Read The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #5) - Rick Riordan Page 0,1

to be together.”

I could tell something was bothering her, but she put on a brave smile. The sunlight made her hair look like fire.

We’d spent a lot of time together this summer. I hadn’t exactly planned it that way, but the more serious things got at camp, the more I found myself needing to call up Rachel and get away, just for some breathing room. I needed to remind myself that the mortal world was still out there, away from all the monsters using me as their personal punching bag.

“Okay,” I said. “Just a normal afternoon and two normal people.”

She nodded. “And so . . . hypothetically, if these two people liked each other, what would it take to get the stupid guy to kiss the girl, huh?”

“Oh . . .” I felt like one of Apollo’s sacred cows—slow, dumb, and bright red. “Um . . .”

I can’t pretend I hadn’t thought about Rachel. She was so much easier to be around than . . . well, than some other girls I knew. I didn’t have to work hard, or watch what I said, or rack my brain trying to figure out what she was thinking. Rachel didn’t hide much. She let you know how she felt.

I’m not sure what I would’ve done, but I was so distracted, I didn’t notice the huge black form swooping down from the sky until four hooves landed on the hood of the Prius with a WUMP-WUMP-CRUNCH!

Hey, boss, a voice said in my head. Nice car!

Blackjack the pegasus was an old friend of mine, so I tried not to get too annoyed by the craters he’d just put in the hood; but I didn’t think my stepdad would be real stoked.

“Blackjack,” I sighed. “What are you—”

Then I saw who was riding on his back, and I knew my day was about to get a lot more complicated.

“’Sup, Percy.”

Charles Beckendorf, senior counselor for the Hephaestus cabin, would make most monsters cry for their mommies. He was this huge African American guy with ripped muscles from working in the forges every summer. He was two years older than me, and one of the camp’s best armorsmiths. He made some seriously ingenious mechanical stuff. A month before, he’d rigged a Greek firebomb in the bathroom of a tour bus that was carrying a bunch of monsters across country. The explosion took out a whole legion of Kronos’s evil meanies as soon as the first harpy went flush.

Beckendorf was dressed for combat. He wore a bronze breastplate and war helm with black camo pants and a sword strapped to his side. His explosives bag was slung over his shoulder.

“Time?” I asked.

He nodded grimly.

A clump formed in my throat. I’d known this was coming. We’d been planning it for weeks, but I’d half hoped it would never happen.

Rachel looked up at Beckendorf. “Hi.”

“Oh, hey. I’m Beckendorf. You must be Rachel. Percy’s told me . . . uh, I mean he mentioned you.”

Rachel raised an eyebrow. “Really? Good.” She glanced at Blackjack, who was clopping his hooves against the hood of the Prius. “So I guess you guys have to go save the world now.”

“Pretty much,” Beckendorf agreed.

I looked at Rachel helplessly. “Would you tell my mom—”

“I’ll tell her. I’m sure she’s used to it. And I’ll explain to Paul about the hood.”

I nodded my thanks. I figured this might be the last time Paul loaned me his car.

“Good luck.” Rachel kissed me before I could even react. “Now, get going, half-blood. Go kill some monsters for me.”

My last view of her was sitting in the shotgun seat of the Prius, her arms crossed, watching as Blackjack circled higher and higher, carrying Beckendorf and me into the sky. I wondered what Rachel wanted to talk to me about, and whether I’d live long enough to find out.

“So,” Beckendorf said, “I’m guessing you don’t want me to mention that little scene to Annabeth.”

“Oh, gods,” I muttered. “Don’t even think about it.”

Beckendorf chuckled, and together we soared out over the Atlantic.

It was almost dark by the time we spotted our target. The Princess Andromeda glowed on the horizon—a huge cruise ship lit up yellow and white. From a distance, you’d think it was just a party ship, not the headquarters for the Titan lord. Then as you got closer, you might notice the giant masthead—a dark-haired maiden in a Greek chiton, wrapped in chains with a look of horror on her face, as if she could smell the stench of all the