Authors: Elizabeth Andrews
In all the years I’ve worked toward this goal of becoming a published author, I have had a lot of support along the way. As I sat down to ponder this dedication, I realized much of that encouragement has come from the men in my life. So I have to dedicate this to the men who have been my biggest supporters and real-life heroes:
To my dad, who not only bought me my very first typewriter many years ago, but whose name is on this book;
To my husband, who never, in many years of rejections, ever said, “maybe this isn’t meant to be”, but offered sympathy and encouragement, and then celebrated with me— first when I found an agent who wanted to take me on, and then when we sold this book;
And to my two sons, who have never—at least in my hearing—complained because dinner was just leftovers, or was going to be late because I got caught up in writing or revising, and who I suspect will become terrific heroes in their own right in a few more years.
Thank you all very much for everything on the way here! I am so happy I get to share this milestone with all of you.
Medusa knew he was coming. She always knew when the next one approached to try to kill her. But she had not been ready to die—until now.
While listening to the soft, sneaky sounds of his footfalls on the rocky path, she studied the golden goblet. It had not rid her of Athena’s curse, but it would help her daughters. As long as one of them had it, the amulet would stop them all from suffering constantly as she had all these years, limiting the effects of the curse to only a few days each month for the keeper of the goblet. Until the Goddess forgave Medusa’s foolish bragging.
Her killer drew nearer, still attempting to be quiet. Something about his deliberate pace—unhurried, careful—made her grateful she had already finished her protective spell for her children. This one would not have died as easily as the rest.
She looked around, from one statue to another—men of all ages and sizes, various weapons in their hands or tucked into their belts, all wearing the same horrified expression. Her eyes burned. She knew she was a monster. She had known not to brag so about her hair. Athena did not suffer braggarts. She had ruined Medusa’s hair, had cursed Medusa to live in exile this way—on this Gods-forsaken island, with no company but her own—as well as all her offspring.
Medusa despised living this way. She was not meant to be alone. She had never enjoyed her own company more than others’. When this hunter came, she would let him kill her.
He did not come into the clearing as the others had, charging forward recklessly. No, he came in with his back to her, watching her reflection in a shield. Clever, this one. She pretended to not have seen him, very aware of each step he took.
Soon. It would be over soon.
And she could not wait for the torment to end.
When he came nearer, she closed her eyes and prayed to Athena for forgiveness.
His blade whistled through the air. Closer, closer…
It was one of those days when having the Medusa’s fabled power to turn people to stone would really come in handy.
Andrea Rosakis did not, however, have that ability, not this week, anyway. Even though she was the reigning Medusa.
She glared at the man on her back porch, wondering if he could ever understand how lucky he was she wasn’t suffering from PMS this week. And why wouldn’t he stop talking? Her fingers itched to slam the door.
“…if you just have five minutes, ma’am,” he concluded.
She narrowed her gaze on the vacuum beside him. “No, thank you.” And how the hell had he found her all the way out here? No one ever bothered to follow her rough, muddy driveway all the way to the top, even if they did ignore the “No Trespassing” signs posted at the foot of it. Not to mention the protective warding she had set at the boundaries of the entire property. Sure, it wasn’t the heavy artillery of protection spells, but no one else had ever gotten past it. This man however, had not only ignored the signs and the subtle “go away” protections, but managed the entire bumpy, muddy track into the woods and halfway up the mountain. Just to hear her say, “No.”
And he didn’t look discouraged. At all.
Andi almost wished she
PMSing this week, though it would be a real pain in the ass to have to get rid of a life-sized stone statue of a vacuum salesman.
Or maybe she could keep it. He was very pretty, even if he annoyed her. He was tall and broad, his inky black hair was a tad too long, and his bright green eyes held her attention. At least as stone, he’d be silent and still pretty. She gave herself a mental shake. “I’m sorry, but I don’t have time for this—”
“When would be a better time?”
He did blink at that, but his smile never disappeared. “I’ll have to check my calendar.”
She snorted, then clapped her free hand over her mouth. Laughing would not discourage the man. “Look, I’m sure it’s a great vacuum, but I don’t need it. I don’t want to see how it works, and I’d like you to get off my property.”
His smile did fade a little bit. “Well, I suppose, if that’s what you really want.”
She quirked an eyebrow, trying not to smile again. He had the faintest hint of an accent, but she couldn’t place it. Not without hearing him talk some more, and she didn’t want to encourage that either, or he’d just keep trying to sell her an expensive vacuum she didn’t need.
“Maybe I could talk you into meeting me for coffee sometime then,” he said.
Her jaw dropped. The cute salesman was hitting on her. For half a second, she indulged the fantasy of a date with the hunk. A real date, maybe ending with a real kiss. Her pulse quickened. Then she remembered one good date led to more, and eventually, it led to guys running away from her, gibbering like idiots when PMS struck. She shut her mouth and ignored the regret burning in her middle. “Sorry, but no.”
“You’re a hard woman,” he said lightly, his bright gaze sliding down to her mouth. “I’ll leave my card in case you change your mind. About the coffee, that is.” He forced a small card into her hand and picked up his vacuum.
Andi stared after him as he strode off her porch. The bulky vacuum looked like it weighed nothing in his hand, swinging at his side on his way to the shiny, new truck parked behind her car.
When he took one hand from the steering wheel to wave at her, she stopped herself from lifting her hand in response. He turned the truck around and vanished down the drive into the trees. Frowning, she went back inside and shut the door, then locked it and re-armed the alarm. He’d tossed the vacuum into the bed of the truck. A very strong salesman.
Who didn’t seem to care the impending rain was going to damage his expensive vacuum.
She turned back to the door and stared out the narrow window beside it, her heart beating faster now with alarm. Maybe he didn’t realize. Or maybe he really hadn’t come here to sell her a vacuum.
She swallowed hard.
Aunt Celosia had always told the cousins stories of the Harvesters, the men who still hunted for the Medusa. Somehow, Andi had always thought they’d be more frightening. More obvious. Ugly men intent on murder.
If this vacuum salesman was a Harvester, he was sneaky. Of course, if he was a Harvester, he would be sneaky, as Perseus had been when he killed the first Medusa.
She was in a lot of trouble.
She double-checked the alarm, then spun away and grabbed the phone from the wall on her way into the kitchen. She hit an auto-dial number and stared out the window into the woods.
She took a slow breath. “Hi, Mom.”
“What’s wrong?” Trust her mother to know something was bothering her. Better late than never, she supposed.
“What do the Harvesters look like?” She realized her fingernails were digging into her palm, as were the corners of the crumpled business card she still held. She uncurled her fingers and studied the crescent-shaped marks in her hand to distract herself from the way her pulse raced with fear. She dropped the card onto the windowsill for later.
Her mother was silent for several heartbeats. “Like men, I suppose. No one has seen one in a very long time, Andi. We’ve all managed to stay out of their way, because when they come calling, they don’t stop to ask questions first.”
Andi relaxed, sinking onto the nearest chair and realizing her legs still shook with the rush of adrenaline. Her heart stopped pounding so hard, easing back into a normal rhythm.
“I’m just being silly. Some stupid vacuum salesman actually made it all the way up the driveway.” She laughed at herself, though the sound was weak.
Her mother sighed. “Well, if he were a Harvester, you wouldn’t be on the phone with me right now.”
“I know.” She rested her forehead on her free hand.
“Do you want to come to visit for a while? We haven’t seen you in almost a year.”
She ignored the hopeful tone in her mother’s voice. “No, thanks. I’m really fine, and I’m kind of busy with work right now.” That wasn’t exactly true, as she could do her work anywhere, but she didn’t want to go visiting right now. Maybe she should have a gate installed at the bottom of the driveway. It would keep out other salesmen who might be brave enough—or desperate enough—to try the mountain road. And maybe she ought to make her protective wards a bit stronger to keep out hot salesmen who seemed impervious to the existing protective spells.
“Okay.” Even that single word was filled with disappointment and residual guilt that Andi pretended not to notice.
“I’ll call you in a couple weeks, though. Maybe things will have slowed down by then.” She knew after this week she had a lull with her customers, no big orders pending. That didn’t mean she’d go visit, however.
“It would be nice. We miss you.”
Reverse guilt. Mothers were aces at that. “I miss you, too.” She wasn’t lying. “Tell Dad I said hello, okay?”
She hung up and rested her forehead on the cool tabletop. It wasn’t like her to be scared of little things. She’d been the Medusa for eight years now and scarcely given the legendary Harvesters much thought. It had been generations since a Medusa had been killed by one. That wasn’t about to change now. She would be another in a long line of Medusas who died an old woman of natural causes.
Sitting up, she squared her shoulders. Work waited, and then she could take a nice long bubble bath later to relax.
Still, she couldn’t quite explain away the tiny niggle of unease in her middle.
Kallan Tassos sat at the foot of the mountain, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel of the rented truck. Getting to the Medusa had been a lot easier than he’d been led to believe. He wondered why.
She was also a lot prettier than he’d imagined.
Sure, he knew the original Medusa had been so beautiful and confident she’d angered a Goddess. But this one wasn’t what he’d expected. She had short, dark hair framing very expressive blue eyes. Somehow he’d imagined long, blonde hair for a woman whose hair turned into snakes. And cold eyes like those very reptiles. Maybe not with a mouth that made him wonder how she’d taste.
He frowned, tapping his fingers faster on the wheel. Someone had left out a lot of details in the legends. Or the reality had changed much in the generations since the last Harvester had done his duty in killing the monstrous Medusa.
He shook his head. No, his imagination was simply working overtime. And when he got home to Baltimore—or even when he went to Greece to visit Uncle Ari at the family’s ancestral home—he needed to find a willing woman, as it had clearly been too long if he was finding his quarry so attractive.
When his phone rang, he hesitated for a second at the name on the tiny screen. He finally thumbed the button after the third ring. “Stavros.”
“I hear you may have a promising lead. It is past time one of us killed this monster.” His cousin’s everyday accent thickened when he was excited, and judging by the way Greece flavored his words, he believed they were getting close.
“I’m sure one of us will,” Kallan said mildly, drumming his fingers on his knee.
“I keep imagining taking her head after all this time. Perhaps before I do, I can make her pay a little for her family’s existence.”