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The goddess chuckled. "Silly little man. My dear William, your father was a reaper at one time, ushering souls to the other side. I promised to give him a soul if he would become my mate and impregnate me with his child." She studied her black nails. "Instead, he fell in love with your mother, then made a bargain with me to earn his freedom from his vow. He promised his first-born to me."
"He is my son," his mother protested, somewhat feebly.
"And now he is mine."
His mother seemed to explode with rage, her face reddening, her back stiffening. William could ... taste it, a hot spicy flavor scalding his tongue. She raced across the room, snatching the punishing rod near the fireplace. Turning on William, she struck his arm. He flinched as stinging agony sliced through his shirt.
"How dare you?" she screamed. "How dare you defy me this way?"
William raised his hands to protect his head as she continued to thrash him. He had never seen her this angry. She seemed almost manic, her eyes wide and glassy, her skin feverish, her hair coming loose from the bun at the nape of her neck. Searing welts rose across his skin, making his eyes water. What had he done to deserve this?
"Enough!" his father barked.
She turned on the other man, striking him with the rod until it snapped. "Out of my house, you demon! Get out!"
"What's going on?" Thomas asked from the doorway.
Dropping the switch, she turned to embrace her other son, the good son, the one whose blood was demon-free. "Do not look, Thomas. They are demons. They are damned to Hell, abominations. Do not look upon them or suffer their curse."
Giltine snorted. "How droll."
"William?" the other boy whispered, wiggling free from his mother's arms.
He could taste his brother's fear and confusion, an earthy metallic taste that made his stomach churn. He longed to spit the taste from his mouth. He parted his lips to speak, but words could not form past his tight throat.
The goddess held out her hand. "Come with me. It is time."