I whimpered, frozen with fear, still twisted sideways with the bedsheets crinkled in my fists. It was happening. He was going to take me.
In a wickedly calm voice he said, “Turn to your back.”
“Let me go!”
“I will not. Turn or be forced to turn.”
I wanted to fight. Gods, I wanted to fight. But I knew it was useless, and part of me wanted the inevitable to be over and done with. I rolled rigidly to my back, my ankles still in his grip. My night gown was around my thighs.
“There now,” he said. My chest rose and fell at a rapid speed. “All I want is for you to feel me.”
I held my breath as he released one ankle. I immediately bent that leg to get it out of his reach but realized it caused my nightgown to raise further, so I dropped it again, my whole body shivering. I pressed my knees together as he pushed the long material up a bit more, exposing half of my thighs. Then he stilled, his warm breath against my knee causing me to shiver. Why, why didn’t his touches fill me with disgust? Why must everything he did feel so nice? The nonsensical, methodical way he was fooling my body caused my mind to feel irrational anger.
“You said you wouldn’t come to this bed unless I invited you,” I spat.
Just as roughly, he said, “What you think is happening is not.”
It clearly was!
“You’re mad,” I said, fighting back tears of frustration.
“Do yourself a favor, wife of mine. Imagine Leodes.” With those words, my arms flew up over my head, pinned above me by…air? I struggled to yank them down to no avail, letting out a shout.
I waited for my gown to be ripped away, but it stayed in place. And then the underside of both of my calves were pinned in his strong hands, pulled slightly apart, the heavy swath of my nightgown blessedly falling into the open space to hide my core. Something unbearably soft and hot was placed against the skin inside my knee.
Air sped into my chest and got stuck there. He was kissing my leg. Oh, gods. Gods! Dark Hades! His mouth opened on my skin and I felt his silky tongue slide along my skin, then his teeth. No fangs? How could that be? The sound of his mouth closing over my skin, like a kiss, came to my ears and a warm shudder ripped through me. His mouth opened again, moving, his tongue sliding, and I felt my body sag as tension fled my being. I had the oddest longing to cradle his head in my hands, but they were tightly bound above me.
I let out a whimper of surprise. This was happening. I waited for each pleasing sensation to be followed by a slice of pain, hot and fast, but it never came. Instead, my invisible husband worked his way up my leg in agonizing slowness, devouring every single bit of my skin in the heat of his damp mouth, that velvet tongue working against me as he nipped and lavished. I squirmed, caught between terror and something altogether different, yet frightening in its own way—the urge to let my knees fall open to him. I’d never expected his touch to feel like this. It made my body come alive in a terrifyingly eager way. Yes.
Wait. No. Oh, gods.
“Psyche…” He practically purred my name as his lips approached the edge of my nightgown where it had been pulled to cover my core and upper thighs. I had the wicked urge to grasp the material and pull it higher. Shame heated my face at that thought, and I breathed louder. I hated myself in that moment.
My husband moved to the next leg, kissing along the edge of the material, from the inside of my leg to the top, and back. I moaned, tense, as a kindling fire built inside of me. I didn’t want this. But I wanted it more than anything. I shook my head. Gods of Olympus, I was panting like a hound after a fox. If I gave in to this moment, it would change everything. There would be a shift in the balance I’d carefully constructed, and I’d never be able to right it. My body wept at my mind’s reasoning.
“Stop,” I whispered.
“You want me to stop?” His hands gripped my calves harder and I felt his breath against my damp thighs. A rush of honeysuckle, tempting and sweet, rose up to embrace me, hazing my vision.
“Yes,” I moaned. “Stop.”
Immediately, I was released, and my nightgown was pulled down. I scrambled to a sitting position, yanking the blanket up. My entire body quaked, sensitive and prickling every place his mouth had touched. I could hear his breathing from the end of the bed. Cold regret splashed me, and anger settled back in. Anger at him. Anger at myself.
“Get out!” I yelled, my voice breaking. Hot tears of frustration and humility streaked down my cheeks. “Leave me alone!” I didn’t care that it was his palace. Or that he swore he’d stay with me every night. I wanted him gone.
“Sleep well,” he said. His voice slithered around the room, under the covers, touching every part of me until I had to curl into a ball and cover my ears.
The window burst open and his presence disappeared in a flash, snuffing out the candles, leaving me in complete darkness. I lay there alone, trying to breath, clenching my thighs and crying at the ache of my body, begging for release. I hated him, and I hated myself for wishing, wishing he would have finished what he had started.
A warm, incessant lapping at my cheek had me holding up a hand and waking with a start. I made a sound of surprise at the golden mass of hair standing over me, practically shaking with delight, its silky, long-haired tail wagging.
“Great goddess,” I whispered, then took the puppy’s elongated snout in my hands and laughed. “Hello, precious!” I sat up, and the Saluki pup danced around on my lap with its long legs, excited that I was awake and lavishing him with attention. He was short haired everywhere except his ears and tail, which had soft, straight hair that begged to be combed with loving fingers.
I peered around, wondering if my gift-giver was in here, watching, but my vision was blurred by a massive, intricate web stretching between the two end posters of my bed. My eyes darted around until I spotted a gigantic black body with furry legs in the corner of the web. I let out a scream of terror.
“Spider!” The thing had to be the size of my open hand. I grabbed the puppy, who surely could have been wrapped up and eaten by the creature if he got too near. I jumped from the bed.
“Good morning, Princess Psyche!” I spun at the bright sound of Renae’s voice behind me, and saw a tray floating toward my table.
“Renae! There’s a spider on the bed!”
“Oh, yes. Very grand. I’m not certain I care for human bugs, but your husband said you were missing them.”
“I was not missing spiders!” I petted the pup’s head, grateful for his calming presence in my arms.
“No?” She sounded worried. “Shall I dispose of it for you?”
“You can’t get near it, Renae,” I warned her. “Its legs appear as strong as my own. What if it jumps?”
She outright laughed. “I’m not afraid, if that’s what you’re worried about. I’ll get it now.”
“Wait! You’re not going to kill it, are you?” I wasn’t sure I could handle the crunching sound.
She laughed again. “Ah, humans. I’ll just set it free outdoors. Is that all right?”
“Yes.” I held my breath and cringed as I heard her clomp toward the bed. The spider began to dart across the web, and then it was snatched cleanly into the air, curling protectively in on itself and “floating” toward the window. I didn’t release my breath until the colossal bug was out of sight. Renae hummed jauntily and wiped away the web in a rag as I stared, astounded.
“I thought you were a brave girl,” she said with no judgment. “Are you truly afraid of something just a fraction of your size?”
I pursed my lips, feeling foolish. “It’s just that…they have so many legs. And they’re fast! Some spiders can kill with a single bite. They’re sneaky.”
Again, she laughed. The puppy began to squirm, so I set him down and he bounded forward and began sniffing the air where I assume the maid stood.
“Oh, you furry little thing,” Renae said. “You’d better not piddle all over my clean floors.”
I smiled. “I’ll take him out frequently; promise.”
“Leave it to humans to domesticate nonverbal creatures and allow them to sleep indoors,” Renae teased.
From under the bed, a white furball with brown, orange, and black spots darted out and pounced on the puppy.
“A kitten!” I screeched, throwing out my arms in delight.
“Oh, yes.” Renae grumbled. “Forgot about that one.”
I clasped my hands and laughed as the two of them rolled around on the floor, grasping with small appendages and pulling at one another’s loose skin with their sharp baby teeth. When the puppy let out a tiny yelp, I reached down and took the kitten into my hands, lifting her to get a good look. She licked her spotted nose, eyeing me in return.
As I stood admiring the kitten an idea came to me. “I think I’ll eat outside this morning, so they can run.” I set the kitten down and rushed into my closet, quickly dressing. When I started for the tray, Renae gasped.
“Don’t even think of carrying that!” I felt a breeze as she rushed past me and lifted the tray.
I opened the door and the puppy bounded out. Though he ran back and forth all over the place, he always found his way back to my side when I made a snicking sound.