Rise of the Blood Online - Lucienne Diver

Dedication

This one is for my husband, Pete, the most amazing man in the world.

Chapter One

“Sometimes you’re the bug and sometimes you’re that sticky tape they get all stuck on. I’m pretty sure that’s worse.”

—Pappous, the strongman with the weak heart

“Diminutive. DIMINUTIVE? You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m five-seven, for gods’ sake.”

I was staring down at a national tabloid “newspaper” that Jesus—part-time office assistant (when no auditions demanded his attention) and full-time diva—had just thrown onto my desk. My very own face stared back at me. Or, more accurately, gazed across a dinner table at Hollywood hottie Apollo Demas. The photographer had used some kind of filter or something to make the whole thing appear dreamy. A filter or magic, because I knew exactly where and when the pic must have been taken, and I’d been mad as hell at the time.

“Really?” Jesus asked wryly. “That’s your take-away from this?”

“My take-away is that if the rumors about me and Apollo won’t die, someone has to. I’m perfectly willing for it to be him.”

Jesus looked at me in horror. He lived in hope that he could matchmake the two of us and that, in gratitude, Apollo would launch his acting career…at which point he’d bid me a sayonara sister and leave me entirely without office support. It was a terrifying thought, considering he was the only one who understood his filing system.

“You think this was his doing?” he asked.

I took a huge swig of the coffee from the to-go cup sitting on my desk to give myself time to think. The coffee was a lot more palatable than the headline, even with the scalding.

“I don’t know,” I said finally.

“You could call him and find out.”

“You know I can’t do that.”

“I know you won’t.”

But he didn’t know why, and I wasn’t about to enlighten him.

“Anyway, the damage is already done. Do you suppose Armani has seen—”

On that note, all three of our phone lines lit up at once.

Jesus snagged the phone on my desk. “Karacis Investigations,” he said, putting on his professional voice—one-third less ennui than his norm. “Hold please.” He punched another button. “Karacis Investigations,” he repeated for the benefit of whoever was on line two.

“No,” he said as I crooked an eyebrow at him for a sign as to our sudden popularity. “Miss Karacis is not available for comment.”

My head fell back against the headrest on my chair. I couldn’t wait for the universe to rescue me. I was going to have to kill Apollo myself.

“Italian stallion on line three,” Jesus said, making me realize I must have missed something while I was plotting Apollo’s death.

Armani. Crap.

I shooed Jesus out to his own desk to deal with the lit up lines and answered my phone, punching the button for line three.

Quickly, before Armani could get a word in, I said, “Listen, whatever it looks like, it’s not what you think.”

Dead air.

“Armani?”

“What’s not what I think?” he asked, voice tight and contained.

“Uh, that’s not why you called?”

“What’s not why I called?”

“The article.”

“What article?” he asked in a strangled voice that indicated how hard he was working to stay patient with me.

I swallowed hard. “The one in the National Informer.”

He was silent again.

“Someone get me a copy of the Informer,” he suddenly roared, which told me that he was at the station. Whoever got their hands on that copy would know even before he did what the ruckus was all about. It would spread through the station like wildfire. The whole police force would know by noon. In L.A. that was no small thing. I pulled the receiver away from my ear to bang it against my temple.

“Tori,” he said loudly, calling me back to the conversation before I could give myself a concussion, “that’s not what I called about, though you will tell me everything.” The speed with which he got back to business told me that it was serious. “Zeus and Poseidon have escaped.”

My heart stopped. My own gorgon glare couldn’t have turned me to stone any more effectively.

“Hephaestus?” I asked.

“Still behind bars. The other two called up a humungous storm. The prison had to be evacuated. They escaped during the transfer. Hephaestus wasn’t so lucky.”

“So they’re…loose?”

“Yeah.”

“Since when?” The facility was hours away, but with gods that could be the blink of an eye. “Do I need to be worried?”

“No, we can take you into protective custody, get you to a safe house until they’re caught. With any luck, it won’t be long.”

My precognition kicked me in the gut at that