I froze, keeping an eye on the man who had walked past. He paused for a moment, turned around, and looked in our general direction. Theo slowly moved his arm to his right side, his hand on the hilt of his dagger. The man waited, listening for the slightest sound. When none came, he shrugged, turned, and continued away from our location.
“Ares, are you there?” the female voice asked.
I hadn’t talked to her in two years, ever since I sent her back to her husband. The sound of her voice still made my heart race, and I was flooded with memories of times past when things had been good between us. But this was hardly the time for a trip down memory lane. “This isn’t a good time, Aphrodite,” I whispered.
“Well, that is not the greeting I was expecting,” she replied.
“I’m in the middle of a dangerous situation here. Could we talk later?”
“I only need one tiny thing from you.”
I ran my fingers through my hair in frustration. “Aph, if I keep talking to you, someone is going to overhear me, and things will get very ugly for me and my men. Whatever you want will have to wait!”
“But this will only take a moment,” she persisted.
“Oh, for the love of…what do you want?” I hissed.
“Hephaestus’s phone number.”
“You called me for that?! Why don’t you just ask one of my sisters?”
“I have not been able to get in touch with them.”
“This isn’t what I would consider an urgent matter, Aphrodite. It can wait…”
“No, it cannot. Please, Ares. It is important to me.” Sighing, I gave her the number. “Thank you, Ares. When you return home, I would like to see you.”
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”
“Because of your girlfriend?”
How the hell did she know about Kara? Before I could ask her, a rustling sound from behind us caught my attention. A flash of silver sliced toward Theo, and I shoved him out of the way. I disconnected the call as I drew my broadsword from its scabbard. Spinning around, I stood up and blocked the next thrust. It was the man who had walked away. I aimed low and caught the back of his left leg with the edge of my blade. He fell to the ground and screamed in pain. I shoved the sword into his chest, striking his heart. He gurgled, coughing up a little blood before he died.
“We’ve got to move,” I told Theo, holding out my hand and pulling him to his feet. We quickly searched the man’s body, took his weapons, and checked the surrounding area. Not seeing anyone coming to investigate, we cautiously moved to another grove of trees.
“I don’t like this setup,” Theo said as he nervously looked around.
I glanced around and had to agree with him. In front of our grove of trees, it was open pasture. The corral was to our right. To our left was an outbuilding, and I noticed men going in and out of it regularly. That would make the element of surprise a bit more difficult for us. “If we only knew where…”
“Ares,” Theo interrupted, “look!” He pointed toward the narrow cave opening.
A woman in a black and red flannel shirt and jeans had walked out of the cave, headed for the corral. My throat tightened and my heart raced. Kara. She looked beautiful. The Pegasus whinnied as she approached, each nudged the others to get close to her. She threw back her head and laughed as she stroked the mane of each one. It looked like she was saying something to them, and they responded by nodding their heads.
“It looks like those animals trust her,” Theo said. “Why doesn’t she just get on one and fly off?”
A man appeared in the opening, his gaze intense as he stared at Kara. Her demeanor changed. She stood taller, her back ramrod straight, as if she knew the man was there. “No one told you to go outside, woman,” he said. “You’re getting mighty uppity again. Maybe you need another reminder about who is the boss around here.”
“And maybe you need another kick to the balls to remind you to keep your hands off me,” she replied without turning around.
A look of rage crossed the man’s face, and he stormed over to her, grabbed a fistful of hair, and jerked hard. I immediately drew my sword, intent on slicing the man to pieces, but Theo stopped me. “Just wait,” he cautioned me. “You’ll get her killed for sure.”
I growled in response, but did not sheath my weapon.
“You need to learn your place, woman,” the man said. He let her hair go, grabbed her arm, and twisted it behind her back before he spun her around to face him.
“My place is at home with my family.”
“You mean with that useless man of yours,” he snorted.
“He’s a god.”
“If that was true, then why hasn’t he come for you yet?” the man jeered. “Seems to me he’s given up on you, tossed you aside. He’s a god, after all. He can have any woman he wants. Obviously, he’s found someone more to his liking.”
“Then you don’t need me anymore. Let me go.”
“I don’t think so. I like having you around. You stir something inside me that no other woman has been able to. All these emotions and feelings are coming alive.”
“Is that so?” Kara replied. “Feel this.” She rammed her knee between his legs, causing him to double over. She grabbed the back of his head and slammed his face into her upper thigh before shoving him to the ground.
“Thatagirl!” I cheered.
The pegasuses pawed the ground and nodded their heads as if they were laughing at the man. Kara walked backward until she was against the corral fence. The animals gathered around her as if to protect her.
It took the man a few minutes to get to his feet. “That,” he said slowly, “is the last time you will ever do that to me.”
His next move was quick and decisive. He drew a knife from its sheath on his right side, took four steps forward, and stabbed Kara in the right leg. She fell to the ground in a heap, her hands immediately covering the wound.
Theo didn’t stop me when I jumped to my feet and charged toward the man. I gave a guttural war cry as I ran. He turned toward me just before I got to him, narrowly avoiding my blade. “Well, well, look who decided to show up finally,” he chuckled. “The God of War. I thought you would be bigger.”
I punched him in the face, and he flew back a few feet, hitting the ground with a thud. Blood gushed down his chin, and he wiped at it with the back of his hand. Getting to his feet, he tossed his knife from one hand to the other. I tightened my grip on my sword. “Are you going to use that or just play with it?” I asked him.
“It’s hardly a fair fight considering you have a sword.”
I turned it point down and drove it into the ground before pulling out my dagger. “Better?”
He lunged at me, and I quickly stepped aside, slicing my knife against his arm. He grunted and turned, then charged at me again. I avoided him once again, cutting his other arm. The man glared at me. “Is that all you can do?” he taunted.
I tossed my knife into the air, spinning it and catching it by the tip of the blade before throwing it. The knife hit him in the heart. A look of surprise crossed his face. “Son of a b…” he started to say as he fell to the ground.
I strode over, pulled the dagger out, wiped the blood on his shirt, then hurried over to Kara. She had torn a piece of her shirt off and wrapped it around her leg. I put my hands on her cheeks and kissed her. “I love you.”
“You took your damn sweet time getting here!” she said angrily, a tear sliding down her cheek.
I brushed the tear away with my thumb. “I have moved heaven and earth trying to find you.”
We didn’t get a chance to say anything else. Theo appeared beside us. “We need to get out of here, Ares,” he said urgently. “Your fight was observed by several men, and they have gone back into the outbuilding for weapons, I am assuming.”
“Can your friends fly us out of here?” I asked Kara.
“I think so.”
“Theo, I want the two of you to get out of here,” I said as I helped her to her feet.
He shook his head. “I’m not leaving you.”
“I didn’t ask you, I’m telling you. The most important thing is to get her to safety. Take her back to our building, then call for a doctor.” I placed my hand on his shoulder. “I am trusting you to defend her with your life, my friend. She is the most precious thing in the world to me.”
He stared at me for just a moment, then nodded. He scooped Kara into his arms. “My men will stand and fight with you, Ares. They will make you proud.”
“Ares, you can’t take on all his men!” Kara said. “There are over a hundred of them in these hills. Once word gets out what you did to Andres, they will swarm to the area like locusts.”
“We can handle it,” I assured her.
“There were more women being held hostage,” she said. “There are several open areas in that cave. You’ll find them there. Promise me you’ll bring them all home.”
“I promise.” Yells of anger could be heard all around us and men started to come down out of the hills, heading toward us. “Go now!” I yelled at Theo as I ran over and pulled my sword out of the ground.
Theo didn’t hesitate. He picked the nearest pegasus, put Kara on its back first, then climbed up behind her, wrapping his arms around her tightly. She said a few words to the pegasus. It turned and began to gallop, gaining speed before spreading its wings and taking off.
I didn’t have time to watch them fly away. Theo’s men came rushing over to me, taking up defensive stances as the enemy charged at us. Soon, the clash of swords and the grunting of men filled the air as the fighting began. Bodies hit the ground as the battle raged. I felt a thrill of exhilaration, something I had not experienced in over a year. I thrust my sword into several men, cut the head off another one, and sliced one man’s leg down to the bone.
A large, muscular man appeared before me, a maniacal grin on his face. “Let’s dance, puny god,” he said.
“Ares!” someone yelled.
Distracted, I turned toward the sound and felt cold steel go into my left side. I grunted, put my hand over the wound, and thrust with my right, feeling the blade hit its mark true. The large man’s eyes rolled into the back of his head, and he fell face first.
As I dropped to one knee, a pair of legs appeared in front of me. “You’re not going to die, are you?”
I looked up. “Reginald, what in the hell are you doing here?! Are you trying to get me killed?”