Kali screamed internally at herself. She knew that running off on her own was a bad idea at the best of times, but this? How was she supposed to anticipate running into a literal Greek God, sitting on a park bench?
Kali fixed her expression back into an easy grin, hoping that the unease hadn’t shown on her face. She raised an eyebrow, mocking his use of the gesture before, and teased “Like the star sign?”
“Like the god.” His eyes were fixed on hers and the smile dancing on his lips was enough for her to know that he had seen through her bluff. Ares’ hand was still around hers, despite her feeble attempt to pull it back, and he looked curiously down at their joined hands. With a tiny movement, he pulled her to him and she fell towards him. He still sat casually on the bench but now she was leaning over him, and his face was barely an inch away.
There was a hint of stubble on his otherwise perfect face, and it was sexier than she had expected. His brown eyes were surprisingly gentle. And close enough that she could lose herself in them. And his lips were still pulled up in an almost taunting smile. Ares had a hand on her arm and the other on her hip, holding her up. She was dangerously off balance. If he let go, she would be on top of him.
Realising that, Kali struggled slightly to right herself, but Ares’ hand tightened on her arm. She glanced at him, letting her uncertainty show in her eyes, and mumbled “You said you weren’t going to hurt me.”
“Am I hurting you, sunflower?” He asked, his grin taking on a decidedly smug quality. He let her drop slightly towards him and obviously breathed in her scent. Feeling her tension, he laughed and moved her closer, whispering “You’re always so in control, aren’t you? Maybe you should try letting someone else lead once in a while. You might like it.”
Kali hesitated, and trembled when Ares slowly moved his hand from her hip to her thigh. She bit her lip and looked helplessly down at him. After an agonising second, she whispered “I have had a really bad day.”
“So, let me make it better.” He said simply, with the same infuriating smile. Kali hesitated; she didn’t know what to do. She didn’t know what she wanted. Her eyes darted to Ares’ lips of their own accord, and he moved in with a smirk. His lips brushed hers once, then twice, and he slipped his hand around the back of her neck. She fell forward towards him and he laughed into the kiss.
Ares hadn’t expected her to be like this. He hadn’t been prepared for her. He wasn’t normally attracted to women he had to save, but her show of strength so suddenly replaced by her hesitation – the helpless way she looked up at him called to every predatory instinct to hunt her, and to protect her. To own her. Damn, he had it bad. But she tasted like salt and smoke and fire. She would be a wild one. And he would have fun taming her.
He lifted her up, still claiming her lips, and switched their positions on the bench. She moaned into the kiss and her teeth grazed his bottom lip. The tentative suggestion of the wilder nature he was sure she was hiding nearly shattered his control. Making up his mind, Ares deliberately tangled his hand in her hair and bit her lip, drawing blood. Kali drew back with a startled gasp, her eyes flying open, but he pulled her back to him and touched his tongue to her lip.
Though she still trembled at the contact, Ares could see that her expression was clearer now. Her sensible side was kicking back in. And the colour on her cheeks made it clear that she was mortified that she had just put herself in such a compromising position with a relative stranger. When he had lifted her, he had pulled her legs around his waist. Now, she tried to scramble back away from him.
Smirking, Ares hooked his hand under her thigh and pulled her back to him. Kali’s hands pressed against his chest in a futile attempt to keep him at a distance. “Enough. I’m…that’s enough.”
“You’re killing my ego. Enough? After just a kiss?” The laugh she might have considered sexy before now carried a sinister undertone. “I don’t think so, little one.”
She brought her knees up between them as an extra barrier and tried to squirm out of his grasp. “Stop.”
“Make me.” He taunted, wrapping his hand in her hair and tilting her head back. Fear distorted her features for a heartbeat and Ares wondered if he had misjudged her. But anger suddenly burned in her eyes and only grew when his grin returned.
Without hesitation, Kali rammed her knee as hard as she could into his stomach. She couldn’t muster much force because of the way he had wedged her in, and Ares didn’t flinch. He even laughed. Snarling, Kali gripped his wrist with both hands and scratched at the skin with her rough nails. If anything, his hand just tightened in her hair. Despite her struggling against him, Ares buried his face in her neck and nipped at her skin and murmured “You’re not even trying.”
Kali managed to get her arm in a position to jab her elbow against his jaw. That time, the contact seemed to at least affect him, and his head shot back slightly. Although, the pain that shot through her arm made Kali think she might have hurt herself more than him. Her thoughts stopped when Ares drew a small knife in one fluid movement.
“Well that got your attention.” He slowly moved the blade and the strange golden blade glinted in the dim streetlights. Kali was frozen in place when he touched the blade gently to her neck. Cold spread through her, but her eyes were locked on his. He chuckled softly and moved the blade back again. He tossed it carelessly and caught the blade, offering the handle to her.
It was a trick, of that Kali was certain. But if she had the knife then it meant he didn’t. So, she went for it anyway. Ares didn’t pull it back out of reach as she had expected, but she still didn’t trust him. The instant her hand closed around the hilt, she kicked out at his groin and punched him in the throat with her empty hand. His grip finally loosened on her hair and she struggled to slip out past him. She managed to get off the bench before his hand closed around her wrist, and she was yanked back.
In spite of her best efforts, Kali couldn’t help but cry out when she felt something tear in her shoulder. She barely noticed when she collided with the bench, or when she tumbled back onto the ground. Seeing Ares’ face looming over her, Kali slashed out with the knife still gripped in her left hand. There was a shadow of concern in his eyes, but it was quickly replaced by surprise when he looked down at the gash in his wrist. “I wasn’t sure you’d actually do it. Deeper than I expected…I thought you’d be more squeamish, little one.”
Kali didn’t know what she expected, but Ares didn’t seem at all fazed. He brought both her hands together, earning him a strangled cry, and pinned them over her head. The dagger was still in her hand, but it was beyond useless now. When he moved closer, Kali spat blood in his face. Pain had coloured her tone to something she hardly recognised when she grunted, “You said you wouldn’t hurt me.”
“I’ll make it up to you.” He winked with an almost charming smile, before bringing his bleeding wrist to her mouth.
Panic flooded through Kali and she twisted and writhed, ignoring the pain that was screaming at each jerky movement. She squeezed her eyes shut and clenched her jaw. But she knew that he was too strong. His hand was like a vice around her wrists and he was an immovable weight on top of her.
Until, suddenly, that weight was strangely absent. Kali opened her eyes and saw Ares brushing dirt from his blue jeans, about a hundred metres away. A silky voice that sent shivers down Kali’s spine said “A blood tie, Ares? Feeling threatened already?”
“Hades?” Kali croaked, rolling onto her knees.
He was at her side in a heartbeat, and his fingers tangled around a strand of hair by her collar. “Can you stand, Kali?” He asked gently.
“Hands off. That one’s mine.” Ares snarled, and charged towards them.
Kali was shaking but his words gave new life to the rage she had felt before. Fire spread from her hands and blazed in a line towards the god, burning its way through the gravel path. Ares stopped in his tracks and Kali fell back, scrambling away from the flames. She felt an arm around her waist, and Hades lifted her to her feet and whispered “You’re safe, Kali. But you should leave.”
Without looking back, Kali took his advice and ran. When she finally ground to a halt, she had no idea where she was or how to get home. The silence crashed over her like thunder and she stumbled to the floor. Her scraped knees were the least of her worries. Now that the adrenaline was wearing off, there wasn’t a single part of her that didn’t hurt. Her right arm in particular felt like it had been wrenched out of its socket and searing pain engulfed her when she twitched her fingers. Aside from that, she had probably cracked a couple of ribs and she was battered and bruised all over.
There was a short garden wall not too far from where Kali was slumped, so she dragged herself over to it. Once there, she wasn’t sure it had been worth the effort, but she propped herself against it nonetheless. Hot tears streaked down her cheeks now that she was alone. It wasn’t so much the pain as the humiliation that had brought them. Closing her eyes, Kali tried every meditation technique she had ever read online but her cheeks still burned. She hadn’t been thinking straight. She was vulnerable. He had taken advantage of her. But she had let him.
By the time Hades approached her, the flow of tears had ebbed and her shame had faded somewhat. She wasn’t surprised that he was the one that came for her; the energy he kept on a leash felt so different to Ares’ obvious strength. Even so, she hadn’t fully relaxed until he murmured her name.
She buried her head on her knees and whispered, “Thank you.”
“I see you met Ares.” Hades said, casually. “I assume he was a little more persistent than you expected.”
Kali bit her lip and looked at her trembling hands. “I…it was my fault.”
“No means no, regardless of when you say it.” He was standing beside her, she could feel how close he was, and his voice was harder.
“It was still stupid.” She mumbled, pushing away a traitorous tear that had tracked down her cheek.
Hades sighed, and she felt him slide down the wall to sit by her side. “You cannot blame yourself for the occasional moment of weakness, Kali. Even the gods make poor decisions from time to time.”
“Would it be so bad to feel wanted…just for once?” Her voice was smaller than Hades had ever heard it. He slowly put his arm around her shoulders and tucked her against him.
His words came slowly. “Whatever you decide you want, you would do well to remember that Ares does not think like you. None of the gods do. They may blend in with mortals, but their ideals and their laws are not the same.”
“You talk about them like you’re not the same. What do you get out of helping me?” She asked quietly, carefully resting her head on his shoulder.
Again, Hades seemed to hesitate before he answered. “I offered Apollo a favour. He seems to trust that my nature is more restrained than his other options, and that I will be able to control myself around you. It gives me leverage if I need something in return.”
“I don’t understand. I’m not…special. Guys don’t notice me, let alone like me. And, to be honest, I prefer it that way.” And she did; the idea of giving up a part of herself to be with someone felt wrong. Especially after watching her mother jump from guy to guy, trying to find someone to fix all her problems. “Now, I get approached by a god. A literal god. None of this makes any sense.”
Kali felt Hades shrug beside her. “Power calls to power. You happen to be bursting with it, and Ares cannot help but take notice.”
Kali noted his words and found something like disappointment rush over her. She bit her lip. “But not you?”
His quiet chuckle made her think he could see right through her. With a sigh, he said “As I said, I have more control. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel the pull towards you.”
“Because of my blood. Who I am doesn’t seem to matter here. Just what I am.” She moved her head back onto her knees, putting a little distance between them. She didn’t know what she wanted or what to do. But everything had changed, and she couldn’t even be a person anymore.
“Your light calls to the darkness in me.” Hades whispered so quietly that Kali wasn’t certain she had heard it. “But I don’t know you well enough for anything else, Kali. Not yet.” His arm was still around her and he pulled her gently back to him. She noticed then that everything he did was slow and precise, always giving her plenty of time to stop him. As if she could think straight over the sound of her heart pounding in her ears when he was this close. She dared to glance up at him and could feel his gaze on her when he continued thoughtfully, “But, I wonder, is it not often the same for mortals? The concept of love at first sight is not so different. No one ever seems to know exactly what draws them to their soulmate. Perhaps it is not so important what grabs your attention, but what keeps you coming back.”
Hades’ hand stroked her hair gently and she blushed, casting her gaze back down. Even though she couldn’t see him, just the feeling of his gaze made her tremble. Eventually, she mumbled “I guess I never thought of it like that.”
“With gods, or mortals?” He chuckled, still letting his fingers brush and curl through her hair.
Closing her eyes, Kali muttered “Either.”
Hades made a thoughtful sound beside her and he sounded almost pleased, though she didn’t know why. With a deep sigh, Kali found herself leaning into his chest. “Why am I so tired?” She mumbled wearily.
“You overdid it rather a lot today.” Kali could hear the smile in his voice and it warmed her.
Her eyes struggled open and she pleaded “Don’t tell Apollo.”
“Easy, love.” He whispered, and she felt his lips brush her temple. “Rest. I’ll keep you safe.”
Truth. Reassured, she let herself sink into his arms and stopped fighting the urge to fall asleep. It would overpower her soon enough anyway, so she gave in. The last thing Kali was aware of was Hades’ steady heartbeat and his hand in her hair.
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