Theseus Discovers His Heir

By: Michelle Smart


 JOANNE BROOKES COVERED her mouth to stifle a yawn and blinked rapidly to keep her eyes open. She was quite tempted to shove the thick pile of papers aside and have a nap at the small kitchen table, but she needed to read and digest as much as she could.

 The floor creaked behind her and she turned to see Toby poke his head around the door of the tiny living space.

 ‘What are you doing up, you little monkey?’ she asked with a smile.

 ‘I’m thirsty.’

 ‘You’ve got water in your room.’

 He gave an impish grin and padded over to her, his too-short pyjamas displaying his bare ankles. He hoisted himself up onto her lap and pressed his warm face into her neck.

 ‘Do you have to go away?’

 Wrapping her arms tightly around his skinny frame, Jo dropped a kiss in Toby’s thick black hair. ‘I wish I didn’t.’

 There was no point in explaining the finer details of why she had to leave for the island of Agon in the morning. Toby was four years old and any kind of rationalising normally went right over his head.

 ‘Is ten days a long time?’ he asked.

 ‘It is to start with, but before you know it the time will have flown by and I’ll be home.’ She wouldn’t lie to him, and could only dress her departure up into something bearable. Her stomach had been in knots all day, knitted so tightly she hadn’t been able to eat a thing.

 They’d only spent two nights apart since Toby’s birth. Under normal circumstances she wouldn’t even have considered going. It would have been a flat-out no.

 ‘And just think what fun you’ll have with Uncle Jonathan,’ she added, injecting a huge dose of positivity into her voice.

 ‘And Aunty Cathy?’

 ‘Yes—and Aunty Cathy. And Lucy.’

 Her brother and his wife lived in the local town with their year-old daughter. Toby adored them almost as much as they adored him. Even knowing that he would be in safe, loving hands, Jo hated the thought of being apart from him for such a long time.

 But Giles, her boss, had been desperate. Fiona Samaras, their in-house biographer, who was working on the commemorative biography of the King of Agon, had been struck down with acute appendicitis. Jo was only a copywriter, but that didn’t matter—she was the only other person who spoke Greek in the specialist publishing house she worked for. She wasn’t completely fluent, but she knew enough to translate the research papers into English and make it readable.

 If the biography wasn’t complete by a week on Wednesday there wouldn’t be time for it to be copy-edited and proofread and sent to the printers, who were waiting to print five thousand English language copies and courier them to the Agon palace in time for the gala.

 The gala, exactly three weeks away, was to be a huge affair, celebrating fifty years of King Astraeus’s reign. If they messed up the commemorative biography they would lose all the custom they’d gained from Agon’s palace museum over the decades. Their reputation as a publisher of biographies and historical tomes would take a battering. Possibly a fatal one.

 Jo loved her job—loved the work, loved the people. It might not be the exact career she’d dreamed of, but the support she’d received throughout the years had made up for it.

 Giles had been so desperate for her to take on the job that he’d promised her a bonus and an extra fortnight’s paid leave. How could she have said no? When everything was factored in, she hadn’t been able to.

 She’d been through the emotional mill enough to know she would survive this separation. It would rip her apart but she would get through it—and Toby would too. The past five years had taught her to be a survivor. And the money would be welcome. She would finally have enough to take Toby to Greece and begin the task of tracking down his father.

 She wondered if she would have any time to begin her search whilst she was on Agon. Although Agon wasn’t technically a Greek island, its closest neighbour was Crete and its people spoke Greek—which was why Jo had been the person her boss had turned to.

 ‘We’ll speak every day on the computer while I’m gone,’ she said now, reiterating what she’d already told him a dozen times that day.

 ‘And you’ll get me a present?’

 ‘I’ll get you an enormous present,’ she promised with a smile.

 ‘The biggest present in the world?’

 She tickled his sides. ‘The biggest present I can stick in my suitcase.’

 Toby giggled and tickled her neck. ‘Can I see where you’re going?’

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