Read Claiming Ariadne Online

Authors: Laura Gill

Tags: #Erotica

Claiming Ariadne (6 page)

BOOK: Claiming Ariadne
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Chuckling softly, his hand slid down to cup her breast. “It will be a boy.”

“It will be whatever the Great Mother sees fit to give.” She swatted his hand. “My nipple is for the baby, not you.”

She felt his fingers close around the sensitive bud and squeeze it through her clothing. “He hasn’t been born yet.”

Ariadne swatted him again. Taranos did not withdraw, but his caresses became gentler. He stroked the side of her breast through her gown, avoiding the nipple altogether. “You should go, Taranos.”

As the bed shifted, his lips touched hers. “Close your eyes and rest. I will stay right here.”

Pillowing her head on one hand, she let her eyelids droop. She sensed the priestesses glowering at them, and beyond that, heard the virgin novices whispering behind their hands. Everyone waited on her to send Taranos away, except that she didn’t care what they thought. Suddenly she didn’t want to be treated like a precious vessel. “Nopina,” she mumbled. “Go away. He isn’t going to hurt me or try to have sex with me.”

Was he? Taranos’s mood hovered somewhere between amorous and solicitous. Ariadne opened one eye to look up at him. “You
are
going to behave, aren’t you?”

Taranos winked at her. “Does saying yes mean I get to stay?”

“I mean it.”

Although his mischievous glint vanished, his smile did not. When Pemo entered bearing wine, water, and a mixing bowl, he took the tray from her. “Drink something. Try to rest. When you’re feeling better, I’ll go.”

“What do you think you can do for me that my women can’t?”

Taranos measured two parts water with one part wine, stirred it in the bowl, and handed it to her. “It must be something, Ariadne, because you haven’t kicked me out.”

 

Chapter Four

 

“So you are with child.”

Ariadne grew rigid at Elaphos’s comment, at the bitterness undercutting his disapproval. It was, she thought, the tone of a man whose wife had committed adultery. “Yes, I am with child, as the Great Mother has seen fit to bless me.”

Elaphos gripped the railing even more tightly, so his knuckles showed white. Somehow he’d managed to intercept her as she came down from the Goddess’s sanctuary. “I hear the Sacred King entered your house quite uninvited.”

So had all Knossos, but that had been days ago. Potinia, as expected, commented on Taranos’s rudeness. So had several other priestesses; the elder ones shook their heads, while the younger women looked alternately shocked and jealous. Kitanetos apologized and promised to give Taranos better instruction. While thanking him for his trouble, Ariadne could have told him he was wasting his breath.

Kitanetos was, until now, the only man who broached the subject to her. It certainly wasn’t his subordinate’s place to say anything, and Ariadne happily reminded him of this fact. “The Sacred King may attend the High Priestess as she wishes. When he does so, it is neither sacrilege nor any of your concern.”

Elaphos advanced up one step, so he stood level with her. “This foreigner should not have been allowed to pollute your novices. He should not have been allowed to touch you.”

“My novices have survived the experience unscathed. If you wanted to lie with me, then you should have applied to Aktaios and challenged Pelinos yourself. And no, don’t tell me you’re too old. Taranos is a year older than you.”

“Is that his name? Why would I want to become Sacred King when I’d have to die in a year’s time? I want you for always, Ariadne.”

“And how many times have I told you no?”

“I know why you do it. I see you having to endure those foolish youths. They know nothing about loving a beautiful woman like you. And I know why you’re besotted with this rough Achaean. You like him because he’s different. I understand, but one day you’ll grow tired of him. His boorish manners and rough hands will annoy you. These Achaeans aren’t like us, Ariadne. Taranos could never make you happy the way I can.”

This time, Ariadne decided to challenge him. “
How
would you make me happy, Elaphos? What do you know about what I feel or want?”

Elaphos reached for her, then winced when she moved away. “I know you want to be respected. I saw how he humiliated you in the Western Court.”

“He kissed me.”

“Yes, like a lowly peasant woman.”

“I think a good many lowly peasant women are happy with their men,” Ariadne pointed out. “You speak of respect, yet how many times have I asked you to respect my wishes and leave me alone? How many times have I asked you not to press gifts on me? I don’t want them, and your dogging my every step and criticizing my consorts won’t make me love you.”

“One day you
will
love me.”

The stupid man never listened, no matter what she said. Ariadne slipped past him and resumed descending the Grand Staircase. “Oh, go away! That’s never going to happen.”

Elaphos called down the light-well after her. “Only the gods can say that!”

* * * *

Taranos was right, mused Ariadne. She watched him lead the sacrificial bull in a circuit around the Western Court before tugging on its halter to coax it toward the altar. Dressed as the Sacred King in a pale blue loincloth and necklace of golden lilies, the Achaean looked absurd. Add to that the sacred headdress of lilies and peacock feathers crowning a head better suited to wearing a boar tusk helmet, and he looked absolutely outrageous.

Titters arose all around the courtyard, were abruptly smothered, then started anew at the sight of the too-old Sacred King. It should have been a narrow-waisted youth with long, oiled ringlets, not a mature man with close-cropped hair, battle scars, and a beard. Even Ariadne, standing on the porch between Erika and Nopina, could scarcely stifle her chuckles.

Taranos cheerfully ignored the audience and went about his task as easily as a farmer goading his oxen. When the sluggish bull, which was drugged in advance to curb his aggressiveness, balked at ascending the ramp, Taranos tugged the lead, shrugged, and then came around to twitch a goad across his flanks.

His grin and wink, visible even from a distance, said he was playing with the crowd. Knowing now that their Sacred King was in on the joke, the crowd freely gave way to laughter. Taranos handed the spotted brown bull over to the junior priests, then acknowledged certain faces in the crowd with a wave as he crossed the courtyard to take his place beside his consort.

“You look absurd,” Ariadne whispered.

Pride compelled Taranos to puff out his chest and snort, just like the bull about to be stunned. The junior priests might be servants of Poseidon, but getting the animal to cooperate seemed beyond their collective ability. It was a senior priest, a crook-backed, wizened old man, who finally showed them how to knock the bull between the horns with the mallet; the animal dropped with a heavy thud. “Bull’s smarter than they are.”

“They’re not herdsmen.”

“Among the Achaeans, every man is a herdsman or fisherman, and every man a priest. My father can drive twenty bulls to the altar in one day and cut all their throats himself.” Taranos’s gaze slid sideways to her open bodice. As he leaned close to her ear, his voice dropped. “Have I told you your nipples look especially mouth-watering today?”

Feeling them harden in response, she flushed under her heavy paint. Erika and Nopina, well within earshot, must have heard. Why did he have to try to seduce her before all Knossos, just as Kitanetos offered up the sacrificial bull? “This is a sacred occasion.”

“Can I see you tonight?”

“Hush. Kitanetos is about to finish.”

Poseidon’s High Priest held aloft the sacred
labrys
slick with the sacrificial bull’s blood. Kitanetos was so precise with the killing stroke that had severed the bull’s head that not a drop spattered his robe. “Earth-Shaker, Great Bull, Father from the Sea!” he called out. “Accept this sacrifice and grant our traders and fishermen calm waters. Let Plowistos commence. Let the sea-lanes be open!”

Ritual or not, Taranos expected an answer. Ariadne, accustomed to ignoring Pelinos and his sullen silences, now found it hard to concentrate on the rite. Without turning her head, she spoke out of the corner of her mouth. “I’m pregnant. Haven’t you already done enough?”

“Better I ask you now than simply show up tonight and ravish you.”

A Sacred King could request his conjugal rights whenever he wished and hope that the High Priestess did not find some excuse in her monthly cycle, pregnancy, or some obscure religious rite. Ariadne sighed heavily. Morning sickness continued to plague her, yet once the first week passed she always managed to achieve a state of equilibrium where she could eat sparingly and resume her duties. On some mornings, like this one, nausea didn’t trouble her at all.

Tomorrow might be different. Sickness might suddenly take her in the predawn before her consort left her bed. And then Taranos, like all men who panicked at the women’s mysteries, would shout at her helpers and make a thorough nuisance of himself. “My priestesses still haven’t gotten over your last visit.”

“Then you’d better tell them to expect me.” Across the courtyard, Aktaios began collecting the bull’s blood to anoint the horns of consecration all over the complex. “I will come just after moonrise.”

Ariadne felt her stomach tighten in anticipation. Callused fingertips touched hers, and when she didn’t flinch away, his fingers twined with hers and squeezed them lightly. “There are still so many things you and I haven’t tried.”

Sweet Goddess, an amorous adventurer. “Just don’t wear that outfit.”

* * * *

A Sacred King didn’t lie with his consort in a house where virgin novices slept. Ariadne gave instructions, and preparations moved to the Sanctuary of the Great Mother. Just before sunset, she ate a light meal of fish and chickpea pancakes with watered wine, changed her clothing, and set out for the shrine accompanied by Pemo and two older novices.

Tonight, the priesthood of Poseidon laid on a feast for the Minos and his attendants in the hall overlooking the Western Court. The sacred bull-leapers put on an acrobatic show in the torch-lit courtyard, and musicians played in the god’s honor. A festival air reigned throughout Knossos.

As she crossed the Central Court, her cloak flapping about her heels in the brisk spring night air, Ariadne saw oil lamps burning amid the multi-storied tiers on all sides. Passing inside where more lamps occupied niches around the light-well of the Grand Staircase, Ariadne brushed the darkness with her gaze. Smoky lamplight played tricks in the shadows. A face appeared amid the many pillars. Cold eyes fixated on her, yet the image vanished before she could blink or call out a name.

“What is it, Mistress?” asked one of the novices.

How long had Elaphos been standing there waiting? Perhaps, having glimpsed the preparations being made in the sanctuary above, he thought she might come alone.
Goddess be thanked I did not
. Ariadne drew a steadying breath, then shook her head. “It’s nothing, Amaja.”

Yet on the last landing, just before they entered the outer sanctuary, where three cots and a brazier had been arranged for the night, Ariadne drew Pemo aside. “There is a certain priest of Poseidon who may try to see me or demand entry. Should he come here wanting to see me, you’re to tell him no. I will not come out to him. Should he insist, or make a nuisance of himself, raise the cry and let the Sacred King deal with him.”

For the moment it took her to picture Taranos pitching Elaphos headlong down the light-well, she smiled. But she didn’t dare confide in him, because she knew he’d grab whatever weapon he could find and go looking for the stalker. She couldn’t let him do that, as killing a priest was a grave sin. It made no difference what the reason was. “I won’t tell you his name, only that it isn’t Kitanetos or Aktaios.”

Which left Pemo with precious little fodder for gossip. “Mistress, I don’t understand.”

Ariadne sighed, wishing she’d thought to bring sturdy, taciturn Nopina instead. “Don’t let anyone disturb us.”

Oil lamps burned around the altar, illuminating the Great Mother on her plinth surrounded by offering vessels. Crocus garlands draped the horns of consecration beside her. Poppies and daffodils wreathed her clay feet.

On the bed between the door and altar, Taranos sprawled naked amid the soft sheepskins. Still snug in her cloak, Ariadne started at sight of him. “Aren’t you cold?”

Firm pectorals flexed as he tucked one arm behind his head. Abdominal muscles drew taut. Taranos knew he was on display, from the dark whorls of hair fleecing his chest to the heavy shaft between his thighs, and he relished every second of it. “Not in the slightest. Come here and get warm.” With his palm, he thumped the mattress beside him.

Ariadne ventured to the foot of the bed, loosened the ties that held her cloak, but then stopped. “You really have no manners. A High Priestess doesn’t just simply come like a tame monkey.”

“Lady, I’ve been waiting here in this smoky room more than an hour.” What was his hand doing? As she watched open-mouthed, and as his gaze remained locked with hers, he traveled a singular path from his nipples to his groin, where he lifted his cock and—sweet Goddess!—began stroking it up and down, pulling back the foreskin to reveal the bulbous head and a slit moist with dew. “You can either join me on this nice, soft bed, or make me get up, pull up your skirt, and fuck you right where you stand.”

“Oh, you wretched…!”

Taranos dodged the sandal aimed at his head. Then, before she could do more than stumble to one side, he clambered off the bed, seized her around the waist, and dumped her unceremoniously on the mattress. “You have to stop throwing objects at me.” He pinned her fast with his body. “Next time you might actually hit something.”

The nerve! “You…”

BOOK: Claiming Ariadne
11.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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