A/N: Rick Riordan owns the copyrighted characters in this story. No infringement intended in the name of profit.
"I need you to do me a favor," a woman's voice sing-songed from behind me.
Needless to say, I was startled. I had been zoning out in front of the surf and thinking of an excuse to take some time away from camp. I can only stand about three or four days at a time without needing to make a jailbreak back to the city.
The Annabeth situation has made things…frosty.
I turn around to find a perfectly beautiful woman checking herself in one of those makeup mirrors. She has gorgeous blonde hair in ringlets…and her eyes are a subtle blue…almost like they are trying to be gray. My first guess could have been Athena, but Athena is never this vain…at least not in the few times that I have been standing in front of her.
"Lady Aphrodite," I say trying to be respectful, but this goddess terrifies me what with the whole I'm going to make your love life interesting (re: hell on earth) statement.
"A vial has been stolen from me…something I've been working on with Ares and…well the 'what' isn't so important as the fact that we need it back. Feel like dropping into the city for a day?"
I squint my eyes, since yes, I was looking to get out of camp and now I'm worried Aphrodite can read minds among her many talents. I'm hoping the answer is 'no, she can't read minds' because while she was talking and I was half-listening my mind wandered about how much she looked like Annabeth…and then…well it was all over from there.
"I don't suppose I can say no, can I?" I ask stupidly, it's not like I don't know the answer.
She smiles, and immediately my stomach caves. "Of course you can say no. I'm sure I can get one of my children to do it, I just figured you'd like the chance to get away…you have been coming and going all summer after all…"
"You've been keeping tabs on me?" I ask…also stupidly…but this time with a raised eyebrow.
"Perseus, please, I find your whole predicament with the heart to be absolutely fascinating. Calypso sends her undying affection by the way…" she mentions almost dismissively, until…"Did you ever…mention Calypso to Annabeth…ever tell her who you spent those two long weeks with?"
"You're blackmailing me? Why bother…nothing ever happened between us…except a kiss she gave me on the forehead." I say truthfully (albeit defensively)…although I did spend the next several hours contemplating what kissing the daughter of a Titan would be like…and/or spending the rest of eternity on an island with said daughter in a tropical paradise that required no real clothing at all…which would likely mean more kissing and…and…other things down the road would happen…
"Percy, that doesn't matter. Annabeth is so territorial of you I sometimes think she could be one of my children. She also knows of the legend of Calypso, of this I'm certain. She knows how beautiful Calypso is…and how prone to falling in love with stranded heroes she can be…and how persuadable young heroes can be...especially heroes still in the prime of puberty. So how about you make this easy and retrieve the vial for me?" she says walking towards me and pinching my cheek.
"Fine," I relent.
"Wonderful!" she says much too happily, "Oh don't look at me like that. This will be a piece of baklava. And who knows…you might even have some fun while you are at it," she finishes and I know at that point I'm screwed.
"Pretty sure your idea of fun and my idea of fun are as far apart as New York is from Athens," I say as she begins to walk off towards the horizon.
She pauses and turns to face me, slowly forming one last smile of utter mischief.
"Time will tell. Avert your gaze, handsome, and make sure to tell Dionysus of our arrangement before you leave," she says before getting all white hot and shiny and disappearing. I hate how little time they give us to actually look away. But Apollo and Hermes are the worst about that. When I open my eyes again there is a piece of paper in my hand written in English…it takes me forever to read the letters. Thankfully I don't have dyscalculia also…the numbers are at least obvious.
Biltmore Hotel. Room 5683.
Telling Mr. D of the…mission…was its usual pointlessness. He said, 'Whatever Peter, have a nice time, comeback whenever…or not at all…'
I would like to say that response is out of mourning for the son he lost in the battle of the labyrinth. But that's pretty much what he always says. I still feel bad for him though.
A short time later Blackjack drops me off on the roof of the hotel. 'Sounds like a setup, boss,' were his thoughts on the mission, and when the Pegasus thinks the mission has a bad vibe to it, well you know there is trouble.
I enter through the roof access door and make my way down the stairs. Riptide is in my hand ready to be uncapped, although given how bad I feel about the circumstances of this mission, for some reason I don't think I'll actually be using it.
I get down to the fifth floor and stare at the exit from the stairwell, contemplating blowing off the mission and running to Rachel's house. That seems like an awesome plan until I remember that Ares is also in bed with Aphrodite, and that I may not just piss off one of the Olympians, but two or more. I take a deep breath and walk through the exit.
The hotel seems nice, at least from the hallway, not cheap…but not expensive by any stretch of the imagination either.
By the time I get to the room door, my stomach is in my throat. I realize just then that I have no way of getting into the room, unless I knock, which I assume I shouldn't do. Or kick the door open, which again, not a smart thing to do without knowing who is on the other side.
This is where Annabeth is irreplaceable. Well not just this, but you know what I mean…
Before I have to agonize over the point of entry issue any longer I look down to notice that the door is already slightly open.
This just gets weirder and weirder.
I gently push on the door, keeping it well in front of me to use as a shield in case someone or something is waiting for me on the other side with an arrow or an axe or who knows what.
But the first thing I notice is how silent it is.
I mean dead quiet. I have to strain to hear the city noise outside.
Suddenly I hear a floorboard creek, and that's when I slowly uncap Riptide. No sense in discretion at this point, because my dignity isn't worth me being gutted in some strange hotel downtown. I turn slowly trying not to look scared out of my mind, putting my back towards the bed.
For a brief second I swear I catch the briefest scent of…
No way…she's not here.
Suddenly I hear two stomps on the floorboards and something slams into my chest, making me drop Riptide as I fall backwards on the bed . So much for not getting filleted in the strange hotel room. Four years having gone to hell and back and this is how it ends?
My luck is amazingly awful.
I can't get off my back. Whatever has pinned me to the bed has pressure on my hips and chest…and I feel something vaguely sharp on my neck.
"Percy!" I hear from an angry whispered voice.
I open my eyes at whatever invisible force is holding me down…and suddenly it all makes sense…and then makes no sense at all.
To be continued...