Athena watched the rain fall, hope diluting with every drop. Protected by the porch roof, she hesitantly raised a hand, then thrust it out into the open. Steam hissed from her exposed skin, as agony filled her veins with fire. Shrieking, Athena crumpled back into the shelter of the door. She clutched her hand against her chest and stared, wild-eyed, at the open ground in front of her.
This is impossible, she thought, looking down at her untouched skin. There were no acid marks, no burns, nothing to explain the pain. I’m fine. It’s in my head. It’s all in my head. Though Athena knew that it was impossible for rain to hurt her, that she’d be free and safe if she ran away from the house into the thick trees beyond, she could not move past the fear surging inside her. She could not feel that pain again. “I’m trapped.”
A woman laughed behind her, an amused, smug sound that called back Athena’s defiance.
Back straightening, Athena gripped the doorframe and stood up. “Why are you here?” she demanded, turning around.
The sorceress, dressed in silver jeans and a maroon jacket, buckled tight against her own summoned storm, grinned from across the empty room. Her hand rested on the railing as if she’d just come from upstairs. She looked more like a stylish young woman out for a day of shopping than a black-hearted torturer. “I wanted to see if you’d try to leave again. I made some … modifications.”
Though she’d been asking Philippa the same question for the last two days, Athena found the words once more on her tongue. “Why are you doing this? This can’t really be about Tristan, can it? About a man? You can’t honestly have kidnapped me because of him.”
A savage smile curled Philippa’s full lips. “Why, because us girls should stick together?”
“Because he’s just a man.” Athena tried to keep her face blank, and her longing buried deep inside her broken heart. “What he wants to do is up to him, not me, not you.”
Philippa laughed. “Oh you poor girl, you truly think I’m doing this because I want to get inside his pants? Because I love him?” She shook her head and stepped close enough that Athena could have reached out and grabbed her, a mistake Athena would not make again. “This isn’t about him, Athena. It’s about you. It’s always been about you.”
Athena shook her head. She didn’t understand. She didn’t know Philippa, had never seen her before she’d knocked her out and abducted her in the middle of a parking lot. “I’ve done nothing to you.”
“Not to me, no. Not yet, anyway.” Philippa smiled again, eyes cutting sideways to the rain outside. “Make yourself comfortable. Eat something. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Gathering ribbons of black light around her — drawn up through the floorboards at her feet — the sorceress disappeared with a faint pop.
Athena screamed at the empty stairs, howling with rage, frustration, and panic. Nothing made sense. What did Philippa want? Who the hell was she? Clenching her hands, Athena stormed into the kitchen. Maybe there was an umbrella in there somewhere, or a weapon, something she could use to get free. She had to find Tristan. Though Philippa claimed he wasn’t involved, he was important to her somehow. He was part of this. Athena would not stay caged forever.