Home > Neon Gods (Dark Olympus #1)

Neon Gods (Dark Olympus #1)
Author: Katee Robert



Chapter 1


   “I really hate these parties.”

   “Don’t let Mother hear you say that.”

   I glance over my shoulder at Psyche. “You hate them, too.” I’ve lost count of the number of events our mother has dragged us to over the years. She’s always got her eye on the next prize, on the newest piece to move in this chess game only she knows the rules to. It might be easier to stomach if most days I didn’t feel like one of her pawns.

   Psyche comes to stand next to me and bumps me with her shoulder. “I knew I’d find you here.”

   “It’s the only room in this place I can stand.” Even though the statue room is the very essence of hubris. It’s a relatively plain space—if shining marble floors and tasteful gray walls can be called plain—filled with thirteen full-body statues arranged in a loose circle around the room. One for each member of the Thirteen, the group that rules Olympus. I name them off silently as my gaze skips over each one—Zeus, Poseidon, Hera, Demeter, Athena, Ares, Dionysus, Hermes, Artemis, Apollo, Hephaestus, Aphrodite—before turning back to face the final statue. This one is covered in a black cloth that pours over it, spilling down to pool on the floor at its feet. Even still, it’s impossible to miss the wide-set shoulders, the spiky crown that adorns his head. My fingers itch to grab the fabric and rip it away so I can finally see his features once and for all.


   In a few short months, I’ll have won my freedom from this city, will have escaped, never to return. I won’t have another chance to look on the face of Olympus’s boogeyman. “Isn’t it weird that they never replaced him?”

   Psyche snorts. “How many times have we had this conversation?”

   “Come on. You know it’s weird. They’re the Thirteen, but really they’re only twelve. There’s no Hades. There hasn’t been for a very long time.” Hades, the ruler of the lower city. Or at least he used to be. It’s a legacy title, and the entire family has long since died out. Now, the lower city is technically under Zeus’s reign like the rest of us, but from what I hear, he doesn’t ever set foot on that side of the river. Crossing the River Styx is difficult for the same reason leaving Olympus is difficult; from what I hear, each step through the barrier creates a sensation like your head will explode. No one voluntarily experiences something like that. Not even Zeus.

   Especially when I doubt the people in the lower city will kiss his ass the same way everyone in the upper city does. All that discomfort and no payoff? It’s no surprise Zeus avoids the crossing just like the rest of us. “Hades is the only one who never spent time in the upper city. It makes me think he was different from the rest of them.”

   “He wasn’t,” Psyche says flatly. “It’s easy to pretend when he’s dead and the title no longer exists. But every one of the Thirteen is the same, even our mother.”

   She’s right—I know she’s right—but I can’t help the fantasy. I reach up but stop before my fingers make contact with the statue’s face. It’s just morbid curiosity that draws me to this dead legacy, and that’s not worth the trouble I’d be in if I gave in to the temptation to snatch the dark veil away. I let my hand drop. “What’s Mother up to tonight?”

   “I don’t know.” She sighs. “I wish Callisto were here. She, at least, gives Mother pause.”

   My three sisters and I all found different ways to adapt when our mother became Demeter and we were thrust into the shining world that exists only for the Thirteen. It’s so sparkling and extravagant that it’s almost enough to distract from the poison at its core. It was adapt or drown.

   I force myself to act the part of the bright and sparkly daughter who is always obedient, which allows Psyche to play it cool and quiet as she flies under the radar. Eurydice clings to every bit of life and excitement she can find with a borderline desperation. Callisto? Callisto fights Mother with a ferocity that belongs in the arena. She will break before she bends, and as a result, Mother exempts her from these mandatory events. “It’s better that she’s not. If Zeus makes a pass at Callisto, she might try to gut him. Then we’d truly have an incident on our hands.”

   The only person in Olympus who murders without consequence—allegedly—is Zeus himself. The rest of us are expected to uphold the laws.

   Psyche shudders. “Has he tried anything with you?”

   “No.” I shake my head, still looking at Hades’s statue. No, Zeus hasn’t touched me, but at the last couple of events we’ve attended, I could feel his gaze following me around the room. It’s the reason I attempted to beg off tonight, though my mother all but dragged me out the door behind her. Nothing good comes from gaining Zeus’s attention. It always ends the same—the women broken and Zeus walking away without so much as a bad headline to tarnish his reputation. There was exactly one set of charges officially leveled against him a few years ago, and it was such a circus that the woman disappeared before the case ever went to trial. The most optimistic outcome is that she somehow found a way out of Olympus; the more realistic is that Zeus added her to his alleged body count.

   No, better to avoid him at every turn.

   Something that would be significantly easier to do if my mother weren’t one of the Thirteen.

   The sound of heels clicking smartly against the marble floors has my heartbeat picking up in recognition. Mother always strides like she’s marching into battle. For a moment, I honestly consider hiding behind the covered statue of Hades, but I discard the idea before Mother appears in the doorway to the statue gallery. Hiding would only delay the inevitable.

   “There you are.” Tonight she’s wearing a deep-green gown that skims her body and feeds into the whole earth-mother role she’s decided best fits her branding as the woman who ensures the city doesn’t go hungry. She likes the people to see the kind smile and helping hand and ignore the way she will happily mow down anyone who tries to stand in the way of her ambition.

   She pauses in front of the statue of her namesake, Demeter. The statue is generously curved and wearing a flowing dress that melds with the flowers springing up at her feet. They match the floral wreath circling her head, and she smiles serenely as if she knows all the secrets of the universe. I’ve caught my mother practicing that exact expression.

   Mother’s lips curve, but the smile doesn’t reach her eyes as she turns to us. “You’re supposed to be mingling.”

   “I have a headache.” The same excuse I used to try to get out of attending tonight. “Psyche was just checking on me.”

   “Mm-hmm.” Mother shakes her head. “You two are becoming as hopeless as your sisters.”

   If I realized that being hopeless was the surest way to avoid Mother’s meddling, I would have gone with that role instead of the one I chose. It’s too late to change my path now, but the headache I faked is becoming a real possibility at the thought of going back to the party. “I’m going to cut out early. I think this might evolve into a migraine.”

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