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Authors: Laura Gill

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BOOK: Claiming Ariadne
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“And
you
are a cold, arrogant woman who doesn’t know what it is to be well and truly fucked by a man.”

Her mouth opened in protest at this outrage. She never uttered a single word, for his kiss, sudden and unexpectedly deep, stole her breath away. And yes, against her wishes, his tongue slipped into her mouth and urged her to reciprocate. Powerful arms closed around her, trapping her when she would have pushed him off, drawing her tightly against him.

How dare he lay his hands on a High Priestess of the Great Mother! How dare he address her in such vulgar terms! But she couldn’t stop her tongue twining wetly with his. She couldn’t break off the kiss.

His hardness brushed her inner thigh, his pelvis pushed insistently at her mound, yet he didn’t force his way in. Why did he wait, she wondered, when he already had her where he wanted her?

Large hands moved up her back, then down again, combing through her mussed ringlets, sliding over the smooth skin of her buttocks. Hands that should have squeezed her ass instead caressed and soothed, and urged her to spread her thighs further.

Finally, he ended the kiss. “Is that better?”

Ariadne clumsily smacked his cheek. “How dare you!”

Taranos seized her wrist, turned it over, and kissed the pulse point. “This is nothing.” Releasing her, he let his hand glide over her left breast, just enough to graze the nipple. Over and again, until the pink bud hardened at the touch. “Protest all you want, High Priestess. Tonight your body belongs to me.” Taranos bent to lick the erect nipple.

Biting down on her lip to hold in her moan, Ariadne was grateful he couldn’t see her face. Why did it have to feel so good?
I don’t even like him
. And when his hand quested over her belly, between her thighs, she didn’t think before parting them in welcome.

With one finger, he parted her petals, delved in deeper, slid moist and slippery among her folds, yet for some reason he didn’t penetrate her. Over and around he circled, teasing, until he touched a part of her so hidden, so sensitive that she started up with a sudden jolt. In her experience, men didn’t know about that spot.

“Lie back,” he urged. “It gets better.”

Trembling, she complied. And the moment she lay still and submissive, his mouth fastened again on her nipple. From her tingling bud, shivers traveled throughout her body straight to her pussy, to the little nub his finger manipulated. Arousal coiled like a serpent inside her. As it woke from sluggishness, it stirred the heat inside her until it flowed outward and ignited every nerve.

Taranos seemed to sense the change within her. His pace quickened, then suddenly—maddeningly—slowed. She started to protest, but her words were lost in his kiss.

“Do you like it?” he asked.

Yes
. Too proud to admit it, her cheeks burning at having responded so eagerly, she took refuge in her temper. “If you stop now, I’ll slap you.”

Of course he stopped. Growling in frustration, she lifted her hand, but he seized it and pinned it to the mattress beside her head. Then in a single motion, he mounted her.

His length and girth filled her, the sensation as overwhelming to her now as it had been with her first lover, another man she hadn’t wanted. Yet she’d been an untried maiden of twelve, where her hymen had been rent and she knew only pain and blood and burnt-out tears; now her lover glided easily inside her—and she wanted him deeper, harder, more. A moment’s stillness, then he began to move, to pump his hips, grinding into her pussy in such a way that he touched her most sensitive parts.

Without her realizing it, she wrapped her legs around his waist, pulling him hard against her. She wanted him to ravish her. And he obliged, thrusting faster, tearing her pleasure from her as thoroughly from within as from without, driving her toward her peak and then over.

When the end came, it was with a spasm that made her cry out with pain and pleasure all jumbled together. Warmth suffused her, her wetness contracting around his shaft, gripping it. Taranos grunted his response and sped up his thrusts to keep fucking her even after she went limp. A moment later, she felt him stiffen and come deep inside her.

So this was what it felt like to have an orgasm.

Some women actively liked sex. Priestesses and servants both gossiped over their tasks, whether spinning or tending the shrines or drawing water at the well-curb, and invariably their talk turned to men they enjoyed. They admired broad shoulders and narrow hips and tight, well-formed asses, and the maleness that bulged through the loincloths. They could never talk enough about a man’s cock—its size, its length, how it satisfied them or failed in its task. Some women even whispered about taking it in their mouths, sucking it in to the root and swallowing the seed—though few among them owned to liking the taste. And further still, they flushed when they confessed how much they liked it when a man who knew what he was doing went down on them with his tongue and devoured them until they came and came and came.

Never me
, Ariadne thought ruefully. As High Priestess of the Great Mother, she need only be fruitful; she need only lie passively while a man emptied his seed into her. Not for her the ways of Aphrodite. Not for her the luxury of choosing a lover who pleased her. Not for her long, passionate nights or the delicious pleasure of having a man make love to her until she was ready for him, until she actually begged for it.

Taranos withdrew, rolling over onto his side. “Well?”

Now he wanted to boast of his prowess, to hear how absolutely wonderful he was! Such a typical man! Why couldn’t he drop off to sleep like Pelinos so she could be alone with her thoughts? “Well, what?”

“I think you liked it.” Voice blurry with exhaustion, he nevertheless hovered on the edge of a chuckle.

“Oh, be quiet.”

Chapter Two

 

Ariadne’s nimble fingers threaded the weft. Her personal sitting room, just off her sleeping cubicle, faced west. Once she had finished the dawn rituals in the sanctuary of the Great Mother and broke her fast, she could retire for a precious hour or two to work at her loom.

In a larger room, such as those in the north workshops, several women could weave and spin while gossiping. Here, the High Priestess worked alone, the steady flow of her thoughts broken only by the clack and whir of the shuttle or the muffled movements of novices going about their tasks in the dormitory.

While the maidens might spin fleece into thread or weave plain cloth, she had the luxury of working lavish bands of embroidery such as she did now. How magnificent purple was, the color of the wine-dark sea, and how dearly bought. It took twelve thousand murex shells to produce enough purple dye to color the hem of a single robe. At a price of thirty vessels of virgin olive oil, she was fortunate to obtain just this much, and when the precious dye arrived from Kommos, she personally stood over the women in the dyeing shed to make sure her threads were properly colored.

After an hour, her back strained and her mind began wandering, so at one point she nearly spoiled the pattern. Such lapses didn’t surprise her, for after a long winter doing little more than spinning and weaving, the whole exercise had begun to pall. Today was a day for being outside.

She rose, indulged in a languorous stretch, and put away her weaving implements. On the landing, young Sopata inquired after her wishes.

Ariadne thought for a moment. “Tell the Sacred King he may attend me.”

A quarter of an hour later, the novice returned wearing a perturbed look. And she came alone. “Mistress, he says…”

“Well, don’t stand there looking like a stunned cow. Why didn’t he come with you?”

The girl licked her lips and swallowed hard. “Mistress, he says—his exact words are that he ‘isn’t at your beck and call,’ and will only come if you ask him politely.”

Ariadne restrained an urge to box the girl’s ears. A clever novice would have rephrased the request to make it palatable, but not this one. It was just her ill luck that Sopata was so stupid. “Then go back and
ask
the Sacred King to attend the High Priestess.”

When he came, as he did this time, Taranos wasn’t in a good humor. As a man, he couldn’t enter the premises unless he underwent ritual purification. “Woman,” he said sharply, within earshot of the two guardian priestesses and four novices who gathered in the doorway to watch, “I’m your consort, not a servant to be ordered about.”

Irritably waving the crowd away, Ariadne drew herself up with stiff dignity. His accent, while not as heavy as some she’d heard, only served to draw attention to his foreignness. “I did
not
order you, Achaean.”

“Taranos,” he corrected.

She ignored him. “I didn’t order you. Sopata shouldn’t have told you that I did. I said you might
accompany
me if you wished.”

“Next time, choose your messengers with greater care.” Folding his thick-corded arms over his chest, Taranos nodded, and his annoyance evaporated. “Well, where should I accompany you, High Priestess?”

Ariadne didn’t know whether to be relieved or annoyed at his sudden levity. “We can’t leave the palace grounds without an escort, but we can walk as far as the North Hall and the Western Court.”

She led him by a circuitous route through the south entrance, down an elaborate processional corridor past the fresco of the Sacred King. Painted long ago and retouched many times over the centuries, the youth wore a pale blue loincloth and codpiece, and lilies and peacock feathers crowned his flowing black ringlets. Taranos appraised the image, then shrugged. “I would look foolish with long hair like that.”

No doubt he would. Had Kitanetos or Aktaios taken that into consideration when selecting him? For he would have to wear that regalia in a few weeks. “Long hair is a mark of royalty.”

“Here in Crete, perhaps, but cropped hair is better under a boar tusk helmet. Few Achaean men wear their hair this long.”

From there, they passed through to the vast Western Court. Processional causeways crisscrossed the flagstones. An altar abutted one wall. During the day, the children of Knossos played here between their lessons. Several young acolytes waved to Taranos; he grinned and waved back. Kitanetos mentioned that the Sacred King spent much time here, running, boxing, and wrestling with the local youths. Taranos also practiced with sword and spear, typical Achaean pastimes of which the priests didn’t approve.

Ariadne didn’t approve, either. “Why didn’t you take away his weapons?”

Kitanetos gave her a sheepish look. “There’s nothing which forbids his keeping them, as long as he doesn’t harm anyone. It gives him something to do.”

That wasn’t enough. “He will give the young men ideas.”

A retaining wall at the edge of the court afforded an unobstructed view of the Kairatos river valley. Olive groves, vineyards, and fields spread out in a broad patchwork, and to the north, the glitter of sunlight danced upon the distant sea. A breeze brought the tang of salt-laden air. Taranos inhaled deeply. “It’s almost Plowistos.”

The start of the sailing season. “Would you prefer to be out on the sea?” asked Ariadne.

His answer, when it came, was no answer at all. “I chose to be here.”

“That isn’t what I asked.”

“Tiryns is like this: close enough to the sea to smell and taste. But there, you wouldn’t have this.” Taranos gestured to the low-lying wall. “Tiryns is built on an escarpment of rock like a ship’s hull, a citadel towering over the entire countryside with high walls and a well-watched gate.”

It sounded ugly and oppressive. “We have no need for such fortifications. There are only priests and priestesses here, and we have no enemies.” As she looked out over the retaining wall, she spied figures moving in the distance. Peasants tilled the soil. Carts passed to and from the town below the hill.

“Yes,” he observed, “but you also have great wealth stored here.”

Ariadne didn’t like what he was suggesting. “We don’t hoard those things. Those beholden to Knossos want for nothing.”

Taranos grunted an acknowledgement. “If I may ask, how many years have you been in Mother Rea’s service?”

“All my life. My mother is a Snake Priestess. One year she lay with a man during the Great Marriage. All babies conceived under Rea belong to her, so I was consecrated to her from the moment I was born, and have lived among the priestesses since I was seven. I came into my womanhood just as the last High Priestess died.”

“What about your father?”

“I suppose he was a priest.”

“You’re not curious?”

What an absurd question! Goddess-born children belonged to Mother Rea. “What should it matter?”

They turned and walked a short distance along the wall until they came to a ledge overlooking the royal road. Taranos’s gaze traveled along its length and appraised its neatly joined paving stones. “Do your children know their fathers were Sacred Kings?”

All four were still very young, perhaps too young to understand. Ariadne never spent enough time with them to ask. “Why does it matter so much to you?”

He didn’t answer.

Ariadne tried not to concentrate on the heat he radiated by standing so close to her. She tried not to dwell on his utter
maleness
. So she avoided looking at him as she spoke. “If you wanted to raise your sons and daughters at your knee, you should never have become Sacred King. I see no reason to lie to you. Children here are raised by all. Sometimes they know who their parents are, sometimes not, but it doesn’t matter. Should I conceive by you, your son or daughter will be a Goddess-child. It will not belong to you. It will never know your name.”


My
children will know their father.” Taranos crossed his arms over his chest, as he had in the courtyard, and stared out over the countryside.

Inviting him to walk with her had been a mistake. How could she ever concentrate without his presence bearing down on her, without its triggering memories that made her flush with remembered desire? “You
are
a fool.”

“Am I?”

Before she could answer, he turned, and with arms closing around her waist, he pulled her into a rough kiss. Ariadne struggled uselessly and burned in mingled shame and anger at the distant catcalls that greeted the Sacred King’s amorous display. Peasants and priests alike could see them—
and they approved!
“How dare you!” She pummeled him with her fists the moment he released her. Even more catcalls rose at her reaction. The High Priestess behaving like a farmer’s wife and publicly berating her lover—what better entertainment did the day offer? “I didn’t give you permission to—”

“I don’t need your permission, woman!” His thunderous voice echoed throughout the Western Court and beyond. Then, throwing back his head, he laughed, just as loudly.

“I don’t see why you’re laughing.” Oh, the humiliation! It took all her self-control not to turn on her heel and flee.

Taranos not only had the temerity to laugh, but his eyes were dancing. “I just realized your lips are even more luscious by day, and how much more beautiful you are without all your paint.”

“You might have said that
before
grabbing me.” Ariadne gave him a hard shove before stalking away from the ledge.

More laughter chased her across the court. “Would it have worked?”

“No!” she shouted back.

* * * *

Priest-scribe Aranare occupied a narrow office just south of the Pillar Hall. Crammed into pigeon-holes above and around his desk were parchment scrolls, wooden tablets covered in wax, and baskets of fired clay tablets on which he tallied the goods tithed to Knossos and allocated to various individuals. Ariadne visited him every harvest to review what was due the High Priestess of the Great Mother and affix her seal to the wet clay.

She also visited in the spring, just after the Great Marriage. A new Sacred King meant redistributing goods, a process she must supervise. Taranos was entitled to lengths of linen, vessels of olive oil and wine, wheels of cheese, and bales of wool. However, as a Sacred King’s needs were met inside the palace complex, most of his newfound wealth typically went to his nearest kin.

Ariadne grimaced to recall Pelinos’s elderly mother. Not content to receive the goods and quietly go her way, she had harangued the High Priestess for stinting her a jar of olive oil here, a bale of wool there, though with Aranare’s careful calculations that was utter nonsense. But the tight-lipped matron wasn’t finished. In a voice that carried down to the North Hall, she complained that Pelinos didn’t eat properly, his bed was cold at night, and his clothing was threadbare. More goods, she insisted, were the only remedy, although she didn’t ever ask to see her son.

On those rare occasions, realizing that his family had sent him to Knossos for their increase rather than his life or good fortune, she actually pitied her consort.

Aranare squinted up at her. Even away from his cubicle, in the full daylight of the Central Court, his eyes didn’t focus properly. “I’m glad you came. This unusual situation with this year’s Sacred King presents a dilemma.”

“Yes, I know.” Ariadne wafted her hand before her face. A thin shaft of light pierced the gloom from above, insufficient for the scribe’s task. Oil lamps burned in every corner with another on his desk, exuding greasy smoke that permeated his clothes and made her eyes water. “Taranos’s kin lives in Tiryns.”

Aranare picked up a wooden diptych coated in a thin sheet of wax and held it up to the light. With his other hand, he picked up an ivory stylus. “What does he want done with the goods? We can arrange for them to be sent to Tiryns.”

What the man’s kin would say when the goods arrived without their son—and with a message that he wouldn’t be returning—Ariadne dared not guess. “I haven’t asked him what he wants done.” Anxiously, she bit her lip. Doing so offered her a legitimate reason to send for him and gave him another opportunity to try to seduce her.

BOOK: Claiming Ariadne
11.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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