It had been a week since the incident at Marissa’s soccer match. I still couldn’t explain how I had managed to disarm my daughter’s assailant, nor could I figure out the brief flash of a bloody battlefield fight as Ares. Maybe I was spending too much time buried in my Greek Gods research. But yet, I could not deny the desire to rip the man limb from limb.
Marissa had a sprained arm, but she refused to allow it to keep her from playing in the next match. Katharina had hovered over her for the first three days until Marissa had exploded in anger. She told her mother that she was smothering her, and it was driving her crazy. Despite her tough act, I had heard her crying in her room during the night a few times. It broke my heart. I was her father; it was my job to protect her from the evil of the world, and I felt I had failed her in a way.
The morning of the next match was cloudy and cool. Marissa sat at the kitchen table, chatting with Katharina about an upcoming dance she wanted to attend. “I can’t believe Billy Wagner asked me to go with him,” she said excitedly. “We have to go dress shopping, Mom.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” I said as I walked into the room. “Who is this Billy Wagner boy?”
“Just a kid in my class, Dad. He’s really nice, plays basketball, and is super smart. I was totally surprised when he sat next to me at lunch and asked me to the dance. Isn’t it great?”
“More like my worst nightmare come true,” I groused, grabbing a mug from the cabinet and pouring myself some coffee.
“Billy and Marissa sittin’ in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g,” Jax started to sing.
“You shut up!” Marissa yelled, leaning over to punch her brother in the arm.
“Hey, no hitting your brother at the table,” Katharina admonished her daughter.
“He started it!”
“Did not!” Jax made kissing noises.
Marissa jumped out of her chair and reached for her brother. I rushed over and pulled her away from him. “That’s enough,” I said. “Knock it off, both of you. Jax, quit teasing your sister.”
“Are you going to beat him up if he hurts Marissa like you did that guy last weekend, Dad?” Jax asked.
I looked up at Katharina, whose eyes were wide in surprise. “Of course he’s not,” she said. “Why would you ask something like that?”
Jax shrugged. “Well, the guy that grabbed Marissa last weekend probably planned to kill her or something. I figured Dad would go beast mode again and threaten Billy with bodily harm if he even tried to touch his precious daughter.”
“How do you come up with these things?” I said.
“Kids at school have been talking about what you did. A lot of them were shocked, but most of the guys thought what you did was cool. I don’t like Billy Wagner; he’s a big jerk. So if you decide to beat him up, I’d be totally fine with it.”
Sipping my coffee, I sighed. “First of all, Jax, you’re talking about two different situations. As her father, I’m going to be suspicious of any boy that wants to date her. When you have a daughter of your own, you’ll be the same way.”
Jax made a face. “I am never having kids.” He pointed at his sister. “I don’t want to raise a kid like her.”
“I’m an angel compared to you,” Marissa retorted, sticking her tongue out at him.
“You’re both being pains in the butt this morning,” Katharina replied.
“I said the same thing when I was your age,” I told Jax. “And look at me now, living life with a beautiful wife and two adorable kids.” I leaned over and kissed my wife, eliciting a groan from the kids.
Marissa rolled her eyes. “Could you two be any more disgusting?”
I ignored her comment. “Second, what happened to Marissa last weekend was a parent’s worst nightmare come to life right before their eyes. I would like to think I reacted as any father would when their child is in danger.”
“I still think you should beat up Billy,” Jax said.
“Then I would end up in jail,” I said, checking the time. “Grab your stuff. It’s time to go.”
The kids continued to argue on the way to the soccer field. Jax jumped out when we got there and ran off to find his friends. Marissa got out, grabbed her bag, and headed for the field, then stopped to stare at the bathrooms. Sensing her nervousness, I walked over and stood next to her. “Are you okay?” I asked gently.
She nodded. “Yeah, I think so.”
“I won’t let anything happen to you, baby girl,” I assured her, giving her a hug.
“I know, Dad.” She started to walk away.
She stopped and turned around. “What, Dad?”
“I love you.”
Smiling, she said, “I love you, too.”
Katharina joined me, and I took the chairs away from her. “Is she all right?” she asked me as we headed toward the parents’ section.
“A little scared, but she says she’s fine.”
“Do you think we should find a therapist for her?”
I thought about it for a moment. “It might not hurt.”
“Lisa Saunders recommended someone the other day. I’ll give them a call on Monday.”
I set up our chairs, then wandered over to the refreshment stand to get some hot chocolate. Jeff Richardson was in line in front of me. “Hey, Aric, how’s it going?” he said.
“I’m ready for warm weather.”
“You and me both, buddy,” he chuckled. “I heard you had a little excitement around here last weekend.”
“Yeah, someone tried to snatch Marissa.”
“That’s terrible. How’s she doing?”
“She’s okay, although I hear her crying at night in her room. We’re going to take her to a therapist next week.”
“Probably a good idea. She’s lucky. This isn’t the first time this has happened lately.”
“What do you mean?” I asked curiously.
Jeff placed his order before answering. “There have been six young women who have gone missing in the last six weeks. Most of them are older than Marissa, although one is fifteen. There are no leads, no evidence, nothing. The police are stymied.”
“What about video surveillance or security cameras? Almost everyone nowadays has those doorbell cameras.”
“The only thing they have gotten from that is a white panel van with a winged horse on the side.”
“That’s odd,” I said as Jeff picked up his order and stepped aside. I requested two hot chocolates, paid for them, and grabbed them.
“Yeah, it is,” Jeff agreed as we made our way back to our wives. “I don’t let Janice walk anywhere by herself, not even to her car in the driveway. I’m not taking any chances. You should do the same thing with Kath.”
“I will,” I replied. We went our separate ways, and I joined my wife to watch the game.
Thankfully, things were uneventful. Marissa scored a goal, but the other team won 3-2. I stuck close to both of them as we made our way back to our SUV. As I put the chairs in the back end, I spotted the man I had seen the previous week. He was about thirty yards away, just staring at me. He had a look on his face as if he knew something I didn’t. I wasn’t sure how else to describe it. For a moment, I thought about walking over to confront him, but he disappeared before I could move in that direction. He just…poofed into thin air. I blinked a couple of times in case my mind was playing tricks on me, but he was gone. I couldn’t help but feel uneasy.
The rest of the weekend was uneventful. Jax continued to tease Marissa about Billy Wagner, and at one point, she pinned him to the ground and sat on him until he begged for mercy. Katharina and I continued to gross them out by doing mushy things in front of them. They retreated to their rooms, leaving the two of us to our wild urges.
Monday morning was hectic as usual. Jax refused to get up until I dropped the frozen peas on his back, Marissa laughed at him, and Katharina just shook her head at their antics. I watched the kids get on the bus before going back inside. Pulling her close, I nuzzled her neck. “You know, you could call in sick today.”
“And why would I do that?”
“So you could spend the day with your wonderful husband and do some rather naughty things with him while the kids are at school,” I replied, sliding my hand under her silk blouse. I felt her breath hitch as my fingers touched her stomach.
“As much as I would love to,” she replied as my hand gently caressed her left breast, “I have a big case I’m working on, and there is a meeting with a client in about thirty minutes.”
“Are you sure you have to go?” I asked her, pinching her nipple as I nipped her ear.
“Ummm…” she hesitated for a moment before sighing and moving away from me. Straightening her blouse, she placed her hand on my cheek. “You still know how to drive me crazy after all these years. That is one of the many things I love about being married to you.”
“What are some of the other ways?” I said, reaching out to grab her again.
She danced out of my reach, grabbed her briefcase and keys, and smiled. “Too many to list right now. We need to plan a weekend away, just the two of us. We can leave the kids with my mother and take off for the mountains.”
“A cabin with an outdoor hot tub.”
“I’ll see what I can arrange for us.” I moved quickly, pulling her into my arms and giving her a passionate kiss. “This should tide you over until tonight,” I murmured in her ear.
“I can’t wait.”
We walked to the door, where I opened it for her and bowed low. “M’lady, after you.”
Katharina chuckled. “You’re so goofy at times.”
I leaned against the door jamb and watched her walk to her car. “Yes, but you love me for it. Admit it.”
“That I do,” she said as she opened the door.
Things seemed to happen in slow motion. I spotted the man in black across the street, his eyes on Katharina as a white van with a Pegasus on the side screeched to a halt behind her car. The sliding door opened, a man jumped out and ran toward my wife. Grabbing her, he jerked her backward, causing her to drop her keys and briefcase. She struggled and screamed as he threw her into the van. The last thing I saw was the terrified look on her face as the door slid closed as they drove off before I could get to her. “KATHARINA!!!”
The man in black was looking at me now. “I told you that you had problems, my friend. What are you going to do now?”
Kara paused for a moment at the top of the white satin runner and smiled at me. Any doubts that I had entertained left at that moment. This was the woman I wanted to marry, to go on adventures with, to love every single day. She smiled at me and started to walk slowly down the aisle.
A sudden rush of air blew down the aisle, extinguishing all the candles. Kara’s eyes looked up, and so did I. A winged horse was flying straight down at us…no, not at us.
“Kara, run!” I yelled as I moved toward her.
She hesitated for a moment, and that was all it took. The horse went straight for her, and I saw a muscular arm reach out and scoop her up.
I ran down the aisle, Eros on my heels, but we didn’t reach her in time. The winged animal soared into the sky and disappeared over the treetops.
I felt like I had been punched in the gut. Memories started rushing back: bloody battlefields, lovers, family, my children. I wasn’t Aric Newman, writer and Mr. Mom.
I was Ares, God of War.
A cracking sound came from the hallway. I rushed inside and looked at the mirror hanging on the wall. A sword was etched at the bottom of it that I had never noticed before, and my name blazed to life at the top. The mirror shattered, sending jagged pieces flying at my face. I threw my arms up to deflect them as things went dark, and I felt myself falling into a pitch-black nothingness.