“You will never say anything about her in a demeaning or degrading way, am I clear? She is a beautiful woman who deserves respect. If you cannot treat her or anyone who comes into my office with a modicum of deference and respect, you can go right back to that cabaret where I found you.

Thirty minutes after Hephaestus left, I stepped out of my office, locked the door and headed toward the front door. It was a nice day, so I figured I’d just walk over to the OA complex.

However, my secretary, Reginald, stopped me when I got close to his desk. “Just where do you think you’re going?”

I raised an eyebrow at the tone of his voice. “There is a security issue that needs my immediate attention, if it is any of your business,” I said. “Do I need to remind you who is the boss around here?”

“No, but apparently you need a reminder,” he retorted. Grabbing a rather large pile of mail, he stood up, shoved it into my hands, turned me around and steered me back to my office. “There are important things in here that cannot wait.” He pulled a set of keys out of his pocket, unlocked my office door, and pushed me inside.

“Now hang on a minute,” I said. “I don’t have time to…”

“…deal with this right now,” he finished for me. “Yeah, yeah, you’ve been saying that for two weeks. “And yet, you managed to find the time to get into a huge fight with your brother, destroy my desk, almost take out two walls, ruined several paintings, all of which forced the crew to work overtime to get the repairs done so we could open in time. You are not one of their favorite people right now, just giving you fair warning.”

“I’m not here to be friends with them. I’m the boss,” I replied.

“Yeah, yeah, God of war, God of manliness, kick butt and take names later, yadda yadda yadda,” Reginald said dismissively.

“Wait a minute, what do you mean ‘God of War’?” I asked him suspiciously. I had never said anything about who I was to him.

“Oh, please, I’ve read everything there is to know about mythology,” Reginald replied, rolling his eyes. “I knew who you were that first night. We’ve been friends for how many years now? I’ve known this whole time.”

“But you never said anything to me.”

“What was I suppose to say? ‘Excuse me, I know this is going to sound crazy, but are you, perchance, Ares, the God of War?’ If I had said that to you and had been wrong, you’d have punched me in the face.”

“I did punch you in the face when you made a pass at me.”

“Well, excuse me for praying that a gorgeous man like you would actually be interested in a guy like me.”

“I appreciate you keeping my secret, Reginald. I know that must have been hard for you.”

He shrugged. “You’re a good friend, and those are hard to come by. You’ve had my back numerous times. The least I could do was keep my mouth shut. Now, sit down in your chair and let’s go through this mess. If we do it together, we’ll get done faster, and you can go sneak off to take care of your ‘security issue’, which is probably code for going to see Aphrodite for a little afternoon delight.”

I dropped the mail on top of my desk, spun around and grabbed Reginald’s royal blue silk tie. Pulling him closer to me, I stared him in the eyes. “You will never say anything about her in a demeaning or degrading way, am I clear? She is a beautiful woman who deserves respect. If you cannot treat her or anyone who comes into my office with a modicum of deference and respect, you can go right back to that cabaret where I found you. I’m pretty sure Pietro would just love to see his star attraction again.” Reginald’s face went pale. “Do we understand each other? We may be friends, but that is a line that you just don’t cross…ever.

He nodded. I released his tie and he stumbled backwards as I moved past him and sat down at my desk. “I’ll be right back,” he stammered. He turned and rushed out of the room.

I stared at the pile of mail and sighed. I had hired Reginald so I wouldn’t have to mess with any of this. Leaning forward, I started sorting through it all. Magazines about various weapons…these could be useful. I put them off to one side to take home to read later. I was always looking for a little light reading material before bed. A letter from Divine Council. What the heck was this?

Reginald came back in, carrying a tablet in one hand, and a tray with two drinks in the other. “I thought you might want something to drink,” he said, placing the tray on my desk.

“What is it?”

“What the mortals call Dr Pepper. It’s actually quite good.”

I picked up a glass and took a sip. He was right; it was good. “You know, I gave you the authority to pay any bills that come in. All of this is your responsibility. Why am I looking at this instead of you?”

“A good businessman knows what’s going on in his company, and that includes something he might consider as unimportant as the mail. I would rather you know what bills are paid when, how much is being paid for each bill, and when the bills are paid. Then you cannot deny you did not know what was going on, and if there is a discrepancy or problem, you know right away.”

“I’m impressed, Reginald,” I replied. “And I thought you were just a dancer.”

“Never be fooled by a pretty face, boss,” he grinned.

I laughed. “Fair enough. But don’t make it a habit of pushing me around. If you have something you want to discuss, then knock on my door.”

“Fair enough.”

I split the pile with him. “Any magazines about weapons go in one pile. Any other magazines go in the trash.” I ripped open the envelope from Divine Council. “A letter from Aunt Demeter. Why couldn’t she just come talk to me?” I scanned the letter. “What the hell?”

Reginald looked up. “What’s the matter?”

“She has sent me a bill for services not yet rendered, because she says it is a foregone conclusion I will get into some kind of trouble that will require her help.”

“Wait, I thought she was opening a diner?”

“Maybe she’s doing both. I don’t know. She also said that she has three files on her desk with my name on them. One of them regarding the fight with my brother. He is thinking about suing me for damages.” Disgusted, I tossed the letter on my desk. “He better hope I don’t countersue him.”

Reginald started to say something, but wisely decided to keep quiet. “Oh, look, Nyx is opening a nightclub called Nox. I haven’t been to a good nightclub in years! This is so exciting! I’ll have to ask my boyfriend if we can go.”

I flipped through more of my pile. “Here’s a flyer from a place called Mary Jane Bakery. ‘Yummy edibles that will have your head in the clouds.’ This has to be Dionysus.” I looked at the bottom. “Yep. It figures.”

“Here’s one for Chloris’ flower shop, Bloomin Good. It is an all-things-floral shop that will sell fresh flowers, artwork, handmade soap, gift items, books, etc.–and will include a Tisane Cafe serving pastries. Oh, I do love a good cup of tea in the afternoons. I wonder if she’ll do a proper English afternoon tea?” Reginald said. “We should keep her number on speed dial.”

“Why?” I asked, puzzled.

“Women love it when men send them flowers. Don’t you know anything?”

I just shook my head and grabbed another envelope. This one had a familiar scent to it. Looking at the upper left corner, I noticed the name: A-Harmony. Opening the envelope, I pulled out a thick sheaf of papers and unfolded them. It was a questionnaire for a soulmate matching service, owned and operated by Aphrodite. There was a note attached to it: “Thought you could use some help finding the next heart to break. A.”

Reginald glanced over at me. “Something wrong?”

“Have you heard anything about a company called A-Harmony?”

“Indeed I have! Women all over the city are excited about it. They believe that their search for the man of their dreams will finally be over once they sign up for A-Harmony. If I wasn’t already with the perfect man, I’d sign up for it myself. It’s being run by the Goddess of Love. Granted, her personal love life is a hot mess, but when it comes to matching up mortals, she is never wrong. I predict it is going to be a smashing success, and it will go international at some point. She’s going to be too busy to worry about her own love life.”

I thought about what he said. Aphrodite had never had a problem finding someone to love wherever she went. A small jealous flame fired up inside of me. It was saying what I didn’t want admit out loud: I was missing Aphrodite tremendously.

Ares (Teresa Watson)
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