Persephone feels him before she sees him, kneading at the edges of her brain, tasting like honey and sharp, static currents on her tongue. He, not a conscious thought, but a memory written in the marrow of her bones. Not physical but chemical.
Petals bloom behind the conch of her ear, betraying her.
“Ares,” she says, a sigh between her teeth. Ares, Ares, Ares. Parched, blistering summer heat and aching chill, he is a brilliant blue sky, swollen with rain clouds, a sleight of hand, a shadow passing over a windowpane. He is the entire world, and she instinctively turns her face up and into the warmth emanating from his core. His palms descend over the planes of her cheeks, rough and almost painful where peach fuzz meets corroded earth and hardened things.
“Kore,” he murmurs her name in greeting, his fingertips tracing quiet, unhurried stories over her face, memorizing. As if he doesn’t already have enough of her to write a hundred sonnets. “You called for me.” Persephone hisses a sigh between her teeth. “I told you to knock at the door,” she chides breathlessly, glancing at the open window. Ares, she thinks, is the one you meet before you realize what’s good for you, because the worst ones never enter through the front door.
This is Ares’ dominion now, all blinding chrome and red flush, so thick with him it’s as if he’s invented color from a goldspun dream.
"Haven’t you ever heard of boundaries?”
Boundaries , he laughs into her hair. “You are so pretty,” he breathes, stealing a kiss against her temple. “My springtime girl. But now …” he flattens his palm against her forehead and the effect it has is so immediate, singing to the very core of her, that she mewls something like a curse or maybe a promise in reply. “Now you’re angry, and I want to know why.”
Persephone stumbles away from him and flattens her back against her bedroom door, closing it with a soft swish. “You…” her mouth is suddenly sore, as if she’s opened it under saltwater. “What are you doing here?”
A pair of molten ember eyes appraise her beneath tangled lashes. Slowly, his mouth tips upward. “I just told you. You called for me.” Ares lowers himself onto her bed, comically oversized and so much man, sprawled like a cat in the sun on her pink duvet. He kicks off his shoes— well-worn leather combat boots, a far cry from Hades’ practical, stylish loafers — and crosses his big feet at the ankles.
“I didn't mean to.”
Persephone plants herself on the edge of her bay window, the farthest polar from Ares. Ares shakes his head. “I know what I heard, Kore. I’d know your call anywhere in the world. I could play it in my dreams.” He lifts himself on his elbows. “Tell me.”
Something solidifies in Persephone’s throat. He buzzes like a cicada in the air that’s grown syrupy between them, movements thick with bated desire, measured breaths. When she doesn’t reply, Ares sighs like a child, pushing a big loud gust of breath from his cheeks. “Alright, I’ll guess. I’m very good at guessing.” He cracks open her biology textbook and leafs through it haphazardly, pausing to peer more closely at an illustration of female breasts.
“There’s nothing to guess. I’m upset with Hades,” she replies cooly.
She doesn’t miss the twitch of his jaw. So slight, nearly invisible to the untrained eye. “That may be true.” He licks his finger slowly, turns the page. A hot, furious blush blooms over her cheeks. “But that’s not what I’m referring to.”
“He ripped someone’s eye out , Ares.” Persephone crosses her arms over her chest.
Ares cocks his head. “So I’ve heard. But you don’t really care, do you?”
“Just what I said. You don’t really care. I bet you’re just upset he didn’t ask you to come help. Who knew there were so many words to describe a nipple?”
“Of course I care. Everyone at school thinks I told him to do it.”
“So tell them to fuck off,” Ares replies bitingly, voice suddenly hoarse. He clears his throat, suddenly coiled tight with frustration, like a bow on the verge of release. He despises the thought of anyone making her feel inferior. “And anyway, that’s not why you called for me. The song told me something else.”
Persephone turns to him, and he thinks that she has never looked more beautiful than just now, standing by the window cut in swathes of moonlight.
“I need more time.” She pulls a forget-me-not from her crown and twists it between her fingertips. “Please don’t dig for it.”
Ares pushes himself up on his elbows and regards her with a look simultaneously so tender and severe she could cry. “Kore,” he whispers, all gravel and whiskey. “You know that I won’t take anything from you. Ever.” His tone tells her that he understands her innately, and something terrified and exhilarated stirs in her. “I only want what’s best for you. I want you to see what you’re capable of.”
“I know that,” she replies wanly.
He shakes his head. “You don’t, but you will.”
She pushes a breath out, caught somewhere between a sigh and a growl. It’s this perfect, intoxicating sound, familiar as a fingerprint. He would do anything to create that sound again, bottle it up and save it for a rainy day.
“You don’t know -- ”
“Don’t finish that sentence. I know you better than anyone, you little liar .”
"You are ... "
He slides a finger between the spine to keep his place in the book, and the motion sucks the moisture from her mouth like a vacuum. "Enigmatic? Dashingly handsome?" He ticks off his broad, calloused fingers. "Kindhearted? Philanthropic ?"
She snorts at that last adjective, incredulous. "You are so -- "
Persephone's next breath is caught in his mouth, stored away like a memento for safekeeping, like she is childhood vacations and faraway places and fond, forgotten things. In a handful of milliseconds he crosses the room and overtakes her, backing her between the wall and his chest. For a few heartbeats, he watches her, lips parted with desire, eyes unfocused.
It's greedy, selfish, but he can't help it. So much of himself has been lost to his work, eaten at the edges of him, fossilized the softness and turned him rotten. When he tastes her, it's baptismal, and he could hold his head under the cold, quiet current of this moment until his lungs collapse. You have all of me. Every piece.
"-- impossible ," she breathes. A red film passes over her blown pupils. He bends his forehead to hers and his hands roam up and down her sides like the answer to a prayer. When he kisses her again, it's soft, curved into a question, and she grips fistfuls of his curves, guides him back down to her in an answer. Ares shifts and lifts her thighs, and she wraps them around his torso agreeably. She feels his cock twitch against her belly, warm and strong and sure, and when she presses some of her weight against it just so, he groans so deeply into her mouth that it fills every inch of her.
No , he thinks, or maybe says, he isn't sure because his voice is suddenly miles away. You are impossible. Impossible, magical girl. He sucks her bottom lip into her mouth and it tastes like cherry blossoms and morning dew and something so sad he aches for her.
"What happened to you?" He breathes into her neck, worshiping the dip of her clavicle in hot, wet kisses. Her head falls back on its own volition, a marionette tethered to his competent hands. He shifts her again and when his cock presses against her sex, her pleasure is so sharp, so immediate, that she nearly cries out. He palms a hand over her mouth, nips at the curve of her ear.
“Shh.” His grin is wicked.
She bites down on his finger, and he almost loses it right then, seeing her swollen lips curved around his finger like that.
“Fuck, Kore,” he groans. When her hand palms at his belt, rational thought drips in short, hurried bursts. “You … are … going … to … kill me.” With an animal grunt, he spins her around again and hoists her onto the bed. Ares spends a moment hovering above her and she writhes under the heat of his gaze, self conscious under the cosmic force of his undivided attention.
“Are you going to do something?” She reaches for one of his hands and places his huge palm over her heart, and the thump thump thump is somehow the most erotic sound in the world. His eyes drift shut, memorizing this moment, this feeling.
“Let me look at you, you brat.” Heat expands in her chest and just as she is on the verge of exploding, of floating away or possibly bursting into flames because this maddening energy has to land somewhere , he finally concedes and presses his weight on top of her, pinning her between his legs. “I don’t deserve this. I don’t deserve you.”
“Stop talking.” She pivots her hips up to meet the bulge of his cock, and it’s like two pieces falling perfectly into place, soft and warm meeting hard and rough-edged. They are tectonic plates shifting the composition of the earth with the seismic force of them, here, now, like this: gold and red on pink, hands on flesh, lips and teeth and tongue woven together, hot, dampened breath filling the room until they are each other’s atmosphere.
She closes her eyes as he lowers himself between her legs, feels the brush of his curls against her throbbing clit. Her hands bunch in her sheets as she feels herself relinquishing control, letting him drive them both towards a cliff. When his hot breath brushes over her, she moves to pull her panties off. “ Please --”
Ares’ palm finds her wrist, thumb burrowed into her pulse point. “Not yet.” He glances up between her legs, and his eyes are the molten core of the earth. The entire world, right here in her bed. Slowly, he lowers himself until his lips rest over the fabric of her panties, and when he exhales against her center, it’s nearly her undoing. Her calves involuntarily curve around his neck and he laps her up as if she is water amidst miles of desert, as if she is air in a dying atmosphere, long and slow and almost loving, if only they were different people. She presses against him greedily, tangling her fingers in his hair, and he grins wolfishly.
“Shut up,” she pants, and they both laugh in spite of themselves.
“I didn’t say anything.” When he shifts and moves one of those broad, sure fingers inside of her, she nearly screams before she remembers herself. And then his lips are back on hers, and it’s the simplest thing in the world. His pace slows as his palms traverse miles up and down her legs, her sides, her breasts. For a moment, he draws her to him, pinned on either side by those strong forearms, all ropey muscle and bulging veins.
“Hi,” he whispers, fingers curled around the waistband of her panties. He slides them down and around her ankles with careful precision. Something has tilted and shifted between them, and they spend a moment in their shared revelation.
“Hi yourself,” Persephone replies, fumbling clumsily with the button of his jeans. He barks a laugh into her throat and assists her, pulling his pants and boxers off in one swoop, as quick and confident and sure as the rest of him. And then it’s right there, pressed up against her opening, and he is asking permission without saying a word and it means so much to her she could cry. A condom appears, and when he bites into the foil, it ignites something desperate in her. Ares shifts his forearm under her head so that he’s cradling her, whispering hurried promises and other impossibly tender things into her ear as he slides in, in, in, until there’s nothing left of him, until they can’t tell where one of them ends and the other begins.
“Fuck,” he growls, rocking against her in one slow roll of his hips. “Perfect. Fucking perfect. How are you possible?” He alternates between rough, hungry thrusts, filling her in places she hadn’t known existed, and slow, rolling tides. He knows exactly what she needs before she does, spends time flipping her this way and that, instructing her in low commands, nipping at her neck, tugging on her hair, pinching her ass when she disobeys. Standing and sitting and lying and being. He takes his time experiencing her in every way.
They spend minutes or possibly hours just like that, speaking entire diatribes in slow, languorous touches. “I might not … last,” she breathes, glancing at him through tangled lashes. A bead of sweat rolls down her forehead and his tongue whips out to taste it.
“Then don’t,” he replies, thrusting against her tauntingly. His wet cock slaps against her and she is toeing the line of ecstasy, dangerously close to combustion, and he is chasing her to the end of the world. “Come, baby.”
It’s all the permission she needs. With one final roll of her hips she is there, and everywhere, all at once. With him and without him, and it is so perfect, this moment, this impossible man. He groans hot breath into the shell of her ear and it reverberates within her as he joins her climax, and then they fall back, panting. The silence is thick, nearly smothering, but it isn’t awkward. Any semblance of bashfulness or humility evaporates as he pushes himself up onto his elbows, his expression unreadable.
“Hi yourself,” she repeats.
“That was …” he pushes a breath out between his teeth.
“I know.” She rolls onto her side, and Ares notices that her hair had grown long sometime during all of that, and she is so beautiful it aches the core of him. She takes one of his big palms and presses it flush against her bare chest, saying, I know.
“I wish we could,” he whispers. She knows that his sentence could live and die a million different ways. I wish we could do this, always. I wish we could be right for each other. I wish we could be different people, living in a different lifetime. I wish we could wake up next to each other, and you would say good morning, and I would say ‘It’s not morning anymore’, because it’s Sunday and you’ve overslept. All of them are sharp enough to break her, and so instead she begins the methodical process of rearranging her features into something that could resemble nonchalance.
“It’s fine. It wouldn’t work,” she replies cooly, but it’s a little too breathy, and she hates it. She hates the way he looks at her as he pulls on his shirt, his pants, his socks, hates the dip between his furrowed brows, the little pinched corner of that mouth that is heaven and hell, sin and atonement, the longest fall from grace.
“Someone like Hades is better for -- ”
“ Don’t ,” Persephone spits. “Don’t fucking go there, Ares.”
“I’m rotten, Kore. Right to the fucking core of me. I would ruin you.”
A few hot, angry tears pool at the corners of Persephone’s eyes and she swipes at them with the back of her palm. A hibiscus blossoms behind her ear, and plucks it from her hair, twists the petals between her fingertips. He loves me not. He loves me not. He loves me not. Brilliant red, with flecks of gold toward the center -- the most obvious betrayal of her heart. She crushes it in her palm. “I think you should go.”
“Artemis will be home soon.” Persephone moves towards the window and flings open the blinds, then pushes the window as wide as it will go. She gulps in a gust of balmy air as if it will cleanse her of him, so hot and thick and everywhere in her room. “Unless you want an arrow through your dick, you should go now.”
She stiffens when a pair of hands come up around her shoulders. “Take a breath and look at me.”
“What do you want from me?” Persephone pivots on the balls of her feet, breathless. “You make me crazy. You fuck me in my bed, and then you tell me you’re not good for me.” She doesn’t notice her feet have left the ground until she’s eye-level with him, staring directly into the surface of the sun. “So tell me, Ares. What more could you possibly have to say to me?”
“There she is,” Ares murmurs. He cups her cheek with his palm, and for a single, drunken moment, she leans into it before she remembers herself. “There’s the goddess. I like you like this.” Mussed and dangerous and wild. He saves a picture of her in his memory for safekeeping. And then he kisses her once more, and it tastes of finality, soft and kneading, but with a little nip on her lip at the end, because it’s Ares. When he takes his hands off of her, a howl dies in her throat at the acute misery of his absence. Her chest rises and falls with exertion, and he watches her beautiful, swollen mouth fold into a frown as she tells him to leave one final time.
This time, he obeys. Swings his legs over the windowsill and then is gone, just like that, because he isn’t the one who leaves through the front door.