PROLOGUE by wuxiangyu

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									                                      PROLOGUE


         Daphne sliced her sword down on one smooth stroke. The Akkadian fell at her
feet, clutching the large gash across his body that now ran from neck to hip. She jumped
over him, desperate to find another fallen Akkadian.
         “Apollo, where are you?” Daphne mumbled to herself, her voice shaking slightly.
Gripping her sword tighter in her palm, she whipped her head around, back and forth, her
filthy, hair caked with dirt and blood flinging about her back in a tangled mess. Her wide
brown eyes searched the battlefield. It was complete chaos. Bodies lay littered for
stretches of miles and the sounds of the dying and wounded pierced her ears with their
shrill cries. Daphne glanced up towards the sky. Swirling clouds of dull gray circled
above her head. Rain was coming.
         Daphne signaled the command for retreat. It was time to return to Kush and
regroup.
Her second in command rushed to her side immediately.
         “Tara, we are retreating to the battle fleet. Return to Kush. I will stay here and
do some reconnaissance. I need to know who leaked our battle plans and set the trap for
us to be ambushed.”
         “But, general—”
         Daphne‟s brown eyes hardened. “That‟s an order Tara!” Turning from the
shocked girl Daphne raced off, plunging herself back into the darkness of the frenzied
battle.
         She couldn‟t leave without knowing that he was safe. Her heart thumped wildly
in her chest as she sped across the battlefield. She could see the Kush warriors retreating.
She needed to hurry up and find him before she was spotted and captured.
         She stopped suddenly. Lifting her hand to her brow, she squinted her eyes. A
tiny gasp of triumph escaped her lips when she saw his horse. Charging forward, she
dodged the bodies of the fallen until she reached the beautiful black stallion. She knew
he wouldn‟t be far from his owner.
         She glanced down and scanned the ground. Immediately, she stooped down on
her haunches and dug through the bodies of both her soldiers and those of Akkadian
warriors. Daphne struggled to stamp down the bile that rose in her throat. The stench of
death was nauseating, threatening to overwhelm her to the point of unconsciousness. She
pushed it aside. She had to find him.
         Her eyes widened when she heard a low groan.
         “Apollo? Apollo!” A sigh of relief escaped her lips as she reached down to lift
him from the ground. He was a large man so it was a struggle but somehow she managed
to drape him across the back of his horse. She quickly launched herself in the saddle
behind him, careful of his wounds. Grasping the reins in her hands she dug her heels into
the flanks of the stallion and took off. If her earlier reconnaissance could be trusted then
there was a ravine nestled a few miles to the east in the Hisho mountain pass where they
could find shelter.
         Turning the mount east, she headed there.

                                             *
         A low groan escaped his lips as his eyes fluttered open. He tried to move but
stilled instantly when a sharp pain shot up his side.
         “You really shouldn‟t move. You don‟t want to reopen your wound.”
         Apollo‟s forehead creased into a puzzled frown. Forcing his eyes to open fully he
searched out the owner of the husky voice that was somewhat familiar. Tilting his head,
his eyes widened when he met her gaze.
         “Daphne?”
         A small smile lifted her lips as she walked forward. She stooped down and with
gentle hands she brushed a lock of midnight black hair from his sun bronzed face.
         “That‟s a good sign. If you recognize me then that means you are getting better.”
         Apollo frowned. “Better? I was sick?”
         Daphne‟s smile widened. “You were ran through on your left side and you lost a
lot of blood. I was able to stitch you up, but you were in bad shape from the amount of
blood loss. You have been unconscious for five sun risings—”
         “Five risings!” Apollo instantly shot up, but only managed to lift up off the pallet
about ten inches before the pain in his side forced him back down.
         “I told you not to move! I don‟t have much thread left to sew you back up if you
open your wound!”
         Apollo nodded when he saw Daphne‟s irritated expression. He was too weak to
argue with her anyway.
         “So I have been out for five sun risings?”
         Daphne nodded but remained silent.
         His eyes narrowed as his expression once again grew puzzled. “You said that you
patched me up. Where are my soldiers? Where are we? And what the hell are you doing
here anyway?!”
         His eyes narrowed to slits when she ducked her head to avoid his penetrating
gaze.
         “Daphne, what happened?”
         He watched with a mixture of fascination and shock as her hands shook slightly.
If he didn‟t know any better he would think that she was embarrassed.
         If he wasn‟t in so much pain he would have laughed. She was probably the most
dangerous woman in the entire galaxy. Nothing should ever have the power to embarrass
her, and yet she sat before him clearly nervous.
         Daphne drew in a deep breath then, before she lifted her wary gaze to meet his
eyes.
         “I—I kind of took you from the battlefield while my soldiers were retreating—”
         “What do you mean, you kind of took me?”
         Her lips pursed into a slight frown. “Okay, so I did take you. You were
unconscious and I moved you from the field. I knew we would be safe here in this ravine
in the Hisho mountain pass. I found this cave and brought you here. We have been here
ever since.”
         His forehead crinkled as he frowned. “So you rescued me from the battlefield
then took me here and saved me from bleeding to death—” His eyes hardened with
suspicion. “Why?”
         Daphne pursed her lips at the sarcasm in his voice. Instantly, her eyes ignited
with anger. “If I wanted to hurt you Apollo I could have left you on that damn field to
die! I certainly wouldn‟t have risked my life or the threat of getting captured to save you
only to kill you!”
         “Which is why I want to know what is it that you want from me in exchange for
saving my life!”
         Daphne shook her head. “I don‟t want anything,” she said quietly, letting her
gaze drift to the ground.
         His nostrils flared with anger. She was lying. “Look Daphne, I can bring it to
Ares‟ attention that you saved my life, and that maybe Kush is open to talks of peace, but
this one act means little. As much as I am grateful, this war is bigger than you and me
and it is going to take a lot more than one act of charity to end it.”
         Daphne‟s lips puckered into a frown once again. “I know that Apollo!” she
snapped. “This has nothing to do with ending the war between our planets—”
         “Then why did you save me—”
         “Because I didn‟t want you to die!”
         “I don‟t believe you—”
         Daphne‟s hands balled into angry fists. “I don‟t care what you believe, but it is
the truth!”
         He shook his head, his eyes full of doubt. “Why the hell would you care whether
or not I lived or died?!”
         “Because—because—” Daphne dragged a frustrated hand through her wild hair.
His endless questions were wearing on her. Mainly because she was not prepared to give
him the answers that she knew he ultimately wanted.
         “Because I respect you as a warrior and a man and I couldn‟t leave you there to
die.” She met his incredulous gaze, with sincerity in her eyes. “I know you don‟t believe
me, but that is the truth.” Daphne blew out a deep breath, before she stood to her feet. “I
need to gather some more herbs for your wound that will help with the healing and the
pain. I will return shortly.” Abruptly, Daphne spun on her heel and stalked out without
another word or a backward glance.
         Apollo stared after her long after she disappeared from the mouth of the cave. He
shook his head. She may have saved him for all of those reasons, but he knew in his gut
that she was hiding something. Daphne may not mean him any harm, but there was no
doubt in his mind that she wanted something from him.

Two Sun Risings Later

        Clutching burberries in her hand, she stepped inside the cave, her eyes blinking as
they struggled to adjust to the darkness. Quickly her gaze settled on the sleeping figure
beside the fire. A slight smile lifted the corners of her mouth.
        It had been seven sun risings since she‟d sheltered a wounded Apollo in this cave.
She was amazed by how quickly he was recovering. He could now walk unassisted, and
in a sun rising or so he would be able to ride again. A gnawing fear crept into her belly.
Their time together was coming to an end. She had made her decision long ago. If she
was going to act then it had to be soon.

                                           *
       A grin spread across his face. He knew he was dreaming, but yet it felt so real.
The caress of her hand across his chest, the warmth of her hair against his cheek, even the
soft fragrant scent of her skin. Apollo reached out to tangle his hand in her soft, wooly
curls. Dragging her up the length of his body he brought her lips to his. He felt her moan
against his lips as his tongue stroked inside the moist cavern of her mouth. His cock
hardened as she deepened the kiss, her tongue mating with his, gently teasing him.
         He groaned in protest when she suddenly ripped her lips from his mouth,
moments before he felt her trace a hot wet trail down his chest, across his stomach, before
settling at the tip of his cock.
         “Daphne!” he rasped out when she took him inside her hot mouth. Heat furled in
his belly and his hands gripped the back of her head tighter. His back arched off the
ground when she swallowed him whole, the tip of his cock hitting the back of her throat.
         “Daphne, it‟s been too long. You have to stop before I come.” Apollo growled
out when he felt the searing heat surge down his spine, to the tip of his toes.
         He let out a sharp hiss when abruptly she released him and he felt cool air brush
against his naked cock. He shivered as he waited for her to take him back inside of her
mouth.
         His eyes flew open when he felt the tip of his dick brush against the tight opening
of her cunt instead. Their eyes clashed.
         “Daphne?!”
         She held his gaze for a heartbeat before her eyes slid closed and she pressed down
on his cock.
         “Apollo.”
         He could hear the distress in her voice. She was tight, her inner muscles fighting
against the invasion of his large cock. She wasn‟t wet enough to take him inside her
without causing herself pain. Grasping her hips in his large hands, he held her still above
him.
         Seizing control, he thrust her onto his cock with shallow strokes. Up and down,
he jerked her hips, just letting the tip of his cock slip inside her.
         “Mmmm, Apollo!” Daphne moaned, her breath coming in short pants.
         Apollo struggled to hold back his climax when he felt her pussy juices begin to
coat his cock. As she grew wetter and wetter, he fed her more and more of his cock until
finally he dug his nails into the soft flesh of her hips and jerked her down hard, impaling
her fully on his dick.
         “Apollo!”
         “Daphne!”
         They cried out in unison. Apollo clenched his jaw tight, the muscles in his neck
and shoulders bulging as he struggled to hold back his climax. Still gripping her hips, he
let her seize control and just enjoyed the gentle undulation of her body against his as she
bounced on his cock with slow strokes.
         He stared up into her flushed face, her mouth slightly open as she rode him. He
could feel her pace quickening as she neared her climax. Her full tits jiggled wildly
above him, slapping against her ribs as she bucked her hips frantically, riding him with a
frenzied pace. Abruptly he released her hips to grasp her full tits in his hands.
Massaging them gently, he kneaded the soft mounds, bringing her nipples to stiffened
peaks.
         Taking her hard nipples between his fingers he plucked the soft flesh before
pinching them lightly.
         “Apollo!” Daphne hissed out.
         He did it again, delighting in the wild pumping of her hips.
         She rode him hard now, her inner walls clenching tightly around him, strangling
his cock.
         The hot wet cocoon of her slippery pussy around his steel flesh was just too much
to bear.
         “Daphne, I‟m about to come!”
         “Come Apollo! Come inside me!” Daphne screamed out as she slammed her cunt
down onto his cock with brutal strokes.
         Throwing his head back, Apollo squeezed his eyes shut and clenched his hands
around her full breasts. He stiffened as his cock twitched inside of her, before it suddenly
exploded.
         “Shit, Daphne!” Apollo roared as his hot cum erupted from his cock deep inside
her tight pussy.
         “Apollo!” Daphne cried out, his climax triggering her own as her pussy tightened
around him and milked his cock, wringing it of every last drop of his seed.
         Eyes still shut, he felt her collapse against his sweat soaked chest, her warm
breath sliding across his cool skin.
         His cock continued to pump his seed inside of her while tiny shudders racked her
body, causing her pussy to spasm and grip him tighter.
         Apollo fell asleep even as he continued to shoot load after load of cum deep
inside her womb.
         When he awoke again she was gone. He convinced himself that their lovemaking
had been a dream. Even when he discovered evidence of his dried cum caked in the dark
hair surrounding his cock, he still told himself that it had all been a dream.
                                    CHAPTER ONE


        “Oh!” Daphne cried out in surprise when her body slammed into a hard, solid
immovable wall. She stumbled back against her door trying to steady herself when a
strong hand reached out to wrap around her wrist. She lifted startled eyes to meet the
furious gaze of Apollo, the second oldest Akkadian prince. Her breath caught in her
throat as silent fear gripped her.
        “Going somewhere, Daphne?” Apollo asked as he cocked his head to the side, his
eyes blazing with naked anger.
        Daphne sucked her bottom lip between her teeth trying to hide her anxiety, before
she nodded. “I—I was just about to return to the Joining Ceremony—” she lied.
        Apollo‟s eyes narrowed. “That‟s interesting. Especially since you couldn‟t leave
the Joining Ceremony fast enough when you realized that I didn‟t depart with Hades as
you‟d undoubtedly assumed.”
        Daphne pinched her lips into a deep frown and remained silent, deciding it would
be best if she didn‟t respond to his comment.
        Her silence only infuriated him more, igniting a fire in his stormy blue gaze.
        Apollo nodded towards the door. “Let‟s go inside. We need to talk.”
        Daphne‟s eyes widened and she shook her head vehemently. “I don‟t think that—
”
        “That wasn‟t a question. Open the door Daphne—now!” he barked out when she
moved to protest.
        Dragging in a deep breath Daphne turned her back to Apollo to unlatch the lock
and step inside.
        No sooner had she entered her sitting room area, Apollo pushed past her.
        They stood there facing each other, their gazes locked.
        “The child that you were holding today—is she mine?” He asked, his voice a low
rumble.
        Daphne balled her hands into fists as she stared up at Apollo, her heart beating
wildly in her chest.
        Her throat felt like it had closed up as she struggled to answer him. She wanted to
deny his claim to her daughter, but her honor refused to allow the lie. Instead she
nodded.
        Daphne winced when a string of angry curses erupted from Apollo before he spun
away from her and shoved a trembling hand through his thick, black mane.
        She watched while he struggled to draw in breaths of air, his back expanding with
each deep inhalation.
        When he finally turned around to face her, she had to force herself not to take a
step backwards away from him and the onslaught of rage that now burned in his gaze,
and poured off his large body in waves.
        “Were you ever going to tell me?
        Daphne‟s closed her eyes, a futile attempt to shut out the fury that emanated from
him so strongly.
        Finally finding her voice she muttered a weak “no,” knowing the truth would only
infuriate him more, but she refused to lie to him.
       “I want to see her,” Apollo said quietly.
       Daphne shook her head, her hair whipping about her face. “I don‟t think that—”
       She stopped when a loud wail vibrated off the walls and pierced her ears.
       Apollo instantly shot her a hard look. Before she could stop him, he quickly
brushed past her towards the cries of their infant daughter.
       “Don‟t!” Daphne cried out, her eyes panicked as she shot out a hand to grip
Apollo‟s massive arm, trying to halt his pursuit.
       The glare that he sent her nearly burned her flesh with its intensity. The hostility
that poured from his eyes stunned her and she instinctively eased her fingers from his
arm. He stalked past her leaving her standing there in the middle of her living room to
swipe at the two angry tears that had somehow managed to slip down her cheeks.

                                                 *

        Apollo easily found his daughter as she continued to scream to the gods.
        Scooping her up into his arms, he gently hugged her to his chest and cradled her
close. Apollo had never felt an emotion stronger than the one he felt when he held his
daughter for the first time.
        He had been shocked when he first saw Daphne with Isolde at his brother, Ares‟,
Joining Ceremony. Her resemblance to him had been strong enough to give him pause.
In that moment the dream he‟d clung to of him and Daphne making love one harvest
passed instantly flooded his mind. He knew immediately that as he suspected, it had
never been a dream at all.
        Moisture gathered in his eyes as he stared into the lovely face of his child. He
was humbled that this tiny being belonged to him. It was amazing just how much Isolde
looked like him with her blue eyes and jet black hair, but then she clearly favored her
mother with her brown complexion and already he could see her hair would be wildly
curly, just like Daphne‟s. When she let loose another wail, he knew then that she not
only inherited her beauty from Daphne but her strong spirit as well! He smiled at that
thought as the realization that he now had a daughter slowly began to sink in
        Apollo had longed to be a father for some time, but never thought he would as
war plagued Akkadia harvest after harvest. Many times he thought he would die before
ever siring a child. While other soldiers took wives just to leave them widowed and
fatherless, Apollo had vowed to never place his wife into such a position. Instead
remaining single with little hope of having a family. Apollo wanted to scream to the
gods his joy that his greatest wish had been fulfilled as he stared down into the innocent
eyes of his beautiful child.

                                                *
        Daphne watched Isolde fuss for but a few moments before settling into her
father‟s embrace. Never one to give into emotional displays or outbursts, Daphne was
shocked to feel more tears slipping down her cheeks. She wasn‟t sure why she cried
exactly. Maybe she cried out of fear. Fear that Apollo would walk out of her home with
her daughter and she would not be able to stop him. Had it been any other person she
would have killed them, but she knew she could never hurt Apollo, especially not after
what she had done to him—what she had deliberately taken from him. Somewhere deep
in her consciousness she also knew that she cried because of the beautiful picture of her
daughter and Apollo together. Isolde already favored him in so many ways. Beyond
their physical similarities, Daphne had glimpsed a determined will in Isolde‟s eyes, one
that she had seen many times in the eyes of Apollo when they met on the battlefield.
         She stood there watching them as feelings of helplessness and envy washed over
her. Just a tiny part of her was jealous of him. It would have taken her a great deal of
cajoling to settle Isolde down, and yet all he had to do was sweep into the nursery and
pick her up and instantly she was content. Daphne knew she sounded like a foolish
woman, but somehow it seemed just a little unfair!
         She turned from the sight and walked along the short corridor back to the sitting
room. Standing before the large window, she stared out at the capital city of Thebes
letting the sights and sounds of the raucous festivities that accompanied the Joining
Ceremony between her cousin, Candace, and Apollo‟s older brother sweep her away
from the burdens of her life for a single moment.
         She stiffened when she heard Apollo‟s footsteps along the corridor. Turning from
the window, she met his gaze as soon as he entered the room.
         The animosity in his eyes was still there but the rage had simmered down—
somewhat.
         “Did you think I would never find out?” He finally asked, his brow crinkling into
a deep frown.
         Several heartbeats passed before she answered him.
         “At first no. I mean how would you ever find out? But then Candace announced
that she was to join with your brother, I knew it would only be a matter of time,” she said
softly.
         His nostrils flared with anger, but he quickly reined in his temper. Daphne
watched the muscle in his jaw twitch furiously. She knew that he was a struggling to
control his fury towards her.
         “Why? Why did you do it?”
         “Because I wanted a daughter, and I respected you,” she said truthfully.
         Daphne‟s eyes widened when he stalked towards her seizing her arms in a tight
grip.
         “Obviously not—,” he rasped out, his head shaking back and forth. “You
couldn‟t possibly respect me to do what you did. Do you know how much trouble you
could be in for your actions?”
         Daphne gasped in shock at what he was implying.
         “Akkadia and Kush are now obligated to uphold their treaty of peace. According
to the treaty, you could be charged with committing crimes against a prisoner of war,
which is a serious offense—”
         Daphne gasped. “That‟s outrageous! I conceived Isolde before the treaty!”
         Apollo‟s eyes narrowed. “It doesn‟t matter. Both Candace and Ares are serious
about bringing justice to any that committed war crimes and abused their power during
wartime,” he whispered coldly.
         She did not miss the edge in his voice, nor did she mistake the threat of his words.
Daphne stared up into his face, her body vibrating with anger. “What is it you want
Apollo?” She gritted out tightly.
         He released her arms but continued to glare down at her. “I will not bring this
offense before the Akkadian High Council or your Circle of Elders, on one condition.”
         Her eyes narrowed to angry slits. “And that would be?” She asked as she folded
her arms across her chest.
         “You join with me,” he said quietly, his face an expressionless mask.
         Daphne reared back. Her eyes registered disbelief while she struggled to digest
his last words. “Absolutely not!”
         His blue eyes instantly hardened. “You steal my seed. Have my child and keep
me ignorant!” He hissed out angrily. “You are bold and arrogant Daphne to think that I
will simply let this go unchallenged. You have two choices and only two.” Turning
from her he crossed the room to her front door and wrenched it open. Glancing back at
her, he held her gaze. “Unless you want to be tried before your Circle of Elders you had
better start thinking about when our joining will take place. After what you did you owe
me far more and you deserve far worse.” He threatened before he slammed the door
behind him.
         The loud crash of the door vibrated through her home, setting her teeth on edge.
Daphne struggled not to let out a scream of frustration when Isolde‟s ferocious cries came
moments later, no doubt the result of her father‟s thunderous exit.

                                                 ***
        Apollo threw his head back as he downed another cup of the strong ale, wincing
when the burning liquid slid down his throat.
        After his confrontation with Daphne he decided to return to the Joining festivities
and take advantage of the abundance of spirits that would flow well into the dawn. The
evening dusk had given way to the dark eve and now he was well on his way to being
completely drunk.
        “Don‟t you think you should slow down a bit?”
        Apollo slid his gaze to his youngest brother Zeus. Ignoring him he reached for
the tankard before him and poured himself another cup.
        Zeus‟ face twisted into a frown before he lowered himself onto the bench across
from Apollo.
        “Do you want to talk about it?”
        Apollo swallowed another gulp of the ale before lifting his hand to wipe the froth
from his mouth.
        He shook his head. “Not really—”
        “I‟m not going to just sit here and let you drink yourself into a stupor this eve—”
Zeus interrupted.
        “But since I know you won‟t let it go I might as well tell you anyway.” Apollo
finished, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
        Zeus leaned back from the table and folded his arms across his broad chest,
waiting for Apollo to begin. Out of all his brothers, Zeus was undoubtedly the most
intuitive. He was also the most reserved of his siblings, but Apollo had come to realize
that he possessed a quiet strength. Many underestimated Zeus because of his subtle
demeanor, but that always proved a mistake to his enemies.
        Apollo let out a deep breath as he met the patient gaze of his brother.
        “I have a daughter,” he finally whispered.
        Zeus nodded. “I assume it is the child of Candace‟s cousin, Daphne. I noticed
how your eyes never left her the entire day,” he added when Apollo stared at him in
shock.
         “I should have known you would know,” he muttered and took another swig from
his cup.
         Zeus shrugged. “I wasn‟t certain. Just a hunch. Besides, whether I know now or
later is inconsequential. I would have found at some point.”
         Apollo nodded but didn‟t respond. Instead he glanced around at the guests that
continued to indulge in the evening debaucheries.
         “When did you have time to sire a child?”
         Apollo snapped his eyes to Zeus. His face darkened with rage at his question.
         “Don‟t ask!” He gritted out through clenched teeth.
         Zeus tilted his head to the side to consider Apollo‟s reaction to his question.
Apollo hated when he assessed him. It made him feel like another one of Zeus‟
experiments.
         “I take it you didn‟t know you were siring a child or at the least that you didn‟t
consider the possibility that she would end up with child.”
         Apollo rolled his eyes, but he confirmed Zeus‟ statement. “You could say that.”
         “I take it that you are drinking this eve out of anger towards Daphne and not the
fact that you have a child. I know how much you have always wanted to start a family,”
Zeus said quietly.
         Apollo shook his head, his eyes wide with astonishment. “H—how—?”
         A slight grin lifted the corners of Zeus‟ mouth. “Just little things you‟ve said over
the harvests. Besides you know I listen more than the rest of them.”
         Apollo chuckled. That last statement was definitely true. But he still didn‟t
remember telling Zeus about his secret desire. He narrowed his gaze as he studied his
brother. He‟d always suspected that Zeus was more attuned to his surroundings than the
ordinary person. His last words further confirmed it for him.
         A deep scowl broke out across Apollo‟s face when his brother stood from his seat
and grabbed the tankard with him.
         “Where are you going with that?!”
         Zeus‟ eyes danced with amusement but his face remained void of expression.
         “You have a child and you need to be thinking about how to spend more time
with her and not drinking away your problems or nursing a hangover. Go home and rest
and when you wake on the morrow visit Daphne and enjoy the sun rising with both her
and your child. I don‟t know what happened between you and Daphne but it still doesn‟t
change the fact that you share a child and you both have to try to get along for her sake.”
         Apollo‟s scowled harder, but he didn‟t argue because Zeus was right—as always!
         He nodded towards the tankard. “What are you going to do with it?”
         Zeus smiled. “I‟m going to drink it of course. Good night brother—and good
luck,” he chuckled as he turned from Apollo and disappeared into the throng of
partygoers.
         Apollo shook his head as he stared after Zeus. For all his wisdom, Zeus was still
a young man at twenty-eight harvests who indeed enjoyed the same things Apollo did
when he was his age—partying, women and of course, spirits!
         Lifting himself from his seat, he turned from the revelry and headed back to his
quarters. Zeus was right. In the blink of an eye, his entire life had changed. He may be
furious with Daphne but his anger towards her wouldn‟t change that he had a daughter
who needed his unconditional love—and drinking his sorrows away was certainly no way
to show it!

                                                ***
        Zeus took a sip from Apollo‟s nearly empty tankard as he purposefully meandered
his way through the raucous crowd, his eyes darting about, searching for the woman he‟d
seen earlier. He scanned the crowd again, his mouth lifting into a slight smile when he
spotted her. Downing the last of the ale, he set aside the tankard and strode towards her.
        He stopped within a few feet of her. With the crush of the people around them he
let them shield him from her gaze. He studied her for several moments. She was
breathtaking. Her ebony skin shimmered in the moonlight as sweat glistened off her skin
from her endless dancing. His eyes drifted across her lithe frame, lingering on the
delicate swell of her breasts and hips where the soft fabric of her dakla clung to her sweat
soaked figure. His body tightened instantly.
        He sucked in a breath trying to tamp down his still growing erection. Glancing
down at the obvious bulge in his breeches, Zeus groaned in frustration. He couldn‟t
approach her in the state that he was in. She would undoubtedly laugh at him, if she
wasn‟t completely put off by his inability to control himself. He swore when she strolled
off. He had missed his opportunity to speak with her—again! Biting out another angry
curse he retreated once again into the sea of people. He would see her again and next
time he would work up the nerve to approach her.
                                        CHAPTER TWO

        Hearing a knock at the door, Daphne glanced up from reading through her Aunt
Alyssa‟s report before she instantly shot out of her seat to race across the room and fling
open the door. She had just put Isolde down for her early dusk nap. Trying to get her
back to sleep would be impossible!
        Ripping open the door, she frowned at the visitor.
        “You almost woke Isolde!” She hissed out.
        Apollo frowned. “She‟s asleep? I was hoping to see her.”
        Daphne heard the disappointment in his voice and immediately felt contrite. Her
eyes narrowed as she studied him closely. His normally clear blue eyes were weary, and
apparently he‟d forgotten to shave. In a word, he looked haggard.
        Feeling slightly remorseful for snapping at him, she stepped aside. “Come in.”
        Offering him a seat, she strolled into her kitchen. “You look tired. Would you
like a drink—or something?”
        Apollo scowled at her words about his appearance, but ignored them. “Water,
please.”
        “Thanks,” he muttered when she handed him a cup.
        His eyes followed her movements as she lowered herself in the chair across from
him. Like yestereve, she wore a traditional Kush dakla, although this one wasn‟t as
elaborate as the one she‟d adorned for the Joining Ceremony.
        Apollo nearly choked on his sip when she crossed her legs exposing her shapely
legs and toned thighs. He struggled to draw his eyes from the sight back up to her face.
It took him longer than he anticipated as he leisurely worked his gaze across her lush
figure.
        By the time his eyes made it to her face, he could clearly see her brown eyes
radiating with irritation. He lifted the cup to his lips to hide his grin.
        “Like I said when you arrived, Isolde is asleep. You are welcome to come back
later.”
        Apollo shook his head as he set down his cup. Leaning back into the settee, he
folded his arms across his massive chest.
        “I can wait until she wakes. Besides, I need to talk to you as well.” He cleared
his throat, his eyes instantly turning serious. “Apparently deviant behavior runs in your
family—,” he muttered dryly, ignoring her sharp look. “—because your sister has
managed to land herself in an enormous amount of trouble,” Apollo finished.
        Daphne‟s eyes widened. “What?!”
        “I can‟t tell you much—”
        “What do you mean, „you can‟t tell me much.‟ Is she alright?”
        Apollo nodded. “She is with Hades right now and yes she is fine.”
        She stared at him with disbelief plastered across her face. “Your brother Hades?!
The womanizer?! What the hell is she doing with him?!” She instantly shot up from her
seat. “I want to see Isis right now!” She demanded.
        Apollo frowned at her assessment of his brother. “I wouldn‟t exactly call Hades a
womanizer. More like a connoisseur of women—”
        Daphne threw her hands up in frustration. “Apollo, I don‟t care if he is or isn‟t! I
just want to see my sister and find out if she is alright!”
        “I told you that she is fine—”
        “But I want to see her—”
        He shook his head. “I can‟t let you do that right now. You just have to trust me.
She is fine, but she is in a lot of trouble at the moment. Hades is handling the situation.
If anything changes I will let you know.”
        Daphne stood there shaking with frustration and helplessness. “She did
something very bad, didn‟t she?” she whispered.
        His eyes were compassionate when he responded. “Yes, but luckily no one was
hurt.”

         Daphne bit out a low curse and shoved her hand through her curly hair.
“Goddess, what in the hell did she do?!” Daphne‟s younger sister had always been
known for her impulsiveness and recklessness. She sensed that Isis had gotten herself
into more trouble than she‟d bargained for and now she was going to have to pay the
price.
          “You have to trust me Daphne. I promise you that no one wants to see Isis wind
up in even more trouble—”
         Daphne‟s eyes narrowed. “No one?” Who else knows about this?”
         “Just my brothers—and now you.”
         Daphne‟s hands balled into tight fists. “How am I supposed to believe your
brothers care a damn about what happens to my sister?” She gritted out tightly.
         Apollo was instantly on his feet, his body now inches from hers. Tilting her head
back, Daphne stared up into his eyes which shimmered with annoyance.
         “My brothers are good men. And we are all committed to lasting peace. Seeing
Isis punished for her crimes, we believe, would hurt the chances for lasting peace. So
like I said before we are going to try to work something out, but you have to trust me.”
         “I just wish I knew more,” she said quietly.
         Seeing the worry in her eyes, Apollo instinctively reached out to rub his hands up
and down her arms. “And I wish I could tell you more, but I can‟t. For now, this has to
remain between us—”
         Daphne‟s eyes grew wide. “I have to tell my mother—and Candace!”
         “Hades has informed your mother and Candace is an absolute no.
         “But—!”
         “Daphne, this is a serious matter of security. I shared the information because she
is your sister—and because I trust you.” He added quietly, before dropping his hands
from her arms.
         Daphne stared into his eyes, the truth of his words clearly evident. She hated
keeping secrets, but she sensed that Isis would be better served if she did. She nodded in
agreement, before she flopped back down in her seat. Leaning forward she rested her
head in her hands.
         “As if I need more to worry about,” she muttered before exhaling a ragged breath.
         Hearing the weariness in her voice he dropped to his knees and stooped down in
front of her, concern etched across his face. “What is it, Daphne?”
         Daphne lifted her head to meet his anxious gaze. She had lived so long without
trusting any man that it felt strange to confide in him and seek comfort, yet at the same
time it somehow felt natural. Reaching around Apollo she picked up the folder that
Alyssa had dropped off at the dawn. Waving it in the air, she frowned.
         “At first we didn‟t notice it, but then it became so obvious that we had no choice
but to investigate.”
         Apollo shook his head, his expression puzzled. “I‟m not following you.”
         Daphne sighed. “The women of Kush are having trouble conceiving,” she said
weakly.
         His mouth dipped down into a frown at her statement. “But you just had Isolde?”
         “I know and it makes no sense really. Still, Isolde is the first child to be born in
over two harvests. The women of Kush are not having children. And if we don‟t find out
why and do something about it, it will only be a matter of time before the very existence
of Kush fades from this world.” Daphne‟s heart lurched at the thought. Saying the words
was so hard, but she had to face the facts and the truth. Without babies, there would be
no future for Kush.
          Apollo‟s eyes narrowed as he studied Daphne. “Before Ares joined with
Candace, he mentioned that she thought she couldn‟t conceive. But he said he assured
her that she could because her physical records didn‟t indicate otherwise.”
         “May I see that?” he asked, gesturing towards the folder in her hand.
         Daphne nodded as she handed it over.
         Standing to his feet, Apollo quickly skimmed through it.
         He turned his head to meet Daphne‟s gaze. “Who prepared this?”
         “My Aunt Alyssa. She is a skilled sorceress and healer.”
         Apollo nodded before returning his eyes to the report.
         Abruptly he looked up from the documents.
         “Would it be alright if I showed this to my brother, Zeus? He is the chief scientist
of Akkadia and maybe he can offer another perspective.”
         Daphne nodded. “Would he be open to meeting with Alyssa first? I don‟t think
she would appreciate him reading it without her knowledge,” she said, a tiny smile lifting
her lips.
That was an understatement. Alyssa would be furious if Daphne gave any Akkadian the
report. If she knew Apollo was reading it now she would have a fit.
         “It may be slightly difficult trying to convince Alyssa of the merit of your
brother‟s work, but I assure you she is dedicated to finding the answer to why we can‟t
conceive and I can promise she will listen in the end.”
         Apollo‟s eyebrows lifted. “In the end?”
         A genuine smile crossed her face. “The women of Kush can be difficult at
times,” she shrugged.
         “So I‟ve noticed,” Apollo muttered, trying to hide the grin that threatened to break
free when Daphne scowled at him.
         Schooling his face to a mask of seriousness he stared into her eyes.
         “Do you have plans this eve?”
         Daphne shook her head, her hair brushing across her bare shoulders. “No, why?”
         “I thought we could dine out this eve—alone.”
         She frowned. “Alone?”
         Apollo nodded. “Yes, alone. I think we have much to discuss.”
         Daphne shrugged. “We are alone here. What is wrong with discussing whatever
it is you need to discuss right here—now?”
        His eyes narrowed to slits as he stared at her. “Is there some reason why you
cannot dine with me outside of your home?”
        She shook her head. “No, I just don‟t think we have much to discuss—,”
        Her face pinched into a frown at his angry snort.
        “Besides I can‟t leave Isolde alone just so that you can talk to me over dinner
about things that we have already discussed.” She snapped.
        Apollo ignored the bite in her voice, knowing that arguing with her would not get
him what he wanted.
        “Zeus has agreed to watch Isolde.”
        “Your brother?” Daphne asked as one eyebrow lifted, her face incredulous.
“Your youngest brother I have never left Isolde with anyone, much less an Akkadian!”
        “Zeus is very mature. Besides, he is not just an Akkadian Daphne, he is Isolde‟s
uncle.” Apollo shrugged.
        “I don‟t think Isolde is ready to be left alone yet,” Daphne protested.
        A grimace spread across his face. “She is almost four moons, Daphne. Don‟t you
think you can leave her alone for a short time just one eve?”
        Daphne lowered her gaze to the floor. “I—I just never had to,” she said quietly.
        Apollo‟s eyes were patient. “It will only be for a short while, I promise.”
Reaching down to caress her face, he lifted her chin. “I come from a large family,
Daphne and they will all be eager to spend time with Isolde. It will be alright to share her
with them every now and then. You will also need a break from time to time.” He said
softly. “As I am sure I will too,” he added, his eyes twinkling with amusement.
        Apollo sighed when Daphne hesitated. “Is there any reason why you can‟t leave
Isolde with my brother for one eve so that we can be alone to talk? Really Daphne, I
don‟t think I am asking too much of you.” He said, trying to hide his growing frustration
from creeping into his voice.
        Daphne nodded, knowing he was right. “No, it is not,” she reluctantly agreed.
“In that case I am free this eve,” she said quietly, meeting his gaze.

                                              ***
         “And if she cries softly then she just needs to be burped, but that is only after she
has eaten. If she hasn‟t eaten and she cries then she just needs to be changed. But if she
cries loudly—”
         “Daphne, I think Zeus can handle it,” he murmured dryly, his eyes glowing with
laughter at the look on Zeus‟ face. He‟d never seen his brother look so completely
overwhelmed in his entire life.
         Daphne spun around to pin him with a hard glare. “I‟m just trying to make sure
he understands all of her sounds. It would be a waste of time for him to try to change her
when all she needs is to be fed.”
         A sheepish grin spread across Zeus‟ face. “I—I think I got it.” Apollo wanted to
laugh at the uncertainty he heard in Zeus‟ voice. Daphne‟s instructions were becoming
endless. Apollo took pity on his brother and quickly intervened to rescue him.
         Grasping her shoulders, he squeezed lightly.
         “It‟s time to go. Good night Zeus and thank you again—”
         Daphne glanced up at him as she started to nudge his hands from her shoulders.
“I just need one moment to say good night to Isolde—”
        Apollo tightened his grip causing Daphne to stare up at him with surprise. He
shook his head. “You have already said goodnight—twice. It‟s time to leave,” he said
firmly.
        He sensed that Daphne wanted to argue but slowly she nodded her head in
agreement. Letting out a deep sigh she shot Zeus a tight smile before she allowed Apollo
to usher her out of the door.
                                           ***

        Daphne whipped her head around to pin Apollo with a furious glare.
        “I thought you said we were just going to have dinner!”
        His lips quirked up into a slight grin as he gently nudged the throttle forward.
The cruiser rapidly picked up speed as they tunneled through Kush‟s atmosphere.
        As the cruiser suddenly shot into the outer airspace of Kush, the strength of the
propulsion forced Daphne to brace herself against the soft Dakonian leather of the seat.
        “We are going to dinner,” Apollo said and shifted the throttle back to set the craft
into a steady cruise.
        Daphne stared at him for several moments in disbelief. “And we had to leave
Kush to do that?!”
        He turned to face her with a broad grin plastered across his face.
        “Yes, we did.”
        Annoyed, she folded her arms across her chest, and let out a sharp hiss.
        “Can you at least tell me where we are going?”
        Still grinning, Apollo shook his head.
        “No. We will be there soon enough so just sit back and relax.”
        She stared at him for a heartbeat before she turned to gaze out of the passenger
window in frustration.
        The pitch black outer realms of space stretched endlessly before her, its haunting
darkness interrupted here and there by a smattering of gleaming stars. Settling back into
her seat she closed her eyes. Before she knew it she had drifted off to sleep.

                                               *
        A faint smile lifted the corners of his lips as he slid his gaze over a sleeping
Daphne. This eve she wore a revealing white dakla that clasped at one shoulder, leaving
the other one bare. The soft gauzy material clung to her figure, accentuating her
abundant curves and enhancing the smoothness of her rich chocolate skin that glowed
under the blazing moonlight of the twin moons of Akkadia. She was even more beautiful
in her sleep, if that was possible. He reasoned that the weariness in her eyes and the
troubles that she carried around disappeared from her face in her sleep, which made her
appear more serene and ethereal in her loveliness.
        Apollo hated to wake her, but they couldn‟t spend the rest of the eve in his
cruiser. He grinned at that thought. They could spend all eve in his cruiser but sleeping
would be the last thing that they did!
        Lifting his hand he stroked his fingers lightly across her cheek gently teasing her
awake. Her eyelids fluttered open slowly, revealing sleepy coffee hued eyes. Daphne
lifted her arms and stretched before stifling a yawn with her hand.
        “Where are we?” she purred softly, her voice still laced with drowsiness.
        “My home,” Apollo said and reached out his hand to help her from the cruiser.
        Daphne‟s forehead scrunched up into a frown as she let Apollo help her down
from the craft.
        “I thought we were going to dinner?”
        Apollo chuckled softly. “You keep asking me that and the answer is always the
same—we are.”
        She snapped her head towards him, her eyes narrowing to slits. “But why did we
have to come to Akkadia for dinner, and why to your home? What was wrong with
staying on—” Daphne stopped when Apollo pressed a single finger against her lips.
        “I know being away from Isolde is hard, but she is fine and we won‟t be gone
long. Now can you just trust me?”
        He could see that she wanted to protest as he watched her brown eyes glow with
molten heat. Eventually the heat in her eyes cooled and she nodded. He smiled down at
her for a fleeting moment before he took her reluctant hand in his and led her towards his
home.

                                           ***

        Zeus shot awake at the sound of a light knock on the door. Swinging his gaze
towards the door, he studied it with a puzzled frown.
        “Daphne didn‟t mention that she was expecting visitors,” he mumbled to himself.
When the light tapping sounded again, he muttered a soft curse and quickly unfolded his
large frame from Daphne‟s small settee, wincing as he flexed his cramped muscles.
        Padding across the room on bare feet Zeus wrenched the door open with a scowl.
Instantly his face transformed from displeasure to complete shock. Heat furled in his
stomach as he stared down into the piercing toffee gaze of the woman he‟d been obsessed
with since he arrived on Kush—Daphne‟s Aunt, Alyssa. His elation that somehow the
gods had answered his prayers and literally deposited her on his doorstep, quickly
dissipated when she spoke.
        “Where is my niece?!” Alyssa snapped rudely, her eyes burning with hostility as
she shoved past Zeus.
        Zeus let out a sharp breath when his back slammed into the door frame. “Yes,
well come in,” he muttered under his breath. Apparently he hadn‟t spoken low enough
when she whipped her head around to glare at him.
        Closing the door, Zeus leaned against it, bracing himself. He stared at the
haughty beauty in silence.
        “I asked you a question,” she snapped again.
        Zeus narrowed his eyes at the bite in her voice. Although, she was Daphne‟s
youngest Aunt, she was not that much older than her, but she had to be at least ten
harvests older than him, if not more. Everything about her told him that she was used to
giving men orders and having them take them. She probably saw him as some
meaningless boy. She undoubtedly thought that he was one of the many servants that met
the needs of the Kush women. That was a mistake on her part. Because he was far from
a boy and definitely nobody‟s servant. Whatever nervousness he‟d felt when he first saw
her was now gone, leaving in its wake a desire to see this woman humble herself.
        “She is with my brother,” he finally answered.
         Her eyes narrowed as she scrutinized him, her eyes lingering on his face. “You‟re
one of the Akkadian royals,” she eventually spat out.
         Zeus lifted a brow at the derision he heard in her voice, but he ignored it. Instead
he nodded, making no further move to say more, knowing that his silence would only
irritate her.
         “Well where is she?! And which brother is she with anyway?! There must be
dozens of you!”
         Arms still folded, he shifted off the door and took three steps forward, stopping a
foot away from her.
         “There are four of us actually—brothers that is. I am Zeus—” Not that she cared,
he knew, but it was only polite to offer his name, although he also knew she had no
intention of offering hers. “—and she is with Apollo—”
         A puzzled frown crossed her face. “Why?”
         Zeus shrugged. “I don‟t know. Probably to discuss their child.” Zeus knew
Daphne and Apollo would both be pissed that he‟d shared that little tidbit, but the shock
that now marred her achingly beautiful face was priceless.
         Her eyes widened. “Isolde? Your brother sired her?!”
         He shook his head, before he finally let the grin spread across his face when she
all but collapsed onto the settee where he‟d been napping before she‟d arrived.
         “I—I don‟t understand. When d—did they have time t—to?” Zeus struggled not
to break out into fits of laughter at her discomfiture. “I—I mean how could she be so
foolish. He is a royal.”
         Zeus frowned at her words. “Why does that matter?”
         Alyssa lifted her eyes to meet his questioning gaze. The way she stared at him
with blank eyes he was pretty certain that for a moment she‟d forgotten that he was there.
She shook her head as she waved her hand absently.
         “I—it doesn‟t matter.”
         Zeus stalked forward, stopping directly in front of where she sat on the settee.
         “It does matter. Apollo is my brother,” Zeus said firmly.
         Alyssa reared back slightly in shock. Almost as quickly as the shock came it
vanished, leaving room for her anger to take up residence.
         With regal gracefulness, she stood to her feet. “It is of no concern to you,” she
said tightly.
         Zeus drew in a deep breath. Kush women could be exasperating at times with
their haughty disdain for men. Now was one of them. He decided not to press the issue
further. Something told him though that Apollo‟s royal status was somehow important,
and he was determined to figure out why—but it would have to wait until later.
         “Is there a reason for your visit?” He asked instead.
         Alyssa‟s nostrils flared with anger. Although, he hadn‟t meant to sound
impatient, he knew from her reaction that he‟d failed.
         “Why would Daphne leave Isolde in your care?” She asked, her eyes laced with
suspicion.
         Zeus shrugged as a tiny smile stole across his face when he recalled that she had
to practically be dragged out of there.
         “Because I am Isolde‟s uncle—”
         “Who she doesn‟t know and who I am sure she doesn‟t trust—”
         “But Apollo trusts me and she trusts Apollo,” he said simply.
         “Which I find startling, but I am inclined to believe you on that one given all the
rumors—and since you are here after all. I know Daphne wouldn‟t leave Isolde with
someone she didn‟t trust.”
         Rumors? Interesting. Zeus itched to ask her to elaborate on the rumors but he
knew that would be a waste of time. He would have a better chance of beating
information from a stone than hearing it from her.
         “Would you like me to tell Daphne that you stopped by?” Zeus asked surprised
that his voice didn‟t crack. He wanted her to stay but for his body‟s sake he needed her
to go! In the span of moments she had somehow drawn closer to him and he could
already feel his cock hardening at her nearness. The sensual heat of her body and her
heady scent were playing havoc with his libido. He was afraid if he looked down that her
eyes would follow. In the recesses of his mind he wondered how she would react if she
glimpsed the evidence of his attraction to her? Would she find the notion repulsive or
flattering?
         As if sensing his unease, she narrowed her eyes to study his face.
         “You are in a hurry for me to leave. Why?”
         Zeus let out a sigh of frustration. “I am in no hurry for you to leave, but I just got
Isolde to fall asleep and when Daphne and Apollo return I want them to find her that way.
I am just afraid that all of the talking might wake her.”
         Alyssa tilted her head to the side as if she were considering the truthfulness of his
words.
         “Fine. I shall be quiet, but I will wait until they return.”
         “They may be awhile.” Zeus said, making a last ditch attempt, although he knew
it was futile. He didn‟t know Alyssa but he could tell that once she made up her mind she
would not be swayed.
         Smoothing out her russet dakla she settled back down onto the settee. “That is
fine. I have awhile.”
         Zeus stifled a groan. That is what he‟d been afraid of.

                                             ***

        “That was good,” Daphne said as she cast a shy glance across the candlelit table
towards Apollo. She had never spent time actually getting to know a man so she was
surprised by how at ease she had been during their conversation throughout dinner.
        Apollo nodded his head at the compliment. “Thank you.”
        Gently she smooth down the soft fabric of her dakla and stood. “We should
probably go—”
        “Shortly,” Apollo said, cutting her off. “Right now I have something that I would
like you to see,” he said as he stood from the table.
        “Apollo, we should really be going. Isolde—”
        “Is fine. It will take but a moment.” He reached out to grasp her small, sword
callused hand in his own.
        She blew out a deep breath but allowed him to drag her away.
        Neither spoke as Apollo guided her through his home towards some unknown
destination. Daphne was grateful for the silence because it gave her an opportunity to
truly appreciate the beauty of his home. He‟s given her a tour when they arrived but now
she had the chance to really examine the intricate details of the architecture.
         Nestled in the east wing of the royal palace, Apollo‟s inner sanctuary was dark
and foreboding, with rich, earthy tones breaking up the darkness here and there. The
floor, the pillars and the walls all gleamed of gray marble. In the living room, his
furnishings were sparse. In one corner sat a large onyx settee with matching ottomans.
And nestled in another corner was a large, table carved out of pure gold. Where there
wasn‟t furniture, battle weapons lay neatly arranged in ordered piles and rows. From his
dining and sitting room areas one could easily see that Apollo was a man of war, and his
sleeping quarters were no different. Nothing but stoic darkness. That is why when
Apollo guided her to a small alcove adjacent to his living quarters, hidden behind his
home, the startled gasp that escaped her lips was impossible to stop.
         “Apollo this is beautiful,” whispered Daphne. A radiant smile stole across her
face as she gazed at the shimmering crystal clear pool of water that lay in the center of a
bed of lush green grass, yellow roses, and pristine white lilies.
         “I‟m glad you like it. Hades designed it for me. This is where I come to get away
from it all.”
         Daphne glanced up at him. The way he stared out at his small paradise told her
that this haven he‟d created was his only sanctuary. When the weariness of the war had
gotten to him, she knew that he must have retreated here to find comfort—solace.
Daphne turned to stare out at the beautiful setting, and let out a small sigh of pleasure.
To others, Apollo was a man of war, and for the most part that was the absolute truth.
But there was more to him. Like his home suggested, underneath the tough exterior lay a
man of gentleness, peace, and serenity. Daphne frowned at the thought. She didn‟t want
to admit these things about him, because then it would mean she would have to admit that
those qualities drew her to him, and she certainly didn‟t want to admit that she was drawn
to him.

        “Why did you choose me?”
        Daphne stiffened at the softly spoken words. She knew at some point this eve that
he would raise the one question she wasn‟t prepared to answer: out of all the men, why
had she chosen Apollo to father her child?
        “I told you already.”
        She still stood with her back facing him but she easily heard the long drawn out
sigh that he expelled.
        “Yes. You said you chose me because you respected me, but I can‟t believe I am
the only man that you respect—”
        Daphne quickly spun around. “Trust me, you are,” she said firmly.
        Apollo cocked his head to the side and stared down at her.
        “And that‟s it? You respected me so that made me the number one candidate to
sire your child?”
        The incredulous look on his face told Daphne that he thought her reasoning was
slightly flawed. Well when he put it like that, she had to admit it seemed a little stupid,
even to her own ears.
        She lifted her shoulders in a helpless gesture. “I can‟t explain it Apollo. I just
knew that I wanted you to be the father of my daughter. Why can‟t you just leave it at
that?”
         Apollo‟s eyes narrowed. “I can‟t just leave it at that Daphne!” He snapped
irritably. As if realizing that his anger would not solve anything he drew in a breath and
spoke again, this time his voice was calmer. “We have a child together and that will
bond us forever. But before I join with you I want to know if there is more here. More
here to bond us. Something that goes beyond just your respect for me?”
         Daphne‟s eyebrows lifted at the slight disdain she heard in his voice when he
uttered his last statement. She ignored it.
         “I don‟t want to join with you Apollo—”
         “That is a moot point, Daphne!” He interrupted. All traces of his restraint quickly
vanished. His blue eyes now glowed turquoise as they brewed with anger.
         Daphne‟s face heated as her own temper flared. “I don‟t know what you want me
to say, Apollo!” She bit out tersely. “We share a daughter, but that is it! I don‟t want to
join with you, and I can assure you that I never will!”
         Apollo stalked towards her, his lips pressed into a tight, angry line. He stopped
only inches away from her. He was so close that Daphne could feel his angry breath
beating down on the soft skin of her face. She tilted her head back to meet his furious
gaze.
         “Why can‟t you try to be cooperative, Daphne?”
         “That‟s the problem, Apollo. I am being cooperative. I have let you into my
home and have done nothing to stop you from seeing Isolde. But you don‟t see that
because you‟re a man who needs to get everything he—”
         “That is what you are supposed to do Daphne when you have a child with
someone! You are supposed to allow the father to spend time with his child!”
         Daphne balled her hands into angry fists. “And that should be enough!”
         “But that‟s not enough, Daphne! At least not for me!” A startled gasp tore past
her lips when suddenly Apollo shot out his hands to grip her arms and drag her against
his solid, muscular frame. “I want more and you should have thought about that before
you fucked me and got with child!”
         Daphne opened her mouth to protest before she was effectively cut off when
Apollo‟s lips settled against her own. She struggled against the powerful onslaught of his
desire and her own. When his tongue slipped inside her mouth she surrendered to the call
of his body, hating that she moaned softly at the heady tasted of him.
         With their mouths fused tightly together, their tongues teased each other in a
sensual dance as they hungrily devoured each other. Daphne moaned again, uncaring
that her nipples hardened and poked shamefully into his broad chest.
         “Daphne,” Apollo rasped out as he pressed his stiff erection against her soft belly.
Daphne let out a sharp cry as jolts of pleasure slithered across her sensitive skin. Another
cry left her lips when he released one arm to cup the back of her head and tangle in the
curly mass of her hair.
         As Apollo deepened the kiss, Daphne‟s body began to tremble with need. It had
been so long since she had welcomed a man inside of her body, not since she‟d conceived
Isolde, and now she was aching to feel Apollo slide his stiff erection inside of her moist
heat.
         Matching the rhythm of his hips, she rotated her own so that she could grind her
body against his swelling cock. A thrill of satisfaction erupted inside of her when she
heard the sharp intake of breath come from Apollo. It was good to know that she was
driving him just as wild as he was driving her.
         “Fuck me, Apollo!” She moaned against his mouth before she quickly recaptured
his lips.
         Her eyelids remained shut when she felt him move away from her, knowing that
he was just unfastening his breeches. It wasn‟t until she heard the hoarse rasp of her
name that she allowed her eyes to drift open.
         His chest rose and fell on shallow pants and his face was flushed red. She could
tell he was struggling to tamp down his arousal.
         She shot him a puzzled look and frowned. “Why did you stop?” She asked,
noting that her own voice sounded breathless to her ears.
         He seemed poised to say something, but the regretful look in his eyes told her that
he decided not to say whatever he was thinking. Instead he shook his head. “We should
go,” he said gruffly before he abruptly spun on his heels and stalked out of the majestic
gardens that somehow lost their magic when he was gone.
                                   CHAPTER THREE

        Alyssa paced back and forth in the living area of Daphne‟s home. What was
taking Daphne so long?! She refused to admit it but the boy made her nervous. She lifted
her lips into a sardonic grin. As her eyes deftly slid over his tall, overpowering, muscled
frame she corrected herself. He was definitely no boy! And yet it was comforting to
think of him as such because then she could pretend he was somehow less threatening.
        “Would you like some tea?” He offered.
        Alyssa snapped her head towards the couch where the boyishly handsome Zeus
was stretched out. She took a hard gulp and trained her eyes on his face, forcing herself
not to stare at his impressively chiseled chest that peaked through the gaping slit of his
lounging robe.
        She shook her head, trying to banish the wayward thoughts. “N—no thank you.”
        Zeus nodded, but his eyes did not leave her.
        “They may not return for some time. Are you sure you don‟t want to lie down or
come back—,”
        “No!” Alyssa winced at the harshness of her tone. He was just trying to be
polite. She opened her mouth to apologize, but quickly closed it shut. She didn‟t
apologize to men—not even royals. Besides, his presence was disconcerting and his
probing gaze unsettled her. She had the weight of Kush on her shoulders, and the quiet
intensity of the boy prince rattled her nerves.
        “Why don‟t you go home. I can stay with Isolde.”
        Zeus shook his head, his face a blank mask. Alyssa wished she could read his
mind. She would give anything to know what thoughts brewed in his head. She sensed
that beneath his boyishly good looks, was a very serious and pensive man. “No, I
promised Apollo I would stay until he returned, and I don‟t break promises,” he said
simply.
        Alyssa nodded at his words, but said nothing. Tense silence stretched between
them but Alyssa refused to break it, instead she stubbornly fixed her eyes upon him.
        Zeus held her gaze for several moments before releasing a deep sigh. Abruptly,
he shut his eyes, folded his hands behind his head and leaned back against the settee.
        Alyssa smiled in triumph. The little boy prince couldn‟t even stare down a
woman. She reveled in her small victory until he spoke.
        “Do you have any children, Elder Alyssa?” He asked softly, his eyes still closed.
        A chill crept down her spine at his words.
        “Why do you ask?” She bit out tightly. Her voice was strained even to her own
ears.
        His lids fluttered open and she felt that those crystal blue eyes could see straight
to her soul.
        “No reason really. Just trying to make conversation—”
        “Well don‟t.” She shot back quickly. Almost as soon as the words left her mouth
she regretted them. The little boy prince stared at her so intently that she was convinced
if she glanced down she would see holes in her body.
        “But you want children,” he said softly, his eyes full of pity.
        Anger instantly welled up inside of her. She didn‟t need this boy‟s pity.
        “I‟m too old to have children.” She finally said, although she didn‟t know why
exactly. He didn‟t deserve any explanation from her, and yet somehow she felt
compelled to continue their discussion.
        Confusion now lined his face as he tilted his head to the side and wrinkled his
forehead.
“What makes you think you are too old to have children? You look pretty healthy to me.”
        Alyssa stifled a gasp of stunned fury that threatened to spill from her lips when
his eyes lingered on the subtle swell of her breasts before sliding down to the juncture
between her legs. She blinked at him for several moments, startled by the desire that was
clearly evident in his eyes. A slight flush of embarrassment spread across her face before
she quickly gathered herself together.
        Lifting her chin, her brown eyes shot him an icy look. “This discussion is over—
”
        Zeus lifted the corner of his mouth into a lopsided grin that was both innocently
sweet and sinfully wicked.
        “Is that how you talk to your servants, your concubines? When you are
uncomfortable you just command that the conversation is over?” With all due respect
Elder Alyssa, I am not your concubine and certainly not your servant.” He grinned wider.
“Although, if you ask nicely, I would be more than happy to make you my concubine.”
        This time the shocked gasp left her mouth. In all her forty harvests, no man had
ever dared speak to her with such insolence and disrespect. Her fury bubbled over.
        “You arrogant, insufferable, son of a—”
        The wailing cries of Isolde effectively cut her off.
        Not bothering to finish her retort or spare him another glance she stormed out of
the room towards the nursery, but not before she heard the deep rumble of his irreverent
laughter.

                                           ***


         Why did you stop? Her husky words echoed in his head as he powered up the
cruiser and took off from Akkadia. He chanced a quick glance towards her, frowning
when all he glimpsed was the back of her head. Letting out a frustrated breath he
returned his eyes to the controls and maneuvered the cruiser into the air.
         It had taken everything in his power to stop, but he knew that he had to. Daphne
was a woman who enjoyed conquering and winning in all facets of life. Sex to her was
about conquering. She could fuck him for many harvests and still never open herself
fully to him. Apollo knew that. And if he gave into their physical desires for each other,
that is exactly where their relationship would always remain. Apollo wanted more from
her—needed more from her.
         “Oh Goddess!”
         Hearing the alarm in her voice, Apollo turned towards Daphne. “What is it?”
         She whipped her head around and pressed her finger against the glass window.
“Do you see that?”
         Apollo squinted his eyes and stared in the direction she pointed. He angled the
throttle to the right.
         “What the…..”
         Apollo pushed the throttle forward and sped towards Kush.
         “How did we miss this when we left?”
         Apollo wanted to know the same thing. How did anyone landing on Kush miss
the gaping black void that appeared to be spreading across its surface.
         “What is it?” Daphne asked, her eyes wide with growing alarm.
         “I don‟t know. Let‟s get closer—”
         “Do you think that is wise? What if it sucks us in?”
         Apollo shook his head. “It‟s not a black hole or a vortex, it looks like—,” Now
within a closer range, he paused to study it. Using the built in holograph unit he snapped
several shots of the anomaly. “Has there been any volcanic activity on Kush?”
         “No. I am sure Alyssa would have told me had there been.”
         Apollo stared into the pitch black depths of the hole. He had never seen anything
like it. If Kush had been mortal, he would have said it looked like the planet was
diseased with a gaping, festering, black wound in its side. That is the only way that
Apollo could describe it, and even to him it sounded strange.
         “We need to hurry back. I need to report this to Alyssa immediately.”
          Apollo nodded as he turned the cruiser back around and pushed it full throttle
back to Kush.
                                             ***

         “So you‟re saying that Kush appears to be infected?” Zeus asked.
         “I know it sounds crazy. I can hear it in your voice, but as soon as I can get the
images back you will understand.”
         “People land on Kush daily, how is it that no one noticed before?”
         Daphne shook her head. “I don‟t know Alyssa, but I saw it with my own eyes and
I have to agree with Apollo. Kush looked sick. It‟s odd I know, but that‟s the only way
that I can describe what I saw.”
         “Apollo as soon as you get the holograph images back I would like to see them.”
         Alyssa whipped her head around to glare at Zeus. “Not before I see them!”
         Zeus saw the challenge in her eyes and answered it. “Are you a scientist, Elder
Alyssa? I thought not,” he continued when she failed to answer. “If you care anything
for your home then you will put your pride aside and work with me, not against me.”
         Alyssa gritted her teeth together but remained silent. Instead tilting her head in a
stiff nod.
         “Daphne, I would like a word with you—in private,” she added before slipping
out the front door, fully expecting her niece to follow.
         Daphne nodded towards both Zeus and Apollo before she followed her aunt and
closed the door softly behind her.
         As soon as the door shut, Apollo rounded on Zeus.
         “Do you want to explain what happened there?”
         Zeus shrugged, his face impassive, although his eyes twinkled with amusement.
         “She‟s uptight, and controlling. That‟s not my fault.”
         Apollo studied his younger brother for several moments before responding.
“What happened between the two of you while we were gone?”
         Zeus face finally cracked and a tiny smile peaked through. “Not much. We just
talked. I think we came to an understanding.”
        “Right.” Apollo said dryly. “And what would that be?”
         “That she cannot control me.”
        Apollo shook his head. None of this made sense but he was too tired to point that
out to his brother right now. “Okay, so she can‟t control you and she knows that now.”
        His smile grew wider. “I‟m not sure yet, but she will soon enough.”

                                             ***
        Rap! Rap!
        Rap! Rap! Rap!
        Not again! First Candace had barged in and took off with Daphne for some girl
talk. And just when he‟d gotten Isolde back to sleep, here came another visitor!
        RAP! RAP! RAP!
        “You don‟t have to wake the dead! I‟m coming.”
        Throwing open the door, he stood in shock when he saw his younger brother
Hades.
        Stepping aside he let him in.
        “I thought you were still on Akkadia, with your captive bride.”
        Hades instantly shot Apollo a thunderous look. “Ha, ha, very funny.” He flopped
down on the couch and dropped his head in his hands. “What am I going to do with
her?”
        Apollo grinned at his brother. Hades was used to women who fawned all over
him. With his devastating good looks, quick humor, and easy charm, he was a natural
seducer. Apparently Isis didn‟t give a damn. Apollo hated that Hades was upset, but he
had to admit that his brother deserved to be stuck with a woman who could not be
swayed by any of his antics.
        “She hasn‟t mellowed yet?”
        Hades snorted rudely before lifting his head to shoot him a quelling look.
        “Okay, so she hasn‟t mellowed out yet, but do you think she is still a threat to
Ares and the peace agreement?”
        Hades shook his head. “I don‟t think so, but at the same time I don‟t trust her
either. I can‟t let her go, but the gods know that she is driving me insane.”
        “Aww, poor Hades. He has finally found a woman that he can‟t seduce.”
        Hades narrowed his eyes at his brother. “That‟s because I haven‟t tried.”
        Apollo crossed his arms in front of his chest and leaned back against the door.
        “I don‟t think you could seduce her even if you tried.”
        Hades‟ eyebrows lifted at the challenge.
        “Would you care to make a wager on that statement?”
        Apollo cracked a smile. He and Hades had a long history of making ridiculous
bets, with many of them landing them both in heaps of trouble. Shrugging his shoulders
he said, “Sure. I don‟t think you can seduce her. If I win then you have baby sitting duty
for a full moon.”
        Hades chuckled. “Alright. Babysitting is not problem. I have never met a
member of the opposite sex that I couldn‟t handle, my darling niece is no exception. But
if I win then I want your new cruiser.”
        Apollo smirked at the terms. Hades had been trying to get his hands on his new
SG-47 Cruiser for two moons. Too bad he still wouldn‟t get to ride it. Isis was too much
of a handful, even for Hades.
        Apollo nodded. “Alright. You have a deal.”
        Hades shot to his feet, with a silly grin plastered all over his face.
        “Ahhh, big brother you are going to lose this one. And to make it even more fun,
I am going to up the stakes.
        Apollo shook his head. “You can‟t change the terms. We already agreed!” He
argued.
        “I‟m not changing the terms. You‟ll see what I mean soon enough. Get ready to
lose big brother!” He chuckled before bounding out of the doorway.
        Apollo rolled his eyes after his brother. It was Hades that was going to lose. His
cockiness would prove to be his downfall with Isis and this bet.
                                   CHAPTER FOUR

         “Well I am not letting you go alone,” argued Daphne.
         “Daphne, if something happens while I am investigating then who will care for
Isolde? We need to be reasonable. It is too dangerous for the both of us to go.”
         Daphne stared back at Apollo as if he‟d grown a second head. She was too angry
for words at the moment. Who did he think he was? She wasn‟t some woman who sat
back and let the hero risk his life for glory. She was a skilled general who was quite
capable of taking care of herself.
         “I‟m going!”
         “Absolutely not! I am going alone and that is final!”
         “You don‟t get to tell me what to do. I make the rules around here—”
         “Not when it concerns our daughter!” thundered Apollo.
         She could see he was becoming furious. She rolled her eyes at the frenzy he was
now working himself into. He could yell and holler all he wanted, but the end result
would be the same. Switching tactics she drew in a deep breath and brought her temper
under control.
         “You are right, Apollo. I need to think of Isolde.”
         Apollo stared down at her as if searching for any sign of deception. Apparently
after finding none he nodded. “Thank you Daphne. I will be able to concentrate
knowing that you and Isolde are safe.”
         Daphne smiled tightly, trying to hold back an inelegant snort. Safe, her ass! He
wanted her chained to her home, barefoot and with child. She struggled to keep her fake
smile from slipping but somehow she managed it.
         “I still wish you would take Zeus.” Actually, she was glad he didn‟t because when
she met him there they would be able to travel faster with just the two of them.
         Apollo eyes softened and for a moment she felt guilty for tricking him. The
moment was fleeting. It was for his own good.
         “It‟s nothing. Everything will be fine.” If everything was so fine then why
couldn‟t she drag Isolde along for a nice mid dawn picnic? If it was that safe, then why
didn‟t they all just go?! She glued her eyes straight ahead to keep from rolling them.
“Besides Zeus is working with Alyssa on the holographs. As soon as I bring back the
sample from the infected area he can test it. I promise it won‟t take long.”
         Daphne nodded and smiled warmly. “I know everything will be fine.” When
Apollo arched an eyebrow and stared at her, she wondered if she had gone overboard.
She‟d never had to deceive a man for his own good!
         “Daphne, promise me you will not do anything impulsive,” he said firmly before
he sheathed his sword and fastened his laser to his hip. In the event of a confrontation the
laser was good for stunning his enemies and slowing them down, but if he ended up in a
fight, his broad sword would be his best weapon.
         Daphne shook her head. “I promise not to do anything impulsive.”
         She almost regretted her deception when he pressed a gentle kiss against her lips
and stroked her cheek. There was no mistaking the tender look in his eyes.
         She returned his warm gaze, with a tiny smile. Her heart lurched when he tore his
eyes from her and slipped out of her front door.
        She had promised not to do anything impulsive, but what she was about to do
wasn‟t impulsive at all. It was all a part of her grand plan!

                                            ***

         Apollo inched closer to spreading black mass. Alyssa and Zeus had not come to
any conclusion after receiving the holograph images. Actually, quiet the opposite.
Alyssa insisted that they were dealing with dark magic, while Zeus argued that there was
a scientific explanation for the deterioration. Apollo actually thought it was a
combination of both, but he had barely been able to get a word in between their constant
bickering. It was not like Zeus to give in to emotional displays of anger. Of all his
siblings, Zeus was the most composed and level headed, while the rest of them, even their
sister, were a bunch of hot heads. And yet, when he was with Alyssa he noticed that
when she baited him, instead of shrugging it off he responded. Sometimes with anger,
but also with annoyance, impatience, irritation, and even mockery. Either he pretended
to banter with her for the fun of it, or she actually had the power to rattle him. Either way
it was unsettling. The age difference between the two of them bothered Apollo. She was
a woman of experience and Zeus was just starting to experience a normal life—free of
war. It was time for Zeus to play the field, not pursue a woman who would undoubtedly
try to bend him to her will.
         Apollo blew out a deep breath as he drew closer to the infected area. Zeus was a
grown man who could take care of himself. He knew this, but it still didn‟t stop him
from wanting to protect his youngest brother. A flashing red light quickly drew him from
his thoughts.
         Apollo glanced at his gauges. The cruiser was picking up speed. Flipping a
switch, he pulled back on the throttle. He frowned when it didn‟t budge. He jerked at it
again. Nothing. He swore under his breath when the alarm sounded.
         “Shit!”
         His speed gauge told him that he was entering Kush‟s atmosphere too fast. If he
kept this up, his cruiser would break apart and disintegrate before he could land.
         Quickly he switched to automatic pilot, and was relieved to see that the cruiser
slowed down somewhat.
         “Just hold on. Hold on.” He chanted to himself while he quickly shrugged on his
ejection suit. Once he got into Kush‟s atmosphere, he could eject and still land in the
infected area. Now as to how he would get back out, was another story. Right now, he
was just trying to stay alive long enough to ponder that thought later.
         Warning! Warning! Warning!
         The alarm flashed red and beeped at him furiously. Apollo groaned when the
force of the descent slammed him into his seat and held him there. It felt as if two tons
held him pancaked against his seat.
         It took him several attempts to fight against the crushing force but eventually he
managed to wrap his hand around the red ejection lever.
         “Just a little bit further,” he whispered.
         He glanced at his gauges again. He was losing pressure fast.
         “Come on. Come on. Just a little bit—”
                                            ***

         “Goddess!” Daphne moaned as she struggled to open her eyes. She felt like she
was going to throw up all over herself but she managed to keep the contents of her
stomach where they rightfully belonged.
        She and her cruiser had barely made it through Kush‟s atmosphere. Whatever it
was that was infecting her planet, apparently didn‟t want visitors getting in! At least not
in one piece!
        She thought she was going to have to eject until at the last minute she took a
chance on venting the cruiser. With her ejection suit on the space atmosphere didn‟t
affect her. The extra pressure quickly cooled down her engines and easily propelled her
through Kush‟s atmosphere. Once she broke through, she sealed the vents and landed,
but the ride had been bumpy!
        Fighting back another wave of nausea, Daphne reached for her tracker. She
smiled when the little green light blinked before her eyes. Before Apollo left she‟d
planted a tracking device inside the sheath of his sword. The fact that it was blinking told
her he hadn‟t blown up on his descent. That was a good thing! Relief immediately
washed over her. Now all she had to do was find him.

                                            ***

        “Their tracking devices are on line. They both made it.”
        Zeus shot Alyssa a stern look. “Apollo is going to be furious. I can‟t believe you
allowed her to go.”
        Alyssa turned from the screen to stare at the young prince, her eyes were
surprisingly patient.
        “You don‟t get it do you?”
        Zeus gave her a questioning look. “Get what?”
        Alyssa sighed softly as if she was preparing to explain to a wide eyed four-harvest
old why the sky was blue. Her patronizing ways grated on his nerves, but he ignored it
when she smiled at him. It was the first smile he had ever received from her and he had
never been happier to receive anything in his entire life.
        “The women of Kush are used to being independent, doing what they want, and
answering to no one. Just because Apollo told her no, doesn‟t mean Daphne has to listen.
In the end she is going to do what she thinks is right—”
        “Even if it means getting herself killed and leaving her child without a mother or
a father,” Zeus argued. What was wrong with the women of Kush?! It was like they
followed some crazy manifesto!
        Alyssa shrugged. “What makes her life more valuable than your brother‟s?
        Zeus considered her words before he spoke. “Where I come from women are
treasured and valued as the givers of life. They are to be protected and shielded from
danger.”
        Alyssa‟s smiled again and Zeus swore his heart skipped a beat. “And where I
come from women are not just the givers of life, but they are politicians, healers and even
soldiers. The women of Kush protect their own and shield them from danger because
there is no one else to do that, but us.”
        Zeus saw her point, but he still didn‟t agree with it. No man in his right mind
would allow his woman to risk her life for him. What kind of man does that? One who
isn’t a man.
        “I see this is a difficult concept for you to accept, but as Kush and Akkadia draw
closer together, it is important for the men of Akkadia to understand that the women of
Kush will not alter their values just because there are more men around. We are used to
doing things on our own.”
        Zeus pinned her with his eyes. “Don‟t you sometimes ever wish that you didn‟t
always have to do everything on your own—alone?”
        Alyssa returned his stare, her gaze steady. “I think we are talking about two
different things now.”
        Zeus grinned. “Smart woman.”
        He chuckled when she rolled her eyes and returned her gaze to the screen in front
        of her. “I see you have taken to using the silent treatment when our conversation
        is over. I guess that is better than issuing commands.”
        Zeus continued to grin, noting that her body tensed and her back stiffened. “One
of these days you are not going to like the topic Elder Alyssa, but you are still going to
have to talk to me anyway,” he said softly before he returned his own eyes to the
holograph images that lay scattered before him.
                                               ***

        “Shit!”
        That is exactly what Apollo felt like. Groaning he struggled to sit up. When his
head stopped spinning he stumbled to his feet. It took several moments to hold back the
nausea and the waves of dizziness, but eventually he was able to draw in even breaths
without the threat of succumbing to either one.
        Unsnapping the clasp, he disentangled himself from his ejection suit and cruiser
gear. Balling it up, he rolled it into its built in bag and slung it over his back. He
checked his laser and sword then. Both lay nestled at his hip and the laser appeared to be
unaffected by his rough entry.
        Satisfied, that he was all set, he glanced around for the first time since he‟d
landed.
        “By the gods!” he whispered in shock. Charred, black terrain stretched before
him. The barren wasteland appeared to be endless. He stooped down to sift through the
dry soil. Everything was dead. Every plant, every tree, every flower. And from the
awful stench, every animal. Whatever had passed through there had been merciless—
claiming everything in its wake.
        Apollo tilted his head back to stare up at the sky. He expected to find darkness,
but the churning, swelling sky was unnatural. It reminded him of the pictures of the
hurricanes and tornadoes that were in some of the books he‟d read recounting tales from
the ancient planet Earth. The murky depths of the swirling blackness above him
stretched for miles and miles, as far as he could see.
        Pulling out the vials that Zeus had given him, he worked to gather as much
evidence as possible. He didn‟t have much time. With his cruiser gone, he was going to
have to trek it back to a habitable part of Kush and judging by the landscape it was going
to be a long hard journey with little food, water, or anything else for that matter.

                                              ***
         Daphne drew in a shaky breath as she stared into the darkness that surrounded
her. She may not be a sorceress, but she knew that whatever had caused this devastation
was the direct result of dark magic. She could feel the sinister power to the very marrow
of her bones. Evil clung in the air, like an awful stench. Every breath felt thick and heavy
and it was a struggle to drag air into her burning lungs.
         She glanced down at the tracker. She was getting closer. She had to find Apollo
and get out of there soon. Whatever had caused this wasn‟t done and Daphne sensed that
any life it found it wouldn‟t hesitate to snuff out. She needed to find Apollo before
whatever evil thing that was out there came back.
         Daphne trudged ahead until the sound of a wailing cry stopped her in her tracks.
She listened for it again. Hearing the piercing sound, shivers instantly raced down her
back.
         “Apollo! Apollo!” She pumped her legs into action and took off running. He
couldn‟t be much further. Holding the tracker in her hand, she raced forward, careful not
to trip over the debris that lay scattered before her.
         “Apollo! Apollo!” She cried out again. Her hair whipped across her cheek
momentarily blinding her, before she impatiently flipped it back off her face. Her lungs
ached as she struggled to draw in a foul harsh breath, but she refused to stop her break
neck sprint in the direction of the tiny green dot.
“Apollo! Apollo!” She could see the outline of a dark figure through the murky haze.
She opened her mouth to call out his name again but nothing came out and she froze
instantly when she saw glowing red eyes. Apollo‟s eyes were blue.

                                             ***
        Apollo jumped up from gathering soil when he heard a familiar voice.
        “Daphne?
        Turning towards the direction that he‟d last heard her voice he raced ahead. She
was in danger, he could feel it. When he got her out of it, she was going to be in even
more danger—
with him!
        His legs propelled him forward with quick strides, as his eyes frantically searched
her out.
        Through the dark fog, he finally caught a glimpse of her—and the reason why she
stood deathly still.
        He quickly skidded to a stop and with deft movements unleashed his sword with
one hand and gripped his laser in the other.
        He knew the moment she saw him because she lifted her eyes to meet his gaze.
He instantly shook his head. She promptly snapped her gaze back to the snarling beast,
hoping not to alert it of the potential danger it was now in. Yet, it was so intent on
pouncing on her that it didn‟t even suspect that it was being approached from behind.
Apollo wanted to keep it that way. He just needed to remain quiet as he approached and
Daphne had to keep her eyes trained on the beast.
        Apollo crept closer and closer, careful not to make a sound. He was only a few
feet away now. Lifting his sword he readied himself to strike when suddenly the creature
sprung off its haunches to pounce. In one fluid motion, Apollo launched himself into the
air and crashed down onto its back.
        “Run Daphne!” he yelled as he wrenched his arm around the slimy neck of the
beast and held on. The laser had fallen from his hand, but he still held his sword in the
other. With brutal accuracy, he plunged his sword through the back of the creature‟s
neck until he saw the sharp blade rip through its throat. The beast thrashed about wildly,
but Apollo held on, twisting the sword back and forth until finally the creature collapsed
to the ground. Gripping the hilt of his sword, he pulled it from the beast that now lay
dead in a pool of its own blood.
        Still panting from the exertion of the struggle, his eyes flew to Daphne who now
held her sword in one hand and her laser in the other. She looked as wild and untamed as
he knew her to be. Any other time he would have found pleasure in that thought, now
was not one of them. He stooped down to retrieve his laser and bag that he‟d dropped,
before sheathing his sword.
        Holding her gaze, he stalked angrily towards her. Gripping her by her upper arms
he dragged her against him and kissed her soundly before setting her away from him.
        “What in the gods are you doing here?! You almost got yourself killed!”
        “I was fully prepared to defend myself before you arrived,” Daphne argued.
        Apollo frowned down at her.
        “Oh really? Then where was your sword, your laser—”
        “Trust me. Before that thing got to me it would have been dead,” she said coldly.
        Apollo shook his head, but did not argue further. He‟d seen her in battle. She
was right. It would have been dead. That was not the best platform to argue from, but
he had one that was.
        “I told you not to follow me.”
        “I couldn‟t let you go by yourself,” Daphne argued stubbornly.
        Apollo stared down into the unflinching gaze of his daughter‟s mother and
struggled not to grasp her shoulders and shake her. She was out of her mind. When they
were safe and in her home, he would punish her for scaring him to death, but right now
was not the time.
        “We need to get out of here,” Apollo said finally.
        She shook her head quickly. “Not before I get a DNA sample of this beast. I
have never seen anything like it before. Can you take a holograph of it?”
        “Here you take the image. I will get the sample,” he said handing her his
holograph maker. He didn‟t want her anywhere near that thing. Apollo squinted his eyes
to study the creature. He had never seen anything like it before. An unnatural green
slime oozed out of its pores and coated its inky black skin. It appeared to be reptilian as
he noted that scales ran down its back, but then it stood as high as a sturdy ox. No reptile
was that big. Its face was also odd. It had a muzzle, almost as if it was a wolf, but its
teeth were sharp serrated points that were longer than any canines on a normal wolf.
Whatever this beast was, it had been created. Not born. Apollo sensed that it had been
created by magic for a sinister purpose. What? He didn‟t know but he was determined to
find out. Bending down, he quickly filled the vials with as much tissue, blood and hair as
he could before he packed everything away.
       “We need to go,” he said again.
       Daphne nodded her head to the right. “My cruiser is this way.”
       Apollo lifted his eyebrows in surprise. “You made it through without destroying
your cruiser?” He asked, his voice full of disbelief.
       Daphne beamed at the stunned look on his face. “How else was I going to save
your ass?” she quipped before jogging in the direction that she‟d nodded.
       Apollo shook his head, as a smile of admiration stole across his face, before a
wicked gleam lit up his eyes. Oh, he was going to enjoy punishing her later.

                                              *
        “What is it?”
        Daphne quickly glanced at Apollo before returning her eyes to the dash board.
She muttered a low curse.
        “It won‟t start,” Daphne said finally still struggling to trigger the power.
        “Here. Let me take a look.”
        Daphne wanted to argue that she had tried everything, but it couldn‟t hurt to let
him have a look. With a weary sigh, she shrugged out of her seat and climbed over
Apollo so that they could switch places.
        She knew it was foolish, since if he succeeded they wouldn‟t be stuck there, but
she felt a small measure of triumph that he‟d had no better luck than she.
        “I will be right back,” Apollo said before jumping down from the cruiser.
        She followed behind him watching as he lifted the hood and checked the engine.
        “This doesn‟t make sense. Everything looks to be in order.”
        Daphne had to agree. Nothing was out of place, and yet they couldn‟t get the
damn thing to power up.
        “I am going to send a distress signal to Alyssa,” Daphne said and hopped back
into the cruiser.
        Apollo followed behind her and got back into the passenger seat.
        “Is that wise? What if they send a rescue party and get stuck here too?”
        He had a point.
        “We can‟t stay here Apollo. There‟s no habitable friendly life where we are.”
        “How long do you think it would take us to trek back to a habitable part of
Kush?”
        Daphne stared at Apollo, her eyes incredulous.
        “Several sun risings Apollo! That thing that is swirling above us stretches for
several miles. I don‟t know if we have enough food and water to make it that far.”
        Daphne watched Apollo close his eyes. She knew he was deep in thought.
Suddenly his eyes snapped open and he sat up straight in his seat.
        “I got it!”
                                    CHAPTER FIVE

         Daphne hissed out a sharp breath and sat up. She couldn‟t sleep. She glanced
down at Apollo and frowned when his snores grew louder. He didn‟t seem to be having
any trouble sleeping at all.
         She didn‟t know how he could get comfortable. The little space in the back of her
cruiser left her feeling cramped up and jammed in. It also didn‟t help that Apollo‟s large
frame occupied most of the tiny space, leaving her to struggle to find any free room.
         She leaned her back against the hull, drew her legs up and wrapped herself into a
little ball. It was probably for the best that she didn‟t sleep. Someone needed to be alert,
just in case more of those mutant reptile beasts came back.
         Running a hand through her soft waves, she let out another breath. Apollo was
convinced that the darkness that stretched above them was a force field and like any force
field, when penetrated it created an energy drain. He assured her that all they had to do
was wait for their ion battery to recharge itself and they would be able to power up and
fly out of there. When they checked the power levels earlier they were completely
exhausted. Right before they went to sleep they checked them again. Sure enough when
they checked the power levels had risen by twenty percent. One eve. They needed to
wait it out one eve and by the dawn they would be able to fly out of there with full power.
         Daphne eyes darted to the dashboard window. Now all they had to do was
survive in this black abyss of nothingness. She gulped deeply. Easier said than done.
         “What‟s wrong?”
         Daphne flinched slightly as her eyes instantly shot to Apollo. She hadn‟t noticed
that the snoring had stopped. Now fully awake, his blue eyes stared back of her with
concern.
         She shrugged. “I couldn‟t sleep.”
         Apollo sat up and stretched his arms above his head. Daphne swallowed the lump
in her throat as her eyes slid over his broad torso that rippled with dense muscles.
Quickly she averted her eyes, but not before she caught the slight smirk on his face. He
knew she‟d been staring.
         “You‟re worried,” he said simply.
         Daphne nodded slowly. “A little. I have never seen anything like what I saw out
there before. Apollo, we just don‟t know what‟s out there, how it got there, or how to get
rid of it.”
         Apollo crawled the short distance between to sit beside her. With the utmost
tenderness, he wrapped one arm around her shoulder and held her close. “We‟re going to
figure it out,” he said softly.
         Daphne‟s heart skipped a beat, she was sure. She knew his gesture was one of
comfort, but she couldn‟t ignore the tingling sensation where his bare skin touched hers.
Tucked under his arm, she turned her head to face him. Their eyes met. Blatant desire
burned in the depths of her smoky gaze, while Apollo‟s registered surprise. She raised a
tentative hand to stroke her fingers along his jaw.
         She heard him suck in a low breath.
         “Daphne,” he said softly, with a warning tone.
         Before he could discourage her further she leaned in and captured his lips in a
gentle kiss.
         She felt him stiffen with hesitance. Daphne fully expected him to push her away
like before, so she was shocked when he drew her fully into his embrace, deepening their
kiss.
         A soft gasp of pleasure left her mouth when his tongue traced along her full lips,
before slipping between them to tease the tip of her tongue.
         She began to tremble slightly as heat spread across her body. Still dressed in her
flight suit, she clawed at it frantically, trying to get it off.
         Apollo chuckled softly. “I got it,” he said as he reached behind her to unfasten
the closure and draw the zipper down that ran across the front of her body from shoulder
to him.
         As soon as he unzipped it she shrugged out of it and wiggled it over her hips, and
down her legs, before kicking it aside.
         She stopped when Apollo hissed out a low breath.
         “Gods, I thought I dreamt how beautiful you were,” he murmured softly, before
he reached out a hand and tangled it in her mass of wild hair, drawing her lips back to his.
         This time their kiss was urgent. Hard and demanding, Apollo kissed her with an
almost sense of desperation.
         With his lips still fused to hers, Apollo wriggled his suit down his legs and kicked
it off. It wasn‟t that hard since he‟d been sleeping with half of it bunched up at his hips.
         Dragging her into his arms, Apollo flipped Daphne over onto her back. For a
brief moment, she worried there wouldn‟t be enough room for the both of them, but
reasoned that their current position actually allowed for more space in the cruiser, then
when they weren‟t trying to lay side by side.
         Due to the insulation of their suits, they wore nothing beneath them. And with
them gone, they were left completely nude.
         Daphne stroked her hands up and down, Apollo‟s broad back while she shifted
beneath him to open her legs. They both let out breathy sighs when he nestled his hips
between her legs.
         She could feel his stiff erection poised at the mouth of her womb. She lifted her
legs and clasped them behind his back trying to draw his cock inside of her.
         “Make love to me Apollo,” she said softly, holding his gaze.
         They stared at each other in silence for several moments, before Apollo surged
forward slowly feeding her his steel, hard length.
         “Apollo!”
         “Daphne!”
         They cried out simultaneously.
         Apollo rocked against her slowly, plunging in and out of her pussy with gentle
strokes.
         Daphne lifted her hips with each thrust, driving him deeper inside of her.
         His leisurely pace was driving her mad, as he gradually stoked the fires inside of
her, building up the need until they raged like a blazing inferno.
         “Apollo, fuck me! Fuck me!” Daphne begged.
         “No!” Apollo rasped out hoarsely. “The last time we fucked. This time we are
going to make love,” he commanded as he thrust his cock deeper inside of her tight cunt,
but kept his pace unhurried.
         Tears welled up in Daphne‟s eyes. He was teasing her. Deliberately holding
back, in order to keep her climax at bay. She felt like she was hanging suspended from a
precipice, unable to completely fall but not able to gain her footing.
        She jerked her hips up, trying to grind her clit against his cock with each thrust.
        “Please Apollo. Let me come,” she pleaded softly.
        His stormy blue gaze met her wild eyes.
        “Why should I? You don‟t deserve it,” he said thickly as he drove his cock into
her harder. “You used me. Then you disobeyed me and put yourself in danger. Why
should I reward you?”
        “You‟re punishing me?” she asked numbly.
        “Yes,” he ground out, now pounding into her harder.
The muscles in his shoulders bunched up, and the veins in his neck stood out a purplish
blue against his taut skin. In his struggle to punish her, he was fighting his own need to
climax.
        Daphne clenched her eyes closed and thrashed about wildly. He was driving her
crazy. He pussy was dripping wet, as it coated his cock with each hard plunge inside of
her. She was so close to coming and it was killing her.
        In desperation, she clenched her inner muscles around him.
        “Please, please, please,” she mumbled unintelligibly.
        “Daphne! Shit!” Apollo shouted as he fought to plough his dick through the tight
vise of her wet cunt.
        The feel of her hot pussy gripping his cock sent him spiraling over the edge.
        Hooking his arms behind her knees, he raised himself high above her and
slammed his cock into her over and over again.
        Hoarse screams of pleasure were ripped from her lips with each brutal stroke.
        “Is this what you want? Is this how you want it?” he demanded as he pummeled
her pussy with violent thrusts.
        “Yes! Yes! Yesssssss!” she cried out as her orgasm gripped her and she writhed
uncontrollably beneath him. Digging her nails in his shoulders, she pumped her hips off
the floor until her cum seeped from her pussy and trailed down her ass to pool beneath
her.
Exhausted, she lay back against the floor, weak and limp.
        Apollo slammed his cock into her again, bringing her back to the present.
        “You‟re not done Daphne. Far from it.”
        She didn‟t understand what he meant, but three orgasms later she did.
        “Stop Apollo. I can‟t take much more,” she begged as her pussy spasmed around
his cock once again. She was worn out and her cunt was puffy and swollen.
        Apollo held her gaze.
        “Why should I stop? This is what you want, right Daphne? When you need to get
off, you just need a warm body to fuck, right?”
        Daphne heard the veiled anger in his voice. In the past, yes. Before she met him
and gave birth, she would have said yes. But now—
        She shook her head. “N—No—,”
        She gasped when Apollo‟s thrusts grew harder and frenzied. If she didn‟t know
any better she‟d swear he was trying to fuck her to death! Good goddess!
        “I don‟t believe you,” Apollo gritted out between clenched teeth. “A good fuck
all you ever want from men. That‟s all you want from me. And that‟s exactly what I‟m
giving you,” he rasped out bitterly as he thrust into her balls deep over and over.
        Daphne‟s eyes widened as her traitorous pussy pulsed with need yet again. She
wanted to scream that it had come enough already!
        “That‟s not true Apollo. I—I want more,” she croaked out. It was a struggle to
talk when her cunt began to throb with molten heat.
        Apollo slammed into her hard, his balls slamming against, with each brutal thrust.
        “Then tell me. Tell me what you want from me so that I can give it to you,” he
groaned out, his hips now bucking furiously as the taut muscles in his ass clenched tight.
        “I—I don‟t know!” she moaned out. She was about to come again.
        “Yes you do. Tell me what you want, Daphne,” Apollo bit out as he plowed deep
inside of her at a wicked pace.
        Daphne closed her eyes and shook her head back and forth in desperation.
        “Say it Daphne!”
        “I—I—Apollo!” she screamed as her climax ripped through her. Her pussy
clenched tightly around his cock as it coated him with her cum. He‟d held back for too
long. Unable to resist it any longer, he shattered.
        “Daphne!” he roared out moments before his body tensed and his cock twitched
inside of her as it shot out long hot streams of cum. He pounded his cock inside of her
and pumped his seed deep into her cunt over and over. He practically emptied his balls
as cum seeped out from inside of her pussy. Finally spent, he collapsed on top of
Daphne, although his cock continued to spurt warm jets of semen inside of her.
        Daphne caressed Apollo‟s sweat soaked back as she struggled to take in a breath
of air. Sensing her struggle, he flipped her over to rest atop him. Air immediately rushed
into her lungs. They lay there in silence for several moments, both panting deeply, while
their naked flesh glistened with a fine sheen of sweat.
        Still lost in the euphoric haze, it took Daphne a moment to realize that she heard a
noise coming from outside. She perked up and listened harder. She heard it again.
        Her eyes shot to Apollo at the same time he stiffened. He heard it too.
        They quickly sprung apart and hurriedly threw on their clothes. With their lasers
and swords fixed firmly in their hands they inched towards the front of the cruiser.
        “Stay behind me,” Apollo warned.
        Daphne bristled at the command, but bit her tongue. Now was not the time to
remind him that she was a military general who did not take orders well.
        They both tensed when they heard the noise again, this time louder.
        Apollo stopped suddenly, and stared out the window above the dashboard.
        His eyes widened. “What the—? Zeus?”
        “Open the door!” Zeus shouted back, nodding his head to the side where the door
to the cruiser was located.
        Apollo glanced at Daphne, before reaching around her to unlatch the door and
push it open.
        “Aunt Alyssa?” Daphne exclaimed from over Apollo‟s shoulder when she saw
her aunt standing in the doorway. “What on Kush are you two doing here?”
        Alyssa wrinkled her nose at the same time she slid her gaze over both of them.
Daphne was certain their wild and disheveled appearances did not go unnoticed, or the
musky scent of sex that hung heavy in the air inside the tiny cruiser.
        “Um, we were trying to save you from trouble, but it looks like we may have been
too late,” she muttered dryly before she turned her back to them and walked off. Daphne
pursed her lips into a small frown, but ignored the veiled barb. Instead she quickly
scanned the battle drone, used by Kush soldiers, that Alyssa and Zeus had apparently
used to find them. Far sturdier than her cruiser, Daphne was sure Alyssa and Zeus had no
problem getting through the force field unscathed. While her cruiser was charred in
places, the sleek silver plated exterior of the drone appeared to be shiny as new.
        Daphne glanced back at Apollo before she trailed behind after Alyssa. Moments
later she heard his footsteps behind her as he followed after her.
        Safely ensconced in the drone, Daphne raised her question again.
        “Why did you two come and how did you find us?”
        Zeus turned from the front passenger seat to meet her questioning gaze.
        “When your tracking dots went off the radar we decided to come down here. It
wasn‟t until we landed that your tracking devices came back on line. Once they did, it
was easy for us to track you to your exact location.”
        Daphne nodded. “Did you have any trouble breaking through the force field?”
        Zeus grinned sheepishly. “What? That huge impenetrable mass above us?” He
nodded. It was bumpy, but we managed to get through.”
        Daphne glanced at Apollo. “Yes, well Apollo blew his ship up on the way in,”
she said, ignoring Apollo‟s darkening scowl.
        Zeus‟ grin grew broader, when Alyssa chuckled beside him and Apollo‟s face
turned red with fury.
        Zeus met Daphne‟s laughing gaze. “Did he now?”
                                    CHAPTER SIX


        Apollo glanced over his brother‟s shoulder, his face puzzled.
        “What did you say?” He asked, not quite believing Zeus‟ words.
        Zeus lifted his head from the genetic sequencer that he‟d used to run the DNA of
the creature that he and Daphne had encountered.
        “That thing has no genetic sequence that is similar to any creature in the known
galaxy. And, get this. I looked at the DN samples that Alyssa and Daphne gave me and
they both have peculiar markers as well.”
        Apollo shook his head. “Peculiar how? And how does something not have any
genetic sequence?”
        Zeus shrugged. “Everything has a genetic sequence. It‟s just that this thing you
two fought doesn‟t appear to be related to known species. It‟s as if this thing was
dropped off from another galaxy—”
        “Or it was created from magic as Elder Alyssa suggested.”
        Apollo struggled to hold back a knowing smile when Zeus‟ eyes darkened with
annoyance. His brother and Alyssa had argued incessantly about the origins of that
creature. Zeus was a brilliant man, but he did not put much stock in sorcery. Apollo
could see that it pained him to admit that Alyssa could very well be right.
        Zeus nodded his head begrudgingly. “Possibly,” he said tightly.
        “You said there was something peculiar about Alyssa and Daphne‟s DNA. What
did you find?”
        Zeus turned back to the report that the genetic sequencer had printed out and
studied it before speaking. “Ordinarily, a woman has two markers indicating that she is a
woman, right?”
        How was he supposed to know what the hell a normal woman‟s genetic make up
looked liked? He was a military commander not a scientist! Apollo wanted to roll his
eyes at Zeus but just nodded instead.
        “Well Daphne and Alyssa have that, but they have a half marker attached to their
sequence?”
        Apollo shot Zeus a puzzled look as he pulled his face into a tight frown. “Are you
saying that Daphne and Alyssa aren‟t women?” He stilled as he waited for the answer.
He wasn‟t sure how he would react if Zeus said that they weren‟t
        Zeus shook his head and Apollo visibly relaxed. “No, they are definitely women,
but I have never seen an additional marker attached to one‟s sex.” Zeus scratched his
head in disbelief. “It‟s almost as if someone made them females.”
        He stared at his brother as if he had lost his mind. “What do you mean made
them?”
        “I can‟t explain it Apollo, but I think someone tampered with their DNA before
they were born.”
        “You‟re not making sense.”
        Zeus abruptly shot to his feet. “I need to speak to Alyssa and Daphne right now.”
                                             ***
         Daphne‟s leather sandaled feet made almost no sound as she scurried across the
palace atrium along the courtyard towards her mother‟s estate.
         Her mother, Elder Anais, lived in one of the largest estates on Kush. Adjacent to
the palace, it was a lovely example of brilliant architecture, reminiscent of the Doric
order designs from the Ancient Earthen civilization of Greece. She knew her father had
designed it. Too bad he hadn‟t stuck around long enough to see it built.
         Daphne felt the bitter resentment well up inside her that always accompanied
thoughts of her father. She tried not to succumb to them, but it was difficult at times.
The women of Kush did not develop attachments to men. It was there way. And yet,
Daphne couldn‟t help the feeling of anger towards her father whenever she thought of
how he had abandoned them to become a great warrior galaxies away. Sometimes she
wondered if he even thought about them. Did he even care that he had two daughters
worlds away.
         Shaking her head, she banished the thoughts just as quickly as they‟d come. Her
father had left because her mother had pushed him away. She knew that much. And
while she felt that a real man wouldn‟t allow anyone to send him away if he didn‟t want
to leave, she accepted that her mother was a force to be reckoned with. Daphne snorted.
That was putting it lightly.
         Rounding the corner, Daphne smiled at the breathtaking picturesque view of her
mother‟s home. A lush green lawn bursting with pink, purple and yellow carnations and
roses in full bloom welcomed visitors. Along with pristine marble fountains, that
matched the sparkling marble of Anais‟ home, which now gleamed under the brilliant
rays of the sunlight. In a word, it was gorgeous.
         Bounding up the single flight of stairs, Daphne knocked gently against the front
door. She had a key, but she respected her mother‟s privacy and so she waited. She
heard faint noises on the other side of the wooden door, but when nobody answered she
knocked again.
         She waited for several moments, debating whether or not she should use her key
after all when the door abruptly swung open.
         Daphne‟s eyes widened when she took in her mother‟s haphazard appearance.
Anais was an exquisite and elegant woman of great beauty and poise. Daphne could
never say she‟d ever seen her mother looking so—so rumpled.
         “Mother?”
         “Daphne? Hello.”
         Daphne frowned at her mother‟s breathless voice. She noticed how her eyes
stared at some unseen point above her head as if her mother was afraid to meet her gaze.
She also noticed that her mother stood firmly in the doorway so that she could not see
behind her into the sitting room.
         Daphne lifted her eyebrows, her expression curious.
         “Can I come in?”
         “Um, now is not such a good time dear.”
         Her eyes narrowed with suspicion. “Who‟s in there with you?”
         She frowned when her mother‟s eyes dropped to her feet.
         “No one,” Anais said, shaking her head.
         “You‟re lying. Let me in mother,” Daphne said firmly.
        Daphne almost smiled when her mother‟s eyes snapped to her face, her
expression indignant. She knew her mother wouldn‟t let such disrespect go
unchallenged. She also knew that out of pride her mother would be forced to let her in,
lest she be labeled a liar.
        “That is no way to speak to your—,”
        “Let her in Anais.”
        Daphne almost fainted.
        “You have a man in here!” She hissed out under her breath and shot her mother an
accusatory look before she weaseled past her and stepped inside.
        She stiffened when her eyes landed on a familiar figure.
        “Father?”

                                              ***
        Apollo closed the door to Daphne‟s home and sighed. Zeus and Alyssa were off
to report to Candace and Ares their findings. Apollo frowned. That is if they could stop
arguing long enough to get anything out.
        When their bickering woke Isolde he had been forced to kick them out. Turning
from the door he met Daphne‟s eyes. She smiled shyly before she lowered her eyes to
their daughter. He returned her smile, before he held her in his gaze while she gently
rocked Isolde and crooned softly to the tiny infant that now slept soundly.
        “Here. I‟ll put her back in the nursery,” he whispered as he reached out to take
Isolde in his arms.
        Daphne nodded as she gently turned her over to him.
        He carried Isolde into the nursery and tenderly laid her down in her crib. He
placed a soft kiss against her sleeping forehead and stroked the springy tuff of curls along
her head. With one last look, Apollo turned and walked out the room leaving a slight
crack in the door so that he could hear her if she woke in the eve. He smiled wryly.
Better yet, when she woke during the eve.
        Apollo reentered Daphne‟s sitting room and stopped when he saw her stretched
out on her settee with her eyes shut. He leaned against the wall and just stared at her in
silence. They had a lot to discuss, but so much had happened since they retuned from
their excursion that they hadn‟t actually found a moment to talk. Apollo was hoping that
this eve would present the opportunity.
        “Daphne.”
        “Hm,” she mumbled as she opened her eyes.
        “We need to talk,” he said simply before he crossed the room and lowered himself
into the chair beside the settee.
        Daphne stretched and twisted around so that she was sitting up.
        “I was afraid you were going to say that,” she said as a small smile lifted the
corners of her lips. “Actually, we have a lot more to talk about then you may realize.”
        Apollo arched one eyebrow. “Such as?”
        Daphne let out a long sigh. “When I visited my mother she informed me that Isis
and your brother Hades are proposed to join. And if that wasn‟t bad enough, my father is
back and wants to see Isolde.” Daphne threw up her hands in resignation before she
trudged on. “But that isn‟t the worst of it!” She shook her head and met his gaze with
eyes full of disbelief. “No, the worst of it is that my mother who all my life preached to
me about not attaching myself to one man, I discovered today is a liar—”
Apollo held up his hands in mock surrender. “Whoa. Okay, let‟s back up. First, let‟s
start with your mother. What happened when you visited her? You have been sullen
since you returned from her home.”
        Daphne let out another deep sigh before she lifted her eyes to meet his gaze. The
helpless look in he saw there almost forced him to jump out of his seat and gather her in
his arms, but he restrained himself. She didn‟t want comfort right now, just someone to
listen.
        “Apollo, you should have seen them when I barged in on them. They l—
looked—”
She drew in a ragged breath. “They are still in love,” she exclaimed, her face
incredulous. “I stood there staring at them and I couldn‟t believe it, but it was so
apparent. All this time my mother talked about not falling for a man, not bonding
yourself to a man and yet, there she stood blooming with love,” Daphne mumbled
sarcastically. “I would never have believed it if someone told me, but it was clear as a
fresh dawn. She has never stopped loving my father.”
        “So your father is back. Do you think he plans to stay?”
        Daphne nodded. “He said he was planning to stay—for good. And now he wants
to see Isolde.”
        “Are you going to let him?”
        Daphne stared at him for several moments, her eyelids blinking furiously. He
wondered if she‟d heard the question when she spoke.
        “At first when he asked, I refused but then mother encouraged me to reconsider.”
Daphne shrugged. “I don‟t know Apollo. I mean I guess he can see her. It‟s just that to
have mother support him and act against me, really surprised me.”
        Apollo cleared his throat. He had to be careful with his words. She was so
agitated that any slip of the tongue would upset her. “Why don‟t you talk to him? It
seems like your father wants to build a relationship with his family. Speak to him alone
and judge for yourself his sincerity. In the end it is your decision as to whether or not he
gets to meet Isolde, and I will support you no matter what.”
        “Thank you, Apollo,” Daphne whispered as a tiny smile spread across her face.
        Apollo nodded, but didn‟t say more. She had a lot of things that she needed to
work out with her father. And while he was thrilled that she‟d come to him with her
troubles, she really needed to talk to her father instead.
        Silence blanketed the room before he remembered her earlier words.
        He stiffened. “What?!”
        Daphne stared at him. “What what?”
        “Hades and Isis are joining?” You said that they are proposed to join. When did
that happen? Does Ares know?”
        She shook her head. “I don‟t know if Ares knows or not and believe me I have no
idea when this happened, but as mother explained it to me, Hades has agreed to join with
her in order to keep her out of trouble—whatever that means.”
        Apollo snorted. He knew exactly what that meant. What on Akkadia was his
brother up to?! Now he knew what Hades meant when he said he was going to up the
stakes of their bet. He instantly shot to his feet.
        “I need to gather my brothers to go to Akkadia and speak with Hades.”
        Daphne stood up from the settee.
        “Why?”
        “To talk Hades out of this. He is making a big mistake.”
        Daphne‟s eyes narrowed.
        “Why is joining with my sister a mistake?”
        Before he could register the tone of her voice, he spoke. He instantly regretted it.
        “Because your sister is crazy!”
        She lifted her chin, her expression incensed.
        “Your womanizing brother would be lucky to join with a woman as fierce and
courageous as my sister—”
        Apollo cut her off with his mocking laughter.
        “Fierce and courageous? Your sister tried to assassinate my brother, Ares!
Forgive me if I don‟t share your high opinion.”
        Her eyes became round as saucers.
        “What?!”
        “That‟s right Daphne. Your sister is a lunatic zealot and my brother Hades is
going to join with her in order to keep her from being executed.” He didn‟t know that for
sure but he was pretty certain that was Hades‟ intent. If he joined with Isis then he could
shield her from being executed for treason. He couldn‟t let Hades do that and he said as
much.
        “I can‟t let him join with her. It is a mistake that could ruin his life—if not kill
him.”
        “My sister is not a murderer,” Daphne hissed out.
        Apollo stared down at Daphne as if she‟d lost her mind. Did she hear a word that
he‟d said? Of course, not! He was a man so his word was worthless. Her sister was
unstable at best, but she refused to see it.
        The tiny muscle in his jaw twitched furiously. It was an involuntary response to
his mounting anger.
        “Your sister is dangerous, Daphne, and I refuse to let my brother join with her.”
        Daphne balled her hands into tight fists.
        “I would be the first to support an end to their proposed joining, but not because
my sister is dangerous. Your brother is a womanizing, pig who chases anything with a
cunt!”
        Apollo‟s nostrils flared. “Well my womanizing brother possesses more honor in
his body than your coward of a sister! You should be grateful he is trying to spare her
worthless life—”
        Daphne reared back in shock. “I can‟t believe you said that. Her life is not
worthless.”
        Apollo agreed with her. His words had been spiteful, and she deserved an
apology. But she never gave him the chance to speak.
        “Get out of my house!” she bit out between clenched teeth.
        Whatever thought of apologizing that had been in his head quickly disappeared.
How dare she kick him out?!
        “Fine I was leaving anyway!” he shouted down at her before he stormed out and
slammed the door behind him.
                                            *

         Apollo stalked off towards the Kush launch site. He was determined to take a
cruiser over to Akkadia before the sun set. He‟d hoped Zeus and Ares would
accompany him, but when he com linked with Ares, his brother had informed him in a
brusque tone that he couldn‟t deal with Hades right now because he had to find his wife.
Apollo had been livid when he abruptly disconnected their link. Lost in the maelstrom of
his fury he nearly plowed over Alyssa when he rounded the corner.
         “Oh!” She cried out.
         He reached out a hand to grasp her arm in an effort to brace her from falling.
         “I‟m sorry. I didn‟t see you. Are you hurt?”
         She shook her head. “No. You seem to be in a hurry. Where are you off to?”
         He was in no mood to chat, but he needed to find Zeus and she‟d been the last
person to see him.
         “I need to head to Akkadia. Have you seen Zeus?”
         He stiffened when she averted her eyes from his probing gaze.
         “Um, he‟s at my home.”
         Apollo‟s eyes narrowed.
         “Your home? It‟s almost eve. Why would my baby brother be at your home so
close to eve?” he asked, not bothering to hide the accusatory tone of his voice. What was
it with the royal line of Kush and his brothers?! They had been nothing but trouble since
Ares had signed the peace treaty with them and yet every last one of his brothers,
including himself, seemed to be drawn to them! He was still furious with Daphne, but
since he couldn‟t take it out on her, he figured her aunt was the next best thing.
         Alyssa lifted her chin, her gaze condescending.
         “I don‟t have to explain myself to y—”
         Apollo lost it. Grasping her by the arms he dragged her closer so that she could
easily see the burning fury in his eyes.
         “Look woman, do not play games with me—or my brother!” He threatened. “He
isn‟t like the rest of my brothers. Ares, Hades, and I are only a harvest apart, but Zeus
came much later. We grew up before the war. We had a normal childhood doing things
that growing men do. But Zeus didn‟t. He missed out on a lot of things. He is also
different from us. He is more introspective, sensitive even.” He shook his head at his
choice of words. “Don‟t get me wrong. He isn‟t weak, but he is more attuned to things
than the rest of us.” Apollo‟s eyes hardened as he prepared to say his last words. He
wanted to be sure Alyssa understood how serious he was. “My brother now has the
chance to enjoy a normal life and experience things he should have long ago. I won‟t let
you take that away from him. He‟s attracted to you, I can see it. But you are too old for
him and I won‟t let you use him for sport. Do you understand me?” He hissed out.
         Alyssa‟s eyes darkened with fury. “Your brother doesn‟t need a protector Apollo.
He is quite capable of taking care of himself. You say that you don‟t think he is weak,
but deep down you do. In your mind he is still a boy. But Zeus is no child and he is far
stronger than you give him credit.” Alyssa expression softened as her eyes grew sad.
“You‟re right, I am too old for him,” she said quietly. “But it‟s not for you to decide
what happens between us.”
         Apollo studied her for several moments, before he abruptly released her. He
shook his head then. “You are attracted to my brother,” he said tightly. He stared at her
for several moments, considering his next words. “That‟s a mistake,” he finally spat out.
“I don‟t care how genuine your feelings are for him, you are still too old for him. I will
not allow Zeus to attach himself to you out of infatuation. The women of your family
have caused nothing but trouble for my brothers. Even now, Ares is off chasing after
your niece who has managed to violate the treaty and disappear.” Apollo ignored her
gasp of shock. “Hades and I have been caught up in some insane web of deceit with your
other two nieces.” He jabbed his finger at her. “And now, you want to screw up Zeus,
but I won‟t allow it. Whatever is going on between you two, end it or I will,” he
threatened in a tight voice before he stalked off leaving Alyssa to stare after him shaking
with fury.

                                            ***
        Daphne placed a kiss against Isolde‟s forehead before she slipped out of the
nursery. It seemed like Isolde had cried forever after her father stormed out. Next time
she spoke to Apollo she was going to have to tell them that if he wanted to argue with her
and then storm out of her home, that was fine, but he needed to stop slamming the door
when he did!
        Daphne tensed when she heard a hard knock at the door. She raced to answer it.
        “Apollo, you can s—!”
        Alyssa shook her head. “No Apollo, just me. Although, now I can see why he
was in such a bad mood when I ran into him. You two must have had a fight.”
        Daphne she stepped aside to let her in. “You ran into Apollo?”
        Alyssa nodded. “Yes, and he wasn‟t too happy,” she said dryly.
        Daphne frowned. “What did he say?”
        Alyssa shook her head as she rolled her eyes. “It‟s not important, trust me.” Her
eyes turned serious then. “I was on my way to see Anais, but decided to stop here
instead. Apollo mentioned that Candace was missing, and I wondered if you‟d seen her.”
        Worry immediately crept into her eyes. “Missing?”
        Alyssa sighed. “More like disappeared, as in left.”
        Daphne nibbled on her bottom lip. “No, I haven‟t seen her. Did he say why she
left?”
        “No, but I do know that if she doesn‟t come back Kush would have broken the
treaty agreement and it seems that Apollo is angry enough on his own to send us all back
to war.”
        Daphne rolled her eyes, before her expression turned serious. “Last time I spoke
to Candace she was concerned that she and Ares lacked a deep connection, but I pressed
her hard on her feelings. She certainly didn‟t seem on the brink of running off. I actually
thought she was pretty committed to working things out.”
        “Yes, well—”
        Alyssa stopped when Daphne‟s com linked buzzed.
        She stood up to connect. It was Ares.
        They spoke quickly. In moments he was gone.
        Daphne let out a long suffering breath before she turned to Alyssa.
        “Well, you heard him. Do you mind watching Isolde for a short while, so that I
can help him locate my errant cousin?”
       Alyssa‟s smile was patient. “Of course.”

                                               ***
        Hades unlinked from his communication with Ares and turned back towards
where his brothers Apollo and Zeus sat before him.
        A grin spread across his face before he let out a deep sigh.
        “Well it seems the lovebirds have had a little squabble.” Hades joked.
        Apollo grimaced. “This isn‟t funny, Hades. Candace has broken the—”
        “So what Apollo. From the reports I keep getting from Kush, it seems that those
two are actually in love. So she ran off. I have no doubt that she will probably be back.”
        Apollo‟s eyes hardened. “That‟s your problem Hades. You are too cavalier about
everything—”
        “And you are too uptight!” Hades shot back.
        “Uptight? Because I actually take things seriously? Because I am not about to
join with a lunatic terrorist?!”
        Hades shot out of his seat. “You‟re out of line Apollo. Isis is not a lunatic!”
        Apollo almost reminded Hades that he hadn‟t taken issue with his reference that
Isis was a terrorist—which to him was far worse than being a lunatic!
        Hades jabbed a finger at Apollo. “Besides, you‟re just pissed that Daphne tricked
you and now she won‟t join with you. She‟s ruined your entire dream for a family and
you can‟t accept it!”
        Apollo shot out his hands and dragged Hades up by his tunic.
        “Look who‟s out of line now, little brother? You don‟t know a damn thing about
what goes on between Daphne and I—”
        “Just like you don‟t know anything about Isis,” he shot back.
        Apollo released Hades with a flip of his wrists, his eyes full of disgust.
        “I thought when we left her with you, that you would just fuck her into
submission or something. Make her your mistress, your servant, whatever and then go
back to doing what you love, which is chasing women. If I‟d known you were going to
actually spend time trying to get to know her I would have had her locked up instead.”
        Apollo held Hades‟ gaze, his face void of expression.
        “Please tell me you don‟t care for her?”
        Hades shook his head, his eyes mirroring the regret in Apollo‟s.
        “I can‟t tell you that,” he said quietly.
        Apollo let out a ragged breath, his eyes weary. “She‟s dangerous Hades. You
know that as well as I do. I only hope that she doesn‟t cost you your life,” he whispered
before he spun on his heels and quietly left Hades‟ office.
        Hades stared after Apollo before his eyes turned to Zeus who‟d chosen to stand
there in silence and let them verbally duke it out.
        “Would you like to add your two coins?” Hades asked dryly.
        Zeus shook his head, as he lifted his mouth into a lopsided grin.
        “I think you know women better than any of us. If you are sure she won‟t harm
you then I trust your judgment. Ares will as well. Apollo is just stubborn, but eventually
he will too.”
        Hades smiled. “Thanks little brother.”
        Zeus nodded and returned Hades‟ smile before he left in search of a furious
Apollo.
                                  CHAPTER SEVEN

         Daphne abruptly shut the report and cast it aside in disgust. According to Alyssa
and Zeus‟ findings a staggering majority of the women on Kush carried the same genetic
marker as she and Alyssa. Daphne found the findings of the report intriguing, but had
been frustrated to learn that neither Alyssa nor Zeus had any idea why their genetic make
up was different, how it had happened and if it had any impact on them. Zeus offered
that the genetic marker could be responsible for the lack of children born to Kush women,
but he‟d been forced to admit that it didn‟t explain why Daphne had conceived.
         She stood and twisted her neck to the side trying to work out the knot of tension.
It just didn‟t make sense. She had the marker, but she‟d also been able to give birth to
Isolde. Her mother didn‟t have the marker, but then again she‟d been able to conceive.
Some women with the marker had been able to conceive, while many others hadn‟t.
Daphne knew deep in her soul that the strange genetic marker was responsible for the
lack of children being born to Kush women, what she didn‟t understand is why some of
them were affected while others weren‟t. What was she missing?
         She let out a deep sigh. Candace and Ares had arranged for their Circle of Elders
to meet with Akkadia‟s High Council to discuss the findings—but after they returned.
They‟d gone away on a joining trip. Daphne snorted. At times they were disgusting to
watch with their syrupy endearments and gross public affection. She shook her head.
But that still wasn‟t as nauseating as watching her parents fawn over each other like a
pair of love struck teenagers. It seemed she was the only one who remembered what it
was like before Kush and Akkadia had entered into a treaty agreement.
         She sucked her teeth. “Yeah, and that is working very well for you right now.”
Apollo had been by every dawn to see Isolde, spend time with her, or take her out with
him. His love and adoration for his daughter was evident. How he felt about her was
also quite apparent. If the topic didn‟t have to do with Isolde then there was no reason
for her to speak to her. He‟d made that abundantly clear when he returned the next dawn
after their bitter argument. That had been three moons ago. Since then she‟d tried to
engage him in friendly discussions, but had recently given up. They were not lovers, and
now they weren‟t even friends. She swallowed the lump in her throat. She missed
Apollo and it saddened her to know that he would never laugh with her again or argue
with her again. She would have gladly taken a fight with Apollo over the cool politeness
that he now showed her.
         She shoved a frustrated hand through her hair, sending it sticking up in a million
different directions.
         “What do you want, Daphne?!” One minute she was pushing Apollo away and
when he finally gave her space, she wanted him near. How could she tell him what she
wanted when she didn‟t seem to know herself.
         She checked her time dial on her wall. Her father, Ramses had taken Isolde on a
picnic. A wry smiled lifted her lips. To say that their relationship was improving was a
bit exaggerated, but they both were trying. He wouldn‟t be back until close to dusk. That
would give her just enough time to complete a list of long overdue security checks.
When not at war, Daphne was responsible for interplanetary security. She‟d been so
focused on trying to figure out what was spreading along Kush‟s surface, that she‟d
neglected some of her duties. With Zeus and Alyssa still running tests, and Candace and
Ares away, she wagered that she could use the free time to get up to catch up on her other
work.
        Daphne rushed across the palace atrium towards security headquarters next to the
palace forum.
        She rounded the corner towards the main palace quarters and stopped when she
saw two lone figures standing before her. Her back stiffened when the girl‟s laugher
pierced her ears.        Daphne narrowed her eyes to angry slits.
        No wonder he wasn’t interested anymore, she bitterly thought to herself. Apollo
had apparently found someone else to spend his time with.
        Tara? Her second in command. Couldn‟t he have at least picked someone she
didn‟t like?!
        She stood there shaking with fury as she watched Tara giggle again followed by
the deep rumble of Apollo‟s laughter. The only time Apollo displayed that warm smile
was when he was staring at his daughter. She hesitated trying to decide if she should turn
away and rush off before they saw her. She figured that option held little personal
gratification but at least she would leave with her pride still in tact. At the same time,
Daphne itched to wipe that smile off of his face, but she knew if she descended on him
like a wild banshee that her jealousy would undoubtedly show. When it appeared that
Tara was about to lean into him she lost it. She was either going to whisper something to
him or kiss him, either way the girl was too close to a man she knew had responsibilities
elsewhere. Heedless of the fact that after this episode he would probably swear that
insanity in fact did run in the family, she marched forward.
        “Tara, I need you to report to security headquarters and begin running the routine
diagnostics. I will meet you there shortly,” Daphne said firmly, proud that she had
managed to school her features into a polite mask of indifference.
        Clearly startled by the interruption, Tara‟s eyes widened as she jumped with
surprise. Daphne was annoyed that the girl didn‟t have the good sense to at least look
guilty.
        “Now Tara!” Daphne snapped when the girl didn‟t move.
        Tara nodded quickly. “Yes, general,” she said before she scurried off.
        The girl had barely disappeared from sight before she rounded on Apollo.
        “I forbid you to see my second in command again,” Daphne commanded.
        Apollo‟s eyes twinkled with amusement as he stared down at her. She almost
struck him just for thinking that anything was funny about him carrying on with Tara
while they still had unresolved business.
        “What do you mean by seeing?” Apollo asked coyly.
        Daphne‟s eyes turned cold. “Are you fucking her?”
        Apollo‟s eyes hardened. “That‟s none of your business, Daphne.”
        She drew back, her expression a mixture of shock and disappointment. The
thought that Apollo had slept with someone else nearly made her ill, but she refused to
show how deeply the revelation stung. “We have a child together, Apollo—”
        “Who I take very good care of. Besides, this has nothing to do with Isolde.”
        Daphne shook her head. “I can‟t believe you would do something so—so.” She
puffed out a deep breath as she struggled to find the right words. Lifting her chin, she
held his gaze, her face now void of any emotion. “Everyone knows that we share a child
together. You are free to sleep with whoever you chose, but to do so in such an open
manner is insulting and humiliating.”
        Apollo shook his head, his eyes full of pity. “You‟re pissed because your ego has
been bruised, because your stupid pride is at stake.” Apollo‟s jaw tightened as he backed
Daphne into the wall behind her. “I‟m sorry Daphne but I don‟t care that your ego has
been bruised—”
        “This has nothing to do with my ego!” she shot back. “Did you sleep with Tara or
not?”
        “Again, that‟s none of your business.”
        Pure, unadulterated jealousy ripped through her and before she could stop herself
she slapped him.
        “It is my business! I don‟t want you sleeping with other women, because,
because—”
        “Because what Daphne?” he asked softly and leaned into her, his face only inches
from her own.
        “Because I don‟t want you to! That‟s should be enough!” Daphne argued.
        Apollo pushed away from her slightly, but still held her imprisoned against the
wall. “That‟s not enough Daphne. If you don‟t want me to be with someone else then
you are going to have to come up with something better than because,” he spat out.
        Daphne stood there enraged. She wanted to smack him again, but she was too
upset to even do that.
        His eyes narrowed to angry slits when she remained silent. “Daphne, if I even
thought you were sleeping with another man I would rip him apart—especially if he
knew we shared a child. I wouldn‟t hesitate because I care about you. I have feelings for
you.”
        Daphne sucked in a breath when he trailed a finger down her cheek, his
expression full of regret. “Daphne, I want a woman who can feel—”
        “I do feel,” she protested, although she knew it sounded weak to even her own
ears.
        “I don‟t think you do, Daphne. I don‟t even know if you can. Right now the
thought of me being with Tara should make you jealous, but it doesn‟t. Your pride is
wounded, but you aren‟t jealous.”
        He dropped his hand and pushed away from her completely.
        “You don‟t want me Daphne and the only reason why you don‟t want me to be
with someone else is because of how it would make you look in other people‟s eyes.”
        She stared after him when he moved to walk away.
        “I thought you wanted to join with me,” Daphne said weakly, holding his gaze.
        He nodded. “I did. I thought we could build on the bond we have with our child
and that at some point you could grow to l—” he cleared his throat. “care for me.”
        “And now?”
        “Now I want to join with someone who I care for and who shares those same
feelings towards me.”
        Daphne‟s heart sank at his words. She could see from the look in his eyes that he
had given up on them, and it hurt far worse than she could have imagined.
        “And you don‟t think I am that person?” she whispered.
        Apollo‟s expression was pained as he silently shook his head, before he
eventually turned and walked away.
        She followed him with her eyes until he disappeared from sight.
        Standing there alone, Daphne swallowed the lump in her throat.
        Apollo was wrong. She still was that person. They both knew it. Now all she
had to do was prove it.

                                               ***
         Alyssa threw her hands up in frustration.
         “We‟re not having babies, there is an unknown void spreading across the surface,
we are all walking around with a mutant genetic marker and all you can tell me is that
this is odd!” Alyssa could feel her power pulsing through her. On rare occasions when
she experienced extreme emotions, her sorceress gift would rear its head and her magic
would spring to life of its own volition. Now was one of those times.
         Zeus took a hesitant step back. “Elder Alyssa, you‟re glowing?”
         Alyssa waved a dismissive hand. “I know. It will stop once I calm down.” She
took several deep breaths and exhaled. Immediately, she felt her power curl back into a
tiny ball inside of her like a sea creature recoiling its tentacles.
         Zeus tipped his head to one side. “Do you always glow like that when you‟re
upset?” He asked curiously.
         Alyssa quirked her lips up into a tiny smile. “It used to be worse. When I was
younger, beams would shoot from my hands and burn things before I could stop them.”
         Alyssa smiled wider when Zeus took another step back. “That was when I was
much younger. I can control it now.”
         He arched one eyebrow. “You‟re sure?”
         She nodded her head. “Yes, I‟m sure.” She said before she sat back down on the
settee.
         She focused again on why she‟d become angry in the first place.
         “So you have no answers really—”
         He pinched his lips into a tight frown and shook his head. “I didn‟t say that. I
said that I believe all of these factors are connected and once we find what caused one we
can unravel how to fix all of them—”
         “But you and your science doesn‟t know what caused any of this,” She said dryly.
         His expression darkened. “No more than you and your magic,” He shot back
tersely.
         Alyssa bristled at the insult but ignored it. Besides she‟d attacked first.
         “Okay, so what do you propose we do?”
         Zeus let out a low breath and dragged his hands through his tawny locks. Alyssa
followed his movements with her eyes. She studied him closer. He looked like his
brothers in every way with his hard features, overwhelming stature and rugged good
looks, except his hair. Where his brothers‟ hair was dark as mideve his was as light as a
new dawn.
         Alyssa jumped when she heard her name.
         “Did you hear me?”
         She nodded. “Yes, of course.”
         Zeus narrowed his eyes, his expression skeptical. “I was saying that as soon as
Candace and Ares return we need to request that they send a convoy to investigate other
planets. I don‟t think this is unique to Kush.”
        “That seems reasonable.”
        “I also think we should gather a team of knowledgeable scientists and
practitioners of magic to help us. Maybe they can come up with something that we have
over looked.”
        Alyssa considered his words for a moment before she nodded slightly.
        “That is a good start. But I want to be involved in every step.”
        Zeus rolled his eyes. “Of course you do,” he murmured sarcastically.
                                   CHAPTER EIGHT

        Apollo struggled to bite back his laughter and school his features into a blank
mask.
         “So, you forgot that I was coming by to take Isolde with me to visit Athena?”
         Daphne nodded, her eyes wide with innocence. “That‟s exactly what I‟m saying.”
         Apollo knew she was lying. “And so now she is with Ramses?”
         She nodded again. “Yes.”
         “Okay, so when will they be back?”
         She lifted her shoulders in a delicate shrug, no doubt a well conceived attempt to
draw his eyes to her breasts that overflowed from her low cut dakla. It was working.
         “I don‟t know.”
         Apollo lifted his lips into a menacing smirk as he closed the distance between
them. So she wanted to play games. He could do that, but she had to know that she
wouldn‟t win.
         He grasped her chin in his fingers and lifted her eyes to meet his.
         “Yes, you do.”
         He interrupted her when she started to protest. “I think you arranged for Ramses
to take Isolde so that you could spend this sun rising trying to seduce me.”
         Indignation flashed in her lovely brown eyes. “Are you saying that I can‟t seduce
a man?”
         A wicked grin spread across his face. “I‟m not half delirious from blood loss. I
wager you are going to have to try harder this time.”
         He immediately regretted his words when her eyes flashed with embarrassment.
Before he could offer an apology she threw her hands up and whirled away from him.
         “Oh forget it Apollo!” she snapped.
         He immediately advanced towards her, and dragged her into his arms, before she
could push him away. Her body tensed but he ignored it and hugged her closer, pressing
her back into his chest.
         “You give up way too easily,” he whispered against her ear.
         “I can see that this was a mistake so would you please just leave,” she whispered
         over her
shoulder.
         He turned her in his arms to face him. His breath caught in his throat when he
saw that her eyes brimmed with unshed tears. He swore softly.
         “Daphne?”
         She pushed against him trying to dislodge herself from his embrace. He tightened
his arms around her at the same time he brought his lips down against her mouth. He felt
her stiffen before she slowly relaxed against him. But then abruptly she ripped her lips
from his.
         “I don‟t need a pity fuck, Apollo,” she hissed out angrily.
         Still holding her securely against, he unwrapped one arm from around her to
plunge his hand into her hair and tilt her head back to stare down into her eyes.
         A wicked gleam leapt in his gaze. “Trust me Daphne. This is not a pity fuck,” he
murmured before he lowered his head and captured her lips again.
         Their movements were frenzied as they tore at each other‟s clothing. With one
smooth stroke, Apollo ripped Daphne‟s dakla from her body.
         “Apollo!”
         “Sorry,” he said with a sheepish grin, before he seized her mouth again.
         He drew in a sharp breath when Daphne pushed him away from her, gripped the
edges of his tunic around his neck and ripped the material from his chest.
         He chuckled.
         A amused twinkle glittered in her gaze. She shrugged. “Sorry,” she said
unapologetically.
         He snaked out a arm and dragged her back up against him.
         “You‟re not sorry at all,” he grumbled out against her neck as he placed tiny
kisses along her throat.
         In a fit of laughter and ripped clothing they managed to stumble into her bedroom,
before collapsing in a tangle of naked arms and legs on her bed.
         Apollo lifted his body over Daphne, resting his weight on his elbows. For several
heated moments he simply stared into her eyes before he leaned in and placed a gentle
kiss against her lips.
         He smiled when her eyelids drifted shut and she sighed. With achingly low
movements, he placed a wet trail of kisses across her cheek, along her neck, all the way
to her chest. With both hands he grasped her breasts between them and pushed them
together. Leaning down he slid his tongue across the hardened peaks of her nipples.
         “Apollo!” Daphne gasped as she shivered.
         He slowly teased her with his tongue as he stroked her nipples gently, before
pulling one between his lips and sucking gently. He groaned against her breast when he
felt her tremble against hips. Her hips began to buck beneath him with a sense of
urgency. He dragged his hips back slightly to keep from plunging into her sticky, wet
heat. He wasn‟t ready to take her just yet.
         With a slight popping sound, he released one nipple to lavish the other one with
his full attention. Drawing it into the moist heat of his mouth, he nibbled gently. He
winced when her nails dug into his back but he didn‟t stop. Instead he sucked harder,
nipping at the tiny buds.
         “Apollo! Oh Goddess! They are too sensitive. You have to stop,” she rasped out.
         Apollo leaned back to stare into her flushed face. He didn‟t want to stop, but then
again there was so much more of her that he could tantalize and tease. Lowering his head
again, he placed two quick pecks against her nipples before he released her full breasts.
         He slowly traced a wet trail across her stomach with his tongue, only stopping to
dip the tip into her navel.
         He felt Daphne tense when he settled between her legs. He glanced up to see that
she stared down at him with lust drunk eyes.
         Apollo smiled. Still holding her gaze, he shot out his tongue and flicked the tiny
bud of her clit.
         “Goddess!” Daphne screamed as she arched her back and clenched her eyes shut.
         Apollo smiled again before he stuck out his tongue again and slid it between her
slit. His cock grew hard as a rock when her cunt juices coated her tongue. He inhaled
deeply, reveling in the heady scent of her pussy. He descended on her pussy then like a
starving man.
         Spreading her legs wide, he probed her hole with his tongue, as he fucked her
with his mouth. In the distance, he heard her hoarse screams and felt her legs shaking
against him. Reaching around her thigh he pinched her clit as he continued to stroke his
tongue in and out of her pussy. Instantly she shattered.
         Throaty cries erupted from her lips at the same time her cunt gushed out cum and
flooded his mouth.
         “Apollo! Apollo!” she babbled over and over as she dug her nails into the back of
his head and lifted her hips to grind her pussy against his mouth.
         He eagerly licked up all of her juices until he felt her grow limp against him. In
one fluid motion he reared back and flipped her over onto her stomach.
         “Get on your knees, Daphne,” he commanded in a ragged voice.
         Precum seeped from his dick as he watched her obey his command. He stared at
the lovely picture she made. Her chest flat against the bed, while her ass was lifted high
in the air, he could easily see that cum still seeped out from her slit. Apollo gently
carressed the fleshy globes of her ass before he pushed her knees wider.
         Raising himself up, he grasped his steel cock and guided it into the tight, wet
warmth of her cunt.
         The both let out low moans as he slowly entered her from behind. Seated deep
inside her sheath, he placed both hands on either side of her head, and leaned forward to
rest his chest against her back.
         Apollo closed his eyes as he began to thrust his cock in and out of Daphne.
Holding back his climax was a struggle because with each stroke her wet heat would grip
him in a tight vise until he felt like her pussy would strangle his cock.
         The muscles in his arms bulged as he plowed his cock into her from behind.
Sweat popped out along his brow and trickled down his forehead. He wanted this to last,
but he didn‟t think he could hold back much longer.
         “Just let go, Apollo,” Daphne whispered as if sensing his inner struggle.
Something inside him instantly shattered. His pace quickened and he slammed his dick
into her from behind. His balls slammed furiously against her ass as he took her roughly.
         With brutal strokes he pounded into her over and over again. He could feel his
balls tightening as he prepared to shoot his load deep inside of her.
         He shoved his dick into her with two final deep thrusts before his cock twitched
inside of her and erupted. Milky white jets of semen exploded from his dick at the same
time he let loose a loud roar. Unable to hold himself up any longer he collapsed on top of
Daphne, pressing her deep into the bed.
         Gripping the blanket beneath his hands, he clenched his eyes shut and rocked his
hips back and forth as he continued to empty his seed in her waiting pussy. Exhausted,
he lay against her for several moments while tiny convulsions rocked his body and his
dick continued to pump copious amounts of semen into her.
         Neither spoke as they struggled to drag in air. They would have stayed there,
fused together indefinitely had it not been for the sound of the front door closing shut.
         “Daphne!”
         They both tensed before they instantly sprung apart and jumped off the bed.
         “That‟s father,” Daphne hissed. “He is back with Isolde.”
         “I thought he would be gone until later.”
         “Me too!”
         They quickly searched for their clothing before they realized that they‟d left a
path of torn and shredded garments from her sitting room all the way to the door of her
bed room.
         Like two guilty teenagers caught in the middle of the act, they rushed to Daphne‟s
closet and pulled out replacement clothing. Luckily Apollo had left a few items there in
the event he needed to stay the eve with Isolde.
         With frenzied movements, they hurriedly threw on fresh clothes.
         Daphne was the first to finish dressing.
         “I need to go and greet him,” Daphne said as she gestured towards her sitting
room.
         Apollo nodded as he shrugged on his breeches. “Go ahead.”
         “Daphne?”
         “Coming father!” Daphne shouted back before she flew out of her bedroom to
meet him.
         As she raced towards her sitting room, she shoved her and Apollo‟s discarded
clothing aside with her feet, trying to kick them into a corner. She eventually stumbled
into the sitting room, still kicking aside ripped clothing.
         Her eyes widened when she saw that Ramses held Apollo‟s shredded tunic in one
hand.
         She averted her eyes to an imaginary spot above his head.
         “Did someone get mauled by a wild animal in here?” Ramses asked, his eyes
twinkling with laughter.
         Unless the wild animals were her and Apollo, then no. She decided that wasn‟t
the best reply.
         Quickly she snatched the tunic from his hands, crumpled it into a ball and tossed
it aside.
         “I see you and Isolde are back already,” she said breathlessly.
         Ramses arched an eyebrow as he noted her flushed face and rumpled appearance.
         “Yes, she started to fuss a bit so I brought her home a little earlier than I
anticipated,” he said cautiously before adding, “Did I, um, interrupt something?”
         Daphne waved her hand in the air and shook her head. “No, of course not,” she
shot back quickly before she darted her eyes about the room, unable to meet her father‟s
probing stare.
         She stood there wishing a hole would swallow her up and end the tense silence
that hung between them when suddenly Apollo swept into the room and literally saved
her.
         He dipped his head in courtesy. “Ramses.”
         Ramses nodded back. “Apollo.”
         Daphne wondered if a guilty silence would once again descend on the room when
Apollo thankfully chimed in again.
         “Well, thank you Ramses for bringing Isolde home a bit earlier. Apparently,
Daphne forgot that I wanted to spend time with Isolde this sun rising as well. But now it
seems that I will have a few moments with her after all. May I?” Apollo asked as he
reached out to gather a now sleeping Isolde in his arms. Ramses gently handed her over
and stepped back.
         Apollo turned to Daphne then. “I will be back shortly, alright?”
         She smiled. “That‟s fine. I shall be here.”
         Apollo returned her smile before he nodded his head towards Ramses and quickly
slipped out of her front door.
         Daphne struggled not to turn down her lips in a frown at Apollo‟s hasty departure.
It figured that he would leave her there alone to face her father! The coward!
         She blew out a breath before she turned to her father and smiled hesitantly.
         “Can I get you something to drink? Tea?”
         Ramses shook his head. “I would like some tea, but please sit down. I will get
it.”
         Daphne gingerly took a seat in the chair along side the settee and waited patiently
for him to finish preparing their tea.
         “Would you like honey with that?” Ramses offered as he set her cup down in
front of her and held out a small jar of honey.
         Daphne recoiled immediately as the smell of the honey caused her stomach to
grow queasy. She instantly felt a wave of nausea wash over her.
         Shaking her head she held up one hand in protest, and draped the other one across
her nose.
         “No thank you. For some reason, honey makes me ill of late.”
         Ramses visibly stiffened and stared down at her for several moments before he
quickly recovered and placed the honey to the side.
         Taking a seat on the settee, he leaned back into the plush cushions and clasped
his hands in front of him.
         “Daphne, I wanted to talk to you,” he finally said.
         Her eyebrows lifted in question. “About what?”
         Ramses blew out a deep breath. “I actually came over here to talk to you about
one thing but I must ask you a question before we discuss that.”
         Daphne‟s eyebrows snapped together. “This sounds serious. What is it?”
         Ramses let out another deep sigh and pinned her with serious eyes.
         “When your mother was carrying you and Isis she often had a strong reaction to
honey. She couldn‟t stand the taste or smell of it because it made her sick. I saw how
you reacted just now which makes me wonder if you are with child again.”
         Before she could stop it, a stunned gasp escaped her lips.
         “Of course not! That‟s impossible!” She protested. But was it? She‟d noticed
that of late her breasts were swollen and tender, and her nipples seemed overly sensitive.
She shook her head in denial as if she could banish the possible truth of his words with a
simple gesture.
         Ramses‟ voice was patient when he spoke again. “It‟s not impossible, Daphne.”
         Her wide eyes snapped to his face. “But it is. I mean if I am with child again that
would be a miracle considering that no other woman on Kush has been able to give birth
in the last two harvests.”
         He nodded at her statement. “Yes, your mother mentioned the lack of births on
Kush, and you‟re right it would be an amazing miracle—but impossible it is not,” he said
gently.
         Too shocked to speak, Daphne just nodded dumbly in agreement.
         “Well I see this is something that you hadn‟t considered and it the notion of it has
undoubtedly come as a shock to you. Unfortunately I am afraid what I came here to tell
you may be a bit of a shock for you as well.”
         Daphne‟s eyes grew wider, but she remained silent, anticipating that whatever he
had to say was going to be quite a surprise. She was right.
         “Your mother and I have decided to join,” he said.
         Daphne gasped in disbelief. “What?! My mother? Anais?”
         Ramses grinned sheepishly. “One and the same. She asked me to join with her
and I agreed.”
         Daphne held up her hand and blinked furiously. “Wait a minute. My mother
asked you? I don‟t understand. She has always abhorred the notion of joining! Why
would she join with you now?”
         Ramses stared back at her with earnest eyes. “Because your mother and I love
each other. We always have and we always will. And now we ask your blessing as we
prepare to join.”
         “My blessing?” Daphne asked in a daze. She was still numb.
         “Yes Daphne. Your mother wanted me to ask for your blessing. She thought it
would mean more if it came from me.”
         Daphne stared at Ramses in stunned silence. So her mother had sent him because
she couldn‟t face her.
         Ramses quickly guessed the direction of her thoughts from the look on her face.
“Your mother sent me Daphne because she believed that it would be hard for you to
accept the announcement of our joining, but if you saw just how much I loved her that
you would truly understand why this is so important to us.”
         She considered his words for several moments. She could see her mother‟s
reasoning and she had to admit that when she looked into her father‟s eyes it was
apparent that he was sincere about his desire to join with her mother. That realization
softened her resistance, to the entire notion. So despite her reservations she slowly
offered him a tentative smile.
         “I must say that this is a surprise. I never would have guessed mother would agree
to this.” Daphne expelled a deep breath before shrugging her shoulders in resignation.
“But I guess if you two love each other and are happy, then who am I to stand in your
way? I give you my blessing.” She whispered finally.
         A huge grin spread across his face and he jumped to his feet. “Your mother will
be pleased, Daphne. Thank you,” he said softly.
         “You‟re welcome,” she whispered back as she watched him stand from the settee
and stride to the front door. She thought he would quickly slip out the door and rush
back to her mother to tell her the good news, so she was puzzled when he hesitated,
before he abruptly turned his head to stare at her from over his shoulder.
         “Daphne, if you are with child again, I encourage you to figure out where you
stand with Apollo. He is a good man and you both deserve happiness,” he said gently
before he closed the door behind him.
                                   CHAPTER NINE

         Daphne tapped gently on the door.
         “Come in,” a deep voice shouted back.
         She carefully pushed open the door and stepped inside.
         “Hi Zeus,” she said as she offered him a weak smile.
         “Daphne, hello,” he said and waved at her to come in. “I know you must be here
to see Alyssa but—”
         She shook her head. “No. I‟m actually here to see you.”
         When a puzzled look crossed his face, she added, “I need you help.”
         Zeus nodded his head. “Okay. With what?”
         Daphne blew out a shaky breath. It was hard to reveal to him how truly
vulnerable she felt, but if she didn‟t she knew she would lose Apollo for good. Her
father‟s words had haunted her ever since they‟d last spoken. He was right. She
deserved happiness—she and Apollo both. She just hoped Apollo thought he could find
it with her.
         “I need you to help me convince Apollo that I—,” she hesitated. Running her
nervous palms down the sides of her dakla she tried again. “I—I love your brother, but I
have done so much to hurt him and push him away that I doubt he would believe
anything I said. I need to show him. And I need it to be a grand gesture so that he has no
doubt of the sincerity of my feelings.” She swallowed deeply before she pursed her lips
into a tiny frown. “Zeus, say something,” she snapped when he stared back at her, mouth
agape.
         He blinked several times in amazement before he finally spoke.
         “Um, um, well, I never thought—I mean I figured you cared for Apollo—,”
         “Zeus I love Apollo and I have for a very long time. I don‟t know if he told you
about how we conceived Isolde—and I won‟t give you the details,” she added when Zeus
visibly blanched. “But I want you to know that right or wrong I chose Apollo to father
my daughter because deep down I knew I loved him even then. I was just afraid to admit
it,” she lowered her eyes to the ground. “But if I don‟t tell him how I feel then I am
going to lose him and—and,” she let her voice trail off. She couldn‟t finish. She‟d seen
him with Tara at her parent‟s joining earlier and the pain that had seized her had been
indescribable. While she was certain he wasn‟t sleeping with the girl, she could easily
see the interest in Tara‟s eyes. The jealousy that gripped her had been staggering.
Apollo continued to remain distant and aloof with her, but when he danced with Tara he
had smiled at her the entire time. Seeing the evidence that he had moved on had left a
bitter taste in her mouth. If it hadn‟t been her parent‟s joining she would have
undoubtedly caused a scene. Instead she had swallowed her pride and quietly retreated to
Alyssa‟s home where she knew she would find Zeus. She felt Apollo slipping away from
her, but she refused to give him up without a fight. Alyssa and Apollo swore Zeus
possessed a brilliant mind. Hopefully they were right, because she needed every
advantage at her disposal.
         Daphne‟s eyes snapped back to Zeus when he suddenly stood.
         “What is it? Why are you smiling?” she asked. Could she dare hope that he had
already found a solution. If so, he was more brilliant than she‟d imagined
       Zeus‟ eyes twinkled as he grinned broadly. “Something Alyssa said to me
before.”
       He snapped his fingers. “You‟re in luck, Daphne. I think I have an idea.”

                                            ***

        Ares glanced between the assembled Circle of Elders and High Council.
        “It is agreed then that Elder Alyssa and Zeus will head up the expedition to
further explore the troubling findings of their report,” Ares said. “If there is no further
business then this—”
        “Actually, there is,” Daphne said as she took a step forward.
        Ares nodded at her, his expression puzzled. “Yes, Princess Daphne?”
        Daphne cast furtive glances around the chamber room before she finally stopped
on Apollo. She almost abandoned her plan when he visibly stiffened and his face
hardened. She closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. She could do this
she told herself and opened her eyes.
        She lifted her chin and held Apollo‟s gaze, her expression one of complete
confidence despite her trembling palms that belied her façade.
        “According to Statute 24, Clause 7 of the Constitution of Kush, two royals are
obligated to commence with a recognized union before the Circle of Elders if a child is
born to them.” She paused for a heartbeat when Apollo‟s eyes flashed with fury. Balling
her shaking hands into fists, she lifted her chin a notch higher. “I am of royal birth, as is
your brother Apollo,” she said and glanced quickly at Ares before she returned her eyes
to a now enraged Apollo. Her voice trembled slightly, as she said her next words.
“According to the law, the birth of our daughter joined us and now I declare that our
union be formally recognized before not only the Circle of Elders, but Akkadia‟s High
Council as well.”
        Shocked gasps and murmurs erupted among the assembled leaders, which she
knew were accompanied by equally shocked expressions. She was tempted to glance at
her mother or Candace to gauge their reactions, but did not dare tear her gaze from
Apollo.
        “Quiet! Quiet in the chambers!” Candace called out trying to bring order in the
chambers once again.
        “Daphne, we will review the Constitution to verify your claim—,”
        “Your majesty, Queen Candace, may I respectfully interrupt?”
        Candace let out a low sigh before she nodded her head. “Go ahead Prince Zeus.”
        He smiled. “Thank you.” He cleared his throat and held up a piece of parchment.
“Actually, I have a copy of the entire Constitution right here to verify Princess Daphne‟s
statement. Would you like me to read it?”
        Exasperation crossed Ares‟ face. “No thank you Zeus. May we just take a look at
the document?”
        Zeus nodded and handed it to Ares. Candace and Ares quickly scanned the
document and lifted their heads. They leaned into each other for several moments and
whispered in hushed tones, before they split apart. They both wore twin expressions of
disbelief and resignation.
        Ares expelled a deep breath.
        “The constitution verifies Princess Daphne‟s claim. Therefore, we are bound by
law to certify the union between Princess Daphne and Prince Apollo—”
        “Hot damn! I believe we have a shot gun joining!” Hades cracked as he burst into
laughter. His laughter instantly transformed into nervous coughing when he met
Apollo‟s malevolent gaze.
        Ares also shot Hades a quelling look before he continued. “As I was saying. We
are bound by law to certify this union. All in favor?”
        A resounding chorus of „yays‟ went up.
        “All opposed?”
        All eyes immediately turned to Apollo. He stood there rigid as a statue, with his
arms folded across his chest and burning rage boiling in the depths of his gaze.
        He lifted his shoulders in a tense shrug. “It‟s not like I have much choice.” He
said tightly as he held Daphne‟s wary gaze.
        “You have a choice, Apollo,” Daphne said softly. This wasn‟t working out quite
as she had planned.
        Apollo straightened up taller and uncurled his arms from in front of his chest.
        He shook his head angrily. “No, I don‟t Daphne! There is never a choice with
you! I had no choice when it came to becoming a father. I had no choice when it came to
choosing my child‟s mother. And again, I have no choice regarding whether I even want
to be with her or not! No, Daphne I have no choice whatsoever, but you don‟t seem to
care about that, do you?”
        Daphne‟s eyes widened with shock. He was right, of course, but to hear the
bitterness in his voice when he said it was staggering. She took a step forward, but
stopped at the glare he shot her.
        “I do care, Apollo. That‟s why I did this,” She threw her hands up in frustration.
“This isn‟t working out quite how I planned—”
        “That‟s the problem, Daphne. You plan how things between us should go, but
you never ask me about my plan, or how I would feel about your plan!”
        Daphne glanced around the room and for the first time remembered that they were
not alone. “Can we have the room for a moment—”
        “No! Don‟t bother. I‟m leaving!” Apollo said as he angrily turned his back on
her and moved towards the door.
        “You accuse me of giving up, but here I stand before, before everyone even,” She
waved her arm, gesturing wildly. “Trying to show you that I care, that I love you and
that I am serious about making this work and you don‟t even have the guts to stand
before me and let me finish!” Zeus had been mistaken. Apollo didn‟t love her if he could
walk out on her.
        Apollo stopped at her words before he suddenly whipped around to face her. He
crossed the room in four angry strides to snatch her up by her arms and hold her before
him, pinning her with eyes that were as cold as ice.
        “How dare you stand there and accuse me of not having guts! I asked you to join
many moons ago and you refused! I asked you to tell me how you felt and you wouldn‟t!
Now that you somehow think you love me and are ready to join you expect me to just fall
at your feet and be grateful. And since I won‟t I am somehow a coward! I have done
nothing but show you how I feel—”
        Daphne drew back in shock. “How? By ignoring me? By flirting with my
second in command? By leaving me with child and alone—”
         Apollo‟s face hardened. “You chose to have Isolde without me and since I have
known about her I have never shirked my duties as a father to Isolde—”
         “I‟m not talking about Isolde!” Shit! Daphne‟s gaze immediately snapped to her
feet. She hadn‟t meant to reveal that bit of information—certainly not publicly.
         “Leave us, now,” Apollo commanded when chattering erupted among the
occupants in the room.
         “They are a fertile lot, aren‟t they?” Snickered Hades, before he quickly departed
the room along with everyone else.
         Apollo grimaced at his words but held onto his tongue until the chambers was
completely empty.
         He tightened his hands around her arms before he let out a deep sigh.
         “I don‟t know where to begin with you,” he finally said.
         Daphne lifted her gaze to his face, but did not speak.
         “You claim you love me, but—”
         His lack of faith in her moved her to speak.
         “I do love you,” she said as she lifted pleading eyes to meet his uncertain gaze. “I
know I have a strange way of showing it, but I do. And I have for a long time. I swear
it!” She exclaimed when he shook his head. “I was afraid to join with you and reveal my
feelings for you when you asked before because then I would have to admit that I wanted
a child with you not just because I respected you, but because I loved you. It‟s true
Apollo and if you think back to my actions you will know that what I am saying is not a
lie.”
         She could see that her words were beginning to sink in as she watched his eyes
slowly begin to thaw.
         “Daphne, it is hard for a man to love a woman that makes him feel helpless.” All
hope that she‟d held inside of her immediately sank at his words. He didn‟t love her. She
felt like her heart was being ripped out and the pain that coursed through her was
indescribable. “I have never been given a choice with you. It is you who makes the
plans, the decisions and then I must accept them, or else. Daphne a relationship between
two people that love each other is about partnership, about sharing—”
         Daphne nodded her head, her eyes sad. “I know,” she sighed. “I thought if I
publicly announced my intent to join with you that you would see that I was sincere in
my feelings, that I was ready to reveal to everyone how I felt. I know now that I didn‟t
really think it through long enough. I didn‟t realize that you would react this way. But I
know if I was in your place I would resent me too.”
         Apollo released his hold on her arm to run his free hand through her hair causing
her head to tilt back slightly.
         “It‟s not entirely your fault. Apparently, you had help from Zeus—”
         “Don‟t be mad at him. He was just trying to help. He thought you loved me and
just needed a push,” she said softly as she lowered her gaze to hide the look of
embarrassment at her words. Again, she regretted that Zeus was wrong about Apollo‟s
feelings. She was such a fool. Mortified, she tugged gently, trying to break free of his
grasp.
         “And I am sorry about the child. I was not trying to trap you. It was not my
intent to take the choice from you or make you feel helpless. I never imagined that I
would be able to conceive again, or so soon. So this is a surprise for me as well. I am
sure we can make arrangements just as we have with Isolde.”
        Daphne shot Apollo a puzzled look when he dragged her into his arms a placed a
gentle kiss against her forehead.
        “We are joined now. There will be no other arrangements for you, me or our
children,” he said firmly.
        Daphne tried to pull away from him. She couldn‟t let him do this. He didn‟t love
her and she refused to force this joining on him. She cast him a curious look when his
arms tightened around her.
        “I love you Daphne,” he said softly. “And according to Statute 27, Clause 8 once
this joining is entered it can only be broken by a unanimous decision of the Elders, and
now the High Council—which I sit on by the way and I would never vote for that,” he
said as he grinned down at her.
        Daphne‟s eyebrows snapped together, her eyes confused. “Clause 8, but I didn‟t
mention Clause 8. How do you know about—?” Her eyes narrowed to slits as she
studied his face. “Apollo? Apollo!”

                                           ***

         Daphne smiled serenely as she snuggled deeper into Apollo‟s arms. They had
barely managed to make it back to her home before they practically jumped each other.
They had been at it ever since.
         She lifted her head from his sweat soaked chest and met his gaze.
         “I can‟t believe you tricked me,” she pouted. “And after you went on and on
about choices—”
         The deep rumble of Apollo‟s laughter stopped her tirade. “I didn‟t trick you.
Besides you‟re just mad that I beat you at your own game.” He lifted one eyebrow.
“You know who you should really be mad at?”
         Daphne shook her head. “Who?”
         “Zeus. He is the one who brought your plan to me. I just followed along.”
         Daphne rolled her eyes as she swatted a hand against his chest.
         “I can‟t believe you would set Zeus up to take the fall for you. We need to thank
Zeus. If not for him we would have still been running around in circles.”
         Apollo nodded in agreement.
         Daphne lifted her eyebrows when a question popped into her head.
         “So, you pretended to be upset with me in the chambers? You never would have
walked out.”
         Apollo grinned sheepishly. “Most of it was an act, although you still trumped me
with the announcement of the baby.” He joked before his expression turned serious.
Twining his fingers with hers he stared into her eyes. “I had to know that you felt the
same way about me, Daphne. When Zeus came to me with your plan, I was skeptical.
You are used to winning. I worried that my distance had propelled you to try and win me
at all costs.” Apollo let out a deep breath and tightened his hold on her hand when she
shook her head in confusion.
         “I withdrew from you hoping that you would discover you had feelings for me in
my absence. But you continued to hold back. I had to know that you wanted to join with
me because you cared for me, not because it was unacceptable for you to lose me. Am I
making sense?”
         Daphne nodded. “You are. So, you would have left had I not revealed that I
loved you?”
         Apollo smiled and shook his head. “You forget how well I know you. I knew
that you would never be able to stand for someone walking out on you. I knew that you
would pull out all the stops if you thought I was just going to walk away—ouch! What
was that for?” Apollo complained when Daphne punched him in the shoulder.
         “I can‟t believe you manipulated me!” She sulked for several moments before
she shot him a reluctant smile. “I guess I deserved it after I manipulated you,” she said
quietly.
         “I didn‟t do it to get back at you, Daphne, if that‟s what you want to know. I also
would have never walked out on you,” he murmured as he tugged her back down to lay
draped across him once again. “I hoped you loved me and I wanted to hear you say it but
whether you revealed your feelings then or later, was inconsequential. I knew that once
we joined we would have the chance to work through many of our obstacles. I was
confident that over time you could grow to love me if you already didn‟t.” He tightened
his arms around her. “I just wanted us to have a chance, Daphne and it frustrated me that
you weren‟t willing to give us that chance—”
         Apollo stopped when Daphne pressed a single finger against his lips. “We have
more than a chance. We have a lifetime of chances which I intend to take full advantage
of starting now,” she whispered before she lowered her head and placed a gentle kiss
against his lips.

        Bzzzzzz!
        “Mmm, ger abay!” Daphne mumbled against Apollo‟s mouth when her com link
buzzed.
        When it buzzed again Daphne ripped her mouth away from Apollo‟s lips and
groaned.
        “It may be important,” Apollo said when it rang again.
        Wrapping a sheet around her she padded across the room and pressed the button
to open the link.
        “Hades? Mother?”
        Daphne shot a puzzled look to Apollo who quickly wrapped a blanked around his
waist and bounded off the bed to stand beside her, his face a mask of concern.
        “Hades, what is it?” Apollo asked when he saw his brother‟s strained face.
        “Isis. She‟s gone.
        Daphne‟s eyes widened. “Gone? What do you mean gone? You two are set to
join in one full moon.”
        “Can you both meet us in the palace chambers quickly?” Anais interrupted.
        “Yes, of course.” Daphne nodded before immediately disconnecting the link.
        Daphne face crumbled as soon as her mother‟s face disappeared from the screen.
        Apollo hugged her against him and whispered reassuring endearments into her
ear.
        “It‟s going to be okay, Daphne.”
        Daphne met his confident gaze. She wished she could be as certain as he.
        “I don‟t know Apollo. This was Isis‟ last chance.”
        “Don‟t say that, Daphne. Hades will find her and bring her back.”
        “But what if he doesn‟t want to? Hades was the only thing standing between my
sister and a death sentence. What if he doesn‟t even want to be bothered with her now
that she has run away? Isis has caused him nothing but grief. I can‟t blame him if he
doesn‟t want to join with her anymore.”
        A slight smile lifted the corners of his lips as he hugged her close.
        “My brother has never met a woman that didn‟t want him. It rankles on his
nerves that Isis is unaffected by his charms—”
        Daphne reared back and shot him an incredulous look. “Which is all the more
reason why he probably just wants to leave her alone?”
        Apollo‟s smile widened and he shook his head.
        “Trust me. That‟s the last thing Hades intends to do.”


                                     THE END

								
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