Over the next five weeks, I saw multiple gods, which should have freaked me out, but after facing them on Olympus last year, I got used to it. Apollo’s favorite form was that of a teen boy—probably because he got looks from teen girls every three seconds when he appeared like it—and Aphrodite’s was that of a young college student, skinny and pretty. Ares preferred hard core biker dude, mid twenties, and Athena was all about the middle aged, wise woman. My father was always in his fisherman’s attire, sporting eyes the same color as mine: green. I’d only seen Hephaestus on Olympus, and he never looked happy. He was a big guy, well muscled, dark brown, nearly black, hair, and always appeared to be in his late 30s, early 40s.
On the last day of school, I had had enough of the gods. Apollo, Ares, and Aphrodite had appeared multiple times, mainly to tell me that bad things were going to happen. Annabeth and I hadn’t seen much of each other lately—school had enveloped us both. I was sick and tired of having the gods breathing down my neck.
I dialed the phone number that had burned into my mind.
“Hey, you packed?”
“Yeah—when are you picking me up?”
“Give me ten minutes.”
I hung up and grabbed my bag from the door. Camp, finally.
A lot of older demigods had been claimed recently. One stopped by Annabeth’s table, leaned over her to whisper something and then backed away, keeping his eyes directly on her. As I watched, she blushed, looked around at her half-brothers and then back down at her plate. The boy was bulky, but in a muscular way. His hair was dark, but I could see that his eyes were blue. Something hit me in my gut. Aphrodite’s plan was coming into effect, and Annabeth was falling for someone else.
She joined me in my cabin later that night. I didn’t mention the boy that had spoken to her and she didn’t bring it up. Unfortunately, the next day, someone else did.
One of Annabeth’s half-brothers, Markus, had told me about the boy the next day at target practice. He had said that the boy was named Riley—he was new to the Hephaestus cabin, was 17 years old—our same age—and had heard about me and Annabeth. Apparently he had made it his personal mission to get her to fall for him.
I instantly knew Aphrodite was interfering.
Angrily, I strung up an arrow, letting it rip from the bow and hit…the grass. I sighed. Archery wasn’t my thing.
I thanked Markus and started to leave, but a voice stopped me.
The boy that had spoken had shaggy blonde hair and blue eyes the color of the sky. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. “You must be new to Apollo’s cabin,” I grumbled.
He nodded. “Good guess. I’m Kensey. You’re Percy Jackson—I’m a…fan.”
“Thanks, I guess.”
“That guy Riley—he’s harmless. You’re girl’s gonna be fine. Who’s her parent? Aphrodite?”
I resisted the urge to laugh. “Athena.”
“Ouch. I retract my ‘harmless’ comment.”
“How do you know him?”
Without answering, the boy fletched an arrow and raised his arms to point at his target. Three seconds later, the arrow landed with a smack, right in the center of the board. “Old friend. Stole a girlfriend. Some girls are very into guys that are ‘sexy because they’re broken.’ They think they can heal every guy with a problem, and Hephaestus boys have problems. Mostly insecure, ‘cause their dad is considered the pimple on the face of Olympus.”
He notched another arrow, speaking while he shot. The arrow landed right next to its brother.
“They’re creative, that’s one thing. And Athena kids are really into them.”
Athena was artsy, wise, and beautiful. She was all for women’s equal power with men, and had many talents. Annabeth inherited her wisdom and her architectural passion from her mother. She was creative and Hephaestus was, too. I didn’t see this ending well for me.
“Hey, don’t take this the wrong way, Percy, but you’re pretty doomed. Unless, you know, you kill the guy.”
“Hey, Seaweed Brain, let’s go out tonight.”
I arched an eyebrow and stepped back, stopping the fight. She had been poised with her knife against my throat when she said that. Riptide was somewhere down the hill—it had been knocked out of my hand right before she won.
“You gonna try to kill me if I say no?”
“You have a reason to say no?”
Quickly, so she missed it when she blinked, I snatched her knife from her hand and lunged, knocking her down. When I stood I thrust the tip of her knife into the grass, and noticed by her panting that she was knocked breathless.
“Nah,” I said, smiling. “But we can’t exactly ditch camp for a date.” I brushed loose pieces of grass off my jeans.
She stood, looking around for her knife. “I’ll drop by after dinner.”
“That’s not going out. That’s staying in.”
She shrugged as she picked up her knife and dropped it back in the sheath by her hip. “Wanna go again? I’ll even let you grab Riptide.”
“I already beat you.”
“And now I’ll beat you. Or are you chicken?” She winked.
“Oh, bring it on, Wise Girl.”
After dinner I ran back to my cabin and got changed from my grungy camp clothes to clean jeans and a black T-shirt. When I heard the door to my cabin open, I turned, excepting a girl with blonde hair and grey eyes. I got that, but she wasn’t young, and she wasn’t Annabeth.
“Lady Athena,” I said, bowing my head awkwardly.
For once she wasn’t dressed that boring grey robe. She looked younger than usual, too.
“Percy Jackson, you don’t seem to take no for an answer.”
“I don’t remember hearing no…Goddess,” I added after the offensive nature of my comment.
“Do you or do you not love my daughter?”
“Of course I do.” The words were out before I could stop them. Oh. Did I? Did I really love her? It certainly seemed that way. I couldn’t stand the thought of her with someone else. I already wanted to kill the guy…Riley.
She smiled softly. “I figured. But does she love you?”
That wasn’t as easy to answer. She had never told me she did. “I…don’t know.”
“Find out. Or your relationship with my daughter is over. And don’t bother arguing. Your father is on his way to tell you same thing.” With a slight nod of her head, she said, “Goodnight, Percy. Make your decisions wisely. You’re still a fool.”
Yeah, it seemed most people were thinking that lately.
When Annabeth made it to my cabin, she didn’t even say hello before she was in my arms, kissing me. Somewhere in the middle of our kissing, I remembered that there was something… What had I been thinking? As her kisses got more urgent, I realized that whatever it was couldn’t have been all that important.
Then I heard my name spoken and it wasn’t from Annabeth’s lips.
I wanted to scream. “What is it with all the interruptions lately?!” I shouted, turning towards the voice. “Oh. Hi, Dad.”