From the Author
At first, the kid'seyes got big and a smile split his face. Then he seemed to deflate. "Won'tmatter. They'll just take it tomorrow."
Ares sat next tohim, setting the ball on the table. "I promise you, kid, as long as I'm herethey will never take anything from you again." God, this boy was so much likeApollo it hurt to look at him. The comparison was like a physical blow to Ares,so he did what he always did. He blocked it out.
With a reluctantsmile, the kid took the ball. "I'm not really good at basketball, but I likeshooting."
"You don't haveto be good. Just enjoy it." He smiled. "What's your name, kid?"
"Sebastian Love,"he said, holding out his hand to shake Ares's. "Pleased to meet you." The kid'sname was, again, setting off all kinds of alarm bells. He should know this kid, but damned if he knewfrom where.
"Ares?" The kid'seyes got big. "The Greek god of war?"
"The very one," Areschuckled. That comment about his name usually got his hackles up, but Sebastianwas looking at him with something like awe. His glasses seemed to take up halfhis face, and he continually pushed them up on his nose. With the thick lenses,he reminded Ares of the really smart baby chicken from the Foghorn Leghorncartoon.
"Wow! Are youreally a Navy SEAL?"
"Used to be."
He lookedconfused. "I thought once a SEAL, always a SEAL."
Ares couldn'thelp but smile. "You know about stuff like that, do you?"
"Well, that'swhat I read. Was that book wrong?"
"No. That'spretty much the way it is. I hurt a knee, then got offered a job in a differentarea of the Navy." He shrugged. "I guess when you get old you want away fromthe action." Ares grinned at the child. He didn't look like he was old enoughto read. At least, not a book about Navy SEALs.
"How old are you?"
"Six. How old areyou?"
"What book haveyou been reading about SEALs at your age?"
The kid immediatelywent fishing in his backpack and pulled out a book. It didn't look like it wasgeared toward kids his age. In fact, it was by an author he recognized as beinga New York Times bestseller.
"Isn't this a bitadvanced for you?" No way this kid could read and understand something likethis. The thing had to be more than six or seven hundred pages long.
"Well, it's a bitviolent, but since I've never seen the stuff it's describing it doesn't give mebad images." Was this kid for real?
"I mean," Ares pinchedhis forehead, "you can read and understand the story?"
"Oh, yeah. I'madvanced for my age." Sebastian talked like an adult. Read adult books.
"What else areyou, uh, advanced in?"
"Pretty mucheverything," he said matter-of-factly. "I have a special teacher for math andscience. My reading and spelling teacher just lets me work through the books onmy own and tests me when I reach the end of a section." Then he got a down-and-outlook on his face. "But I suck at music."
Ares blinked. "Music."
"Yeah." The kidshook his head as if it were the worst possible failure. "My mom says I'm tonedeaf." He shrugged. "She doesn't seem to mind, though. Just laughs and says Ihave to not be good at something."
"So, music andbasketball then?" Ares couldn't keep the grin from his face.
"Pretty much.Well, basketball and every other sport. Mom says I have trouble walking andchewing gum at the same time, but she loves me no matter what." This kid wasjust...God, just...too damned cute!
"Maybe we canplay ball sometime," Ares said, in no way able to keep a straight face now. "I'llbring some bubble gum along. That way, you'll be able to tell your mom you canso walk and chew gum at the same time."
He giggled then. "Ithink I like you, Mister," he said. "I bet Mom would like you, too. You want tomeet her?"