The week after the murders at the clearing, I attended the final funeral for the girls. I had met with each family personally, offering what support I could. My men also went to each service, acting as pallbearers and honor guards. I didn’t ask them to do it; they did it on their own. There was no need to ask them how they felt; their pain was evident on their faces.
After giving the men a couple of weeks off, I went to see Kara, but I didn’t get past the front door. Her mother made it clear that I was unwelcome at their house and near her daughter. There may have also been veiled threats aimed at my personal anatomy. I reluctantly left, with all body parts still attached.
I occupied my time catching up on piles of paperwork and talking to clients. When I thought I was done, Reginald would bring in another large stack, dump it unceremoniously in the middle of my desk, spin around, and walk out without saying a word. Apparently, he was still upset about how things had turned out with Kara.
After two weeks without a word from her, I needed to talk to someone. Reginald was out. According to Theo, Reginald went over to Kara’s house every day after work. I grabbed my phone and left.
It started as a casual stroll, just to clear my mind. But before I knew it, I was standing in front of the God Complex. I hadn’t been here since I punched Dad’s portrait. Again. It had been months since I had seen any of my family, and the guilt weighed heavy on my conscience.
“It’s just a building. It won’t bite,” a female voice said behind me.
Turning around, I smiled when I saw Moxie. “Well, if it isn’t my favorite goddess,” I replied, leaning over to give her a peck on the cheek. “How are you doing?”
“Your father has kept me busy, plus I have been dealing with some personal issues.”
“Haven’t we all?”
“Yes, I’ve heard all about your problems,” she said. “I’ve seen Reginald a few times since your return. Why haven’t I seen you?”
I looked down at the ground. “I…”
“Look at you, at a loss for words,” Moxie teased.
My face turned red. “I’m sure you have more important things to do than stand here talking to me.” I turned to walk away.
“Hold on a moment,” she said, grabbing my arm. “There’s no need to get angry.” She linked her arm through mine and pulled me toward a nearby bench. “Let’s talk.”
I let her guide me to the bench and sat beside her. “I don’t have anything to say. Everyth—”
“Don’t say everything is fine, because we both know it’s not,” she scolded. “Reginald and I have had several discussions about you and Kara.”
“Meddlesome jerk,” I muttered. “He’s my secretary, not my social life manager.”
“He has your best interests at heart,” Moxie said. “He’s concerned about you.” I snorted in disgust. “May I ask you a question without you biting my head off?”
“Why are you so anxious to get married, Ares?”
“Anxious? Who says I’m anxious?”
“It’s your whole demeanor. You look like you haven’t slept well for a while, your left leg is twitching like you’ve had too much Dark Sparks coffee, and you aren’t flirting outrageously with me, which you normally do. So what gives?”
I looked down at my leg and realized it was bouncing up and down. I put my hand on top of my leg as if the gesture would make it stop instantly. “Do you remember a few months ago when we had the incident with the mirrors?”
“Yes,” she shuddered. “Something I’d rather not go through again, thank you very much. What happened in your mirror?”
At that moment, I realized I had not discussed my experience with anyone. So I told her about my alternate family, the things we had done together, and the sense of peace I had felt whenever I was with them. “I know now it wasn’t real, but the emotions of that time have stuck with me. I realize that this is what I want for my life.”
“Well, you can’t just bully your way into marriage, Ares. It doesn’t work that way.”
“Look, this is entirely new to me. I don’t know what I’m doing. All I know is what I want, and I will make sure I damn well get it.”
“This isn’t a war! You can’t go around acting like this is some big battle, and your goal is to get the prize at the end. No woman wants to be treated as if she were an object.” She held up her hand to stop me when I started to interrupt. “Don’t tell me you know that because you don’t. In this day and age, marriage is like a partnership. You’re in it together, through the good times and the bad. No one person is more important than the other. You’re not a caveman. You can’t grunt, throw the woman over your shoulder, and carry her off to the cave.”
I wanted to say that I had never thrown a woman over my shoulder before, but then a montage of women scrolled through my head. Okay, so maybe I had carried one or two women off…or thirty. “I have never had a problem getting a woman before.”
“Ares, you have only had two serious relationships in your entire life: Cassie and Aphrodite. You experienced love in completely different ways with each woman. I believe Aphrodite was a physical love, but with Cassie, it was more emotional. That’s not to say you didn’t experience things emotionally with Aphrodite, but Cassie, well…”
“I think I understand what you’re trying to say.”
“Kara, on the other hand, is a combination of both women, plus a bit of Artemis thrown in. Reginald told me what happened in the forest when she defeated the minotaur. She is your equal.”
“Yes, she is.”
“Then why aren’t you fighting for her?”
“Excuse me?” I said, shocked.
“You heard me, and I didn’t stutter. Quit moping around. Go to her house and talk to her!”
I stood up and paced. “I have gone over there! Many times! Her old battleax of a mother won’t let me in the house! The last time I went over there, she opened the door and started to hit me with a broom!”
Moxie laughed. “The God of War beaten by an old woman with a broom. That’s too funny!”
“I was not amused.”
“I imagine not,” Moxie said. A chime went off, and she pulled out her phone. “I wish I could continue our talk, but I have an important meeting.” She got to her feet. “Look, Ares, if Kara is what you truly want, then move heaven and earth to tell her. Don’t let an overprotective mother with a broom stop you from being happy. When you do talk to Kara, listen. I mean, really listen to what she has to say. Two times she’s been in danger because of you. That’s not something a woman forgets. She’s going to be afraid. Reassure her, but most importantly, tell her how you feel deep down in your heart. You are just as scared as she is, and being married will be a new experience for both of you, particularly you. You’ve never been a one-woman man before.”
“I would have been for you if you had just given me a chance.”
“You’re adorable and good for a girl’s ego.” She kissed my cheek. “Be yourself, Ares. Be open and honest. It will work out…if it’s supposed to. There’s always a chance that she’s not the one.”
“Then find a way to win her heart.” She smiled and hurried off.
I sat down on the bench, staring disconsolately at the ground. I thought about what Moxie had said. I knew she was right. The only problem was that I had no idea how to fix the problem. I looked up at the God Complex. There was one person I could talk to about this who had a vast knowledge about women, love, and marriage.