As Ares traveled through a forest on his way back to his temple, he allowed himself to relax. He could have just teleported himself there, of course, but wanted to enjoy the scenery of the lush forest. And look for any potential pleasures of the war and/or flesh variety. That was always relaxing...and fun.
This was a rare pleasure he took on occasion. To be alone and not have to deal with his family or any of his generals, their armies, and all of the petty, little annoyances they had. There were wars elsewhere that he had been overseeing, but he wanted something more. Needed something more to satisfy the deep, dark cravings within him that just wars and bloodshed couldn't.
As he moved through the forest, Ares looked around, inhaling the scents of the fragrant flora growing around him. Dusk cast golden light on the forest, giving it a mystical appearance. The horse he rode went at a slow pace, allowing him to take in the land around them. A sound in the wind made Ares stop his horse suddenly. It sounded like music. Humming actually. It intrigued the war god. He cocked his head to the side, listening intently.
A woman was the one humming the melody. It was a haunting melody and quite beautiful. The sound of her voice aroused the God of War. He dismounted and made his way toward it. He wanted to see the owner of such an enchanting voice. He stopped suddenly when he heard lyrics. No mortal knew the language he was hearing from her. It was only spoken by the gods and usually only when they were on Olympus. He was further determined to learn her identity.
Listening to the song, Ares was more enchanted by her. The song seemed familiar, but this was different. The words were a lullaby, but the one singing it wasn't singing it like one. He never thought a lullaby could arouse him, but the siren©like voice of his hidden temptress sent desire searing through him. Blood surged into his cock with such speed; it nearly made him gasp aloud. He bit his lip and grunted at the feeling of his engorged cock straining against the tight leather of his pants, feeling as if it would burst right there.
As he drew closer, Ares heard the sound of splashing water. He closed his eyes and groaned, imagining his sweet siren nude and bathing; ready for him to join her and pleasure her as much as her song pleased him. He moved cautiously, but as quickly as possible. Though not fast enough to make a lot of noise and scare her away. He was going to enjoy finding the owner of that sweet, enchanting voice. And learning all he could about her.
There was a small lake in a clearing near here. A series of waterfalls cascading into each other fed this lake from a nearby river. They were the quietest of waterfalls he had ever heard. Not as powerful as some he had seen. One could use the waterfall like a shower if they wished to. He hoped that was what his temptress might do while he watched her. He wanted to see all that water running down her skin, making it shiny and slick. He would lick off those water droplets as they rolled down her skin, tasting her in those liquid diamonds.
All these thoughts were driving him crazy with desire. Her voice was casting such an erotic spell over him, he couldn't think straight. He wanted to find her now! The clearing was further than he thought it was. Her voice seemed closer though. It had returned to humming, but it did little to quell his fierce desire for her. He wanted to hear that voice as he made her moan and cry in pleasure as he buried himself over and over in her soft flesh, taking every pleasure she had to offer him.
The clearing finally came into view and Ares had to restrain himself from racing at it like a starving man faced with a banquet. He hid behind a tree at the edge of the clearing and peered at the lake, seeing the woman in the water. She was not only bathing, but she was playing with the water like a little child. But this was no child; this was a beautifully built young woman.
The woman had her back to him at the moment. Ares could only see to the small of her back, where the water lapped at her skin. Lucky water. He would soon be touching her as the water was; all over that lush body. He would enjoy every second of it as he discovered all the spots she loved to be touched.
Her ivory skin seemed to glow golden under the waning sunlight. Water soaking her hair colored it darker than normal, but he guessed dry it would be copper©©almost the color of fire. She was now wringing the water out of it causing the muscles of her arms to tense.
Though she didn't have the muscles of an Amazon warrior, Ares sensed a fighter in her. She released her hair, and he watched as it fell to her waist, brushing the water's surface. His fingers itched to run through it. Then savor its softness as it slid over his body as he filled her over and over with his cock.
Stepping back, he frowned. What was he doing? Feeling like this for a *mortal*? He was the God of War, not the God of Mush. He conquered his lovers. He only showed gentleness to the ones he adored. Ones who deserved such compassion from him. His attention returned to her when she fell silent.
A groan escaped him when she turned toward him, smoothing her hair back in place. All his good intentions of trying to regain control of himself fell away at the sight now before him. He had an unobstructed view of her body from the waist up. She was quite a lovely little thing. His eyes were irresistibly drawn to her perfect breasts crested by rosy nipples. They were hard and erect from the touch of the water. He licked his lips, longing to taste them.
The woman suddenly tensed, seeming to sense his eyes on her. She went utterly quiet, barely even breathing. She covered her breasts and backed away almost fearfully, looking around for the one staring at her. Ares was invisible to mortals and she shouldn't have been able to sense his spying. That is, if she *was* a mortal. Such a revelation disturbed him.
Ares wondered how she would react if she saw him in the flesh. He was so tempted to find out, he almost revealed himself to her. He got an all©too©brief look at her long legs and one hip as she dashed out of the water and behind a boulder, grabbing her clothes in passing. His lips curled in a grin. He had her now.
"Oh no, my pet," he purred. "You can't get away from me." He vanished from his hiding spot and reappeared behind the boulder she had run to. "Apparently you can." he said, seeing she wasn't there anymore. He looked up, hearing her racing off through the underbrush nearby. "I'll find you later, my lovely." he said. He would allow her to run for now. It would make her capture and surrender all the sweeter.
A glint of light reflected into his eyes, drawing his attention to the ground. He looked down to investigate and saw what looked like some sort of golden jewelry. Picking it up, he saw that it was a pendant of a golden phoenix. He smiled at the sight of it. His little temptress must have dropped it. Now he had a memento of their brief encounter. One he would keep till she had earned its return to her. He vanished with an evil chuckle. This would be fun.
After a moderately successful hunt, Lauren decided to have a bath. She left her supplies in a safe place, then headed for the lake nearby. She smiled at the sight of it. This was her favorite spot. Her father had taught her to swim here when she was little. It was one spot she felt truly safe in.
Lauren quickly shed her clothes and entered the water. She headed for the gentle waterfall, already anticipating its gentle caress. She had been sent on a wild goose chase by a few rabbits she had been after. They sent her in circles several times before she finally caught one.
Her traps had gotten left outside in a rainstorm and rusted. She had thrown them into the nearest hole and buried them when she found them in a fit of anger. She would have to obtain some new ones, unless she wanted to keep chasing down the little fuzzballs. Not a prospect she would enjoy. She let those little annoyances float away as the water embraced her.
The water fell over her, taking with it dirt and tension. She washed away all the grime she had collected in her run around with the rabbits. She never really worried about anyone finding her here. They had to travel a long way off the horse trails to find the lake. Even then, they could get lost several times before they got any hint where the lake was.
Lauren had done that a few times before she found this area after she was left on her own. Her father had left her in Delphi when she was twelve. It was a long time before she forgave her father. Even though she understood he had done that for her own safety, it had still hurt her when he had left her there. She only stayed in Delphi for a short time before she struck out on her own.
Near the forest was a village she occasionally visited. It was only when she needed something that she couldn't get from the forest. The villagers were use to her visits and knew to leave her alone. She didn't like being around a lot of people. She especially didn't like being touched.
Diving underwater, Lauren swam away from the waterfall. She surfaced when she was in the shallower end of the pool. This was the best place for a bath or a swim. It was deep enough in some spots and shallow enough in others to suit her purposes. As she bathed, she started humming a tune. It was a tune she had only heard in her dreams. It always made her feel better when she was down.
At the edge of her mind, Lauren felt something odd. She tried to shake it off, but the feelings slid deeper into her mind. Her humming took on a different tune altogether. She let what she felt guide her music. It was hard to resist the pull of what she was sensing. She was enamored by the seductive sensations now teasing her.
Lauren started singing the lyrics to the song she had been humming. Though the tune was no longer the one she had heard. She never understood the words to the song. She didn't even understand the language itself. It probably didn't even exist outside of her dreams. At least, that was her belief. She knew practically a whole language, but not the meaning of the words. It was quite confusing.
In her travels, by herself and with her father, she had never encountered a language even remotely like the one in her song. The only place she had heard it was in her dreams. That helped her theory of it being a non©existent language. She wanted to know if this language was just nonsense or an actual one that existed. She felt if she knew that, she would be one more step closer to understanding it. And she would have an idea of who to speak to about it.
Whatever it was, she liked the language. That was one reason she didn't allow herself to forget it. Though it was spoken in her dreams enough she wasn't allowed to forget anyway. Someone wanted her to remember the language. They just wanted to drive her mad while she tried to understand it and learn to speak it like any other.
A sense of danger crept into Lauren's mind, blotting out the seductive touches on her mind, and scattering her thoughts. She figured it was the pack of wolves that roamed these woods. They had only really bothered her once. They had chased her up a tree one night, after being lured in by the scent of the fish she had been cooking. She spent a few hours up a tree till she had been sure they were gone that night.
Those wolves hadn't bothered her in weeks. She hoped they hadn't come back to this area and found her dinner. She didn't want to have to chase after another rabbit. One wild goose chase was enough for her today. Once again she cursed the traps she had for being rusted solid on the very day she needed them. If she hadn't buried them, she would have beaten them into a rusty pulp, *then* buried them.
Despite the danger of the wolves, she didn't cease her music. Though she *did* return to humming. She hoped it wouldn't attract the little fuzzbugs, as she had nicknamed them. They were cute and fuzzy, but had bugged her when they had stolen her dinner that one time. She hadn't been real mad since she had some leftover food from one of her visits to the village.
The seductive touches returned as the sense of danger weakened a little. The heat within her overshadowed the coolness of the water. Splashing in the water, she tried to cool off that rising heat. She played with the water as she cooled herself off. It was irresistible. She liked playing in the water.
Finally straightening her thoughts out a little, Lauren reached up to wring the water from her hair. She felt something creeping along her nerve endings, jumbling her thoughts once more. It was stronger, more powerful than before and seduction wasn't all that she felt anymore. It was wrapped up in other feelings.
Erotic desire was paramount in what she felt. Her pulse was sent racing when she sensed that. It scared her to feel something that powerful. She wasn't sure if her reaction was more from fear or her own desire. She ceased humming so she could concentrate better; to determine *what* was here with her. This wasn't something she normally encountered here.
This definitely was no wolf she was sensing now. Maybe it was wolves and something else. That was the only thing she could figure because she had sensed desire one moment and danger the next. She released her hair, trying to pick up more from what she was sensing.
Whoever or whatever it was, it evaded her as much as it teased her. Thoughts about any wolves in the area were forgotten now. She wanted to know what was so enamored with her. The desire was directed at her. She could feel it. She wasn't sure if she liked it or not.
Soon, she felt eyes on her, watching her. She covered herself with her arms and backed away fearfully, and fell deathly quiet. She didn't know where these eyes were or to whom they belonged, but she knew that they belonged to someone far more dangerous than any wolf. She had to get away from this place. It didn't feel safe anymore.
Fearfully, she scampered out of the water and snatched up her clothes, then hid behind a boulder. Faster than she ever thought she could do it, she was dressed and away from the lake. She wanted to get as far away as possible from what she sensed. The things she had felt from whoever was watching her were starting to become uncomfortable. She needed to get away from that before it completely overwhelmed her.
Her only hope was that she had been able to move fast enough to confuse the one spying on her enough to get away. She knew this forest very well and knew how to lose someone who might be after her. Something told her that the one she had run away from could have found her if they had pursued her then. She feared that person and wasn't sure if she had truly lost him or he had just allowed her to escape.
Ares reappeared in his temple draped across his throne. One leg was thrown carelessly over the arm, putting delicious pressure on his hard cock. He closed his eyes, purring in delight. He held the phoenix necklace in his hand, letting it swing loosely back and forth. He reached down and freed his cock, taking it in his hand.
The memories of the woman he had seen spawned so many fantasies. He almost moaned aloud as he stroked himself. His thumb repeatedly slid over the silken head, spreading the escaping moisture over his overheated skin.
Licking his lips, Ares closed his eyes and imagined it was his temptress touching him like that. He could just picture her taking him in her hands and stroking his length so deliciously slow. She would torture him, driving him wild with want, knowing he was loving every minute of it. Then when he thought he couldn't hold out any longer, she would stop suddenly, just holding him in her grasp.
A groan escaped Ares' lips at the power of his fantasy. Just the thought of her touching him like that sent frissons of desire through him. He settled back into his throne, moving into a more comfortable position. Ah, such sweet torture this was.
As she waits for him to regain some control, she looks over his cock, admiring its beauty as she anticipates taking him in her mouth, tasting his nectar. She leans closer breathing hotly over the glistening head. A soft moan of approval escapes his lips, encouraging her. Her attention turns to his testicles, which she had ignored till now. He doesn't mind. He knows she will make up for that now.
Ares let his fantasy guide his hands on his engorged cock. He used oil to simulate the touch of her tongue on his orbs. He caressed one then the other, just as she would have with that lovely mouth of hers. He wondered if it was as fiery as her hair. That thought drew another groan from him.
She can tell he's begging for more with that groan she hears from him. She strokes his shaft with her free hand as she pushes his thighs open further with the other. Her tongue teases the supersensitive skin right behind his cock. The tip of her tongue brushes the tight entrance to his body, drawing a gasp from him. It's a hint of the further pleasures she will share with him later on.
He takes her by the hair, bringing her mouth back to where it's needed most. His grip on her tightens when she takes the head of his cock into her mouth. Her lips and tongue tease him there before she draws him deeper inside. He rocks gently against her, wanting to bury himself completely within her mouth. She works her way back up, then plunges him back inside.
Ares nearly lost control when he envisioned that. He wanted to drag this little fantasy out as far as possible. He needed to release as much sexual tension as possible if he was going to track this woman with a clear head. He gritted his teeth against the pressure building in his groin.
She senses his orgasm is approaching and slows her movements. She increases the pressure of her sucking, knowing how much he is savoring this. Her teeth graze his shaft all the way to the head. She touches her teeth to the tender head, feeling him tense for the coming bite. Instead, she takes him back into her mouth and drags her teeth up his shaft again. She squeezes his balls at just the right moment and he floods her mouth with his seed. His deep-throated groan fills her ears as she greedily swallows all that he gives her.
The god collapsed against his throne, feeling the slick and sticky strings of his seed on his hand and chest. He sighed as he rode the waves of pleasure still washing through him. He licked his hand clean, then cleaned off the rest of his "mess" with a thought and readjusted his leathers.
A self©satisfied smirk crossed his lips. That fantasy had been just what he needed. No wonder mortals enjoyed their fantasies so much, he mused. He would have to thank his inspiration properly later on. He grinned wickedly when he thought about that.
Rising to his feet, he retrieved the woman's necklace, which he had inadvertently dropped in the fray of his desire. He decided to put off his search for the owner for now. He would let her get a false sense of security, thinking he was gone for good. Then he would come in and capture her. And once he had her, he would never let her go.
"All right, my little spy," Ares said suddenly. "I know you're there. Come out now."
A raven©haired woman poked her head out from behind a pillar. She smiled as she looked at the war god. She walked over to him and looked up into his dark eyes.
"You are a very bad girl," he scolded her, capturing her chin in his hand. "I should punish you for spying on me." He slid his thumb over her lips, feeling her warm breath.
"I know," she said, then reached out and slid her hand up his chest. "I couldn't help it. It was such a beautiful sight, I just couldn't look away."
Ares grinned down at Merissa. "Would you like to do more than just *watch*, my sweet priestess?" he purred.
"Yes." Merissa said in almost a whisper. She dragged her nails down his chest, making him growl deep in his throat. She loved the sound of his growls.
"Then come with me." Ares drew her closer and vanished, taking her to his chambers. He couldn't go back on that offer. Especially since he could feel how much she wanted him. He also had to punish her for her spying. Only he was allowed to do that.
Lauren didn't enjoy her dinner as much as she thought she would. The rabbit was good and cooked just right, but she was preoccupied all through her meal. She kept thinking about what she had felt at the lake during her bath. She had never encountered such strong emotions before.
What really unsettled her was that only a human could have directed those feelings at her. She didn't want to even *think* about that. But she couldn't help it. That encounter was unusual and kept drawing her attention back. Even the villagers didn't come this far into the forest when they were hunting. She feared who had come to her lake and had seen her bathing.
Lauren put her campfire out and went into her hut. She closed and locked the door. She didn't know who had been watching her and that really bothered her. And she wasn't sure she wanted to find out that answer. Reaching up to remove her necklace, she blanched when she found it missing.
"No!" she gasped.
The necklace was all she had of her mother's. Her father had given it to her a few years before she was left in Delphi. She had been told little about her mother, even when she asked specific questions. She didn't even know her mother's name or what she looked like. She wasn't sure if that had been a protection bestowed upon her by him or to cover an act of shame.
Lauren cherished that necklace. It didn't matter how her father felt about her mother. She had kept that necklace as a link to her mother. She didn't even know if her mother was alive or not, but hoped she was so she could learn more about herself. Her father's life wasn't one she wanted to follow. It had gotten him killed.
That was one reason why she stayed away from people. She became a huntress so she wouldn't have to rely on anyone but herself. She feared that if people learned too much about her, they would do to her what they had done to her father. That scared her almost as much as thinking about the spy in the forest did.
Discovering her necklace was missing meant she would have to return to the lake and look for it. A whimper escaped her when she realized that. This would be the first time she approached it with dread, rather than delight. She only hoped the spy wasn't there this time and that her necklace was still there.
Lauren changed into her sleeping gown, then tossed her clothes and shoes onto a chair. She closed her eyes and offered up a silent prayer that her necklace wasn't gone. She couldn't bear the thought of losing all she had of her mother. She got into bed and pulled the covers over herself.
Stretching out on her bed, she settled in for sleep. She couldn't do anything about her necklace right now. She had to get some sleep before she went to find her necklace and went to the village to replace those annoyances she had buried. With a sigh, she closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Lauren looked around the field hearing a soft, feminine voice singing a lullaby©like melody somewhere in the distance, though it seemed to be coming from all around her. Wisps of mist rose from the mossy ground, shimmering in the moonlight, adding an almost magical appearance to the land. She looked around, determined to find the singer this time. Every time she was here, she was never able to find that woman.
"Where are you?" she called.
"*Who* are you?!" she called louder.
Carefully, Lauren walked through the misty land. The ground squished underfoot and it was a wonder she never got stuck. She heard the lyrics as she continued. It was that unknown language again. She was about to call out to the singer once more when she saw a tall, dark figure in the distance.
This was new. In all her visits here, she hadn't ever seen this person before. But this new element had an oddness about it. Everywhere else, the moonlight lit the land. Around this dark figure, the light was darker than normal. If there *was* such a thing as normal in this place. She headed for the figure, curious who it was. As she drew closer, she noticed the person was wearing a dark, concealing cloak.
"Hello?" she offered tentatively.
The cloaked figure turned to face her when she spoke. She stepped back when it did, suddenly feeling uncomfortable. She jumped when the figure spoke. She didn't know who he was or what he was saying, but knew for certain that this was a man speaking. He spoke in the same language as the song she always heard here.
For the first time, she noticed that the singing had ceased. A sense of fear entered her as the man stepped toward her. She stepped back again, wanting to escape him. She couldn't see his face, but felt his eyes burning into her. Heat blazed around her. All of it was coming from him.
Lauren backed herself into a tree and let out a gasp. The cloaked man closed in on her, giving her no opportunity to escape. Her hands came up before her instinctively. She cried out when he grabbed her arms. His touch was pure fire.
Lauren jumped awake with a scream, bringing her arms up into view before her. Her arms were burned where the man in her dreams had touched her. The burned areas on her arms looked as if she had been sunburned. Perfect bands of dark pink as wide as a male's hand. They didn't look like she had been grabbed though. It looked as though someone had wrapped something hot around her arms there then had carefully removed it so not to burn any other part of her skin. Like someone was trying to brand her.
Looking at them, Lauren felt even greater confusion and fear than what she had gone to bed with. This made absolutely no sense whatsoever to her. She tentatively touched the burned area and was surprised when both bands faded then vanished. She fell back onto her back in bed, covering her face in her hands.
"What is going on," she asked. "Am I going mad?"
She waited for a moment, almost as if she were expecting an answer. She let out a sigh when none was offered, then got up and went to get dressed. The sun was up and she had things to do. Dwelling on dreams attempting to drive her mad wouldn't get them done.
Ares reappeared with Merissa in his chambers. He released her and gazed down at her through lowered lids. He seemed to be determining just what kind of punishment he would issue. His eyes lit up with an evil light when he thought of the perfect punishment.
Merissa remained quiet while the war god thought on how he would punish her. She knew he wouldn't do anything terribly dreadful. That was reserved for the people who really pissed him off. He had enjoyed her spying, hadn't he? He seemed that way when he had brought her here.
The war god captured her face in his hands, tilting her head back so she was forced to look into his eyes. He gazed deep into their blue depths. He sensed her brief jolt of panic when he did that. He got a little thrill from that.
"Now, my little priestess," he said in a deceptively gentle tone. "You are going to cooperate fully with me, yes?"
"Yes." she replied.
"Good." He patted her cheek, then released her and stepped back. "Remove your clothes." he said, then sat down in a leather armchair.
Merissa wondered what punishment he had in store for her. Nevertheless, she did as he asked of her. She already faced one punishment; she didn't want to face a second one.
Ares sat back in the chair, curling a hand under his chin as he watched her remove her clothes. He smiled as he looked at her flesh as it was bared to his greedy gaze. He gestured for her to turn around when she was about to remove her panties and shoes. A soft groan escaped him when she turned and bent over as she removed the silk covering her most intimate spots.
A fire burned in his eyes as he looked at her buttocks and the soft curls covering her feminine mound. She purposely spread her legs after she had removed her panties, while she worked to remove her shoes. He grinned when her hands trembled and she struggled to undo the ties. His constant gaze on her was distracting. She finally undid the laces and removed the offending things.
Standing up straight, Merissa turned to face the god. She raised her brows in silent question for what he wanted next. She could see the look of desire plain on his face, but knew there would be punishment before that desire would be shown anymore than just on his beautiful face.
"Lie down on the bed." Ares said. He followed her with his eyes till she got to the bed. He then turned to look as she climbed onto it and lay down on her side. "On your back." he corrected her. He got up as she did and approached the bed.
Merissa looked up at Ares when he was at the bedside. She saw a smile playing at the corners of his mouth. She wasn't sure if that was a good smile or a bad one. She kept her mouth shut. It would only get her in deeper trouble.
"Very good, my sweet." Ares purred. He waved his hand and silk scarves coiled around her wrists and ankles, pulling them out away from her. They tied themselves around the bedposts. She was now bound spread©eagle on her back by the scarves.
Ares held a fifth one in his hands, testing its softness. "You don't like this kind of thing much, do you?" he asked, when he noticed she was testing her restraints.
"No." she said.
"Too bad. You shouldn't have spied on me. This will be a lesson to teach you not to do that again."
Merissa knew there was nothing she could say to alter this. She shook her head in resignation. "Nothing." she said.
"I thought so." Ares said. He sat down on the bedside, drawing closer to her. He tied the fifth scarf around her head, covering her eyes. The scarf wouldn't totally block out her vision. She would only see a person as a shadow. He sensed fear race through her once more. He patted her stomach soothingly.
"I'm going to send someone in here to punish you properly." he said. He kissed away any protest she could offer. He tilted her head back as he deepened the kiss. She was breathless by the time he pulled away. He got up and left the room, closing the door just loud enough for her to hear it.
As she lay there, Merissa wondered whom Ares was sending to punish her. She had hoped Ares would have handled that personally. She had heard he loved to tease while he punished someone. What sort of punishment did the God of War issue for such a crime?
Merissa knew that Ares was both an exhibitionist and a voyeur. So, she figured the punishment wouldn't be too horrible. He wouldn't punish her for something that he did himself, right? She wasn't too sure about that.
Unfortunately, Merissa was one of Ares' newer priestesses. She was still in the process of learning all about Ares and his ways where the bed and pleasures of the flesh were concerned. She had enjoyed his company several times in bed, of course, but he hadn't yet taught her all the ropes of his "bed exercises".
Anymore thought on that was lost when she heard the door open. She heard it close again and footsteps approaching the bed. She didn't know who it was though. She was better at recognizing voices than at recognizing footsteps. A bit of fear ran through her as she wondered who this was.
"Hey babe, what's shakin'?" a voice asked.
Merissa tensed at the sound of that voice. It wasn't Ares speaking; of that she was very sure. This voice was more tenor than his was, not as deep as his. She gulped in fear when she realized who it was. ~No, not him,~ she thought, hoping the war god would hear her. ~Have mercy on me, Ares. Please!~
"Hmm," the voice continued. "Seems *you* are. Could it be ya fear me?" The laughter that followed made her blood run cold.
A finger traced up her skin very slowly. She tensed, not wanting to react to his touch. She didn't trust her body not to betray her if she moved. So she tried to remain as still as possible. The person above her wasn't one she wanted with her when she was like this.
The finger moved to her ribs, tracing each one just as slowly as he had touched her skin seconds ago. She couldn't resist that long and ended up squirming and struggling, trying to get away. The bonds were tied securely and she couldn't get free of them.
"Ticklish, eh," he smiled. "How lucky for me."
Merissa tensed again when he took his finger away. There was only one thing worse than finger tickling. She squealed and struggled harder when a soft feather began doing what his finger had been. That only made matters worse.
"Please stop!" she begged.
"Nope, don't think so," he countered. "This is too fun." He traced her nipples with the tip of the feather, making them hard and erect. He slid the feather down her skin, approaching the apex of her thighs. He stopped just before the feather touched her dark curls. "But I think I'll taste these and see if they're as good as they look."
The feather was taken away and Merissa felt a hot mouth close over one of her nipples. She moaned as he sucked and nipped at the sensitive bud. She was confused when she felt coarse hair against her skin. He didn't have a...
"Ares?" she asked.
"Of course, my dear," Ares said, lifting his head. "Who did you think I was?"
"I don't trust my nephew when it comes to bound women. This was just one part of your punishment. A little mental torture. How was my impersonation of Strife?"
"Fine, you beast! I thought you *were* him. You scared me!"
"My poor baby."
Ares grinned down at his captive. He chuckled, feeling her anger. The sensations heightened the desire he felt.
"Is my punishment over now?" she asked.
"Oh, no, no, no," he said teasingly. "I said that was only *one* part of your punishment. There are other parts to it. No more Strife impersonations though. That's the only reprieve I'll give you."
"Thank you. That was really mean."
"That was the point, Merissa. Punishment is suppose to be mean."
The god grinned at her reactions to him. He could tell she really didn't like him impersonating Strife's voice as part of her punishment. Apparently, she really didn't trust Strife at all under these circumstances. He didn't want to truly scare her. After all, he wasn't real mad at her for spying on him. He had actually enjoyed her watching him. He just didn't want her to know that.
The punishment he had planned for her would make her torn between loving and hated it. He didn't care about that. This was punishment. Only *he* was supposed to enjoy it. She would enjoy it as much as she loathed it. Of that, he was certain.
Ares looked over his captive, smiling evilly. He could tell she was enjoying this far more than she let on. He was going to enjoy *punishing* her. He planned to make her think of this as both pleasure and torture. A large goblet of ice appeared in his hand. He set it down on the bedside table.
There was more than one way to torture someone and he knew them all. That had made it difficult for him to decide on one. He chose one that would really make her squirm. Her being tied up as he did this would elicit the best reaction.
"Can I ask what this punishment will entail?" Merissa asked suddenly.
"You can *ask*," Ares said. "That doesn't mean I'm going to *tell*." He pinched her ribs, making her jump. "No more questions, my captive," he purred. "The only sounds I want to hear from you are the reactions to my torture." He kissed her silk-covered eyes, then sat up.
Merissa gasped when something very cold touched her stomach. Ice! Why did he have to use ice? She tried not to squirm as he traced little patterns on her stomach with the cube. It moved lower, tracing her navel.
Ares smiled, knowing she was so close to squirming wildly under him. He wondered how much ice torture it would take for that. He was determined to find out. The ice melted quickly over her hot skin. When the cube was almost completely melted, he took it in his mouth, letting it melt against his tongue. The taste of her was on the ice, making him growl softly.
For a moment, he recalled the thought of the forest woman he wanted to see being doused in water as he lapped it off her skin. He shook his head to clear the image. He couldn't allow himself to get distracted again. Later, after punishing Merissa properly, he would allow himself to get as distracted as his fantasies wished him to go.
Not wanting her to relax any, Ares took another piece of ice from the goblet. He traced her ribs one by one as he had traced them with his finger and the feather. He smiled when she whimpered. She was desperately trying to resist this.
"Do not resist me, little one," he warned. "It only makes things worse."
A soft moan was his only reply as he approached her breasts. He couldn't let her think this was pleasure. This was supposed to be torture. He let the ice melt completely before getting a new piece.
Merissa gasped for breath as he tortured her with the ice. She couldn't take this much longer. She turned her head to the side, then realized it was a mistake. An ice cube traced the side of her neck, making her flinch. It traced her collarbones, then slid lower.
"That's it," Ares smiled. "Squirm. Show me how much you want to be tortured by me."
"Please...stop." she whispered.
"What was that? I don't think you meant that." He grabbed another piece of ice and traced her nipples, but didn't touch them. He smiled when she arched her back toward him. "Like it, hmm?" he asked.
A groan escaped him when he watched the water droplets roll down her skin. He kept thinking of the woman he had spied on. He didn't know her name, but she kept plaguing his thoughts. It made his thoughts of torturing Merissa difficult.
Leaning in, Ares kissed her navel, dipping his tongue into the little hollow to collect the water gathered within. He teased the sensitive skin when she shivered against him. His mouth moved upward, his tongue darting out to collect the water droplets.
Merissa sighed under the talented tongue of the god. It turned into a groan of disappointment when he took his mouth away. Another piece of ice touched her skin, tracing the path of his tongue as it went down her body.
"This is punishment remember?" Ares reminded her. He traced it over the dark curls nestled between her thighs, hearing her whimper as the water rolled down her skin and in between her soft folds. He parted them a little further and traced her clit with the ice.
"No...No more." she gasped, squirming against the torture.
"Yes more," Ares countered. "Lots more." He touched the ice directly to her clit, making her buck and scream wildly. Her hips nearly collided with the god's face.
The god grinned and slipped the rapidly melting cube inside her. He thrust one finger than a second inside her, playing with the melting ice as his mouth closed over her clit to warm it.
Merissa let out an animalistic sound at his exquisite torture. He chuckled against her, sending delicious vibrations over her sensitive skin. She ground her hips against his mouth, seeking release. She jumped when he took his mouth away and spanked her mound once.
Ares took his fingers from her and licked them clean. He grinned seeing the cheeks of her buttocks clench reflexively as the cold water dribbled down between them.
"Please..." she whispered.
"What's wrong, my sweet," he asked. "You're not enjoying this?"
Merissa shook her head "no".
"My poor, little priestess," he said, sitting up. "I don't believe you." He traced her nipples with another piece of ice. He touched the cube directly to a hardened peak, making her gasp aloud.
"Gods above," she gasped. "Please forgive me, Ares..." She cried out when he touched the ice to her other nipple. "I won't spy on you ever again. Just *please* stop torturing me."
Ares popped the ice into his mouth, munching on it before speaking again. "Good girl," he said. "I'm going to take the scarf from your eyes. I want to watch your eyes while I punish your insides."
"What did they do to you, m'lord?" she asked as he removed the silk blindfold.
"They got my fingers all messy. A most shameful act indeed."
"You can't really blame them. They adore your attention as much as I do."
Ares smiled at her. With a thought, he sent his clothes away. He took his cock in his hand and rubbed the tip back and forth against her slit. He watched her eyes darken with lust, then close and her head go back as she arched her body, begging for his attention. Groaning deep in his throat, he thrust into her, bringing a short yelp of shock to
Dipping his head, Ares suckled her nipples, warming them with his expert mouth as he thrust in and out of her. He released the bindings on her and was surprised when her arms and legs nearly flew at him and locked around him. He kissed her deeply, moving faster and harder inside her.
Merissa felt pain in her protesting muscles from her bondage, but ignored it. She didn't want anything to interrupt this pleasure. She slid her fingers through his thick, silky hair, gripping him tighter with her legs, driving his thrusts.
Ares groaned against her when she clenched her inner muscles around him. He knew he wasn't going to last much longer. The earlier fantasy that started this whole thing was still plaguing his thoughts. They made the blood in his veins boil with sexual hunger. He reached down between them, rubbing her clit with his thumb.
The priestess cried out into his mouth as he brought her to a shattering orgasm. She squeezed his pounding cock tightly as pleasure washed through her. A groan from his lips was barely muffled by her mouth as he spilled his seed inside her.
As the last waves of their mutual pleasure tapered off, Ares rolled off Merissa's immobile body onto his back. He looked over at his priestess, smiling when he saw she had passed out. He remained in bed for a little while longer.
After he was certain Merissa was off in dreamland, Ares got up and was dressed with a thought. Before leaving his temple, he tucked Merissa in, then placed a soft kiss on her lips. In a flash of light, he was gone.
"How are things going, Toreth?" Ares asked, appearing near his general.
"I wish you wouldn't do that." Toreth complained. He wasn't use to the god's sudden appearances just yet.
"Get over it. It's what I do. No mortal will tell me what I can and can't do. Understood?"
"Yes, my lord. I apologize."
"Good. Now, how are things going?"
"Very well. There's just one more village in this area to conquer. We'll have many good slaves to sell. The only problem may be this forest." He pointed to the area of green on the map laid out on the table before him. "The villagers may try to use it for defense. I was thinking of attacking from both sides. One force would come up the main road while a second would go through the..."
Ares narrowed his eyes in anger as he heard Toreth's plan. "No," he cut him off. "What you're suggesting will take you through the deeper parts of the forest. The villagers might be expecting you and may have set up traps for you and your men." He knew he sounded weak saying that, but it just came out. He didn't want to risk harm coming to his forest temptress if she was still there. He knew if she was captured by Toreth and his men, they would ravish her brutally. Or worse, they would ravish her, then kill her. He wanted her for himself.
The war god looked over the map on the table before him. There was no other way to take the village than the one that Toreth was suggesting. He didn't want to risk the woman's life if he could avoid it. He also didn't want to appear weak in front of these mortals. He wanted this valley, but he also wanted her©©alive, unhurt, and under him. This was so frustrating to him.
"My men are trained to spot any sort of trap they could set," Toreth said, facing Ares, who was still studying the map. "We can't back off now. Not when we are so close. We can do this. We won't give up till this valley is yours."
Ares closed his eyes, seemingly in pleasure. On the contrary, he was concerned. Concerned for the woman plaguing his thoughts. He had felt something odd about her and wanted to learn was that was. "Do it." he said finally. He turned to leave when the phoenix necklace fell to the floor.
Toreth saw the necklace fall. He picked it up before Ares could do so and looked at it before returning it to the war god. He seemed to recognize the necklace, which instantly got Ares' full attention.
"You've seen this necklace before?" Ares asked, showing it to Toreth.
"Not in years," Toreth said. "It looks like the one my late captain's daughter owned. I haven't thought of her in years though."
Ares listened intently to his general. He wanted to know all about this woman Toreth spoke of. He wondered if it was the same woman that he had seen in the woods. He hoped so. "Tell me of her." he said.
Toreth could tell he had the god's full attention. He tried to recall all he could about the captain's daughter. He hadn't thought about her in years, but she was a hard one to forget, even after all this time.
"As I said, that necklace looks like the one she wore. I haven't thought about her in years. She stayed with her father till she was twelve. He began to notice the men were becoming attracted to her. To protect her, he sent her to Delphi, but I don't think she was too happy about that."
"Interesting," Ares said. "What can you tell me about her?"
"Quite a bit. She's not an easy one to forget. Seeing that necklace brought all those memories back to the surface."
This news was most intriguing to Ares. He was starting to believe more and more that this child was the woman he had seen in the forest. He needed to know what she looked like to be sure. "Describe her." he said.
"She was a rare sight--quite a beauty even as a child," Toreth said. "Hair like wildfire with eyes the color of emeralds."
Ares was certain that this was the woman he had seen. He kept his expression neutral, not letting on that he knew she still lived. "I bet you were one of the ones whom she was being protected from." he said knowingly. A particularly evil grin was on his face.
"Yes, m'lord." Toreth admitted.
"Some of the men heard singing once. They thought it was Poseidon's sirens trying to lure us to our deaths. I discovered that it was, in fact, her singing the tune. The language she sung was one I had never encountered before, and I've heard many different ones. This one was like something only the gods themselves would know."
"What did you say?"
That little bit of information startled the war god. It *was* her! He knew for certain that this was the same woman he had encountered in the forest.
"I said©©the language she sung in was like one only the gods themselves would know," Toreth said. "Her father made her quit singing like that to keep from bringing attention to herself and to keep Poseidon from bringing down some sort of punishment down on us for stealing something of his."
"What was her name?" Ares asked. He didn't speak of her in the present tense, not wanting to let on that she still lived and near here. He wanted her for himself and wouldn't allow any of these mortals to go after her.
A groan nearly escaped Ares' lips. Even her name was lovely. He glanced once more at the map, then at Toreth. He turned and left the tent. He wanted to find Lauren before the soldiers went through the forest and found her. Something about her just drew the god's attention, more than her beauty. It was rare to have a mortal plague him like this. And he was more and more convinced that she wasn't a normal mortal.
Ares put the necklace in a pouch and tucked it into his vest for safekeeping. He felt a little victory was won when he learned of Lauren. She was the woman he was after. And he would be feeling a big victory when he finally found her and made Lauren his.
Lauren sighed when she finally got everything gathered together. She had some money with her, but needed to sell some more of her collected fur pelts before she had enough for the traps and other things she might want. She occasionally splurged on frivolous things. She just always made sure she had enough for stuff she really needed.
Grabbing her cloak, she slipped it on and pulled the hood up over her head. It was a double protection for her. One was to keep men from ogling her. Another was that it kept people from directly touching her. She was quite protective of herself when being around people.
Once she was satisfied with the ties of her pelt bundle, she threw the strap over her shoulder. The bundle was one she had designed herself. This was the only one she had ever used that didn't damage the pelts in transit. She had more trouble with keeping the pelts in good condition than she cared to think about.
Lauren would have to make two trips today. One was to the village and then to find her necklace. A busy day all the way around. She was already expecting it to be a draining day, but this was something she had to do. She kept an eye out for hunters from the village as she drew nearer to the village.
A sense of danger made her stop suddenly. She looked around curiously, wondering what had stopped her. Her eyes went wide when she saw what it was. There were a whole lot of traps in this area. These weren't animal traps. These were traps meant for people. Some she could see were very vicious in appearance. Someone wanted a war zone here.
Having no safe way to the village, Lauren decided to leave the area. That was only one reason. She didn't think it was a good idea for her to be here with the hints these death traps were giving. She turned and headed back to her hut to drop off her pelts. She needed to find her necklace now. She wasn't going to move away from this part of the forest and the hinted dangers without it.
Once she had dropped off her pelts, she quickly headed back toward the lake. She decided to keep the cloak with her in case the spy or anyone else was about. She had taken a small crossbow and some bolts with her as well. She wasn't going to take any chances. She was deadly accurate with it.
As she approached the lake, Lauren paused. She was very apprehensive about this. More than she thought she would have been. Till she had felt the spy's presence during her bath, she had always felt safe here. Now, it was unfamiliar to her©©as if the spy had permanently altered this place.
Lauren pushed away the nervousness she felt and went looking for her necklace. She panicked a little when she couldn't find it anywhere. She closed her eyes in dread, thinking that the spy had it, whoever it was. She feared it was gone forever and that she had lost her only link to her mother.
Moving away from the lake, she decided to retrace her steps from yesterday as best as she could remember. She hoped it had fallen as she had run home. It was a futile effort, she knew, but she couldn't just give up. This was very important to her and she couldn't just abandon all hope. It was all she had left of her family.
Danger hit her with such suddenness; she nearly jumped off the ground. She brought her crossbow out into view and drew a bolt from her quiver. Quickly, she loaded the crossbow, then hid it behind the cloak. She didn't know who or what was approaching her, but she wasn't going to take any chances.
After seeing the traps in the forest near the village, she wasn't going to trust anyone or anything she encountered. Not that she was real trustful of many people to begin with. Before he had sent her away, her father was the only person she truly trusted. One major regret in her life was that she hadn't been able to see him before he died.
A horse came into view carrying an armed rider. Lauren knew in an instant that this wasn't a man to trust. She didn't like what she felt from him at all. She tightened her grip on her crossbow, but kept it hidden. Her stomach turned as he drew closer.
"You're a little far from home, aren't you?" he asked, pulling his horse to stop.
Lauren backed off a few steps. She tensed when the wind chose that moment to blow the hood down off her head, revealing her face to him. The man's eyes lit up like twin suns when he saw her face.
"Well, well," he smiled. "Such a lovely sight you are."
"Stay away from me." she said, bringing the crossbow out into view. She pointed it directly at him.
The man hooted with laughter. "Careful, my beauty," he said. "You may hurt someone."
"Like you?" she asked calmly.
"You won't do that. Pretty little things like you don't use ugly weapons like that. You should give that to me before you hurt yourself."
Lauren's narrowed her eyes in anger at him. She aimed the crossbow and pulled the trigger. The bolt hit him in the shoulder, knocking him from the horse's back. She dropped the crossbow and ran off as he yelled loudly in pain. There were others here and she didn't want to be found by anyone.
A grunt escaped Lauren when she caught her foot on an exposed root. She tripped and fell, rolling down a hill into some thorny underbrush. She growled in anger when it caught on her clothes. Her cloak was the only thing that kept her from being sliced to ribbons. It was also keeping her trapped. Despite that protection, she sorely hated this "toothy" bush right now.
"Damn you to Hades, you...damn bush." she hissed. The last part of her angered words faltered. She grumbled to herself at that lame curse. Of all the words she had picked up in her travels, and *that* was the best she could come up with?! She rolled her eyes thinking how idiotic that had sounded.
"Ow!" she yelled when a sharp thorn jabbed her in the hand. She angrily tried to get free of the bush and her cloak, succeeding in only getting herself further tangled in both. She checked her hand for any damage as she thought of a way to get free. "I swear to the gods, if I ever get out of here, I'm going to find a scythe and make you sorry Demeter ever thought you up!" she snarled.
Lauren fell completely silent and still when she heard hooves striking the ground, approaching her. She silently scolded herself for yelling like she had, knowing she had given herself away. A thorn jabbed her in the hand again, making her jump. There were thorny branches everywhere. It was hard to keep from being stabbed no matter how she lay. She turned her head and listened to the approaching threat. The horse stopped a short distance away. She then heard leaves crunch loudly when the rider dismounted.
Slowing her breath, she tried to pretend she was part of the bush. She hoped the rider wouldn't see her. She remained as quiet as possible as the sound of crunching leaves approached her. She tensed when she heard the sound of a sword being unsheathed.
A short yelp inadvertently escaped her when the sword sliced through the bush too close to her for comfort. She was seized by the arms and yanked up through the newly cut hole. The clasp of her cloak snapped when the cloak went taut and grazed her skin. She winced under the grip of her liberator.
Dark blue eyes met hers and hers went wide. Those eyes! Even after ten winters she recognized them. No one else she had seen had ones like these. This was her father's first officer--a man he had trusted with his life. So why was she sensing that she couldn't trust him?
When he heard Sorrel's pained yell, Toreth had gone to check it out, taking two men with him. He left the remainder of his men to continue toward the village. He was surprised to see Sorrel lying on the ground with a crossbow bolt in his shoulder. It wasn't what he was expecting to find. He hadn't realized the man had wandered off into the forest away from the group.
The one who had shot him was a real marksman. Sorrel wouldn't lose his arm, but only if he got to a healer and had it properly treated. Toreth had the two with him take Sorrel back to camp to be treated. He didn't want to lose a valuable©©albeit, occasional idiot©©man just yet. Ares would determine the man's fate once his wounds were dealt with.
Toreth followed the only path available to him after seeing the crossbow the sniper had left behind. He figured the man would have gone that way and wanted him, preferably alive to be dealt with properly. He went carefully watching for the sniper and any traps that might have been in the area. He wasn't about to end up like Sorrel.
Surprise filled him when he heard a feminine yell of alarm, followed a short time late by several angry words. He wasn't close enough to make out the words, but figured she was most upset about something. Was this the sniper? He didn't think so. He didn't think any of the village women had that kind of accuracy with any weapon.
As he drew closer, Toreth saw a bush with a curious wiggle and black cloak peaking out from beneath it. The bush fell still suddenly as he got closer. The woman must have fallen in down the hill and rolled under the bush, getting trapped by her cloak catching on the thorns. Though it probably kept her from being sliced to pieces by the sharpness of the plant's thorns.
Stopping his horse, he dismounted and approached the bush, figuring out where she was. As soon as he figured that out, he drew his sword and sliced as much of the bush off as close to her as safely possible. He figured she would make a good present for Ares, besides the village. And to make up for Sorrel's stupidity. His men were trained better than that and knew better than to go off by themselves without stating a reason.
Toreth hadn't been expecting to encounter an oddly familiar face when he grabbed her and yanked her free of the bush. Unable to think of what to say or do, he simply held her and stared at her. His grip on her arms remained constant to keep her from escaping. He could feel the tension in her arms just beneath the long sleeves of her dress.
When he didn't release her, Lauren slammed her knee into his groin as hard as possible in an attempt to get free. She was dropped instantly by Toreth, who yelled and doubled over in pain. The moment her feet touched the ground, she raced off. She only got a few yards away before she was tackled to the ground from behind. Toreth had recovered faster than she had expected.
Lauren and Toreth rolled over and over several times and came to a stop in a puddle of mud. Toreth was above her, glaring down at her. She was on her back beneath him, staring up at him in shock. She realized he didn't know who she was. She wasn't that surprised; it had been awhile since they had seen each other and she had changed in that time. Her thoughts were soon confirmed.
"I don't know who you are, girlie," Toreth hissed. "Or why you're familiar to me. But if you *ever* do that to me again, I will give you to my lord as a blood sacrifice! Understand?"
Shocked silent, Lauren could only nod dumbly. Toreth hit her in the face with the heel of her hand before she could manage any words. She was knocked out from the blow.
Iphicles entered his bedchambers and fell onto his back on the bed. He had been trying to summon Ares for hours. His sometime lover seemed to be ignoring him. He knew Ares was a busy god, but this was important.
A flash of light appeared beside him and he turned his head toward it. Ares was beside him with a little smile on his face. He wasn't sure if he was relieved or annoyed by the god's arrival. Ares had appeared right when he had given up.
"Aw, my poor little king," Ares smiled, laying a hand on the mortal's groin. "Are we a bit antsy?" He caressed the semi-erect cock through the king's leather pants.
Iphicles found it difficult to think, much less speak, as Ares expertly brought his cock to complete hardness. He closed his eyes and leaned his head back, enjoying the sensations. He arched his hips, pressing into Ares' hand.
"Ar..." The rest was lost in a groan when Ares squeezed his throbbing cock.
"What troubles you so?" Ares grinned. He knew at least *one* of the king's troubles©©his teasing. He let his hand move to Iphicles' stomach, letting him recover. "Tell me." he purred.
"Rumors have come to my attention that your sister, Athena, is angry with my 'associations' with you," Iphicles said, once he had regained some semblance of control. "One of my men thought that he had seen Theseus in a nearby village."
"Idle rumors shouldn't concern you. But, I will check on this. Athena *can* be a pain. She might very well be planning something to scare you into joining her side."
"Gee, you inspire such confidence in me."
Ares smiled at the king's sarcasm. He reached down and squeezed Iphicles' imprisoned cock again. He grinned wickedly at the moan he drew from the king's lips.
"Gods..." Iphicles whispered.
"Yes?" Ares asked innocently.
"More for the sarcastic king?" He so loved to tease his lovers. He patted the prominent bulge, then got up.
Iphicles stared at Ares wide©eyed in shock. He knew the god was about to leave. "Wh©where you going?" he asked, barely able to think.
"To check on these rumors," Ares said. "So many things could occur while I'm here." He vanished in a flash of light.
"You evil, sadistic bastard!" Iphicles hissed. There was more irritation than anger in his voice. Ares had left him with a raging need between his thighs and only his hands to take care of it.
"Oh! Such words you say," Ares' voice gasped in feigned shock. "How can such a bad mouth be in such a beautiful package?"
"You tease. Come back here."
"No. You wounded me with your words. I'm staying away from you, you meanie."
Iphicles rolled his eyes at the nuttiness of Ares' teasing. The silly god had helped him out some though. He felt a little better than when he had first come in here. Except for the cock demanding his attention right that second. Reaching down, he freed his cock and stroked himself to a quick release.
Hopefully, Ares would allow him to "make up" for his mean words later. Ares was such a tease sometimes. Though he always made that teasing worth it. Iphicles just wished that next time that next time it wasn't his hand bringing himself to sweet release.
Ares headed toward Olympus, planning to have a few choice words with Athena. He would *not* let her take Corinth or Iphicles from him. Both were his and he didn't give things up easily. He didn't know if these rumors were true or not. But he was going to find out.
A jolt of pain hit him suddenly and stopped him in his tracks. This wasn't his pain; it was someone else's. It was too brief to know who's it had been. He caught just enough of it to know where to go investigate. He quickly altered his path toward it.
When he appeared where the pain originated, Ares was shocked. He was in Lauren's forest. He looked around and saw the bodies of several of his men. A muscle twitched in his jaw in anger. Apparently not *all* of Toreth's men were trained to avoid traps. Athena could wait. This needed to be seen to now.
Ares could tell this wasn't the source of all the pain he had felt. Curious, Ares ventured further into the forest, searching for the other source of pain. He had a fear that he'd find Lauren among the trap's victims. If he did, he would personally kill all those responsible for setting those traps.
The scent of blood drew his attention. It was faint, but he could smell it in the air easily. He went toward it, clenching his fists at his sides. He stopped when he came across a bush that had been cut in half. A ripped cloak and small pieces of cloth clung to the thorns.
Ares saw blood on some of the thorns. This wasn't a good sign. A path of broken plants drew his attention. He followed them and stopped at a mud puddle. Only his godly senses could perceive bits of blood and strands of copper hair in the mud. He then noticed a set of horse tracks leading away from here. The tracks suggested the horse was carrying the weight of two people.
"Whoever did this is going to regret the day they were ever born!" he vowed, then vanished once more.
Lauren moaned as she came to. Her whole body hurt. Bruises were everywhere and her face felt as if it were broken. She reached up to make sure it was all still there. She was relieved nothing was broken, except her lips. Both had been split when Toreth had knocked her out. No wonder the taste of blood was in her mouth.
Though the split cuts to her lips had sealed on their own; they still throbbed with pain. Toreth hadn't been gentle with her when he had brought her here. Wherever *here* was. The only comfort she had was she knew he hadn't raped her while she was unconscious. She knew there would have been more pain if that had happened.
Struggling up into a sitting position, she looked around. She saw a note on the bedside table. "'Stay put if you want to live'," she said, reading it. "You couldn't have told me that in person, Toreth?" She rubbed her jaw, trying to work out the pain in it. "Or are you too busy beating other women to worry about little old me?" She decided she would take that advice anyway, sensing that there were others outside of this tent.
Getting up off the bed she'd awakened in, she moved around the tent, looking around. This was a man's tent by the look of the decor. She blanched at the polished black skulls in a pyramid on a corner table. "A morbid male's tent," she muttered. "Ick." She saw a desk nearby and went to look at it for any clues to owner's identity.
Lauren walked with a limp from the sprain she had gotten when Toreth tackled her to the ground. She hoped something really nasty happened to him. There was a small statue on the desk of a dog. It was a rather evil looking beast. She picked it up to examine it more closely. She dropped it with a yelp when a spark from it zapped her.
The image of the cloaked figure flashed through her mind, alarming her. Lauren pressed her hands to the sides of her head, trying to block out the image. She collapsed to her knees when the image finally left her. Her heart was pounding fiercely in her chest, and she feared it would beat right out of her chest.
"What is happening to me?" she whispered in fear.
She had only really experienced a vision once before and she was sure this was a vision of something. She wasn't sure of its meaning though. The vision she had had before was a horrible one and had happened while she was seeing it. She quickly dashed that thought, not wanting to relive it. It was bad enough the first time.
Fearing the shock might return, Lauren left the statue where it fell. Thankfully, it hadn't broken in the fall. Lauren tried to get up, but her knees buckled under her weight. She crawled back to the bed and onto it. She laid down on it, feeling very dizzy. She stayed there till that dizziness finally subsided.
Getting up once more, she carefully made her way over to the tent flap so not to run into anything that might bring the cloaked figure image back. She wanted to get an idea of where she was. She peaked outside the tent flap to see where she was. Her eyes fell on the prisoners being shoved into cages. One was Sirus, the blacksmith friend of hers from the village. He was wounded, but she couldn't tell how badly.
Lauren wanted to go to free him and the other villagers. If she could only free one, she hoped it was Sirus. He was the only man in the village she had befriended and trusted. He didn't deserve what he was probably facing. She knew warlords often sold their prisoners to slavers.
Panic flashed through her when she felt what she had at the lake. Only this time, it seemed to be stronger than before. It overshadowed every thought in her mind in an instant. She closed the tent and backed away. She needed to get away from here and soon.
Ares appeared in Toreth's encampment with an angry scowl on his face. The men who saw that look recoiled from him and stayed out of his way. They weren't fool enough to get between him and where his anger was directed. Ignoring them, Ares headed straight for Toreth's tent. He stormed into the tent without a word.
Toreth whirled around to face the intruder when he heard the tent flap open. He held his sword up before him in a reflexive defense stance. He was surprised when he saw Ares before him. He hadn't been expecting to see Ares *walk* into his tent. Gods usually didn't walk around to get somewhere.
"On top of everything else you've done, you dare threaten me?!" Ares snarled. He held a hand out before him and clenched his fist.
Toreth gasped in pain and fell to his knees, dropping his sword. His chest felt as though it were being crushed. He could barely breathe and his ribs felt on the verge of shattering. He fell forward onto his arms when he was finally released. He tried to catch his breath as he heard Ares approaching.
"*That* was a taste of what I *may* do to you," Ares hissed, then kicked Toreth in the side to turn him over. "Where is she? And for your sake, she had better be in one piece and alive. Or you'll be begging me to kill you." He put his booted foot on Toreth's chest when he tried to get up. "Did I say you could get up?" he asked.
Toreth relaxed under Ares' foot. He knew he was no match for the God of War, especially when he was pissed. He flinched only slightly when Ares drew his sword and touched the point to his throat.
"*Where* is *she*?" Ares seethed, punctuating his words with a jab of his sword to the mortal's throat.
"Your tent." Toreth said.
"Thank you." Ares took his foot away, then put his sword away. He snapped his fingers and sent Toreth away. "Mavek!" he snapped in a loud voice.
A tall, graying man entered the tent a moment later. He was one of the men who were more loyal to Ares than to Toreth. One Ares trusted a great deal. "Yes, my lord?" he asked.
"Toreth is visiting my dungeon for awhile," Ares said calmly, facing the soldier. "I want you to take charge here for now."
Mavek nodded to him. He stepped aside, allowing the war god to pass him. He had commanded the other half of Toreth's men when they attacked the village. His attack had gone more successfully than Toreth's. He knew Toreth would be receiving some sort of punishment for his near failure in the forest. Toreth was a good fighter and leader, most of the time; he was just a fool sometimes.
Lauren finally managed to pick the lock on the chest at the foot of the massive bed with the piece of metal she had found. Her lock picking skills would have put her to shame among other thieves. She had learned this and a few other thievery skills from one of the boys on her father's ship. She hadn't kept those skills up well, not needing them.
Opening the chest, she poked around in the contents, blushing on occasion when she figured what some of those things might have been used for. She found a box near the bottom with a dragon carved into the lid. She pulled it out and set it aside, then put back the other items she had removed. Closing the chest, she locked it and turned back to the box.
After picking the small lock on the box, she put away her makeshift lock pick. She opened box and her eyes went wide. Inside was a dagger, unlike any she had ever seen. She took it out, careful of its sharp edge.
A dragon wrapped its way around the handle with its wings as the handguard and its tail curled around the beginning of the blade. One side of the blade had a serrated edge near the top, making it very deadly looking. Blood red rubies gleamed in the eyes of the dragon's head pommel. While the blade was its normal silver, the dragon was a light, metallic green. Metal visible beneath the dragon was golden.
Lauren wasn't sure if this large dagger was a weapon or a piece of art. It looked brand new with no nicks or bloodstains. She looked up from the dagger when she sensed someone approaching. With the overwhelming sensations swirling through her mind, it was difficult to really pick up much.
When the tent flap moved, Lauren quickly stood up and hid the dagger behind her back. Her eyes went wide when she saw who was entering. She hadn't been expecting to see someone so gorgeous. She nearly dropped the dagger in shock.
The man was tall and well built. His tight, revealing leather was black and showed off every muscle to perfection. A sword hung at his hip, making her feel more uncomfortable then when he entered. Long, black as sin hair framed his beautiful face, curling thickly as it dipped below his broad shoulders. His neatly trimmed mustache and beard accented his lush, full lips. His dark eyes captured and held her eyes, drawing her in.
Lauren found it hard to think straight as she looked at him. He exuded power, grace, and seduction. The seductiveness of his presence pulled at her, making her want to go to him. It was very hard to resist him.
"Hello, little one." he purred.
That voice! Where did he get such a sexy voice like that? Lauren stepped back, hoping to escape his seductive lure. Her sprained ankle made movement difficult and almost made her fall down before she caught herself. It was his eyes that held her attention almost as strongly as that face of his. She had heard the eyes told a lot about a person. His were dark, mysterious, and most of all©©dangerous.
A little whimper escaped her when he approached her. She couldn't run away from him due to her ankle. She was having enough problems keeping her weight off of it. When he got too close to her, she whipped the dagger out and pressed it to his chest. The tip of the sharp blade touched the skin above his heart. She held the dagger tightly in her hands, deciding whether to stab him or not.
The man glanced down at the dagger unconcerned. He didn't seem to realize he was seconds away from meeting Hades. Was he mad or just plain stupid? Usually when one had a dagger against them, they backed off.
This man seemed impressed by her action. Moreover, she could feel a strange hunger in him rise. It wasn't for food. This was directed at her. This wasn't good. She had a good idea what it was, and was sure she didn't like it one bit.
Ares approached his tent, sensing the body within. He could tell it was a living female, but that was about it. He didn't like it when he couldn't sense a lot from his lovers. Especially the new ones. He couldn't use anything to his advantage.
She was afraid. He felt that. He didn't hold that against her. She had just been through a whole lot with Toreth. Fear was a normal reaction. Soon, he would have her feeling many other things.
When he entered his tent, he saw that it *was* her. His temptress from the forest was here. He then noticed she had several injuries. Simple abrasions and small cuts on her had probably come from the thorn bush he had seen. Two broken lips, bruises, and a sprained ankle, he could tell she was trying to hide, had to have come from Toreth. He also noticed her dress was a shambles, dirty and ripped in several places. This and her injuries made him want to give Toreth a lot more pain
before he made a final decision on his fate. Right now, he was leaning toward a long, slow, and painful death.
"Hello, little one." he purred, hoping to feel a little more desire from her, rather than fear. He had felt her attraction to him the moment he had entered. He had to fight to keep from smiling when she was unknowingly ogling him when he came in. He was curious how she would do that when he was naked before her. He smiled when his voice drew the reaction he wished.
Ares approached her, wanting to kiss away the pain of her injuries. He felt her fear return, then the point of a dagger against his chest. He glanced down at the dagger; impressed she had gotten hold of that one. If he remembered correctly, he had locked it in a box then in the chest by his bed.
This dagger was one Hephaestus had made for him along with some other weapons. This one was unique and one he hadn't allowed any mortal to touch or use. This was a weapon he hadn't used in any battle, liking it too much. Now, his blood would be the first to stain the blade's surface.
"You don't want to be doing that." Ares said, meeting her gaze.
"Oh," she said confidently. "Why not?"
~What bravado.~ Ares thought to himself. Aloud, he said, "That dagger has never drawn blood. Do you want to be responsible for ruining such a lovely thing?" He ignored the fact that those words went against his true nature.
"Maybe I do. I'd rather ruin a dagger with your blood, then allow you to see any of mine."
~Ah, such a lovely woman.~ he purred in his mind. Her anger excited him, centering in his groin. He grabbed her arms, pulling the dagger away from him.
"By the gods..." Lauren gasped, falling to her knees. The dagger fell to the floor before her, but Ares continued to hold her arms captive. He held her exactly where she had been touched in her dream.
A downpour of sensations flooded her mind. It blotted out everything else, overwhelming her again. She was on the verge of blacking out before he released her. She instantly backed away from him, leaving the dagger behind.
Ares released her and allowed her to recoil from him. He blocked the way out, so she couldn't escape him. Her reaction surprised the war god. He hadn't been expecting that. Her sensing his presence yesterday was beginning to make a little sense now. He smiled at the realization.
"An empath," Ares smiled. "A rather strong one at that."
"I don't know what you're talking about." Lauren said. She backed herself into the desk. She wasn't sure what she feared more: him, his incredibly strong mind, or her intense desire for him. She decided to go with all three.
"Of course not." Ares smiled, knowing she was lying. She probably kept that a well©guarded secret. "You dropped Graegus," he said, noticing the statue on the floor. "You better not have broken him. That's my favorite statue. No one else has carved him so perfectly."
Lauren stared at him as he picked up the dog statue she had dropped and checked for damage. She wasn't sure who or what a Graegus was and wasn't certain she wanted to find out. She saw him smile and lovingly stroke the statue with his thumb before setting it down on the desk. He has such a beautiful smile and this one carried genuine warmth. He seemed to care a great deal for the statue. She figured that was why it had triggered the image from her dream.
This man was the cloaked figure from her dream vision. She knew he was. He had to be. She noticed he had moved a discreet distance away from her after returning the statue to the desk. As if he knew the closer he got to her, the more uncomfortable he made her.
"You didn't break my statue," he said, interrupting her thoughts. "That's good. I don't have to make you pay for it now."
"How much did it cost?" Lauren asked, almost feeling foolish. She guessed he would have hurt her had she broken a favored possession.
"A few hours." He grinned when she looked at him a little confused. Her confusion was expected. After all, he could tell she was a maiden. What a prize he had gotten. He would enjoy explaining his answer as soon as he healed her wounds. That would be his reward for his helping her.
"How's your ankle," he asked, changing the subject. "I noticed you favoring it earlier."
"This is my favorite ankle," she said sarcastically. "I give it a rest every now and then and let the other carry the burden of support."
Ares chuckled at her. He drew closer to her, blocking out as much of his mind from her as he could. He knelt down before her, holding his hands up before him when she drew a fist back to punch him. "Calm down," he said. "Let me look at your ankle."
Lauren relaxed a little as she listened to his soothing voice. She flinched when he lifted her sore left leg. His hand touched her calf above her boot and she felt the calluses on his palm and fingers. The heat of his skin made her shiver. She watched him cautiously, ready to hit him if she had to.
Ares admired her courage. She was getting over her fear. Good. Her mind was slowly adjusting to his presence. Later he would help her adjust to the full brunt of his mind. When he touched the skin of her calf, he had to suppress the groan that threatened to escape him. Her skin was softer than he had expected.
What a curious enigma she was. Now, he knew she was an empath, but that still didn't explain why she was able to sense him when he first saw her. Even a strong mortal empath wouldn't have really been able to sense him so well while he was invisible. This was a fascinating mystery to him.
"May I remove your boot so I may check your ankle?" he asked. He didn't need to, of course. He could have healed her directly through the soft leather boot. He just wanted to try to gain a little of her trust.
After Toreth's treatment of her, she probably would have kicked him in the face had he tried something without her permission. When he went to see Toreth, he had sensed the bruise she had given the general's groin. That had impressed him. Women usually didn't do that to him and come away intact. The pain of that bruise would have quite an impression on the fool for awhile.
"Are you a healer?" she asked.
"I dabble in the practice," he replied. "You can trust your foot in my hands. I've never had to remove a limb from any of my patients." He was rewarded with a smile from her. Despite the ugly cuts to her lips, she had a lovely smile.
"Go ahead." she said.
Ares tightened his grip on her leg a little to hold it still and felt her shiver again. He liked how his touch affected her. With his free hand, he untied the laces of her boot and carefully removed it. Her ankle was swollen and an ugly bruise was forming on it. "You'll live and keep your ankle," he said. "I'll see to that." Unable to resist, he placed a kiss on her ankle.
Lauren punched him hard across the face, surprising him. She pulled her leg away from his grip and tried to get away from him. She started to get up and, in her haste, put weight on the wrong foot. She yelped in pain and lost her balance, falling backward. A pair of strong arms encircled her and cradled her against a warm body. She was picked up by her would©be healer and set down on the bed.
"I wouldn't do that again if I were you," Ares scolded her. "You may permanently damage your ankle."
"Keep your lips to yourself then." Lauren countered.
The war god grinned at her. He planned to show her several reasons to keep his lips very close to her. Ways that would make her body sing with pleasure.
"Stop staring at me," she hissed. "If I wanted to be stared at, I would live in a village, not a forest."
"I'm your healer, remember," he said. "I have to stare. I'm assessing your injuries. You have quite a few."
"Thank Toreth and his horse from Tartarus."
"You know his name?"
"Yes. And I hope that damn dirty bastard has something really painful happen to him."
~From your lips, to my ears,~ Ares thought to himself. ~I'll make him pay for all those injuries he gave you, sweets.~ His eyes fell on the piece of parchment on the table behind her. "What's that?" he asked, pointing at it.
Lauren grabbed the parchment in question. "A note," she said, letting him take it from her. "Toreth left it."
Ares examined the note for a moment, then said, "Good for him. I wouldn't want the men outside seeing you. They might get the wrong idea." He tossed the parchment aside and drew closer to the bed, gazing down at the woman on his bed.
When he came closer to the bed, Lauren arched an eyebrow in question. Something wasn't right here. The longer she was with him; she was becoming more and more aware of something very odd. She wasn't sensing as much from him as she had been when he first entered. No one she had encountered had been able to do that. No normal person...
"You're no healer," she said suddenly. "What are you?"
Ares smiled at her. "Oh, but I *am* a healer, my sweet," he said. "Allow me to demonstrate." He waved his hand and a glow surrounded her, making her jump in surprise. He healed all of her wounds as the glow was absorbed into her body.
"You're a god," she said in realization.
"And *you* are very perceptive and very beautiful."
Lauren resisted the urge to smile at his words. She didn't want him to know how much his compliment affected her. She edged away from him when he sat down on the bed, then stretched out on his side, propped up on his elbow. The look on his face wasn't one she wanted to be faced with. If she had to put a name to it, it was utter desire and it was all aimed at her.
"Were you the one spying on me yesterday?" Lauren asked.
"Mmmhmm," Ares replied. "I couldn't help myself. You lured me in with your Siren sweet song, then gave me the most delightful sight to look at. I could hardly leave without admiring you."
Lauren glared at him. He was so forward with her, she didn't have to sense it to know he was fiercely attracted to her. As overwhelming as his mind was before, she feared what would happen when they were intimately joined. And she had no doubt he'd pursue her till he had his way with her.
"Would you like to know what I really 'paid' for that statue of Graegus?" Ares purred, moving toward her.
Lauren inched away from him. "Not really," she said, trying to think of a way out of this. "Tell me, what *is* a Graegus, anyway?"
"Graegus is a who, not a what." Ares informed her.
"Then who is Graegus?"
"Is it a dog?"
"Yes. That statue is an exact replica of what he looks like."
Lauren finally remembered what she had heard about a dog named Graegus. He was the Dog of War and his master was... She shot out of the bed and across the tent in an instant. She had just realized who was trying to seduce her.
Ares was surprised by how fast she ran. He turned onto his stomach in the bed, crossing his arms on the bed, propping himself up onto them. He stared at Lauren with raised eyebrows. "You're a fast runner," he said. "No wonder you were able to get away from me yesterday. Come here, I'm not going to harm you."
"No thanks," she said. "I'll stay over here and admire your skull collection." She turned and looked at the pyramid of skulls. "Eek!" she yelled when a finger traced up her arm. She whirled to face the war god behind her.
Though she knew he was a god, Lauren was still surprised he had moved so fast. "How'd you do that?" she asked surprised.
"Magic." Ares smiled. He grabbed her arms and drew her closer. "I have far better things for you to 'admire' then some skulls. Things that will appreciate it more." He pulled her toward the bed.
Lauren surprised him when she suddenly flipped him over onto his back. Before she could get free, he pulled her down on top of him. "Or we could stay here," he smiled. "Although the floor might be uncomfortable for you."
"Let go of me you big ogre!" Lauren growled, trying to get free. She knew a few fighting moves from a few training lessons she had taken. Flipping Ares over had surprised her as much as it had him. She didn't think she could do that to a god.
"I'm a god, sweets," Ares purred, turning her onto her back, pinning her beneath him. "Not an ogre."
"Then move your godly ass off of me!" she hissed. Instead of angering him, she caused him to chuckle deeply. "What's so funny?" she asked annoyed.
"I've never heard such rude words from such a sweet mouth. Perhaps I should kiss all those bad words away." He leaned in, capturing her wrists in his hands to prevent her from attacking him. His legs held hers between them firmly so she couldn't hit him like she had Toreth.
At the last moment, Lauren turned her head away. She felt Ares' lips against her neck below her ear. She shivered when she felt how soft they were. Ares suddenly jumped back as if shocked. He sat up quickly, releasing her hands. The reason for his sudden action dropped onto her stomach. An ant crawled across her tattered dress toward the ground.
Ares had altered his direction when she turned her head. He planned to trail nibbling kisses down her neck. Before he could, something crawled onto his nose and bit him. The sharp pinch of its pincers surprised him and he sat up quickly. He was expecting to see a scorpion as the culprit and was almost annoyed to see this tiny little ant fall onto Lauren from the bridge of his nose. What was worse, he noticed that Lauren was now shaking with suppressed laughter.
"Stop that this minute." he ordered. That only served to make her burst out laughing. The ant bounced off her to the floor and went scurrying away. It probably came out of one of the mud clumps on the floor in here. Angry at her laughter and the way the ant had embarrassed him, the war god zapped the insect, incinerating it.
"A mighty god brought down by one little ant," Lauren teased. "That's so priceless." She broke down into a new set of giggles, unable to stop. She was one of those people who couldn't stop once she got started. His weight on her was the only thing keeping her still.
Ares growled incoherently under his breath and got up off of her. He left her giggling on the floor, moving to the bed. He fell onto it with a sigh and glared down at her. "Are you about finished laughing at me?" he asked.
Lauren caught her breath and turned to face him. She grinned at him, trying to hold back her giggles. It didn't work and she started laughing once more.
Rolling his eyes in annoyance, Ares had a feeling anything he said would just set her off. If there was such a thing as a giggle box, this one had a doozy of one. Turning onto his back, he waited until she had tired her giggler out. He heard her start to cough and knew that her giggling was starting to wind down.
"I bet your nose itches now." she said.
Ares could hear the smile in her voice. "Actually no," he said. "Gods don't suffer the burden of itching after a bug bite. Doesn't even sting."
A grin crossed Ares' lips. "You may want to check yourself for any others than." he said.
"They would have bitten me by now if there were anymore."
Lauren rolled her eyes at his words. He was back to that again. He definitely had a one©track mind.
"Where did you learn to flip a person like that?" Ares asked suddenly.
"One of the guardians where I lived once gave me a few lessons in fighting." she replied.
"Where did you stay? Athens' City Academy of God Flipping?"
"Delphi. I stayed with an oracle for a little over a year. I learned a few things from her and her guardians."
"Did you learn how to sing there as well?" Ares asked.
"As a matter of fact, yes," Lauren replied. "The oracle seemed to think it was important for me to learn how to sing." She figured it was best to answer his questions. It would at least keep him from drifting back to his carnal lusts.
"Maybe because your singing would be key to your meeting me." Ares said.
"Maybe. I think she just wanted to keep me out of trouble and thought singing would accomplish that."
Ares chuckled at her. "If she heard how you were singing earlier, she probably would have blushed several colors."
"Are you saying my singing is embarrassing?" She sat up and glared at him.
"Not at all. It's just quite *stimulating* and probably not the way she would have wanted you use that talent."
~Oh well, so much for shifting his thoughts.~ Lauren muttered in her mind.
Ares got up and went to Lauren. He helped her up and pulled her aside. He snapped his fingers and a tub of steaming water appeared where she had been. "How 'bout a bath?" he asked.
"Not with you watching." she said defiantly.
"It's not anything I haven't seen before." He caught her wrist when she tried to slap him. He coughed when she punched him in the stomach. She had a strong punch. "You have quite a punch, Lauren." he praised, using her name for the first time.
Lauren stared at him for a moment. She knew she hadn't told him her name. "You know my name?" she asked.
"I'm a god, remember," he replied. "I know many things about you. I've been told of you as well." He laid her captured hand against his chest. He felt her tense when he did. He had to do this if he was to help her make the adjustment to him. "Shh, calm down," he said soothingly. "I won't allow you to be overwhelmed again, if I can help it. Just relax and let your mind feel me." He knew this was the only way to help her mind adjust to him. Now was as good a time as any to start this. It would be difficult at any point for her to get use to the strength of his mind.
Unable to free her hand, Lauren had to do as he asked. She couldn't block out a mind so powerful when she was in direct contact with his skin. She was glad he was able to block out most of his mind from her, even when she was in direct contact with him. It helped a lot to keep her from picking up too much too soon from him. Her mind quickly turned to what the hand on his chest was feeling now. She could feel his heart beating against her hand. It was beating so strongly, she thought it would beat right out of his chest.
What surprised her was that his skin was so soft here, contrasting the roughness of his callused hands. Only his lips had been softer than this. With her free hand, she reached up and very gently touched his lips with a single finger, as if she were making that comparison. She didn't want him to think she was going to attack him. She traced them, feeling how soft they were.
Ares closed his eyes under her touch. For such a fierce, sarcastic, little girl, she had a gentle touch. He resisted the urge to capture her stroking finger. He turned his head to the side as her hand began to move away. He was silently coaxing her to continue her exploration. Chills ran down his spine when her hand slipped into his hair.
"I'm surprised." Lauren said.
"By what?" Ares asked, releasing her hand. He was gratified when she didn't take that hand from his chest. It showed a lot of courage on her part.
"You're said to be a cold and hard god, among other descriptions. What I'm feeling contrasts that."
"Oh, and what *are* you feeling?"
Ares let out a growling purr when he heard that description. "Oh, but there are parts of me that are *quite* hard." he informed. ~And growing harder the longer you do that.~ he added silently.
"You have a one©track mind," she scolded.
"So I've been told." He turned his head back to look at her and took her face in his hands, gazing into her emerald eyes. "Now, may I have a kiss?" he asked. He decided to give her the option, hoping she'd choose in his favor. He moved his hands to her waist, allowing her to take the initiative. If she wanted to move away from him, he wouldn't stop her. This was *her* choice.
Lauren didn't know if it was her own desires that were guiding her or if it was his, or maybe even a combination of both of theirs, but she couldn't think past the need to feel those lips on hers. She needed to feel his kiss right now. She feared she would die of that need if she didn't. Her fingers played in his silky soft hair, making him shiver. She curled her hand around the back of his neck as her hand on his chest slid upward. Pulling him in, she brushed her lips against his own.
Ares allowed her to control the kiss at first. It was hard to control the impulse to curl his arms around her and kiss her breathless. He could do that so easily, but it would make her turn on him again. Even he had limits when it came to restraining his desires. But he had to. He didn't want to scare her off; not when he was so close. When she touched his lips briefly, he slipped his arms around her and gently pulled her closer.
"Kiss me." he whispered against her lips. This wasn't an order or a demand. This was almost a plea.
Unable to resist, Lauren buried her free hand in his silky curls and touched her lips fully to his. She kissed him softly on the lips, but knew from his hungered growl that this wasn't the type of kiss he wanted. He wanted something more. She pulled back a little and gazed into his dark eyes, silently asking him what he wanted.
Seeing that she didn't know how he wanted to be kissed, Ares decided to teach her. He leaned in, capturing her lips with his own. Parting his lips, he traced hers with the tip of his tongue. He groaned when he tasted her, instantly wanting more. His grip tightened on her when sensed her knees weakening. When her lips parted on a sigh, he thrust his tongue into her mouth. Reaching up, he caressed her cheek before he took her hand from his hair and slid it down his body. He pressed his groin into her hand, letting out a groan when her fingers tightened involuntarily around him. Oh, that felt so good. He held her hand there, pressing into it, wanting her to feel how she affected him.
Lauren couldn't believe how good his kiss felt or tasted. It was like nothing she had ever experienced before. His arm around her was the only thing keeping her upright at the moment. When he touched her hand to such an intimate spot, she couldn't believe what she was feeling. She knew enough about men to know what she was touching. He was so hard and hot right there, it felt like he had a piece of hot metal right there. His groan made her think she had hurt him, but when he pressed into her hand, she could tell that his groan was one of pure pleasure.
"Such skillful hands you have," he praised against her lips. "Do continue."
Tugging gently on his hair, She pulled his head back and his mouth away from hers. She looked into his deep brown eyes, seeing the desire burning in them. She took her hands away from him, noticing the dirt on them for the first time. She laid them against his vest.
"I can't," she said. "I'll get you all dirty. I'm all grimy." Gods, that sounded dumb! That was the best excuse she could come up with at the moment. Her mind was almost completely clouded by desire, making it hard to think. The truth was that she wanted to stop this before this went too far. This was going too fast for her.
"A little dirt never hurt anyone," Ares purred. "Get me as dirty as you wish. I'll wash."
"And risk another ant bite there?" she asked, stroking the spot on his nose where the ant had been bitten him. She grinned at the memory.
Ares growled in annoyance. He brushed her hand away, knowing he would never live that down if anyone learned an ant of all things had stopped him. It may have been funny for her, but it was embarrassing to him. It was irritating having a small insect ruin such a wonderful moment.
"I will take my chances," he said, then gave her the once over as he released her. "But you're right about the dirt. It would ruin my fun as much as that little irritant did. And helping you bathe would be *so* fun."
"Are you always so blatant?" she asked.
A smile curled the god's lips. He chuckled softly at her. "Usually," he said. "Unless I'm playing with my lovers." He reached out to undo the laces at the front of her tattered dress. He growled when she stepped back.
"Are the stories I've heard about you true?" she asked.
"Possibly," he replied. "What have you heard?"
"You have both male and female lovers."
"That one is true."
"Oh?" He stared at her with one eyebrow arched in curiosity.
"Men aren't suppose to do that with each other."
"What do you mean 'why'? It just is!"
Ares chuckled again. "Maybe not. But it's so very enjoyable. I bet you'd change your mind if you saw it for yourself. You'd see how truly good it is."
"No thanks. I'm not a voyeur. Even if I was, that wouldn't be something I would want to watch."
A muscle twitched in Ares' jaw. Who was she to judge who he took as a lover? Well, technically, she wasn't judging *him*, just men being with men. He decided to take it upon himself to show her the error of those thoughts. Voyeurism and men having sex with each other weren't bad and he would prove that to her.
"Take your bath and have something to eat," he said with a touch of annoyance in his tone. "I'll allow you some time to adjust to me and your new surroundings." He looked at the bed and essentials for her bath and afterward appeared there. On the bedside table, a tray of food and drink appeared.
"Ares..." she said gently.
Ares looked at her, liking the sound of his name on her lips. "Yes?" he asked.
"I'm sorry if I insulted you. It wasn't meant that way."
Ares smiled at her. "I forgive you, my sweet. *This* time. Now, be a good girl and have your bath. I'll give you some privacy." He stepped closer and took her chin in his hand, making her look directly into his eyes. "And stay here," he said a bit sternly. "You'll be safe." He slid his finger down her cheek as he released her.
"Can I ask you something?" Lauren asked as Ares stepped back.
"Of course." Ares replied.
"It's more of a request."
Ares smiled. This was beginning to sound good.
"Stop that!" Lauren growled.
"What?" Ares asked innocently.
"Grinning like that. Boy, someone really should wash your mind out with soap."
Ares chuckled at her. "Wouldn't work," he teased. "My mind is permanently stained with lustful thoughts. Now, what was your
"I'm not sure I want to ask it now."
The god's smile became a toothy grin. "Ooh, that wicked a request, hmm?" he teased.
"No." Lauren huffed. Gods, he was so frustrating. "I wanted to request the release of one of the prisoners."
"Why? Do you have a lover among them?"
Lauren was shocked by that question. Even more so when she felt jealousy from him. She probed deeper into his feelings, wanting to know if she had felt right. He was! He was actually jealousy. She would have laughed if it weren't for the dangerous look on his face. "You're kidding me, right? Aren't you gods suppose to know these kinds of things?" A black look filled Ares' expression. "He's just a friend. I don't have a lover," she said, hoping to soothe him. "I've never had a lover. I've had men fall all over themselves to get my attention..." Ares didn't look at all amused at that comment. "By the gods! I'm a virgin, you big goon! You wanna look to make sure?!"
Ares eyes lit up when she asked that. He grinned deeply, stepping toward her.
"Forget I asked that." Lauren said as she retreated.
"No, I think I would like to check." he said, drawing closer.
Lauren yelled in alarm when she backed into the tub and lost her balance. She fell in with a loud splash. She came up spluttering and heard Ares laughing at her. She crossed her arms before her, glaring at him.
"You should see your face." Ares smiled.
"I hate you!" she yelled, hitting the water with her fists. The water splashed her soundly in the face.
"Me or the water?"
"*Both* of you!"
Ares chuckled at her. He snapped his fingers and the tub grew larger. So he could join her and they'd still have room to move around in. He climbed into the water, leathers and all, and went toward her. He was hit in the face with a wave of water when she splashed him. "Oh really?" he taunted. He followed suit and splashed her back.
Lauren narrowed her eyes at him and returned the attack. She and Ares started to attack each other in earnest with the water. They soaked each other and everything in range outside the tub. It was hard to tell through the sound of splashing water, but they were both laughing up a storm through their "water war".
Ares lunged forward suddenly and trapped her against one wall of the tub. He had the most wicked look on his face. "Now where to, my sweet?" he purred.
Lauren slipped her hands inside his soaked vest, touching his chest. His skin was so warm and soft, made slick by the water. "How 'bout...*here*?" she said, dragging her nails down his chest.
A deep©throated groan escaped the god's lips. Lauren was able to slip away from him when he leaned back. She made her way toward the other side of the tub, noticing now it was bigger and taller than before. "Oh you evil little girl." Ares growled seductively. He turned to face her seeing where she was. "And just *where* do you think you're going?" he asked when she started to get out. Reaching out, he grabbed her nearest arm and pulled her to him. "*You* are *my* prisoner," he informed her. "And as my prisoner, you are going to sit there and be thoroughly washed by me."
Lauren stared at him momentarily confused. He had an odd definition for prisoner. She wrestled free of his grip and climbed out of the tub before he could grab her again. She guessed he was playing with her, since he didn't put up much of a fight when she tried to free herself. He was enjoying this while it was frustrating her. "Come back here." Ares said. He sent his clothes away and leaned against the side of the tub, crossing his arms over it. He was clearly tempting her to come back and try to see more of him.
~Oh boy, I really hope he doesn't come out of there.~ Lauren thought to herself.
Ares grinned, reading her expression. He crooked a finger at her, inviting her back. "Come here, or you'll get a real look at me." he purred.
"Knowing you, I bet you'd do that anyway."
"Modesty is lost on you gods."
"You want modesty? Go to Hestia."
"Maybe I will. At least there I won't have to worry about the evils of a god's body."
"Too late for that, my dear. You've already touched them. And they like you. Besides, you can't deny you like the 'evils of a god's body'. I could tell when you touched me."
Lauren let out a little whimper. It was almost inaudible to any normal person. She could tell Ares had heard it when he smiled at her. He was slowly wearing down her guard like he was an invading army. That's what he was to her at the moment©©an invading army trying to break through her guard and have her completely at his mercy. Her eyes went wide when he started to leave the tub. "What are you doing?" she gasped.
"Getting the soap," Ares said. "One can't bathe properly without soap, can they?"
"Can't you just conjure some up?"
"There's already some here. Why waste the energy?" He left the water and went to the bed, grabbing the soap.
The sight of his naked body nearly made Lauren lose her balance. She bit her fist to keep from moaning aloud when he turned his back on her. Gods, he was beautiful! She pulled her fist out of view before he turned back around. She quickly turned away from him before she fell down completely. She feared him more now than she had when he first came into the tent. Her attraction to him and the desire for his attention frightened her.
"Why do you turn from me," Ares asked. "Am I repulsive?"
"No." Lauren said quietly.
"Then look at me."
"Please don't do this to me." Her tone carried true fear now.
Ares could tell that his little game with her was only making her recoil from him. He dried off and dressed himself with a thought. "It's all right to look at me now, Lauren."
Tentatively, Lauren turned to face him. She was relieved to see he had dressed and dried himself. Being soaked only made him look even more desirable. She felt a rush of energy flow over her and watched as all the grime on her faded away and her tattered dress altered to a tunic, leggings, and a comfortable pair of leather boots. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail.
"There, all clean," Ares said, sending away the tub and drying the mess their little war caused. "Eating, on the other hand, is something you'll have to handle on your own."
"Thank you." Lauren said.
"You're welcome. Now, you said you had a friend among the prisoners?"
"Oh yes, the blacksmith. I was thinking of releasing him. If he were enslaved, it would really upset my brother. I'd rather not anger him at the moment."
"You planning a war?"
"No, my sister Athena. She's planning to attack one of my favorite spots and I might need Hephaestus' services."
"Just as long as you don't need your uncle's services."
"You let me worry about that. You eat, before my little heat spells on the hot stuff goes away. There's nothing worse than cold food. And hang onto that dagger, you may need it." He vanished in a blaze of light before anymore could be said.
Ares decided to leave Lauren alone while she ate. He knew she would be safe while in his tent. No one could sneak up on her and she had a lethal dagger with her to protect herself. He had a few things to tend to before returning to his game of seducing her.
Normally, he wouldn't go so out of his way to prepare someone for his attention and seduce that person at the same time. She intrigued him as much as she frustrated him. He would have taken her when he had first entered the tent, had it not been for the surprise of her being empathic. As strong as she was, if he took her now, she would be sent into a catatonic state from the strength of his mind crashing into hers.
Her acute senses would be an asset to him as well. She couldn't block out what he wanted her to sense from him. Even with the mental shields she had to protect her mind from picking up too couldn't block him out completely. Which meant he could let her feel all the desire he had for her and continually tease her with it.
With the danger of harming her with the strength of his mind, Lauren was causing Ares to take a different route of how he proceeded with his seduction. He wondered just how it would finally turn out. He hoped that path would lead him to the answers to all his questions about her.
Ares reappeared near the cage housing the prisoners. He looked them over and saw many that would bring a nice profit to his warriors when they were sold. He located Sirus and smiled. The mortal was wounded from trying to get free, but no serious damage was done to him. He waved his hand and Sirus vanished from the cage. He vanished himself, reappearing in his temple, where Sirus was now chained to the wall.
"Don't waste the effort," Ares said, seeing Sirus struggling with his chains. "You can't break those chains."
Sirus faced Ares, pausing in his struggles. He was surprised to see Ares before him. "What do you want?" he asked.
"How ungrateful of you. I freed you. You should be thanking me."
"I don't think so."
Ares smiled and went to Sirus. He took the mortal's chin in his hand and gazed into his eyes. Sirus was handsome with long, blond hair pulled back in a ponytail and pale green eyes. He looked more like a Viking warrior, rather than a Greek blacksmith. He matched the war god in build, but was just a little shorter than him. An ugly scar ran down the left side of his face, as if a sword had sliced into him there. "Nasty scar you have there." he said, tracing his finger down the mark.
Sirus closed his eyes when heat traced down his skin under Ares' fingertip. He felt the skin healing under the god's almost tender touch. Ares was deliberately making this healing so pleasurable. He tried to resist what Ares was inspiring in him.
"Don't pretend you don't like my touch," Ares purred. "I know you do."
"Let me go and I'll show you how much I like it." Sirus countered.
Ares chuckled at his prisoner. "You plan to fight me?" he asked as he traced his finger down Sirus' body. He grinned when he saw the nice bulge between his thighs. "I think you just wish to fight yourself for enjoying this so much." He cupped the bulge between the blacksmith's thighs, giving it a warm squeeze.
Sirus fell against the wall he was chained to, though he refused to let any sound escape him. He didn't want to give into the desire Ares was causing him. He had only been with another man once before and it didn't come close to feeling this good.
"Should I heal your leg as well," Ares asked. "Or would you like to enjoy that pain some more?" He squeezed the imprisoned cock again when Sirus started to speak, grinning when he drew a groan from him.
"Heal it." Sirus whispered, barely able to think.
Ares smiled and knelt down before him. He tore open the ruined leather, uncovering a deep cut. A gasp of pain escaped Sirus' lips when he did and again when he touched the wounded thigh to hold it still. The bleeding had slowed and the wound was beginning to close.
Leaning in, he slid his tongue up the wound, healing the gash, as he tasted the mortal's blood. He groaned in delight at the taste, then pulled away. A groan of a different sort escaped Sirus, when he did that. It was something like a cross between pain and pleasure.
"There," Ares purred, straightening up. "All better."
"If you really want me to feel better," Sirus said. "You'll tell me what happened to Lauren."
"What makes you think *I* have her?"
"I saw her carried into the camp and taken to a tent. *You* went into that tent. I *know* you have her."
"I'm impressed. You saw all that and still managed to fight with my men and not get yourself killed?"
"She's a little hard to miss. Especially when the one carrying her in isn't making an effort to hide her."
Ares reached around behind Sirus' head and freed his hair from the thong holding it. The mortal's hair grew to several inches below his shoulders. "She's alive and healthy," he said. "She's safe. Her attacker is imprisoned here in my temple. I'm debating on how to punish him for all that he's done."
"I've got an idea: Kill him." Sirus said.
"I like your style. But, I want him to suffer more than that. Death is too good for him. More pain comes from him living than dying."
"I had heard you were sadistic. I see the rumors are true."
Ares grinned deeply. "What nice things you say," he said. "How would you like to help me teach him a lesson?"
"You trust me not to kill him?"
"Not really, but I'm going to be supervising your work so you don't kill or cripple him."
"What's the catch?"
Ares grabbed Sirus' crotch once more. He squeezed him, feeling how hard the mortal was now. "My price is you pleasing me." he purred.
Sirus closed his eyes, moaning softly. He had never been so turned on by a man than he was now. "Release the chains," he whispered. "I'll do as you ask." The chains released his wrists and ankles almost instantly. "What do you wish first?" he asked as Ares continued to caress his cock through the leather of his pants.
Ares' eyes flashed with hunger as he thought that over. He smiled when he came to a decision.
"Your mouth." Ares purred as he released Sirus' crotch. He looked at the mortal's lush lips, imagining how they would feel wrapped around his cock. "I want to feel how talented that mouth of yours is."
Sirus had a good idea where Ares wanted him to use his mouth. Chills ran up his spine when Ares traced his fingers up the back of his neck and into his hair. He was pulled against the god and into a deep kiss. He groaned under the inviting taste of the god's mouth and tongue. Reaching up, he slipped his fingers into Ares' hair, returning the kiss with the same passion.
Ares growled softly when Sirus buried his hands in his hair. One of his favorite things was to have his hair teased and caressed by his lovers. "Kneel to me." he purred, breaking the kiss. He kept his grip on Sirus' hair as the mortal released him and knelt down before him.
Reaching out, Sirus unbuckled Ares' belt, then unlaced his pants. He freed the god's cock, surprised by its size. He traced the prominent veins, hearing Ares purr above him. His eyes focused on the head, seeing the moisture escaping from the tiny hole at the tip.
A groan escaped Ares' lips when Sirus licked the head of his cock. He tightened his grip on the mortal's hair as his lips closed around his cock. He closed his eyes, leaning his head back as Sirus sucked him, taking him in deeper. He thrust forward into the heat of the mortal's mouth.
Sirus was pleasantly surprised by the salty sweetness of Ares' essence. He took Ares in deeper, till the god was buried completely inside his mouth and throat. He sucked Ares as the god moved back and forth within him, feeling him grow harder and longer under his attention. He nearly moaned in disappointment when Ares pulled out.
Ares pulled Sirus to his feet and turned him around. He sent their clothes away, looking over the mortal's backside. He released Sirus, then reached down and circled the tight ring of muscle guarding his entrance with an oiled finger. His finger then slipped inside him, drawing a murmur of pleasure from Sirus' lips. He added a second, moving them in and out in a teasing pace.
"Now..." Sirus whispered, pushing back against Ares' hand.
"Patience, little mortal," Ares replied, taking his fingers from him. "Such things take time to be fully enjoyed." He brought the head of his cock to Sirus' tight entrance. He pushed in a little, then paused.
Sirus pushed back against Ares as the god grabbed his hips. He braced his hands against the wall, feeling as if Ares would tear him apart with his cock. He let out the breath he didn't realize he had been holding when Ares finally buried completely within him.
Ares curled his arm around Sirus' waist and drew him against him completely. He reached around with his free hand and captured Sirus' cock and began to stroke him as he began to move within him. Sirus was nicely endowed©©quite large for a mortal. The god caressed Sirus' cock, stroking the sensitive tip with his thumb. Animalistic sounds began to escape the mortal's lips.
"Yes," Ares purred. "Tell me how much you love this."
"Gods, yes..." Sirus moaned. He could barely manage anything else. He leaned into Ares as his thrusts grew faster and harder.
Ares felt Sirus' cock grow harder in his grip. He knew the mortal couldn't hold out much longer. "Come for me, little mortal," he whispered. "Give your seed to me." He reached up and pinched one of Sirus' nipples.
Sirus groaned sharply at the sudden pain. He couldn't resist anymore and spilled his seed into Ares' hand. He fell against Ares completely as the god milked him of it. His ears were filled by the god's deep groan and felt his seed fill his ass, scorching his insides. Gods, it felt so good.
Taking his hand from Sirus' cock, Ares licked it clean, savoring the mortal's taste. He pulled out of him and thought up a bench, then lowered Sirus onto it. "Very good, Sirus," he purred, dressing himself with a thought. "You have earned a reward."
"I think I just got one." Sirus smiled. He gazed up at the war god, seeing desire still burning in those deep brown eyes.
"You mean you don't wish to punish the one who hurt Lauren?"
"Oh yes, I do. Let me at him." Sirus began to rise from the bench.
"Down boy, you need clothes first." Ares waved his hand, cleaning and dressing Sirus. He gestured for him to rise and had him follow him through the temple toward the dungeon.
Sirus looked around the temple as he followed Ares. He had never seen so many weapons on display outside of an arms dealers' shop. He saw several only Hephaestus could have constructed. He ran into Ares when the god stopped in front of him suddenly.
"Pay attention," Ares scolded, facing him. "Getting sidetracked with weapon admiration is dangerous. Especially when you run into me."
"I apologize." Sirus said.
"You pleased me. So I'll overlook this."
Sirus could tell the war god was playing with him. He smiled when Ares turned and went down a descending staircase. He followed quickly, but did his best to not run into Ares again. He wasn't sure if Ares would play around like he did the first time if he did. They entered a dungeon with several cell doors lining the wall.
"There." Ares said, going to one cell. He mentally unlocked and opened it, then went inside.
Sirus followed and looked around. His eyes fell on the dark©haired figure on the cot near the back. He glared at the soldier, moving toward him with lethal thoughts on his mind. He felt Ares put a restraining hand on his shoulder and paused. Remembering Ares' words about keeping this man alive flashed through his mind and he thought better on his intentions.
"Letting your prisoners wander around free," Toreth asked snidely. "Not a good idea." He figured he had nothing left to lose since he was imprisoned. Ares being here meant his punishment and/or death was coming. Attacking a god's obsession and losing men under his command in a foolish way would come with a painful punishment. He knew there was no way for him to escape or excuse it.
"You will still show me the proper respect, Toreth," Ares hissed, stepping in front of Sirus. "You may have disappointed me greatly, and angered me even more, but I haven't released you from your vows to me. So wise up." The last part came out in a deadly hiss.
"Yes sir." Toreth said. There was respect in his voice, but not as much as there use to be.
"Get up." Ares approached the general, ready to kill him himself if he dared to play around with him.
Toreth smartened up and did as he was told. He grunted and stumbled when Ares backhanded him across the face. He almost turned to counterattack, but stopped himself before he did. He remembered who had just hit him and what the consequences would be for doing that. Attacking Ares now would only make his punishment more severe.
The room around them altered and Toreth found himself bound spread eagle between two pillars. His wrists and ankles were bound with strong chains that had little slack in them, forcing him to stand up straight. His shirt was gone, exposing his upper body to the cool air of the room. He looked at the man with Ares and saw his face for the first time. He felt a sudden shock as he looked at him.
"I see Toreth thinks as I do regarding you, Sirus." Ares noted.
"Oh?" Sirus inquired.
"You have a remarkable resemblance to the Norse thunder god Thor."
"So I've been told." Lauren had told him that. His father had Norse blood ties and he had learned over time that he indeed looked like the thunder god when he visited the Norselands and saw what Thor looked like through paintings and statues. He had only wished that he had gotten a look at the genuine article and had really seen how similar they were.
Sirus pushed that conversation aside and approached Toreth, deciding just how to hurt him. He balled his fist and punched Toreth hard across the face; opposite of where Ares had hit him. He then went about hitting everything in reach, feeling Ares' eyes watching them closely. He went on like that till Ares finally pulled him away some time later.
"Let him rest a bit," Ares said. "We can't have him passing out just yet. I'm enjoying this way too much to end it now." He glanced at Sirus' hands and healed the bruises forming there. "I'll give you something better to use than your fists next time. You'll wear *them* out before you do *him*."
Toreth looked at his tormentors through his good eye. The other was almost completely swollen shut from one of Sirus' earlier attacks. He could now tell that Ares planned to keep him alive. He wasn't sure that was a better fate than death. This one would include more pain than dying would.
"Why..." Toreth asked through his pain.
"Hmm?" Ares asked.
"Why him?" Pain was making it difficult for him to think clearly.
"Why is Sirus punishing you?"
"The woman you attacked in the woods is his friend. You just be glad I'm not handling this. I'd shattered your bones over and over, then I'd get creative."
Toreth *knew* he didn't want *that*. Ares getting creative in how he punished someone could get quite deadly as it progressed. He could take a person to the brink of death, heal them, then do it all over again. His mind wrapped around one other fact that Ares had thrown out.
"Who is she?" he asked.
"Take a guess." Ares said, crossing his arms before him.
Toreth thought for a moment. There was only one answer he could think of. He came to an unpleasant realization, knowing he was right. "Lauren." he said softly.
"Very good," Ares said. "I didn't even have to give you a hint. You must be getting smarter."
"Exactly *how* do you know her?" Sirus asked, letting anger creep into his tone as he approached the bound general.
"I served with her father. He was my captain." Toreth replied. He decided not to mention the fact that he had been attracted to her before she left the ship or when he encountered her earlier in the forest. He wasn't stupid enough to admit that to a man who was in charge of punishing him.
"A nice way of showing your loyalty." Sirus said. He punched him hard in the gut, making Toreth cough and groan in pain. He moved to behind him and felt something appear in his hand. He looked down at it and saw a long, black, leather flogger in his hand.
"I didn't know it was her," Toreth said. "Ten winters can change a child a lot."
"Ignorance isn't a good excuse, Toreth," Ares said. "Proceed Sirus."
Sirus flexed the whip a couple of times to get the feel of it. He brought it down across Toreth's back, making him jump and gasp in shock and pain. He hit him again, harder than before. Toreth let out a short cry of pain.
"Oh you can do better than that." Ares encouraged Sirus. He smiled when Sirus drew a yell from Toreth. "See?" He watched the show before him, enjoying it immensely. He kept a mental track of how many times Sirus struck Toreth with the whip and how hard. He knew just when to cut him off before Toreth passed out. He wanted Toreth to be in writhing agony and awake to *enjoy* it all.
Lauren retrieved the dragon dagger and brought it closer to the "lunch table". She wanted to have it on hand, in case someone came in. There was no one here she could trust. Especially Ares. He scared her with his outright seduction of her. What scared her even more was that her resistance to it was weakening.
The food was another seduction altogether. It looked scrumptious and tasted even better. Lauren shook off the affect of the temptations Ares was offering her and got herself just a goblet of water. She knew she had to get away from here before Ares came back. He was not to be trusted when it came to how he felt about her.
When Lauren felt Ares' presence was completely gone, she relaxed a little. Hopefully, he'd be too busy with his war plans or whatever to check in on her anytime soon. She knew that if he came back and started his seducing once more, she wouldn't be able to resist him long. Leaving now was the best course of actions.
A chill ran up her spine, making her tense. She looked up from her water, feeling something like she had when Ares had been there. She tried to dismiss it, but as with the war god's imposing presence, she couldn't ignore it, no matter how much she wanted to. Glancing up at the tent, she sighed, "Why me?"
Lauren hoped some god would hear her and give her some sort of help. One who wasn't as overbearingly seductive like Ares was. Her irritation was suddenly overwhelmed by a jolt of pleasure running through her. "What on Earth...?" she asked in confusion, getting up.
Another jolt ran through her, dropping her to her knees. The goblet hit the floor nearby and rolled away. She braced her hands against the floor as she tried to process this. Her pulse and breathing quickened as the sensations bubbled through her.
Beads of sweat formed on her brow and droplets ran down her back as heat rose within her. "By the Gods, please stop you damn, evil creature." she hissed. As if hearing her words, the sensations suddenly ceased and she collapsed onto her side.
"I think I'm going to be sick." she moaned. She started to get up, but the room spun and she fell back onto the floor. "No, I *know* I'm going to be sick."
The feeling finally left her a few minutes later. Lauren suddenly shot straight up on her knees. An image formed in her mind, drawing her full attention. She saw a pair of shadowy figures in a room facing one another. They approached each other. She couldn't make out any details of either of them or where this was happening.
Pain flashed through Lauren's gut when they got to each other, making her gasp aloud. She doubled-over in pain, holding her stomach. One of the figures in her mind collapsed and she knew that one was dead. The image suddenly went black. She was left completely confused about what had just happened and exactly whom she had just seen.
Struggling to her feet, Lauren was more determined to leave here and get as far away as possible. She felt if she could get away from Ares' men, she would be safe from his touches on her mind. She took the dagger with her for protection and went to the tent flap. She reached out with her mind to learn if anyone was nearby.
After determining that it was safe, Lauren slipped out as quietly as she could. She quickly hid herself before anyone saw her. There wasn't anyone close to the tent at the moment, but she knew that could change at any time. She snuck toward where the prisoners were being held, remaining hidden from view. She had to make sure that Sirus had been released before she left.
Sirus was gone, hopefully somewhere safer than here. Now Lauren had to worry about freeing herself. Her only problem was now she was out of hiding places and there was no way to get to the forest without being seen. "Damn." she growled.
Taking a deep breath, Lauren raced for the forest, taking her chances. She sensed someone coming up behind her too late and yelped when she was tackled to the ground. She winced when a knee was pressed into her back.
"Going somewhere?" a voice asked.
"Apparently not." Lauren groaned.
"You're the pretty little thing that has so captivated my lord."
"Word gets around fast."
"Little escapes me."
"So I see."
The pressure on her spine was relieved some, but the man above her continued to hold her down. She remained still; sensing it was the best thing to do. She kept expecting him to try and attack her further and try to rape her. If he did, boy would he be getting a surprise. A very sharp and lethal one.
"Don't worry, I'm not planning on raping you, if that's what you're thinking," he said. "Ares would kill me a hundred different ways if I did."
"Then would you mind letting me up?" she asked.
"No. I don't trust you to stay put."
"I can't stay here."
"You can and will. You're Ares' property and he doesn't like his things running away."
"I belong to no one. Now, *let* *me* *up*!"
To her utter shock, the man did as she asked. She quickly got to her feet and faced him. The man was tall and handsome with tawny hair just beginning to gray and pale blue eyes.
"How far is the nearest civilized area?" she asked.
"Not far. You could probably get there in a short time on horseback," he replied.
"Do you have a horse I could use?"
"Then please go get it."
"Wait here." He turned and left her. He returned a few moments later with a white speckled horse. "Here," he said, handing over the reins. "When you're there, just let her go. She knows the way back."
"Thank you." she said, then mounted the horse. She turned and left the area as fast as the horse could go. She didn't know why the man had helped her, but she wasn't taking any chances of it wearing off. This was her chance to escape before Ares came back to seduce her further and she was taking it.
"Enough." Ares said.
When Sirus didn't obey him instantly, he threw the blacksmith away with a thought. He approached the mortal, who landed in a sprawled position on the stone floor. He sent the now unconscious Toreth to another cell.
"You stop when I say so," Ares hissed. "Understand?"
"Yeah, sure. Whatever." Sirus grumbled, getting up.
Angrily, Ares grabbed him by the throat, slamming him into the wall. "What was that?" he asked in a deceptively calm voice.
"I wanted to make that slime pay for everything he's done," Sirus said. "For my village and for Lauren."
"And will you do the same to me for that stuff?"
"I might. Especially if you hurt Lauren."
Ares gave Sirus a toothy grin. Sirus seemed to view Lauren as more than a friend, whether he would admit it or not. "Ah, such bravery," he purred. "You're quite protective of the little dear, aren't you? She *is* such a sweet thing, isn't she?"
Sirus freed himself from Ares' grip and moved away, glaring at him. He knew what Ares did to those he considered to be his. He had gotten a sample of that earlier.
"I played with her a little," Ares said, just to torment Sirus. "And then we enjoyed a nice bath together. She enjoyed playing with me. I still have tingles from her attention to me."
Sirus angrily punched Ares in the gut, then slammed him into the wall. He yelled when Ares hit him in the chest with a bolt of lightning. It sent him flying across the room and into another wall. He landed on the floor in a heap.
"Fool," Ares said, going to the blacksmith. "I could kill you for daring to attack me."
"Well then, go ahead." Sirus challenged.
The war god was surprised by the challenge. He stared down at Sirus. His fists remained clenched at his sides.
Sirus got up, staring defiantly at the war god. "Didn't you hear me," he asked. "I said, go ahead."
Ares suddenly smiled at him. He started to chuckle, then threw his head back and let loose a deep-throated laugh. "Oh, I like you," he said, once he recovered. "No, I won't do that. I'd upset a few people." He reached out and captured Sirus' chin. "Besides, I have a task for you."
"What?" Sirus asked.
"Entertain someone for me. She's told me many things about the Norselands. She should like you." Ares sent Sirus to where Merissa was. He wanted to keep the mortal busy so he wouldn't go searching for Lauren. He also wanted to give Sirus a little reward for punishing Toreth so well and making a good show of it, despite his defiance.
"Keep him busy for awhile, Merissa." he said, then vanished himself.
When he appeared in his tent, Ares looked around for Lauren. He narrowed his eyes when he didn't see her anywhere. He growled an oath and poofed himself into Mavek's tent. He grabbed the mortal by the front of his shirt and yanked him up into the air.
"Where is she?!" he roared.
This was the second time he had left Lauren somewhere only to come back and find her gone. There wouldn't be a third time. He made a silent vow he wouldn't allow that again.
"Gone," Mavek said. "She's gone."
"Where?!" Ares snarled.
"I don't know. I gave her my horse and told her which way to go."
"I-I don't really know."
Ares stared at Mavek confused. He dropped him on the floor of the tent. He put a boot on Mavek's chest, staring down at him. "You don't know," he asked. "Explain to me what happened up to the point where your memory fails. And quickly."
"I left my tent to check on things," Mavek said, feeling the pressure on his ribs increasing. "I saw the girl near the prisoners and figured she was trying to free them. Then she took off toward the woods. I went after her. After that, it's a blank."
Ares relaxed the pressure he had put on Mavek's chest. He stared down at the mortal. He then smiled at him. "Interesting," he said, then moved away. "She's stronger than I thought."
"What?" Mavek asked, getting up.
"Nothing. I forgive your losing her. You couldn't have stopped that. I'm going to go find her, but she won't be brought back here. I want her somewhere safer and where she can't easily escape from."
Ares vanished once more, zeroing in on Mavek's horse. He had a good idea where he could find his little pixie. And he also had a good idea where he could put her so she couldn't escape.
Lauren allowed the horse to slow, once they were a good distance away from the camp. She wondered if she could actually get away from Ares completely. She seriously doubted that. It was quite impossible to get away from Ares easily. Or any of the gods, if they were looking for you. No, Ares wouldn't give up looking for her without a fight.
The vision she had had was still bothering her. She couldn't put a finger on what it was of. The jolts of pleasure were a little easier to understand. Ares was mentally torturing her with that. She wondered if Ares was responsible for the vision as well. He had caused her other one, in a way. He would drive her crazy before he got what he wanted from her.
"Why can't you bother someone else and leave me alone?" she muttered.
Lauren felt something along the edge of her mind. It was a divine presence, but didn't slam into her like a wave as Ares' did. She looked around for the source of the presence.
"Uncle Ares doesn't leave things and people alone for very long when they grab his attention," a voice said.
Lauren yelled in alarm when the horse reared, sending her flying off. She landed on her back, knocking the wind out of her. She was momentarily stunned as she tried to regain her breath. She heard the horse running off. When she could breathe again, she sat up and saw what had spooked the animal.
Before her, she saw a tall, lithe man, who was pale as a ghost. He wore a patchwork leather outfit, black in color. His boots were black leather, with bits of silver on them. His spiky black hair went in every direction and his blue eyes flashed with mischief. His appearance and aura made her skin crawl. She backed away from him, hoping he'd go away.
"Who are you?" she asked.
"Strife's the name," he said with a very dramatic bow.
"Oh yippee." The words came out, dripping in sarcasm. This was a god she hadn't wanted to run into. She had heard about him in her travels, but little in the area of redeeming qualities.
"Mavek didn't tell you that you might run into me, did he," Strife asked. "Well, that's because he doesn't know what's going on around here."
"Like I'd tell you. I'm just watchin' the world go by."
*And your mind going bye-bye.* Lauren muttered in her mind. She winced when another divine presence hit her. This one she recognized instantly. She backed herself into a solid form behind her. She cringed when she realized she was sitting against the hard, muscular legs of the god plaguing her.
"There ya go, Unc," Strife smiled. "This one didn't get away. Hey!" He ducked when Lauren threw a rock at him. He glared at her when he heard Ares laughing.
"She doesn't seem too thrilled about it." Ares said amused. He grinned when Lauren scurried away from him. He quickly reached down and grabbed her by the ankle, picking her up so she dangled upside down. He grinned when she struggled against him. The belt she wore kept her tunic from moving and giving the two an eyeful.
"You're getting your hair all dusty," he said, seeing a few inches of her ponytail brushing against the ground.
"Let me go!" she screeched.
"It doesn't work on me, sweets."
"And I thought fish wiggled a lot." Strife teased.
"She must be part fish." Ares grunted when her teeth sunk into his leg. The suddenness of it caused him to drop her.
"Would that be a piranha?" Strife yelled when Ares hit him with a bolt of lightning.
Ares leapt onto Lauren as she tried to get away, pinning her beneath him. He let out a very animalistic growl, telling her to stay still. He felt her tense under him, then go still. He stroked her back as if she were a cat.
"Good girl, little tigress." he purred. He turned his attention to Strife, who was dusting himself off. "I have a job for you, Strife," he said.
Strife stared at his uncle, knowing he'd probably get zapped again if he didn't do as Ares asked. "Whatcha need, Unc?" he asked.
"Your spying/observing can wait for awhile. I want you to take my little tigress here to where she can't escape." Ares grinned at the angry roar he heard from under him, feeling her try to pull out from under him. Lauren was living up to the nickname he had just given her. "And be careful. This one bites."
"Should I muzzle her?" Strife asked.
"Might be a good idea."
"Don't even try it." Lauren hissed. She struggled wildly trying to get free. She heard a groan from above her and instantly stopped. That wasn't the best thing to do with a god seated on top of her. Especially in the position Ares was deliberately sitting in on her back.
"Tease." Ares said. He got up, pulling her up with him. He held her by the arms, forcing her toward Strife. "Cooperate kitten, or I'll have you caged, then taken away."
"I'll cooperate on one condition."
"You leave me alone."
"Can't do that. I like you too much. Tell you what I *will* do. I'll give you time to yourself where Strife is taking you while I take care of a few things."
"That isn't much of a deal."
"It's the only one you're going to get. Take it or leave it."
"Good. Now, go with Strife and *behave*." He swatted her on the bottom, pushing her forward. He waited till Strife had left with her before vanishing himself.
Ares knew Lauren would try to escape if given the chance. It didn't really matter. He was having fun with her wildness. "Little tigress" suited her well, reflecting her wild nature. But, the sooner she learned that she was his now, the better off she would be. He wanted her to know that there was nothing she could do to alter her fate now, without breaking the spirit in her that he so enjoyed.
Lauren tried to get free the instant she and Strife returned to the world. She fell hard into a sitting position when he released her suddenly. She glared up at him, knowing he had done that on purpose.
"Thanks." she said sarcastically.
"Well, you wanted me to let you go." Strife replied with a grin. He offered his hand to her to help her up, but she slapped it away.
"I'm staying here."
"Sitting on the floor?"
"All righty." Strife seated himself on the floor in front of her, crossing his arms and legs the same way hers were.
Lauren looked at him and raised an eyebrow. "What are you doing?" she asked.
"Sitting." Strife replied innocently.
"'Cause you are."
"Be--arrgh!" Lauren sighed in exasperation and got up. She stumbled when hundreds of empathic impressions suddenly hit her. She moaned and collapsed back onto the floor. She was shocked by the amount of minds touching hers now.
Strife stared at her curiously as she grabbed the sides of her head. "See what happens when you upset Ares," he said. "You give yourself a headache." He jumped when she kicked him in the shin. He got up and moved out of her reach.
"Not funny." Lauren hissed.
She leaned forward, holding the sides of her head as if trying to block out everyone around her. She forced her mind to shut out all that she was picking up from all the minds around her. She nearly collapsed from the effort. Her exposure to Ares had affected her more than she realized. It felt as if his presence touching her mind had cracked the mental shields she protected herself with.
"Where am I?" she asked.
"Still in the mortal world." Strife replied.
"If Unc wanted you to know that, he would have told ya."
Lauren glared at the godling. His teasing was far from amusing. She would have attacked him if she trusted her equilibrium. Her head was pounding so badly, she knew she would fall down if she tried to stand up right now.
"Gods, my head feels like it's in one of Ares' wars." she moaned.
She wasn't use to encountering so many minds at once in such a concentrated form. She had learned to shield others' minds from her own while in Delphi to protect herself. This was far more than she had been prepared for. This was just over the limit of the minds she could stand and block out.
What was in this place was pushing her tolerance limits. Looking around, Lauren tried to find a reason why. By the looks of it, this was a castle. That made sense to her. There was a lot more people around here than she was use to dealing with. Guards, other soldiers, servants, the royally, guests, and prisoners, if any. That made for a whole lot of people in one area.
"I'm not staying here." Lauren said, carefully getting up. Her headache was slowly ebbing away as her mental shields adjusted to this new situation.
"'Scuse me?" Strife asked.
"I *refuse* to stay here."
"Uncle Ares said you will, and you *will* stay here."
"Don't count on it. I will not stay here."
"Oh yes you will." Strife disappeared and reappeared behind her. He shoved her toward the nearby double-doors.
Lauren pulled away from him abruptly, sending Strife to the floor, flat on his face. "Don't touch me!" she yelled angrily. She was tired of being grabbed, pushed, and touched by gods, godlings, and anyone else who had no right to do so.
Strife stared at her in shock. Wow, she was loud. Her temper was as fiery as her hair. "Well then, do as I ask and I won't." he said.
"Strife, are you torturing this poor girl?" a voice asked.
Lauren whirled to face the speaker, planning to let loose an angry stream of insults. She was expecting to see Ares standing there, since it had sounded like him. Her voice left her as well as the color in her face when she saw the person behind her. He looked and sounded like Ares, but he was definitely not Ares. Of that, she was certain.
The man could have been Ares' twin. He was a mirror image of Ares, save for his light auburn hair and being clean-shaven. His clothes suggested he was both royalty and a warrior. It was a fascinating combination.
Lauren could sense his authority, now that her shock had worn off. It was refreshing that it didn't slam into her as Ares' did. She was curious who this one was.
"I am not torturing her," Strife said. "But I will if she doesn't cooperate."
"You do, and you'll pay," Iphicles said. "I'll make sure of that."
Strife looked at Lauren and gave her a smirk. "There ya go. Now you have a protector."
Lauren turned and faced him. "I don't need a protector," she said. "What I need is for you and your uncle, especially your uncle, to leave me alone."
"Okay." Strife vanished; knowing Lauren's curiosity would get the better of her. She would at least stay there till her curiosity was satisfied.
Ares must have known that Iphicles would come to Lauren's aid and would make her feel safe. If she felt safe somewhere, she would stay there. Though Strife wasn't sure how safe Lauren would feel when she learned of an impending war coming to this kingdom.
"Worm." Lauren hissed.
Iphicles chuckled at Lauren. He wondered who she was and why she had been brought here by Strife of all people. Hearing that she wanted Ares to leave her alone made him realize there was more to this then than he thought. When she turned to face him, rational thought started to flee from him. He could see why Ares wouldn't want to leave this
one alone. He knew little about her, but already wanted her.
"Now, who are you and why do you look like Ares?" Lauren asked, facing Iphicles. She figured it was best to learn about him and where she was.
"Iphicles," he said. "And because the Fates have a strange sense of humor sometimes."
Lauren grinned at him. Sirus looked like Thor, so there had to be other people in the world who looked like other gods. Iphicles' appearance and voice were probably an asset to him. Looking and sounding like Ares could be intimidating to people.
"I'm sorry," she said, realizing how rude she must have sounded. "I didn't mean to sound--" She cut herself off when he held up a hand to stop her.
"Don't worry about it," he said. "Who are you and why is Ares bothering you?"
"Lauren. And because he's thinking with the wrong mind."
Iphicles couldn't help it. He burst out laughing. That sounded exactly like something Ares would do when faced with someone like Lauren. He was having difficulty to not think that way himself.
"Well, you can stay here as my guest, if you wish," he said. "You'll be safe here."
Lauren decided to take him up on his offer. She figured this one would be all right to go with. Despite the downpour of emotional outbursts she felt when she first arrived here, her instincts told her to trust Iphicles. She usually went with them on matters. Living on her own for so long had sharpened them to a fine edge.
"I think I'll take you up on that offer," she said.
Iphicles just smiled at her and gestured for her to follow him. He decided to take her to a more secure area. His palace guards were looking for anyone suspicious lurking in the palace who might be spying on them or other things. Lauren was a stranger here and he didn't want to risk her being treated as a spy.
Sirus reappeared in a room, lying on a bed on his back. He was momentarily disoriented by the sudden shift in position. His eyes fell on the woman now staring at him. His sudden appearance must have been quite a surprise to her. Her clothing told him she was a priestess of Ares'.
This wasn't what Sirus was expecting to be facing. He wasn't sure *what* he expected to be facing, but certainly not one of Ares' priestesses. He now wondered if Ares intended for the priestess to kill him after she got what she wanted from him.
If that was the case, he was going to make sure she didn't get the chance to do that. Though he was debating about giving her the first part of that. She was quite a lovely little thing.
Merissa was surprised by the sudden appearance of the man on her bed. She first thought it was Ares. Seeing this stranger in her bed alarmed her. She then saw a familiar-looking face.
"Thor?" she asked.
"No," Sirus replied, sitting up. "I'm Sirus. I just look like Thor."
"It's an amazing resemblance."
"Thank you. How do you know Thor?"
"I visited the Norselands with my parents once when they went there on a trading mission. I happened to come across a group of Vikings practicing their fighting skills and saw a man standing off to one side watching them. He held the hammer, Miolnir, and I knew it was Thor."
Sirus was surprised. He wondered just how much she knew of Thor and the Norselands. He was always interested in learning of his ancestral land.
"You saw Thor," he asked. "Did you get to speak to him?"
"Um, no," Merissa said, sounding a little embarrassed. "I guess I was watching him too closely. He turned and looked at me and suddenly he was before me. And like a big idiot, I ran away as if death were on my heels."
Sirus couldn't help it. He burst out laughing, falling onto his back. He jumped when she hit him with a pillow across the chest. "Hey!" he yelled.
"Stop laughing," Merissa scolded. "It's not funny." Despite her anger, there was amusement in her voice.
"I'm sorry. The image of someone running away like that was too amusing to resist it."
"I'll forgive you, I suppose. Why are you here? How did you get here?"
"Ares sent me here."
Sirus didn't know if it was a good idea to tell her why he had been sent here. It might be some sort of signal to her about his fate. It didn't seem to need to be said. He watched a smile cross her face. She already knew why he was there.
"Oh, don't worry," Merissa said. "I'm not going to hurt you. Ares wouldn't have sent you to me if he had wanted to do that. I don't do that kind of thing."
"If you knew what I've gone through, you would understand my reactions." Sirus said.
Merissa carefully approached Sirus, hoping he would trust her not to do him any harm. She could tell something bad had happened to him since he was expecting to be facing an assassin. She saw a couple of light bruises on his arm and grew curious about how he had gotten them.
"I said 'hello' to a wall after angering Ares some." Sirus said, noting her curiosity.
"And he still sent you to me," Merissa asked with a grin. "No wonder you thought I was to kill you. Do you need anything for those bruises?"
Sirus smiled at her. He could think of a couple of things to "heal" the bruises. He pushed those thoughts away, wanting to keep a clear head.
"I'm fine," he said. "I've had worse injuries."
Merissa sat down on the bedside and laid a hand on his thigh. She felt him tense under her hand. She grinned, knowing he still didn't trust her. Well, being thrown into a wall by a fierce god wouldn't do much to build a person's trust of anything of that god's.
"I give you my word I won't hurt you," Merissa said. "Well, not intentionally." She gave him a small smile.
"Thank you for the assurance." Sirus smiled.
Merissa wondered if Sirus had any other injuries besides the bruises. Since Ares had sent him to her, she guessed that he was fine. Ares wasn't so cruel that he'd send someone to one of his priestesses if they had a serious injury. If Sirus had broken anything, Ares had probably healed it when he sent him here.
"How did you upset Ares so?" she asked.
"That's an answer you'd probably rather not hear." Sirus replied.
"Tell me anyway."
Sirus went on to tell Merissa about the attack on his village and how the soldiers rounded up him and the other villagers. He left out the really gory details of him watching some of the villagers being killed in the initial attack. He didn't want to disgust her since she was being so nice to him.
When he saw she was not disgusted and still listening, he told her about his fight to get free once he got to the camp. He was embarrassed when he spoke of how the soldiers got in a lucky shot and wounded his leg. That wound was the *only* reason they were able to stop him in the fight and got him under control. He even mentioned a few things about seeing Lauren brought into the camp, though it was difficult for him to speak of.
Merissa listened to Sirus. She started to understand why he felt as he did. She heard the pain in his tone when he spoke of Lauren and learning she had been taken as a prisoner. She wondered if there was anything between those two.
"Is she..." she started, but couldn't quite get the whole question out.
"She's a very good friend of mine," Sirus said, knowing what she was asking him. "I just hope she's all right."
"Was she put in the cell with you and the other villagers?"
"No. She was taken to a tent. I think it was Ares'."
"Ares is probably watching after her then."
*That's what I'm worried about.* Sirus didn't say that aloud. He was worried about Lauren being in Ares' possession. He knew about her empathic powers, and was concerned how that would affect her being around someone like Ares.
"Do you love her?" Merissa asked suddenly.
"What?" Sirus asked.
"Do you *love* her?" Merissa emphasized the word "love". She had to know the answer before she asked anymore of him.
"As a friend, I do. I'm concerned for her well being. I don't want her to get hurt."
Merissa could tell he loved Lauren more than just as a friend. She was certain of that. "If she's with Ares, then she is probably safe," she said.
Sirus wasn't so sure about that. If Ares reacted as men did when they saw Lauren, she wouldn't be safe for long. He learned why she wore the hooded cloak when she visited the village for supplies. He had to break up a fight between several men after her when they saw her for how she truly appeared.
Those men rarely bothered her after that. Sirus was a dangerous fighter when he was protecting someone or something he cared about. Lauren had to stop him before he did them all serious harm. She was probably the only one who could have stopped him in any sort of fight. He could turn beserker if caught in a vicious one.
"I have to know that she is," Sirus said. "I can't stay here knowing she could be in danger."
"Well, Ares probably wouldn't leave her at the camp for a long time, even if he were there on and off," Merissa said. "He would probably send her to one of two places."
"You will get yourself killed going on like this, Sirus."
"If I die, then I die. But I will go look for her if I get the chance. I won't give up on that."
Merissa sighed, knowing she heard the truth in his voice. This was a man in love and she could tell he would go after the woman he loved even if it endangered his life. She closed her eyes and got to her feet, staring down at him.
"She would either be in one of his temples or Iphicles' castle in Corinth. I doubt she'd be at one of the temples, since it would be too easy for her to get away. She's probably in Corinth."
"Thank you." Sirus got up and pulled Merissa against him. He gave her a passionate kiss that left her breathless. "Will you be all right if I leave here," he asked, releasing her. "I don't want you to get in trouble with Ares for telling me this."
"Go. I'll handle Ares. He probably knew you'd worm this information out of me anyway. I don't resist gorgeous men very well."
Sirus grinned at her. "Tell me your name." he said.
"A lovely name. Thank you for the help, Merissa. I'll never forget you."
"Go now and I wish you luck in finding your friend."
Sirus nodded to her and left her chambers. He snuck out of the temple and commandeered a horse. He wasn't far from Corinth, knowing the land pretty well. He rode the horse away from the temple, heading for the castle he hoped that Lauren was in.
Ares appeared in one of Athena's temples, knowing it would get her attention. He slapped aside guards who got in his way, sending them across the room, away from him. Civility had fled him, due to his reasons for being here. Not that he had much of it when it came to his sister.
"Athena," he all but roared. "Show yourself!"
The Goddess of Wisdom appeared on her throne, staring at Ares. She saw her temple guards on the floor, assessing their injuries. She stood, approaching her volatile brother.
"You just can't do anything calmly, can you?" she asked.
"Not when it comes to what you're planning, my *dear* sister." Ares replied coldly.
"I see you've heard."
"Ah, so you admit it. You *are* planning to attack Corinth. I must be rubbing off on you. Starting wars aren't usually your strong suit." He caught her by the wrist when she tried to slap him. "That doesn't mean I'll overlook *where* you're planning that war."
"Release my hand, Ares."
"Or what? You'll sick your guards on me? Or maybe your owls? Don't make me laugh."
Athena slammed her knee into Ares' groin. She stepped back when Ares released her as he stumbled back from her. "I find that works much better in this type of situation." she replied.
Ares fell back from her attack, hating himself for allowing her to do that. He growled low in his throat, both anger and the slight pain she had caused him. He closed his eyes and silently counted to ten several times. He wanted to control his anger as best as possible. He knew blowing up at Athena wouldn't get him very far. As his anger subsided, he opened his eyes and looked back at his sister. She actually had the gall to look smug for what she had done to him.
"Why Corinth?" he asked. With effort, he pushed the ideas of throttling her aside. No one, mortal or immortal, hit him in the groin without paying for it severely.
"The king there made a foolish error." Athena said.
"He worships you. Unlike the previous ruler..."
"Oh please! You really expect me to swallow that sorry excuse? He's ruled for more than three years and you're just *now* planning a war because he worships me? Talk about a slow learner."
Ares smiled when he saw a fierce look cross Athena's face. She was such a control freak with her emotions; it was refreshing to see that he could make her angry. "I think it's because you want to get my attention." he purred.
"What?" Athena asked, not believing what she was hearing.
"Come now, Athena, you can't hide your desire for me. You want to break up my relations with Iphicles because you want me all for yourself. This war is just a way for you to cover up for your hunger for me."
Athena roared with anger and drew her sword. She attacked Ares, making him retreat some so he could draw his own sword. They fought each other fiercely, quickly clearing the throne room of everyone.
"You're deluded Ares," she said as they fought. "Everyone on Olympus may lust after you, but not me. Only in your sick fantasies would I do *anything* like that."
"Liar," Ares said, kicking his sister away from him. "I see the desire plain as day in those lovely eyes of yours." Ares said. He hardly meant much of what he said, but he enjoyed teasing her. Making her lose the control she so fought for was worth all the sick feelings it caused him.
Ares swiped at her legs when she got up, making her jump to keep from slicing them off. He was impressed with her fighting skills. She was a good fighter; he had to admit that. Even though she annoyed him to no end.
"You're the one who's lying. I wouldn't want you if you were the last male in existence." Athena hissed.
"So then tell me, why Corinth?" Ares asked, avoiding one of the goddess' attacks.
"None of your business Ares. Be gone. Before I do something you'll regret."
"Like locking you in a room with Hestia so you two can have a nice *long* chat."
Ares cringed when she said that and fell back a few steps. He could hardly stand Hestia. Her preachy ways really got under his skin. She and Athena nearly tied when it came to how much they sickened him. He wasn't sure whom he hated more between those two.
"You wouldn't dare." he hissed.
"Just try and stop me, Ares." Athena taunted.
Ares pulled out of the fight and stepped back, glaring at her as he put his sword away. It would be just like her to do that sort of thing. He clenched his fists in anger, but kept his temper in check somehow. His eyes spoke volumes to his sister about how much he loathed her at that moment.
"This is far from over, Athena." he snarled, then vanished in an angry blaze of light.
Athena smirked at the area Ares had just been in. She put her sword away and called her guards back. She made sure they weren't too hurt from Ares' "hello" to them before returning to her throne and sat down.
The goddess had a reason for attacking Corinth. She had once felt that Corinth was hers due to how Jason ruled and felt about Ares. Then Iphicles came along and soon Ares became a familiar sight in the kingdom, especially in the castle.
This thing between Ares and Iphicles was getting out of control, in her opinion. Athena hoped this battle would act as a wake-up call for the king. He should be more concerned about running his kingdom rather than his relationship with Ares.
Lauren looked at Iphicles off and on as they entered the throne room of the castle. She looked away only to examine the room they had entered. She kept getting drawn back to look at Iphicles. Except for his clothes, it was hard to tell he was royalty. He seemed to be more comfortable as a warrior than a royal person.
Iphicles was quite handsome. As if some great sculptor had carved a perfect double of Ares' face out of his. Except where Ares made her want to run away, Iphicles made her feel very comfortable. He had a soothing presence for her frazzled nerves. She actually felt safe around him. It concerned her when she picked up that he was worried about something. She was curious about what it was he was worried about.
When he faced her, Lauren turned away, realizing she had been staring. She felt a little embarrassed about that. She didn't really stare at anyone as she had Iphicles. She ended up picking up too much from them when she did.
Lauren figured many women stared at him from his looks alone. Those women would be staring at him for more than what she was. They would all want to capture his attention and... She pushed those thoughts aside quickly. That was definitely not something she wanted to think about at the moment.
"Lauren..." Iphicles said.
He stopped himself from reaching out to make her face him. He remembered how she had reacted to Strife touching her. Although he figured that was because she hated the little creep. Still, he decided not to push his luck and anger her.
"I'm sorry for staring," she said, not facing him. "I realize this is very strange for you. Strife drops some unknown woman in your lap and then she stares at you like some greedy merchant..."
"Don't worry about that," he soothed her. "I'm use to people staring at me. I inspire that sort of thing."
Lauren faced him finally, meeting his gaze. Such beautiful eyes he possessed. She couldn't resist looking into them. "I can imagine," she said. "You're a very handsome man. You probably send all the women's hearts aflutter."
Iphicles smiled at her. He was a little surprised she hadn't referred to him looking like Ares once more. It was a comparison he had to work hard to get past sometimes. He imagined that her beauty got the same reaction from men that he got from women.
"Thank you." he said.
"What do you do here, Iphicles," she asked. "Besides drive all the women crazy?"
Iphicles grinned at her. He liked her more and more the longer he was with her. And it was more than just her physical beauty that made him like her. She was a very likable person.
"I rule it." he informed her.
Lauren seemed to withdraw a bit when he said that. "You rule it?" she asked, uncertain if she had heard right.
"Yes," Iphicles replied, concerned about her reaction to his answer. "I am king here."
Lauren turned away from him and closed her eyes. She felt as if she had taken a blow to the gut. That wasn't the answer she had wanted. Though it *did* explain the authoritative aura she sensed around him.
"What is it, Lauren?" Iphicles asked gently. He wasn't expecting this response. He heard her say something, but it was too low for him to understand. "What?" he asked.
"I made it a habit not to trust any king." she replied.
Was she crying? He drew closer, hoping to learn the answer. He stopped when she tensed in response to his closeness.
"A king murdered my father," she said.
Iphicles could hear the tears in her voice. He wanted to know what sort of king would murder such a sweet girl's father. He wasn't sure how to ask without upsetting her further, but there didn't seem to be any need.
"The king had him hunted down and brought back to his kingdom. He was beaten like a dog in the courtyard for everyone to see. He was humiliated and then he was taken to the gallows and hung." Lauren told him, then faced him. "They beat him till all he had left to cling to was his spirit and then they killed him."
Lauren broke down completely as she said those words. She allowed Iphicles to pull her to him and hold her. She hardly noticed he had actually done that till she felt him stroking her hair and back soothingly. Instead of pulling away from him, she stayed in his grip, knowing she would fall to the floor without his support.
"Who did this to your father," Iphicles asked in a gentle voice. "Why did he do this?"
"I don't know who, but I think it was some place in Sparta," she said into his chest. "Some bad part of Greece."
"There are many of those." Iphicles heard her snicker when he said that. He lowered her onto a nearby bench, sitting down beside her. He laid a hand on her shoulder supportively.
"My father was a pirate. That's why he was killed. The king somehow learned of my existence and decided I would be the perfect trophy for his 'triumph' over my father. He has never found me."
"I see why you don't trust kings. But Lauren, you can trust me. I would never do something like that, whether your father were a pirate or Bacchus himself."
"Thank you. And I do trust you. You're a good man."
"You hardly know me and you already know that?"
Lauren smiled at him. "I can tell these things, your Highness."
"Call me Iphicles. Now, would you like to go get yourself cleaned up?"
"Oh yes, please. I must look terrible. All dusty with a face full of tears."
Iphicles grinned at her, chuckling lightly. He could tell he was having a soothing affect on her. "You look fine, Lauren," he said. "I'll have my steward show you to some chambers. You can get cleaned up and rest there. No one will bother you there."
"Thank you, Iphicles. You're very kind."
"Just part of my charm. Excuse me." He got up and left for a moment. He returned with a gray-haired man a short time later. "Lauren is my guest, Demetrius," he said. "Would you show her to a room, where she can rest undisturbed?"
"Of course." Demetrius said. He looked at Lauren and gave her a warm smile. "This way, child." he said.
Lauren got up and followed after him. She gave Iphicles a parting glance before moving on. He had been nice to his servant, which had surprised her. It was nice to see he didn't lord over his servants as someone else in his position would.
As Sirus left the temple grounds and Ares' reach on the surrounding area, he had the nagging feeling that he was being watched. He wondered if it was Ares who was watching him. The god was probably now looking for a way to delay him a little longer, since he had gotten away from the temple so easily. He moved over the land carefully, all the while, watching for the God of War.
Ares wasn't going to give Lauren up without a fight. Sirus had already pledged himself to do what was necessary to get Lauren away from the dark god. Even if that meant fighting Ares to accomplish that. He would fight his way to Corinth and into the castle to get to her if he had to. The last time he had seen her, she had been in rough shape and had fueled his determination to protect her.
Sirus hoped that Lauren *was* in Corinth. He didn't think Merissa had lied to him when she told him where to look for Lauren. He just thought that Ares might have already moved her to another place where she couldn't find anyone that would help her get away from the god. For all Sirus knew, Lauren could have been in the Halls of War by now. And he wasn't sure where they were.
Sirus thought of her and how she had changed his life. It helped focus him on what he was now risking his life for and why. She was one of his only friends. He was certain he would have crawled through the depths of Tartarus to be back with her now if he had to.
It wasn't hard for Sirus to like Lauren as he did. It wasn't just her physical beauty that he liked. He saw what few looked for--her inner beauty. Though tarnished from a hard life, she was as lovely as a goddess within and without. She was one of the first who had really gotten to the real person inside of him.
Being an empath had probably helped her find the chinks in his armor. Sirus had always lived behind a wall in himself, not wanting to let the real person show through. He was certain she would have found that person even without her empathic powers. When she had first visited him, he had been having a rough day and had been on the receiving end of his temper. She hadn't been put off by his hostile presence and that had made quite an impression on him.
When she visited the village again, she went to see him first and gave him a stone she had found. It was the most beautiful stone he had ever seen. It was quite large and looked like a piece of polished, black marble with fine veins of gold running through it. When she had given it to him, she had said simply, "Even the blackest of clouds have a beauty all their own." As much of a bear as he had been with her when they first met, she still liked him. It meant a lot to him.
Sirus had kept her gift and became good friends with her. Each time she had visited the village, she always visited him first, whether she needed something from him or not. She always made it a point to visit him. He liked that about her. He didn't learn of her empathic powers for awhile.
Lauren always wore a concealing cloak when she visited the village. Sirus figured it was to hide her beauty from the leering men who pestered the women a lot. He was one of the few who had seen her face in the village. He learned how striking she was to other people when an ill-timed breeze blew the hood down to reveal her face to everyone around her. She had gotten the attention of every man in sight with the wind's dirty trick. She recoiled away from men approaching her as if her life depended on it.
Sirus had seen the panic in her eyes and came to her rescue. He knew that there was more to her fear than just the men's advances. The men had attacked him when he tried to stop them from getting too near Lauren. He nearly lost an eye to one of them when one had sliced the side of his face open with a sword. He was able to move away enough that the sword only sliced skin and stayed away from his eyes. He lost total control of himself when he was injured. Lauren risked life and limb to stop the fight by getting in between him and his attackers.
If Lauren hadn't stopped him, Sirus was certain he would have killed all three of the men. The men had run off as best they all could, and he went with Lauren back to his forge. He allowed her to tend to his wounded face, since he didn't trust himself to make it to the village healer without trying to go after his attackers again.
After they were both out of sight in relative safety, Lauren had told him he was the embodiment of the beserkers of the Norselands she had heard of when he attacked those men. It was the first time she had really shown fear toward him. Having a Norse heritage, Sirus knew what she spoke of, having heard the stories of that land and the people from his father. Vikings often turned into an unstoppable beserker in the heat of a battle.
Lauren had cleaned his wound, which he really didn't enjoy, then sutured it as best she could. She prevented a very ugly scar, but he still got one from the deep gash. It was the one that no longer marred his face, due to Ares' healing touch. He didn't mind the scar being there. It had taught him to be more careful in a fight and with his temper. Ares had probably only healed the scar because he wanted an undamaged "toy" to play with.
Sirus thought back over what had happened when Lauren had tended to his gash. He smiled as the memory came back to him.
"I suppose you'll avoid me if I get a real terrible scar." he had teased her.
"Even if you were scarred from head to toe, I'd still speak to you." she replied.
"I may hold you to that."
That had earned him a cloth slap across the uninjured side of his face. The cloth she had smacked him with she was using to clean the blood off of him with. It left light streaks of blood where she hit him with it as well as a large splash of water.
"You dare strike an injured man like that?" he threatened.
"Oh, what are you going to do," she challenged. "Bleed on me?"
Lauren was the only one he allowed to tease him like that. He didn't relax his guard completely for anyone, but her. Challenging him like she had could have proved dangerous to anyone else due to the mood he had been in after that fight. She must have noticed that he had seen her reaction to the men, because she had admitted to being empathic while she was washing his face. That showed the amount of trust she had in him. He had kept her secret in order to protect her from anyone using it against her or trying to make her use it for them.
The men who had tried to make advances on Lauren had rarely bothered her again. What was surprising was that they hadn't told the magistrate of the village about it. Witnesses to the fight had though, but no charges were brought against Sirus. They were, however, brought up against the men. They had been imprisoned for a time, but little changed about their ways when they got out. Though they were careful with Sirus and did their best not to anger him ever again.
An arrow struck his horse right behind the saddle, causing the animal to rear, throwing Sirus off. He was violently jarred from his memories when it threw him. Sirus nearly got a hoof to the face as the poor beast raced off, trying to kick away the creature biting into its flank. He felt rather stupid now for being distracted while he thought he was being watched.
Groaning softly, Sirus got up, holding his side, which he had landed on. He had fallen onto a large rock, halfway buried in the ground, and bruised several, if not all, of the ribs on that side. It felt like the horse had kicked him hard there. It hurt every time he breathed. Oh yeah, that was the tale-tell sign of bruised ribs.
Several armored men swarmed out of the woods and quickly surrounded him, pointing swords at him. Sirus glared at the men. One of the soldiers kicked him in his wounded side when he looked like he was about to make an attack. Sirus cried out and fell to his knees, holding his side. He snarled angrily as he looked at the man who had kicked him. It was a clear sign to that man that he had just signed his death with that attack.
"Hold." a female voice ordered, as that soldier was about to kill Sirus. The soldier stilled instantly when he heard her voice.
Sirus looked up and saw an armored figure approaching. The newcomer was a female and had an authoritative air about her. She looked Sirus over critically and he suddenly felt like a bug in a jar. When she was right before him, he glared at her. The only things keeping him from attacking her were the swords and the searing pain in his side. And he wasn't too worried about the swords. The Viking in him was sending a clear battle signal to his entire body. It was *very* hard to not answer that call.
Searing pain lanced through him each time he breathed. It was much more insidious than it had been before. Sirus was certain the bruised ribs were now cracked or broken completely, courtesy of the soldier kicking him. He wanted to kill that soldier now even more now and made a vow to go through with that threat when he got the chance.
"You should have stayed with Ares," the woman said. "It would have been less painful for you."
"I guess I'm a glutton for punishment," Sirus said. "Who are you anyway? Some reject from Ares' elite army trying to impress him by catching me?"
The soldier who had kicked him moved to do so again. Sirus dove at him, going under this sword and tackled him to the ground. He moved faster than anyone should have been able to in his condition. The man's yell was stopped abruptly when Sirus ripped the man's head clean off his shoulders with his bare hands. The man's blood sprayed him in the face and chest with a satisfying splash. Pain smashed through his skull when the pommel of a sword hit him there. He fell into blessed unconsciousness next the headless soldier.
Athena stared at the unconscious form of Sirus. She had been taken by complete surprise by just how fast he had moved and taken down one of her men. He was injured with broken ribs and shouldn't have been able to do that. She had never seen someone do that in such a condition. She hadn't ever been witness to a man tearing the head off another with just his bare hands. At least not a mortal one and not when he was badly injured. This begged further investigation.
"Take him to my temple," she said. "I wish to question him."
"Yes, Athena." the leader said. He had Sirus taken away, as others buried their foolish, fallen comrade.
Lauren looked around the room she had been brought to. She was surprised by its size. She hadn't ever had a room *this* big. Not even when she was in Delphi. That room had been much smaller than this one and didn't have a connecting bathing chamber.
The reasoning behind that, she figured, was that she had been such a pain when she had first arrived. She was not happy about being left there and let everyone know it. She had been assigned a bathing chamber across the temple from her quarters for all those needs. It was an inconvenience going to the chamber at times when people stared at her as she went to it for a bath, carrying all her bathing supplies. But she lived with it.
Another in her place would have raised a real storm about this kind of treatment, but she didn't mind much. She was angry, of course, but she was happy that she only had to keep one chamber clean and only had to help out on occasion with the cleaning duties in "her" bathing chamber. She took awhile to settle in at Delphi and had only a handful of friends there, which suited her fine. She liked being alone. It cut down on the mental assaults she got when she picked up on the emotions of people around her.
Lauren had to learn to block out emotions there mostly on her own. No one there was really trained in her gift, so she had to work very hard at it. The people in the temple were readers of prophecy, not emotions. On occasion, some priestesses tried to make her feel inferior because of her powers. She had broken the jaw of one of the crueler ones with a well-aimed punch. Then she paid for it by having to scrub the temple floors.
At times, her training had been quite stressful as she tried to force her mind to do something it was not use to. She could already block out a good amount of emotions when she got there, but she had to make those shields stronger and block out more and more minds. It gave her the biggest of headaches at times. The teasing and the stress headaches were two of her main reasons for running away from the temple and going into the forest to live. Not many people came into the forest and therefore, she wouldn't have to kill herself to block them out.
The training also drained her often to where the only thing she could do was sleep. For her headaches, the high priest had given her some herbs and medicines that he had assured her had come straight from Apollo himself and were the strongest she could be given without a divine healing. They had helped some, but her type headaches didn't go away so easily.
Lauren now knew why Apollo hadn't visited her to heal her headaches himself. His presence would have made her headache much worse, if Ares' presence were any indication on that subject. She had a feeling Apollo's presence combined with her headache would have killed her. Though she wondered why he just didn't heal her from wherever he was. Maybe some sort of divine punishment for the trouble she caused in his temple on occasion? That sounded like something he would do. Especially when she nearly broke one of his vases by accident, which she had been told, was a favorite of his. She had caught it at the last second before it smashed to pieces on the floor.
She feared what he would have done to her had she broken it, even if it *had* been by accident. Explaining running into the vase's pedestal while cleaning the floor to the high priest had been difficult enough. He wasn't exactly happy with having a pirate's daughter in his temple. And always found a reason to yell at her or make her do menial and slave-like tasks as a punishment. He was one of the only people there who had known she was a pirate's daughter and had thankfully decided not to share it with anyone else.
When Lauren had been cleaning the temple floors as punishment for breaking the priestess' jaw, she had been going through it quickly and quite angrily. She had run into the pedestal that the vase was on right when the man had entered the room to see how she was doing. He screamed in panic and she saw the vase just in time to save it. He had yelled at her for trying to take her anger out on something so valuable and she had yelled back saying that it was an accident that it had fallen and he had chosen a stupid place to display it. What surprised both of them was there had been a rather loud clap of thunder in the distance that seemed to agree with her.
"See, even the gods agree with me." she had told him.
The vase had been moved to a safer location right after that and the pedestal had been removed. But, of course, the high priest wouldn't dare admit to it being because of her. He said it was because he wanted to move it to a better location for visitors to see it. A short time after he had moved the vase, a woman from another of Apollo's temples had arrived and took Lauren under her wing. She was the first seer and empath she had ever encountered and was certain that Apollo had sent her there as reward for telling off his high priest so well.
This high priestess had helped train Lauren in using her empathic powers and allowed her to train some with her guards so she had some combat skills. Lauren wasn't sure why she needed combat skills at the time, but decided she should take them, since the priestess had suggested it. Or rather insisted on her learning it. She was also the one who made her learn to sing. She had picked up on both rather quickly, though her empathic training was more difficult. She was fearful of using them, so she didn't like training with them.
Lauren had run away from the temple a few days after the high priestess had to return to her own temple. She had lost the only teacher she had had that understood what she was going through. The high priest had treated her even worse than before after her "protector" had left for making him look like a fool in front of Apollo. She had told him that he was a fool long before she was there. And paid for it with a large bruise across the face from his hand. It took every guard in the room to keep her from tearing the man's throat out for doing that. She had left that very day and never looked back, knowing she wasn't really welcome there and would be fine on her own.
Pushing those memories aside, Lauren examined the rooms and furniture. This place was very royally decorated and looked most comfortable. She was a little surprised when she found some clothes and bathing essentials on the bed. She smirked when she saw a delicate red rose on top of the clothes. Ares. She moved the rose aside; surprised it didn't have thorns and looked through what the god had given her.
There was a robe made of black velvet, an elegant silk gown, golden sandals, and soap, drying linens, a brush, everything she would need for a bath and afterward. She picked up the gown and looked at it. Her eyes went wide when she did. This looked like something a seductress would wear. There was no way she was going to wear this gown with how the male population reacted to her. Especially a certain God of War.
Lauren gathered the supplies up and headed into the bathing chamber. She left the gown on the bed, clearly telling Ares she wasn't amused with his choice in what she should wear. She almost laughed when the tub filled with steaming water. Ares seemed to be trying to show her how sweet he could be. He was giving her just what she needed at the moment.
"Thank you, Ares," she said. "But I'm still not going to allow you to watch me."
An angry rumble of thunder rolled across the sky outside her room and she felt a piece of Ares' presence in the room. "Spoil sport." Ares voice echoed the words in the room.
"Ares, just give me some privacy, please," she asked. "Is that too much to ask from you?"
"Very well, my little tigress."
"And stop calling me that!"
Ares' laughter filled the room at her anger. After a few minutes, Lauren felt the presence fade away. She was alone now. She set her stuff down and moved to the tub. She took her hair down and undressed, knowing Ares wouldn't interrupt her while she took her bath.
Lauren had felt that Ares would allow her privacy despite his eagerness to spy on her again. She knew he wouldn't invade her privacy right now. That much she had sensed from him. After that, she wasn't certain. She had a feeling Ares wasn't going to stay away from her for long. Ares was one aggravating, maddening, irritating, gorgeous, seductive temptation to her every time she was near him. And, worst of all, he knew it and used it to his advantage against her.