I don’t think this is what Dinlas meant to teach me tonight, and, right now, I don’t care. I have gone from learning how to put up a fight to surrendering to his kiss in the space of a moment.
Closing my eyes, I lean into his mouth. I can still taste the wine on his lips and tongue, and it stirs up another memory. All the fire that has had nothing to burn, since that night by the moon pool, surges into my veins. As he deepens the kiss, the sound I hear myself make isn’t protest, but rather something raw, hungry. My arm goes around his neck, drawing him closer to me, pulling him back on top of me.
Dinlas offers no resistance. It’s a tension that has been building between us since the first time we met. He fits himself against me as his thigh presses hard between mine, making me ache. His hands slide up my sides, up my neck, his fingers twisting hard into my hair. I gasp as he pulls my head back and trails kisses down my exposed throat, his stubble an agonizing foil to his soft lips and tongue.
Once again, he has me pinned, cool earth below me, and the heat of his body above me. I arch against him, hands clawing at his back. I wrap a leg around his hips, moved by instinct, not experience. I whisper his name again and again, as the ache deepens, begins to burn. All I know is I don’t want him to stop. Ever.
I gasp again as a sudden jolt of pain – or is it pleasure – spirals up my legs, around my thighs, crawling my body the same way his hands are moving over me, learning me, claiming me. I hear him groan against my neck. He feels it, too. At first, we ignore it. The warmth simply feels too good. But as his kisses trail lower, the heat becomes intense.
I am on fire.
Dinlas pushes himself off me. I grab his shirt, needing the feel of his weight on me again. As I struggle to pull him back down, we both look down and stop at the sight of my body. All down my bare arms and legs, delicate yet deep tracings of fire adorn my skin. Golden, undulating light seems to roll beneath the etched lines in waves, like embers in a fire. It hurts, but the rush of ecstasy that follows on its heels makes me wonder if that’s how it’s supposed to feel.
Dinlas gazes at my fiery form in wonder, “Wha- what is happening to you? Hekate, are you okay?”
I am torn between shaking my head because I don’t know and nodding because I’m fine. So fine. On fire and delirious. “I don’t know…it’s never happened before. It feels…I just want more. Please, Dinlas.”
He looks at me, unsure, then lowers himself to me again. His grip tightens in my hair once more, and he pulls my head back, his mouth devouring the exposed line of my throat and jaw. I feel the fire slide up between my breasts to meet the heat of his mouth. I don’t have to see it to know that every new line on my body is surging with light, power rolling off of me and into Dinlas. He shudders from the sensation but does not stop. He raises his head, and I can see that the fire has him in a state of ecstasy to match mine. I turn my face toward his, needing his mouth on mine. Sensing my need, he kisses me, hard, his lips bruising mine.
It occurs to me this is all I’ve ever wanted, this excruciating pleasure that tilts toward pain and back. The power coursing through me is primal, all earth and fire, some spell that Dinlas has cast on my body. The thought of stopping is like paper in that fire. It turns to ash and is gone.
A soft rustle of wings cuts through everything like a blade. Dinlas and I both know the sound only too well — Thanatos’ wings. Dinlas raises to the side on one arm, and we both look to find him standing there, shocked, at the sight of our entwined bodies, tangled up in passion and fire. He says nothing, and with another rustle of wings, he vanishes.
I turn my eyes back to Dinlas, wait for him to look at me, and feel like I’m falling into the void. The fire burning through me pulses, throbbing beneath my skin, and that’s when I realize – it’s magic. Raw, untamed, like wildfire through dry brush in a steady wind. In the darkness of his eyes, images flicker of things that make no sense. Things that don’t yet exist. Things that have existed since before there were stars.
One comes into view, of the goddess who rolled in tonight on the mist, then that same goddess in the embrace of another. It takes me a moment to realize that the other person is Dinlas. The eyes are wrong, but it’s him. And the way he is looking at her is nothing like the way he is looking at me.
Nyx and…Dinlas? A final thrum of power skitters down my spine as I understand what I’m seeing is the future. His future, and hers. Knowing douses me like ice water, cooling the fire in my veins. I watch the lines on my arms begin to retreat, turning darker, orange, then red, then black before fading beneath the surface of my skin entirely.
Dinlas pushes himself off me. He rolls to the side and sits up, looking utterly mortified. “Hekate, what just happened? And Thanatos? I have to go after him, explain that it just happened.”
“No, I will. This…he needs to know how I feel. From me. About him, and you. That’s what is hurting him. Not you. The imagined loss of me.” I stare at the sky overhead. “That’s on me for not having that conversation already.”
Dinlas glances back again at the spot where Thanatos had stood, then back to me. “I don’t know. This was just…we’ve been friends a long time. I really couldn’t care about Hyp, but I don’t want to lose Thanatos over this.” His voice trails off as he looks at me apprehensively, like he thinks I am going to burst into flames again.
“Then, talk to him,” I whisper. “Just give me a couple of days. Let me talk to him first. This sounds terrible, and I don’t mean it to. But, let me break his heart. I’ll tell him this was…” I take a breath and lie. “I’ll tell him this was nothing. And that I don’t feel that way about either one of you. And then, he’ll need you, Dinlas. I don’t think you’ll have much explaining to do.”
Dinlas squints and scans my face for reaction. I force myself to remain neutral. “Yeah, uh, yeah, this was nothing. I mean, it just happened, and it’s not a big deal.” He pauses to collect himself, then continues, “What was that? That fire, what was that?”
I hold up my arms, pale and unmarked. “Magic, I think. I’ve been able to do some for a long time, but have always been limited by my own energy. This…this was like…like having roots in the earth’s core, drinking fire. I wasn’t sure until…” I pause, wondering if I should tell him, decide I should. One more brick in the wall we have to build between us. “Until I saw visions of things. Things I know are true, but haven’t happened yet.”
“Visions? Like what? Visions of us?”
My laugh is more bitter than I want. “Not us. You. And not with me. With another goddess. One as lovely as the night and all her stars.”
Dinlas scrutinizes my face. “Another goddess? You mean a night goddess?” I can see his thoughts churning. I’m relieved he seems to know who it is, so I don’t have to say it. She may still be lurking around.
“So, you see, this can’t have been anything. If you’d seen the way she was looking at you, like she’d been hunting for you her entire life…and the way you looked at her…”
Dinlas frowns and picks at an imaginary spot on his pants. “Another goddess, who hunts for me? I…I just…it felt with the fire here, and everything like it was more than nothing. You can’t tell me that didn’t unlock something. You can’t tell me that wasn’t passion.” He keeps looking down, then falls silent in his thoughts. I have dropped a lot on him at once, and he is sifting through all of it.
“No, that would be a lie,” I admit, body still aching. I take a trembling breath. “Do you love me, Dinlas?”
His head whips up at my forward question, eyes wide, staring at me. “I don’t know. I’ve come to care a great deal for you in just a short amount of time.”
I can’t look at him. If I do, I’ll fall back into those eyes and won’t be able to say what needs saying. “Even if you thought you loved me, Din, all I can tell you is that you would be wrong. Don’t you understand? I’ve seen you happy. And it’s not with me. And no, this wasn’t…nothing. I shouldn’t have said it. But I have to let it be nothing. For Than’s heart now. For your heart…in the future.” I brush away a tear. “Just…please don’t think I’m like that, Din. Like I’m just one more person who doesn’t want you. Because I-I do.”
Dinlas’ expression is impossible to discern, so he catches me off guard with his next question. “What about you, then, Hekate? Did you see a vision of your heart? Happy? Content?”
I look at him a moment, then shake my head. “No, for me, all I saw was darkness. I figure it’s against the rules. Seeing for yourself. Kinda stacks the deck. I suppose I’ll just have to wait and find out.” I feel a chill go down my spine, like night falling over me, shadow after flame.
Dinlas stands and dusts off the seat of his pants before offering a hand to me. “We should get you back. You’ve given me a lot to think about, both present and future. I can take you back to the gate and get you past Cerberus. Is that okay?”
I take his hand and let him help me up, but don’t let go. I force myself to meet his eyes because I need him to know how serious this is, what I’m asking. “Dinlas, I need you to promise me something.”
My tone catches his attention. “Promise you what?”
I step closer to him, staring at his chest, finding words.
“That this won’t happen again. We promise each other, right now, not even so much as a kiss.” I look him in the eyes, so he knows. So he understands. “I…can walk away once. I don’t think I’m strong enough to do it twice.”
He looks down at me and moves to put his hands on my shoulders, then stops and lowers them without touching me.
“An oath, then? My fate is to be happy with another, and yours is shrouded in darkness.” He pauses to force a chuckle. “I feel like I am getting the better deal, especially since I already know which goddess you mean. But yes, I promise as well. Nevertheless, we will still be friends? Close?”
I swallow hard. That’s the more difficult promise to keep. It’s one thing to deny yourself something and put it out of sight, out of mind. It’s another to keep it close at hand and never reach for it. But the thought of losing our friendship is even worse, so I nod.
“Yes, of course,” I tell him, forcing a smile. “Who else is going to keep you on your toes?”
He nods and flashes me his boyish grin. “I can’t think of anyone offhand. Come on, Princess, let’s get you home.”