I thought about taking my time going to the OA. I wasn’t a big fan of being summoned by anyone, least of all by Dad. But he had enough on his mind trying to get everyone on board with this cockamamie idea of his. Frankly, I wasn’t sure how well it was going to work. Granted, he was rarely wrong. Let’s hope this wasn’t one of those rare times.
I smiled at the receptionist, who just rolled her eyes at me and went back to work. As I rode the elevator up to Dad’s floor, I decided I needed to give up trying to win her over. Obviously, someone had gotten to her and poisoned her mind against me. And as the elevator doors swished opened, I looked right in the face of the person I was sure was responsible: Cassandra, the bulldog receptionist parked in front of the doors. “You know, this isn’t some club you can just come and go whenever you please,” she said, glaring at me as she crossed her arms.
“It’s a pleasure to see you, too, Cassandra,” I replied, smiling at her. It only made her scowl deepen. “My father called and requested to see me.”
“I highly doubt that,” she scoffed. “He can’t stand the sight of you.”
“I think it is you that can’t stand the sight of me, Cassandra. Pray tell, what did I ever do to you to make you hate me so?”
“Why am I not surprised that you don’t remember?” she retorted. “Thirty years ago, a little bistro in Paris…you wooed a young woman with flaming red hair and hazel eyes. The two of you went everywhere: the Louvre; a walk under the Eiffel Tower at night; Notre Dame; the Musée d’Orsay; the Palais Garnier Opera House. You kissed her in the Luxembourg Gardens; whispered beautiful things in her ear during a Seine River Cruise; pledged your undying love in the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. A week of unbridled passion in the Hôtel de Crillon. Then…you disappeared, leaving the young woman bereft. Do you honestly not remember?”
I thought about it a moment. “Her name was Cassie. She was an American on holiday. She was celebrating her college graduation.” I stared at the bulldog. “That was you?”
“Yes, that was me, you rotten bastard!”
I was speechless. It was rare that I ran into a woman I had spent time with on my travels. Even more unusual that I remembered any of them at all. But Cassie…she was different. She had been full of life. She had wanted to see everything that there was to see in Paris, and I was only too happy to oblige her. If there had ever been a mortal woman that could have made me give up being immortal, it was her. I studied her face. The beauty that had captivated me thirty years ago was still there, but she hid it behind a face devoid of makeup, her lovely red hair pulled back in a severe bun, a buttoned up white shirt with long sleeves, a black skirt, and sensible shoes. Moving to stand in front of her, I took her hands in mine. “I regretted leaving you, Cassie,” I said. “But one of my brothers was in trouble, and I was called home. I wasn’t given a choice; I had to go. I’d have given up everything, even living forever, to have stayed with you.” I reached behind her head, located the pins that were holding her hair in place, and pulled them out. Her hair cascaded down her back, making her face look less severe, more gentle. “Why don’t we get together and talk, clear the air? I know it won’t make up for what I did, but we could just talk…as friends.”
Cassandra looked at me, her hazel eyes searching my face. “Perhaps,” she said, pulling her hands out of mine. “Your father is waiting for you.”
I reached out and touched her face gently. “I am so sorry, Cassie. I truly am. As a god, we have so few regrets, but leaving you is one of mine.” I stepped back, my fingers sliding off her face as I moved away. Smiling sadly, I turned and headed for Dad’s office.
I turned and looked at her. “Yes?”
“Why don’t we meet for an early breakfast tomorrow morning?” she said shyly. “There’s a bistro on the other side of town that makes croissants, like the ones we used to get at Dominique Saibron.”
“As long as you promise to wear something different besides your usual office attire,” I replied. “I remember you loved wearing those flowing skirts that blew around your ankles in the breeze.”
“I still have some of them in my closet. I’m sure I can find something.”
“Then it’s a date.”
She smiled, and her face lit up. There was the girl I had fallen in love with; she was still there. Maybe this could turn into something good for both of us.
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