After checking out the building Ophelia had sent me to, I decided to buy it. Good thing I had plenty of money in reserve. The spoils of war, you know.
The building needed some work, however. I asked my brother, Hephaestus, for some advice, and he grumpily came over to see what I had gotten myself into. “Man,” he said when he saw the building, “what a craphole.”
“It’s not that bad,” I said.
“Yeah, it is, you idiot,” he growled. “I’m not going to be able to devote a lot of time to this. You’re going to have to do a lot of the work yourself. But I will draw up some plans and send over a few men to help you out.”
I told him I appreciated his help, and a few days later, Nike, Dad’s personal aide, brought the plans to me. “Hephy was busy,” she explained as she handed them to me. She looked around. “I don’t think it’s as bad as he said it was.”
“Thanks, Nike,” I said, giving her a gentle hug, careful not to crush her wings.
“When you’re ready to decorate, let me know. I’ll give you a few tips from a female’s point of you.”
“You know, I was thinking of saving one of the apartments upstairs for you,” I said. “You spend a lot of time with Dad, and I’m sure that gets to be a bit stressful at times. It would be good for you to have a place of your own to get away and just relax.”
She gasped, tears forming in her eyes. Clasping her hands to her chest, she started to say something, but stopped herself. The next thing I knew, she threw her arms around me, giving me a huge hug. “Thank you,” she whispered in my ear before letting me go. She turned and flew off before I could say anything else.
The days flew by as the crew and I worked on the building. I was standing on a ladder in the middle of a big room, which would become my office, painting the wall sunflower yellow. (Hey, don’t judge! I’m trying to make the place warm and homey for potential clients!) I heard someone clear their throat behind me. I didn’t even have to turn around to see who it was. “Hello, Dad.”
“Son,” he said.
“What can I do for you?”
“Well, for starters, we should talk about the color scheme,” Zeus replied, gesturing at the walls.
“Yeah, it’s my money, my building, my opinion. Not yours. Next subject,” I retorted as I kept painting.
“I hardly think yellow is conducive to the kind of image you want to project to your potential clients,” he said, ignoring my comments.
Sighing, I came down off the ladder, put the brush on the edge of the paint tray, picked up a rag, and wiped my hands as I turned around. “Well, I want them to feel comfortable and willing to trust that I can handle their problems. I don’t think blood red will exactly exude confidence, do you?”
“Hm, perhaps you are right,” he conceded.
I kept quiet, because it wasn’t often that he admitted I was right about anything. “Why are you really here? It’s certainly not to critique my color choices.”
“Well, I wanted to make sure that you’re happy with the type of business you’ve decided to conduct here.”
I thought about it a moment. “Yes, I am quite satisfied with my decision. Everyone is security conscious these days. They’re also very suspicious of the people in their lives. I think a detective agency/security company is the perfect thing for me. I can cover both the public and private sectors this way, which will allow me to bring in more money to keep me happy.”
“Any money that you generate will go back into our company coffers,” he reminded me.
“Any money that I generate will go into paying my employees and my supplies,” I snapped. “I have no intention of giving you all of my company’s earnings, just to have you blow it on some stupid monument to your ginormous ego.”
“You will show me some respect, young man,” Zeus said, stepping forward until he was face to face with me. “I am your father, and as such, you will give me the respect due me.”
I shoved him backwards. “You have done nothing to earn my respect in centuries,” I retorted. “Welcome to the 21st century, Father. Respect is earned, not immediately given. You want it, show me you deserve it.”
Zeus clenched his fist, and I braced myself for the punch I knew was coming. Instead, he exhaled slowly and opened his hand. “I will be requiring the services of your company in the near future,” he said.
“Then you can schedule a meeting when the time comes. I’ll treat you as I would any client who comes in the door. May I ask what this is pertaining to?”
“No, you may not,” he said, checking the time on his phone. “I have to go.” He turned to leave, stopped, and turned around again. “One other thing: Nike told me of your offer to her regarding an apartment. I think that is a fine idea. Make it happen, and whatever funds you need to decorate it for her, let me know. I’ll take care of it.”
I was shocked at the idea of him willingly giving up money for something that wasn’t for him that I couldn’t speak. He took advantage of the situation and left. Damn him!
Grabbing the paintbrush, I started to climb the ladder again when the sound of high heels on the hardwood floors in the hallway caught my attention. I put one foot on the floor, leaving the other one on the ladder, wondering who was coming.
Ophelia came around the corner and stepped through the doorway. “Wow, I would never have thought you were the warm, fuzzy type,” she said. “Yellow? Really?”
“Oh, yes, well, that’s different,” she laughed. She was wearing a sleeveless white blouse and a dark blue skirt that flowed around her legs. “I’m surprised the place is still standing. I just passed your father in the hall.”
“Yes, he’s always a joy to be around,” I remarked. “What can I do for you, Ophelia?”
“I just came to see how things were going. Rumor has it that you are doing the majority of the work yourself.”
“There’s a small crew working as well,” I replied. “We’re doing just fine, thank you. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“Well, I was wondering if you’d like to have dinner with me some time?”
Taking my other foot off the ladder, I put the brush down again and turned to look at her. “Why would I want to do that? You work for him. Anything I say or do will get back to him, one way or another.”
“I’m not a spy for your father, Ares,” she said, moving closer to me. “I’m asking you out on for personal reasons.”
Arching one brow, I studied her face, unsure if I believed her or not. “Right now, all of my free time is spent here, trying to get this place ready. Perhaps we can return to this question after the grand opening.”
Ophelia stepped forward until she was pressed up against me. Wrapping her arms around my neck, she pulled my head towards hers and gave me a kiss that was so smoldering hot that I’m pretty sure it peeled some of the fresh paint off the walls. Pulling back, she used her thumb to wipe the red lipstick off my lips. “I’ll hold you to that.” Stepping back, she smiled. “Once you’re up and running, I will be coming back for professional reasons. I have a proposition I want to discuss with you.” She turned and sashayed to the door.
“Could you give me a hint at least?” I said, finding my voice.
She just wiggled her fingers at me, sliding them across the doorframe as she left.
Rolling my eyes, I briefly thought about locking the front door so I could get some work done, but decided against it. I bent over, picked up the brush once again, and started climbing the ladder. As I began painting, a familiar scent wafted over me. I stopped mid-stroke as the smell became stronger. Another set of footsteps walked across the hardwood floors, and I heard them stop in the doorway.
“Hello, Ares,” a soft feminine voice said.
Her voice caressed my ears like an old familiar love song, taking me back to another place and time long ago. The room spun a little, and I lost my footing on the ladder, landing with a thud on my back on the floor. I gasped for air, trying to will my heartbeat to slow down, but it continued to hammer hard against my chest. Slowly, I sat up, then got to my feet, abandoning the brush on the floor where it had landed.
Turning around, I braced myself and looked at the person standing there, a bemused smile on her face. Oh my god, it couldn’t be. I blinked a couple of times, thinking that the fall had rattled my brains. But when I focused on her again, I realized I wasn’t imagining things. She was really here, in all her beautiful, breathtaking beauty.