Bride of fire, p.1
Bride of Fire, page 1
Bride of Fire
eBooks are not transferable. They cannot be sold, shared or given away as it is an infringement of the copyright of this work.
BRIDE OF FIRE
28 Days of Heart Series
Copyright © 2010 CHARLENE TEGLIA
Cover art by Amanda Kelsey
Edited by Nicole Bunting
eBook conversion by jimandzetta.com
All Romance eBooks, LLC
Palm Harbor, Florida 34684
This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or business establishments, events, or locales is coincidental.
All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
First All Romance eBooks publication: February 2010
“Nothing’s better than a healthy heart, which helps women endure the ailments of life—physical or romantic—and come out on top of it all. This anthology, with stories by some of the most talented romance writers in the market, will benefit hearts everywhere. It’s not often you can contribute to a worthy cause, one that may well affect you in your lifetime, and at the same time assure yourself of some excellent entertainment. Have a good time, and let your heart be your guide.”
She was light. He was darkness. She could never be his.
Hades, Lord of the Underworld, curled his hands into fists as he watched her.
Persephone, daughter of Demeter. Hair as golden as the sun he never felt the heat of, eyes as blue as the sky he could not stand beneath, body as ripe as the fields she ran across. She was everything forbidden to him. She belonged to the world above, the realm of light. The realm of life. He’d never coveted that realm. He had his own, and he ruled it absolutely. But he coveted her.
His kingdom offered him everything. Power, companions, riches. Any pleasure he desired. If he wished for a thing, it was his. He was lord here, his word inviolable. But his kingdom had no queen.
He had everything. Except her.
She had everything. Except a lover. As days became months, he watched and he wanted and he waited for her to reveal her choice, with bitter jealousy eating at his heart, but Persephone remained alone. She came to this field in Enna to gather flowers to please herself, not to wind in her long hair to prepare herself for a man she desired.
She was alone, as he was alone. She was too closely guarded to be anything else. Guarded everywhere but here, where the landscape itself guarded her.
And so, at last, he had prepared a flower for her. A special blossom, so rare she’d never have seen its like; she could not have. No other existed. Like him, it was alone of its kind.
It would bloom only for her. It would tempt her, as she tempted him. She would not be able to resist it. She would pluck it from the earth.
Then he would take her.
Persephone ran laughing across the green field dotted with wildflowers beneath the wide, blue Aegean sky. The explosion of color and scent delighted her. Here, in all the world, she was free to enjoy herself, in a place even her over-protective mother had to admit was safe. Enna sat on a level summit on a high hill, nearly a mountain, surrounded on all sides by cliffs that formed a natural fortress. No harm could come to her here. In all the time she’d been coming here, not even an insect had threatened her.
If she was lonely, at least she could console herself in nature.
She breathed in air heated from the sun, heady with a blend of rich perfumes. One scent caught her attention. Lighter than jasmine, more subtle. Exotic. What flower produced it? Spicy, enticing… Persephone breathed in again and it flooded her senses with narcotic sweetness until she felt like she stood in a dream. Colors grew brighter, the heat of the sun more soporific. The silk of her dress dragged against her skin, tempting her to discard it and clothe herself only in sunlight.
Was it something like a poppy? She searched for the source of this scent that teased and pleased like no other. Ah, there. Could that be it?
She knelt in the grass, not minding the cool wetness that wicked through the fabric of her skirt. Cupping the shape, she fingered the texture of a petal. An orchid, but not like any she’d ever seen. It was a pale lavender with a dark scarlet heart. She searched out the stem and found it thick and woody. She rolled it between her fingers, entranced by the beauty of this unexpected discovery.
It delighted her senses on every level; the shape, the colors, the fragrance. She breathed deeper, closing her eyes and touching her nose nearly to the flower’s center. Her head spun as she inhaled and images filled her mind like smoke, forming shapes that evaporated before she could see them clearly. They looked like the joined figures of a man and a woman, limbs entwined, dissolving and reforming in varying postures, reaching for something that eluded Persephone.
A craving awoke inside her. There was something. Something she wanted. Needed. It uncoiled from her center, spreading heat and lassitude through her limbs. She wanted something. What was it?
Persephone opened heavy lids halfway, gripped the woody stem with both hands, and pulled.
The roots ran deep. They resisted her pull, but she persisted, caught in some nameless desire to take, to touch, to know more. She pulled harder, and the earth gave up the treasure she coveted, opening to let it go. But it kept opening until it became a crack, then a fissure, and then a gaping maw she teetered on the brink of while the earth rumbled beneath her and trees at the edge of the meadow trembled. Boulders loosened and flung themselves down sheer cliffs.
If she let go now, a whisper of reason told her, she might save herself.
She held tight to her prize. It was hers. She would not give it up.
A man burst through the hole in the earth. Dark hair, dark eyes. She stared at him, stunned to silence and stillness as he rose above her. Tall, broad, strong. So strong. His hands gripped hers while her nerveless fingers clung to the blossom.
“It’s mine,” Persephone said as if he’d contested the fact. He could; she knew who he was and knew now what she held. A night-blooming orchid, made to flower where the sun did not shine. It was of Hades’ realm, and this could only be Hades. She ought to let go. She had no right to touch anything of his. But what had it been doing in her world, her field?
“As you are mine.” His teeth flashed as he spoke. His voice rumbled like the thunder of the earth quaking. His touch burned like fire, not hurting her, warming her as if she’d never truly known what it was to feel heat, until the bright sun felt as cold and distant as the farthest star.
He bent to her. His lips touched hers, a kiss of flame that made her gasp. Then he dragged her down, down into darkness, and the earth sealed itself above them, closing her out of the only realm she’d ever known.
She woke to find herself naked on a bed covered in velvet so dark a red it was nearly black. She sat up, alarm spiking through her, but nothing moved in the darkened chamber. She was alone.
A now-familiar scent made her turn her head to see the flower she’d found at Enna, now neatly trimmed and displayed in a crystal vase on a small table beside her. It perfumed the chamber, as exotic as its surroundings.
The four-poster bed was carved with figures like the ones she’d imagined while she held the orchid close and breathed deeply; male and female entwined. Persephone rose up on her knees to take a closer look. She traced a curious finger along one carving, noticing the texture of the wood. Smooth, dark…teak, perhaps? The pair of f
The oversized male organ was better displayed in another arrangement that had two females kneeling to either side of him, hands and mouths worshipping.
But throughout it all, the pair remained central, whether the woman was on top or underneath, kneeling, standing, lying, sitting. The lusty twosome decorated the whole headboard and drew Persephone’s attention to the emptiness of the large bed.
It was certainly a big enough bed to accommodate anything depicted in the carvings, including the groupings. But the pillow beside hers was smooth, undented. Only the imprint of her body disturbed the velvet expanse.
She hadn’t undressed herself, however. Other hands had done that.
She remembered the heat of them on hers and shivered. Had those hands stripped her bare while she lay senseless? Had they touched anything more than her fingers, or the laces that tied the back of her dress?
Persephone imagined those hands on her body as she stared at one carving, depicting the man’s hands cupping the woman’s breasts from behind, her legs spread wide as she seated herself on his lap, leaning forward slightly, eyes closed and lips parted.
Had Hades’ hands shaped themselves to her breasts like that? Had his palms rasped the tender skin of her nipples? They swelled as she imagined it, growing visibly tight and blushing a darker shade of pink against the pale skin of her upper torso.
No man had ever touched her. Not so intimately, not even innocently. No man had ever kissed her until Hades’ mouth had brushed hers.
The memory of his lips sent a flash of heat through her. Hard, rough, and so hot. When she’d gasped, her lips had been opened to his for a heart-stopping instant.
And he’d taken her. What had he said?
That she was his.
Now here she was, in the underworld realm that he ruled. In his chamber? She wasn’t certain, but the bed wasn’t feminine in the least. It was masculine and erotic, blatantly built for pleasure.
Her nudity, the bed, the memory of the kiss all told her he had not taken her for conversation. But what did he want of her? Persephone gazed at the carvings in mixed apprehension and newly awakened sensual curiosity. Would he want her for all of that? Some of that? When he had satisfied himself, what then? Would he let her go, returning her to the field he’d taken her from?
Persephone slipped from the bed to explore the room. Obsidian walls glittered with sparks of light as if gems shimmered deep within the stone. A fireplace provided the dim light and warmth in the room, the mantel carved of the same dark, sleek wood as the bed. Unlit wall sconces hung on either side, made of wrought iron in ornate whorls. A low, backless couch ran along one wall, covered in velvet to match the bed’s cover.
The room held nothing else. No chest filled with clothing, no wardrobe. Just a door made of wood with a black wrought-iron handle. She tried it and found it unlocked, which failed to comfort her. She wasn’t imprisoned in this room, but her lack of clothing made her loathe to explore beyond it. And if it was unlocked, what was to prevent anybody from coming in?
Persephone whirled and ran back to the bed, bare feet making no sound as they struck the stone floor. She found the velvet cover too heavy, but the black satin sheet beneath came free when she tugged. It fell at her feet in a slick midnight cascade. She scooped it up and wrapped it around herself, fashioning a sort of toga from it that would probably hold if she didn’t strain the slippery folds. The excess fabric flowed behind her like a train.
It felt cool and smooth against her bare skin, although for some reason she still felt naked. But it would have to do.
A sound brought her head up. Distant footfalls grew nearer and stopped at her door. The handle turned, and the door opened, smooth and silent on its hinges.
Hades filled the doorway. He regarded her for a moment that seemed to stretch to infinity as the silence deepened and her heart raced, the pulse beating frantically in her throat. Her makeshift gown felt even more inadequate and flimsy than it had before. She held her breath, certain that if she filled her lungs too deeply, the expansion of her ribcage and uplift of her breasts would cause the fabric to fall away.
And then she would stand naked before him, with no barrier between her and whatever he desired of her. Her knees trembled, but the memory of his kiss and the heat of his touch made her wonder what that might be like.
She was here. She was his.
Hades regarded his golden treasure in triumph. She shone like a precious gem in this room, the dark and masculine setting contrasting with her feminine beauty. Her skin glowed like a pearl above the ebony satin she’d clothed herself with. Her hair caught highlights of amber and gold from the fire behind her. Her eyes seemed deeper, filled with mysteries like the midnight sky. Her lips trembled, but otherwise she gave no sign that she was alarmed to wake here, nude and alone.
Pride kept her spine straight, pride and the knowledge that she was the offspring of gods and cherished by them. Here was a woman who knew her worth. Yet she knew nothing of why he valued her. He’d stripped her of her gown and left her by herself to wake on his bed, accompanied only by the flower he’d created to seduce her senses and the carvings to seduce her imagination. She might guess what he wanted of her. She couldn’t know. He wanted that uncertainty between them.
He could see the rapid beat of her pulse at the fragile hollow of her throat and below that, the tightly budded nipples that stood out clearly beneath the satin she wore like a second skin. The fabric draped and clung, revealing every curve from the swells of her breasts to the pubic mound at the apex of her thighs.
“Persephone.” He shaped her name with his mouth and found the sound of it as pleasing as the sight of her here, in his chamber.
“Hades.” She inclined her head slightly, her voice low and musical. He wanted to hear that voice drop into a lower register, to go hoarse as she cried his name out in passion. “Return me at once.”
“You are in no position to make demands.”
Her chin rose higher. “You are in no position to debate. If you return me now, before I am missed, I will let the matter remain between us. If you keep me against my will, you will be forced to release me. You stand only to gain by giving me what I ask.”
“I stand to lose a great deal.” He stalked forward, feeling fierce and predatory at the very thought of releasing her. “Here stands Persephone, beautiful, untouched. A maiden. Mine for the taking. Let you go? How will I be compensated for such a loss?”
Her lips tightened. “You speak foolishness.”
“I speak the truth. You took the flower I offered you. I took you in turn. Now I have you here in my realm, in my chamber. I will have you in my bed. Having gone to great lengths to win this prize, I will not be robbed of it.”
“So you see me as a prize in some game.” She regarded him steadily. “You will not return me untouched?”
Hades came closer, until his body heat warmed hers from proximity and the heady scent of her made his head swim. He touched a fingertip to the pulse at her throat, and traced it down until it rested at the top of the fabric fold that marked her cleavage. He both heard and felt her sharp, indrawn breath, and felt the satin threaten to slip. His cock reacted, hardening in anticipation of the moment the sheet would fall away. His eyes burned into hers. “No. I will not return you untouched.”
He wouldn’t return her at all. He had chosen her, and she, whether she knew it or not, admitted it or not, had chosen him. He could not woo her any other way, so he had sent his blossom to speak for him. If she had not wanted it, he would have left her to her solitary wandering. But she had wanted it. Had clung to it tightly, and defied him over it as if she expected him t
“Then you claim me as your bedmate?” Persephone tilted her head back to ask her question, not shying away from his gaze.
“Bedmate. Concubine. Mistress. Queen.”
She blinked, unable to hide her shock. “You would make me your queen?”
She considered that, thoughts flickering over her expressive face too quickly for him to read. “I would never be able to leave here.”
“You will never leave here in any case,” Hades informed her. “Refuse my bed, and you will still remain.”
“As your prisoner.” Was that hurt that flashed in her eyes?
“My guest.” He stroked his fingertip along the line of her cleavage, dipping lower. “All that I have is yours. My kingdom. My treasures. Myself. I will deny you nothing.”
“Except my freedom.” Her voice broke, cracking his heart in the process.
“I will never let you go.” His tone was harsher than he intended, but Hades was resolute. The sooner she accepted her fate, accepted him, the easier it would be for her. She must put aside the foolish hope that he might relent.
If she had not wanted him…well, that would be a different matter. But she hadn’t backed away from him, hadn’t resisted when he took hold of her. Instead, she had gazed up at him while she knelt in the grass as if she found him strange and wondrous. Her hands had trembled in his, but she had not pulled free. She had left them in his grasp. And when he bent to kiss her, she did not evade. She left her face upturned to his, and when his lips touched hers, she had opened them in invitation.
He had captured Persephone’s maiden imagination as surely as he had captured her body. Now he had only to capture her heart, and she would be his in full.
“You will not be permitted to keep me.” She spoke softly, but clearly.
“You are wrong,” Hades said. “I am lord here. My word is law. None grant me permission. I do as I will. And outside of my realm, sweet Persephone…” he bent to brush a kiss against her temple, “none know that I have taken you. To the world above, you have simply vanished.”
by Charlene Teglia have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes