Chapter Five

Ares

 

Tilje eats like a savage, has no clue what napkins are for, fucking burps like a pro, and when she looks up at me through thick lashes—those blue eyes wide—I need to kiss her.

She parts her lips in a shocked gasp, and I tug on a silken braid and deepen the kiss. Tangling her fingers in my hair, she sucks greedily on my tongue. She tastes like meat and fries and beer and heaven. I want to pull her braids loose and feel that wheat-colored hair cascading down on me as she rides me. I tighten my grip on her waist, and she wraps her legs around my thigh. Pumps her hips. She wants more.

My cock is painfully hard. With no emotional connection in place, it’s too soon for the bonding, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a good time.

I skate my palm down the curve of her ass. It fills my hand, and is the perfect combo of firm and yielding. When she hums into the kiss, I squeeze.

Her slap has a major sting to it.

My ear rings, as I pull away and glare at her, rubbing my cheek.

Tilje purses swollen, glistening lips. “You’re lucky I’m unarmed, or that would have hurt more.” Her eyes blaze, but anger cannot disguise the lust in them.

I wrap my palm around her wrist and hold it in place, as I duck my head close again, to whisper, “I can try it again when you have your sword, if you’d like.”

For a heartbeat, she leans in, her cheek almost touching mine. Then she pushes back. “Not if you know what’s good for you.” But her voice is unsteady.

She strides to my bathroom, and pulls at the sliding metal door hard enough to bend it inward.

It’s possible she didn’t put all of her strength in that slap. Which can only mean one thing—she wants me.

Unperturbed, she enters the bathroom and bends the door back in place.

By the time she busts her way back out, I’ve adjusted my hard-on so my fly doesn’t bite into it, and I’m leaning against the window, cool as fuck.

“Ready?” I want to ask more, like if I should pack food and drink for the flight, or maybe wear a jacket, but she’s only in that flimsy top and jeans, and I’m not a fucking chick.

Tilje uses the back of her hand to cover a yawn. She’s tidied her braids, not a hair out of place, and water glistens at her temples. Needed to cool down, huh? I wouldn’t mind a shower. Preferably with her pressed between my body and the tiled wall.

“Ready,” she says. “Should I call Hulda?”

A horse in my living room? No, thank you. “We’ll go to her.” It’s bad enough the ascended assholes have left velvet armchairs behind. Who cares if they’re comfortable? They don’t work with my space. This is my man-cave; I don’t entertain guests, and I certainly don’t have the tea-parties that go with all these decorative pillows.

The door to the staircase that leads to the roof locks from the inside. The key is in the lock, as usual. I turn it and look at Tilje. “You coming?”

Startled, she half-jumps back, her cheeks red again. She was totally checking out my ass just now. For her benefit, I clench my ass cheeks, and also flex my arms way more than necessary to open a door.

She hurries past me, and I follow and lock the door behind me. The key goes into my front pocket. Asking Hermes to blink me in my own fucking home once was enough. Not doing that again. Though maybe I should have taken my front-door and downstairs keys with me too. Or at least my cell phone?

Nah. I’m coming back via flying horse, and I doubt my provider’s network coverage includes Valhalla.

The staircase up is narrow and steep, and when her foot slips, it takes all I have to prop her up with a hand on her back instead of on that glorious ass. But the next time I put my hands on her curves, I don’t plan on letting go. I’m not afraid of another slap—I may even enjoy it—but I want her to acknowledge how our kiss affected her. More, I want her to beg me to touch her. To take her. To claim her for eternity.

That last part may require me to divulge a tiny little detail I’m not ready to share yet. Rather, one she’s not ready to hear. The word destiny has a way of spooking people. Used to scare me, until I realized it doesn’t take away my right to choose. I may be destined to be bound to a female forever, but I determine on what foundation that relationship will be established. I won’t suddenly become a one-woman man, like my bonded brothers have, and I respect my mate enough to be open about when time comes. She may choose to also see other—

Nope. Not going there. This isn’t the time, anyway. First I’ll save Valhalla—singlehandedly, if possible. Then we’ll figure out the specifics of our relationship.

Unaware said relationship even exists, Tilje squishes against the wall at the top of the stairs, to make room for me to unlock that door, too. It’s tempting to steal another kiss, but I refrain and hold the door for her instead before locking it behind us. I leave this key in the lock, and on the outside. Anyone determined enough to Spiderman the five stories up here just to break into my loft, deserves a break.

Tilje says something in her language, and her horse—Hulda?—materializes. And gives me the side-eye. If I didn’t know better, I’d think she saw me paw her mistress and didn’t appreciate it.

Hulda lowers her head, for Tilje to scratch her behind the ears. The tenderness with which Tilje touches her forehead to her horse’s shows they share a deep connection I’ve never had with a living being. I’m as close to my brothers as I can allow myself to be, but I haven’t loved anyone so completely since my parents.

And there will be no thinking of said parents while I’m with this stunning Valkyrie. They chose not to be a part of my life, a long time ago. I’m not wasting on them a single moment I could spend interacting with my soulmate.

This time, my effort to mount her horse is marginally less embarrassing. It’s hard not to preen when Tilje says, “Good job.”

Fuck. What am I doing? I’m not a dog, to be wagging my tail at her approval, and my managing not to fall on my ass shouldn’t impress her. I used to be the fucking god of war. Will be again, soon. I was born to ride into battle. This clumsiness is a glitch she’s meant to fuck out of me.

My stomach doesn’t fly to my mouth at takeoff. Greater improvement. Hulda flies straight up, at a speed that turns our surroundings into a blur. Soon, the bright lights of Athens below us disappear under a thick layer of gray clouds. The darkness of the night sky surrounding us deepens with every flap of Hulda’s enormous wings.

“Can she see where she’s going?” I yell to be heard over the whistling wind. I’m not really worried. I may not have ascended yet, but I can’t be hurt by something as mundane as a fall. Though a fall from up here or a collision with a plane may stress my limits.

Also, does falling from a flying horse count as mundane?

“She doesn’t need to. She has a built-in compass that always points to Asgard.” Tilje turns to look at me over her shoulder, and one of her braids smacks me in the eye. She’s a walking—well, not this very moment—hazard.

Blinking rapidly, to keep my eyes from watering, I say, “Like a GPS.”

She scrunches her nose. Nods. Faces forward again.

My balls aren’t happy when Hulda swerves. Did we hit turbulence? Can we? And how long have we been up here?

I adjust my right arm around her waist and lift my left one, to check my watch. The arms spin around in crazy circles. Guess watches don’t work when you change planes of existence. “How much longer?” I ask in Tilje’s ear.

She shivers. “Time doesn’t matter here.”

Easy for her to say. She’s not the one battling a painful erection. Time sure does matter to me. “Is your mom a Valkyrie too?” I call out. This subject ought to get my mind off the gutter and hopefully save my dick from permanent trauma.

“I don’t have a mother.” Her answer is subdued. I wouldn’t catch it if the wind didn’t suddenly die down.

I caress her shoulder. “I’m sorry.” Though I might prefer it if my parents had died, instead of abandoning me. “Is your father alive?”

A twitch of her shoulder makes me drop my hand to her waist. “My mother didn’t die,” she says. “I never had one. Odin created me. The other Valkyries are my family, and he is the father of us all.”

“So you grew up in Valhalla?” Now that I don’t have to yell, the conversation feels a lot more intimate. I caress a circle on her side with my thumb, and she doesn’t withdraw from my touch.

Still, she sounds annoyed when she says, “You’re not getting it. I didn’t grow up. I was created as I am today, ready to ride and wield a sword and do Odin’s will.”

The altitude or the plane-change must be getting to me, because I want to cuddle her and tell her how sorry I am she didn’t get a childhood. My parents may have ditched me in a foreign country when I was twelve, with a lame excuse on a freaking note, but until the morning my life came crashing down, I felt loved and cared for. I was a happy child.

After this stopping-the-end-of-the-world thing is done, I’m taking Tilje to an amusement park, and we’re going on all the rides, and I’m getting her two armfuls of stuffed animals and all the cotton candy she can stomach, until syrup replaces the blood in her veins. And then I’m getting rid of all witnesses. Don’t want anybody calling me a softie.

“What about your parents?” she asks.

“Not around.” Don’t feel like elaborating.

She covers my hand with hers and pulls it around her front, splayed over her belly. “Sorry.”

It’s a while before either of us talks again, but her hand remains in place, making me feel embarrassingly warm and calm inside. Until I remember something she said earlier. “You said you’ve been reporting back about Midgard. That’s Earth, right?”

“Yes.”

“What are the reports about?” I ask.

Tilje shrugs. “You know… Everything. Wars, technology, new inventions…”

The skies around us are lightening with the palest hint of golden light. The air is thinner up here. Must be why my heart feels light.

No—wait. Thin air makes your head light. Then what’s causing this sense of serenity, twirling around me like a ribbon of silk?

Whatever it is, it’s short lived, shoved aside by a thought with sharp edges. “Have you been reporting on us?”

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