Ardan sighed as he watched his reapers in training. There were four of them in total, two teenagers ages sixteen and seventeen and two adults, a man and a woman. The children had run away from their foster home where they were being abused and the man and woman had made a deal with him. He had told them that one of the greatest qualities of being a reaper was talking to people. You couldn’t just walk up to a soul and drag them unwillingly along because that could very easily result in poltergeist activity. The teenagers had been partnered with his mother and Grace while the adults were practicing on Maynard and his father. They would cycle out soon since talking to men and women were different. It had been an odd experience asking humans to become reapers, but since they had no family, they had agreed easily. He had promised to spend more time with Grace and his daughter, Adamaris, and after her fifth birthday he had hired these people to help him out.
“Daddy.” He smiled at his daughter’s voice and turned away from the trainees as Peter lifted the little girl off of his shoulders. She came running over and he lifted her off the floor.
“How was school?” He asked with a warm smile.
“I had so much fun. I made this for you.” She held up a bunny rabbit made out of construction paper, a cotton ball, and a toilet paper roll.
“Wow, that’s really cute.” He looked at Peter. “Thank you for picking her up. How was the trip?”
“Same as always, she seems to like traveling between worlds for pre-school. Most children would find it odd. She’s just like you in that respect, nothing ever bothered you.” Ardan turned back to watching the trainees and Peter came up beside him. “How is the training going?”
“The two boys seem to be catching on quickly, the woman is doing fine, but the man is making slower progress. He doesn’t seem to understand that you can’t just walk up to someone say hey guess what you’re dead and expect them to follow you.” He rubbed the bridge of his nose.
“Don’t worry dad, someday I’ll grow up to be just like you.” Adamaris said.
“You’ll make daddy proud no matter what you choose to do Addie.” Grace looked over at them and they all waved. Grace gestured for Peter to come take her place and he nodded as she made her way to her family.
Grace hugged her daughter “How was school beautiful?’
“I was just showing dad what I made, see” she lifted it up again and her mother smiled “So talented. Can I put it on the the mantel in the living room?”
“Yeah!” Adamaris said excitedly. Grace picked her daughter up and walked into the house. She helped her daughter set it on the mantel so anybody who entered could see what little Adamaris had made. “you want your after school snack?” Grace asked and Admarais asked for grapes. They went into the kitchen where Adamaris washed her hands and Grace pulled out a small plate. By the time Grace had gotten the fruit on the plate and a glass of water filled Adamaris was waiting with a huge smile at the table. That beautiful little smile was absolutely infectious.
“We should have more.” Ardan’s arms wrapping around her from behind startled her.
Ardan kissed her cheek then rested his forehead on her shoulder. “Training people is exhausting.”
Grace reached up and ran her fingers through his hair and down to his neck where she rubbed. He gave a contented sigh and she turned, her arms slipping around his neck. “You need some time off.”
“I can’t just leave.”
“Yes you can, let your father and Peter take over, they’ll do great.”
He sighed with a smile. “You’re always so clear headed.”
“You usually are too, you’re just tired. Let’s take Adamaris on a trip. We can go anywhere.”
He smiled “That would be perfect. With so many choices it’s hard to decide where to go though”
“Maybe if we go upstairs I can do a few things to get your mind off work and cleared for thoughts of vacation” Grace said suggestivly, causing his smile to widen. She took his hand and guided him upstairs while their daughter just enjoyed her snack. Being their daughter was up their passion didn’t last long before they were pulling their clothes back on and discussing what they thought might be fun for their little girl.
“We could take her to Greece, she’d love the Acropolis Museum and the caves. She’s so smart for a child, I think she would love exploring the different museums and trying new food.” Ardan suggested.
“Then that’s where we’ll go.” Grace replied with a smile.
“You’re so easy to please.”
“Because I get to see all of these amazing places with you. As long as I’m with you and our little girl, I don’t care where we go.”
He gave her a long, sweet kiss. “I’ll go tell my dad and Peter.”
“And I’ll start packing.”
“Make sure you grab Addie’s hiking boots, I don’t want her slipping in the caves.”
“Such a protective daddy.”
“I have to be, she’s my baby girl.”
Grace smiled then made her way to the closet they stored their suitcases in. Greece, she couldn’t wait. Especially now that she’d be going with her little girl. She took out Adamaris’s first then went to her room to pack it. She grabbed the boots first so she wouldn’t forget and have to see Ardan lose his mind with worry. No doubt if she didn’t bring them he would just find somewhere to buy her more. Next she took care of her daughters clothes then toiletries. She went through nearly the same process getting hers and Ardans stuff in their own suitcases before looking for Ardan. She wasn’t surprised to see him talking excitedly with their daughter. Adamaris ran to her mom “are we all packed?!”
“Yep” Grace said cheerfully. “Have fun you three” Peter said and Ardan answered “you guys just keep things running smoothly”
“You never have to worry about us son,” Efim said with a big smile, “I’ll have them ready for reaping before you get back.”
“Just don’t get anyone too maimed.” Ardan teased and Efim laughed as he ushered them out of the house.
Grace and Ardan held Adamaris’s hand as Ardan opened a portal to Greece. They stepped through, their daughter bouncing with happiness at being in a new place. It was noon there so Ardan lifted Adamaris onto his shoulders and headed for a hotel. “I can carry her case if you want.” Grace said.
“I’m fine my love, I’ve got them, just enjoy the walk.”
“What about you?”
“I’ve been here many times, I want you to enjoy the view without having to worry about carrying luggage.”
Grace didn’t need any more convincing than that. She let her eyes travel the scenery around her. She knew she couldn’t possibly take in everything without pausing but there would be plenty of time once they checked into a place to stay. Plus it would be more fun once she unpacked her camera. She didn’t normally take a bunch of photos but on this trip there would be no stopping her. They found a place and Ardan got them a nice room despite the fact he knew they wouldn’t be in it very much of the trip. Grace was just so patient with him he really wanted to make this vacation count.
Once their bags were down Adamaris said excitedly “lets go! Lets go!”
‘Just one second baby” Grace said before unzipping her bag and pulling out her camera. “This is one trip I need pictures of” she said then followed her daughter and Ardan out.
Ardan walked hand in hand with his daughter, smiling as she pointed and chattered about the different buildings. Grace snapped a few pictures and Ardan smiled lovingly at her, making her heart do a flip. It was still amazing how he so easily gave her butterflies. “How would you like to get some food and see the aquarium?” Ardan asked Adamaris and the little girl lit up even more.
“Yes, what animals do they have?”
“All kinds, reptiles, sharks, all kinds of sea life. You’ll like it.”
“Oh yes and you can pet most of the animals. We need to get something to eat first though, we don’t want to explore on an empty stomach.”
“We have to hurry then.” She reached out her other hand and grabbed Grace’s. “Come on.”
“I guess she’s our guide.” Grace laughed.
They happily let their little girl tug them along. They saw a restaurant called Vrachos Palaiokastritsa near the aquarium so went in to eat there. Even just sitting there eating they had an amazing view. “This place is amazing” Adamaris said and her mother agreed. Once full they paid then walked over to the Corfu Aquarium. Adamarais could barely contain how happy she was as they looked around. It was heartwarming for her parents to watch.
“Mom can we have a snake?” Adamaris asked as she stroked the scales of one, a big smile on her face. “Please, I’ll take care of it.”
Grace looked at Ardan who smiled and shrugged. “We’ll see once we get home.”
She did a little bounce and Grace took pictures of her with the snake. The man handling it let her hold it with his help since it was so heavy. They moved through the rest of the aquarium, Adamaris stopping to press her face against the shark tank. “You can’t have a shark honey.” Ardan said as he squatted down next to her. “Whoa, look at the one, he looks hungry.” He growled and she laughed.
Grace quickly set her camera to multi shoot and held the capture button down to save the moment of Ardan and their daughter laughing together. She’d print these out for her so she’d never forget how much Ardan loved her even when he got much too busy to be with them. Adamaris lingered with the sharks for a bit longer before walking onward, the signs promising her she’d sea a turtle soon. “Mom mom get pictures of her too!” Adamaris said excitedly and Ardan asked “how do you know she’s a girl?”
“You’d think they’d name a boy Tara?” Ardan chuckled “Guess not” As they finished that exchange Grace finsihed getting the pictures for her daughter. They stayed as long as their daughter wanted so it took a large portion of their day leaving Grace having a hard time figureing out what she wanted to do next. They still had time for something before dinner but she didn’t know for what.
“There’s a beach not far from here.” Ardan said when he saw her contemplating. He lifted Adamaris onto his shoulders then took Grace’s hand, bringing her fingers to his lips to kiss them. Her heart skipped a beat and he smiled knowingly.
“Jerk.” She said under her breath.
“At least I’m your jerk.”
She couldn’t help but laugh as they left the aquarium. The ocean water was a beautiful bluish green and Ardan explained that it was pretty clear and it attracted a lot of scuba divers. “What’s scuba diving?” Adamaris asked.
“You put on an oxygen tank and you dive under the water to see all the animals and plants.”
“I want to go.”
He chuckled. “When you’re older, we’ll take you.”
“Promise?” She held her hand in front of his face, pinky sticking up and he raised his, hooking their pinkies together.
She seemed content knowing it was at least in her future and enjoyed the beach with her parents until they all got too hungry to stay out any longer. They found another nice place to eat then went back to their hotel for the evening. Grace ran a bath for her daughter then relaxed with Ardan “Are you happy?” he asked in a gentle voice and she smiled at him “immensely so, I’m glad you took a vacation with us”
“I’ll probably be able to more now that I will have help”
“Good” she laid with him until Adamaris came out. Grace handed her daughter the remote for the television then went to shower with Ardan.
“Greece was a great idea.” She said as he pulled her into his arms.
“I knew she’d love it.” He stroked her cheek and let his fingers run through her soft hair. “I love you, you know that?”
Grace smiled. “Of course.”
“You’ve given me so much and I really will spend more time with you and our little angel. I’ll take you anywhere you want to go, any country, any world, you name it and we’ll go.”
She slipped her arms around his neck and pressed herself closer. “Are you sweet talking me?”
“I might be.” He brushed his lips brifely against hers, smiling when her breath quickened. “I adore you, I love you, and I need you.”
He pressed their lips together as he lifted her and pinned her against the wall. Her legs wrapped tightly around him and she deepened the kiss to muffle her cries. They were quick, but every kiss and touch was loving and full of promise. Once they were clean and dried, they dressed for bed and both of them smiled upon exiting the bathroom since Adamaris was laready sound asleep.
“we wore her out. A true sign of a good day” They tucked her into the covers a bit more then crawled into their own bed, drifitng off blissfully. Next thing they knew Adamaris was pulling their covers off “Grace sleepily laughed “Adamaris”
“come on come on!” Ardan rubbed his face and looked at the rooms clock. The red lines red six am “Oh Adamaris” Grace chuckled again, a little more awake now “what do you want us to do this early in the morning?”
“I want to see what the sunrise looks like here. I want to see it outside and I know it wouldn’t be okay for me to leave the room alone. Please”
“Okay, we’re coming” They could see the eagerness in their daughters face so Ardan said “I’ll walk out with her while you get changed then you can take over for me” Ardan took his daughter outside the room while Grace hurriedly dressed and brushed her hair. After they tag teamed and were both ready they found a nice spot to sit and enjoy the beauty of sunrise.
“Where are we going today?” Adamaris asked as she stared out over the water.
“I want to take you guys to a couple of museums and then if you like we can find a cave to explore.”
She clapped her hands. “Come on then, let’s eat.”
“And get your boots.” Ardan added, his face taking on a serious protectiveness. Grace couldn’t help but get a picture of it. He blinked at her, the seriousness melting away to show his absolute love for his family and she snapped one of that too. He reached over and took her camera, making her laugh as she tried to get it back. “It’s your turn to be in a few. I want as many as I can get of you and our daughter.”
“Mom, dad, stop being so mushy. I want to go.”
“Alright, alright, patience little one.”
They had their daughter properly dress then they toured some nearby museums. It turned out good their daughter had woken them so early. They could look around at a carefree pace but had still seen quite a bit by the time lunch came. Ardan decided it was a good time to go ahead and find a cave. He took them to a cave called Melissani. It was surrounded by forests, while a mountain slope rose high to it’s west. Adamarais saw a plaque and began to read about it. “wow, they discovered it in 1951 dad!” she read on “and it’s water is higher than sea level”
“why don’t you read the whole thing out loud to us sweetie” Grace asked and her daughter instantly continued on out loud for her parents.
“The cavern, once two big chambers, caved in several thousand years ago. Today the cave has the shape of a ‘B’, with two big water filled halls and an island in the middle. The first hall has a big oval opening to the surface where the sunlight shines in. The second is a huge cavern with an arched roof and numerous stalactites and stalagmites. The best time to visit the cave is in the middle of a bright sunny day. Tours are done by boats that take you on a trip through both halls.”
She looked up at her parents and Grace said, “Yes, we’re going on the boat.”
“Of course sweetie.”
She took their hands as they walked to the tour boats, bouncing with excitement the whole time. She had never been on a boat and couldn’t wait. Ardan had her sit between them once they had paid, not wanting her to fall off in her excitement. He was a good swimmer, but he preferred her first boat ride not be traumatizing. Grace took pictures as Adamaris stared in rapt attention and listened to their guide talk about the cave. Ardan pointed up at the ceiling, showing his daughter a few bats that had made the cave their home for the day. It made Grace happy that her daughter wasn’t afraid of animals like that. Being the daughter of Death had made her brave.
When it came time to go through the part of the cave that was too narrow to row through Adamarais responded once again with wonder instead of fear despite her young age. The guide kept talking as he pulled them through using a rope attached to the caves side. The second cavern had an arched roof caused by the collapse that divided the two caves. Everywhere the three looked there were numerous big stalactites and stalagmites. “woah” Adamaris said, causing both her parents to smile and her mother to snap a shot of her expression. She couldn’t wait to look through all these pictures. She had gotten plenty of the cave too.
When the tour was over Adamaris talked excitedly about everything she had been told. She wanted to again, but Ardan told her that there were many other caves and her eyes lit up. “Can we see all of them?”
He chuckled. “We’ll visit as many as we can. How about we take mommy to get something sweet to eat then we’ll go visit some temples.”
“What’s a temple?”
“It’s like a church. They built them for their gods.”
“That’s so cool.”
“Did you know that your uncle Maynard’s favorite is the Temple of Haphaestus?”
“I’ll tell you when we get there.”
He took them to Xara Pastery. It was hard for Adamarais to decide what she wanted because there were so many sweets on display in their class case. Each and every one of them looked delicious to her. Eventually she settled on one and they sat down. While Grace was eating slow to savor the taste Adamaris ate it quickly, finishing hers long before her mother. Grace ended up taking her last bit to go when Ardan finished his. “we can wait on you” he insisted but she wanted to go “I’d rather go to the temple. I can finish this in the room tonight” she wrapped it and placed it in her bag before Ardan took them out and transported them to the Temple of Haphaestus.
“So who is Haphaestus dad?”
“Hephaestus was the Greek god of blacksmiths, sculptors, metallurgy, fire and volcanoes; thus, he is symbolised with a hammer, an anvil and a pair of tongs.
According to Homer’s epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, he was the son of Zeus and Hera. However, Hesiod informs us that Hera boreHephaestus alone. According to an account, after Hephaestus was born, Hera threw him from Olympus because he was crippled; he fell into the ocean and was raised by Thetis and Eurynome. Another myth has it that he once tried to protect his mother from Zeus’ advances and as a result, the father of the Gods flung him down from Olympus, which caused his physical disability; he fell on the island of Lemnos where he became a master craftsman. He was later accepted back to Olympus, and became the craftsman of the gods, creating majestic armors, shields and weapons.
He was married to Aphrodite; after he learned his wife had an affair with her brother, Ares, he devised a plan with which he humiliated both lovers to the other gods.”
“It’s the weapons.”
“Uncle Maynard likes the weapons.”
Ardan and Grace both started laughing and he patted his daughter on the head. “You’re so perceptive, maybe some of your smarts will rub off on him.”
“He is a bit dense.” Grace agreed. “I mean for a guy who can plan out a battle strategy and direct armies, he sure is a knuckle head.”
Ardan leaned over and kissed Grace. “I love you.”
“I love you too.” He took the camera from her again and took pictures of her and Adamaris in front of and inside of the temple.
“Which god is your favorite dad?” Adamaris asked.
“That would be Hades, god of the underworld.”
“So, he helps spirits?”
“He watches over them, he’s like a manager.”
“cool” They didn’t take long there so they visited a few more temples and took pictures before heading back to their room. “This has been the best mom and dad!” Their daughter said as she went into the bathroom for her bath. Grace took out her dessert and shared it with Ardan. They had it finished before Adamaris came out, clean and in her pajamas. Now it was their turn so they tucked her in with the remote as they did the night before then went into the bathroom. “I want to buy her an outfit from here. We should let her pick out a souvenir too”
“Okay, after breakfast tomorrow” Ardan answered then stepped into the warm spray of the shower.
That night they slept soundly, but were woken the next day by someone knocking on their door. Ardan was up immediately, confused and suspicious as he peeked through the peephole. He groaned and opened the door, trying not to glare at his youngest brother. “Jonas.”
“Sorry to interrupt.”
“Who is it Ardan?” Grace asked as she got up.
“It’s Jonas.” He moved aside and let his brother in.
“Uncle Jonas!” Adamaris said and sprang out of bed.”
“Hey little one.”
“So what happened?” Ardan asked.
“Oh, dad wanted me to give you a status report, I guess he said it was important. He says that guy Brian is so useless and he wouldn’t know how to talk to a spirit to save his life.”
Ardan rolled his eyes. “This could have waited.”
“I know, but he said you should know.”
“Then go and tell him that I said if the guy refuses to learn, he can always be sent to pergatory for a week where he’ll get to hang out with all kinds of spirits, some not so nice.”
“It’s not your fault, dad’s always been a stickler for rules.”
“Can uncle Jonas stay for breakfast?” Adamaris asked.
“Sure, if he has time” Grace said cheerfully. “Okay, I can’t stay longer than just breakfast though” Adamaris sat with her Uncle while her parents got ready then they all went out for breakfast. Just as Jonas had said he walked them to their first store then went back home. “Why did grandpa make you guys such workaholics? I wish he could have stayed longer” Ardan took his daughters hand “we’ll plan something with them next okay? I’ll get them all to come”
The rest of the trip was spent taking Adamaris to every temple, museum and cave he could think of. He let her play on the beach and taught her how to swim in the shallows. Before they left, they did another round of clothing stores and different shops. Ardan told them to buy whatever caught their eye. Adamaris had a small bag of souvenirs and new outfits by the time they went home and was excited to show everything off and give each family member the gifts she had picked out for them.
“I can’t wait to have another.” Ardan said when Adamaris was asleep that night.
“You’re such a good daddy and a wonderful husband.”
He lifted her and twirled around, making Grace smile. He always wanted to be a reason for her to smile. He carried her straight to bed, wanting to hold her. “I love you Grace, never forget that. You and that little girl are my universe, my absolute everything. I would move heaven and earth for you two.”
“Stop before you make me cry Ardan.” She snuggled close, her face tucked into his neck.
“Sweet dreams my love.”
“Sweet dreams, my beautiful god of death.” He smiled, and they fell into a blissful sleep, held in the warmth of each other’s arms.