Authors: Aimée Carter
Love or life.
Henry or their child.
The end of her family or The end of the world.
KATE MUST CHOOSE.
During nine months of captivity, Kate Winters has survived a jealous goddess, a vengeful Titan and a pregnancy she never asked for. Now the Queen of the Gods wants her unborn child, and Kate can’t stop her—until Cronus offers a deal.
In exchange for her loyalty and devotion, the King of the Titans will spare humanity and let Kate keep her child. Yet even if Kate agrees, he’ll destroy Henry, her mother and the rest of council. And if she refuses, Cronus will tear the world apart until every last god and mortal is dead.
With the fate of everyone she loves resting on her shoulders, Kate must do the impossible: find a way to defeat the most powerful being in existence, even if it costs her everything.
Even if it costs her eternity.
“It seems the games are about to begin.”
“What games?” I knew the answer before I’d asked the question though. My dream, my vision—it was the autumnal equinox, and finally Henry knew I was missing.
A sharp pain shot from my back to my abdomen, and I gasped. Cronus was at my side in an instant, exactly the way Henry would’ve been if he were here. I turned away.
“Calliope has decided it will happen today,” he murmured, and his voice would have been comforting if it hadn’t come from him.
“Decided what would happen today?” I struggled to stand and make it to the bathroom, but my legs gave out. Cronus’s cool hands were there to steady me, but as soon as I was back on the bed, I jerked away from him.
“That your child would be born.”
* * *
Select Praise for Aimée Carter’s The Goddess Test series
“The narrative is well executed, and Kate is a heroine better equipped than most to confront and cope with the inexplicable.”
The Goddess Test
The Goddess Test
puts a fresh twist on the YA paranormal genre by infusing it with back-to-the-basics Greek mythology.”
—Renee C. Fountain,
New York Journal of Books
“Carter’s writing is a delight to read—succinct, clean, descriptive.
is definitely a page-turner, one full of suspense, heartbreak, confusion, frustration and yes, romance.”
Also by Aimée Carter
The Goddess Test Novels
THE GODDESS TEST
“The Goddess Hunt” (ebook)
THE GODDESS LEGACY
THE GODDESS INHERITANCE
To Sarah Reck, whose patience and insight are true superpowers.
Throughout his eternal life, Walter had witnessed countless summers, but never one as endless as this.
He sat behind his glass desk, his head bowed as he read the petition before him, signed by nearly all of the minor gods and goddesses scattered throughout the world. Each vowed to stand aside and allow Cronus supremacy so long as it meant there would be no war. None of them seemed to understand that they were already in the middle of one.
Why would they? He and the remaining members of the council had done their jobs in shielding the world from Cronus’s destruction, but they would not last much longer. When Cronus finally broke free from his island prison in the Aegean Sea, the petition would be what it was: a meaningless piece of parchment full of names of those who would be the first to die.
He exhaled and straightened, prepared to scold whoever dared to disturb him, but he stopped short. His daughter stood in the doorway, her hair golden as the perpetual sunset poured in through the windows behind Walter. She was the one person he would not turn away.
He set the petition aside. “Ava, my darling. I was not expecting you until morning. Is there news?”
The light gave her skin the illusion of color, but her eyes were dull and her face drawn. Watching her deteriorate since the winter solstice had been the most difficult thing Walter had ever done, but he had no choice. It was for the greater good, and for now the greater good trumped all, even his daughter’s health.
“Iris is dead,” she said, and Walter stilled. A great sorrow he had not felt in centuries filled him, and the perpetual sunlight seemed to darken.
“How?” he said, struggling to keep his voice steady. He had known sending his messenger to try to broker a ceasefire with Cronus was dangerous, as had Iris. It was war, and there would be casualties. But she had been willing to take that risk, and he had not imagined Cronus would go to such lengths against an ambassador.
“Nicholas finished the weapon an hour ago,” she said. “Calliope wanted to test it.”
Walter pressed his lips together. He hadn’t thought it possible, but his son’s skills were greater than even he had estimated. “Is there a body?”
“Calliope tossed her into the ocean,” said Ava. “I brought her back for a proper wake.”
Swallowing tightly, he forced himself to nod. “Very well. Thank you, my dear. I know how much of a risk that was for you. And because of that, I must insist you do no such thing in the future.”
Ava hesitated, but after all their planning, after all their gambles, he knew she could not deny him now. Finally she nodded. “I’m sorry.”
Walter opened his arms, and Ava crossed the room to curl up in his lap. He enveloped her, a shell of the daughter he knew, and buried his nose in her hair. “I am the one who is sorry, my darling, but we will do what we must to win. Is there any news of Kate?”
“Calliope says it will happen tomorrow.”
At last, something was going right. “Then our wait is over.”
“Doesn’t matter,” she mumbled into his shoulder. “It’s been too long. She lost hope ages ago.”
Nine months. That was how long Walter had been locked in a game of strategy and deception with the most powerful being on Earth. From the winter solstice to the autumnal equinox, he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders while hiding his burden from the remaining members of the council. With Henry’s defection, they were all aware that their chances of winning against Cronus had gone from slim to none at all. Ava was their last hope of bringing Henry to their side.
“And you, my darling?” He brushed a lock of hair out of her eyes. Not even the weariness of the past year could diminish her beauty.
When Ava didn’t answer right away, she confirmed his suspicions. He had seen her wilt before him, but never had she willingly shown her despair. She knew the stakes. She knew why they could not fail.
“I’m going to tell him.”
At first he thought he had misheard her, but as she pulled away, her blue eyes steely, he knew he had not. “You know you mustn’t,” he said with both the gentle admonishment of a father and the command of a king. “We have worked too long to risk everything now.”
“I thought it was just Kate.” Her face became blotchy as it did when she was about to cry, and something tugged inside him. The paternal desire to stop her from hurting. But what could he do when his actions were wholly necessary to prevent pain even worse than what he was causing her? “I would’ve never agreed if I’d known she was pregnant. You know that.”
“Yes, I know.” He ran his fingers through her hair to soothe her, but she let out a choking sob. “I am sorry.”
She pulled away from him and stumbled to her feet. “The moment Kate gives birth, Calliope’s going to kill her—you know that. And you’re going to let it happen anyway.”
“Perhaps not,” he countered. “You yourself have said that Cronus has taken a liking to her. Perhaps that will be enough.”
said Ava, half-wild with frustration. “You’re risking everything on a maybe, Daddy. You don’t know for sure what’s going to happen, and that poor baby—”
“We must do everything we can to ensure we win this war, no matter what we each must sacrifice.” No matter how many had to die. “Now is not the time for holding back.”
“It’s not the time for unnecessary risks and careless mistakes either.” She stormed toward the door. “I’m telling Henry everything.”
His voice reverberated through the walls of the palace, shaking the very foundation of Olympus. Any trace of paternal affection was gone. It was the command of a king.
Ava stopped short. She had no choice, not after eons of obedience, and Walter felt a pang of guilt at speaking to her in such a way after all he had put her through. It was necessary, though. The fate of the world depended on it.
“You will not tell,” he said. “Not until Kate gives birth.”
“What’s the difference between telling him now and telling him tomorrow?” said Ava shakily, but she held her ground. From anyone else, talking back would have only angered Walter, but he was simply glad to see she had some fight left.
“He will not stop until he has Kate back,” said Walter. “But when he does, he will return to the Underworld and protect her with all his might, and he will continue not to involve himself in our war.”
Her eyes widened. “Wait—you’re using the baby as bait?”
“I will do what I must to bring Henry into the war,” said Walter. “One life is not worth losing it all.”
Ava stared at him as if she didn’t recognize him. Though Walter rarely experienced fear, it coursed uncomfortably through him, like sludge in his veins instead of immortal blood. “It’s a baby,” she said. “You can’t just— It’s a