The characters of Hercules and Ares, God of War, belong to Universal Studios and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended.
This story contains scenes of graphic consensual sex between a man and a woman. If you are under 18, or this is illegal where you live, please read no further.
This story is a sequel to A New Beginning, Choices and Chance Encounter.
JinXavier's stories can also be found at Hercules After Dark.
Send feedback to JinXavier@aol.com
Cassandra lay in the huge bed in Ares' bedchamber watching sleepily as the god paced the room. Since her encounter with Hercules, Ares had kept her close by his side. Now she spent more nights in his chambers than she did her own. While she relished the attention, she wondered how much of it was because of a lack of trust rather than a desire to be with her.
Ares was in a rage right now. His recent efforts to begin a war between Parthus and Corinth had come to nothing because the princess of Parthus had been stupid enough to get herself captured by the Corinthians. Cassandra hadn't understood why Ares was so obsessed with this war until he had inadvertently let it slip that the new king of Corinth was Hercules' mortal half-brother. THAT certainly explained his preoccupation with the whole affair.
Well, lying there wasn't getting any of her duties performed, so Cassandra stretched, then slipped out of bed and grabbed her robe.
Ares immediately stopped his pacing and whirled around to face her. "Where are you going?" he demanded.
Cassandra arched an eyebrow. "I WAS going to take a bath and then get dressed, but only if that is acceptable to you, my lord," she replied in a voice tinged with light sarcasm.
Ares glared at her for a moment, his mind obviously still on Corinth, but when he noticed the way her silk robe clung to her nude form, she saw his anger melt into desire. He stalked over to her and pulled her into his arms, his lips descending on hers in a searing kiss. Cassandra's body immediately responded, and before she quite knew what had happened, they were back in the bed again, making love with such furor that he had to muffle her cries with his mouth as he brought her to the absolute pinnacle of desire.
Afterward, she lay in his arms, sated and content. When she was with him, everything seemed clear to her. All the choices she'd made in her life seemed to be the correct ones. Only when he was gone did she begin to question. She cursed the Fates for placing her in Hercules' path. Ever since that meeting, she'd had doubts. Doubts that she tried to bury deep so that Ares wouldn't divine them.
"I'm leaving today," he announced suddenly.
Cassandra stiffened. He was leaving her?
He hugged her close, kissing the top of her head. "Don't worry, my little priestess" he said softly. "I won't be gone too terribly long." He pulled back, cupping her face in his hands. "Why don't you just sleep in here while I'm away."
Cassandra nodded, trying to hide her dismay. Even though he kissed her soundly before departing, she felt a great dread rising up inside her, a foreshadowing of terrible things to come.
Several days passed, and still Ares did not return. Cassandra tried to keep herself busy, but every time she had an unoccupied moment, she caught herself pondering Hercules' words to her. She knew of Xena; every priestess did. Cass knew that Ares was obsessed with bringing the warrior princess back into his fold, but she also knew that Xena always refused. Xena had changed her life, redeeming the evil acts of her earlier years as a bloodthirsty warlord by doing good deeds all over Greece.
Cassandra thought long and hard about her life in Ares' Temple. She fought for the god; if there was a need, all the priestesses were trained for battle. But exactly what were they fighting for? For good? For evil? Or simply for the glory of Ares?
At last Cassandra could stand the confinement no longer. She had to get away from the temple. Ares had asked her to stay close, but he'd never actually forbidden her to leave, so she decided to walk into the village to buy a few things. She didn't even tell her friends she was leaving. She dressed in some of her old clothes rather than her usual attire, then slipped from the temple. She wanted no one to recognize her as a priestess of Ares today.
She walked to the town and bought the few items she needed, then headed for the local inn to get something to drink before she went home. She took a seat and placed her order, then glanced around the room curiously. She got out so seldom; it was always fascinating to see how other folk lived. Her gaze traversed the room, then suddenly she saw a familiar figure. With a sinking heart, Cassandra recognized the unmistakable form of that legendary hero, Hercules.
He saw her just then, and his face lit up so that his brilliant blue eyes seemed to glow. He rose quickly and came over to her table.
"I was hoping I'd run into you sooner or later," the hero said. "May I join you?"
Cassandra suppressed a sigh. She knew she shouldn't even talk to him. If Ares found out, the god would be livid. But Hercules was waiting, and she didn't have it in her to be rude to him, so at last she nodded and indicated that he should take the chair opposite her.
The demigod sat, his gaze searching her face. "Ares took you back, didn't he?" he said, disappointment plain in his voice.
Cassandra nodded. "Yes, he did. Thank the gods."
"Cassandra," Hercules began, but she cut him off.
"Hercules, please don't start. I don't need a lecture from you today."
"I wish I could understand the hold he has over you," the hero said in exasperation.
Cassandra cocked her head, something in Hercules' tone catching her attention. "I wish I could understand why you hate him so much."
Hercules gaped at her for a moment in disbelief. "He's the God of War," he said at last. "Isn't that enough?"
Cassandra smiled softly. "No, it's not enough." She paused, studying him thoughtfully. "Hercules, Ares and I have become very close lately. He tells me things I doubt he's ever told another mortal. Have you ever talked to Xena about the time Sisyphus stole Ares' sword?"
Startled, Hercules shook his head.
"When his godhood was stolen, Ares became mortal. He asked Xena for help in retrieving it, and she did. Now why do you think that is? She had the perfect opportunity to rid the world forever of the God of War, and she's no more enamored of Ares than you are. Yet she helped him."
Hercules sat back in his chair, his face a study in confusion. "I have no idea," he said faintly.
"Because without a God of War, there was chaos. Those who had never before given into violence suddenly lost all control. Xena saw the most peaceful of people suddenly fighting at the smallest provocation, even her friend Gabrielle, and she realized finally that Ares was necessary. As much as you might hate to believe that, it's true. He's only doing the job that is his birthright. He doesn't have a choice, any more than Aphrodite or Apollo has a choice. I don't see you trying to talk THEIR followers into leaving their temples. Seems to me you only try to talk Ares' followers into leaving his temple. Which makes me wonder how much of it is righteous indignation against war and how much is plain and simple jealousy."
"Jealousy?" Hercules snorted. "Now why would I be jealous of Ares?"
"Because he's a full god, and he's always known his father," Cass retorted without thinking.
The hero stiffened. His face tightened in anger, and for a moment Cass thought he'd just get up and walk away, but at last he seemed to gain some semblance of control. "Maybe I am a bit," he admitted finally.
"Hard as it may be for you to believe, so is Ares," Cass continued. "He might not admit it, but he loves his father, even though Zeus seems to treat him contemptuously for the most part. Then you came along, and Zeus did something he'd never done before, in all his millennia as king of the gods. He placed you under special protection. How do you think that made Ares feel? He does his best, with no glory or recognition from his parents, yet you, a half mortal, are singled out for Zeus' favor. That has to hurt him, Hercules. And you make it worse every time he sees you."
Hercules shifted uneasily in his seat, and Cass was gratified to see that her words were having an effect on the hero. Maybe, just maybe, she could show him another side to the God of War.
"I'm not blind," Cass said softly. "I do see his faults, and believe me, he has quite a few. It doesn't stop me from loving him, though. He's a part of me now, and I will always be his. If, gods forbid, I do ever leave his temple, Ares will still hold my heart. There will always be war, Hercules. That you might as well accept. But you must also accept that there are two sides to every issue. Take your brother's recent trouble with Parthus. I'm sure he thought he was in the right. But I'm also sure the King of Parthus thought he was. So who WAS? You'd say Iphicles because he's your brother, but Ares mentioned that the disputed land originally belonged to Parthus, so in reality, Iphicles was wrong."
Hercules' expression darkened somewhat, but Cassandra forced herself to continue. "Ares isn't evil, Hercules. I wish you could see that. He's just doing what he was born to do."
The hero shook his head as if to clear it. He smiled wryly. "Anyone ever tell you you'd make a great lawyer?"
Cass laughed softly. "I just want to convince you that I am happy in Ares' temple. And, hopefully, make you realize that your brother is not a monster."
Hercules sighed. "I don't know, Cassandra. He's done some pretty terrible things. It's hard to forgive."
"It's not necessary that you forgive him, Hercules. I'm just asking you to accept him. And I want you to ask yourself something. Why did you come here? Was it to 'save' me or just to take something away from Ares? I think if you look deep inside your heart, it has more to do with the latter."
Hercules shook his head in negation, but Cass could see the doubt in his eyes. Suddenly, it struck her that all this arguing in Ares' favor had settled something for her. All her own doubts had vanished into thin air. Her heart lifted, and she felt better than she had in a long time.
"I love him, Hercules," she said softly. "He's a part of me, and I'm incomplete without him. My place is in his temple. I thank you for your concern, but I'm not leaving Ares."
Hercules studied her closely for a moment, but he obviously saw the conviction behind her words, because at last he nodded. He smiled crookedly. "Well, you can't blame me for trying, can you?"
Cass was surprised into laughter. She covered the hero's hand with her own. "Thank you for understanding," she said sincerely.
Cass stood to go, and Hercules followed her outside. "Cassandra," the hero began. "I do want you to know that if you ever need anything, all you have to do is call. Okay?"
Cassandra nodded absently. Suddenly, she was anxious to get back. Hopefully, Ares had returned by now.
Hercules took her by the arms, forcing her to pay attention. "I mean it. Should things not work out with Ares, or if you need anything . . . "
Cass laughed. "Okay, okay. I'll look you up." She smiled, and on impulse, gave him a peck on the cheek and a quick hug. "Thanks, Hercules."
They bid each other farewell, and Cassandra headed back toward the temple, her heart and mind clearer now. Unfortunately, she never noticed Ares watching her, his face a mask of cold rage.
Cassandra was more than halfway home when she rounded a bend to see a man lying beside the road, a pool of blood rapidly expanding on the ground underneath him. She ran to the man and bent down to check his vital signs. Thank the gods, he was still alive. His eyes were shut, but he was still breathing. There was blood all over his leg, so she began searching for the wound. Her brow drew together in confusion when she couldn't find the gaping hole she'd expected. She glanced up to see muddy green eyes gazing at her in triumph, but before she could react, something struck the back of her head. She felt one blinding flash of pain, then darkness reached out to embrace her.
Cass awoke later with no idea how long she'd been unconscious. She could see nothing at first. She thought for a moment that she'd been struck blind, but at last she began to see faint shapes around her. The room seemed to sway a bit, and she realized that she must be on a ship.
She could hear sounds in the gloom indicating that she wasn't alone, but no one answered her when she spoke. She sat up and tried to move but was brought up short by chains binding her wrists and ankles. What in Tartarus was going on?
Her head ached terribly, and the smells that wafted her way from the other occupants of the room were making her nauseous. Her arms and legs were aching from the weight of her chains, and she shivered at the coldness of the air around her. She cursed herself for falling into this situation; why was it every time she tried to help someone she ended up in trouble?
She closed her eyes and began to concentrate. She knew that because she was bound to Ares' temple, she and the god were joined, and if she called him, he would hear. She poured her soul into a cry for help, but to no avail. She waited for what seemed an eternity, but he never appeared.
Ares sat upon his throne, his head cocked as he stared off into space while his worshipers droned out their petitions. He could barely hear their requests over the call from his priestess, but that certainly didn't matter much. He already knew how he would answer most of them. They were all petty little people who meant nothing to him.
Cassandra, on the other hand, meant a great deal. Seeing her with Hercules had almost sent him over the edge. How dearly he would have loved to tear his brother into tiny pieces for daring to touch his priestess. And worse yet, Cassandra had allowed it. She'd even kissed the man. Ares could not forgive her that.
He listened absently as her cries for help began to grow fainter. He could almost feel her pain, could almost taste her fear, but as far as he was concerned, she deserved her fate, whatever it might be. Once he'd made his point with her, then he'd rescue her from the mess she'd gotten herself into. For now, though, she'd have to deal with the situation alone.
Time seem to lose all meaning for Cassandra. She had no idea when each day began or ended. One of the sailors brought food to her sporadically, a horrible gruel that was barely palatable, but Cass forced herself to eat every bite. She wanted to keep her strength up in case a chance to escape ever presented itself.
She prayed off and on for Ares to come rescue her, but he never did. She knew he could hear her; he simply wasn't answering her cries for help. At last she realized that he must be punishing her. Either he'd discovered that she'd gone away from the temple without his permission, or he knew she'd talked with Hercules. Regardless, he was ignoring her. She finally gave up hope and stopped trying to reach her god.
"Get up," a harsh voice cawed, waking Cassandra from a fitful slumber. A faint light was filtering into the room, but all she could see was a massive figure hovering over her. She heard the rattling of metal against metal and then the distinctive sound of a key opening a lock. Her captor reached down and dragged her to her feet. Instinctively, Cass struck out to try to get away, but her arms didn't seem to want to cooperate. Her defiance only resulted in a crashing blow to the side of her head. She would have fallen had the man not held her up.
"None of that now," he growled. "Behave, or I'll throw you overboard."
The man began to drag her toward a set of stairs and then forced her to climb. She emerged into scant daylight filtered through a cloud-covered sky. Cass paused to look around, squinting against the sudden brightness, but the moment she stopped, her captor gave her a rough shove.
"Gods, you stink," he snarled. "You'll need a bath before we can sell you."
Cass' heart plummeted. Sell? By the gods, she'd been captured by slavers! The feeling was beginning to come back into her arms and legs, so she looked around wildly for an escape route.
The ship was docked, and people hurried to and fro on the land. She didn't recognize the city, but she could hear the people talking. They weren't even in Greece anymore! From the style of the dress and the many soldiers about, Cass realized with growing dread that they must be in Rome. How in Tartarus was she going to get back home?
She glanced around her on the ship to see about a dozen women, all bedraggled and squinting against the unaccustomed light. Their captors moved between them, chaining them together, and Cass knew that this might be her last chance to escape. She sprang for the side of the ship, determined to jump to freedom.
Unfortunately, her legs hadn't completely recovered from her confinement. She couldn't seem to move fast enough, and before she could reach safety, she was surrounded by a gang of rough looking sailors. She tried to fight them, but it was no use. They knocked her down, then dragged her back to the line and chained her at the head. The leader of the group took the lead chain, and with a jerk, he began to pull the women toward the gangplank.
Hercules was standing in a stream, waiting patiently for a fish to swim by, when he heard the faint sound that heralded the arrival of one of the gods. He glanced up to see his half-brother Ares standing on the bank of the stream, glaring at him with so much hatred that the hero almost took a step backward.
"Where is she?" Ares shouted without preamble.
Hercules gaped at his brother for a moment, then asked, "Who?"
"You know who," the god snarled. "Cassandra."
Hercules immediately forgot about fishing. He strode from the water to confront his brother. "I don't know where she is, Ares. I haven't seen her."
"Don't lie to me," Ares said through gritted teeth. "I saw the two of you together."
Hercules shook his head. "I saw her once, about a week ago, in the town by your temple, but I haven't seen her since." The demigod felt a sudden rush of fear. "Can't you find her?"
Ares glared at his brother. "No, I can't find her," he mimicked sarcastically. "Do you think I'd be here asking about her if I could?"
"But I thought since she served you, you could always find her."
"I should be able to," the god conceded unwillingly, "but I can't anymore. When I try to reach her, it's like running into a brick wall."
"Anymore?" the hero asked, his eyes narrowing.
Ares' expression darkened. "I heard her calling for help for a while. Then it stopped. And now I can't feel her at all."
"If she was calling for help," the hero began, his anger rising with each word, "then why didn't you go to her?"
Ares said nothing, simply gazed at his brother impassively.
"You were punishing her for talking to me, weren't you?" the hero surmised.
The God of War remained silent.
Hercules sighed and reined in his anger. Getting mad right now wouldn't help Cassandra. "All right, Ares, let's think about this. The last time you saw her was when she was with me, right?" When the god inclined his head slightly in agreement, Hercules continued. "So I suppose we should just go back there and see if we can find out what happened."
"I'll be there," Ares snapped, then disappeared.
Hercules immediately set off for the town, his anger with his brother growing with every step. If something bad had happened to Cassandra, somehow, someway, Ares would pay.
Hercules reached the town at last, and he immediately headed in the direction that Cassandra had taken so many days ago. His gaze searched the sides of the road, looking for any clue to her fate. He had gone about halfway to the temple when Ares appeared beside him.
"Find anything?" the god asked nonchalantly.
Hercules cast a sidelong glance at his brother. Ares might try to pretend he wasn't overly concerned about Cassandra's fate, but the hero knew that was only a pose. The god MUST be worried if he would ask for help from his hated half-brother.
"Nothing," Hercules admitted, but as the word left his lips, he noticed something lying amongst the weeds on the side of the road. He strode over and knelt down. A shattered basket lay on its side, its contents scattered in the thick undergrowth. He picked it up and held it up for Ares' perusal. "She had this with her that day. She'd been shopping."
Ares stared at the basket, his expression thunderous. "Someone dared touch a priestess of mine?" he growled. "They WILL pay."
Hercules stood, throwing the basket back down beside the road. "If you'd come when she first called you . . . " he began, but Ares cut him off.
"I told her to stay away from you," the god retorted. "She didn't, so she was punished."
"What if she's dead, Ares?" the hero asked hotly.
Ares whirled on him, his hands clenched into fists of rage. "She's not dead," he snapped. "I'd know."
"Like you know where she is?" Hercules couldn't help but retort.
Ares ignored his brother. He stalked around the roadside, his expression set in fierce concentration. Suddenly, he knelt down and touched a dark spot in the roadway. "Blood," he mused. "A lot of it." He glanced up at his brother, his expression thoughtful.
"Hers?" Hercules asked.
Ares shook his head. "No. It's not even human blood. It's from some filthy animal." He stared off into space, obviously trying to sort out the puzzle.
"I'm going back to town," the demigod announced. "Maybe someone there saw something."
Ares nodded, but he didn't move to join his brother, so Hercules began the hike back to town alone.
The hero almost immediately discovered some very interesting information. Several girls from a neighboring village had been kidnapped as well, and one old man had even seen the culprits. Hercules listened with a sinking heart as the man described what could only be a group of Etruscan slavers.
He walked back to the edge of town, where Ares was waiting for him.
"Slavers?" the god asked incredulously when Hercules explained what he'd found. "So close to my temple? And they DARED to take one of my priestesses?" Ares' eyes seemed to light up with flames of fury. "They will die," he swore, "in the most painful way I can devise."
"Don't you think we ought to worry about getting Cassandra away from them before you start passing our punishment?" Hercules asked, anxious to be on the way. The slavers were more than likely heading for Rome, and if they had a fast ship, they might already be there. "You'll have to take us there," he informed his brother. "If they sell her before we get there, we might never find her."
Ares' expression tightened at the thought of having to transport his brother anywhere, but at last he relented. He just might need the hero's help, and besides, he might get lucky and Hercules might get killed along the way, or at least wounded. That lifted his spirit enough so that he held out his hand for the demigod to take, then transported them both to the glorious city of Rome.
The slave market in Rome was doing a booming business as wealthy men from all over the area gathered to bid on everything from house slaves to concubines to field hands. Ares wanted to slay the whole lot, but Hercules convinced his brother that subtlety would serve them better in the long run.
The god, with much bad grace, transformed his clothes into something more appropriate for Rome, and even conjured a hooded robe as a disguise for his hated half-brother. The two of them shoved their way through the crowd toward the huge platform where the slavers showed their wares.
"Do you see her?" Hercules asked, trusting to the god's keener eyesight to pick his priestess out from the crowd, but Ares shook his head.
Hercules was scanning the pens holding the slaves to be sold, when suddenly he felt Ares stiffen. The hero turned to see what had captured the god's attention.
A huge brute of a man was dragging a woman up onto the platform. She could barely move because of the chains on her ankles and wrists. Her short, black hair hung limply around her face, and she looked dazed as if she had no idea where she was. Hercules gasped when he realized that the woman he was staring at was Cassandra!
"By the gods," Ares swore, drawing back his arm to strike, but Hercules grabbed him before he could do any damage.
"Wait," he cautioned. "You can't kill them all."
"Can't I?" the god retorted coldly, but he did pause, his eyes fastened on the slaver as he began to extol the virtues of this new offering.
Cassandra barely heard the man. The slavers had been very careful not to mar her beauty, but after several blows to the head, she could barely walk, much less fight for her freedom. She felt such a black despair inside that Ares had deserted her, that at this particular point in time, she could care less what happened to her. She stood stock still on the platform, staring at nothing as the slaver continued listing her attributes. She didn't even flinch when he ripped off the remnants of her gown, rendering her naked in front of the crowd of buyers.
"That's it," Ares growled, unable to contain his anger any longer. He cocked back his arm and sent a lightning bolt straight at the man holding Cassandra's arm. The slaver dropped to the platform, dead before he hit the ground. There was stunned silence, then all Tartarus broke loose.
Hercules ran for the platform, dodging his brother's lightning blasts and the fleeing customers as he tried to reach Cassandra. The buyers were scattering for their lives, and one by one, the slavers were dropping to the ground dead. At last the hero reached the wooden platform, and he sprang up onto it with one great leap. He broke the chains holding Cassandra prisoner, then ripped off his robe and wrapped it gently around the priestess.
Cassandra didn't even acknowledge his presence at first. She stared down at the slaver, a faintly puzzled expression on her face. At last she drug her gaze away, looking up at the hero with her dark blue eyes murky with confusion. They seemed to clear a little when she realized who he was, and just as Ares finished killing all the mortals in his sight and appeared beside them, she whispered, "I knew you would come."
Ares stormed over and pulled Cassandra away from the demigod, then, without a word, not even one of thanks, he and his priestess disappeared, leaving the hero standing alone on the platform amidst a score of dead bodies.
"Cassandra?" a deep voice called, dragging her up from the blissful escape of sleep. She didn't want to wake up. Consciousness brought only pain and hunger and despair.
"Cassandra!" the voice said again, more impatiently this time. She dragged her eyelids open, then gazed in confusion at the sight that met her eyes.
Ares was bent over her, his dark eyes intent upon her. She gaped at the god for a moment, wondering what in Tartarus he was doing on the boat.
Then she realized that she was in a bed rather than on the cold, hard planking of the ship, and for the first time in a long time, she was actually warm. She tried to sit up, but a spear of pain pierced through her head. She lay back down again, shutting her eyes against the ache.
"Those bastards," Ares growled. "I should have torn them apart limb from limb while they were still alive. They died too easily."
Cassandra opened her eyes again, watching the god warily. "You never came for me," she said at last, her voice scratchy from disuse. "I called and called, and you never came."
Ares' jaw tightened in anger. "I did come," he said shortly. "Eventually."
"Hercules was there," Cassandra said faintly. "I remember that. He saved me."
The god's features darkened. "I'm the one who saved you," he announced. "Hercules just came along to . . . help."
Cassandra stared at him. "You . . . you let Hercules HELP you?"
Ares shrugged noncommittally. "It was easier that way." He paused, and his gaze softened as he began to stroke her hair. "I couldn't reach you," he explained softly. "I did try, Cassandra."
Cassandra felt tears spring into her eyes. "Why did you wait so long?" she demanded.
The god's brow drew together as he frowned down at her. "I saw you with Hercules."
Cassandra struggled to a sitting position, trying to ignore the pounding pain in her head. "You saw me with Hercules?" she echoed. "Let me guess. You got mad, so you decided to punish me by allowing me to be captured by slavers." She stared at him, not wanting to accept that he was capable of doing something like that to her.
"I didn't know what happened to you," Ares retorted.
Cassandra couldn't believe it. She shut her eyes, trying to block out the sight of him. When she'd needed him the most, he'd betrayed her.
"Cassandra," the god said. "It's over now. You're safe and well. Let's just forget it. I've told you before that I tend to lose control when my brother is concerned. Just consider it a lesson and move on."
Cass shook her head, amazed. "How can I forget it, Ares?" she whispered.
He bent down, bestowing a light kiss upon her lips. "I'll make you forget," he said softly, then kissed her once again, harder this time, with a growing hunger. Try as she might to fight it, Cassandra could feel her body betraying her, giving in to her need for him.
Ares moved to lie beside her, his large hands gently exploring familiar terrain. He stroked her skin lightly until she began to writhe under his touch, then he cupped her breasts, holding them up to his waiting lips.
He traced the outline of one aureole with his tongue, then lightly licked the nipple until it stood erect. He began to suck then, stroking her other breast gently, and Cassandra stopped thinking. She gave herself over to the wonderful sensations flowing through her body. She ran her hands up inside his vest, relishing the feel of the soft dark fuzz under her fingertips as Ares ministered to her breasts.
He pulled away at last, his own breathing coming as rapidly as hers. His clothing vanished, and Cass took advantage of their disappearance to raise her head and lap at his nipples. He growled deep in his throat and threw back the covers, revealing her nude form in all its beauty. He began to kiss his way down her body, then between her legs, tickling the inside of her thighs with his beard. Cassandra was already ready for him, and as his tongue snaked out and parted her nether lips, she couldn't help but moan his name.
His tongue dipped inside, tasting her sweetness, then withdrew. Then again and again, delving in deeper each time until Cassandra thought she'd go mad. He traced a blazing trail to that tiny bud which gave her so much pleasure, and as his lips encircled it and he began to suck, he slid a finger inside her, then another, pumping them in and out in perfect rhythm. Cassandra groaned as her orgasm shot through her, leaving her shaking and breathless but wanting more.
"Ares, please," she whispered, and the god was more than happy to oblige. He pulled her to the side of the bed, then knelt on the floor, his hard throbbing shaft poised at the entrance to her womanhood. His dark eyes bored into hers as, with one deep thrust, he entered her completely. He began to move in and out slowly, taking his time, drawing out her pleasure to almost impossible heights.
"Touch yourself," he commanded hoarsely, his dark eyes gleaming with desire.
Cassandra's hands moved up to cup her breasts, then she lightly drew a fingertip across each nipple, gasping at the sensations that seared through her body. One hand drifted down over her belly and below, and she began to stroke herself lightly. Ares' gaze was transfixed by her moving fingers, and as she began to press harder and faster, he began pounding into her frantically. She wrapped her legs around his waist to pull him in deeper, and at last another orgasm exploded within her, intense enough to make her cry out his name. With a harsh cry, Ares slammed into her one last time, the contractions of her inner muscles milking his seed from him.
Once spent, he withdrew and moved up on the bed beside her. He gathered her up and cradled her in his arms. He caressed her hair, murmuring softly to her.
"I missed you," he whispered.
Cass did not reply. Really, there was nothing she could say. She knew that Ares would never apologize for what he'd done; in his mind, she was the one at fault. He had promised her long ago that she was under his protection, but when she had really needed him, he hadn't been there. How could she stay with him when she no longer trusted him?
Later that night, Cass slipped out of the bed and went to the window. She gazed out over the moonlit-clad forest feeling a sadness greater than any she had felt before in her entire life, even when Marius had betrayed her.
"Come back to bed," Ares said from behind her, but she shook her head.
She turned around to gaze at her god. He lay on his bed, completely nude, his body perfect in every way from the dark curls framing his beautiful face, to the coarse hair which furred his muscular chest, to the long, hard shaft that took her to such unbelievable heights. Already her body ached for him again, but Cass knew that it was not to be.
"Ares," she began. "You have always told me that you won't keep me here against my will. I'm asking you now to release me."
Ares gazed at her blankly as if her words held no meaning for him. He rose at last and came to stand before her.
"You don't mean that," he said.
Cass shook her head. "I DO mean it. I want my freedom."
The god's eyes narrowed dangerously. "You want to go to HIM, don't you."
Cass sighed harshly, turning away from him again because the mere sight of his beauty tore at her heart. "No, Ares. I have no desire to see Hercules again, except to thank him for . . . helping . . . you rescue me. What I want to do is leave your temple and your service. I can't stay here."
Ares grabbed her roughly by the shoulders and spun her around to face him. "No," he growled. "I won't release you. Especially after all I went through to get you back."
Cass gaped at him. "After all YOU went through? By the gods, Ares. I'm the one who was captured, locked in chains, beaten and almost sold as a slave. And you ALLOWED that when you refused to answer my call for help. I'm your priestess, and you vowed to protect me, but when it came down to it, you didn't. Zeus forgive me, I still love you, but I can't stay with you."
Ares glared at her, a muscle in his jaw twitching. At last he nodded shortly, then waved his hand. Cass immediately felt that strange emptiness inside her that meant she was no longer bound to his temple, but this time she welcomed the feeling.
"Leave then," the god said coldly, "if that is what you wish."
Cassandra nodded sadly, then moved around him to gather her things together.
She turned her head to look at him.
"There will be no coming back this time."
She gazed at him for a moment, then nodded her understanding. She dressed quickly, then, without even a last glimpse back at the god she still loved with all her heart, she left the room and the temple to begin a new journey into the unknown.