I walked into my office, tossing my backpack at the couch as I headed for my desk. Dropping into my chair, I sat back and sighed. I was frustrated beyond words. Another scouting trip had turned up nothing. Theo and his men had gone home to get some much-needed sleep. They had been working nonstop since Kara’s kidnapping.
The door flew open, and in stormed Reginald. “Did you find her?”
“Why is it that the first thing you say to me lately is ‘Did you find her?’ or ‘Where is she?’ What happened to ‘Hello, Ares, it’s good to see you. How are you doing?’”
Reginald waved his hand dismissively. “Who has time for such trivialities?”
“No one, apparently,” I muttered.
“Given your sour mood, I think it is safe to assume you have not found her yet.”
“Give the man a crumbled cookie.”
“Don’t get snarky with me. I can do it way better than you.”
I held up my hands. “I don’t want to fight right now, Reginald. You obviously came in here for a reason. What can I do for you?”
“I received a call from a new secretary at the God Complex. Her name is Lana, and she is just delightful! She knows the best shops to find some fabulous shoes. She is just the sweetest—”
He looked at me, shocked that I had yelled. “What?”
“Why did the secretary call?”
“You know how to ruin a good story,” he pouted. “She was looking for you. When I told her you were out of the office, she left a message.”
I waited for him to continue, but he just stood there looking at me. “You are trying what little patience I have left. What was the message?”
“It was, and I quote, ‘What is that rat bastard nephew of mine getting mixed up in this time?’ unquote.”
“Aunt Demeter,” I said knowingly. “So she’s back.”
“She’s back, and she’s pissed off. Her office was a mess, she found a strange woman wandering around the place, and she’s blaming you for some reason.”
“Of course she is. I take it I should head to her office posthaste?”
Reginald shook his head. “I called Lana when you walked into the building. She said she’d let your aunt know you were back.”
“Perhaps you should make sure we’ve got some Dark Sparks coffee available and something stronger just in case.”
“It’s being taken care of. Anything else?”
I shook my head. “I think I’ll go upstairs for a shower and some clean clothes before she gets here.”
“I would greatly appreciate it,” Reginald said, wrinkling his nose in disgust before spinning on his heels and walking out.
There were days I wondered why I put up with him.
After I cleaned up, I grabbed a Sam Adams beer and took it with me to my office. As I walked in, I saw a pair of Manalo Blahniks, which were attached to a pair of legs wearing black slacks, perched on my desk. My eyes focused on the person who was sitting in my chair, glaring at me. “Good afternoon, Aunt Dem. Welcome back. It’s good to see you.”
She just stared at me. You know the old saying If looks could kill…well, at this moment, I believe I could have died. Rather impressive since I’m immortal.
“I understand that you came back to find things a bit skewed in your office.”
“That’s how you want to start this conversation? By talking about the chaos I found in my personal quarters?”
I took a drink from my bottle before answering. “We can start this any damn way you want. You want to talk about the weather? I can discuss that at length, particularly the conditions in the mountains. Perhaps you would like to hear about the wild party we were all invited to last month that turned into a living nightmare. What about the new punching bags that we got in the gym?”
“I don’t want to hear about the weather or punching bags. If I want to hit something, I’ll start with you. As for the party, I have heard a little bit about it from some of the others.”
I took another drink. “Perhaps we should talk about someone calling me a rat bastard. Whatever you want, I don’t have time for it. I am a little pressed for time, so if you wouldn’t mind getting your ass out of my chair, I’m sure you can find your way out.”
“Oh, don’t be a martyr, Ares,” my aunt retorted. “You act like you’re the only one with problems around here. Grow the fuck up.”
I was surprised at her last sentence. Aunt Demeter and I had a wonderful relationship. We had always been there for each other when things were rough. I hadn’t seen her since we had gotten her off the mountains in Virginia and had no idea what she had been through during that time. I was frustrated over the situation with Kara and was taking it out on my aunt. “Let’s take a step back for a minute,” I replied. “I believe it is safe to say that things have been hard for both of us.”
The door opened, and Reginald came in a Dark Sparks cup in his hand. “Here, Ms. Demeter,” he said, walking over and handing her the coffee. “I thought you might need this. Although if you’re going to deal with Mr. Moody here, I’d recommend something stronger. Some tequila perhaps, or a few margaritas.”
“If there were some chips and salsa to go with those margaritas, I would be all for it,” she smiled at him. “But the coffee will do for now. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” He turned to leave, looking at me sternly. “You be nice to the poor woman. Don’t make me come back in here and kick your ass. You know I’ll do it.”
“Not in those Ferragamos you won’t,” I pointed out.
He rolled his eyes and stormed out of the office, slamming the door behind him.
“I see he hasn’t changed,” Aunt Demeter said, taking a drink of her coffee.
“No, he hasn’t.” I sat down in a chair across from her. “What brings you by, Aunt Dem?”
She pointed to a pile of folders on top of my desk. “Your father had these delivered to my office. The messenger was a chatty sort and told me a bit of gossip. He said two men were replacing Zeus’s door, while another man was painting the walls, where scorch marks were visible. The message was to take these folders to his ungrateful son. I wasn’t sure who he was talking about until the messenger mentioned that Zeus’s portrait had a hole in it again, and I realized he was referring to you.”
I chuckled. “Yeah, we might have had a heated discussion a few days ago. He’ll get over it.”
“I took a look at the files before I came over here. This is quite an eclectic group here. You want to tell me why you’re interested in them?”
“Does it have anything to do with the woman who was with you in Virginia?” I didn’t reply, but something must have crossed my face because she nodded slightly. “I thought as much. I already know what has happened, at least the part of the story your mother knows. Why don’t you tell me the rest of it?”
I took another drink, then launched into the story. At one point, I saw her grab a notepad and pen, and she started taking notes. By the time I was done, she had filled two pages. “One hell of a mess you’ve gotten yourself into, Nephew,” she said dryly as she finished her coffee.
“I don’t need your sarcasm,” she admonished. “We need to work together.”
“Of course I’m going to help you. Don’t be so surprised.”
I leaned back in my chair and stared at her for a few minutes. “You want something.”
She looked shocked. “Are you doubting my intentions?”
“I don’t believe that you came over here just to deliver some files. Quid pro quo, Aunt Dem. I spilled my guts. Now you spill yours.”
“I’m not ready to tell you everything yet. There are still some things that I have to work out. But I will say that during my talk with your mother, we discussed the poor state of affairs around the GC and within the family. She’s not happy.”
“And when Mother’s not happy, nobody’s happy,” I replied.
“That’s not true…well, most of the time,” she admitted. “But we are working on a plan to correct the situation, and I believe you will fit nicely into those plans.”
I shook my head. “I’m not doing anything until I get Kara back. Whatever you’ve got in mind, you’ll have to do without me.”
“I realize that she is your top priority,” my aunt said. “That’s why I’m going to help you get her back. Once that happens, then the three of us—”
“Four of us,” I corrected her. “Kara and I had been talking about taking on some cases along the same lines that you and my mother are thinking about. If I’m going to do this, Kara is going to be involved as well.”
My aunt smiled. “I heard about her exploits from Artemis. She said Kara has great skills and that she is an excellent partner for you. Your equal is what she said. I’m glad that you have found someone who can keep up with you. I wasn’t sure that you would even consider dating again after Cassie’s death.”
“Yes, well…” I took a drink to keep my emotions in check. “I’m not sure what you can do to help, to be honest.”
Aunt Demeter got up and walked over to the map I had tacked to the wall. “You said that a man on a pegasus swooped in and grabbed her, correct?” I nodded. “There aren’t many places where you can keep an animal like that without being seen.”
I got up and went to stand beside her. “I know. I’ve had my men scouring the whole country, looking for any areas they could be. We haven’t had any luck.”
“That’s because you’re looking too far away, my dear nephew,” she replied, patting me gently on the cheek. “You should be focusing your efforts closer to home.”
I scanned the map, then shook my head. “The only thing around here is the national forest.”
“Exactly,” she replied. “They’re hiding in plain sight, in a way.”
“And you know just where to look, am I right?”
“Stick with me, kid. We’ll get your girl back. Then we’re going to start kicking ass and taking names.”