Home > Wicked Beauty (Dark Olympus #3)

Wicked Beauty (Dark Olympus #3)
Author: Katee Robert

 

 

1


   Helen

   “I am so fucking late,” I mutter under my breath. The hallways of Dodona Tower are blessedly empty, but that only makes the clock ticking down inside my head worse. Tonight is the night everything changes. The night when I stop being a pawn in other people’s games and finally gain the agency I’ve craved ever since I was a little girl.

   And I can’t believe I’m fucking late.

   I pick up my pace, barely managing to resist the urge to run. Showing up out of breath and flustered to an Olympus party is even worse than showing up late. Appearances matter. It’s been a long time since Olympus experienced anything resembling traditional warfare, but every day, little battles are fought and won using the most mundane things.

   A carefully designed dress.

   A sweet word hiding a poisonous sting.

   A marriage.

   I duck into the elevator that will take me up to the ballroom floor and barely resist the urge to bounce on my toes with impatience. Normally, I wouldn’t give a damn about any of this. I make petty rebellions an art form.

   Tonight is different.

   Tonight, my brother Perseus—Zeus, now—is making an announcement that will change everything.

   Less than a week ago, Ares passed away. It was hardly unexpected—the man was old as dirt and had been knocking on the doors to the underworld for three months—but it’s opened up an opportunity that’s usually only seen once a generation. Of the Thirteen, Ares alone is open to absolutely anyone. A person’s history, connections, finances don’t matter. You don’t even have to be Olympian.

   You simply have to win.

   Three trials, all designed to cull the wheat from the chaff, and the last person standing steps up to become Ares. One of the thirteen people who create the ruling body in Olympus. Each handles a specific part of keeping the city running smoothly, but more importantly to me, no one can compel any of them to take an action they don’t want to.

   Not even Zeus can force the hand of another member of the Thirteen—or at least that’s the theory. My father never paid attention to those sorts of niceties, and I doubt my brother will now that he’s inherited the title. It doesn’t matter. If I’m Ares, I’m no longer daughter to one Zeus, sister to another, a spoiled princess with no real value beyond her pretty face and family connections.

   Becoming Ares will set me free.

   The elevator doors open, and I hurry in the direction of the ballroom. The long hallway has changed since the last party, the dour, dark drapes that hung floor to ceiling on either side of the doors replaced with an airy white fabric that has silver threaded through it. It’s still not welcoming, but it’s significantly less oppressive.

   I’m curious who made that design call, because Perseus sure as fuck didn’t. Since he stepped up as Zeus after our father’s death, the only thing my oldest brother cares about is running his business and ruling Olympus with an iron fist.

   Or at least trying to.

   “Helen.”

   I stop short, but recognition brings a relieved smile to my face. “Eros. What are you doing out here lurking in the shadows?”

   He steps forward and holds up a tiny jeweled bag. “Psyche forgot her purse.” He should look ridiculous holding the purse, especially considering the violence those hands have done, but Eros has a habit of moving through life as if he’s untouchable. No one would dare say a word and he knows it.

   “What a good husband you are.” I take the last few steps and press a quick kiss to each of his cheeks. I haven’t seen him much in the last couple months, but he looks good. Eros is one of the most gorgeous people in Olympus—which is saying something—a white guy with curly blond hair and a face to make painters weep at its perfection. “Marriage suits you.”

   “More and more every day.” His gaze sharpens. “You’ve pulled out all the stops tonight.”

   “Do you like the dress?” I smooth my hands down my gown. It’s a custom piece, the golden fabric molded to my body from shoulders to hips before flaring out the slightest bit. It’s heavy with a subtle pattern that’s designed to catch the light with every move. A deep V dips between my breasts, and the shoulders have been shaped into sharp points that give the slightest impression of military bearing. “It’s a showstopper, as my mother would have said.”

   I ignore the twinge in my chest at the thought, just as I always do when my mind tries to linger on the woman who died far too young. She’s been gone fifteen years, having suffered a mysterious fall when I was fifteen. Mysterious. Right. As if all of Olympus didn’t suspect that my father was behind it.

   As if I didn’t know it for certain.

   Pushing this thought away is second nature. It doesn’t matter what sins my father committed. He’s dead and gone, just like my mother. I hope he’s been suffering in the pits of Tartarus since he drew his last breath. When I think of his death, all I feel is relief. He died before he could marry me off to secure some bullshit alliance, before he could cause even more of the pain he seemed to enjoy inflicting so much.

   No, I don’t miss my father at all.

   “She’d be proud of you.”

   “Maybe.” I glance over his shoulder at the doors. “Maybe she’d be furious over what I’m about to do.” Rock the boat? Fuck, I’m about to tip the boat right over.

   Eros doesn’t miss a beat. His brows rise and he shakes his head, looking rueful. “So it’s Ares for you. I should have known. You’ve been missing a lot of parties lately. Training?”

   “Yes.” I brace myself for his disbelief. We might be friends, but we’re friends by Olympus standards. I trust Eros not to slide a knife between my ribs. He trusts me not to cause him undue trouble in the press. We hang out on a regular basis at events and parties and occasionally trade favors. I don’t trust him with my deepest secrets. It’s nothing personal. I don’t trust anyone with that part of me.

   On the other hand, everyone in Olympus will know my plans very shortly.

   I square my shoulders. “I’m going to compete to become the next Ares.”

   “Damn.” He whistles under his breath. “You’ve got your work cut out for you.”

   He’s not telling me he thinks he can’t do it, but I wilt a little all the same. I didn’t really expect enthusiastic support, but being constantly underestimated never fails to sting. “Yes, well, I’d better get in there.”

   “Hold on.” He surveys me. “Your hair is a little lopsided.”

   “What?” I lift my hand and touch my head. I can’t tell without a mirror. Damn it, I’m going to be even later, but it’s still better than walking into that room out of sorts.

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