Venus Rising

By: Kaitlin Bevis

Dedication

To the Athens Area Writers Group members both past and present. Writing is a solitary sport, but thanks to you guys, it’s never lonely.





Prologue

Aphrodite

I’M NOT PERFECT. But I was designed to be. Once upon a time, Zeus sculpted me from foam and death. He made me into a puppet. A box. A symbol. A thing designed to be perfectly obedient to him.

I bent and twisted beneath his onslaught of lightning and thunder, but when the storm cleared, I remained. Fragile and broken, but still alive. His death released me from his vision of perfection, leaving me free to find my own. That’s when I discovered how far from perfect I truly was.

I’ve been called promiscuous, shallow, arrogant, self-centered, annoying, and worse by beings who physically can’t lie. They’re not wrong. I’m riddled with flaws. I am neither strong nor brave. I cling too tightly, love too freely, and fear that without my beauty, there’s nothing left of me. Nothing real.



But life goes on, regardless of my uncertainty. As time passed, I had no choice but to learn to stand on my own two legs, shaky as they might be.

Here’s what I’ve learned. I’m nobody’s statue or posable doll. I am neither a box nor a symbol. Yes, I’ve been loved by war, struck by lightning, hugged by spring, and mauled by the sea, but I’m more than a victim. I am greater than my story.

I’m real, flaws and all, and that’s terrifying. Every day, I become someone else. Someone stronger. Wiser. Better. I’m becoming myself.

But that process isn’t always pretty.





Chapter I

Persephone

Previously . . .

I OFFERED A smile to the man who’d tried to kill Aphrodite, though I could not keep my teeth from clenching. A camera streamed my every move to an island full of people who wanted my extinction. They had my husband locked up so far from consciousness, I couldn’t even reach him in his dreams. And the man behind it all, their leader, Jason, sat across the table scowling back at my smile.

“Here.” Orpheus, my head priest, unfolded a chair at a scorched plastic table and motioned for me to sit.

“Thanks.” I drew in a deep breath that smelled of smoke.

“Not a problem.” He held another folded chair, but before he could place the seat, Poseidon grabbed the blackened metal from him.

Shoving it beside mine with more force than necessary, the sea god plopped down and crossed his arms, glaring at the two demigods across the table.

Orpheus rolled his eyes. The famous demigod wanted nothing to do with this meeting, but Jason had refused to deal directly with us when he’d called to set up the meeting. “Well, now that everyone’s here, shall we begin?”

At my assent, Orpheus stepped back, fading into the background behind the camera. Unlike the girl who’d accompanied Jason, the two demigods looked like they could have been brothers. Both were tall, broad-shouldered, and golden to the extreme. Hair, eyes, skin. There were varying shades to the tones allotted within the genetic markers gods used to differentiate demigods, but the combination was unmistakable.

Jason was older than I’d expected. Not Orpheus old. Somewhere in his twenties, rather than thirties, but definitely older than me. I guessed that made sense given how long he’d been working against the Pantheon. But Aphrodite and Ares always made the rebellious demigods sound so young.



That shouldn’t have surprised me. Aphrodite might not have been around since the ancient days like Ares, but she’d adopted all the same attitudes and assumptions towards humans. Hades called it perspective. I called it condescension.

And wasn’t that attitude just the problem? After generations of the Greek Pantheon treating demigods like disposable pawns, they were fighting back with a vengeance. DAMNED: Demigods Against Major Nymphs, Elementals, and Deities, had one goal in mind: our extinction. And, honestly, I couldn’t blame them.

“I’m assuming you’re Jason?” I offered my hand, but Jason just sneered at it, though his companion had the grace to look embarrassed by his behavior.

Beside me, Poseidon, the scumbag of the sea, tensed at the snub. The sea god was tall and well-built, something he must have enjoyed showing off, because he almost never wore a shirt. Spiky blond hair completed a carefree surfer boy image. Until you looked at the ocean churning in his eyes.

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