I swallowed hard but just as I reached the door to Zeus’ office, Nana Hera swept out of a side office and grabbed me by the arm.
“Dinlas, my darling. How are you?” She closed the door to Zeus’ office and redirected me to a smaller, but still beautiful room. From the CEO’s office, I heard a sharp crack, and then the long, low rumble of thunder that lasted almost a minute.
“Oh, honey,” Hera said over her shoulder to the secretary, “be a dear and go get Zeus to sign all those permit applications I gave you earlier.”
The receptionist wasn’t smiling or smirking as before. She was sitting upright and rigid, as if she thought it would better facilitate all the color draining from her face.
“You want me to go in there now?” she asked with a sidelong look at the closed door. Thunder rumbled again on the other side.
Hera smiled and said, “Yes, dear. It’s time for you to realize he has two sides. The one where he comes out here and flirts with you and then, well, this side.”
Hera closed the door between us and the dumbfounded receptionist without waiting for an answer. She turned to me, and looked me up and down.
“Dear, you look positively gaunt,” she commented after she was done examining me. “Do you want something to eat? I can get something brought up from the bistro downstairs.”
I shook my head. Nana Hera is a strange combination of mama bear and vicious wolverine. The side of her you see is really up to you. I love her. She is good to me, and I usually can get her to intercede on my behalf if I have issues with Ares or Aphrodite. Basically she spoils me. I don’t get that often, so it’s nice when she does it.
“No, thank you, Nana,” I answered after giving her a hug. “I’m fine. Zeus called me in about the labor issues here at the Olympus.”
Nana flashed a smile. “Well, dear, he is upset about that.”
“I didn’t realize those workers came from this project.”
Nana gave me a look that said, “I don’t remotely believe you.”
I shrugged and responded with a weak protest. “How could I have possibly known?”
Nana sighed and pointed to a chair and said, “Dear, sit down.” I obliged. She continued, “Everyone knows the Olympus Administration Building is the biggest construction project in history since the Pyramids of Giza. I find it extremely difficult to believe that you had no idea where those workers came from. There is a shortage of skilled construction labor for five-hundred square miles. Where did you think those Italians came from, if not here?”
I looked down and shrugged. When I looked up, I did my best attempt at puppy-dog eyes.
Nana smiled and sat down across from me.
“Do not,” she said, “lay those sad black eyes on me. It will not work this time. You knew better than to do this; Zeus is enraged.”
“I know. After I collared Eddie Pastorini, I got access to all his men. They said they needed money, and I needed work done at the warehouse. So…”
Nana shook her head and sighed again. “You will return to Zeus all of his Italians. I will, in turn, speak to him so he doesn’t lightning bolt you when you least expect it.”
“What will you tell him?”
“I don’t know yet. It doesn’t matter; he’ll know I’m covering for you.”
“Nana, just tell him the tru-” I started, but was interrupted by a knock at the door.
The door opened and Ares stuck his head in.
“Hey, Mom? I can’t find Dad’s secretary and I just wanted to ask…” he stopped when he saw me sitting there.
Nana clamped her hands down on her knees and interjected, “Well, isn’t this nice? Family reunion.”
“Nana, did you set this up?” I asked.
“She didn’t set anything up,” Ares said. “I didn’t even know you were here.”
I looked back and forth between the two. As I made eye contact with Nana, she reached out and patted my knee.
“No, I didn’t set anything up. Ares…Dinlas is here because there has been a misunderstanding about the construction workers.”
“Misunderstanding? Well, I guess, if you want to call it that.”
“Yes, we would like to call it that,” she replied.
Ares looked from Nana to me, then back, before he said, “I’ll take care of it, Mom. I’ll tell Dad that I authorized the workers leaving to work on the warehouse and that I forgot to tell him.”
I cut in here. “Hold it. Not interested. I’ll take my chances with Grandpa.” I looked directly at Ares and added, “The last thing I’m interested in is being indebted to you. Why are you even offering? You don’t give a shit about me. What is this some way to score points with Nana?”
Nana Hera cut me off immediately.
“Stop it, Dinlas. Ares is offering to help. Put your pride away. Trust me, Zeus is irate. After the sabotage at the forge and the threatening letters, he is more than a little on edge. Someone is determined to make sure we don’t make a return.He thought that this work stoppage was part of that.”
I sat silent, sullen. Pointedly, I avoided eye contact with either of them.
After a minute of silence, Ares rubbed his forehead with the palm of his hand and sighed. “Look, Dinlas, you aren’t in debt to me. This will not put you in debt to me. I’m just offering to help. I, uh, I’ve had many years to think about how I have acted in the past. I don’t think for a second this washes it or makes it even between us. I just am offering to help here. Take it or leave it.”
I continued to look away from both of them, but felt Nana squeeze my knee. The last thing I wanted was a favor from my father, but I also knew Zeus would gleefully take out his anger on Ares rather than me. I would be off the hook.
“Fine,” I finally said, “if that’s what you want to do.”
Ares glanced at Nana. He clearly didn’t appreciate my tone, but Nana shook her head, almost imperceptibly. He looked back at me and said, “Yeah, Dinlas. I’m doing this because it’s what I want to do.” He turned and left the room, making sure to slam the door on his way out.
After a few seconds, Nana broke the tension, “Dinlas, are you sure you don’t want something to eat? I think I have some ambrosia cheesecake in the deity executive lounge.”
I smiled and said, “That does sound good, but maybe next time, Nana.” Each of us got up and she opened the door for me to leave. We stepped out of the side office at the same time the blonde receptionist flung open the door to Zeus’ office. She was soaked to the skin and carried a stack of wet papers. In Zeus’ office, it was pouring rain and another rumble of thunder pierced the ninety-first floor of the building. Nana smiled as the blonde stormed past us and dropped the stack of wet permit applications on her desk with a splat and a spray. Her hair was hanging limp. Her skimpy lace bra was clearly seen through a soaked and clingy blouse. She turned to us and blew a limp curl of hair out of her own face.
“Here are the signed permit applications,” she said to Hera. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I am taking the rest of the afternoon off. I will see you in the morning.” She picked up her handbag and without a backward glance, exited the suite amid a chorus of catcalls from the other male employees.
Nana smiled and said, “Well, I’m impressed. She may make it here after all.” Nana then turned to me and put her hand to the side of my face. “Dinlas, just let Ares help you. He knows you two are never going to be close. Just let him do this thing.” She kissed me on the cheek and smiled in her motherly sort of way.
I hugged her and nodded my head. “I’ll talk to you later,” I whispered. Then I turned to leave.
I paused for a moment because it was an enormous office. For an instant, I forgot which way to the elevator.
But then I just followed the trail of wet footsteps.
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