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Lexi's heart galloped as she jumped behind the wheel of her Lexus. She never attempted to drive when she was upset, but she had to get the hell away from the estate, and the garage was closer than the stable.

After a moment of fumbling under the mat for the key, she cranked up the engine, backed into the driveway and whipped the car around. A clean getaway would have been ideal, but as soon as she shifted into drive, someone rounded the east corner of the house. She couldn't see who it was, and she didn't care. Lexi was in no mood to talk. Anyone attempting to pacify her might get a knee to the groin.

Slamming her foot on the gas pedal, she sped toward the gate as she pressed the remote, never slowing as the wrought iron hinges creaked open. With tears blurring her vision, she squeezedthrough with inches to spare and barreled toward the main road. Lexi knew exactlywhere she was going. To her secret spot. Jackie O had taken her there dozens of times, and her horse was the only other soul who knew the way.

As soon as Lexi skidded onto the main road, she floored it, and while the engine of her Lexus whined, Lexi cursed, yelling at the empty passenger seat as if her Uncle Z was strapped in nice and tight. 

"You arrogant prick! All these years! All these years you've been lying to me!"

Lexi refused to be angry at her mom. At least, not yet. There had to be a good reason why she'd kept Lexi in the dark. And Lexi knew the reason. Zeus! The arrogant prick! He didn't give a flying flip about Lexi. He was using her like he used everyone else, forcing his will and getting his way because he was some all-powerful god.

"And you lied today, you insane bastard! You said I was mortal, right to my face!"

Lexi wiped her eyes with her sleeve, correcting the wheel when the car veered over the yellow line. At the hairpin turn, she whizzed around the corner like a jockey on the Grand Prix circuit. She knew her car's limitations, which were very few, and she kept her speed even as she leaned into the next turn. Then she gunned it at the straightaway.

The state park closed at sunset, but Lexi knew how to bypass that, although she was usually on her horse, so passage could get rough. When she saw the sign for Monkey Paw Gorge directing her to take the next left, she blew past it and pulled off the road at the Authorized Personnel Only sign. After a short, bumpy ride, she nosed into the trees and parked.

Thankfully, the moon was nearly full, offering enough light to see the illegal trail she and Jackie O used for their excursions. Unfortunately, navigation through the untamed wilderness was hampered by Lexi's three-inch heels, but she wasn't taking them off when any number of evils lurked on the forest floor, some of them poisonous.

After aerating the soil with her Kate Spades, the sharp brambles gave way to smooth rocks as Lexi arrived at the boulder field next to the river. Using one as a seat, she pulled off her ruined shoes and stockings. As she picked dirt from a gem-encrusted heel, she realized that a two-hundred-dollar pair of shoes damaged by mud was nothing compared to her current quagmire. 

Her life had been turned upside down. Tossed indifferently into the gorge by a brute masquerading as her friend. Now that she knew her godfather was her real dad, she hated him. Zeus! Zeus was her fucking dad!

Lexi's body trembled as the depth of her discovery finally hit. She was a demigod. Holy shit! Did that mean she could throw lightning? Spit fire? Could she spit at Zeus? She probably should have been excited, but that's not how it felt. Pain welled inside Lexi's chest when she thought of her dad, the one who had raised her. Was he playing a role like the rest of them, or had he been left out of that loop? Did he know she wasn't his baby girl?

Now, what happened? Would her life change, or would it continue as usual? She would have to go home sooner or later. Could she pretend not to know anything? Was it Zeus who saw her leave the estate? She could wait and let him dig a deeper grave before confronting him. Screw that! He was getting an earful when she got home... Once she cooled off a bit.

Lexi stood and urged her legs on, navigating the downward slope of rocks leading to the river. The desire to jump into the freezing water grew stronger the closer she came. Maybe a little hypothermic shock would help her forget the craziness. Or, maybe, this was just a dream. When she reached the riverbank, she almost leaped in without a second thought, but she stopped when she heard the crackle of sticks under heavy footfalls. Or was it heavy paws?

Whatever was traipsing through the forest made enough noise to reach her, which meant it had to be large. A bear was a definite possibility, and Lexi wasn't about to face a beast that size with no means of defense. To hell with playing dead.

Glancing around, Lexi spied a thick branch jammed into the river rocks. Would it be effective? She needed something large enough to cause damage but small enough to wield without clobbering herself. A loud snort had Lexi's ears pricked, and her muscles tensed at the feral sound. She had hoped a human was responsible for the noises rather than a beast, but humans didn't usually snort.

With renewed purpose and her pulse drumming in her ears, Lexi maneuvered over the boulders to fetch her weapon. When she arrived at the branch, she realized she would have to get wet to reach it, which was not on her to-do list. The river had been nicknamed Bonecrusher for a reason. 

Damn. Running from her future had turned into the worst idea ever, but Lexi didn't have time to curse herself. She saw movement in her peripheral vision and had no choice but to get into the river. The water stung her skin like ice, and the current pushed her from behind, making it difficult to balance as she grabbed for the branch one-handed.

When she finally had it, the bark felt dry and solid to the touch, and a wave of relief washed over her. With any luck, it would stay in one piece when she hit her attacker in the head. She just needed to yank the damn thing loose. Lexi dug her fingernails into the bark and tugged with both hands. As the limb wiggled, so did the rocks around it, which meant the whole section of riverbank could collapse once the branch was sprung.

Lexi heard another snort, which was followed by a series of hard cracks, like a metal pole thwacking a rock. What the hell was out there? Panicking slightly, Lexi took an even firmer hold of the branch and yanked as hard as she could. But, in her urgency, she didn't anticipate the consequences of freeing the branch with both hands, and when the limb broke free, Lexi flew backwards into the freezing water.


Lexi maneuvered the branch under her armpits, flailing her legs and making every attempt not to get sucked under as the fast-moving current dragged her downriver. The sharp bark tore at her shirt and poked her skin as she paddled for the shore, but the pain barely registered. Having her muscles seize up from the cold was a much worse fate, and the riverbank looked more like a precarious pile of rocks than salvation. Even if she made it there, how would she climb up without causing a landslide?

As Lexi scanned the shore for a more secure place to shoot for, she glimpsed a large figure running beside it. The bear!


A talking bear? Lexi glanced again and realized the figure was human. No, that wasn't right either. It was a god. Dressed in his formal dinner wear, Luke raced alongside the river, shouting loud enough to wake up all the bears in the forest.

"Lexi! Just hang onto that branch! I'm going to build a dam up ahead!"

As he rushed forward at godlike speed, all Lexi managed to cough out was, "A dam?"


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