Reginald slammed a large pile of paperwork in the middle of my desk, forcing me to move my hands. “Nice to see you too, Reginald. Please, do come in.”
“Thank you. I will.”
I gestured at the stuff in front of me. “Is there a reason why you dropped this on top of what I was working on?”
“Yes, there is. You are seriously behind on the day-to-day operations of your businesses. Unsigned requisition forms, overtime sheets, information from possible new clients…you name it, you’ll find it in there. I’ve been asking you for two weeks to get this stuff done, and you keep blowing me off.”
“I’ve been busy.”
“Don’t lie to me. You haven’t been doing anything but hanging out with that woman.”
I leaned back in my chair and looked at Reginald for a minute. “You know, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear you were jealous of her.”
He got an indignant look on his face. “Me? Jealous of a woman? You’ve got to be kidding me,” he replied, crossing his arms. “I am perfectly happy with the man of my dreams. Thank you very much.”
“And yet, you are still jealous that I’ve seen her more than I have you lately.”
Reginald inspected the nails on his right hand, then shrugged. “Maybe.”
“Well, you’d better get used to her being around,” I told him. “She’s not going anywhere.”
“I like her,” he said. “But you have a responsibility to your employees and your clients. You need to start taking these things more seriously.”
He started to say something else, but stopped when he realized what I had said. “Of course, I’m right. I’m always right. I can’t believe you haven’t figured that out yet.”
I managed to control the urge to roll my eyes. Reginald could be a bit melodramatic once in a while, but he kept things running smoothly for me when I wasn’t here. “Let me finish what I was working on, and then I will take care of the paperwork. Is that a fair deal?”
“Don’t pull a disappearing act on me and leave that stuff sitting there,” Reginald warned me, “or I will hunt you down and drag you back here.”
“I’d like to see you try it,” I chuckled.
“Just don’t leave until you’ve finished all of that,” he snapped before spinning on his heels and walking out.
Sighing, I looked down at the pile, rubbed one hand over my face, and got to work. What I had been working on wasn’t that important. I figured it was only going to take a couple of hours to get through all the paperwork.
I was wrong.
A knock on the door interrupted me. I looked at the time, shocked to discover four hours had passed. “Come in.”
Eros strolled in and plopped down in one of the leather chairs in front of my desk. “You have this glazed over look in your eyes,” he remarked.
“I’ve been trying to get caught up on some work. Reginald said do it or else.”
“The slave driver,” Eros said.
“He didn’t give me much choice.”
“The God of War threatened by a mere office assistant? What would people say?” He shook his head. “Oh, how the mighty have fallen.”
“Did you come here to bust my chops, or was there something you needed?”
“I have a reason for being here,” he replied. “Busting your chops is just a bonus.”
“Tell me what you want, then get out,” I snapped. “I want to get this stuff finished up so I can go home.”
“You mean home to your fiance?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Oh, please, you can’t lie to me. I’m the God of Love,” he said, as if that explained everything. “A little bird might have whispered in my ear that you and Kara have decided to get married.”
There was only one other person who knew about that conversation, and I wouldn’t put it past her to have mentioned something to my son. “We’ve discussed it.”
“How did you do it?”
“Do what?” I asked, puzzled.
I just stared at him.
“You did propose to her, right?”
“You’re joking, right?”
I shrugged and shook my head.
“All those years you spent with Mother, and you never learned any romantic gestures?”
“Of course I did,” I retorted. “But I’ve never been in this type of situation before.”
Eros stood up. “Come on. We have some serious work to do.”
“I really need to finish this first,” I said, waving my hand at the paperwork in front of me. “I gave Reginald my word I wouldn’t leave until I did.”
“Pft,” Eros said dismissively. “Reginald wouldn’t stand in the way of something as important as this.”
Given how jealous Reginald was of Kara, I wasn’t about to place any drachma on that bet. On the other hand, it would get me out of finishing the work, at least for another day. I was willing to risk the wrath of Reginald to get out of the office. “Where are we going?” I asked as I stepped from behind my desk.
Eros put his hand on my shoulder. “Trust me. I know the perfect place.”
Later that evening, I knocked on Kara’s door and nervously adjusted my tie. I was wearing a dark maroon suit, a black shirt, and a tie that matched the shirt. Eros had called Kara, inviting her to dinner. He explained it would be at a nice restaurant, guaranteeing she would get dressed up.
When she opened the door, my eyes widened in surprise. She was wearing a dark blue sleeveless sheath dress, her raven hair in soft curls on her shoulders. “You look beautiful,” I said, kissing her cheek. “This is for you.” I handed her a single red rose.
She took it from me, smelling it. “Thank you, it’s lovely,” she said, closing and locking the door. I led her to the curb where a horse-drawn buggy was waiting. “What in the world is this?”
Taking her hand, I helped her into the seat, then draped a blanket over her legs. “I thought we’d go for a nice drive on our way to dinner. Do you mind?” I asked as I climbed in and sat next to her.
Kara smiled. “I think it’s rather romantic.”
I picked up the reins and gently slapped them against the horse. “Let’s go, Sophie.”
As we rode down the street, people stopped and stared. I couldn’t blame them. It wasn’t often they saw something like this on the streets of Olympus, at least not in this day and age. “We seem to be drawing a lot of attention,” Kara remarked. “I can’t wait to see what the valet says at the restaurant.”
I laughed. “Well, that would be a sight to see,” I agreed, “but there’s been a slight change in plans.”
“Oh? Where are we going?”
“You’re being very mysterious tonight, Ares. What are you up to?”
“Can’t I take the most beautiful woman in the city to dinner?”
“Any time you want,” she assured me. “But you have to admit this isn’t normal behavior, especially for you.”
I merely shrugged.
We made our way through the streets to the outskirts of town, then on to the forest. Pulling back gently on the reins, I stopped near a small clearing. Normally, at this time of the evening, the darkness enveloped the whole area. But tonight, there were strings of twinkling fairy lights strung through the trees, giving off a soft glow. On the ground, two rows of lights were placed on either side of a red carpet, which led to a white gazebo. Dozens of roses in various colors surrounded the structure.
“Ares, this is beautiful,” Kara gasped. “Did you do all of this?”
“I had a little help,” I admitted as I helped her down from the carriage. “Do you like it?”
“I love it.”
Smiling, I took her hand as we walked toward the gazebo. There was a table in the middle, covered by a white cloth, two lit candles in the center. I pulled out a chair for Kara, sliding it under her as she sat down. I removed the lid from the plate in front of her, revealing tender lamb chops, a baked potato, and asparagus spears. “I hope this is okay for dinner.”
“It looks delicious.”
We ate a leisurely dinner, laughing and drinking some wine. When I looked across the table at her, the candlelight seemed to give her a glow I had never noticed before. I had loved many women over the centuries, but this one was different. She brought out something in me I hadn’t felt with the others—a sense of being complete. A rather odd statement for the God of War to make, but it was true. Before now, if I had doubted what I was about to do, this realization erased all my doubts.
“Feeling like going for a walk?”
“In these shoes?” Kara laughed, pointing at her heels.
“Take them off. The grass isn’t wet, and we aren’t going very far.”
She laughed again and slipped her shoes off. Standing up, I took her hand and led her out of the gazebo. More fairy lights lit the way as we walked. We didn’t say anything. There wasn’t really any need to.
The lights stopped next to a waterfall that emptied into a lagoon. Fireflies flitted in the air over the water. “I loved catching them in jars when I was a little girl,” Kara said. “I’d poke holes in the lid, then put them on a shelf in my room for a little while just to watch them. I always released them before I went to bed.”
I brushed a stray lock of raven hair behind her ear, gently stroking her cheek as I brought my hand down. “Kara, there is something I want to say.”
She looked up at me. “I’m listening.”
I swallowed hard. Why did I suddenly feel so nervous? “I’m not very good at things like this,” I began. “And I wouldn’t expect this kind of thing all the time if I were you.” She smiled at me, and I bent over to give her a gentle kiss. “You are unlike most women I have ever known.”
“And we both know that is a very long list,” she remarked.
“Well, yeah. I mean, I’m immortal.”
“I’m aware of that.”
“But you’re different. You are strong and independent. You have a warrior’s fighting spirit. Before I met you, I felt I had a missing piece inside. Then you came along -”
“And threw myself into your arms,” Kara interrupted.
“More like fainted,” I replied. “My first thought was that you were another one of those weak human women. But then you proved me wrong. Despite the fear I know you felt about going back to those mountains, you grabbed some weapons and came with me. You faced it head-on, no flinching. You fought like an Amazon.”
“My sisters would have been proud of you if they had seen it.” She blushed. I stroked her cheek again. “Kara, you make me feel whole, something I have never truly felt before now. I would move Mount Olympus itself to give you whatever you want, although your needs seem to be few.” I reached into my pocket, took out a velvet box, and then knelt on one knee in front of her. “I would be greatly honored and blessed beyond measure if you would be my wife. Would you grant me this wish and marry me?”
A tear slid down her cheek as she smiled at me. “Nothing would give me greater joy than to be your wife, Ares. Yes, I’ll marry you.”
I opened the box and showed her the ring. It was a small solitaire diamond with a gold band. “I knew you wouldn’t want anything fancy or flashy. That’s not the type of woman you are,” I said as I took the ring out and slipped it on her finger. “But if you want something different, I’ll be glad to get it for you.”
Kara pulled me to my feet and wrapped her arms around me. “It’s perfect.”
“S ‘agapó, agápi mou,” I said before I kissed her.
“I love you, too.”
A gentle breeze swirled as the fireflies danced, hovering around us as their lights flashed off and on. It was a wonderful way to end a magical evening.