Seth couldn’t breathe as that sank in. No wonder it’d seemed like an eternity.
It had been.
And he wasn’t sure how to deal to with the knowledge. He was strangely numb. It wasn’t like he’d expected to come out of Azmodea ever again, but …
Lydia leaned into him. "It’s okay, Seth."
Was it? He really wasn’t sure about that. It was a good thing he’d agreed to having Maahes with them. He’d be all but worthless here.
Lydia exchanged a concerned glance with Maahes. "He’s going to seriously wig when he sees what’s out there."
"Wig?" Seth asked.
"Lose your mind. Wave it bye-bye."
He frowned. "I still don’t understand most of what you say."
"And now I truly understand why. C’mon, Grandpa, we need to get going."
They started for the door.
Lydia paused to look back at Carson who was putting together a quick bag for them. One that held bandages, medicine, his wallet, and a cell phone that he’d kept in a drawer. He handed it to her.
"What’s this?" she asked.
"In case you need it. Make sure you don’t use your own credit cards or accounts. You don’t want to create a trail for anyone to follow. There’s enough cash in there for you, and feel free to use my cards." He picked the cell phone up. "This is a burn phone with my number already programmed into it. If you need a cavalry for anything, call me. I can get to you in a blink and I will bring as many soldiers as I can, and our army is by no means small."
His offer touched her. "Are you sure?"
"Absolutely. I can’t stand to see anyone hunted. Good luck to you guys."
She inclined her head to him. "Thank you, Carson."
"Walk in peace," he said, stepping back.
Lydia took Seth by the arm and teleported him to the alley behind the house they’d been in. She and Maahes started for the street, until she realized that Seth wasn’t moving.
Arching her brow at Maahes, she turned back to find Seth staring up at the sky with the most incredulous expression she’d ever seen on anyone’s face. His features were filled with boyish wonderment and awe.
And it reminded her of his staring at the sun on the computer in his room.
He turned around in a slow circle while he tried to take everything in. The trees, the sky, the buildings, and what to him had to be all the alien sounds of faint jazz and zydeco, cars, and people talking and laughing as they went by on the other side of the brick wall.
Her heart breaking, she walked over to him.
"It’s so beautiful," he breathed reverently. "And warm."
"New Orleans usually is."
"That’s the name of this city."
"Oh." He finally looked down at her, and she realized he was squinting to the point she was amazed he could see anything at all.
No wonder. He’d lived in darkness for so long, his eyes weren’t used to light anymore.
She conjured a pair of sunglasses for him, then put them in his hand.
He scowled at them. "What are these?"
Oh yeah. He wouldn’t have a clue.
Maahes folded his arms over his chest. "In your day, Egyptians used kohl to protect their eyes from the harsh sun rays. Today, we use these … they’re called sunglasses."
Lydia took them from him and put them on his face. Boy, did I choose well. He looked great in them. She glanced back at Maahes. "Is that really why Egyptians did that?"
"It is indeed."
"Wow, and I just thought they did it for fashion."
Maahes didn’t comment on that. "We need to get going. I have no idea where I’m taking you, but it doesn’t seem wise to stand out here in the open when we have preternatural trackers trying to find us."
He made a really good point. "Where are going?" she asked.
Seth shrugged. "As long as it’s not Azmodea, I don’t care."
In that moment, she felt completely lost. She really had no place to go. Home was out of the question. Solin was MIA.
All she had were the two men with her.
"Hey now," Maahes said. "Don’t be making that face. Okay? You start crying, I start crying, and I look like a total freak when I cry. Nothing worse than a big-ass man blubbering like a baby. Totally kills my chances with the women. You know?"
"I wasn’t going to cry. But it was sweet of you to be concerned."
Seth scowled at the easy way they conversed with each other. Especially since they’d only just met. Worse was the jealousy inside him that wanted to punch Maahes straight in his arrogant jaw.
"Well," Maahes said finally. "I guess the best place would be mine. It’s isolated and should be safe should something scary go down."
Lydia couldn’t think of anything better. "It sounds perfect."
As they started to leave, she realized Seth had wandered off again.
This time, he was at the wall, looking at the parked cars lined along the curb. Smiling, she went to wrangle him.
As soon as she reached him, a car went flying by. Eyes wide, Seth jumped about ten feet.
She put her arm out to settle him. "It’s okay, Seth."
"What was that thing?"
She answered him with a question of her own. "Didn’t you see a car online?"
Maahes made a sound of disgust in the back of his throat. "This is going to get annoying fast if he freaks every time he sees something he’s not used to."
Curling his lip, Seth started to attack. But Maahes caught him with what appeared to be a Vulcan death grip and pulled him into his arms.
Seth froze instantly.
After a few seconds, Maahes released him.
Staggering a bit, Seth pressed his hand to his forehead as if he was dizzy. He curled his lip at Maahes. "What did you do to me?"
"Brought you up to date. I don’t want you pissing in a sink or doing anything else to draw attention to us. We need to blend in and not look like refugees from a badly written time travel movie."
Seth still felt sick to his stomach, but he now had a whole new vocabulary and an understanding about the world he was in. For that, he could almost thank the bastard.
Almost. He still really wanted to slug Maahes, though.
Lydia reached up and laid her hand on his cheek. The moment she did, he completely forgot about his need to put his foot in an uncomfortable place on Maahes’s body. "Hey."
Seth looked down at her.
"We’ll get through this. Trust me."
"I do trust you." And he did. But then he cut a glare to Maahes. "That son of a bitch is another story. I don’t trust anyone who serves a god, and especially not one whose most celebrated epithet was Lord of the Massacre."
She widened her eyes at that. Her face pale, she met Maahes’s smug look. "Is that true?"
"Do I want to know why they call you that?"
Seth answered for him. "He’s the hand of retribution. Ma’at’s personal slayer for anyone she wants punished."
It didn’t have the effect on her that he’d hoped for. Instead of being angry at his enemy, she was rational with him.
Seth hated rational.
"So he’s kind of like you, then. I would think you two would get along."
The taunting smirk on Maahes’s face was definitely not helping his mood. "I’m also the one invoked by the innocent to protect them."
Lydia sucked her breath in as Seth’s eyes darkened in a way that let her know Maahes was about to bleed.
When he spoke, his tone was deadly calm and razor sharp. "But only when it suits you."
There was so much buried rage in those words that it made the hair on her arms stand up. When Seth had been wounded and in pain, he’d been scary.
Whole, even without his powers …
He gave the full god in front of him a run for his money and Maahes knew it.
The cocky went straight out of Maahes as he caught Seth’s meaning. "Are you saying you called for me and I ignored you?"
Seth didn’t answer.
Instead, he brushed past him, driving his shoulder in to Maahes’s and headed for the street.
Maahes frowned at her. "What didn’t he tell me just now?"
Lydia sighed as part of her wished she was still as ignorant about Seth’s past as he was. "When he was a small child, his mother," she choked on using that title for the bitch, "took him into the desert, broke his legs, and left him there to die. From what I’ve heard, I’m pretty sure he called on all of you to help him and not one of you could be bothered."
Horror played across his face as he thought through what she told him. "Why did she do something like that?"
"Set thought he was pathetic and worthless. He insulted the mother for bearing him, and most of all for giving Seth his name."
Maahes cursed. "So she took him into the heart of Set’s domain to die in front of him. No wonder we didn’t know."
"What do you mean?"
He didn’t answer.
Instead, he ran after Seth and pulled him to a stop. "Before you continue to hate us, let me explain something. Set was the god of the desert. That was his domain, not ours. We were never allowed to venture there unless he invited us. He would violently attack any god who dared to encroach on his territory and need I remind you what he did to Osiris and Horus? Your mother took you into the desert not just to hurt you in front of your father, but to keep us from finding out about it. Because I can promise you that had any of us learned of her cruelty, we’d have killed the bitch for it."
Seth fell silent as he digested those words. Honestly, he’d never expected an apology from any member of his family. As a rule, the gods never admitted to any kind of fault.
Now both Ma’at and Maahes had offered him one.
But in the end …
"It changes nothing."
Maahes nodded. "You’re right. It doesn’t change whatever happened to you, and that is a tragedy. However, it should comfort you to know that we would have helped you had we known."
Oh yeah, that was great comfort to him. Especially given how many times he’d called them, for what was it again…?
Forty-five hundred years? Oh wait, he hadn’t called for them quite that long. He’d probably given up after a thousand or so years of them ignoring him.
He sneered at Maahes. "You offer me empty words that mean nothing. It’s easy to say what you would have done, if only. But neither of us really knows what action you’d have taken. Believe me, the one thing I’ve learned about the gods is how fickle all of you are. Praising a person one moment, and then damning them in the next. So don’t try to alleviate your guilt by offering me what you think will make me feel better. I want nothing from any of you except to be left alone." Seth turned and continued down the street.
Lydia patted Maahes on the shoulder. "I know how you feel. He’s kicked me like that, too."
"Yeah, but you probably didn’t deserve it."
"And neither did he deserve what was done to him. Unlike you, I’ve seen the horror of his existence. He’s entitled to his hatred."
"Then I will stay behind you two and try not to offend him with my presence."
Lydia started to respond, until she realized that Seth had stopped on the sidewalk about a block from them.
That wasn’t what concerned her.
Rather it was the tall, skinny puta pawing at him that made her blood boil. Her vision turned dark as she quickly closed the distance between them. Why wasn’t Seth sending her away? Look at her, Lydia. She’s gorgeous. Which only made her ache all the more.
The blonde ran her tongue around her index finger while she looked up at Seth from beneath her long, over-mascaraed eyelashes, then bit and sucked it in a suggestive manner. She continued to run it around her lips as she spoke. "So you’re visiting, huh? How long will you be here and where are you staying?"
Lydia wrapped her arms around his and glared at the woman. "He’s staying with me. Right, pookie?"
Seth wasn’t sure what to say. Lydia’s voice was sweet and at the same time brittle … like her eyes as she stared up at him. He wasn’t quite sure what was going on, but he had a bad feeling he was in trouble for it.
Lydia turned her gaze back to the woman who’d stopped to ask him directions. "Now if you don’t mind, we’re late for a meeting with his ‘special’ doctor. We have to make sure he doesn’t run out of cream for his genital rash. After all, it’s highly contagious, and burns like crazy when left untreated."
The blonde rushed off.
Seth kept opening and closing his mouth as he mentally ran through what she’d just done. He was stunned, appalled, and at the same time, oddly amused. And he had no idea which emotion was strongest.
Had she really just said that about him? To a perfect stranger?
Lydia snarled as she moved away from him. "You are such a man!"
He wouldn’t have thought that was a particularly bad thing, except for the tone of her voice, which said it was. "What did I do?"
She raked him with a glare. "Chasing after the first piece of skank you see? Really?"
Thanks to Maahes, he understood the words. But her fury left him completely lost. "Why are you angry at me?"
"Why do you think?"
"I honestly don’t know."
She rolled her eyes. "Yeah, right. You all but drooled on her."