“I never punished a soul who did not deserve it.”
“My point is that you seem to do more punishing than blessing. And you seem to…enjoy it.”
It was his turn to cross his arms. He turned toward the window.
“I admit it. I did enjoy punishing humans. And it has been nearly a century since I flitted about gaily and pierced young people with my arrows of love.” He raised a hand in the air as if such notions were childish.
“Why do you sound jaded?”
“Because I am!” He turned to me again. “Humans fall in love so easily, and then they squander it.”
“Not all.” I thought of my parents.
“Far too many,” he said. “And yet, I am a god and could not find anyone to love. I searched every curve of Earth and corner of Olympus, yet not one of the souls I encountered affected me until I saw yours.”
I blinked, dropping my face as jealousy scratched my insides with her ugly claws. “You had many women.”
Cupid shot to my side in a blink, making me cry out in surprise as he took my face and a wash of warm honey coated my senses. “I cannot recall a single one of their faces, Psyche. Hear what I am saying!”
The jealousy fell away, shattering, because I believed him, and I wanted to drag him down onto the bed with me.
I shifted past him, standing and walking several steps away. Mino began to jump at my legs, but Cupid snapped a finger and the puppy immediately curled up on the rug, asleep. When he began to move toward me, I held up a hand.
“I cannot think straight when you are so near.”
“Why must you always think straight? I enjoy your crooked thoughts.”
I covered my mouth as a quick laugh jumped out, and our eyes met. Everything inside me softened, but I still held back, needing something more from him that I couldn’t name.
Cupid took a tentative step toward me, his palms up. “Jupiter has given his blessing. That means no one, including my meddling mother, will dare to impede us.” He took another step. “I wish you could see your soul right now as I see it. How bright you are in your righteousness.”
My chin rose as my breathing came faster. He stepped closer, near enough to smell, and I dizzied.
“Your beauty will never fade in my eyes, Psyche.” His words and voice rolled over me, sweet and heady. “My wife. My princess. The one who shot me with her love.”
My thoughts clarified, and as he stepped closer, I held up my palms to stop him. His brow drew together in worry.
“It is not only about me,” I explained. “There is so much pain in the world. So many broken hearts. So much suffering.” My eyes welled just thinking about it—about the power Cupid held.
His whisper was fervent. “And I shall never again raise my bow to add to the chaos of man. I swear it to you. Only the elixir of love will adorn my arrows.”
A flutter of dove’s wings soared through me at the assurance I needed.
I hesitantly brought up my hand, and he stilled as my palm hovered over his cheek. The corners of his full lips lifted.
“Yes, my love. You can touch me now. Please touch me.”
My hand sank against his warm cheek and he brought his hand up to cover mine, closing his eyes. A fierce protective instinct overtook me as my heart fully claimed him.
“Husband,” I said, my voice going husky. “You have seen all of me. It is time I saw you.”
In a flash, without moving a muscle, the elegant wrapping around his waist disappeared, leaving him standing before me in all his naked glory, a look of amused pride on his face. And why shouldn’t he be proud? Gods above. The full sight of him was almost too much for this pregnant mortal to take. All my bravado dissipated as my body lit up in a thousand sparks of heat.
I stepped back, overcome with nervousness and lust, and he walked forward until my back was at the wall.
“Or, if you prefer—” In a flash, he was Leodes, naked as the day before me.
“I…” I clammed up like a bumbling fool, which made him chuckle, his smile turning roguish. I forced lame words from my lips. “You will spoil me, giving in to my every whim so quickly. The both of you.”
“I am not sorry.” He took my face, moving forward so that our bodies were flush, a soft moan passing my lips. He flashed back into his true form. My eyes fluttered closed, overwhelmed. “Will you be shy now that your eyes can behold me? Perhaps if I disappeared for a moment…”
To my shock, he lowered to his knees and lifted the hem of my gown, pulling it over his head. Disappear, indeed! I held onto his head through the sheer layers as his mouth found my center, and my head flew back, hitting the wall with a satisfying thump. Cupid’s hands held my backside, not letting me fall, though my legs seemed to lose their bones.
A brisk knock on my door made us go still.
“Princess?” called Boldar. “Are you quite all right?”
“My husband is here!” I blurted, then bit my lip. “Everything is fine!”
“Uh…all right, then.” He cleared his throat and I heard his steps quickly retreating down the hall. I giggled briefly before Cupid’s magical tongue erased all remaining thoughts.
I could scarcely move the next morning. My body was as exhausted as it had been upon returning from the underworld. That was saying a lot. When the sounds of seabirds made me open my eyes, I found Cupid leaning on his elbow next to me, smelling of honey. My blood thrummed at the serious look in his eyes. And then sickness pushed its way upward and I sprung from the bed.
Cupid was at my heels, rubbing my back as I retched. “Psyche, my love, let me take this ailing from you.”
“No,” I said, wiping my mouth, breathing hard. I did not want any godly magic. “I will tell you if it becomes unbearable, but I want to feel every bit of this pregnancy. If it is not harming me, or the child, I want it.”
Cupid led me to a settee, and I lay back as he dabbed my face with a cool cloth. Mino jumped up beside me, laying the length of my hip and resting his head on my thigh, peering up at me with worry. I petted him and gave a weary smile to Cupid before closing my eyes.
“You are an attentive husband,” I whispered. When he remained quiet, I opened my eyes to find him staring up at me from where he kneeled on the floor.
“So, you will remain my wife?”
After last night, I would have thought it was quite obvious, but I smiled and felt his cheek with my fingers. It gave me a thrill to touch him, to see him.
“If you will have me, I will remain your wife until my dying breath. You, me, our child, even Mino and Sphinx while they live. I want us together.”
His bow-shaped lips turned up. “Come.” He stood, already dressed, and took me by the hand. “Ready yourself. If you are well enough, we must see Jupiter at once.”
“Jupiter?” My head spun as he urged me toward my clothing. I grabbed a green stola and pulled it over my head, fluffing my hair with tired arms.
Cupid tugged me forward, his face near mine. “He will make our marriage official for all of Olympus to know. And then we have much to decide. Will we live on Earth? Or will you join me at my palace? Every choice is yours, Psyche. You need only tell me.”
Joy and disbelief filled me, and I took his smiling face into my hands. “Perhaps, we could travel?”
He lifted me, spinning us and laughing as I held on to his shoulders.
“I will show you all there is to see, Wife. Places in the world so scenic in their primitiveness that only a soul such as yours could look upon them and appreciate the differences of culture without feeling the need to change or conquer.”
My eyes widened at his seriousness. In his eyes I saw a thrill of anticipation for our life together that matched my own. I slid down and wrapped my arms tightly around his neck. “I love you, Cupid.”
He nearly squeezed the air from me. “And I love you, Psyche. I cannot wait to spend the rest of your life showing you just how much you mean to me.”
I pulled back to see his face. “To Jupiter,” I said.
“Hold on tight.”
Jupiter’s palace put Cupid’s to shame. It wasn’t just a palace—it was a glittering city with every manner of immortal creature that one could imagine. Satyrs and centaurs stared at our joined hands as we walked the gold-stoned path through fantastical gardens with flowers as large as my head. A Pegasus walked on the high rooftop, its white coat shining as it stretched its wings as it shook its head.
My ears filled with song and I froze in place. The tune filled my ears and soaked into my soul. The source called to me. I needed to find the musicians. When I attempted to pull away from Cupid, he tugged me back and clicked his tongue, turning his head away from me to shout something. All became quiet and I turned to see three girls with slick, long, black hair draped in seaweed gowns, giggling at me.
“Sirens,” Cupid muttered. A sickening realization slid through me. They’d been singing to me, trying to lure me in like some sad sailor, and I had completely succumbed! These immortals had a way of making mortals feel violated with their easy power over us. I glared at the three, and Cupid moved us quickly past them.
At the entrance to Jupiter’s palace were two stone gargoyles like ones who guarded the entrance of the underworld, but these were clean and shiny. As we neared, they grew to life, softening and enlarging, their spears glinting in the sun.