Chapter: Set-Up

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     "Miss Athena, please do not interrupt your father. I'm sure you can bring up your discovery at another time," a kind-faced elderly woman suggested as she looked at the young heiress. Athena St. Claire turned around, her long dark hair framing her face as if it were a precious painting. Her eyes were unique. Viridian in color, they added an allure of mystery to the attractive teen. The teen smiled, a smile accented by her perfect row of pearly teeth. Her beauty was European in descent, but her ancestors had lived in the United States for at least a century. 

     "Anna, Father wished to hear my course of life as soon as I figured it out. I'm sure he will be thrilled to hear my decision," Athena smiled and nodded as if reassuring herself more than her nanny. "Miss, Athena," Anna protested, "you know as well as I that Master Alistair has a profound temper. If he's interrupted at the wrong moment, all hell will break loose." "Anna, you worry too much. He's my father. No matter how angry he becomes, he will always love me, right?" Athena asked with another smile. Anna's smile faded. She had served the St. Claire household her entire life, following in the footsteps of her late mother. If there was one thing Anna Fitzgerald knew, it was that Alistair St. Claire only loved his children as long as they were useful to him. She had seen his ugly side many times over her long life, but the children, the children had yet to see it. She prayed they never did, however, her prayers would soon fall short. 

     Athena smiled. This was something that finally made sense. Something she could believe in with her heart. With that thought, she knocked on the twin French doors that stood menacingly in front of her. "Enter," a deep voice called out from the other side. "Dad?" Athena called out as she walked into the study. "Oh, are you busy?" "I'm a businessman, Athena. I am always busy," Alistair St. Claire replied tersely once he barely glanced up from his work. "What do you want?" "Dad! Adonis has my diary!" Artemis cried out as she ran into the study. "I've told you time and time again to knock when you come inside. I am a very busy man," Alistair scolded before looking up at his daughters.

     Athena felt as if a frog was in her throat as she looked at her father's menacing gaze. She glanced at her little sister and then the door as Adonis walked in nonchalantly. "Dad, I need a couple bucks," he said and flashed a cocky smirk at his sisters. "How many?" Alistair asked as he withdrew two crisp twenty dollar bills and handed them to Adonis. "Now what did you want?" Athena looked at her siblings and said, "You told us to explore the world and choose our own path, right?" Alistair looked at his daughter in intrigue, "Have you found your path so easily? What is it? Money? Education? Philanthropy?"

     "Islam," Athena said simply and watched her father's expression change. There was a fury behind his green eyes that Athena had never seen before and it terrified her. This wasn't the man who she used to chase through their gardens when she was a child. This wasn't the man who comforted her when her mother passed away. This man was an individual who had succumbed to his vices. He was a man that had accepted his racist tendencies and had bowed down before his bigoted views.

     Alistair said nothing as he stood up and approached Athena. She glanced at her brother and sister and heard her little sister whimper as she hid behind Adonis. This was the power that Alistair had over his children. After their mother passed away, he had become cold towards them, as if they were a burden on him, but still maintained an air of civility. Now, he looked at Athena with nothing but hatred.

     "Dad, I-," Athena began but was silenced as Alistair's hand descended towards her and connected with her cheek. Athena staggered and fell backwards by the force of the blow. She looked up in horror, as her father seemed to be steaming at the ears. "What did you say?" Alistair asked with his teeth clenched. Athena could taste something metallic in her mouth and knew she was bleeding. In her entire sixteen years of life, her father had never physically abused her. "Dad! She's bleeding! Don't hit her!" Artemis cried out as she struggled against her brother's arms, who held her back.

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