Slamming my office door shut, I took my jacket off and tossed it in a chair. I ran my fingers through my hair as I walked over to the window. A few men were sparring in the training arena. Theo used his staff to sweep the legs out from under his opponent, who hit the ground hard. The man quickly hopped to his feet and got back into his fighting stance. He was one of our new hires. I was impressed he hadn’t stayed on the ground.
Sighing, I turned away and started to pace the floor. It had been two weeks since Kara was kidnapped at our wedding. We had conducted searches in the immediate area without any luck. A couple of crews had gone into the national park, while two more had gone to the mountains. They had uncovered a marijuana operation, which had resulted in dozens of arrests. But they hadn’t found any trace of Kara.
The office door burst open, and Reginald stormed in. “Did you find her?” he said.
“Do you see her standing here?” I retorted.
He put his hands on his hips and glared at me. “Then what are you doing here? Get back out there and keep looking!”
“Where else do you suggest I look, Reginald? I haven’t checked your place yet. Do you have her hiding in a closet or under a bed?”
Eyes wide, he put a hand on his chest. “I am very offended by that.”
“And I’m offended by the fact you are insinuating I’m not busting my ass trying to find her.”
We glared at each other for a minute before Reginald sighed. “I’m sorry, Ares. I can only imagine what you’re going through. I’m just worried.”
“We all are.”
“What do we do now?”
“Regroup and expand our search parameters. It will take longer, and we’ll be gone for extended periods. I can’t keep sending crews out. It’s detrimental to the business. If I had concrete evidence that Kara was in one particular area, then I’d take every single person with me. We’d raid the place, rescue her, and then deal with the perpetrators appropriately.”
“You mean go into full God of War mode and kill them all?”
I just looked at him.
“Well, it’s not like I would have a problem with that, given the circumstances. But this isn’t ancient times. You can’t go around killing people whenever the mood strikes you.”
“Watch me,” I replied calmly.
Reginald’s eyes widened, and I saw him shiver. “I think this is the first time I’ve ever been truly scared of you.”
“You’re not the one who should be afraid.”
He took a deep breath to steady his nerves. “What else can I do to help?”
“See if you can get some maps of Eastern Greece, particularly around the National Park of Nestos Delta. I’m not familiar with the area, and I want to see what the terrain looks like.”
“I’ll see if I can find some satellite photos as well,” Reginald replied.
“Also information on Kerkini Lake National Park.”
Reginald grabbed some paper and a pen off my desk and made notes. “I’ll also check for smaller campgrounds,” he said. “Maybe I should start checking…” he stopped himself and looked at me.
He glanced down at the desk. “I was going to say maybe I should check hospitals and morgues. You know, in case…”
“Right,” I said quietly, unable to say the words out loud myself. “That’s probably a good idea. Thank you, Reg.”
He nodded. “Anything else I can do for you?”
“No, that’s all for now.” Picking up the paper, he turned and walked to the door. “Reg?”
“Thank you for everything you’ve done the last couple of weeks. You’ve been a good friend. I appreciate it.”
He glanced over his shoulder at me. “I love her too, Ares. Not like you love her, but like a sister. There’s nothing I won’t do to help bring her back. We’ll find her…alive. I promise.”
“Then get the hell out of here and get me that information I asked for,” I said.
Reginald smiled, nodded, and left, closing the door behind him.
The conversation had done nothing to improve my mood. I grabbed the small leather bag I kept near my desk and headed for the locker room. After I changed into black shorts and a black sleeveless shirt, I walked into the gym. There were a few men in there working out. I could hear the grunts as some of them lifted weights, the clanking of the metal beating out a steady rhythm.
Weightlifting wouldn’t help dissipate the anger and frustration I had inside. I went to the far side of the gym where the punching bags were located. Henry, the gym manager, watched me stride across the room. Without saying a word, he grabbed a pair of boxing gloves from behind him and stood up. We walked over to a table, where he taped my hands and helped me put the gloves on.
Leaning against the wall, he crossed his arms across his chest as I began to warm up on the speed bag. “Slow down, Ares,” he chided me. “You know better than to start fast.”
I growled but did as he ordered.
“Haven’t found her, I take it?”
“Want to talk about it?”
“Good, because I don’t want to hear it.” He pushed away from the wall. “While you’re beating the shit out of the bag, clear your mind. You’ve got too many thoughts running around up there, and it’s keeping you from seeing the big picture.”
I stopped punching the bag and looked at him. “What do you mean?”
“Kara was taken for a reason. What is it?”
I opened my mouth to answer, then closed it. “I have no idea.”
“Figure that out, and you’ll be one step closer to finding her. She’s not the only woman to go missing around here, you know. There have been others.”
Henry shook his head. “If you’d get your head out of your ass once in a while, boy, you’d know what was going on around you.” He walked off muttering about stupid gods who thought they were so much better than everyone when they were dumber than dirt.
I spent another fifteen minutes on the speed bag, then moved over to the punching bag. I tried my best not to think of anything, but the look on Kara’s face as she was lifted off the ground wouldn’t leave me alone.
This was why I had never gotten married. As the God of War, I didn’t have time to deal with emotions and feelings. My focus needed to be on destroying the enemy, not love and romance. That was my son’s job as the God of Love. It was too dangerous to get involved with me. I had enemies everywhere who were always looking for weak spots to exploit. Cassie’s death at the hands of Markos was proof of that.
Once I found Kara and brought her home, I would end things. I loved her too much to continue putting her in harm’s way. The only way to keep her safe was to walk away.
I grabbed the bag to stop its swing and looked behind me to find Nike standing there. “Hey, little one, what are you doing here?”
She threw her arms around me, hugging me. “I felt a twinge in my heart as I was flying over your building, so I thought I’d stop in to see how you were doing,” she replied, taking a step back. “Obviously, things aren’t going well.”
“What makes you say that?”
She pointed at the bag. “Because you’re beating it with more force than usual.”
“You are very observant, little one,” I chuckled, holding out a gloved hand. She unlaced both hands for me and pulled the gloves off. “I needed to let off a little steam. I figured the bag was better than some poor, undeserving sap’s face.”
I let Henry cut the tape off, grabbed two bottles of water, and led Nike outside to the courtyard. Picking a spot under a shade tree, we sat down and drank some water. “How are you doing, Ares?” Nike asked as she put the lid on her bottle.
“Why? I don’t understand.”
“If Kara hadn’t gotten involved with me, she’d be safe at home. Instead, she’s out there gods know where.”
“Have the search teams turned up anything?”
“Not a thing.”
“Zelus and I have been searching as well when we’ve had the time. I’m afraid we haven’t found anything, either.”
“Thank you. Please give my thanks to your brother the next time you see him. I know how busy you are with your duties, so I appreciate the two of you taking the time to help.”
“I’d do anything for you, Ares, you know that. You’re my favorite brother.”
I smiled at her. “And you’re my favorite sister. Just don’t tell the others that. They’ll be extremely jealous.”
She giggled, then turned serious again. “What are you going to do now?”
“Expand the search grid. Reginald is looking for maps and satellite images of two national parks to the north and east. It’s going to mean more time away from here, but my men are trained to handle things. I’m going to keep looking until I find her or…” I couldn’t bring myself to say the rest.
Nike reached over and grabbed my hand. “She’s still alive, Ares.”
“You don’t know that, little one.”
“I feel it here,” she said, pointing at her heart. “You mustn’t give up hope. We’ll find her.”
“Is this one of your victories, Nike?”
“Yes, it is, one that will not be denied,” she said firmly.
I leaned over and hugged her. “Thank you, little one.”
“Ares, Kara knew what she was getting into when she got involved with you. She heard the stories; everyone has. She went into this relationship with eyes wide open and no expectations.”
“How do you know all that?”
“We’ve spent some time together. I like her. She can hold her own with you. That’s the kind of woman you need. Someone strong who can fight beside you and give you the love you deserve.”
“Have you been talking to Eros again?”
“Maybe a little,” she admitted, “but it’s true. Don’t give up on your own happiness because of this. The world has changed, Ares. Yes, there are still wars and bloodshed, but there is so much more out there now. You need to open yourself up to all the possibilities. You will always have the bloodlust that war brings. That doesn’t mean you can’t have peace, too.”
“That is a lot of wisdom wrapped in a small package, little one.”
“You know me. I want everyone to be happy. I’ll grant as many victories as it takes to make it happen. Just don’t lose hope.”
“I won’t,” I assured her.
“You know, I think you should talk to Arty.”
“She’s been looking into some disappearances that are similar to Kara’s.”
“Henry mentioned something about that.”
“I don’t know the details. It was just something I overheard. But I think you should get in touch with her and see what she has to say. Maybe this is all connected. You two could help each other. It’s better to work together than alone, which I know you prefer sometimes. But this isn’t the time for that.”
I nodded in agreement. “You’re right.”
“Of course I am.”
I shook my head and laughed. Thank you, little one. I feel better.”