Chapter 20: Maybe He's Not Bad After All
The next morning wasn’t any different.
And it was nice that Ares kept his word about his men. They stand back pretty far and it honestly seems like they aren’t there.
Although. One did fall out of a tree and he had to come inside so Hecate could treat the giant gash on his leg. For being a royal, he was very clumsy.
“Are you okay dear?” Hecate asked after she took a sip of her water. “You haven’t touched your food.”
I stopped spacing out and looked up. “Yeah, I’m okay. Just thinking.”
“Everything taste alright?” Lilly asked with her usual warm smile.
Hecate nodded and smiled back. “Wonderful.”
“Great.” Lilly said. “Here’s your check. Just pay when you’re ready.”
“Thank you.” Hecate said.
Lilly smiled and nodded before walking back to the register to help another customer.
“Ares?” Hecate asked giving me a knowing look.
“I mean does he just expect me to say yes?” I asked sitting back in my chair.
“Athena.” Hecate laughed. “Ares doesn’t expect anything. Does he want you to say yes? Of course he does. But is he going to force you to say it? No.”
“How do you know?” I asked.
“I’ve known him ever since he was born. His mother was a very good friend of mine and his father was a kind man.” Hecate explained. “Ares is a kind boy. Very sweet, thoughtful, and respectful. I’m not trying to make you say yes, but I want you to know that he would never hurt you like Rick did. That is not Ares.”
“I guess you’re right.” I agreed. “I mean even my first impression of him was nothing compared to Rick’s.”
Hecate winked. “Told ya. But I still don’t want you to feel like you have to say yes.”
“Oh, gee thanks.” Ares laughed as he walked up to our table. “I thought you were on my side.”
“You didn’t pay me enough.” Hecate teased.
I laughed a little and Ares smiled over at me.
“You look really nice today Athena.” Ares complimented.
I cursed myself as I felt my cheeks heat up.
“Thank you.” I smiled.
“What are you doing here?” Hecate asked. “Stalking poor Athena?”
Ares laughed and shook his head. “No. Jason had to give me a report.”
“And you couldn’t wait for it at your office?” She asked giving him a smirk and a knowing look.
“No.” He admitted. “Jason told me he was here and that only meant that Athena was here. And I wanted to see her.”
Cue the blushing.
But as I looked closer at Ares, I noticed he too was blushing.
‘Oh how cute.’ Artemis laughed.
“Someone’s blushing.” Hecate teased as she got up. “I’ll be right back. I’m going to pay the bill.”
“Oh wait.” Ares said quickly as he dug into his pocket and pulled out his wallet.
“Ares.” Hecate started but Ares shook his head.
“Don’t ‘Ares’ me.” He said as he handed her his card. “I’m paying for it.”
“Thank you.” Hecate said as she pulled him in for a hug and then left to go to the counter.
“That was nice of you.” I stated.
Ares gave me a warm smile. “I like to care for my family and friends.”
That is sweet.
“You can sit down you know.” I laughed as he continued to stand there.
“Huh?” Ares asked. “Oh. Right.”
‘What a dork.’ Artemis teased.
“I heard you and Hecate are good friends.”
Ares nodded. “She was a friend of my parents.”
“What happened?” I asked before clamping a hand over my mouth. “I-I didn’t mean that. You don’t have to tell me.”
Ares smiled and waved me off. “Don’t worry. I would be happy to tell you. Although it’s not a happy situation.”
“They died?” I asked sadly.
“Rogues.” Ares confirmed. “Almost eighteen years ago, the castle got hit pretty badly. They had some men on the inside just feeding them information. My dad died fighting with his warriors and my mom died protecting me.”
“I-I’m really sorry Ares.” I said as I placed my hand on top of his.
Ares moved his hand, causing mine to slide into his. He wrapped his fingers gently around my hand and ran his thumb across my knuckles.
“Don’t be. I mean yeah it sucks, but it’s going to be okay.” He said. “I know they are watching over me and they are proud of me.”
“That’s good.” I said as I slowly rubbed my thumb across his knuckles.
‘Someone is getting comfortable with him.’ Artemis laughed. I could practically hear her smirking.
I cleared my throat and stopped rubbing his knuckles, but for some reason, I left my hand there.
“What about you?” He asked.
I shrugged. “Never met them.”
“Wait what?” He asked shocked.
I nodded. “I’m an orphan.”
“I-I didn’t mean to bring that up.”
“Relax.” I laughed. “I don’t really think about it.”
“Have you ever wondered who they were?” He asked.
“All the time.” I nodded. “But I’ve also been alone my whole life so I’m kind of used to it, yanno?”
“I get that.” He said as he looked out the window.
“What are you thinking about?” I asked.
I couldn’t quite detect it, but he had this look in his eyes.
“Nothing.” He smiled. “Just thinking of my parents.”
“Sorry to bring up bad memories.” I apologized.
Now I feel like an ass.
“Don’t worry sweetheart. They were good memories.” He smiled, but then his eyes got big. “I-I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to call you that.”
I giggled at his reddening face. “It’s okay. It was cute.”
“Does this mean I have a chance?” He asked hopefully.
“A little.” I teased.
“Will dinner help?”
“Is the great Alpha King Ares asking me out to dinner?”
“Yes, he is.” He smiled. “Athena. I would be honored if you accompanied me to dinner Saturday night.”
‘Yes!’ Artemis chimed in.
“Yes.” I smiled.
“As long as you bring me home some of whatever you guys are having.” Hecate laughed as she walked over to us.
“Deal.” Ares said. “Where would you like to go?”
“I like sushi.” I said.
“Perfect!” He smiled. “I know a great place that serves amazing sushi. It’s to die for.”
Ares’ phone beeped and he pulled it out to look. He made a face and shoved it back in his pocket.
“I have to get going, but I will call you.” Ares said as he gave me a quick hug. “Bye guys! Thanks for the report Jason!”
“See ya!” Jason yelled from across the restaurant. “And you’re welcome!”
“Ready to go?” Hecate asked.
“Yes.” I nodded. “You guys ready?”
“Coming!” Achilles said as he grabbed his bill
“You’ve had sushi, but never steak?” Hecate asked.
“Everyone in my pack loved steak so there was never any leftovers. But not everyone loved sushi. So when I brought the rest outside for the cats, I may or may not have stolen a couple of pieces.” I explained laughing.
“So what did you two talk about?” Hecate asked me with a wink when we left the restaurant.
I playfully hit her arm. “Get that thought out of your head right now.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
I rolled my eyes. “He told me a little about his parents.”
“Really?” She asked shocked.
I nodded giving her a weird look. “Yeah. Why?”
“He’s just…really quiet about that stuff. Took him a long time to even talk to me about it.” She said amazed. “He must really feel comfortable with you.”
She nodded. “He opened up about his parents and he hasn’t even known you for so long. If that doesn’t say about how much he trusts you, then I don’t know what will.”
“That’s good. Right?” I asked nervously.
“Of course dear.” She laughed as she got out her keys.
We got into a comfortable silence as she unlocked the jeep and we got in.
“I think I’m going to say yes!” I blurted out.
Hecate jumped at my outburst. “Geez girl!”
“Sorry.” I said sheepishly.
“But are you sure?” She asked carefully. “No one is pressuring you right?”
“No.” I said shaking my head. “Ares has been nothing but kind to me this entire time. Even when I ran from everyone. Did he yell at me? No. If I did that with Rick, he would have beaten me. Ares stayed calm the entire time and not once raised his voice at me. He told me that I had time to think about my decision and he didn’t pressure me.”
“If you think are ready. Then go right ahead dear.” She smiled as she pulled me in for a sideways hug. “But whatever you decide, I’m always going to back you up on it.”
“I love you.” I smiled.
“I love you too.” She said.
I pulled back and looked out the window.
A man and a woman turned to me and smiled with a bow before continuing to walk.
“That is so weird.” I mumbled.
“What is?” Hecate asked as she stopped at the stop light.
“I just had two people bow to me.” I explained.
Hecate laughed. “Well, you are the Alpha Queen. You’re going to have people do that.”
“I know but it’s weird. Just a couple of months ago I was being used as a personal punching bag for my entire pack. Now I have people smiling and bowing at me.”
Hecate placed her hand on mine. “Those days are over. You are never going back there. Rick and your old pack won’t find you.”
I sighed. “It’s always in the back of my mind that they will.”
“Well if they do, I’d really like to see him go against a royal pack. And I’d especially like to see him get through Ares.”
I laughed and nodded. “You’re right.”
“Well of course.” She teased as she pressed on the gas. “But seriously. You are safe Athena. You have an entire kingdom that is willing to fight for you. I’ve been around these people for a long time. They are some of the nicest and kindest people I have ever met.”
“What about the people who worked with the rogues?” I asked. “Ares told me that that was how they got in.”
Hecate sighed but nodded. “That is true. Those men took advantage of Ares’ father’s kindness. Because of them, no rogues are allowed into the royal pack.”
“I thought you had to have royal blood for that.” I said.
“You do.” Hecate nodded. “But his father would let in rogues if they proved themselves. But ever since then, no matter what they do, rogues and non-royals are not allowed in the pack.”
“That makes sense.” I said. “I still can’t believe he had to go through that.”
“He’s strong.” Hecate said. “It’s been hard, but he doesn’t let it show through.”
“It’s okay to not be strong every once in a while.”
Hecate laughed. “I agree. But when you’re the Alpha King, I guess things are a little different.”
“I guess so.” I mumbled as I stared back out the window.
“I know you’re worried about Rick. But he isn’t going to find you.”
“It helps when you say it.” I laughed.
“Glad I can help.” Hecate smiled before turning back to the road.
But I still wish I could believe it.