"I'm sorry about this," I told him. "Sorry you had to... do all this."
I closed my eyes. "Relationships suck. This is why I don't date. You just hurt people."
"Most good things come with the risk of something bad," he observed philosophically.
I remembered the letter he'd sent me, about the long-term girlfriend he'd neglected for his writing. "Would you do it again?" I asked. "Go out with that one girl? Even if you knew things would turn out exactly the same?"
A pause. "Yes."
"Not me what?"
I opened my eyes and looked up at him. "I was married once." It was the kind of drunken admission one made fully aware that it would never have been spoken sober. "Did you know that?"
"No one does."
"It didn't work out then?" Seth asked when I didn't say anything for a minute.
I couldn't help a bitter laugh. Didn't work out? That was an understatement. I had been weak and foolish, giving into the same physical urges that had nearly led me into disaster with Roman. Only with Ariston, I couldn't claim drunkenness for that slip. I had been dead sober, and honestly, I think I'd been planning it for a long time anyway. We both had.
He'd come over one day for another visit, only this time we didn't talk much. I think we were past conversation by then. We'd both been restless, pacing and standing, making small talk that neither of us really listened to. My attention was on his physical presence - on his body and the powerful muscles in his arms and legs. The air was so thick with sexual tension it was a wonder we could move at all.
I walked to the window, staring at nothing as I listened to him pacing the rest of the house. A moment later he returned, this time standing behind me. His hands suddenly rested on my shoulders, the first deliberate touch he'd ever made. His fingers burned me like a brand, and I shivered, making his hold tighten as he stepped closer to me.
"Letha," he said in my ear, "you know... you know I think about you all the time. I think about what it would be like to... be with you."
"You're with me now."
"You know that's not what I mean."
He turned me around to face him, and his gaze was like hot oil running over my body, slick and scorching. Trailing his hands up my neck, he cupped my face for a moment. He leaned down and held his mouth a breath away from mine. Then, his tongue darted out and lightly ran over my lips, the barest of caresses. My lips parted, and I leaned forward to take more, but he stepped away with a small smile. One of his hands moved down to my shoulder, to the clasp that held my gown together, and unfastened it. The fabric slid off me, pooling around me on the floor, so I stood naked before him.
His eyes blazed, taking in every part. I should have felt embarrassed or shy, but I didn't. I felt wonderful. Desired. Adored. Wanted. Powerful.
"I would do anything, anything at all to have you right now," he whispered. His hands traveled down my shoulders to the sides of my br**sts, to my waist, and then my hips. My mother had always said my hips were too skinny, but under his hands, they felt lush and sexy. "I would kill for you. I would go to the ends of the earth for you. I would do anything at all that you ask. Anything just to feel your body against mine and your legs wrapped around me."
"No one's ever said anything like that to me." I was surprised at how calmly my voice came out. Inside, I was melting. I would hear variations of his promises for the next millennium or so, from a hundred different men, but at the time, the words were fresh and new.
Ariston'slips turned up in a rueful smile. " Kyriakosmust say things like that all the time." There was an arch tone to his voice, reminding me that even though the two men were longtime friends, there had always been a rivalry underscoring that friendship.
"No. He makes love to me with his eyes."
"I want to use a lot more than my eyes."
In that moment, I suddenly understood the power women had over men. It was surprising and exhilarating. Never mind issues of property and politics; it was in the bedroom that women ruled. With flesh and sheets and sweat. The knowledge filled me, rushing through me with an arousal stronger than any aphrodisiac could produce. I thrived on it, liking this newfound clout. I think it was this revelation that would later make the powers of hell cast me as a succubus.
I reached out trembling hands to him and began removing his tunic. He stood still as I undressed him, but every inch of him quivered with heat and longing. His breathing came heavy and fast as I studied his body now, noticing all the ways it was the same as Kyriakos ' and all the ways it was different. I moved my fingertips over him, lightly touching the tanned flesh, the well-defined muscles, the ni**les. Then my hands moved lower, below his stomach, wrapping around the long, hard length they found there. Ariston emitted a soft groan but did not move toward me yet. He was still waiting for my consent.
I raised my eyes from my fondling hands and looked into his face. He really would have done anything for me. That awareness increased my need for him.
"You can do anything you want to me," I told him finally.
I made it sound like a concession, but truthfully, I wanted him to do anything he wanted. My words broke the spell that had been holding us apart. It was like a damn bursting. Like exhaling after holding your breath for too long. A rush. A release. My body nearly tumbled into his, like it had been straining and straining at bindings that had finally been cut. Touching him made me realize we should have been touching long before this.
He jerked me into a harsh kiss, jamming his tongue into my mouth as his hands moved under me to grab the backs of my thighs. In one motion, he hoisted me up and pressed my back against the wall. My legs wrapped around his hips, needing him closer to me, and then with one hard thrust, he was inside. I don't know if I was too tight or he was too big - maybe both - but it hurt in a sort of pleasurable way. I let out a surprised cry, but he didn't stop to see if I was okay. The passion had seized him, that animalistic urge locked deep into our blood that ensures the continuation of our species. He focused only on his own pleasure now as he pushed into me, over and over, harder and harder, seeming to thrive on every moan and scream that crossed my lips. I wouldn't have thought I could find release in such rough sex, but I did - more than once. Each time, it came as a great, consuming wave of sensation, starting deep within me and spreading throughout my body, rubbing every nerve, covering every piece of me until I was completely saturated. Then the wave would explode into glittering fragments, leaving me warm and tender and breathless. Like being shattered then remade. It was exquisite. Each of these orgasms seemed to drive him more urgently until his own climax came. This time, I was the one thriving on his release, digging my nails into his back as tightly as I could, holding on to him, bringing the episode to a shuddering, gasping end.
And yet, it wasn't the end because in only a little while, he was ready again. He took me to my bed and this time put me on my knees, leaning into me from behind. "I've heard the old women say this is the best position for conceiving a child," he whispered.
I had only a moment to ponder this before he was in me again, still rough and demanding. I considered his words as he pumped away, that maybe he would be the one who gave me a child after all, not Kyriakos. The realization made me feel strange, eager yet regretful.
Aristonfelt no such regret when we lay back on the blankets later in the afternoon, both of us exhausted and spent as warm sun spilled in over us through the window.
"The lack could be in Kyriakos," he explained. "Not you. With as many times as I've had you today, you can't help but get pregnant." He sucked my earlobe and wrapped his arms around me from behind, letting his hands rest on my br**sts. "I've filled you up, Letha."
His voice was low and proprietary, like he'd just gained something more tangible than sex. Suddenly I wondered who really did have the power in the bedroom after all.
I lay against him, wondering what I had done and what I wanted to do now. How did one go back to being a wife after being someone else's goddess? I never got to decide, however, because the next thing I heard was Kyriakos calling me from the front of the house, home too early. Ariston and I both sat up, startled. My fingers fumbled as I tried to get the blankets off me, tangling in the fabric. My dress. I needed to find my dress. But it wasn't here, I realized. I'd left it in the other room. Maybe, I thought desperately, I could get to it before Kyriakos found us. Maybe I could move fast enough.