The Kiss

His hand slides slowly up my bare arm, eyes following its path with a strange, arresting sort of purpose. The friction of his skin against mine sends a tremor through me that’s all quivering heat. He seems utterly entranced and I can hear the sudden catch in his breath, a low, visible hitch in his throat. Fear leaps in my gut and I can almost taste my own uncertainty, seasoned with a sharp unwanted burst of excitement.

“Y-your highness?” I manage to choke out. My voice seems to rattle faintly, weakly, in the charged air between us.

His eyes flicker, almost dream like, up to mine and I realize we’ve gravitated closer together somehow. There is such a deep, pervasive longing in his gaze that there seems to be less air in every breath I take. I can’t move. I can’t think. I can only feel myself helplessly slipping further and further away under a wave of something I can only barely understand.

“Don’t,” he mummers in a voice I’ve never heard. It’s deep and low, I can feel it vibrating through me like an invisible caress. “Don’t do that.”

He steps toward me and I can’t stop myself from giving ground, faltering backward. I can’t help it, I’m completely overwhelmed. I don’t want to accept what is happening to me; to us. I understand, distantly, its the worst possible thing we can do. The worst possible thing I can do. I want to fight it, to run away from him and everything he is forcing me to feel, but I’m frozen. I’m waiting for something I can’t quite comprehend.

“Don’t…what?” I manage. His hand shifts to my shoulder and the other is suddenly grasping my hip through my thin, plain gown.

A gasp slips, unbidden and traitorous, from between my slightly parted lips. His fingers are hot, so hot, strong and insistent. I want to hate the way they make me feel, instead I find myself hating how much I want them there. How much I’ve always wanted them there and how much I want to feel them on other parts of my body.

“Say it,” he demands and I can feel the delicious humidity of his words across my lips and cheeks. I resist the urge to flick my tongue out to taste him.

The dull moonlight is casting him in silver, lightening charged shadows. He’s beautiful and dark and everything I want though I know he is the very last thing I need. He tugs me forward with a twitch of his fingers against my hip. Caught off guard, my hands fly out to brace against the broad, unforgiving expanse of his chest. The cotton of his shirt is soft and fabulously warm and my fingers close helplessly into the fabric. My body feels out of my control and his hand glides from my shoulder to my neck, his thumb forcing my eyes to meet his. I’m shaking, I think I might be breaking down from the inside out. He’s unraveling everything I need to keep together.

“Say it,” he demands again, and there’s an edge of desperation there that echoes from within me. I breathe in through my mouth and I can taste him, he’s so close. Just the barest, most titillating taste of something dark and forbidden but unmistakeably amazing. I realize, suddenly, that I know what he wants and I hesitate on the precipice only a moment longer before I leap wildly into the unknown.

“Jaren,” I breathe like a prayer, or maybe a curse, just before his lips collide with mine like a summer storm against pliant earth, and his fingers fist into my hair. I’m lost, I’m broken, and I let go.

Watching

Thunder clouds rumble over head, bright tendrils of white, electric power tangling through purpled blackness in a mad, mysterious dance. All the secrets of the universe seem caught in the atmospheric battle above. The tang and spice of a desert storm tickles his tongue as Varence licks his lips thoughtfully, face tilted skyward to watch the show. He hasn’t been to this part of the world in a very long time.

“Monsoon season,” says a woman’s voice, “Beautiful, isn’t it?” Varence smirks slightly, but he doesn’t turn. He doesn’t have to. His heart mocks the rumbling thunder around them, wild and uncontrollable.

“And dangerous,” he says, leaning back nonchalantly against the red brick wall of the club. The bricks still carry the heat of the summer sun and the heavy bass from within reverberates through him, warring with the storm outside.

A woman, slight and delicate, peels herself from the shadows and he glances her way as a particularly vibrant crash of lightening illuminates her. She’s beautiful, so beautiful that his heart clenches inside his chest. It hurts to look at her, as usual, and he looks away almost immediately, but not before bitterly noting the bundle held carefully between her graceful arms.

“All beautiful things are,” she murmurs as she glides to his side. It starts to rain, gentle drops pattering off nearby rooftops and creating circular, widening patterns on the grease stained concrete. He can smell her, something sweet, something heady, something intoxicating, and it calls to the basest parts of him. It wakes memories he’s spent a millennia trying to forget. The warmth from her gently glistening skin is like a welcoming fire through a fierce blizzard. He aches to touch her, but he knows better. He knows he’d only be burned. His fists clench at his sides.

“Thank you for coming,” she says and he looks into her eyes, gold and blue swirling, mating in a never ending pattern. He could loose himself in them, in her. She wears a simple aqua summer dress that leaves her shoulders and knees bare, and her long, fiery hair cascades in ever moving ringlets down to her slim waist. Against her slight breasts she carefully, reverently, holds a blanket wrapped, sleeping baby. He resists the urge to wipe a stray rain drop from the infant’s creamy cheek. One look and he loves her instantly. He hates it, but he can’t help it. After all, the baby is a part of her.

“Why did you do it, after all these years?” He asks and he can’t quite keep the pain from his voice.

She sighs and shakes her head, eyes sad, “I wish I could explain it to you, I can only say, as the mortals do… that the heart wants what the heart wants.”

He snorts and shoves himself away from the wall, temper mounting. “And what about your baby? Was it worth cursing her to a life of fear and danger?” He speaks to the storm because he can’t bring himself to look at her again.

“Don’t be like this, Varence, I didn’t intend for this to happen, you have to know that-“

“Her kind were outlawed for a reason!” He shouts and hates himself for it. Years of bitterness, longing and pain pushing aside rational thought. “They’re dangerous and she’ll be hunted by both heaven and hell and you- you dare to ask me to watch out for her. After what happened between us, after everything you took from me, from us. Why! Why me?”

He swirls, intent on wringing a millennia of unanswered questions from her, and stops short. There is such a deep and pervasive mixture of sadness, regret, and grief in her eyes that it steals the breath right out of him. He feels defeated, broken. Her tears mix with the building rain but he knows them for what they are and it reminds him of the last time he had seen her cry. With her hand slipping from his as he’d slid slowly down into the darkness and dissent he’d chosen, cast out and reviled.

“I knew that I could trust you… I knew you would take care of her. Love her. I know the gravity of my choices, don’t think I don’t. But my daughter deserves a chance to live, a chance to be more than those archaic legends. More than a history written in blood and death.”

Varence shakes his head, “You’re a fool. You know that? Your child will never know peace, she’ll never find a place in this world… or the next. She’s an abomination. And you’re a hypocrite.”

She’s crying in earnest now and she steps to him quickly, thrusting the child into his arms with a cry that tears at his very soul, “Please! Please take her! I can’t bear to do this with anyone else, please, promise you’ll protect her as best you can. I’ll be watching, I’ll always be watching. I’ll do what I can, but the best thing I can do for her now is to leave. She stands a better chance that way.”

Despite himself, his hands and arms encompass the tiny babe. She weighs almost nothing, like he’s holding a small rain cloud. He looks down in disbelief at the miniature, upturned face. She’s awake and studying him with steady, vibrantly blue eyes. His heart is lost and he deflates, all the fight going out of him.

He looks back toward the woman who’d irrevocably damaged his heart and asks, “What of her father?” He doesn’t want to know, not really, but he has to know. He hadn’t thought she could look more shattered, but she wanes further, a mere ghost of the woman he remembers.

“He won’t remember me… or her. I made sure of it.” Her voice is matter-of-fact, but endlessly hollow. Before he can speak, she reaches out and touches her daughter’s face with a slim, perfect, shaking hand. She traces the fine, soft features and the baby coos gently. She presses a final, lingering kiss to her daughter’s cheek and it’s unimaginably painful to watch.

“I love you, Evelyn. Good bye,” she mummers and then turns to him once more. She cups his cheek and he hisses in pleasure pain. He’s waited many long, long years to feel her touch again, but not like this. Not when she’s only saying goodbye again.

“Thank you,” she says quietly and he wants nothing more than to hold her, to keep her here with him forever. But she was never his to have, never his to love. She steps away.

“Now, I’m as alone as you always felt you were, Varence, I hope that might earn me some forgiveness,” she whispers brokenly, and then is gone, melding back into the shadows.

He stares at the spot where she’d stood, “I never wanted that,” he whispers, “I never wanted that for you.”

The sky breaks open above him and lightening crashes, the trailing thunder caries the sound of her grief and he walks away, tucking the baby into the folds of his jacket to protect her from the rain. He doesn’t look back because he knows there is nothing left to see.