It felt good to be back on American soil. While Mikhail thought of himself as more Russian than American, America had been his home for all his life and always would be.
Mikhail stepped out of the steamy bathroom and finished toweling off as he padded into the locker room. Nodding to his teammates who were scattered around in various states of undress, he grabbed up a pair of jeans and pulled them on.
Three weeks since their mission to extract the CIA operative from Greece without anyone, official or not, the wiser. While it hadn’t been smooth, they’d gotten in and out without alerting anyone they’d ever been there. Bad guys notwithstanding, of course.
He buttoned up his fly and crammed his feet into a pair of boots. Mikhail pulled on his shirt before dropping to sit on the bench to do up his boots.
They’d been in endless meetings and sessions to debrief since they’d gotten out of Greece with the operative. All they knew about her was her code name for the op, Sugar. Not exactly fitting given the venom she’d directed their way the entire flight out of the country and then back to the States. But then again, she hadn’t looked all that happy before they’d met her.
What her mission had been in the country, Mikhail couldn’t say. But since they were currently on friendly terms with Greece, who the fuck knew. Especially when it came to the spooks. Those guys just loved to root around in the darkest of corners looking for enemies and, if they couldn’t find any, making new ones.
He stomped his feet a little to settle the boots in place. Just as he grabbed his leather jacket, the door into the locker room crashed open and four MPs came in.
“Sorry, sirs. The admiral has requested your presence immediately.”
Mikhail knew it wasn’t an actual “request.” No one, an admiral especially, needed four heavily armed MPs to pass on a “request.” No, it was an order, and he bet if it weren’t obeyed the MPs had very specific and detailed instructions about what to do.
He shrugged on his jacket and leaned against his locker as his cohorts finished dressing. None of them were in any apparent rush. While the MPs had said immediately, and he knew the admiral had meant yesterday, they weren’t going to just give in. That wasn’t how they were made. His fellow team members gravitated into their duos, as usual. He wasn’t surprised when Gareth shot him a small, crooked grin. The men weren’t couples, but they all worked together very well and—at least where he and Gareth were concerned—shared women more often than not.
Rubbing a hand over his mouth, he hid his smirk as James “Fury” Ashton asked Owen “Viper” Lueger which shirt went with his eyes better. Always pushing the envelope, that one. When Mikhail caught the look on the MPs faces and the way they were fiddling with their sidearms, he cleared his throat. He gave his team a couple of signals out of sight of the MPs.
It got everyone moving faster. If a bunch of highly trained military cops were that twitchy, something big was going down. No need to provoke them more than absolutely necessary.
As they left the locker room as a unit, Mikhail noticed they all exchanged the same look. He knew no one had a clue what was going on and that they didn’t like it—especially since they’d all just been told they had three weeks’ leave. Which, in their minds, meant they got to leave, no questions asked.
Twenty minutes later, Mikhail could not believe how fucking right he’d been. “Excuse me, sir. I mean zero disrespect, sir, but are you off your fucking rocker?” he asked.
His teammates all nodded. Yeah, every single one of them had been thinking it. Mikhail was just craziest of the bunch to say it out loud. It was part of his rep, and he did love living up to his rep.
“I wish,” Admiral Weller said. He rubbed a hand over his military-regulation cut and looked at them all.
Mikhail couldn’t believe how old Admiral Weller looked right then. Sharing a worried look with Nolan, he shook his head. “Sir, this is crazy. I might buy that Nolan might believe in the Greek gods, growing up as he had, but coming from you…” He shook his head again. “I’m sorry, sir, but I’m not buying it.”
“You’d better,” a new voice said. One that was deep, bowels-of-hell deep, and sent a shiver down Mikhail’s spine.
Mikhail spun and looked up—yeah, up—at seven-and-a-half feet of solid muscle covered in leather. Holy shit, where the fuck did this guy come from?
“Olympus by way of Athens,” the large male said. He turned his blacker-than-night eyes to the admiral. “Andrew, sorry I’m late. Had a small family matter to attend to.”
“No apologies needed, come on in and grab a seat. I think I’ll let you tell them the rest of this, as they don’t seem to be taking me seriously.”
The large man chuckled and—no joke—Mikhail could have sworn the room actually pitched and rolled like the deck of a battleship on high seas.
“They are trained to believe what they can see, hear, and touch, Andrew. Of course, they are not going to just take you at your word.” He walked around them, surprisingly light on his feet, and took the seat the admiral had offered.
Mikhail saw the same what-the-fuck expression on Nolan’s face that had to be on his own. The guy, on a first-name basis with the admiral, seemed to be buying into the same delusion, too. This would be interesting to hear. He wondered why no one was questioning the unvoiced questions, but these men knew him well enough to know that he would fill them all in later on everything.
“It’s not a delusion, Mikhail,” the guy said. “The Greek gods are real, all of us.”
“So, we’re to believe you’re one?” Lincoln “Saber” Jamison asked.
“Right,” Thomas “Brick” Gordon drawled out in his Southern manner. “Which one, just so we keep it all straight and shit?”
The admiral’s expression showed his discomfort. Not a look one expected of a career military man who’d been through more wars than most could lay claim to—and all on the front lines for the most part.
“Ares,” the male said.
“God of War,” Stefan “Orion” Patras said softly. “Son of Zeus and Hera.”
“Bingo,” the big male said. “Got it in one. Which, considering your heritage, I’d be truly miffed if you hadn’t.”
Shooting his Greek teammate a look, Mikhail shook his head. “Okay, I have a question, if we’re all going to play along with this delusion.”
“It’s no delusion and yes, the gods are real.” Ares, or whoever the fuck he was, got up from his chair. He pushed it out of the way and settled with his feet spread so they were right under his shoulders.
A flash of light and they were staring at the guy in full battle regalia. As in, ancient armor with one hell of a big-ass sword in hand, tip to the floor. Oddly enough, the guy seemed even bigger.
He walked straight toward Mikhail.
Standing his ground, Mikhail notched his chin up to keep eye contact with the guy. A lot harder than he’d thought, now that the guy’s eyes were silver pools, much like a whirlpool, trying to suck him in.
“Military men are always the hardest to convince,” the god said. Then he smiled, showing perfectly white teeth, and lifted a hand. “Let’s see if I can’t convince you, shall we?”