As I walked toward him and my mother, resentment made my blood boil. He said nothing as my mother embraced me, and I buried my nose in her hair, inhaling deeply. It didn’t matter who Walter was to me. I had my mother, and she was the only parent I’d ever need.
“Where are the others?” I said. Not that I expected them to care that I was leaving, but I figured they’d at least want to give James a decent send-off.
“Attempting to corral Cronus fully back onto the island,” said my mother grimly. “We will be joining them once you leave.”
Fear swept through me. I had never thought of her as a soldier—she’d fought hard against the cancer that had eventually taken her mortal life, of course. But this wasn’t cancer. This was war, and the thought of my mother fighting alongside the likes of Dylan and Irene and Walter made my head spin. She was the gentlest person I knew.
No one could afford to sit this one out, though. If I knew how to fight like they did, I’d be on the front lines, too, using every bit of power I had inside me to get my son back. As it stood, the only way I had to help was this. And that was why no one, not even Henry, would ever talk me out of it.
“Kate,” said Walter, and my mother let me go. “You understand that Rhea is equally as strong as Cronus, do you not?”
I eyed him. We looked nothing like each other, but when the gods could and did change forms, that didn’t mean much. “Yeah, I know. Isn’t that the whole point?”
“Yes,” said Walter, giving my mother a look I didn’t understand. “That also means if you press her to do something she is not willing to do, or if you upset her in any way, she has the potential to be equally as devastating to our cause.”
“So you want me to suck up to her?” I said. “We’re in the middle of a war.”
“Yes, I am aware,” said Walter dryly. “I am merely asking that you show her the respect she deserves. She is our mother. Your grandmother twice over—”
“Excuse me?” I blurted. My mother squeezed my elbow, but I shook her off. It was one thing for me to at least have the choice to pretend to be blissfully unaware of his role in my life, but for him to force this on me now...something inside me snapped. “If you’re finally going to admit that you’re my father—”
“Now is not the time, Kate,” said my mother.
“It’s never the right time,” I said sharply. “It’s a simple yes or no, Walter. Are you my father?”
He raised his chin and looked down at me. “Yes. I never thought there was a question.”
As if it was no big deal. As if the years I’d spent taking care of my mother on my own didn’t matter. I’d cried myself to sleep countless nights, terrified I’d wake up and be alone in the world, and all this time, not only had my father known about me, but he had known exactly where we were and what we were going through.
“Then I guess it’s a good thing I never thought I needed a father,” I said. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’ve got a Titan to find.”
“Kate,” said my mother, reaching for me, but I yanked my arm away. Her lips parted in surprise, and guilt gripped my heart, more painful than anything Cronus could possibly do to me. But I stood my ground.
“We need to go.” I slid my hand into the crook of James’s elbow and took a step back, ignoring the way my throat tightened. I wasn’t going to cry. Not over Walter, and especially not in front of him.
For the first time in our friendship, James kept his mouth shut. Instead he nodded in Walter and my mother’s direction. My parents’ direction, I realized. For the first time in my life, I had parents.
That should’ve made me giddy with excitement, or at least it should have given me a glimmer of happiness during one of the worst times of my life. Instead it made me nauseous.
“Goodbye, sweetheart,” my mother whispered. Before I could say goodbye in return, golden light flashed from all directions, and bright spots of color burst in front of me as the sunset floors vanished.
James and I appeared on a grassy hill, and I blinked. Sheep’s Meadow in Central Park, the exact spot I’d met with my mother every night I’d spent in Eden. We were surrounded by people, but none of them so much as glanced up at our appearance. Could they see us? Or had James done something to make them think we’d been there the whole time?
“Why are we in New York?” I said. “Is Rhea here now?”
“Rhea? What would she be doing here?” said James, and he guided me down the hill. “She’s still in Africa.”
“Then why aren’t we in Africa?” I said, and James smirked. Clearly he was enjoying my ignorance.
“We’re here because this was where Olympus happened to be.”
I hesitated. “I thought Mount Olympus was in Greece.”
“Mount Olympus is, but Olympus, the council’s home, isn’t in a fixed spot. Well, no, it is,” he amended, gesturing to the sunset that stained the New York sky. “It’s caught eternally between day and dusk.”
Right. Hence the interior decorating. “So why can’t we just...appear there?”
“Because I miss traveling, and it happens to be what I’m good at.” James took my elbow, his hand warm even through my sweater. “We’re handling things the old-fashioned way and catching the first flight to Zimbabwe. It’ll give us some time to map out our game plan, and I figured stretching your legs would do you some good. Besides, only the six siblings can disappear and reappear in another place. And you now, too, I suppose, once you learn how,” he added. “I bet Walter would teach you once we get back.”