Patroclus had told me about all these girls who turned up in Aphrodite's temple every day. If you hung about just inside the door, he told me with a grin, and bumped into them accidentally as they were coming back out, they'd be convinced that you were the answer to their prayer and would do just about anything for you.
So of course I had to give it a go. Well, who wouldn't? So I snuck into the temple and lurked around at the back, waiting for a likely-looking prospect. It's not my sort of place, Aphrodite's temple, full of trinkets and ornaments and fussy stuff. And the noise... It was worse than the marketplace with all those women chattering. There were a few other men around but, like me, they kept quiet in the face of all that. This was nothing like Ares' temple: that's all business. You walk in there and in that silence you *know* you're in the presence of the god. Well, maybe not literally - I've never actually seen him - but there's this feeling of power, of presence and strength and command. Men go there to offer themselves to the God of War, not to gossip and try to flatter and bribe an Olympian. I go to Ares' temple because I'm a warrior. I know Patroclus thinks I go there to be seen, to hang out in the hope that some warlord or captain'll be hiring and I'll get taken on, but that's not it. Doing that'd be like cheapening Ares somehow, using the God of War to get what I want, and that's not how it should be. No, if I'm going to get myself hired out I'll have to start hanging about the same taverns the mercenaries and soldiers do and get noticed that way. I think I'll be doing that on my own though; Patroclus might be a year older than me, but he says he values his skin too much to hang round those sorts of places. The way my money's disappearing, it's soon going to be the only part of town I can afford anyway. I've already traded for food just about everything I took from home. All that's left is my father's sword. There's no way I'm letting that go. Not for anything. I won't say I'd starve first, but I'd do just about anything other than that. I really thought that I'd get work easier than this when I left home. Not that I'd've stayed there even I'd known it'd be like this.
Maybe I should just hope for a war, when either side'll be happy to take anyone. What pisses me off most is the reason no one will take me on: they can see I'm old enough, and that I can look after myself, but the problem is that I haven't got experience. How the fuck am I supposed to get experience if no one will give me the chance to get any? If my father was alive it would never've been a problem because I'd've served under him, or he'd've recommended me to one of his friends. If I'd just had a normal family, I'd still have been welcome even though he'd been killed: his name and reputation would've opened all sorts of doors for me. But if I mention his name now, all anyone thinks about is my mother and half-brother and those doors get slammed in my face.
I was planning my job-hunt through some of the rougher taverns when she walked past me. I'd almost given up on this whole idea, thinking either that I'd picked the wrong day or that Patroclus was having me on. The ones I'd seen so far were either old, married, or hunting in packs, giggling as they passed me, nudging each other as they looked me over. Some of them would have been possibles if they'd been alone, but I wasn't going to try and separate them from the herd. Vicious, they are, girls, when they're together like that.
But this one was on her own and absolutely fucking gorgeous. Legs up to here, stacked like you wouldn't believe, and pretty with it. I watched her as she made her sacrifice and knelt there for a long time in front of the altar like she was talking to someone. She'd been kneeling so long that she swayed slightly when at last she got to her feet again and I cursed as I realised I was too far back to get to her in time to steady her and maybe get a quick grope in at the same time. So I hung around at the back instead, looking down at the floor as though I was deep in thought, all the time flicking quick glances up to see where she was and what she was doing. Finally, at bloody last, she started walking towards the entrance. Her eyes were mainly fixed on her feet, but I could see the glint on her eyelashes as though she'd been crying. Perfect.
I arranged my face into the right expression and just as she got level with me, I made a sudden move for the door. Well, I guess I hit into her a bit harder than I'd meant to because she almost went flying, but I made a grab for her, and my apology was damn near sincere. The last thing I wanted to do was send her running.
"Sorry. Wasn't looking where I was going."
She took a couple of moments to get her breath back and get steadied, so I kept hold of her arm.
"That's ok." She went to shrug me off. I let her.
"I was just a bit preoccupied, that's all," I explained before she could move away. "D'you think Aphrodite really does answer prayers?"
She looked me in the face then, and her dark eyes held mine for a long moment before they lowered again. "I'm sure she does."
"So why'd you come to pray to her?" I asked. Girls always like men to take an interest in them. It's almost as good a leg-opener as buying them a present. Cheaper too.
She glanced at me, then went all teary-eyed. "The man I was secretly betrothed to," she said softly, "He left me for someone else."
"He must be mad."
The conviction in my voice as I looked over her again, cataloguing her assets, got to her, and the beginnings of a smile quivered on her lips.
"You're better off without him," I told her.
She went all sad and soft again. "Maybe."
"My girlfriend left me too," I said. "Took off with another man."
Her eyes got all misty as she looked at me. "I'm sorry."
"Yeah, well." I shrugged it off, but let just a hint of vulnerability show. I paused for a moment to make sure she got the full benefit before I continued. "Look, d'you want to go somewhere and talk?"
"It makes me feel better talking to you," I said quickly. "I'm Iphicles."
"Corinna," she said after a moment. "Alright. I'd like to talk to someone who understands."
Somehow I managed to hide my smirk.
We'd hardly covered the few steps to the doorway when it happened. One minute she was standing next to me looking out into the street, and the next she'd jumped a mile as though an insect had bitten her, and started rubbing her ass. Before I could do something intelligent with the situation, like offer to rub it better for her, she was moving into the street faster than shit off a shovel.
"Hey!" I made a grab for her arm, and she turned back to look at me. It took her an instant to focus.
"Oh. Yes. Iphicles." She couldn't've sounded less interested if I'd been a shopping list. "Thanks for the talk. Bye."
And I stood there completely confused as I watched her walk away and up to this dorky-looking guy who was standing there with a worshipping smile on his face and in his eyes. I just heard him say her name, in a voice that trembled pathetically, before she leaned forward and planted a kiss on his cheek. What the fuck..? Only moments before I could've sworn she was ripe for the plucking. And now here she was suddenly losing all interest and going off with some idiot who looked like he spent his whole life weaving baskets. I'd've been willing to bet he was a virgin, too.
Well, she was the one losing out. Or so I told my cock which had been wide awake ever since I'd seen her and thought about slipping it to her. Fuck. Now I'd have to start all over again.
"I hear you're looking for work."
The voice from close behind me made me jump out of my skin. I spun round and found this guy standing there, his green eyes steadily watching me. Trying to cover my reaction - if he wanted to recruit me, I wasn't going to impress him very much by being so easily startled - I nodded slightly, lips pursed in a non-commital sort of way. "Maybe."
"I might have a job for you."
With that he turned on his heel and to my surprise led the way back into the temple. This was no place to discuss fighting and business. Still, it was the only offer I'd had, so I quickly decided to catch up with him and worry about trivialities later. I walked beside him through the main part of the temple, and then he indicated that we should go into a part that was normally just for the priests. I didn't query it; what sort of a mercenary would be worried about breaking a stupid rule in the temple of love? No, I was pretty cool and tough as I walked with him, glancing sideways every now and then to get a look at him. He was a few years older than me, but similar height, with short blond hair. If it weren't for his line of business, and something in his manner, I'd've written him off as a pretty-boy. But there was something... He had the same sense of natural command that some of the warriors at Ares' temple had, and the flash of anger I'd seen in his face when we'd first met let me know he was tougher than he looked. I couldn't really see what his build was like because of the long cloak he was wearing, but the way he moved made me think he'd be pretty fast if he needed to be.
I'd hardly had a chance to look round at the private part of the temple, only enough to get the impression that even here the place was filled with the clutter of statues and trinkets, when he opened a door and jerked his head to indicate I should go past him. I took a few steps into the room, and stopped dead. All round the walls there were statues and pictures of couples rutting, marble cocks and tits and straining flesh, and in the middle of it all, the biggest bed I'd ever seen.
I swung round on my heel and glared at him. "You're not looking to hire me on as a mercenary."
His lips curved very slightly. "You're not quite as dumb as you seem."
"Fuck you," I snarled, and shoved past him. Or tried to. His hand closed on my arm and as I tried to wrench away, his fingers bit in harder and tighter. I swung at him with my left hand, but he was too quick and blocked it. It was then I realised that he had no intention of letting me walk back out of this room. I went for him, tried every move I'd ever seen, but at the end of it he had me flat on my face on the bed, with my right arm screwed so far up my back that the muscles were screaming and it was only the soft bedcovering in my mouth that stopped me screaming out loud too.
"Disappointed, Iphicles?" The pressure on my arm eased a bit, but I had no doubt that if I tried to get away it'd start up again. "Not what you thought it was going to be, is it?"
He actually let go of my arm then. When he made no further move, I slowly reclaimed it, until it was huddled underneath me and I was biting my lip as the restored circulation made it throb with a vengeance. After a while, though, his silence began to worry me more than the pain in my arm, and very slowly, I started to move. Again, he made no move to stop me, so I rolled over all the way till I could see him. He was just standing there, watching.
"Who are you?" I wasn't going to ask what he wanted - that was pretty fucking clear. He wanted my ass. I just had to hope he'd let me go at the end of it.
He didn't say anything, just made some sort of movement and the cloak he'd been wearing disappeared. I swear my eyes nearly left my head as I saw who he was. Not just who, but what. Those fucking wings... But that wasn't the only thing that made my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth all of a sudden. I'd never, and I do mean never, seen a body like that. All sort of gleaming, like it was oiled, and this leather harness thing over it, and those muscles and that golden skin and... oh fuck. This was a fucking *god* and all I could do was drool like an idiot. I closed my mouth again.
"Why me?" It came out as a croak.
He was laughing at me, I could see that. Normally I'd've hauled off and punched out anyone who did that, but I wasn't stupid. He was a god and there was nothing I could do to stop him doing whatever he wanted.
"How did you feel when you knew I'd suckered you?" he asked. "When you realised that I didn't have a job to offer you at all?"
The silence went on so long that I realised he did want me to answer. "Pissed off," I said at last.
"Like I said, pissed off." I glared at him.
The corner of his mouth twisted in a way I didn't like. "You don't get it, do you?"
I didn't know what the fuck I was supposed to say to that, so I didn't say anything.
"Get your clothes off. Now."
Getting slowly to my feet, I started to do what he'd said. I kept eyeing the door, but he was still between me and it, and even if I did make it through the door I'd still be in the temple. His mother's temple. I didn't have a hope in hades. As soon as I'd got into this room I'd known what this was all about, the only thing I hadn't known was that my rapist was going to be a god. If this was anything at all to do with who my half-brother was, I would kill him. If this was his fault, he'd pay.
Fixing on what I was going to do to Hercules stopped me thinking too much about the humiliation of undressing like this, but eventually I couldn't ignore the fact that I was naked. The air in the room was suddenly cold on my skin and it was all I could do not to shiver. I kept my eyes fixed in on the floor, unwilling to look at him.
"How's it feel, Iphicles?"
My head flew up and I glared at him. How the fuck did he think it felt? "Fuck you."
The bastard laughed. "Yeah, makes you feel vulnerable, doesn't it?" He moved towards me and I tensed, ready to hit him. But when he reached out to me, his hand simply touched my chest and rested there for a moment. I was still glaring at him, but my breathing was getting all jerky as his hand began to move lightly down my chest, glancing against one of my nipples, then coming to a stop again. My mouth was dry, and it got worse as I could feel my cock beginning to react. He didn't look or anything, but the smile on his face let me know that he knew, and his hand started moving again till it rubbed over my other nipple. This time I gasped, and his smile got bigger and he started to rub me between long fingers before they closed in a pinch. I couldn't help making a noise, and as he leaned his head in and his lips closed round my nipple and he sucked, I was just about begging for him to carry on. When he raised his head again I was panting.
"How's it feel, Iphicles?"
"Good," I got out, my voice croaky. Of course it felt fucking good - all he needed to do was look at the way my cock was acting to get that idea. But if ego-stroking was what it took to get him to carry on, it was a small price to pay.
"On the bed, face down."
I did it. Well, like I said, there was no point in fighting a god, was there? Can't say I wasn't a bit uptight about it, though.
His hands were on me again, lightly stroking my back in a pattern that moved slowly downwards, every touch going straight to my cock. By the time his hands reached my ass I was having problems breathing. And then the hands stopped and his mouth started the whole thing all over again until I was wriggling, the softness of the bedcovering against my cock almost as much a turn-on as what he was doing to me. When he reached my ass and that hot tongue flicked at me while his stubble scraped against me there, I was whimpering, seconds from coming. That's when he stopped.
It took me a moment to realise, but then I started humping the bed in earnest. If he wasn't going to get me off right now, I'd have to do it myself. His hands on my hips immediately pulled me upwards. By the time I realised properly what he was doing, it was too late and he'd got me so that I was up on my knees and I was aware enough to remember I had no chance at fighting him. So I knelt there, left with nothing to rub my cock against, and knowing he'd stop me if I tried to use my hand.
"Fuck you." It would've been more impressive if it hadn't come out all sort of husky and despairing.
"Hurts, doesn't it, Iphicles?"
"Yeah." No point in lying, when my balls were tying themselves in knots and my cock was aching and I was nearly crying with frustration.
"Yeah, Iphicles, it hurts when someone promises you what you really want, and then doesn't deliver."
I watched him moving round the room and tried to concentrate on his words but instead all I could think was how fucking gorgeous he was and wonder if he wore anything underneath that leather skirt thing of his.
Suddenly he knelt one knee on the bed in front of me and wrapped his hand in my hair to pull my head back. The anger in him focused me pretty damn quickly on what he was saying.
"Next time you want sex, go and find someone who wants the same thing. Don't you ever abuse love like that just to get laid, you understand?"
The injustice smarted. "It's not just me - everyone does it - "
"But not everyone's stupid enough to do it in the Goddess of Love's temple."
I looked suspiciously at him; it'd almost sounded like he was trying not to laugh.
"But other people do it as well," I started, then bit off what I was going to say. It might all be Patroclus' fault but I wasn't going to grass on him.
"That's nothing to do with you."
And suddenly I felt like I was being dragged in front of the magistrate again and being lectured for something else I'd done. What made this all the worse was that my bare ass was stuck in the air and my cock was still not convinced that it wasn't going to get some action, and my eyes were glued to where those muscular golden thighs disappeared under the black leather.
"Ok, you can go."
I gaped at him. "What?"
"You can leave. Consider this a warning."
"But - aren't you going to fuck me?" I didn't mean it to come out as disappointed as it did.
He really did laugh then, and leaned further forward until his breath was warm against my face. "You know, I did it this way because I thought this was the only language you'd understand, Iphicles. Now I'm not convinced you've understood anything at all."
He sounded so condescending, so like Hercules that I wanted to hit him. "I understand that you're a fucking prick-tease," I snarled, thrusting myself back off the bed and onto my feet from that bloody ridiculous position he'd left me in. "You're the god of something that doesn't even fucking exist and you play fucking games to cover that fact up."
His eyes were furious, and I abruptly shut up. I was probably headed directly for Tartarus, by way of an extremely painful death.
"Let me put it in words that you *will* understand then, Iphicles. If you do that again, mess around with someone's emotions just to get them into bed, I'll find you and you won't like it when I do."
My mouth was dry. I believed him.
"You saw Corinna's reaction to one of my arrows. How'd you like it if you happened to be looking at a goat when I got you with one?" His eyes suddenly flickered with something that might've been amusement. "On second thoughts, I'm not sure I want to know." He went serious again on me. "I mean it though, Iphicles. Remember it."
I nodded, swallowing. At least he hadn't threatened to stop a certain part of my anatomy from working or anything like that. But then maybe that was just because he hadn't thought of it yet. It wasn't worth taking the risk.
His gaze was a bit more friendly as it ran over me, lingering for a moment on my cock which, despite everything, was still taking a lively interest in the proceedings. He raised an eyebrow. "Now that you've learned your lesson, I suppose you're going to want that taken care of."
My mouth was dry again, but in a completely different way. "Yeah," I got out. Oh fuck yeah.
"On the bed then."
My legs were rubbery as I did what he said. Before, I'd had no choice. This time it was different. I sat down awkwardly, then lay on my back, not sure quite what to do. I'd never done much more with another guy than rub off against them or jerk them off, and I knew he'd expect more than that. I'd always gone for girls. Anyone could jerk their mate off, but it took a man to screw a girl.
He knelt on the bed beside me, and my eyes followed the sweep of his wings behind him. Gods, I had to be dreaming, but I'd die if I woke up now. Then I looked back down and saw his clothes were gone and his cock was dark and hard. I swallowed as I imagined him pushing it inside me. His mouth came down on mine and I couldn't think about anything else as his tongue slid into my mouth. I kissed him back eagerly, showing him everything I'd learned, but he was like nothing I'd ever known before, and I was just about ready to cum everywhere by the time he stopped. His tongue left a wet trail down my neck, and then it was on my body, soothing where his stubble burned. By the time I felt his breath over my cock I was thrusting upwards with my hips, desperate for him to touch me there. He licked again and again over the head of my cock, leaving me jerking and sobbing, and then his lips closed around me and his head pushed down so that he took me all the way inside, and his hands reached up to play with my nipples while he sucked me. I was bucking under his mouth, out of control, and when one hand left my nipple and stroked my ass, a finger brushing lightly down the cleft, I came so hard I almost blacked out.
He taught me a lot that afternoon: how it felt to be fucked by a man, of course, but also how to please a lover - I guess maybe some of the girls had been a bit more of a fumble than I'd realised - and how to let a lover know what I liked. Course, to do that, I had to find out what I liked; I hadn't even known some of the things he did to me were possible.
He also taught me how fucking lonely it felt when we'd finished and he took me to the temple doors and sent me on my way. I knew I'd probably never see him again.
I'm still not sure about that other stuff he was going on about. I mean, sometimes you've got to lie, because telling the truth doesn't impress anyone. But maybe I can see part of what he was getting at. Maybe I shouldn't've pretended to care, pretended that I was really interested in Corinna when all I wanted was to get my leg over. He didn't pretend with me and I still felt bad when he made me leave, so I guess I can see what he was getting at.
It was a pretty weird day, all told. There's no way I'm telling
Patroclus about it - he'd never believe me. I'm not sure I believe
it, in fact. Maybe I just had too many figs at lunchtime. If that
is the case then it means I've got a pretty creative mind, which means
it's definitely up to the job of talking somebody into hiring me on.
I'm fed up of hanging around, waiting. I'll do it tonight.
Get myself taken on, and get away from here.