Sirens wailed from a distance, disrupting their staredown.
Wrath glanced down at his starkly naked body. Soon, he’d be facing guns thanks to his meddling neighbors who called the police in his birthday suit.
Hastily, he barged up a flight of stairs and into his apartment. He only cared to pull on a pair of jeans. His days of a modestly clothed citizen were over.
The old him was back. As bloodthirsty as ever.
Sol was right behind him when he pushed his chipped window open and crossed onto the fire escape. The two pushed themselves off the railing and freefell three stories. They were dissolving into the treeline seconds later, leaving behind the fading sound of sirens.
When Wrath came to a stop, Sol dug out his phone and dialed an acquaintance to collect a favor. “Miles,” he acknowledged when the ringing stopped. “A friend and I got into some minor heat and the cops are after us. Do you think you can keep them off our trail? Wipe some tapes, bribe some cops, call some people?”
Seconds later, he added, “I appreciate it. I’ll text you the address.” He then disconnected the call and directed his attention back to Wrath. “What’s next?”
Wrath resumed his pacing. “We can’t call anyone. Not her parents, not the council,” he snarled. “We need to keep this under wraps. If we call her parents, they’ll blow this out of proportion and I don’t want to find out how Ezekiel reacts to pressure. We slip in undetected, kill him, walk out and that’s the end of it.”
Sol nodded, understanding his reasoning. The two of them would be able to hold their ground but the issue of Ezikiel’s immortality remained. At this rate, the best they could do is restrain him. Sol doubted that this punishment will satisfy the vexed mate.
“Luna!” Wrath screamed at the sky, beckoning her attention.
There was no sudden burst of light, no clap of thunder, no indication that the goddess tuned in.
“Come on!” Wrath continued to rave. If the goddess decided to forsaken them, then she chose to do so at the worst time.
“You can’t do that!” his arms flopped exasperatedly. “You can’t just give her to me and take her right back. What happened to the whole forgiveness deal? This is starting to feel like another one of your sick games!”
The landscape remained void of a celestial presence and the ghostly essence of desperation started to creep up his spine. Wrath had been in this situation many times— begging the goddess only to be graced by her cold shoulder.
“Sol, give me your gun,” he extended an expectant hand.
Sol’s eyebrows nearly disappeared into his hairline. “If you’re thinking about shooting at the sky, then I strongly advise against it. I assure you that the bullets won’t reach whatever dimension she lives in,” Sol retorted while he reached for the weapon secured on his waistband.
He placed it on Wrath’s hand neurotically. There was a 40% chance that the bullets were going to end up embroidered in his body. While he was immortal, he wasn’t immune to pain. So understandably, he had little to no interest in eating metal.
Wrath flipped the safety switch off the gun, cocked it, and pressed the barrel to his own stomach.
“What the hell are you doing?” Sol blustered.
Wrath rolled his eyes. “Do you have any idea how many times I tried killing myself? Every single time, Luna showed up and stopped the attempt. I doubt this will be any different.”
Sol knew what he was talking about. He had tried suicide a couple of times himself, only for the goddess to intervene and remind him that there was no escape from her curse.
“Are you crazy? You’re mortal now, if that thing goes off, you—”
Growing tired of Sol’s voice, Wrath pulled the trigger. The blast was deafening.
There was a twin ringing in their ears caused by the blank. As scheduled, the gun disassembled in his hand. The magazine fell from its slot and bullets clattered to the ground.
Sol exhaled shakily. “You’re the craziest son of a bitch of all time, Raiden. Don’t do that shit to me!” He pressed a hand against his seizing heartbeat.
“You summoned me?”
They turned to face the female voice. Luna stood there in her white robe and midnight hair.
“Ezekiel has Artemis,” Wrath cut to the chase, skipping past greetings and other unnecessary pleasantries.
“He has her and I need to get her back,” he licked his dry lips and entangled his trembling fingers in his lengthened hair. “But I can’t kill the bastard since your curse is in the way. You need to revoke it. You need to make him mortal again. I need to get her back!”
His last sentence held so much demand that Luna nearly smiled with satisfaction. Wrath had unequivocally succumbed to Artemis. Finally, the stubborn man was beginning to lose his civil war.
“It doesn’t work like that, Raiden,” she countered with pursed lips and narrowed eyes.
Sol growled displeasingly and Wrath followed suit by blustering “the hell it fucking doesn’t!”
“Fix this! You’re a goddess! How can you not... You need to fix it!” he ranted while he fought the urge to assault her.
“Yes,” Luna affirmed.
“I am a goddess. One of life. I give life, I lengthen it, but I do not end it. There is a balance that us gods must respect. If I take Ezekiel’s immortality, something must be given in exchange. This is the way of the cosmos.”
“What does that mean? You are saying nonsense!” Wrath bellowed, losing his grip on patience. He didn’t want to fathom what Artemis could be enduring as they chatted away.
Luna’s expression remained passive. “It means that if you want me to take Ezekiel’s immortality, you must give one to balance it out.” As she collectively shared this sentence, her eyes remained on Sol’s.
Wrath understood the pressing stare that the deity was directing at Pride. She was asking him to give up his immortality.
Wrath took the silence from Sol as hesitancy and was about to throttle the agreement out of him when he suddenly made his move. “Take it,” Sol encouraged. “Whatever you need, take it.”
He was willing to sacrifice anything to get Artemis back. When she learned of his gruesome sin, she cried along with him and offered words that helped him inch toward closure. She is an angel trapped in hell. He needs to get her out.
Sol could see Wrath staring at him from his periphery but he focused on Luna. Her brown eyes unblinkingly bore into his. After what felt like reliving his 300 years of life, she nodded. “Alright. You and Ezekiel are now mortal but he does not know this. Good luck.”
That’s all the encouragement Wrath needed. “Call Ezekiel. Let’s get this shit started.”
Sol did just that. He pulled his phone out and dialed the now mortal lycan, putting the call on speaker for Wrath’s inclusion.
“Sol?” Ezekiel didn’t care to hide his surprise when he answered. Wrath’s eyes blazed at the sound of the perpetrator’s voice.
“Hey, Ezekiel. I’m calling in regards to your offer. You got a minute?” Sol asked breezily, letting his charisma filter his murderous aura.
“Yes, of course!” Ezekiel assured. “Please tell me you’ve got good news.”
“Better than good, actually,” Sol forced a chuckle. “I’ll do it. I also know a guy, a lycan. He’s been interested in making cash lately. If you’re still short on security, I can extend the offer to him. He’s pretty loyal. Will bark and roll upon command as long as it gets him money.”
Ezekiel genuinely liked the sound of that. “It's good that you didn’t tell him shit without my approval. Yeah, fill him in for me and stop by. If he’s interested, bringing along. You know where to find me.”
“Alright man. I’m actually in New York for business right now. I can roll in in a few hours,” Sol slipped in his bait.
Ezekiel, being blinded by the false sense of success, didn’t see anything out of place. “That’s fine. I’ll have your downpayment here. See you soon.”
Once Sol safely disconnected the call, an antsy Wrath ran to the street to get the trip started.