Authors: Kristine Grayson
Copyright © 2015 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Published by WMG Publishing
Cover and Layout copyright © 2015 by WMG Publishing
Cover design by Allyson Longueira/WMG Publishing
Cover art copyright © Jsheldon86/Dreamstime, Leeloomultipass/Dreamstime, Subbotina/Dreamstime
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
MY MOTHER CALLS me the Unexpected Consequence of a Momentary Lapse of Judgment. My older brother calls me the Unwelcome Visitor. My younger siblings don’t call me anything. They seem to think I’m going to be leaving soon.
Which, I suppose, makes sense, considering none of them knew I existed until July. Apparently, Mother never told anyone where she went those summers when she came to visit me. But Mother doesn’t tell anyone anything. It’s one of her trademarks. She’s an Independent Woman, and proud of it.
I guess someone had to force her to visit last June. That same someone reminded her that I am an Obligation, and she can’t simply ignore that, much as she wants to. Or maybe they just told her all the other mothers were taking their children away from Daddy, and she had to too.
For an Independent Woman, Mother is awfully quickly swayed by public opinion.
My real name is Crystal, and apparently, I have a last name as well, which I didn’t know until I came to New York, and the nanny—the younger children have a nanny, and I was told she would mind me as well because I’m “special” (which they all think means I’m of lesser intelligence than the rest of them when really, I’m probably smarter, just with a different life experience)—handed me a student identification card for a school that I’m apparently enrolled in, a building identification card for this fortress in which we live, and a credit card embossed with my name on it.
My new name.
Here’s where it gets confusing, or at least, where it gets confusing to me. My last name is Chandler. So is my mother’s. My stepfather’s last name is Wright, which is also the last name of my younger siblings. My older brother’s last name is Lieberman because, apparently, he, like me, has a different father than the other children.
Only he got to keep his father’s last name, and I got my mother’s—probably because my real father has no last name.
He doesn’t need one.
The entire world knows him as the Greek God Zeus.
I shy away now whenever I say that. The modern world hears that as craziness, but it’s the truth. And here’s more truth: I lived with my father, and his children—all of whom are my half siblings—for my entire life. Until July, I had magic. At that time, I gave it up for something called a normal life.
I do regret that decision now.
Here’s what the “normal life” consists of:
A bedroom on the third floor of my mother’s Park Avenue apartment. In the castles where I was raised, this apartment would be called a wing. It’s large. Apartments in my previous homes had two rooms. This one has three spacious floors with more rooms than I’ve seen (I’m not allowed in the servants’ quarters) and feels as big as Mount Olympus itself.
The windows in the apartment either overlook the skyscrapers and other buildings that make up New York City, or they overlook Central Park. I received a park view—something I “deserved” for the “dislocation” of being in a new place, which is what my stepfather said as he made the room assignment. My older brother, whose name is Ethan, by the way, but prefers to be called E (I think of him as EEEEEEE) groaned about this—apparently we’re on the same floor, only a few meters from one another—but everyone ignored him.
Everyone always ignores him, which, I’m guessing, is the reason he picks on me. But more about that later.
By the way—and this isn’t unimportant—my stepfather, Owen Wright, is the only person in the household who calls me by my name. He’s the only one who treats me with a bit of respect, although he does look at me like I’m an alien creature.
And, compared with the rest of this clan, I am. I have my mother’s coloring—none of the others are blessed with it. That means I have bright red hair (auburn, my mother says, but I’ve seen auburn, and I ain’t got it. What I have is bright red), bone-white skin, and bright green eyes.
What I lack is my mother’s figure. I got my figure from the Greek God side of the family. I’m large-boned and large-breasted, something that is certainly
in fashion in New York. Even though I don’t have an ounce of fat (I know this because the first thing my mother did was drag me to her personal trainer so that I could lose weight, and the trainer did a body fat index on me and said I was less than 21% fat, which, Mother snapped, had to be impossible because I was so large [her word, “large,” not anyone else’s] and the trainer took me to the nutritionist, who confirmed it. They said,
your daughter is just a big, healthy girl
, to which my mother responded,
How do we change that?
I’ve seen three fashion designers, one of whom specializes in plus-sizes (which I’m not, according to that lovely woman) and now I have my own buyer, who makes sure I look as thin as possible, given my large bones and elephant nature.
These people here also want to change my hairstyle—I cropped off all the red because it was unusual on Mount Olympus too (most everyone there is dark-haired, olive-skinned, and dark-eyed, except my favorite sisters, Brittany and Tiffany. Brittany’s a blonde, and stood out even more than I did, and Tiff has the dark hair and dark eyes, but her skin color is dark chocolate, which made her as odd as me and Brit).
These people here want me to get something called a perm and have “natural” curls, which will accent my face. I figure it’ll accent my “largeness” and have so far refused.
Mother also wants me to get rid of my tattoos, which are all little images of me at various ages (except the miniature roses scattered in between). Apparently, there’s a doctor who can remove these things and “not leave scars,” which I had to look up. Scars are scary. He’s not touching me. I like my tattoos, and no one can take them away.
Although they did manage to take away my diamond studs. I wore one in my nose and the other in my belly button (as well as one in each ear). Mother says they’re unladylike, and she doesn’t care that they’re in fashion. She believes I must look my best at all times, which is becoming more and more clear that I must look what
considers to be my best at all times.
I used to wear green because it accents my eyes. Now I wear this rosy-taupe color that gives my skin “some color” and “tones down” my hair. I can’t wear crop tops or low rise jeans, and heels are out of the question unless I pair them with a skirt and a loose top.
I have volunteered for prison, and I’m not sure how to get out.
Not that my previous life was much better. There, I lived on top of a mountain—actually on a cloud above the mountain, but that wasn’t immediately obvious—and couldn’t leave either. However, I could spell myself anywhere I wanted, which I most certainly cannot do here.
I bitch about that a lot. I bitch about everything a lot, but no one pays attention. Even when they do pay attention, they don’t believe me, so what’s the point of talking?
I thought nothing could make me miss my previous life, but this place does. Theoretically, it’s nice. I have a huge bed all to myself (in Olympus, Brit and Tiff often crawled in with me—usually to annoy me) and a private suite to one side, and my own bathroom, which has a dual shower that can be set with computer controls.
I spent one entire day exploring that bathroom, learning all its gadgetry. If Olympus is about magic—and it is—this place is about gadgets. Just my bathroom alone has the coolest stuff. We won’t discuss the commode (because we’re not supposed to) but, suffice to say, it has both an automatic flusher
a scentilator, which immediately clears odors from the air and adds perfume. And then there’s the mirror cabinet with its own remote control—I can make the mirror rise or turn or become a makeup mirror (it shows your pores) with the touch of a button
from across the room
. And the shower: the shower is heaven. Not only does it have two different heads, like I said, but they can steam or pound; make the water feel hard or soft; or add shampoo and soap if you use those settings.
Then there’s the Jacuzzi, which took me two days to figure out because I’m not asking anyone here how to do anything. But now that I have it figured, I practically live there. What else is there to do around here?
I can shop, of course. That’s expected. Besides the wardrobe I’ve had to buy, I’ve also bought Egyptian cotton high thread count sheets (because I saw them on sale), a down comforter (even if it is a warm fall for New York), and a puppy. The only thing I’ve ever had to take back was the puppy. The housekeeper informed me, followed by my stepfather, E, and my mother, that animals are not allowed in the apartment because they’ll ruin the floors.
It made me angry enough to nearly ruin the floors myself.
My younger siblings—all boys—watch TV most of the time or play games on their Xboxes or use the computers to download things that they’re not supposed to have. E is trying to get into Columbia, so he studies all the time.
We’re supposed to have dinner as a family—and we kids usually do—but Mother and Owen almost never make it. Their phone calls are predictable—usually one hour before the meal should start, one or both call to say that they’ll be late. Often, late is after bedtime.
When I first got here, we kids would sit there and stare at our food. Or, rather, I’d stare at the room. It’s pretty big, with huge windows that overlook the park. After about three days, I got tired of staring at the food so I just decided to eat, and E decided to bring some thick textbook to the table. The younger three started bringing their tablets. The three of them would stick ear buds in their ears and play games or watch whatever show they’d somehow missed the night before.
If it weren’t for the housekeeper, I wouldn’t show up at all. But she fetches me like I’m the puppy and brings me into the formal dining room to make certain I “interact” with my new family.
Here’s the interaction:
E looks at me from his specially prepared meal—apparently, he’s doing something called kosher, which I don’t completely understand—and says, “So who’s your dad?”
Like that’s appropriate dinner conversation.