"It's no problem." I leaned against her office wall. "Keeps things interesting, you know?"
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Pausing, she gave me a brief smile. "I really appreciate you coming in like this - on such short notice." She patted her stomach absentmindedly. "I'm sure it's nothing, but I've had this pain all day - "
"No, it's fine. Go. You have to take care of yourself. You have to take care of both of you."
She smiled at me again, picking up her purse and walking to the door. "Doug's skulking around here somewhere if you need help, so make him do it. Hmm... there was one other thing I needed to tell you... Oh yeah - there's something for you in your office. I left it on your chair."
Butterflies shot through my stomach at her words. "W-what is it?"
"You'll have to see. I've got to go."
I followed Paige out of her office and turned uncertainly into my own. The last thing left on my chair had been an envelope from Roman, one more piece in his twisted game of love and hate. Oh God, I thought. I knew it wouldn't be as easy as Carter had said. Roman's back, starting it all up again, waiting for me to -
I stared, swallowing a gasp. The Glasgow Pact sat on my chair.
Gingerly, I picked up the book, handling it like fine china. It was my copy, the one I had given Seth to sign over a month ago. I'd forgotten all about it. Opening up the inside cover, I saw lavender rose petals fall out. There was only a handful of them, but they were more precious to me than any of the bouquets I'd received this month. Trying to catch them, I read:
Long overdue, I know, but very often the things we most desire come only after much patience and struggle. That is a human truth, I think. Even Peleus knew that. - Seth
"He's back, you know."
"Huh?" I looked up from the baffling inscription to see Doug leaning against the doorframe.
He nodded toward my book. "Mortensen. He's up in the cafe again, typing away as usual."
I closed the book, holding it tightly with both hands. "Doug... are you up on your Greek mythology?"
He snorted. "Don't insult me, Kincaid."
" Thetis and Peleus... they were Achilles' parents, right?"
"Indeed they were," he told me, smug with the confidence of his area of expertise.
For my part, I was simply puzzled. I didn't really get the inscription or understand why Seth would reference the Trojan War's greatest warrior.
"Do you know the rest?" Doug asked me expectantly.
"What? That Achilles was a dysfunctional psychopath? Yeah, I know that."
"Well, yeah, everyone knows that. I mean the really cool part. About Thetis and Peleus." I shook my head, and he continued, professor-like, " Thetis was a sea nymph, and Peleus was a mortal who loved her. Only, when he went to woo her, she was a real bitch about it."
"She was a shape-shifter."
I nearly dropped the book. "What?"
Doug nodded. "He approached her, and she turned into all sorts of shit to scare him off - wild animals, forces of nature, monsters, whatever."
"What...what'd he do?"
"He held on. Grabbed her and wouldn't let go through all of those terrible transformations. No matter what she turned into, he just held on."
"Then what?" I could barely hear my own voice.
"She finally turned back into a woman and stayed a woman. Then they got married."
I had stopped breathing somewhere around the word "shape-shifter." Still clutching the book, I stared off into space, a great winged feeling swelling in my chest.
"You all right, Kincaid? Christ, you've been weird lately."
I blinked, turning back into reality. The feeling in my chest burst out, launching into glorious flight. I started breathing again.
"Yeah. Sorry. I've just had a lot on my mind." Forcing levity, I added, "I'll do my best not to be too weird from now on."
Doug looked relieved. "Coming from you, that might be a long shot, but here's to hoping."
"Yes," I agreed, smiling. "Here's to hoping."