thought about her own comfort—or lack of it as she stood there with the Olympians on their thrones only a few yards away. Although she’d earned their respect in the battle with the old man of the sea and his entourage of monsters and was about to become a goddess herself, she didn’t dare presume that she was free to speak with them.
She pushed a strand of her blonde hair behind her ear and glanced nervously at the gods before averting her eyes to her boots. Her stomach hurt, and her heart wouldn’t slow down no matter how deeply she breathed. An eternity seemed to pass when Hector finally emerged with his father.
Just seeing Hector’s face again made her less nervous. Although people often mistook them for brother and sister because they both had blond hair, blue eyes, and fair skin, fortunately for them, they weren’t, even though they were both descended from gods.
“Are you ready for the council meeting?” Hephaestus asked her.
Gertie took a deep breath. “I think so.”
“Of course, she is,” Hector said. “She hasn’t stopped talking about it for days. Have you, Gertie?”
“Are you sure you’re ready?” Hephaestus asked again.
“Yes,” she said, this time without hesitation. “I’m just a little nervous about how it will feel and how I’ll adapt. There isn’t much written about apotheosis. I feel unprepared.”
Hephaestus laughed. “Preparation has its virtues, but surprises make life exciting.”
“I like that.” Hector beamed up at his dad.
Gertie would rather be prepared.
“Good luck,” Hephaestus said as he turned to walk away.
“Thanks again for showing me around, Father,” Hector said.
“I hope I’ll have the chance to see you again soon.”
The god gave Hector a polite, if not distant, nod before taking a few strides to his throne, next to Apollo and across the white marble floor from Aphrodite.
“How did it go?” Gertie whispered to Hector, who hadn’t stopped smiling since he’d emerged from the forge.
“I’ve never felt happier,” he said, his blue eyes bright.
“My father has finally acknowledged me publicly and has given me more than a
moment of his time. It’s a dream come true.”
“Oh, Hector.” Gertie squeezed his hand. “I’m really happy for you.”
“Thanks. Being here has made it easy for me to make a decision.”
Gertie tilted her head to one side. “What decision?”
“I want to be a god, and I’m ready to do whatever it takes to prove I’m worthy.”
Gertie’s mouth dropped open, and she felt like jumping up and down with joy. “What?”
“I know . . . I was against it before. I wanted a normal life, so I could give my kids a better childhood than the one I had. Now I know things don’t have to be the way they were with my mom—alienated from my father and from the other gods.” He circled his arm around Gertie’s waist. “We can be a part of this life here on Mount Olympus. We can be gods together.”
Gertie thew her arms around him. “Really?”
“Really.” He reached down and kissed her.
As much as Gertie enjoyed the kiss, she soon came to her senses and noticed that some of the Olympians were watching her. “I’ll make my acceptance conditional. If they want me to become the goddess of vampires, they’ll have to make you a god, too.”
Hector furrowed his brows. “What if they refuse?”
“They won’t, especially if your father speaks up for you.”
He kissed her once more, and, together, they made their way to his father’s side, to await the others.
Hermie scratched his head and gave Delphine a once-over on the front deck of the Marcella II beneath the predawn stars. Del had just returned from a night of shopping in Paris with his sister Hestie and best friend Jinsoo, along with most of the vampires. Hermie had just returned to the ship, too, after helping with a blackout at a power plant in Dubai. Before that, he’d helped a group of college students in Kentucky retrieve their lost project from a computer that had crashed. As the god of technology, he made IT runs rather frequently and enjoyed them much more than being out on the sea. But he endured the sea life because he wanted to be close to Del.
Del was wearing a short dress and boots—looking simultaneously sweet and bad-ass. Her long, dark, curly hair fell past her shoulders, blowing in the gentle wind. Her dark eyes and dark skin shone in the waning moonlight.
Hermie was pleased when she greeted him with a kiss as she combed her fingers through his short black hair.
“Welcome back,” he said. “You look great.”
“Thanks. I bought some new threads for you, too.” She handed him one of her bags.
Hermie tried to hide his annoyance as he looked inside the bag. He was particular about his clothes and didn’t like others picking them out. He’d fought his sister Hestie and his mother on that front for most of his life. But when he turned the soft cotton over in his hand, he was pleasantly surprised. She’d bought him a t-shirt? He lifted the light blue shirt from the bag and read the front of it: I paused my game to be here.
“You like it?” she asked. “The color matches your eyes.”
“I do,” he said, and he meant it. “Thanks.”
“Check it out.” Jinsoo walked across the deck in his new clothes—a tight-fitting gray shirt and skinny black jeans and boots. “Do I look good enough for Mount Olympus?”
Alastair laughed. The sandy-haired vampire was wearing a long-sleeved, button-down shirt unbuttoned over a white V-neck and loose-fitting jeans cinched at his hips with a thick leather belt. “If the gods are grading you on sex appeal, you got this, boyfriend.”
Jinsoo smiled as Chidori landed on his shoulder. “Do you agree?”
The yellow canary tweeted her praise.
“Where’s Poros?” Hestie asked as she brushed her red curly hair from her eyes.
Hermie glanced at the upper deck. “Isn’t he on the flybridge with Captain?”
“No one is on the flybridge,” Alastair pointed out.
The swooshing sound of wings overhead made everyone turn their eyes up to the sky. It was Pegasus hovering above the ship with Poros and Prometheus astride him.
“We’re late,” the captain said as he pulled his white captain’s hat more firmly over his black curly hair. “Come on.”
Hestie flew up and mounted the white horse behind Poros. To Hermie, she said, “Sorry. No more room.”
Prometheus turned to the vampires. “I trust you’ll keep an eye on the ship?”
“We will have to do it from below deck.” Del pointed to the hint of dawn just beyond the mountains to the east.
Alastair gave an informal salute that ended with a snap of his fingers. “We will reach out to you if we sense anything wrong.”
“Thanks.” Prometheus tipped his white captain’s hat.
“See ya,” Hermie said to Del just before he kissed her cheek.
“See ya,” she said with a smile.
Jinsoo winked at Alastair and then joined Hermie in the air beside Pegasus.
To Jinsoo, Hermie said, “Mount Olympus, here we come.”
Hestie wrapped her arms around Poros and leaned against his back as Pegasus soared over the Mediterranean Sea.
“Miss me?” she whispered into Poros’s ear as his blond hair tickled her lips.
Poros glanced back at her with a grin, his gray eyes sparkling in the moonlight. “Cute outfit.”
She wore very short shorts with a white tank. But the tank was no ordinary tank. The straps were embellished with layers of gathered fabric making thick, soft ruffles that she found divine. One of the perks of being a goddess unaffected by changing temperatures was that one could continue to wear summer fashions well into fall.
“Thanks. You should see what I bought for you.”
She felt him chuckle against her. He wouldn’t fight her, like Hermie did, when it came to her fashion choices for him, and she loved him for it.
The sun god Helios appeared in his golden cup on the horizon just as they reached Mount Olympus. The gates parted, and the young gods waited near the fountain while Prometheus took Pegasus to the stables. Then, together, they flew up the rainbow steps and into the temple, where the other gods were waiting.
Hestie followed Poros and Prometheus into the middle of the great hall, where the Olympians were already seated on their thrones. Aphrodite and Artemis gave the young gods a smile and a wave as they walked past, as did the three Charities sitting around Aphrodite. Hestie waved back. One of the Charities—Pasithia—dropped her handkerchief at Poros’s feet. When he picked it up and handed it back to her, she smiled up at him with a flirtatious gleam in her eyes that Hestie found irritating. What was even more irritating was the blush that crossed Poros’s face. Should Hestie be worried?
Across the room, the Muses softly hummed a melody behind Apollo. Between Apollo and Hephaestus stood the demigods Gertie and Hector. Hestie gave them each a smile.
Hestie’s mom and grandparents—Hades and Persephone—were also there. Her grandparents were seated on the double throne between Artemis and Hestia, where Demeter usually sat. Demeter was probably at her winter cabin with Hecate, since it was late October, the time of year when Persephone lived in the Underworld, and Demeter moped.
Hestie’s mother flew to greet her and her brother. It had only been a few days since they last saw her, but their meetings were usually few and far between.
“You’ve been shopping,” her mother said with a smile and a hug. “You look good.”
“Thanks,” Hestie said. “Did you cut your hair again?”
The last time Hestie had seen her mother, whose hair was red and curly like hers, it had reached her shoulders. But today, it was cut in a bob just below her ears.
“It kept getting in my way.”
“It’s cute,” Hestie said, wondering if she should do the same with her hair.
“I wish Dad could be here, too,” Hermie said as he hugged their mom.
“Not while there are mortals,” their mother replied. “You know the drill.”
Hestie sighed. It wasn’t always convenient when your father was the god of death.
Persephone waved at them. “Come stand over here with us.”
As Prometheus followed the young gods to linger near the double throne shared by Hades and Persephone, Hestie noticed Athena watching him. But Prometheus seemed to make a point of not returning her gaze. He was still upset with her for the vampire Taavi’s death and for putting the rest of his crew in danger.
Poros seemed to notice, too. He squeezed Hestie’s hand before leaving her side to say hello to his sister.
“Sit here beside me,” Athena said to him, offering him what was once Hera’s place on their father’s double throne. It was made of gold and was adorned with an eagle and three peacocks.
“I’d rather stand with Hestie,” he said. “If you don’t mind.”
Hestie felt bad for worrying about Pasithia’s flirtations. Poros had never given Hestie any reason to doubt his feelings for her. She needed to snap out of it.
Athena, whose long, straight, black hair set off her striking gray eyes—eyes that looked exactly like Poros’s—frowned at Hestie.
“Not at all.”
Ares scoffed as Poros left Athena. What was his problem? At least Hermes had a smile and a wink for her. That put Hestie at ease again. Poseidon, sitting between Hermes and Apollo, made no attempt at eye contact, and Apollo was busy talking to Hephaestus.
Hestie could tell that Gertie was busting at the seams, anxious to join the ranks of the immortals. She wondered if Gertie would be just as annoying as a goddess, or if she’d settle down, no longer compelled to show off her book knowledge.
Athena stood up and cleared her throat. The muses stopped humming.
The goddess of wisdom began: “Thank you all for coming to this historic moment on Mount Olympus. The young god Jinsoo will declare his purpose, and the demigod Gertie, who has valiantly proven her mettle, will become one of us. These two events will require the consent of our majority. Once these rituals have ended, we will turn our attention to deciding what to do about Sailfish Trading and Shipping.”
Hestie glanced at Jinsoo and then across the room at Gertie. They were equally pale and jittery.
“Jinsoo Huang, please come forward,” Athena said.
Jinsoo left Prometheus’s side to stand before Athena, in the center of the circle of thrones. To Hestie, he looked small, even as a god, probably because he was only fifteen when he underwent apotheosis.
“Have you found your purpose?” Athena asked him.
Jinsoo swallowed hard and combed his short black hair from his eyes. “I will be the god of sailors.”
Athena turned to the god of the sea. “And this doesn’t encroach upon your realm?”
“There may be some overlap,” Poseidon grumbled. “But, given my part in recent tragic events, I’m determined to accept it.”
“Poseidon controls the sea, of course,” Jinsoo added. “And all the things living in it. He controls the sailing vessels.”
“He doesn’t control all of the vessels,” Hermes interjected.
“Shipping crafts are my domain, as are pirates.”
“Not entirely,” Poseidon argued.
“Brother, uncle, please,” Athena said. “This argument has plagued us for centuries, and I doubt it will be settled today. Let us agree that Jinsoo will be the primary caretaker of sailors.”
“Hear, hear,” Hades said.
“All in favor, say aye,” Athena said.
The great hall resounded with the gods’ assent.
“All opposed?” Athena asked.
The hall was silent.
Jinsoo bowed to the other gods as applause erupted. Then, smiling, he returned to Prometheus’s side. Hestie couldn’t be happier for him. She only wished Alastair could have been here to see it. Even now, after all the vampires had done to help the gods and humanity, they still weren’t welcome on Mount Olympus.
Once the hall had become silent again, Athena said, “Gertrude Morgan, please step forward.”
Gertie glanced nervously at Hector before she released his hand and moved to the center of the hall. Hestie supposed that the two demigods were back together. She wondered if Gertie still thought about Taavi, or if she had blotted him from her mind.
Athena smiled at Gertie as she said, “We have asked you here today to join us as the goddess of vampires, who have for too long been underserved by this pantheon. I can admit my own contribution to their mistreatment and neglect. But that is to be no longer.”
“I’m so happy to hear you say that,” Gertie said.
“And your father, Dionysus, has no qualms with this decision?” Hermes asked.
Gertie shook her head. “He’s given me his blessing.”
“And you have given this proper thought and reflection?”
Athena asked her. “Once you accept this yolk, it cannot be thrown off, lest you
Hestie noticed Gertie’s lips were trembling. “Insane? Well, I would never walk away from my responsibilities. I want this. I’m sure of it.”
“Well, then,” Athena began.
“But I do have one condition,” Gertie said earnestly as she looked around the room. “I will only serve this pantheon as the goddess of vampires if Hector, a great warrior and the son of Hephaestus, is allowed to undergo apotheosis, too.”
Gasps filled the room, and all eyes turned to Hector, who stood white-faced and gaping. Hestie couldn’t believe Gertie was making conditions. Was she crazy?
“I don’t appreciate demands, Gertrude,” Athena said sharply.
“But Hector would make an amazing god,” Gertie insisted.
“And we’re in love and want to be together.”
Hestie sucked in air, wishing Gertie was better at censoring her words.
“How sweet,” Aphrodite said.
Hector’s face turned red and then quickly faded back to a pasty white.
“Your love-life is not our concern,” Athena said with a scoff. “And I am beginning to doubt your readiness for this transformation.”
Aphrodite flew to her feet. “I don’t appreciate your attitude toward love, Athena. It may not be our priority today, but it isn’t something to scoff at, either.”
“My apologies, sister,” Athena said in a way that didn’t sound sincere.
“What purpose would Hector contribute to the pantheon?” Hades wanted to know.
“Come forward, Hector,” Ares demanded. “Did you put her up to this?”
Hector moved to Gertie’s side. “I didn’t her put her up to anything, no. But I do know how I would like to serve, if given the chance.”
“Do tell us,” Athena said with an impatient frown.
“I want to be the god of demigods.”
“A trainer of warriors?” Ares asked with his brows lifted.
“Like the days of Chiron?”
Hector shook his head. “I can help them to train and to become strong warriors for you, but I also want to act as a mediary between the gods and their children.”
Hestie noticed uneasiness sweep across the room.
“We don’t need a mediary,” Poseidon insisted.
“I was just thinking the same thing,” Apollo admitted.
“Why do you think we need one?” Hermes asked Hector.
“Because, well, I hate to say it, but…”
“Spit it out,” Athena said.
Hector glanced back at his father before returning Athena’s gaze. “The gods, for the most part, ignore their children. And their children grow up feeling unloved and neglected. I’d like to remedy this problem by finding ways to involve demigods with their parents.”
“Oh, boy,” Hades said beneath his breath. “This idea is doomed.”
Hestie turned to her grandfather and whispered, “Why?”
Ares stood up and answered in Hades’s stead. “Because we don’t need to be told what to do by another god—especially a new, inexperienced one. We see our kids on our own terms, thank you very much.”
Hector glanced back at Hephaestus, who’d remained quiet. “Do you have an opinion on this, Father?”
Hestie had never seen Hephaestus angry, but his red face gave him away when he said, “Has it ever occurred to you that gods don’t desire to have relationships with their mortal children?”
“It has,” Hector said, now growing angry, too. “You’ve made it fairly obvious, until recently, that is. You showed me your forge.”
“I regret that already,” Hephaestus growled.
Tears sprang to Hector’s eyes.
Hestie’s stomach clenched, and her heart ached for Hector. She couldn’t stop herself from saying telepathically to Hephaestus, How can you be so cruel?
“Then why have them?” Hector wanted to know. “If you don’t want relationships with them, why have them?”
“Gods aren’t immune to making mistakes,” Artemis pointed out.
“So, I’m a mistake,” Hector said beneath his breath.
The gods began whispering among themselves.
Ares threw up his hands. “Humankind needs great warriors.”
“And great artists,” Apollo added.
“And great athletes,” Hermes said.
Hector wiped his eyes. “How noble.”
Athena shook a fist. “Order. I want order.”
The room became silent again.
Then, Athena said, “Gertrude, it’s clear to me that your request to include Hector in this pantheon has been denied. And because you foolishly made that a condition of your own transformation, you will not be joining us, either. I think it’s time that these mortals left Mount Olympus before they offend us further. We have other business to discuss.”
Hestie looked from Gertie to Poros, shocked and upset. Was this really happening? Gertie might lack common sense, but she didn’t deserve this.
“Wait,” Poros objected. “Shouldn’t we put this to a vote?”
Hermes stood up. “I think we should hold off making this decision. Let’s give it more time. Right now, our priority should be what to do about STS and its smuggling of humans and dangerous weapons.”
“Hear, hear,” Poseidon said.
“All in favor of postponing our decision about Gertrude’s apotheosis, say aye,” Athena said.
The hall resounded with the assent of gods.
“All opposed?” Athena asked.
The hall was silent.
Hestie sighed with relief. Maybe with more time, the minds of the gods could be changed.
“We’ll readjourn in a few months’ time,” Athena said. “Let’s move on to more important matters.”