It was a beautiful day, and I decided to take my lunch break in one of the local parks with Eirenne. After I ate, I threw a ball for her for a while before we settled under one of the trees to rest for a bit.
I must have dozed off, because the next thing I knew, someone was kicking my foot. Opening one eye, I saw Artemis standing there. “Hey, sis, what’s up?”
“I’m looking for you,” she replied, bending down to pet Eirenne. “I see you two are working hard.”
“I’m on my lunch break.”
“Looks more like a nap break to me,” she chuckled.
“Is there something you want, or did you just come to give me a hard time?”
“I have a favor to ask of you.”
“You used up your favor when you brought me the dog,” I reminded her.
“It’s about the Silver Bow Foundation,” she continued, ignoring my remark.
“I already sent you a donation.”
“A very generous one, thank you.”
Stifling a yawn, I stood up. “Then I’m not sure what else you need from me,” I replied, brushing dirt and grass off my black jeans.
“I need you to be there.”
I shook my head. “We went over this when you brought me the invitation. I am not in the mood to go to any parties.”
“It’s not a party, it’s an auction, followed by a masquerade ball. Everyone is going to be there, Ares. How do you think it’s going to look to the mortals if the God of War isn’t there?”
“Like he has more important things to do than getting dressed up in a penguin suit?” I said dryly.
She put her hands on her hips and glared at me. “You don’t have anything more important to do. You’re going to sit in your penthouse with Eirenne, watching TV and brooding. It’s all you’ve done since you got back from Paris.”
“That is not true,” I retorted. “I’ve gone to work every single day.”
“Oh, excuse me, I stand corrected.”
We stood there, face to face, staring at each other. “I have no desire to go to a party, Arty. Not even for you.”
Placing a hand on my arm, she said, “Cassie wouldn’t want you to sit at home and continue to mourn her, Ares. She would want you to live your life.”
Artemis threw her hands in the air, totally exasperated. “It might be low, but it’s the truth. You will get a tuxedo, and you will be at Urania’s gallery on the 33rd floor of the OA tonight at 8 p.m. Don’t be late!”
She poked me in the chest. “You will be there, or I will send Dad to get you to make sure you go. Or better yet, I’ll send Mother.”
I rubbed my hand over my face. If she did that, I’d never hear the end of it from my sons. “Fine,” I said, gritting my teeth. “I’ll go.”
Smiling, she threw her arms around me. “Thank you! I promise you won’t regret it.” She turned and hurried off.
“I’m already regretting it,” I called out after her. I glanced down at Eirenne, who gave me a look that said, “Wuss.”
Precisely at 8 p.m., I walked into Urania’s gallery. There were twinkly lights hanging from the ceiling, suspended above people sitting at round tables and chairs. As I glanced around the room, I was impressed with the decorations as well as the little details that went into planning everything. Guys don’t really notice those things much, but I was trying to put in the effort since it meant so much to my sister.
I looked to my left, and my eyes widened. Artemis was walking toward me, wearing a mauve shimmering gown, with a slit going way above her knee. I suddenly had an overwhelming urge to protect my sister’s virtue, although I knew she could take care of that all by herself. “You look beautiful,” I told her, kissing her cheek.
“You certainly cleaned up well,” she said, straightening my bow tie.
After she left me in the park, I went to a local shop and bought a tuxedo, a black shirt instead of white, and a purple bow tie and cummerbund. “Thank you,” I replied. “I cannot believe how great the place looks. You all did a wonderful job pulling this together.”
“I’m very pleased with how it all turned out,” she smiled. “I’m hoping the auction will bring in a lot of drachma for the foundation.”
“With Mother on the block, I’m sure you’ll bring in a boatload of drachma. How are things going with the foundation?”
“Good so far. It takes a while to get things set up, but we’ve managed to help a few people already.”
“You know if you ever need anything, besides drachma, I’ll be happy to help.”
She squeezed my arm. “I know. Thank you for that.”
“Artemis!” Nike yelled from across the room. “I need you over here!”
“I better go see what the problem is. Mingle with the crowd, and don’t forget to smile.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I muttered as she hurried away. A waiter came in my direction, carrying a tray of champagne flutes, and I grabbed one as he walked by.
“There is my handsome son,” a voice said behind me.
I turned around and pasted a smile on my face. “Good evening, Mother,” I said, kissing her cheek. “You look lovely as always.”
She preened a bit. “Thank you. I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“Artemis begged me to come; I could hardly say no.”
“So she talked you into participating in the auction as well?”
“She didn’t even ask me, and before you do, the answer is no. Besides, I’d never bring in near the amount you will.”
“Well, this is true,” she admitted. I tried not to roll my eyes. “It is good to see you somewhere besides work.”
“Don’t give me the ‘you need to get out more’ lecture,” I replied, holding up my hand. “I already got that one from Artemis today.”
“But I’m your mother; I’m allowed to say it.”
“Let’s pretend that you did and leave it at that.”
Mother didn’t look happy about it, but she let it go. I knew she’d give me a lecture later, though. “I must go. The auction will be starting shortly, and I need to get behind the stage so I can make a grand entrance.”
“Good luck, Mother.”
“Please, I don’t need luck, my heart. I’m Hera; they’d be fools not to bid on me!”
I just shook my head as I watched her walk away, stopping every few steps to say hello to someone. Nike finally appeared and escorted her out of the room.
Finishing my champagne, I put the empty glass on a table and roamed around the room. Every few minutes, a mortal would stop me, asking for an autograph or a selfie. Remembering that this was for a good cause, I went along with the requests, while internally, I wanted to be at home with Eirenne, stretched out on the couch watching a hockey game.
A tap on my shoulder made me turn around to find Scott, one of my security guards, looking apprehensive. “Boss,” he said quietly, “I think we’ve got a problem.”
“Just a minute,” I told him before turning my attention back to the woman I had been talking to. “I’m afraid there is something that requires my attention.” I took her hand and kissed the back of it. “I hope you enjoy the rest of the evening.”
She giggled as I followed Scott to the back of the room. “One of my men downstairs has disappeared,” he said when we were out of earshot of everyone. “One minute he was there, the next minute he was gone. We checked the security cameras, and…”
“Well,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck, “it looked like something big and black grabbed him. And I’m not sure, but I think it had wings.”
This was not good.