Chapter Twenty Six
As she forced herself to remain still, Kali couldn’t quite get over how Hades looked. His hair was long and black, like the shadows he blended into. If she had tried to imagine what he looked like, she would have guessed that correctly. The broad shoulders and muscular arms were a delicious surprise. He was much less bulky than Ares or Heracles, but his tight black t-shirt showed off his physique exquisitely. He looked refined, but there was something rugged and intense lurking just beneath the surface.
She bit her lip, hard, to keep her eyes from roaming. Instead, she pulled her gaze back to his unfathomable eyes to see them fixed on her face. Hades stood in front of her, silently waiting. Suddenly, she dropped her gaze and managed to murmur “Your eyes really are blue.”
A long finger touched her chin and she shivered. Whenever he had touched her before, it had felt like there was a fine layer of something between them. The contact, out of the shadows, was electric. He lifted her face back up to look at him, letting his hand linger. “You doubted me?”
Kali shook her head weakly, but she couldn’t find the words to answer him. Instead, she just watched his face as his lips curved up into half a smile. She didn’t realise she had stopped breathing until air rushed back into her lungs. That smile. His bone structure was captivating, the arched brow and the high cheekbones and the strong jaw, dusted with stubble. The sensation of his smile had always haunted her, but to see it.
Kali flinched when Achilles cleared his throat pointedly from behind her. With the surprise of seeing him, really seeing him, she had forgotten that they weren’t alone. She glanced around to see the two Heroes looking thoroughly entertained. Kali lowered her face again to hide her blooming cheeks behind a curtain of hair.
Heracles and Achilles exchanged a look before Achilles muttered “Well…I think that’s our cue to skedaddle back downstairs…you kids have fun…get him back before curfew.”
Hades sighed at the joke and banished them with a wave of his hand. He bowed slowly, stealing her gaze with his striking eyes, and held out a hand to her. “Shall we?”
The eye contact was doing something strange to her. Her heart hummed. Biting her lip, Kali nodded and took his hand, savouring the feeling of him entwining their fingers. She knew her face was glowing like the sun, so she kept it down as he led her away from the Colosseum. Deep breaths.
She was pulled out of her cascading thoughts when Hades asked, “Is my appearance so unpleasant that you cannot bring yourself to look at me?”
Her eyes locked on his, shocked. “No! You’re…that is to say, I…” She blushed when she saw his teeth flashing in his grin. Hades’ lips curved slowly into a grin, all too aware of Kali’s fluttering heart. A deep throaty chuckle escaped him when the blush returned to her cheeks. At the sound, Kali whispered “You are too cruel, Lord Hades.”
“I certainly have my moments.” He chuckled quietly, pulling her towards the fountain to sit with him. His blue eyes glinted in the glimmering moonlight as he teased “You blush so easily. Is that the effect I have on you, I wonder?”
Her blush deepened, her eyes dropping to his mouth. She scolded herself for her honesty before she even got the words out as she breathlessly replied, “You know what effect you have on me.”
“Hmm…do I?” He stood quickly and dragged her to him. He pressed her body against his and held her there, looking down into her eyes. His hand cupped her cheek to keep her from shying away again. His expression was suddenly serious as he quietly suggested “Perhaps you should enlighten me as to exactly what effect I have on you, Kali.”
“Why?” His lips were so close, distracting her. Before her good sense could get in the way, she whispered in a rush “You said to ask if I still wanted to know. Why do you care?”
“Why do I care?” He echoed slowly. His hand feathered over her cheek until he brushed the edge of her lips curiously. “You felt guilty because someone else kissed you. Why?”
Her lips were dry. “You already know why.” She replied, looking helplessly up at him.
“Tell me again.” His voice was unyielding. “You said something when we last spoke. Did you mean it? Why do you feel guilty that Hermes kissed you?”
“Because I belong to you.” She whispered. She wanted to hide, but he was too close. Too close to think straight. Too close to remember why she shouldn’t tell him. “Because I love you.”
The silence that followed her tiny declaration was absolute. She couldn’t regret it, but she knew she should never have admitted such a thing. Hades was a god. She was nothing. Even if he was attracted to her, there was no chance that love was in his plans. Hanging her head, she tried to sound indifferent, saying “You can put me in my place whenever you’re ready.”
Hades tangled his fingers slowly in the hair at the back of her neck, gently pulling to bring her eyes back to his. His gaze was fierce when he murmured “That is what I’m after, Kali.”
“You said you expect me to put you in your place?” He slowly caressed her cheek and moved so close that his lips were only a breath away. A smug smile tugged at his lips when he saw hers tremble before he continued “You’re in it.”
Agonisingly slowly, he closed the distance between them. His hand slipped around her waist and his lips were feather-light as they brushed hers. The world melted away. After the first tentative touch, Kali leant into him helplessly. His kiss was soft and slow and dizzying. The few kisses she’d had before had been childish, needy, meagre. Inadequate in light of the fire his lips sent raging through her.
The kiss lasted only a moment, but Kali was shaking and breathless. Hades looked at her, fighting the smug smile her heavily lidded eyes brought him. She realised he was waiting for her reaction. All she could think was that she didn’t know how something so delicate could awaken so much need in her. There was nothing else to do but pull him to her to steal another kiss.
Hades’ response was a soft growl in the back of his throat. With no care for restraint, he crushed her body to his. When his teeth grazed across her bottom lip, Kali clutched his shoulders to steady herself. He chuckled against her lips, and slowly moved back. When they parted, smoke was curling at Kali’s feet and coiling around them both.
Hades rested his forehead against hers, taking one more kiss, and muttered “You didn’t kiss Hermes like that, did you? Otherwise I may have to kill him.”
Kali giggled breathlessly. She was relieved to feel Hades was just as affected by what had happened as she was. With a shuddering breath, he murmured “I have been yours since the moment we met.”
Despite the pleasant shiver his words gave her, Kali could feel his turmoil. She gently pressed her shaking hands onto his chest, feeling his heart beating a rhythm to match hers. “You can tell me anything.”
“Being with me would not be easy for you. You won’t always be safe.” His forehead still rested against hers and he closed his eyes, insisting “It would be selfish of me to pursue this. You deserve better than I can give you.”
“Is it Zeus?” He nodded reluctantly, and she kissed the corner of his mouth. “Would you prefer to keep this between us?”
He slowly pulled her into a tender embrace, his fingers tracing circles on her lower back. “I don’t want to hide you in the dark.”
“I’d happily trade the sunlight for you.” She whispered, opening the weight of her emotions to the bond they shared.
He flinched, like she had punched him in the gut, and his arms tightened around her. His voice was uncharacteristically thick with emotion. “Kali, I will not have you in my shadow. If you are mine, you stand at my side. There is no other way.”
His words made her tremble, but she could feel the chaos that raged inside him. Reluctantly, she suggested “Do you want to wait?”
Kali giggled at the force he put into the word and teased “I thought immortals were supposed to be patient.”
“I am not. Not when it comes to claiming what is mine. I don’t want to have to sit back and let anyone else touch you. I want to be able to protect you. I want you at my side.” His arms loosened and he took a small step back, putting distance between them. He sounded very tired as he continued “Zeus will not stand for this. Until things quieten down with him, it would be better for you if he did not feel more threatened. I am the biggest threat to him, and I always have been. I am not a safe option for you.”
“You’re worth the risk.” Kali took his hand, but she knew his mind was made up.
“As are you. I would gladly endure his wrath for your sake. But I will not have you live in fear for my sake.” Hades brought Kali’s hand to his lips, turning it to kiss her wrist. “For now…know that I am yours, body and soul. But I won’t kiss you again until I can be sure that the king will not be a problem.”
Kali bit her lip, her gold eyes locked on his sorrowful blues. She wanted to respect his choice, but she knew it wasn’t what he wanted. She whispered his name, her lips trembling, and he snarled darkly before pinning her to one of the pillars around the mess hall.
The kiss was explosive. Passionate and filled with an aching need that set Kali aflame, quite literally. It was almost as violent as Ares’ had been, but it was so much more. Kali needed everything about it. Hades’ lips broke away and trailed down her neck and nipped at the sensitive skin, making her cry out. He returned to her lips, swallowing the noise. Between kisses, he chuckled “I’ve been dying to hear you make that sound.”
When they parted, she was still holding onto his shirt. Giggling, she murmured “So much for not letting anyone known.”
Hades rested his head against the pillar over Kali’s shoulder. “They can’t see us, Kali. I thought you knew.”
“You hid us?” She buried her face in his chest and breathed him in.
“In the Colosseum.” His arms curled around her and he tangled his fingers in her hair. “I didn’t want to take the decision away from you. If Ares watched our interactions, it would be obvious I had feelings for you.”
Kali wondered if she should be upset, but she was touched. A thrill went up her spine at the thought that they were invisible, in the middle of camp. Blushing furiously, she snuggled deeper in his embrace. His soft chuckle told her he knew why, but he didn’t push the topic. They stayed there for several minutes, not wanting their time together in the shining moonlight to end.
Eventually, Kali made it back to her room. Hades waited at her door and murmured “I had planned to be romantic, tonight. Seeing you without the shadows between us affected me more than I anticipated.” He ran a hand through his hair, admitting “You make me crazy, Kali.”
She blushed with pleasure, but his tone made her ask “Is that a bad thing?”
“It’s a dangerous thing.” He sighed, taking her hands. Kali shivered at his touch and her eyes roamed his face again. She had a feeling she wouldn’t have the chance to see him freely for a long time.
“Tonight was…” She stumbled over the words; there weren’t any to describe how special his gift had been. “Thank you, Hades.” She finished quietly.
Hades picked a wooden rose out of the air, handing it to her. “Happy Birthday, Kali.” He bowed to kiss her hands, lingering long enough to make her tremble, and promised “I will see you in the morning.”
He reluctantly pulled the shadows back around him, but kept his eyes on hers. As soon as he was cloaked from her sight, he melted into the darkness and he was gone. Kali stood in the same spot, every inch of her tingling, for a long minute before she remembered to close the door.
If she hadn’t trained with Achilles, Kali knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep for replaying every moment of the evening. As it was, she didn’t even manage to change for bed. She placed the staff and rose carefully in the trunk in her living room, with the rest of her gifts, and stumbled onto the sofa. Her last thoughts before her head hit the cushion were of Hades.
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