The Goddess Legacy
Page 26

 Aimee Carter

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But before I can try to stop them, Ares storms out of my room, and that jagged shard of loss burrows itself within me. Not just the loss of his physical presence, but because I know that look on Daddy’s face. What little relief I get from this near miss evaporates.
“Aphrodite.” His voice wavers, the only sign of how angry he is. “Come with me.”
I sigh and stand. Telling him no would only make the situation worse. Daddy walks briskly down the hall, not giving me a chance to catch up with him, but I know where he’s going. Before I leave, I pause. “Thanks,” I mutter to Hephaestus. “For covering for me, I mean.”
He shrugs and brushes his fingertips against my elbow. There’s something shy about him, something quiet I don’t understand. “It was nothing,” he says, and his touch is gone as soon as I register it. All for the better, really. Ares is excitement, passion, fire all rolled into one, while Hephaestus is—
I’m not too sure what he is, but it isn’t passion. If Ares wasn’t here, maybe I could stomach the thought of marrying Hephaestus, but being forced to settle for subpar when I have perfection right under my nose is cruel.
Without glancing back at Hephaestus, I follow Daddy, taking my time. No point in hurrying toward another talking-to. I’ve only been in Olympus for a hundred years, but I’m not completely ignorant. When Daddy holds meetings in his office, they’re never good.
By the time I catch up with him, the heat in my face is gone. His office is on the other side of Olympus, and in the time it’s taken me to get there, I’ve prepared what I want to say. What I’m going to say this time instead of letting Daddy walk all over me. It’s my life, not his.
Daddy’s sitting behind his desk, gazing into the portal that lets him see what’s happening on earth. He’s focused on a beach I don’t recognize, with tall cliffs in the background. In the seconds before he realizes I’m there, I think I see Hera, but I can’t be sure.
“Aphrodite.” The portal disappears. “Please, sit.”
“I’d rather stand.” I’m never rude to him, at least not on purpose, but today I can’t find it in myself to hold back. “Why are you doing this to me?”
As soon as I say it, my eyes well up. Perfect. Now he’s never going to take me seriously.
Sometimes crying helps though, and at least his expression softens. But this isn’t how I want to win. I want him to love me enough to care more about my happiness than he does his war with Hera. “My dear,” he murmurs, and he moves out from behind his desk to embrace me. I let him. He smells like smoke and river water, and I don’t want to know why.
“Just—” I hiccup. “I love Ares, Daddy. I really, really love him, and he loves me, too.”
“Are you sure about that?” he says, and I pull back in horror.
“Of course he does. How can you even say something like that?”
He tries to pull me in close again, but I resist. “I only mean that he didn’t seem to be too bothered that I caught the pair of you—er, wrestling. I could easily forbid you to see each other, yet—”
“You wouldn’t.” I step away from him, and he reaches for me, but his hand grasps empty air. “Daddy, you can’t do that to me. I don’t care about the issues you and Hera have—marrying me off to Hephaestus just to make her miserable—”
“Is that why you think I chose him?” says Daddy. “Oh, darling.”
“Don’t ‘oh, darling’ me,” I snap. I’ve never been so sharp with him in my entire existence. “This is my life, not yours. One son’s as good as the other to you anyway, so why don’t you just let me choose Ares? Hera will still be angry.”
Although, if I was the one making that choice, maybe she wouldn’t be. The morning she came to speak with me, the day of the council meeting where we were supposed to vote on whether to remove Daddy as head of the council—Hera tried to give me a choice. Maybe only because she wanted to dethrone Daddy, but I like to think it was more than that. I like to think she really cared—if not about me, then her sons.
I would’ve voted with her, too. And it’s a damn shame she interfered before I had the chance to say so.
“I chose Hephaestus because I thought he was the best candidate,” says Daddy. “I see what you and Ares are to each other, and that isn’t the sort of love that lasts, my dear. Fire can’t burn forever.”
I blush. “You paired me up with Hephaestus because he asked you to, not because you thought it through.”
“Both of my sons asked,” he says. “And I put a great deal of thought into it. You must look beyond the surface, my dear. Hephaestus will love you—”
“Not the way I want to be loved.” I wipe my eyes again. I’d give anything to make them stop leaking. “What will it hurt to let me choose?”
“It would hurt you.” He reaches for me again, but I sidestep him a second time.
“So you’re saying I’m too dumb to choose for myself?”
He frowns. “Of course not—”
“Then let me choose.”
“Darling, I have eons of experience—”
“I don’t care about your experience.” I stomp my foot. I’ve never actually done that before, and it seems silly even when I’m in the middle of it, but it’s strangely relaxing. “I care about my life. I love Ares, he loves me, and we want to be together.”