Pulling up in the headquarters garage, Maria kicked off her boots and tossed them on the mat near the door. The garage was a nice space with black and white tiles aligning the floor, and bright red walls giving off a 1950’s vibe. It was filled with anything an assassin would need to carry out a mission. There were turbo launchers, jet packs, and other wearable contraptions in stack mounds.
Maria walked inside towards the large kitchen. The smell of something desirable burned through her nose. A rumble in her stomach confirmed her need to find the food. The stone room was quite lovely, with its green cabinets, and exposed wooden beams. A fire was lit in the adjoining fireplace from the living room, which lined the far wall. Smiling slightly, Ezra greeted Maria as she entered the kitchen. She dropped her bag and moved closer to that delicious smell.
“I was tired of dull food so I decided to make something,” He said with a skeptical eye. “You’re welcome to some if you like, unless you’re not a fan of BBQ.”
She welcomed a large plate of food. The BBQ sauce had just enough mixture of sweet and tangy that it was the most delectable thing she’d ever tasted. The biscuits, and ribs on her plate were practically gone, the moment her fork touched them. She was enjoying the food so much she didn’t notice when Ezra sat down beside her.
“I’m glad you’re a fan,” he joked.
“Where did you learn to cook like this?” She needed to know.
A small smile formed at the corner of his eye. “My mentor used to teach me to cook. He said ‘Any man worth anything can fix a feast.’”
He sat there watching her for a moment. A pained look struck his face briefly. Those beautiful green eyes of his screamed of sadness. A feeling of confusion and hesitance came over her.
“Why do you do it?” He whispered.
“Do what?” she asked in response.
“You know, take the assignments,” He looked at her through those long blond lashes. His lips tightened for a moment after he’d asked.
“It was hard a first. Then I started researching more into the targets lives,” He cringed slightly as she said targets.
“All of them were vicious and cruel beings who were inflicting pain and chaos into the lives of people they touch. They all threatened our cultures existence. I do not take assignments lightly.” Images of those cruelties appeared the moment she closed her eyes.
“Who tells you they’re vicious people?” Ezra gently inquired.
“Our employer, Master O, he, or she sends the files, and we do the work,” Maria said confidently.
He stood up slowly, and cleared the plates from the table surrounding her. Wiping the plates of any reminisces; he loaded them into the dishwasher. It was unusually silent in the room, not that Maria minded as she spent most of her time alone. Just peculiar, Ezra seemed to be the talkative type.
After he cleaned up his mess, he headed towards the door. Turning around slowly he spoke softly. “Maybe you’re the cruel and vicious one to them.” A sad feeling eased through her body. And then he was gone.
As Maria sat in Hobbs office she couldn’t shake Ezra’s words. How dare he consider her cruel and vicious? Everything she did was to stop these villains from spreading pandemonium. Still those sad eyes filled her mind. He was now a part of this world, and she’d forced him into it by bringing him here. The boys weak, she told herself, and let that be that.
Hobbs was in an unusual mood. Relaying all she learned, he never so much as asked one question. She turned around to walk out of his office, when she was stopped by a fist slamming on the desk. Hobbs face unreadable, but the gesture was not a good one.
“I cannot train the insolent any longer.” A smooth tone left his mouth, but she could feel the bitterness in the undertones. “He’s now your responsibility.”
The next morning she awoke from her sleep to find notebooks, and training manuals next to her bed. Groaning, she remembered she was now responsible for training Ezra. Sliding on a pair of black pants on, she walked out the door and down the stairs towards the gym. She was dreading her time with Ezra; she didn’t need someone to make her feel bad about who she was. Certainly not a guy who should be groveling at her feet for saving his life. If anything he should be happy, if Mr. Price wasn’t my target, he’d still be down there. She huffed quietly to herself.
Walking into the training gym, she noticed him circling the arena with a staff in hand. He wore a tight tank that showed off his muscular physique. His blond hair gelled perfectly up and out of his face. He moved with a unique rhythm, as if it were an old forgotten song brought back to life. Apparently he hadn’t been expecting her, because his face briefly struck with shock. Sighing, she moved towards the demigod, and prepared herself for their lessons.
The first task she prepared for them was rock climbing. It would test his speed, balance, and precision. Not wanting him to be arrogant, she took to doing the training with him. She watched as the muscles on his arm exposed themselves. The grace and ease it took him to climb was magical. She even tried racing him up the wall, and he’d managed to keep up. That annoyed her to no end.
Once he proved himself competent on the rock wall, she began throwing any object she could find at him to see if he could still hold on. It felt nice to Maria to take out her anger on him. She watched as he moved from peg to peg, swatting flying objects away from him. After dodging anything she threw, he slowly climbed down of the wall, and sat with her on the mat.
“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were trying to hurt me,” Amusement washed over his face.
“Obviously I didn’t try hard enough,” she grunted.
Still aggravated from last night, she was taking it out on him. It felt good to whirl objects at his head, and picture him falling. She didn’t really want that of course, but he’d hit her where it hurt. Insulting her instincts, and judgment, was a blow below the belt to Maria. The handsome face stared at her in question. She felt a sense of joking rise through her.
“Don’t do that,” She barked.
“Do what?” He played innocent with a sincere look.
“You know exactly what I’m talking about,” She felt her lip curl at the side of her mouth. “My emotions are mine to feel.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” He was still keeping up his charade.
A strong sense of laughter over whelmed her. The smallest of giggles burst from her ruby lips. This in turn made her angrier. Stomping over towards the training swords she picked one up. Twirling it around by the hilt, she aimed it at him. The handsome blond haired boy just sat there looking at her. Racing forward with it now, she went for an attack. Sure it was becoming more of a personal issue, then a lesson at the moment, but who did he think he was, for making her feel those things she didn’t want to.
“You’re cute when you’re angry,” Apparently, he was still entertained by the thought of her discomfort.
She spun the sword towards his right side, only to connect with the air that now filled the space where he was. Breathing for a moment she listened for her next chance. He hadn’t been trained an assassin like she had, so his movements echoed in her ears. A loud swoosh came from behind. The staff he swung never had a chance of hitting her. Swooping low she kicked her right leg out knocking him off his feet. Thinking she taught him a lesson, she rose and began walking away. She heard a soft grunt and watched as he jumped to his feet.
The staff was now spinning in his hand. Maybe Ezra had more training then we thought, she told herself. The only thing to do now was get in to close enough to where the staff wouldn’t be effective. Jumping off the large foam pads she made her way into the middle of the arena. He aims high, she thought, as he tried to connect with her in the air. She raised the training sword up, and diverted his attention to what she would do with the sword as opposed to what she would do with her body. Bringing the sword down knocking his staff, she used the motion to flip herself over him, knocking him to the ground.
Trying to get up, Ezra bear hugged her. She was lining up her body to attack again when he burst out in laughter. His body was warm against hers. A tickling sensation rose up her spine. She could feel the strength in his hold, and though not needing it she welcomed the comfort briefly. That frightened her entirely; she’d allowed herself for an abrupt moment to feel comfort from another person. Worst of all it was Ezra, who made it a point to get under her skin. Not knowing how to react she twisted out of his arms, and sat glaring at him. He pushed himself up still laughing, and ran a quick hand through his hair.
“I know you liked it,” He spoke confidently, with a giant smile to match.
She pushed him away and stalked over towards her bag she’d brought. Fuming from his arrogance, she didn’t even look back. She felt his eyes on her as she walked towards the door.
“Training is dismissed for today,” She spoke, and walked away without a response.
A while later she was sitting alone in her room, desperately trying to clear her head. So what if she felt a momentary sensation of joy in his arms. That didn’t mean anything. Being a child of Aphrodite, he probably forced her to enjoy that. She tried convincing herself that it may not even been her emotion at all, though she knew that was just a lie. Ezra may be obnoxious, but he wasn’t going to take advantage of her.
Several times Ezra had knocked at her door to talk. She growled at him to go away. She was in no mood to talk with him. Her long black hair sprawled all over her face, and pillow. After three hours of lying down and being lazy, she walked out onto the wrap around balcony that extended through the second floor. The evening had a cool breeze. Wrapping herself in her sweater, she rocked back and forth on the bench that hung from the ceiling of the roof. Worry filled her, as she thought of how she hadn’t heard from her grandfather. Surely he should have been back by now; Hobbs reassured her that her grandfather was probably just following a lead. He always had a way of calming Maria from crazed panics.
She didn’t hear from Hobbs all day either. Which was unusual, but Maria figured he was clearing up items her grandfather tended too. The man didn’t want to train Ezra; it made perfect sense that he would assume her to fulfill her task.
A door opened at the far end of the balcony. She didn’t turn her head, but she knew who was coming. A slim figure stood in front of her. Exhaling slowly, she looked up to find curious eyes.
“I can feel your worry, you know,” He sat on the bench next to her. “It’s tough fighting the world for everyone else. It’s worse sitting by waiting for someone else to.”
She stared at him a moment. No hatred, or annoyance in her eyes, just looked. His blond hair was not styled, nor was he dressed in his usual dapper fashion. Maria actually saw the beautiful features in his face. Moonlight showed his prominent jaw that constantly twirled into a big smile. She saw the definition in his cheeks, and the pink of his lips. His sparkling green eyes showing nothing but understanding. Maria didn’t feel up to par in comparison, she was quite beautiful, but he looked like a work of art. Her face was a long oval shape. Her eyes were large, maybe too large for her face. There was also that her lips were too small, and were practically hidden under a button nose. It was a foolish thought earlier to think perhaps it was he, who wanted her to like the embrace. This guy clearly could get any girl he desired; surely some perfect bimbo out there would suit his tastes. She thought to herself.
A soft barely noticeable smile formed at the edge of his mouth. He wrapped a long muscular arm around her shoulders and pulled her in. She just sat there a moment, letting her thoughts of previous worries fade into the background. It was nice being held. That’s all she would let her mind think of.
“You held back quite a bit today,” He joked.
“That’s an understatement,” She returned. “You’ve also had more training then you led on,” She raised an eyebrow to him.
“When I was young, my father was so heartbroken over Aphrodite leaving, that he couldn’t stand the sight of me. He used to tell me ‘you look too much like her.’ So he sent me away,” Ezra began.
“We lived in a small town just outside of Madison, Wisconsin. There weren’t many people you didn’t know. As a child I begged by day, and found a warm place to stay by night.” He laughed a little as he continued. “By begged, I mean I persuaded them.”
Another perk some of the children of Aphrodite had, where they could convince people of things simply by suggesting it. Most demigods could feel it happening, and could stop it if they caught on quick enough. It left a fuzzy feeling in your mind for days.
“One day when I was around six, I went to a small home looking for a place to sleep. A man in his mid-forties opened the door, he was about to shut it until he noticed my eyes. My pink ring around the outer iris easily gave me away. “
“He fed me, bathed me, and gave me a warm place to stay. He asked if my father was worried where I was. I thought nothing of it and simply said he did not want me,” A pained looked flashed in his eyes.
“He told me of what I was, and helped me to figure out who my mother was. He showed me the benefits of being a demigod. He was exceptionally wise, even for a child of Athena.”
“I lived with him for years, he would show me how to use my powers, and in turn I went to school, and helped him around the house. He was the only family I knew.” He tightened his lips together “I always thought that perhaps my mother led me to him.”
Maria couldn’t imagine having no one to take care of her as a child. Her mother was the most giving, and loving person she ever knew. Then when her mother died, her grandfather, and Hobbs cared for her, giving her their own special kind of love. She looked differently now at Ezra, perhaps he didn’t skate through life on good looks alone.
“What happened to him?” She asked simply.
“I’m not sure,” He paused and looked away from her. “I came home from school one day to find him gone.”
“Not there? Were there no clues or note?” She questioned.
“There wasn’t anything. Last I knew, he had a call from an old friend needing some help, and then he disappeared. A few weeks later my mom appeared to me in a dream,” he stated matter-of-factly.
“Must be nice, having your mom contact you,” She felt a pang of jealousy.
“Sort of, I mean she never did it before that,” He tightened his squeeze on her shoulder. “You’ll find out you father soon enough.”
The darkness faded around them. Stars were beaming brightly down from their spot in the sky. Maria heard her stomach rumble and groaned. Thankful for an excuse to leave before the topic of conversation switched to her, she got up and wondered towards the kitchen.
Ezra began whipping up some cheese crepes. The smell was delicious. The thin pancake like substance was dressed in tomatoes and a rich cheese sauce. Maybe, if Ezra isn’t cut out to be an assassin, he could work our kitchen, she thought. Sitting in the middle of the dark wooden table was a large envelope with her name on it. Where did this come from? She thought to herself. She grabbed the envelope, it was light in weight. Not wasting any more time she ripped it open.
We have something’s of yours. We found them snooping around in our private facilities.
If you wish to see them again come alone to: 6978 Industrial Drive, Warren, MI.
Show up no later than Wednesday at midnight.