Kiss of Danger (The Dragon Legion Novellas) (5 page)

BOOK: Kiss of Danger (The Dragon Legion Novellas)
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Alexander was finally home.

 

Chapter Two

 

The hot spill of Alexander’s seed recalled Katina to her senses.

How could she have been so foolish?

Alexander dozed in her arms as he always did after his release, looking so handsome and relaxed that Katina wished she could let him sleep. But that was impossible. She’d put everything at risk with her impulsive and passionate greeting. She wanted nothing more than to stay wrapped in his warmth, but she heard the slaves preparing the evening meal. It was becoming darker, which could only mean one thing.

Her husband, Cetos, would return. What would he do to Alexander?

“Wake up,” she whispered urgently to Alexander. “Wake up! Alexander, you must leave.” She tried to get out of the bed, but he wrapped himself around her, holding her close to his warmth. He kissed her temple sweetly and she knew he’d fall asleep with her trapped against his nude body.

If only she could have enjoyed that pleasure.

“Not yet.” Alexander opened his eyes and granted her a sleepy smile that wrenched her heart. “Give me a moment, then we’ll greet each other again. The second time is always slower, and better.” He slid his fingers into her hair and would have pulled her back down for another kiss, but Katina squirmed out of his grip.

“No!” she commanded in an undertone. “You have to leave before there is talk.”

Alexander’s sleepy smile didn’t waver. “There’s probably already talk. I didn’t sneak into the village.” Katina backed away from him, searching for her clothes. “The meal can wait,” he murmured, then patted the bed beside himself.

Katina turned away from the temptation he offered, wishing she had been able to resist him the first time. She tugged on her chiton and knotted the belt swiftly around her waist, noting that her hands were shaking.

Cetos had such a temper. He’d only shouted at her in the past, but she feared that finding her first husband naked in her bedroom might push him too far. She already knew that he resented her choosing Alexander over him the first time.

The one thing they argued about was her determination to continue to wear Alexander’s ring.

“What’s wrong, Katina?” Alexander asked softly and she spun to find that he was watching her closely. His eyes glittered and he already sat on the edge of the bed, so taut that he looked poised to leap. She hadn’t even heard him move.

“Everything is wrong!” she whispered, not knowing where to begin.

“Everything is finally right,” Alexander corrected firmly. He got to his feet with purpose and crossed the room to her side. “I’m home, and we’re together again. We’ll raise our son and maybe have a few more.” He lifted her hair and pressed an enticing kiss to the side of her neck. Oh, how well she remembered that Alexander was never satisfied with one mating.

“There’s no time for this! You must go!”

Alexander sobered and his eyes narrowed. He flicked a glance around the bedroom, his gaze lingering on the second bed. His eyes seemed to brighten, and he turned in place, clearly seeking something. “Where’s the cradle for Lysander?”

Katina was impatient with the question. She picked up one of his garments and flung it at him. “What difference? He has no use of it now.”

“What do you mean?” Alexander froze, his expression horrified. “What’s happened to him?”

“He’s grown up, of course.” Katina poked at the garment he hadn’t yet put on. “A man named Pelias came last week to collect him.”

Alexander didn’t move. “Why?”

“For the
agoge
,” Katina said, not understanding why Alexander should be so shocked. The mandatory military training for the young boys of Sparta was part of his legacy to their son.

Alexander sat down hard on the bed, as if his legs couldn’t support him. “But a boy must be eight years of age for the
agoge
.”

“Yes. Please get dressed!”

Alexander gave her a challenging look. “
Eight
years.”

Katina stared at him as she understood his surprise. Her fear abandoned her, replaced by a ripple of anger. “Yes, he is eight.” She propped a hand on her hip. “Don’t you know how long you’ve been gone?”

If she’d expected him to deny it or make some excuse, she was to be disappointed.

Alexander stared around the room, as if seeing it for the first time. He surveyed every detail, but avoided looking at her.

His confusion tore at her heart, but she couldn’t understand how he couldn’t know how much time had passed. What game was he playing? “How long did you think you had been gone?”

Alexander’s expression turned weary then. “It’s been as thousands of years for me.”

Katina bit her lip. Alexander wasn’t a poetic man and she knew it. He could be evasive, and he wasn’t one to easily share all the secrets of his heart. Now that their moment of passion had passed, she remembered all the fault lines in their short marriage. There was so much she didn’t know about Alexander. He couldn’t
literally
mean thousands of years, could he? Where had he been? What had happened to him?

As much as she wanted to know the story, there was no time to hear it. Not now. “You have to leave,” she repeated. “Please, dress yourself and go.”

“Go?” Alexander frowned at her. “Katina, I’ve dreamed of returning to you all this time. Why would I leave now?”

“Because you can’t stay here.”

“Of course, I can stay here.” He became indignant. “You’re my wife...”

“I
was
your wife, but you left.”

Alexander stared at Katina and she knew from the intensity of his gaze that he’d guessed the truth. He took a deep breath, one that made his nostrils flare. His eyes began to glitter with a strange light, one that made Katina take a step backwards. “You married again?” he asked as if this were incomprehensible.

“You sent no word,” she replied with frustration. “Not a single message in eight years! What would I think except that you’d been killed?”

He ran a hand over his head. ‘But if it’s been eight years, then my service is done,” he said, almost to himself, then turned to her with his eyes alight.

Katina refused to be seduced by his hopeful expression. Even so, she knew that if he touched her, she’d lose the battle. She held up a hand between them. “Wait. You
knew
it might be eight years? You knew and you never mentioned as much?”

“I didn’t expect it would be...”

“You should have told me!”

He stood up, looking grim. “Would you have married again if I had told you?”

She knew the promise he wanted, but couldn’t give it. “Eight years is a long time,” she replied. “I had a son. I had no husband. I had to survive. We would have starved in eight years, easily.”

“But you had your pottery...”

“And no trade in it.”

“Why not?”

“Alexander, I’m not skilled at this craft.”

“You should have been able to sell enough.”

Katina had to avert her gaze. “And there were stories...”

“What kind of
stories
? What did people say about you?”

“It doesn’t matter! No one would come to me to buy, and Lysander had to eat.” She spun and paced the width of the room, knowing there was no short version of the story he would accept. “You were gone, and I had no word from you. I made a
choice
, because I had to.”

Alexander folded his arms across his chest. His body rigid and there was a curious flicker of blue light surrounding him, although Katina couldn’t guess what it was. “Who?” he demanded in a low voice.

Katina simply held his gaze and let him guess.

Alexander swore thoroughly as he turned away from her. He marched the width of the room twice, and looked as if he’d put his fist through the wall.

Katina was shocked. She had never managed she could provoke him to such a visible display of anger. She supposed it was the sign of his feelings that she’d always wanted, but in this moment, she didn’t like the sight.

Alexander returned to face her. He caught her shoulders in his hands so that she couldn’t evade his gaze. “Not Cetos?” he demanded, clearly guessing that it was Cetos. “You didn’t want to marry him before.” His voice rose. “I ensured you didn’t have to!”

That blue light surrounding his body became more vivid, like a lick of lightning. Katina felt the intensity of his anger, but she was unafraid of him.

Alexander would never hurt her.

Katina held his gaze. “I had no choice,” she said, biting off the words. “No other man would have me. I did what had to be done for Lysander.
Our
son needed a future and I was the only one here to give it to him.” She decided she might as well tell him all of it. “I asked him to marry me.”

Alexander flinched at that, but Katina had no satisfaction from his response.

In fact, she felt sad and empty. He was back but she had to send him away, because of choices she’d made. She knew how Alexander was about pledges and promises.

She lifted his hand from her shoulder, kissed his fingertips, then dropped his hand and stepped back. “You must leave now.”

Alexander didn’t move. “Was he kind to Lysander?”

“He wasn’t unkind,” Katina acknowledged, guessing that Alexander would hear the difference. “He wasn’t pleased to raise another man’s son, which is why he’ll be glad that Pelias came.”

“He’s not here?”

“He was gone, trading. He’ll return tonight.” Katina frowned at Alexander’s obvious dissatisfaction with her answer. “Cetos never treated Lysander badly. He just ignored him.”

That still wasn’t enough. Alexander’s voice dropped low. “Was he kind to you?”

“I made a vow,” Katina said softly. “You, of all people, should respect that.”

“No!” Alexander retorted. He was furious, as outraged at injustice as only a man of honor could be. “No, I’m back and I will stay. You don’t love him, Katina, and you never did.”

“You don’t know that...”

“I
do
know that. Your body told me the truth of it.” Alexander watched as she caught her breath. “If you loved him, I would never have been in your bed again. We both know that to be true.” He put out his hand in invitation and offered her heart’s desire to her, as easily as that. “Come away with me. Let’s be together. Let’s go now.”

Katina was tempted. But now she remembered all the moments in her marriage to Alexander when she’d had doubts, when she’d known that Alexander hadn’t been telling her all of the truth for whatever reason. When they made love, she felt a powerful connection, but otherwise, he’d often been impassive and beyond her reach. She remembered her own fear that he would discover her secret, and how he might react.

She’d asked Cetos to marry her and he’d kept his vow. Cetos had ensured that she and her son survived. Cetos put no stock in the stories told about her, and even if he saw the truth, she didn’t think he’d care. She wasn’t nearly as certain what Alexander would think.

Alexander lifted a hand to her in appeal. “Katina, I love you...”

She was swayed more than she knew she should be, for love might not prove to be enough. “Will you ever leave me again?” she demanded.

Katina saw the answer in his eyes. He made no promise and she knew the meaning of that, for Alexander didn’t make promises he couldn’t keep. She saw the doubt in his eyes, and it was all she needed to know.

Her compromise was better than having nothing at all.

“If ever you cared for me, leave before Cetos finds you here,” she whispered. She saw a strange sparkle in Alexander’s eyes in the same moment that she heard her husband’s step approaching the courtyard.

“Hide!” she muttered, then swept past Alexander to welcome her husband home.

 

* * *

 

Cetos whistled to himself as he led his burro toward the house he shared with Katina and her son. It had been a long journey, but he was pleased with the results. A weight of extra coin jingled in his purse, the sound making him smile.

His trade had been terrible. The price of olive oil had dropped, due to a large supply after the last harvest, and he hadn’t been able to sell his for a price that was worth his trouble. No one wanted Katina’s pots, but that wasn’t new.

But she had provided an unexpected asset to him, one that had made all the difference.

Talk about an offer Cetos couldn’t refuse. He’d sold Katina’s son, simultaneously making up the difference in bad prices for olive oil and ridding himself of a nuisance. The boy wasn’t much trouble: it was the look of him that caused the problem. The brat so strongly resembled his father—who could have expected there to be no hint of Katina in his features? Alexander might as well have been living in Cetos’ house, every glimpse of the boy making Katina sigh for the past again.

Cetos couldn’t understand why she didn’t appreciate her good luck. He couldn’t imagine why she still longed for a man who had abandoned her, and never sent a single word of how he fared. He’d done her a favor in marrying her, taking on her son, even letting her stay in the house she’d inherited. She’d even summoned him to propose their union! But what did she do for him? She was dutiful enough, spreading her legs when he demanded as much, serving him at table.

BOOK: Kiss of Danger (The Dragon Legion Novellas)
13.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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