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(This is the fourth installment of my short fiction story, The Gods Defense. If you’re just seeing this, all the parts up until now are posted on here.  Just find the Categories widget on the right and click on ‘My Writing.’)

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            I arrived at the theater just before eight. I should’ve been late, made him wonder if I was coming, but that went against every self-preserving bone in my body. If I was late, he could consider it a breach of our oral contract.

And you don’t break deals with gods.

Who did you think was populating Hades’ new underworld? It wasn’t made for the dead. It was made for the gods’ people who broke their rules.

Yet another reason to stick to my guns and tell Apollo to take his offer and shove it up someplace even more painful than his ass.

I parked and climbed out of my car, smoothing down my skirt. I hated that I’d dressed up for him, but it was Apollo’s Theater. You didn’t go there in even normal suits. It was black tie, sometimes white. I was just self-conscious enough to not want to stand out in the crowd of Nashville’s blue bloods.

Also, if I dressed normal, the ticket guy might think I was a protester pretending, and then have to call Apollo for confirmation, and I wanted to at least have a chance of barging in on the bastard.

Huh, I liked the second reason better. I’d stick with that.

The dress was a blood red strappy gown with a corset-like top and a full ball skirt. I had on my favorite red stilettos and an elaborate black and gold Pashmina.

My hair was twisted up and I’d done up my makeup. I hated to admit it, but it was fun getting all gussied up. Even if it was just to tell a god no in person and not for anything like a show, or even, gasp, a date.

I know, heaven forbid a lawyer actually have the time for a social life.

My heels clickity-clacked my arrival and protesters near the edges turned to shout at me that it wasn’t too late, I could stop supporting the heathen gods and just go home.

I walked around them.

The red ropes coming out of the front encased a path through the large lawn and all the way to the street. Guards stood every few feet, keeping the protesters away from the grounds. There were only a few well-dressed patrons hurrying inside and two by the cancellation booth. I guessed the show started at eight thirty.

I got around the bubble of protesters and onto the rope encased pathway.

Dun, dun, dun, my heels sang, loud enough to hear over the shouting protesters. Or maybe that was just my heart pounding in my throat.

A guard by the cancellation booth stopped me. His name tag said ‘Bruce.’ Wasn’t that just a perfect guard’s name? I pressed my lips together to keep from giggling.

No, I wasn’t nervous. I’d just… had a lot of sugar.

He was a foot taller than me with strong features, solid blue eyes, and hair buzzed so short I couldn’t tell its color. If he wasn’t ex-military, I’d eat my Pashmina.

“Name?” Bruce asked.

“Cassandra Berry.”

He nodded once and his eyes slid out of focus. He nodded again like someone was talking to him. Someone probably was. I shivered. Can you say creepy?

His eyes came back to me. “I’ll escort you.”

Of course he would.

So much for barging in.

Bruce offered me his left arm and I took it with my right. Everyone just assumes you’re right-handed until you tell them otherwise. Yes, I felt a little silly, but it seemed rude to ignore him. He opened the door for me and walked me through the lobby.

A gentleman, my my.

The lobby was as spectacular as the last time I’d been there, all white marble, red velvet, gold statues, and real crystal chandeliers. The ceilings were Michelangelo-esque depictions of the Greek gods, mostly Apollo and the Muses.

We went to an elevator in the back and rode up to the fourth floor. I chattered the entire time and Bruce nodded along, looking interested. Man, he had to have been paid well to play babysitter.

The elevator doors dinged open and he walked me down a hallway. The wallpaper was light gold in a leaf pattern. Paintings in the Renaissance style decorated the walls. The carpet was burgundy and so thick my heels sunk to their stems with every step. I looked behind me; I was leaving a trail of little spikes in the carpet. Can you say decadent?

There was a single door at the very end. It was white with a sort of tree design carved into it. A shocking plainness amidst that splendor.

A shiver ran down my spine like I was facing down a pit full of pythons.

The door… buzzed. I didn’t know how else to describe it. It was a low, bone rattling rumble. Like an old truck idling on the street. Shaking just enough to make the world feel off without you consciously knowing why until you looked outside.

I focused on the door and couldn’t see anything besides the door. No colors, no shapes, no invisible spells over it. That either meant it was normal, or it was coated in magic so hidden and powerful even I couldn’t see it. Guess which one I was putting my money on?

I stopped ten feet from the door.

If Apollo wanted me to go in there, he’d have to come out and drag me in himself. And if I was right about where it led, he couldn’t do that.

I wasn’t positive because I’d never been there, but I was guessing the door was one of the entrances to Olympus.

“Ms. Berry?” Bruce asked. He didn’t tug my arm or anything, just stayed next to me. “Are you coming?”

“In there?” My hand flew out, waving like I was conducting a symphony. Heat prickled my skin as my heart raced. “Not a snake’s chance in Ireland.”

I eased my hand down to the side of the dress, clenching it like I was trying to calm down. I inched to the side and eased my hand through the slit hidden in the skirt’s folds. The skirt started at my waist where the corset practically pinched it in half, so the belt, holster, and pistol on my hips were completely invisible to the outside world.

“Ms. Berry?” Bruce stepped in front of me and I pulled my hand out of the slit. I wasn’t going to shoot him just because he was ‘escorting’ me to the gods’ little pocket dimension. He probably didn’t even know what was behind that door. He bent a little to look me in the eyes. “Are you okay?”

I probably looked paler than usual and I knew I was breathing too fast. What was it about even the idea of that door that made me panic? Probably the not being able to get back out part.

“You don’t feel that?”

“Feel what?” His eyebrows drew together.

“Magic. I’m not going through that door, Bruce. Can you go in there and tell Apollo to come out?”

He shook his head. “I’m not allowed in there. He just told me to escort you up here and through the door, if I could.”

“If you could? He thought I’d be able to tell.” Something about that bothered me. Fire tickled my arms and I rubbed them. That was some serious magic. It was making my dinner roll over. Bile coated my tongue. Bang; bad stomach; play dead.

“Tell what?” Bruce looked genuinely interested.

I took a deep breath. “Do you know anything about magical theory?”

He smiled. “It’s my major.”

“Really? When did that happen?” I whirled a finger. “Magical theory being put in colleges, I mean.”

“Last year.”

“Okay. So you know about Olympus?”

“The gods’ made magical dimension. It’s where they were in hibernation with magic. It’s where they live when they aren’t in this one. All the gods’ ones are connected, but you can only enter into the area connecting to the territory in the real world. So all the entrances in the U.S. go to Olympus. In say, Sweden, you’d end up in Midgard, and so on.” He sounded like he was reciting a paper in front of the class.

“Yeah. My point is, going there’s kind of like Gitmo during the ‘War on Terror.’ They can’t legally hold you, but there’s nobody making them let you go. If I go in there, I’m probably not coming back out. So…” I spread my hands.

“Why didn’t Apollo just drag you there then?”

“Can’t. Magic seems to have a lot to do with free will. Like, they can’t take your soul, but they sure can screw with it once you sign it over.” I flinched. “Um, no offense.”

“Some taken.” He grinned, though. “You know, most people don’t know that bit about the gods can’t drag you into their dimension? How did you know that?”

“Oh, I…” My stomach howled, burning like a cat was scratching its way out and I doubled over. “Ugggh!” Bruce just stood there. I glared up at him, my lips pulling back in a snarl. That wasn’t just me reacting to the doorway’s magic. “What did you do to me?”

His face was as blank as if we were discussing the carpet’s color. “You were never told the gods couldn’t drag you in there. You just knew it. Like you knew about the doorway. Congratulations. You passed.”

I fell to my knees, arms wrapped around my stomach like my intestines would explode out of my belly button if I didn’t hold them in. “It was a test. That’s why…” Nausea rolled through me. I knew something else that I didn’t just a moment before.

Another human could drag you to Olympus just as easily as anywhere else. Once inside, you were just as trapped as if you had gone of your own free will.

“You bastard,” I breathed, slumping to my side.

Heated darkness took me in its devilish arms before I could hear Bruce’s reply.

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