on May 20th 2016
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, still walks the modern world. No longer thronged by worshipers, Aphrodite heals the bodies and souls of the men she touches, one man, one night, at a time. But not everyone thinks of her as a long-dead myth. Someone is stalking her. The men who have hunted her kind as witches for centuries have passed their hatred on to their sons.
As she flees her enemies and tries to warn her sisters of the danger facing them once again, Aphrodite is followed by one of the members of the Brotherhood, a man who has been given the task of killing her, and any of her sisters who cross his path. But it does not take her long to discover that Steven Wharton is not a murderer, and his soul is one she has known before.
In this paranormal romance, a goddess’s past is brought to life, from the Greek city of Corinth to the shores of the island of Cyprus, at the court of Versailles to the burning city of Persepolis. But it is not until she meets Steve that Aphrodite falls in love for the first time. As she faces an ancient enemy, Aphrodite discovers that the love she feels, not the love she gives, is the root of her soul. And that love might even be the path to her freedom...
The sound of the waves filled Aphrodite’s ears as the sea wind pressed her linen gown against the backs of her thighs. The sand she lay on was still warm where the sun had touched it. She rested on the sand, the powder of silica and basalt dust beneath her cheek.
She had first shown herself to the Greeks on that island over one thousand years before. She had risen naked from the waves, a calculated risk that paid off. She had been taken straight to the king. She had been “born” to the Hellene world that day. Though transformed and embellished over the centuries, that story was told still.
She had been safe for those years among the Cypriots. They had treated her as a goddess come down to Earth, and would no more have raised a hand to her in violence than they would have set the king’s palace on fire. It had not always been that way everywhere she went. Outside the temple compounds, sometimes even within their walls, the world was a dangerous place.
Danger came with the life she had chosen, the life she had been born to when she stepped out of that cave in the mountains with her sister beside her. One of the reasons she was reluctant to leave this place, though the priests had become corrupt, was that the Temple of the Maiden had kept her safe, and Isis with her. She had relaxed there, as she rarely could in the world of men. She had gotten soft. It was time to move on, and she knew it.
She sighed and rolled onto her back. With the next wave that slid onto shore, she let her thoughts and plans slide with it. Instead, she gave her attention to the night sky, with its clean darkness that reminded her of home. The Mother had spread Her cloak of stars. The moon was dark, but the sky was lit with sparks.
Like the story of her birth, she could remember all the tales those stars told, to countless people the world over. All different stories, yet all the same. The people were like that, too. No matter where she went, the men and women she served were mirrors of each other, yet each unique, irreplaceable.
Isis joined her on the beach. Aphrodite sat up, powdered sand catching in the soft linen of her gown.
“The priest on duty will be displeased if he finds us gone,” her sister said.
Aphrodite accepted the orange Isis offered. “He should mind his own affairs. The men who rule the Temple of the Maiden grow tedious.”
Isis’ throaty laughter filled the night with another layer of added warmth. She tossed her curtain of black hair over one shoulder, digging her thumbnail into the orange she held. The skin peeled away beneath her fingers, and she drew a wedge of fruit into her mouth.
“To call that temple a place of maidens is as absurd as the idea that men might rule it,” Isis said. “We never needed such lies in Egypt.”
“Everything was better beside the Nile,” Aphrodite said, reciting a platitude she had heard countless times before. “Save for the heat. And the sand.”
Isis ran her fingers through the silica they sat on, the fine soft bits shifting beneath her palm. “This is not sand. Sand tears your flesh away in a good wind. This soft stuff is something else altogether.”
“And I thank the Mother for that.”
Aphrodite slid a wedge of her own orange into her mouth as her sister glowered at her. Isis never glowered for long. They each had their preferences, but no matter where they went, their work did not change. They offered healing, one man, one woman, at a time.
“We haven’t called down the Mother properly in ages,” Isis said. “Why not do it here?”
“And set the Cypriots on a roar? These civilized Greeks would not know what to do with Her.”
“They don’t know what to do with us,” Isis said. Aphrodite laughed.
“I will see you stoned for your blasphemy.”
The priest they had spoken of, a man named Gaius, stepped forward from the boulder he had hidden behind. Aphrodite wondered if he had been spying on them all this while, if he had followed Isis down from the Mother House.
He was a foreigner from the west, a man who claimed to be a priest of the goddess from some land beyond the Adriatic Sea. If he had ever worshiped the Mother, Aphrodite could see no evidence of it now. Though he shaved his head in the Egyptian manner, his features were coarse, his brown eyes filled with contempt for all women, everywhere.
Aphrodite noticed then four men ranged behind him, stepping out of the shadows. They were men she had never seen before, men from the village perhaps, or sailors off one of the ships that daily came into port. Aphrodite rose to her feet slowly, as she might if a predator threatened, if a mountain lion from Assyria came stalking her. These men were not lions, but she saw that they wished her ill. One wore a knife on his belt.
Aphrodite left her hands at her sides, palm down, drawing up strength from the earth beneath her feet. The Mother of the land and the Mother of the sky were one being, and as she shifted her focus to call on the energy that flowed between them, she felt as if the Great Mother held her and her sister in the palm of Her hand.
Of course, many of her sisters had been in the palm of Her hand, just as she and Isis now were, and men had killed them. Simply, easily, by drawing a knife across their throats. Or by raping them to death.
Aphrodite felt the first thrill of fear as three of the men stepped behind her, closing off the path back to the temple. She looked to her sister, but Isis did not acknowledge her, nor did she rise.
Gaius must have smelled her fear, for he smiled, turning to look down at her sister. He stood over Isis almost as if he were gloating, as a victor might stand over a fallen foe. Her sister did not look up at him, but finished her orange, licking the last of the juice from her fingertips as a cat might, deliberately, slowly. Only then did she turn to look at the men who accosted them.
Isis rose to her feet as slowly as she had finished her orange, her languid motion causing Gaius to take one step back. His smooth-cheeked glower seemed to offer not just his disdain, but the lust hidden behind it. It was the lust that made Isis draw herself to her full height, that made her eyes flash with ire. Aphrodite moved to stand between her sister and the Roman from the West, but Isis would not let her.
“You would speak to me of blasphemy?” Isis’ eyes ran over him, as if sizing up a gelded steer to be sacrificed on the altar of Zeus All Father. She raised one eyebrow as if to say that she found him wanting.
“I charge you with disobedience,” Gaius said. His voice shook with his fury, and a little with fear. It was the fear that urged him on, that forced him to speak harshly. It was his fear that would not allow him to back down. “And disobedience must be punished.”
Isis laughed then, but her laughter did not reach her eyes. She laughed as if they were not cut off from escape, as if she had more size and strength than ten men. She seemed not to see the danger they were in, and how easily it might all play out to their ruin.
She spoke, and Aphrodite winced at the barely contained rage in her voice, a rage that would only feed the fire in Gauis’ soul. “I swore a long time ago that I would never suffer a fool in the name of the Mother again. Not now, and not a hundred years from now. Know yourself, priest. Keep your own counsel, and look to your own soul.”
Gaius struck her, not with his fist, but with his open palm. His fury transformed into triumph as he stood over Isis’ slumped form. The men around them shifted on their feet, and Aphrodite thought that then they would move. But they stayed where they were. They were well paid, and more disciplined than she had thought to hope for. They sidled closer, like dogs that scented meat, but they did not slip their leashes. They waited instead, to be told by their master when to feed.
Isis had dropped to the sand, not to shield her face from a second blow, as he might have thought. Her sister reached for the silver sickle knife in its scabbard beneath her gown. Isis drew it out, brandishing the blade at one of the men she had come to Earth to heal.
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