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Manhattan has many secrets. Some are older than the city itself.
The city sleeps. In the predawn calm, Selene DiSilva finds the body of a young woman washed ashore, gruesomely mutilated and wreathed in laurel. Her ancient rage returns, along with the memory of a promise she made long ago — when her name was Artemis.
Jordanna Max Brodsky’s acclaimed debut sets Greek Gods against a modern Manhattan backdrop, creating an unputdownable blend of myth and mystery.
Table of Contents
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Selene DiSilva crouched in a narrow alley between two run-down apartment buildings, watching the street. When she'd begun her vigil hours before, the smells of roasting chicken and frying plantains had wafted from the surrounding apartments. Families laughed and bickered, doors slammed, cars honked. But in the small hours of the morning, the only scents were those from the trashcans overflowing nearby, and the street before her lay nearly deserted. Even in the city that never slept, there were quiet corners like this: a forgotten neighborhood perched at Manhattan's northernmost tip. Here, most people obeyed the ancient human instinct to seek refuge from the dark. But not Selene—and not the man she'd been sent to hunt.
A single dark SUV rolled by, a wave of Caribbean hip-hop pouring through the open window to briefly shatter the silence. From her hiding place, Selene peered at the driver, but let him pass unmolested.
Later, a group of swaggering young men strolled along the street, laughing and shoving as they claimed the sidewalk for themselves. Selene watched them carefully but didn't move. Then two women passed her alley, speaking in slurred Spanish, their eyes purple with fatigue. She felt no empathy—as usual, she'd slept all day and only awoken with the moonrise.
Finally, a solitary figure appeared at the far end of the block. Long before she could see his face, Selene knew him by his stride. Chin forward and shoulders high like he's looking for a fight, she thought, but only with someone he's sure he can beat.
She glanced at the apartment building across the street—a wide 1920s façade, its art deco grandeur long since gone. A window on the third floor flickered blue behind thin curtains. Jackie Ortiz was awake and watching TV, just as Selene had instructed.
She stood up slowly as the man approached the building. Mario Velasquez. Medium height—shorter than her own six feet—but broad across the shoulders, his muscles bulkier than hers. He wore a rhinestone-studded cross on a thick gold chain around his neck and kept his hands shoved into the front pocket of his sweatshirt. She couldn't be sure if he was armed or not, but she'd find out soon enough.
She could see his face now, the same one she'd been stalking for a week: high cheekbones and a neat goatee, dark skin that made his light blue stare all the more alluring. Once again, she thought, a woman falls for a pair of pretty eyes and never bothers to find out what's behind them.
Mario stopped opposite Jackie's building. Looking up at her window, he pulled a cell phone from his pocket. Selene couldn't make out his murmured conversation, but she recognized the aggravation in the rising pitch of his voice. It wouldn't be long before he started throwing punches.
She let the tiniest of smiles cross her lips. She was, after all, going to enjoy this.
Mario stepped into the building's small vestibule. Through the cloudy glass of the front door, Selene watched him jab repeatedly at the buzzer for Jackie's apartment. Next to him stood a doorman's podium. Just for show, Selene knew. No lobby guard would appear to protect Jackie from her boyfriend. Her only defense was a weak lock on the building's inner door and the woman she'd hired to strike Mario down.
Selene crossed the street and waited just out of Mario's sight. Come on, Jackie, she urged silently. Be brave. The young woman appeared in the vestibule, closing the inner door behind her so that Mario couldn't get upstairs. Selene tensed, ready to spring forward. But not yet, not yet.
Jackie, short and skinny, looked even younger than her twenty-two years. She'd made a vain attempt to cover her swollen black eye with a smear of turquoise shadow. One hand nervously twirled a lock of dyed blond hair. She held her other arm across her body like a shield. Mario flashed her a smile and sneaked a quick kiss on her neck. Jackie shuddered—whether with delight or fear, Selene couldn't tell. Then he took a step closer, and the woman put a hand on his chest, pushing him away. He kept coming, backing her into a corner, still smiling despite Jackie's protests. He rested one hand possessively on her neck and hooked the other around the white leather belt at her waist, pulling her against him. Jackie struggled in his grip, her eyes darting back and forth, searching for Selene.
Just a moment more, Selene thought, so the police have evidence. Then it happened, quick as a snake bite: Mario slapped Jackie across the face.
Selene yanked open the outer door and put a light hand on Mario's shoulder. Still holding on to Jackie's belt, he turned to the intruder.
"Hey, Mario," Selene said with her best attempt at casual courtesy. She didn't want to antagonize him until Jackie was safe.
"Who the fuck are you?"
"You don't recognize me?" Selene gave him what she hoped was an alluring smile.
His defensiveness dissolved as quickly as it had appeared. He made a low sound of pleasure, like a man savoring some succulent morsel. Jackie slipped from his loosened grip as he turned all of his attention toward Selene. His eyes traveled appreciatively over her body, seeing past her loose cargo pants to the long, lean legs underneath. "If I'd nailed you, I think I'd remember." Unnoticed, Jackie scurried back through the inner door and pulled it shut behind her.
"Perhaps." Selene nodded with exaggerated thoughtfulness. "But considering the number of women you're currently sleeping with, perhaps not."
"What do you know about—"
"Lyla? Miriam? Fatima?" She ticked them off one by one on her fingers. "Raquel? Yolanda? And, of course, Jackie. Although you don't sleep with Jackie so much as beat her up, so I'm not sure I should count her."
Mario put his hand in his sweatshirt pocket and didn't draw it back out. A knife, Selene decided. Hopefully not a gun.
"You a cop?" he asked.
"Not at the moment."
"Then back away, lady. Mind your own business."
"It's my business to keep you away from her."
He smirked. "And how you going to do that?"
Selene drilled a right hook into his face, spinning him away, then a left into his kidney. With great satisfaction, she watched a line of bloody spittle drip from his mouth onto the floor as he doubled over. But Mario recovered quickly, coming upright with a long, serrated hunting knife in his hand. He barreled toward her. She sidestepped him easily, thrusting out a foot to send him stumbling forward into the opposite wall. Before he could regain his balance, she jabbed an elbow into his spine, bringing all her superior height to bear. Mario grunted and dropped the knife but stayed on his feet. Faster than she'd anticipated, he spun toward her and kicked her hard in the knee.
Biting back a yelp of pain, she fell, slamming the injured knee into the ground. He kicked again, striking her in the jaw. Her teeth sliced the inside of her cheek; she tasted blood. Cold panic rushed through her veins as a third kick smashed into her ribs, knocking the breath from her body. Vision wavering, she reached across the floor toward the fallen knife—Mario beat her to it, bringing the blade down in a slicing arc toward her face. She moved her head just in time to prevent losing her nose; the knife whistled through the air beside her ear and struck the tiled wall with a sharp ping.
"You're going to wish you hadn't gotten in my way, puta." He kicked her backward and kneeled over her body, pinning her in place. For decades, she'd been dreading this moment—the fight she couldn't win, the woman she couldn't protect. Have I finally grown so weak that a mere man can defeat me?
"Who do you think you are?" he demanded, raising the knife once more.
Selene grabbed his upraised wrist. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you," she gasped, her arm shaking with the effort of holding him off.
A hundred names came to mind, whispered in long-forgotten tongues, but she couldn't lay claim to a single one. Not any longer.
Mario laughed at her silence and waved the knife just out of her reach. "Don't even know your own name, huh? Guess it's true—the hot ones are dumb."
One look at his grinning face burned away Selene's self-pity. As he leaned forward, ready to strike, his rhinestone cross swayed above her. The symbol of everything she'd lost, everything she despised. She allowed herself a quick second to imagine grabbing it and punching it through his pretty blue eye. Then she hooked the base of the doorman's podium with her foot and brought it crashing down on Mario's head instead.
He collapsed, unconscious, on top of her.
Jackie rushed back into the vestibule. She stopped a few feet away from Mario, her hand to her mouth. "Did you kill him?"
"Unfortunately, no," Selene wheezed from beneath his bulk. To her dismay, it took Jackie's help to free her from the dead weight.
She slipped a length of wire from her pocket and tied Mario's wrists together.
Jackie stared at Selene's face, wincing. "Damn, you okay?"
Selene raised a hand to her throbbing jaw, wondering just how bad it looked.
"I already called the cops," Jackie went on, as if that would make Selene feel better.
"I told you to wait until I was gone," she said, more angrily than she'd intended.
"I saw him kicking you. Then I saw him holding that knife over you like he was going to slice off your eyebrows." Jackie put her hands on her hips. "Was I supposed to just let him carve you up?"
"Yes, that's exactly what you're supposed to do. I make myself the target so you don't have to." She looked at the red handprint on Jackie's cheek. "At least… not anymore."
"The cops will be here in five minutes. They're bringing an ambulance. You sure you shouldn't get your face looked at?"
"Don't worry about me. Just make sure to tell the cops that this time you're pressing charges. And tell Mario that if he ever threatens you again, the police are going to be the least of his worries."
Jackie looked down at her boyfriend. "He's not going to be a vegetable when he wakes up, is he?"
Selene just shrugged.
"I mean, I didn't think about that before, but the podium made this sound when it hit his head… like a thunk, like a wet thunk."
Selene stared at the young woman for a moment, a scowl creasing her forehead. "What're you doing?"
Jackie looked up. "I just—"
"You're worried about him."
"He's not just a—"
"Have you already forgotten our agreement?" Selene couldn't keep the acid from her voice. "I protect you, just like I protect all the women who come to me. And all I ask in return is two promises: You won't tell the cops about me, and you won't hook up with assholes again." Jackie opened her mouth to protest but Selene cut her off. "You want to get down on your knees and tell him you're sorry. I can see it in your face."
Jackie huffed indignantly. "I asked you to get him away from me, not to tell me what to feel."
Selene tried to summon the fury that had once defined her life. Instead, she just felt tired. She'd heard it all before—thousands of times over thousands of years. "If you go near Mario again, you're on your own," she said wearily, opening the door.
Limping down the sidewalk with her head down and shoulders hunched, she listened to the approaching sirens. She ran her fingers along the swollen bruise on her jaw and the tender spot on her ribs where she'd been kicked. The pain in her knee flared with every step she took. In the moment before she knocked the podium into Mario's head, she'd been in real danger, as vulnerable and helpless as the women it was her duty to protect. If he'd had a gun instead of a knife, Selene would be the one waiting for an ambulance.
And what would happen then? she wondered. If a man put a bullet through my skull, would my tenuous hold on immortality finally rip free?
She looked up at the moon, a hazy crescent just discernable between the buildings, heading toward its daily oblivion beneath the horizon. And if I die—so what? The goddess Artemis vanished a long time ago. What's left of her is nothing but shadows and memories. Both disappear with time.
Maybe I should, too.
Then, despite the balmy air, a sudden shiver crawled along her arms, as if from a distant shriek more felt than heard.
In another age, she might have recognized the sensation as a summons. She might have listened more closely to the prayer upon the wind. She might have heard the anguished cry of a woman in mortal danger, far away on the other side of the city, calling out for the goddess who might save her.
Now, Selene merely grimaced and zipped her leather jacket a little higher beneath her chin.
Hippolyta, her tail wagging noisily against the walls, met Selene at the door of her brownstone on West Eighty-eighth Street. The four-story building was half as wide as the usual Manhattan townhouse but still far too large for a single woman and a dog—even a dog as large as Hippo. The exterior walls were chipped and crumbling, the wrought iron detailing rusted through, and the interior didn't look much better. Unlike many of her relatives, Selene had never bothered to accumulate vast sums of wealth over the centuries. But using her meager earnings from her time on the police force, she'd acquired the building in the 1970s, when few dared buy in the crime-ridden neighborhood. Now it was worth millions, and rather than hunting down drug dealers on her corner, she had to fight her way past torrents of young mothers blocking the sidewalk with their double-wide strollers. Sometimes, she missed the drug dealers. At least there'd been more work for her to do.
She paused in front of the age-speckled mirror in her front hall. The welt on her face remained red and swollen. A few centuries earlier, such injuries would've healed immediately. Now, even the uninjured parts of her face betrayed evidence of her decline: Faint lines fanned from her eyes and nostrils, the skin above her eyelids sagged. She leaned closer to the mirror, stared at her forehead, and cursed. The deep crease between her brows, which she'd first noticed a few months before, was still there. Too much scowling, she thought, scowling once more. Angrily, she riffled through a drawer in the credenza until she found a compact of pale face powder. She hated the stuff, but she hated answering questions even more. She didn't want anyone thinking she was the victim of domestic violence or barroom brawls. She patted the powder across the welts on her jaw and temple. The wrinkles she'd have to live with.
She lifted the hem of her sweatshirt and felt tentatively along her ribs. Bruised, but not broken. Her stomach remained lean and etched with muscle, a testament more to her all-protein diet and her demanding running regimen than to any supernatural hold on strength. She flexed her knee. Thankfully, the long walk home seemed to have helped rather than exacerbated the injury, and she could put her full weight on her leg.
"Nothing I won't recover from," she assured Hippo. "Eventually." She leashed her dog, who scrambled eagerly toward the door. "Wait a sec," she said, opening the hall closet. She stared down at the dusty backpack in the corner. She hadn't opened it in years. "I don't even deserve to use it," she muttered to herself, "especially after tonight." Yet something urged her forward, and she found herself reaching for the bag.
They trotted down the block, following a sloping pathway into Riverside Park. The waterfront always reminded her that she lived on an island. She'd been born on one—Delos, a dry drop in the turquoise Mediterranean, the only land brave enough to provide sanctuary to her exiled mother, Leto. Nearly three thousand years later, the Huntress had arrived with a boatload of Dutch merchants in what the Lenni Lenape called Mana-hatta—the Island of Many Hills—and she hadn't left since. Back then, there were forests and meadows, streams and swamps—sacred spaces for the spirits of the wild. Now, the slim stretches of green parkland tucked along the city's margins and hiding between skyscrapers were the only places where she could escape from the world of men.
She often wondered why she stayed. What place was there for the Goddess of the Wilderness in a city of grids? Streets reached to the horizon. Towers stretched to the sky. But beneath the glass and steel, the city's heart still beats wild, Selene thought, looking southward to the skyline rising along the riverfront. New York was untamed, a city of dissidents and immigrants, a multihued patchwork of humans refusing to conform, where even the strangest residents—like a six-foot-tall woman with eyes like the moon—rarely garnered more than a curious glance. In a small town, she would've been under constant scrutiny, forced to move every twenty years when her neighbors began to wonder why she aged barely one year for their fifty. Here, no one noticed. The city's denizens ignored her, and she, for the most part, ignored them right back.
Usually, Selene found the park a welcome relief from the travails of her half-mortal life. But today it failed to cheer her. She couldn't shake the memory of Mario's knife above her face. She'd grown so weak that a mere mortal could threaten her. What sort of existence was that?
Hippo, oblivious to her mistress's distress, pulled against her collar, her tongue lolling with exertion. Selene gave up telling her to heel and unclipped the leash. After all, they had the park to themselves. It was officially closed before dawn, but that had never stopped them.
The dog bounded ahead with unrestrained joy, chasing an errant squirrel. She'd been a shelter rescue puppy, starved and brindled, sporting huge paws and elephantine ears, growling and snapping at everything in sight. A kindred spirit, Selene had known from the first time she saw her. The fierce Amazonian queen Hippolyta made a fitting namesake; although, after overindulging in Selene's carnivorous diet for the past five years, the nickname "Hippo" seemed far more appropriate.
With a shift in the wind, some of the warm humidity dropped away, leaving only the bracing chill of approaching autumn. "Hello, Boreas," she greeted the god of the North Wind, knowing full well he'd never hear her—if he even still existed. Selene pulled off her leather jacket and sweatshirt, letting the cold air rush against her bare arms and through her tank top, and jogged down the stairs leading to the boardwalk.
Having lost the squirrel to an arboreal escape, Hippo waited for her mistress at the river's edge, her tail pounding the asphalt. Together, they headed north along the shoreline. A single barge floated far out in the Hudson, but Selene had no interest in the boat. She scanned the water closer in, squinting in the dark, until a low woof from Hippo drew her attention farther upriver. She hadn't bothered hunting any prey besides men in a very long time, but her dog sensed her desire.
"Good girl." Selene scratched briefly beneath Hippo's chin. The dog stood, tail high and quivering—when she wanted to, she could be an exemplary hunting companion. Selene opened her backpack and pulled out two graceful lengths of curving gold—pieces of a bow almost as old as she. Quickly, she screwed the upper limb into the handgrip, then braced the bow between her legs so she could slip the string on more easily. She plucked the string once; it gave a satisfying thrum. Even after so long, it still felt like an extension of her arm.
Before she and the other gods had left Greece during the Olympian Diaspora, Hephaestus the Smith had made the bow detachable. "So you can hide it more easily," her stepbrother had said. "You carry around a bow and arrows in plain sight and the mortals are liable to think you're a witch, or something worse." He'd been right. Even with her bow hidden away, she'd never fit easily into the patriarchal constraints of the Middle Ages. Or of the Renaissance, or really of any time in the last fifteen hundred years. She'd been accused of witchcraft on three different occasions, burned at the stake one and a half times, and exiled from more towns and villages than she cared to remember. Even in the live-and-let-live tumult of twenty-first-century Manhattan, flaunting her status as the erstwhile Bearer of the Bow would be ill-advised. Accusations of witchcraft would pale in comparison to suspicions of terrorism.
Selene nocked an arrow to her bowstring and aimed at the large Canada goose blithely paddling by. Without a second's hesitation, she loosed the arrow toward the bird.
The shaft flew right past, two feet off target, and disappeared beneath the river water.
"Styx," Selene cursed under her breath. She tried again. This time, as the arrow passed harmlessly by, the goose squawked and flapped into the air for a few moments before settling down once more.
She lowered her bow, suddenly very weary. "What?" she demanded of her panting dog. "I know I shouldn't be wasting the arrows. I'm just still not used to missing." The arrows were only wood, after all. She'd used up her gold ones centuries before. Not that it mattered. Only divine prey required divine weapons—and this goose was anything but godly.
With a loud splash and a spray of dirty water, Hippo jumped into the river. The goose took to the air, honking angrily, and flew off toward Jersey. Hippo, the tips of her long ears floating on the water, paddled happily, a look of pure innocence on her face.
"There goes dinner. Thanks," Selene grumbled. She whistled for the dog to get out of the water, but Hippo didn't respond.
Despite Selene's increasingly frustrated commands, the dog started paddling away. A hundred yards upriver, where the boardwalk ended, she clambered out onto the rocks with a whimper. The dog looked back toward her mistress and gave a sharp bark of alarm, then began to sniff the ground.
Slinging her bow over her shoulder, Selene jogged toward her dog. "If you're sniffing someone's picnic leftovers, I'm going to shoot you next. And this time, I promise not to miss." But she stopped scolding when a sudden gust of wind carried the scent to her. Death. Human flesh in the first stages of decomposition.
Hippo disappeared for a moment behind the rocks, only to reappear dragging a corpse by its long, pale blue leg.
Instincts honed by a long-ago career on the police force took over as Selene rushed forward. She ran along the asphalt path, avoiding the soft ground. In her youth, they'd called her She Who Leaves No Trace; her powers of stealth might be sadly diminished, but she still knew better than to add her footprints to a crime scene. As she sprinted, she scanned both sides of the walkway, the surrounding trees, the boulders crowding the river's edge—it wasn't unusual for criminals to remain near the murder scene to watch the police. But the only observers this morning were a red-tailed hawk circling above and a cloud of flies already swarming over Hippo's head.
The wake of the passing barge sloshed rhythmically upon the shore as Selene leaped across the grass and landed next to her dog on the boulders.
With a curt gesture, she commanded Hippo to drop the leg. The dog looked up quizzically, wagging her tail. "I said drop it," Selene insisted, staring her straight in the eye and pitching her body forward. For once, Hippo obeyed. The dog took a few steps backward to shake a fine mist of water across the body. It lay half out of the river, with its legs and pelvis on land and its torso floating in the shallows. With each wave, the dead woman's head thudded against the rocks with the hollow clunk of a rotten pumpkin. She lay facedown, her torso wrapped in a sodden yellow bed sheet, her outstretched arms the delicate blue of a robin's egg, not yet marbled green and black.
Long blond hair floated around the woman's head in a nest of matted braids, catching between the rocks as another swell of water washed the body farther ashore. As Hippo lunged forward to retrieve the corpse, Selene grabbed the dog's collar to stop her.
Looking at the dead woman, Selene forced herself to set aside her rising anger and to summon the detachment of a detective instead. Never her strong suit. Pulling on the black leather gloves stowed in her backpack, she crouched beside the body. The woman couldn't have been dead long. Less than twelve hours judging by the tautness and color of her skin and by the limberness of her leg. Four or five days later, her waterlogged skin would tear or slough off at the merest touch. Lucky for Selene, the body was still in good enough shape to withstand a little rough handling. Carefully, she lifted the corpse's shoulder, checking for the purple-red stain of pooled blood in the woman's breasts or face. An old policeman's trick. If she turned the corpse and the lividity moved with it, then she'd been dead for less than eight hours. But the woman had no lividity at all; the flesh on her chest was as perfectly blue as that on her back. Impossible—unless all the blood had been drained from her body before she'd been tossed into the river.
Gingerly, Selene pulled the body out of the water. It was lighter than she'd expected—the woman's lungs must still be largely full of air. No wonder she'd floated so quickly. Drowning victims inhaled so much water that they wouldn't float until their own digestive acids began to decompose the body, filling it with buoyant gas. Someone killed this woman before putting her in the river, Selene decided, turning the body over for a better look. She raised a hand instinctively to her mouth.
Sea lice had already eaten away the woman's eyelids. The bare orbs stared upward at the starless sky. Hazel once. Now filmy. Perfect, straight teeth winked through the swarm of tiny crustaceans devouring her lips. She must have been quite pretty once.
Other insects appeared. Already, the flies smelled the feast. Selene wanted desperately to swat them away, but she needed them to guide her. The flies landed on the woman's pelvis, a dark, pulsating girdle.
Selene moved the sheet aside, knowing what she might find. A woman's flesh was delicate, and a man's instrument blunt. But she hadn't seen anything like this since the sacked city of Troy. This was a mutilation. Where the woman's genitals should be, only a gaping hole remained. The sea lice had done their work and were doing it still, feasting on her womb. But no crustacean could've formed such perfect slices in her flesh. Someone had cut her apart with a blade. Four incisions, a perfect diamond of meat.
- "The Immortals is a lively re-imagining of classical mythology with an engaging premise, a page-turning plot, and an eye for the arresting and uncanny in contemporary urban life."—Deborah Harkness, New York Times bestselling author of A Discovery of Witches
- "Brilliantly conceived and tautly plotted, The Immortals is a pulse thrumming, fascinating novel. Selene is a perfect heroine for our times."—Eliot Schrefer
- "Imaginative and fast-paced, The Immortals is pulse-pounding entertainment."—Kevin O'Brien, New York Times bestselling author of No One Needs to Know
- "Brodsky's writing has claws...They sink in with the first word and don't let go until you are finished with the book."—Darynda Jones, New York Times bestselling author
- "Irresistible...a page-turner that deftly weaves action, romance, and a dash of intellectual heft into one seamless whole."—Dustin Thomason, New York Times bestselling author
- "Painstakingly researched, intellectually complex, and deeply rooted in the history and mythology of Ancient Greece, THE IMMORTALS is a richly imaginative, multi-layered tale that stimulates the heart and the mind in equal measure."—Ian Caldwell, New York Times bestselling author
- "Plays with more modern mythology, employing New York's own secret places and storied history to great effect. This intelligent, provocative fantasy breathes exciting new life into old, familiar tales."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
- "This series launch is a wonderful choice for fans of Greek myths and urban fantasy readers looking for something different."—Library Journal (starred review)
- "[D]one with great panache and intelligence: Brodsky knows her myth, and revels in depicting the erstwhile gods struggling with their fading powers and assuming, with varying degrees of success, the mantle of humanity."—Guardian on The Immortals
- "If you want a modern day murder mystery, steeped in myth with a dash of magic, this is a must read . . . Ms. Brodsky is definitely an author to watch."—Fantasy Faction on The Immortals
- "Bravo to Brodsky for developing such a complex tale ... One to watch!"—RT Book Reviews on The Immortals
- "A fun ... treatment of myth and mystery."—Kirkus on The Immortals
- "Brodsky's thriller feeds on the long-held love of Greek mythology in a reimagined, present-day world where gods and goddesses still walk among us."—Booklist
- "Thrumming with life."—B&N.com
- On Sale
- Feb 16, 2016
- Page Count
- 432 pages