I picked up Cassandra around seven for our date. She looked beautiful, with her blonde hair cascading down her back, a sleeveless emerald green sundress swaying gently as she walked toward me. Her eyes sparkled as she smiled at me, and when she was close enough, I wrapped my arm around her waist, pulled her close, and gave her a deep, probing kiss that left us both breathless.
“I missed you,” I whispered in her ear.
She smiled shyly. “I missed you, too. “Whatever you said to your father this afternoon worked. I didn’t hear a peep out of his office for the last three hours.”
“I’m glad you got some peace and quiet,” I laughed as I took her hand. We started walking down the street. “Afraid I can’t say the same for the rest of my afternoon.”
“Want to talk about it?” she asked, gently squeezing my hand.
“No, I’m not going to let it spoil our evening.”
We walked in silence to the restaurant. I know that sounds odd, but it was actually quite nice. For once, I just enjoyed being with someone who didn’t have any expectations of me, except to be myself. As the God of War, that’s a lot to ask.
As we approached the restaurant, I noticed a patio, which held several tables and chairs, all covered by individual large umbrellas. But it was who was sitting at one of the tables, far from the sidewalk in the corner, that caught my attention. It was Charlie, the foreman at the forge, and Ophelia, the rather flirty HR manager. They were leaning close to each other, talking, and it didn’t look like a very pleasant conversation. Suddenly, Ophelia stood up, threw her napkin on the table and stormed off.
Trouble in paradise? I didn’t think so. There was something seriously off about this scene, but I couldn’t quite place my finger on it.
I’m not going to give you a blow-by-blow of our dinner. You’d only be bored. I will say that the food was excellent; the wine, a lovely Pinot Noir, delicate and fruity; the company, divine. Once we left the restaurant, we slowly strolled around, looking in shop windows, exchanging hellos with a few people, and laughing at my horrible jokes.
The difference between being with Aphrodite and Cassandra were night and day. With Aphrodite, there were always intense emotions, a contact high of endorphins, for lack of a better phrase, and an overwhelming need to act on those feelings. In Cassandra, I found someone who was easy to talk to, someone who didn’t expect me to make love to them at the drop of a tunic. I suppose that for once, I was slowly falling in love with someone, and I found it to be a rather pleasant experience.
I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and gave Cassandra a hug. “Thank you.”
She looked at me, puzzled. “For what?”
“For giving me another chance. For allowing things to progress at their own pace. I…” I couldn’t find the words.
She gently stroked my cheek. “I get it. I’m sure this is a new experience for you, and it must be freaking you out right now,” she chuckled.
I laughed. “Kind of,” I admitted. “But I don’t mind. You’re worth it.”
“Well, I see you’re still a smooth talker.”
“Maybe we should check to see if my kissing skills are still in working order,” I replied. Placing my finger under her chin, I tilted her head up, then bent down, ready to give her a heat-searing kiss…
When my phone started to buzz in my pocket. I ignored it. I wrapped my arms around Cassandra and kissed her.
The buzzing stopped.
She wrapped her arms around me, pulling me closer to her, as if that were possible.
The buzzing started again.
I broke the kiss, reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone. Dad’s number was on the screen. I rejected the call, put the phone back in my pocket, and kissed Cassandra again.
The buzzing started for a third time.
Sighing, she stepped back. “You better answer that,” she said. “Whoever it is isn’t going to stop apparently.”
“We aren’t done yet,” I replied as I took the phone out again.
“I certainly hope not,” she said with a mischievous smile.
“Something had better be burning to the ground,” I growled into the phone, “or I am hanging up.”
“There is a…situation in my office,” Dad said. I heard a touch of panic in his voice.
“What’s wrong?” I asked him, suddenly worried.
“Just get over here right now,” he said urgently. He hung up.
“Do you mind if we stop by the OA for a minute?” I said to Cassandra.
“It doesn’t sound like I have much of a choice,” she remarked.
Ten minutes later, we were crossing the lobby to the bank of elevators. I pushed the button for the 91st floor and turned to Cassandra. Let’s just say whoever was on camera duty at my office got an eyeful (get your mind out of the gutter; things didn’t go THAT far!).
When the elevator doors finally opened, we saw Dad pacing back and forth in front of Cassandra’s desk. “Thank the Gods you’re here,” he said, rushing over to us. “There’s…something in my office you need to see.”
“Well, lead the way.”
He glanced at Cassandra. “She should stay out here.”
“Not a problem,” she replied, even though she had a look on her face that said otherwise.
I gave her a quick kiss before I followed Dad into his office. Closing the door behind him, he pointed to the far side of his room. “Over there,” he said.
I walked over to where he was pointing and stopped dead in my tracks. Perhaps that was a poor choice of words, considering what I saw.
Ophelia, whom I had just seen three hours earlier, was lying on the floor, a scorch mark in the middle of her chest. I knelt down next to her and felt for a pulse, thanking all those mortal TV medical shows that had taught me how to do that. “She’s dead,” I told him as I stood up.
“I’m aware of that!” he snapped.
I studied the scorch mark and my blood ran cold. It was a pattern I had seen one too many times in my immortal life. Turning around, I looked at him. “What did you do?”