The scene begins with Rowena and Caedmon bedding down for the night near the campfire...
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A glistening panorama of infinite beauty adorned the sky. Wisps of white clouds drifted before a sea of shimmering pinpricks of light. “Look at all those stars,” she whispered.
“Helios’ diamond offerings.”
Frowning, she lifted her head. What was he talking about? “Excuse me?”
He searched her face a moment before a gentle smile tugged at his lips. “When the land was young, long before kings held thrones or beasts foraged the wood…” He slipped the leather tie from the tail of her braid and gently unwound the tight weave. “Helios reigned the heavens, his radiant light all-seeing, his strength far-reaching.”
Thick, blunt-tipped fingers speared through the sensitive hair at her nape. She shuddered and bit her bottom lip, her scalp tingling when he combed his fingers through to the tips of her hair. Her nipples hardened and moisture pooled between her thighs. A spasm quivered low, grasping and aching for a sweet invasion.
“Yet the sun god was lonely. So he called upon his mighty power, and from the air he breathed to life nine goddesses to inhabit his realm.” A second thrust of his hand through her hair and her insides liquefied. He clenched his fingers, massaging her neck. She tightened her jaw as her eyes fluttered closed. A muted buzz throbbed in her ears, a giddy flush swept her skin.
“In their infancy, the goddesses were frivolous, prone to mischief and folly. Helios soon determined none of them posed a good match for an ancient being such as he.”
A slight tug as his splayed fingers raked through to the ends and her hair tumbled and whispered along her back. Her reasons for denying him blurred and weakened. Soon, anything he asked of her she would freely give.
“An unforgiving god, Helios grew frustrated by his daughters’ constant pranks and cast them from his side into darkness, dividing them for all eternity.” Caedmon extended his arm and pointed skyward. “There is Cassiel, goddess of the harvest.”
Rowena twisted her shoulders, a hand pressed to his chest as she squinted at the small cluster of stars in the shape of a sickle. She turned back to him with a smile. Never in her wildest dreams would she have guessed this seasoned warrior could spin such an enchanting bedtime story. “And so?”
He smirked, eyes sparkling with delight. A large hand pressed her back and she returned her cheek to his chest. “Over time, the great sky god regretted his impatience and sought out his daughters in repentance.” His voice softened to a low murmur, vibrating her skin. All the worries she’d carried swirled into nonexistence and she became lost in the gentle cadence of his tale. “Helios chased after the night, growing ever closer, but his bright rays always alerted the nine to his presence, and his daughters fled from their father in fear.”
“Oh, that’s so sad.”
“Yes, but my tale has a happy ending. You must be patient.” A pair of supple lips pressed a kiss to the top of her forehead and she smiled and snuggled deeper against him. “The beautiful moon goddess Selene was aware of the rift between the mighty king and his daughters, for she had welcomed the nine into her realm, vowing to keep them sheltered from harm.”
“Uh huh, that’s because women are smarter than men.”
“Stop interrupting.” He smacked her bottom and she jumped, snapping her head up, her jaw unhinged. One shrewd eyebrow rose and he tsked three times, his palm rubbing the slight sting on her right butt cheek. “Be a good girl or I shall demand recompense for my tale other than a mere cozy by the fire.”
She narrowed her eyes at him even as excitement spiked in her stomach. A clear visual screamed into focus—all the titillating ways he might exact such a reward—the eagerness with which she would strive to fulfill his desires. “Finish the story.”
A rebellious smile toyed with her lips as she returned her cheek to his chest. Evidently the man harbored quite the playful side, as well.
“The heart of the moon goddess grew heavy with sorrow, so she took it upon herself to visit Helios, intent to mend the violent schism between father and nine daughters. The moment she broke the horizon, he became enraptured by her beauty and blazed bright. He raced across the sky, aimed for goddess, for he knew, at last, he had found his true love.”
An image of Caedmon, chasing after her during his homecoming celebration, swam into focus. How like Helios and Selene they had been that night. A cascade of delight tickled her heart and she sighed. “I love this story.”
Caedmon’s soft chuckle created the perfect bass undertone to the beat of his heart. His hand swept the length of her side and her eyes instinctively closed when he squeezed her shoulder. “Mistaking his passion for rage, Selene grew frightened by his scorching advance, for she had not the occasion to meet so radiant a being, and fled in terror back to her throne.
“The sun god chased after her, but no matter his speed, the moon goddess evaded capture, gathering the night near. In desperate search of refuge, she secreted her face behind the veil of her ebony cloak.”
A new moon. He was describing a new moon, the reason for its disappearance. Another smile blossomed and she drew closer still, twining a leg through his.
“Helios grieved for pale goddess’ return. Forever lost to him was the splendor of his utmost love. In a fit of despair and self-loathing, he rent pieces of his being and flung them from far from view. Yet with this sacrifice, hope sparked anew. For when the glittering flames appeared in Selene’s realm, she risked a peek from behind her dark shroud.”
Rowena rolled her head to the side. She blinked up at the sky and, for the first time, imagined the glowing crescent of the waxing moon as a frightened goddess, peering out from behind an inky curtain, on the lookout for the fiery god who so ardently pursued her. Another roll of her head and she touched her lips to Caedmon’s chest, breathing the scent of him deep into her lungs. Thank the nine, he hadn’t given up. If not for his persistence, she’d be alone now, cold and alone. Fighting the same desolation she’d lived since the day he’d been wrenched from her arms.
“The eldest of the nine recognized Selene’s curiosity. So driven by love and the chance to earn her father’s favor, Fortuna perched on the cusp of both realms, awaiting the moment she could ensnare the god’s attention and convey the rending of his spirit had not been in vain.”
Yes, yes, she’d seen that star. The one hovering on the horizon right before nightfall.
“Helios’ desires flared and seared hot when he learned all was not lost, so he tore out his white heart, split the chambers in his fierce fist and tossed the embers toward his love, night after night, until his diamond offerings lay scattered at her feet, lighting all the dark corners of her realm.”
A tear crept past her lashes and she held a breath against the aching sorrow constricting her throat. How much of this story was legend, and how much embodied the man in her arms? The similarities were too many to count.
“With each evening, as more and more stars appeared, Selene crept farther and farther from her hiding spot, until at last she stood, round and full, in awe of her sun god’s devotion. When next she broke the horizon, Helios remained centered, waiting, having learned patience should his love be quick to flee. As she slowly approached, her white pale to his fiery glow, they were joined as one and a vibrant brilliance bathed the land from sea to sea. Life sprang forth and prospered, abundance was made free. And from this, their eternal love, man was born.”
Rowena hitched a breath and held tight. Caedmon offered her that same patience even now. Even when she didn’t deserve it.
“Witnessing the divine proof of their union, the god and goddess rejoiced. Selene eventually made to depart to her throne, though she vowed to return, as she has throughout the ages, so the two can be reunited and all creatures may bask in their love.”
“Oh, Caedmon.” She sniffed and wiped at another bloated tear. “That’s beautiful.”
“Shhh, my love,” he whispered, squeezing her shoulder. “Sleep, now. You are safe. We have finally come home to one another’s arms.”
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