“You came to watch me pack just so you could ignore me?” I flung my hands up in exasperation. “I explained this already. I thought you were ok with it?” I didn’t know why I thought this would go smoothly. Yes, I gave his ticket away. Yes, he bought the ticket. He needed to accept the fact that vacations would have to wait for a while. 

“Well, that was before I had a chance to think about it. I think there’s something you’re not telling me. You didn’t even want to go when I first suggested it,” Luke said, finally looking at me. He raised an eyebrow, waiting for an answer. 

I threw myself back onto the couch. I was hoping I could keep this to myself for a while longer, but it didn’t look like that would be possible. “Well…I don’t know if you have heard of someone named Athena? I might have mentioned her.”

Luke gave me a look that clearly said I’d mentioned her a time, or two, or ten. I ignored it and continued, huffing out a breath. “Remember the last job, the one where the FED needed help to get information from a body?” I waited for him to nod, then continued, “She was the FED.”

Luke’s eyes widened in shock, and forgetting he was supposed to be mad at me, asked, “What happened? Did she smite you?”

“Yes. Yes, that’s exactly what she did, and I’m dead. Wooo, I’m a ghost.” I rolled my eyes. “It was even worse.” I had been expecting another curse from the first day I was brought back. I was given my humanity back, and it terrified me I would lose it again. 

Luke leaned forward and asked in a hushed voice, his eyes wide, “What did she do?”

“She hugged me.” I know it shocked me, too. I still am, if I’m being honest. I had pictured running into her so many times, played the meeting over and over in my mind. I could never have imagined it going as it had. In my imagination, I always ended up cursed. Maybe something of our old friendship was salvageable after all. Was it possible she’d had actual feelings for me? I would never have thought she wanted anything from me other than worship.

“Then what?” he asked.

“We talked. We worked together.” 

Luke looked disappointed until I added under my breath, “I stayed the night at her house.”

“What?!” Luke screeched.

I covered my ears and glared at him. “What are you, a twelve-year-old girl? Take it down a few notches. I was worn out and slept in the spare room, then we had breakfast.” 

“Then what?” Luke questioned.

“Then nothing. When we finished with the job, I told Athena about the cruise and offered her your ticket.” Before he could respond, I said in a gentle voice, “You know it’s not safe right now. Hopefully, it won’t be for too much longer. I know you agree, and I know it sucks. It is what it is, though.” Unfortunately, I was having doubts about that decision. I had been on a roller coaster of emotions ever since. 

He nodded. “Are you okay?”

I blew out a breath and shrugged. “Yeah. I think so. She’s just…” I paused, looking for the right words. “She’s a goddess, she’s beautiful and powerful, and did I mention powerful? It’s a little overwhelming to think she might have wanted more from me than worship. She seemed thrilled to see me. We’ll see how I feel after the cruise.” 

“At least it’s a short cruise. You’ll have time to talk and see where you stand with each other.” Luke smiled then said, “And if she wanted to kill you, she probably would have done it already.”

“Funny. Did you know she kept my head on her shield?” I made a face thinking about it. 

Luke looked like he was trying not to swallow his tongue. “No!? She did?” he asked with feigned shock.

“Oh my goddess, you knew!” I grabbed the pillow off of the couch and smacked Luke in the face with it, laughing.

“Come on. I’ll help you finish packing.” He stood, then pulled me to my feet. 

Luke dropped me off, and I stood and watched him drive away, wondering if I had made a mistake. My snakes had been a writhing mess around my head all day, and I could feel the nervous energy pouring off of them. I turned to look at the cruise ship and was taken aback by its size. Every time I thought I was used to how much the world had changed, I saw something like this. Shaking my head, I picked up my bags and boarded the ship. 

After checking in, I dropped my luggage in my room, then wandered up to the deck. I walked along the railing and watched as the ship moved farther and farther out to sea. The salty air and the breeze coming from the ocean soothed my soul. 

It melted away most of the apprehension I had about being on the cruise with Athena. She said she had forgiven me, but I was still having a hard time believing it. I hoped I’d be able to relax and enjoy the vacation.

Laughter caught my attention, and I turned towards the sound. Urania was walking with Athena, and they waved when they spotted me. “Come on, Deuces, you can do this,” I muttered under my breath, then tucked a snake behind my ear and went to join my friends. 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I wasn’t sure what woke me, but as soon as I was awake, my thoughts drifted over last night’s dinner. I had more fun than I thought I would, and I knew Luke would be mad that he missed out on the trip. When everything settled down, I’d make it up to him.

It felt good spending time with the other goddesses. Hekate was right. The more time I spent with them, the stronger I felt. I couldn’t wait to see if my powers had improved. 

I smiled, feeling better than I had in a long time and curled up, snuggling deeper into the blankets. 

Just as I was drifting off to sleep, a powerful force slammed through my cabin. My gorgon form took control as the thunderous vibrations rocked the ship. The pictures fell off of the walls, the window shattered, and I screamed as the tiny shards rained down. Stunned, I sat up in bed and shook off the slivers of glass. 

I might have thought I was dreaming if it wasn’t for the damage done to my room. There was a moment of silence before a cacophony of sound erupted outside my room. I had never been on a boat before, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t good news. 

I threw off the covers and stumbled toward my door, grateful I had been sleeping in an oversized t-shirt. I rushed out into the melee. 

Other passengers were rushing out of their rooms, scared and confused. One stumbled into me, then screamed. I glanced towards her, forgetting that I was in my gorgon form. She turned to stone, a statue falling at my feet. I kept moving, stepping over it in my rush to find out what was going on. I tried to pull my human form to the surface as I hurried through the hall.

When another concussive force rocked the ship, someone slammed into my side, knocking me off balance. I landed hard on my knees, my snakes hissing and striking at the air in a frenzy as I went down. I screamed in frustration, stood, and pushed my way through the remaining passengers. 

I ran through the room that held the indoor pool, slipping on the water splashing around my feet, and out onto the open area of the deck. I came to an abrupt stop, my mind trying to make sense of what I was seeing. 

“Pirates!?” 

At my exclamation, one pirate turned towards me, drawing a sword. The blade had just cleared its scabbard when his eyes found mine, and he turned to stone. 

Before I could decide what to do next, a giant wave crashed into the side of the ship, throwing me off my feet and slamming me into the doorframe.

Pirates were spreading throughout the deck, apparently better than I was at keeping their footing in rough seas. 

Another wave hit, and I washed overboard. I went under choking on saltwater and fighting to get a breath. 

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