“Eat, please…enjoy your dinner, there is plenty of food,” I called out to everyone, hoping they would enjoy the meal. People dug in, and conversation picked back up. Eris commented on already getting the appetizer, and I shuddered inwardly, thinking they meant my conversation with Poseidon. I didn’t know how many people were listening in, I hoped not many, but I knew that Dion was paying close attention.
I tried to focus on my food and participate in some of the conversations. I turned to Dion and apologized. “I’m sorry for being away for so long. I did not…I didn’t expect that.”
He leaned over, and I could feel his breath on my skin. It had me trembling with desire, and I so desperately wanted to teleport us upstairs and forget about the rest of the night. “Apologize for nothing. You’re still a queen,” he replied, his voice soft and powerful.
I blushed and poured some more wine, but picked at my food. My appetite, while ravenous at the beginning of the night, was mostly gone. I pushed the food around my plate some more, ignoring the conversation until Atë shouted at me. “This is a really great party…how long did it take to plan?”
I looked up, startled that she’d spoken to me. My response was simple, “Too long.” It wasn’t a lie or an evasion. Mathieu and I had put so much time and effort into this event. Now that it was happening and progressing along, I seemed to be lost in it. Dion reached over, sensing my discomfort. He patted my leg and squeezed it softly. I smiled at him. Tonight was taking forever.
“Amph, it’s lovely. Just like the food,” Atë replied and made a show of eating. I couldn’t figure her out. One minute she’s full of disdain for anyone not in her immediate circle, and the next, she’s complimenting me, or at least my resort.
“Thank you, Atë. I hope you’re sincere,” I commented softly.
“I am sincere. I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it,” she quipped back. I nodded as the conversation turned toward the outfits people were wearing.
“Everyone looks amazing. I am glad you all came,” I admired. It was true. If my family was good at one thing, it was putting on a fashion show. Atë inquired as to what the resort offered, and I smiled. “We have a spa, a casino, underwater rooms. Restaurants and bars, nightly entertainment.”
“And by nightly entertainment, she doesn’t mean the kind you rent by the hour,” Dion chimed in.
I snorted and smacked his leg. “Dion!”
He looked confused, although I knew it was that playful, teasing look. “What? You have that kind too?”
“No…I mean, I had toyed with the idea of a harem for a while…it was someone else’s idea, actually. But no,” I sputtered. Dion just nodded and smiled. “I mean,” I bit my lip and looked at him, “there is a backroom…I could show you later?”
Poseidon choked on his water, and I looked at him. I guess I was a little louder than I anticipated. Whoops.
Dion, being Dion, had the perfect reply that sent me into choking fits. “But I’ve already seen your…backroom.”
We got to talking about the food, or at least that’s what I thought we were talking about. “I could call the kitchen staff out.” Mathieu coughed and pointed to the back. “Oh shit, they already are.”
Eris commented on not having had long pig in a while, and I snickered a little. “No long pig tonight. Come back in the new year, and I’ll have a fresh catch for you.” I winked at Eris as Mathieu looked down at me in horror.
“First thing you should learn about opening a business, Auntie! The customer is always right!” Eris laughed.
Mathieu coughed again, and I sighed before standing. “Alright…speech time?” Dion shrank in his seat. But the reason didn’t truly register, not until later, not until it was too late. “Eris, if you were an actual customer, then perhaps.” I placed my hand on Dion’s shoulder and kissed his cheek. “Sorry, Nisos, that was crass of me.”
Eris threw money at me. I caught it and shoved it into my cleavage. “There, transaction complete,” they said. I heard some cheering but was making my way back up to the dais.
I stood behind the podium and looked out on the crowd. Mortals, immortals, media and paparazzi, my staff and friends, all watching me. My family sat a little straighter, I looked down at Dion, but I could see his mind was elsewhere. I didn’t want to look at P, but he was pretty much in front of me, and my eyes kept traveling to him.
“Once again, thank you all, mortal and immortal alike, for coming tonight. Nymphaeum has been a labor of love these last few months, and I couldn’t have done it without my amazing staff.” I waved my hand, and the majority of the resort staff piled into the back. “These men and women have given their hearts and souls to making Nymphaeum a success, making it their home. We’ve helped people from all across the world find a place where they are welcome, where they can be themselves, and use their talents in a place where they are appreciated.” I waved at Oliana and Pania. “Two of my staff are from Guam. It was the least I could do after destroying their place of employment. That is what I want for Nymphaeum. A home, someplace that is home to all. To tie this speech up, I want to thank Mathieu,” he walked up beside me and smiled sheepishly, “who has worked tirelessly to make Nymphaeum and tonight the absolute best resort on the west coast. We hope to be the best globally, but that is a dream far off yet. Also, Dionysos…”
Dion looked up at me, startled. “Huh?”
“Without whom, I would not be here. Thank you, my Nisos, for being my anchor in the storm and for bringing me home.” I watched as his smile broadened, and I smiled in reply. “Lastly… It’s not so much a thanking, but an announcement. To date, Nymphaeum has donated over 2 million dollars to hurricane relief and over 3 million to ocean research centers. Our secondary mission is to educate mortals, and some immortals, on the wonders, treasures, and importance of the ocean. So, to those who have donated and helped out, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and the depths of my seas.” I curtsied gracefully, every bit the queen. “Enjoy the rest of your night. Eat, drink, and be merry!”
I made my way back down to my seat and raised my wine glass in a toast. Dres walked over and handed me a piece of paper. “You can add this to your hurricane relief funds.” I took the paper and opened it. When I saw the figure, I choked on my wine. $10,000 was a good chunk of money. Although, Eris and Dion were holding a conversation at the same time, so it may have been that.
I smiled brightly at her. “Thank you, Dres, that is…it’s very kind of you.”
“My pleasure. The Revolt House knows about the Nymphaeum, so they know it’s a good business to support,” she replied softly before heading back to her seat.
I was hoping I’d get to eat as my appetite had returned. Poseidon got up and came over to the table. “As a gift for your grand opening, you are free to take one thing from the vault in Atlantis for you to use only.” He kissed my head tenderly before walking out.
I looked up at him as he walked away and wiped a tear from my eye. “Thank you.” I don’t know whether he heard me, but part of me left with him. And the question of what to take, to bring back with me? I’d been gone so long. I didn’t even know what was mine in the vault anymore. “Right, back to the party.”
Adrestia looked at me as I wobbled, before Dion offered me his arm, steadying me. “Are you ok?”
“Yes, Dres, I’ll be fine. Thank you.” I replied softly and she nodded back.
“Funny, I always thought you were fine.” Dion interjected as his arm held me fast.
“To you perhaps,” I retorted.
He pulled me out to the dance floor and spun me around into his arms. “I might be a bit…crazy…but I am not blind.”
I giggled and swung into Dion’s arms, wrapping my hands around his neck. “You’re only crazy to those who don’t understand you.” Dion played along, speaking in gibberish, then laughed as he spun me around. We danced and danced, and I lost track of everything that was going on because there was only him and me. I overheard Eris and Eros, and possibly Adrestia talking about something. I called out to them, “As long as they’re a willing sacrifice!” I was hoping they didn’t truly intend to eat someone, but with Eris, you never knew.
I looked back up at Dion and smiled. “I wish it weren’t my party. You look too good in that suit.”
Dion whispered back, a devilish smile on his face. “I already told you I look better without it.”
I giggled again and blushed. “I know, and I can’t wait to see underneath it again.” I could hear breaking and sighed. I knew it was Eros and Clio, and I had really hoped I wouldn’t need to fix Nymphaeum this early in her life.
Erebus and Atë came back, I hadn’t even realized they were gone, and the conversations turned to catch them up. Dion and I danced some more and then made our way back to our seats. Eris had been talking about some guy named Jim, and as I looked over at Dion, his face had turned pale. I could almost see his older self shining through. “I’ll be right back…I need some air.”
I watched as Dion left, but Atë was asking me about my rooms. “Yes, a bank of rooms have been put aside for your use tonight, if you wish.”
Adrestia had followed Dion out, so I knew he wasn’t alone, but at the moment, I felt powerless. I knew I had been part of the problem, was sorting out now how I had contributed, and I felt horrible for my part. “I’m sorry. Please excuse me.” I had to help, somehow. But as I made my way out towards the balcony, I stopped short at the door, seeing Adrestia walk up to Dion.
“It was a wonderful speech.” Than’s voice startled me, and I turned to see him standing just behind me.
“Thank you, Than. How is the night going?”
“Busy,” he said shortly. I knew he wasn’t a fan of crowds, so it was wonderful for him to come at all.
I nodded in response. “Well, I’m glad you were able to stop by. Umm..when did you want to go check on the nymphs?”
“Why would I check on nymphs? Ohhh…” He’d totally forgotten.
I chuckled. “You…you offered to accompany me? I can’t go on my own.”
Than nodded and looked down at me. “Right. I have some unfinished business in Tartarus. I will text you when it is done.”
“Thank you, Than. It will take me a little while to get ready for the journey anyways.” My voice shook a little when I thought about the impending trip.
“You’re welcome. Now I have to get back and check on Nem. If you’ll excuse me,” he softly replied before I heard the sound of his wings flapping and felt the familiar sense of vanishing.
I turned my attention back to the conversation outside for a moment before wrapping my arms around myself and heading back into the ballroom. I made my way over to the bar and ordered a Black Siren. Basically, it was a Black Russian with a hint of seawater and gold leaf sprinkled throughout it for a shimmer effect. “Actually, make that a pitcher.” The bartender looked at me, and I glared back. I needed a drink.
Eris came over, and we got talking about everything that was breaking around the resort, and I sighed. My bill would be hefty after tonight, but it was to be expected. What caught me by surprise this evening was the extra non-menu delicacy that Eris helped themselves to. I began drinking straight from the pitcher and sensed some distress coming from Dion. Our bond was weird. I could sense him a little, he could sense me more, but it wasn’t like we could communicate through it. I didn’t even know if I could send my feelings through to him, but I did. I sent love and apologies for the course of the evening to him and sighed, wondering if it got through.
Atë sauntered over, happy from her little excursion with Erebus and I looked over at her. “So, Atë, having a good night?” I asked as she downed a few more shots.
“Oh, yes. I told you it was fun…Plus, it’s gorgeous,” she replied in between shots.
I looked at her, surprised. “Really?”
“Yeah, you’re not boring at all like I thought…”
Now, I’m a big strong goddess, older than Atë by a long shot, but for some reason, some idiotic, inane, bizarre reason, that hurt. And all I came up with as a response was, “Oh, enjoy your night…”
“I treasure my bond with the mortals. I’ve walked among them for ages and I savor it every time.” Dion’s voice filtered over to me followed by Erebus’s.
“I’m sure you treasure every orgy you’ve been in.” The argument seemed to be progressing, I didn’t know what set it off, who started it, anything.
The next thing I knew, Dion was at the bar, Erebus slammed his hand down, and I broke. “Stop Erebus!.” Now, I didn’t expect him to stop or to care, but he did. “The event you’re thinking of, and the one Dion is talking about were two completely different times…” Clearly, I had been paying attention. “The one…this recent one shook Dion to his core, part of why he’s younger again. He lost someone, someone important. It was senseless and wrong and completely unnecessary. It wasn’t that you interrupted, Erebus…some of us, and our complete disregard for mortal life, doesn’t sit well with others.” Even as I finished speaking, the conversation went back to Erebus, Dion, and Adrestia, with Atë and Eris pitching in.
I had to leave.