Author: JinXavier
Story Title: Chance Encounter
Characters: Ares & f (Cassandra)
Rating: NC-17
Summary: Cassandra goes on a journey to deliver a message and ends up helping a stranger, having no idea of the consequences. Sequel to A New Beginning and Choices.
This rating is for explicit m/f sex.

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 and Choices.

JinXavier's stories are also posted at Hercules After Dark.

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Chance Encounter
by JinXavier

The sun had just passed its zenith over the Temple of Ares, and the priestesses began to file inside for the noon meal.  All the girls were beautiful, albeit in different ways.  Here was one with hair red as fire; there was one with exotic almond-shaped green eyes.  Here was another with long tan legs that seemed to go on forever; there was another with gently rounded curves and a soft, sensual smile.  Whatever else might be said about the God of War, his taste in women was excellent.

Cassandra slipped through the group of priestesses, carefully balancing her plate as she tried to find her best friend, Lydia.  She ignored the curious glances cast her way by some of her fellows.  She had gotten quite annoyed with her long, black hair this morning and had chopped it off at the level of her jaw.  On another woman, the style might have seemed boyish, but Cassandra was too voluptuous to be mistaken for a man.  The cut simply served to make her dark blue eyes seem larger and her lips even fuller.  She was still a bit nervous about it though; Ares had yet to see her new appearance.  She doubted he would care, but one never knew how the God of War might react to the slightest change.

"Cass!" a voice called, and Cassandra finally saw her friend seated at their favorite table on the far side of the dining hall.  She made her way across the room, nodding greetings to her fellow priestesses as she passed.  She hid a smile at the sidelong looks being cast her way.  Some of them were because of her hair, but some were from simple jealousy.  Since the time when her father had asked her to return home and she had chosen to remain with Ares, she had risen high in the hierarchy of the temple.  It was common knowledge now that she was one of the god's favorites, and some of the priestesses were not able to hide their envy.

"Hey, Lydia," Cass said as she took her seat.  "You're here early."

Lydia nodded.  "We got finished quicker than we expected.  The armory is in tip-top shape now."  She gave a crooked grin.  "All those old beat-up pieces of armor and broken swords are now on their way to the smithy to be melted down."

"That's great," Cass replied.  "Ares will be pleased."

"Speaking of Ares," Lydia said with a wistful sigh.  "Where IS he?"

Cassandra shrugged.  "I haven't seen him for several days.  There's trouble brewing on the border between Corinth and Parthus.  I think he went to check it out."

Lydia snickered.  "You mean heat it up."

Cassandra furrowed her brow in irritation.  "That's not what I meant."

"Oh, come on, Cass," her friend retorted.  "He IS the God of War after all."

"Can we just talk about something else?" Cass said, even as she wondered why her friend's words were making her so uneasy.  Ever since Ares had left this last time, she'd felt like she was crawling out of her skin.  She couldn't seem to keep her mind on her tasks.  The only real peace she found was when she was practicing with her sword in the exercise yard.  She sighed heavily.  What in Tartarus was wrong with her?

"Priestesses," a loud voice called out over the din in the hall.  "May I have your attention?"

All heads turned toward the doorway.  Darocles, head priest of the temple, stood there, holding his arms in the air for quiet.

"I have an important package that must be delivered to the temple near Colgath," he announced when the noise had diminished.  "The soldiers have all gone to join Lord Ares.  I need one of you to take it for me."

The priestesses exchanged dismayed glances.  Colgath was quite a distance away, and most of them preferred to stay within the confines of the temple.  No one seemed anxious to make the journey.

Cass stood slowly, ignoring the way Lydia gaped at her as she did.  "I'll go," she announced.  Everyone was staring at her, but she realized that this might be just what she needed.  Maybe some time away from the temple would get her out of the foul mood she'd been in lately.

Darocles seemed pleased that she'd offered.  "Very well, Cassandra.  Come see me when you're finished eating, and I'll give you your instructions."  With a curt nod, he sailed from the room.

Lydia stared at Cassandra as she retook her seat.  "Why do you want to go to Colgath?" she asked incredulously.

Cass shrugged.  "I dunno.  A trip sounds like fun."


"Sure," Cass replied casually.  "I can take care of myself."

"Well, yeah," her friend agreed.  "No argument there, but I sure wouldn't want to go all that way alone.  Want me to come with you?"

Cass shook her head.  She could see the reluctance on her friend's face, and besides, she really didn't want company.  "No thanks, Lydia.  I need to get away anyway.  It'll do me good.  I don't know what's been wrong with me lately."

Lydia sighed.  "You're just bored 'cause Ares hasn't been around."

Cass smiled slightly.  "Well, maybe he'll be here when I get back, but until then . . ."  She blotted her lips with her napkin, threw it on the table and rose to go.  "I'm going to Colgath."

"Be careful," Lydia called after her as she strode from the room, but Cass hardly heard her.  Her heart was already lifting at the idea of being on her own, if only for a few days.


Cass made her way down the road to Colgath, humming softly to herself.  She'd left the temple just after lunch the day before and had made excellent time.  She'd spent a quiet, restful night beside a small stream, then risen early to continue her journey.  At this rate, she'd reach Colgath before the next nightfall.

Her spirits rose as she traveled.  She'd blanked her mind of all thoughts of the temple, her friends and even her god and simply enjoyed the passing countryside and the peace all around her.   With a smile she realized that she had been right.  The trip was exactly what she'd needed.

It struck her then as she walked along that she'd had very little time to herself since she'd come to the temple.  She was with her fellow priestesses from sunup until bedtime.  She was so tired on the nights that she didn't spend with Ares that she usually went immediately to sleep.  Could that be all that was wrong with her?  She wasn't getting enough time to herself?

Cass stopped suddenly, cocking her head as she became aware of alien sounds in the stillness of the morning.  A thud.  An exclamation of pain.  The distinctive sound of steel being drawn.  She moved toward the source cautiously, her hand on the hilt of her sword, prepared for anything.

She rounded a bend in the road to see a group of thugs attacking a lone man.  The man fought valiantly, even now two of his attackers went flying through the air, but Cass knew that he was far too outnumbered to last for long.  Dropping the bag containing the precious package, then drawing her sword and giving a loud war cry, she sprang into the midst of the action.

The familiar haze of battle settled over her, and her blood sang as she knocked one man out and sent another stumbling backward to hit his head on a tree.  The man being attacked seemed a bit surprised by her appearance at first, but he quickly recovered and returned to the task at hand, knocking two of his foe's heads together and sending them to the ground in a heap.  Cass disarmed one man as she kicked backwards and connected with another's most private parts so that he fell to the ground groaning and clutching himself.  Cass ignored him and continued to fight furiously, as did her companion, and soon the thugs took to their heels, dragging their wounded along with them.

Cass slowly sheathed her blade as she glanced around to make sure all the men were gone.  Her gaze fell on her companion, and her eyes widened in appreciation.  He was very, very big; she hadn't realized exactly HOW big until she got close to him.  His arms and chest were extremely muscular, and he showed them off to advantage in the cream colored sleeveless open vest he wore.  His beautiful blue eyes seemed to pierce right through her, and his straight hair was light brown and fell softly to just below his shoulders.  Cass caught herself wondering if it felt as silky as it looked.  She shook her head.  Where on earth had that stray thought come from?

"Thanks," the man said at last.

Cass grinned.  "Anytime."

"You're good with that," he said, nodding toward her sword.  "Where'd you learn to fight?"

Cass' grin widened.  "Oh, here and there."  She extended her arm.  "I'm Cassandra."

The man took her hand and clasped her forearm in the traditional greeting.  "I'm Hercules."

The grin fell from Cass' face.  Her heart dropped, and all the breath seemed to disappear from her body.  "Hercules?" she asked faintly.

Concerned, the demigod took a step closer.  "Are you all right?" he asked.

Cassandra backpedaled away from him just a bit, trying to keep her distance.  "Yeah, I'm fine.  Just a little stunned.  You really didn't need my help, did you?"

Hercules shrugged.  "Sure I did.  I would probably still be fighting if you hadn't come along."  He paused, his gaze following her as she picked up her bag from where she'd dropped it to join the fight.  "Where are you headed?" he asked.

Cassandra hesitated, unsure of just how much she should say.  "Uh, I'm going to Colgath," she replied finally.  "I have to deliver something to my . . . to my family."

"Well, great," Hercules said.  "I'm heading that way myself.  We can travel together."

Cass gave a strained smile, but she knew there wasn't anything she could say.  If she refused, it'd look odd.  She'd just have to watch her mouth.  She certainly didn't want him to discover that she was a priestess of Ares.  The enmity between the god and his half brother was legendary.  She also prayed that Ares didn't find out that she'd traveled with Hercules.  He would definitely not be pleased.

As the two of them set off toward Colgath, Hercules began to quiz her about herself, and Cass answered as best she could without really giving anything away.  The demigod finally seemed to notice her reticence and stopped his questions, much to Cassandra's relief.  They walked in companionable silence, broken only by occasional comments about the beautiful surrounding countryside.  Despite herself, Cass discovered that she was enjoying his company.  He certainly wasn't anything like she'd expected.  The kindness so obvious in everything he did and said was extremely disconcerting.

They reached Colgath at last, and Cassandra bid her farewells to her new friend.  She really hated deceiving him as she had, but she knew that if he had any idea exactly who she was, his attitude wouldn't have been anywhere near as friendly.  She hurried through the crowded streets of Colgath, suddenly anxious to get her task over with and return to her home.

The temple in Colgath was much smaller than her own.  She supposed that was one of the bad things about being located in the middle of a thriving town.  Personally, she much preferred her own temple, with its extensive forests and wide practice fields.  A strong surge of home sickness went through her as she entered the main throne room, and suddenly Cass wanted nothing more than to be done with this chore and back in the familiar confines of her own room.

The priests in the temple were very glad to see her and urged her to stay for the night after she'd delivered her burden, but Cass was determined to get home as quickly as possible, even if she had to travel through the night.  She begged off, then bid them farewell and headed back out through the throne room toward the main doors of the temple.

Unfortunately, a figure was blocking the doorway.  Cassandra felt her heart drop in dismay.  It was Hercules!

The hero looked around the room, an expression of disgust on his face as he examined the weapons and armor displayed so prominently everywhere.  "So this is your family?" he asked at last.

"Hercules," Cassandra began, but the demigod cut her off.

"Why did you lie to me?"

Cassandra had to fight to keep from hanging her head.  She was a priestess of Ares, and she was proud of that.  She wasn't going to let this man make her regret the choices she'd made in her life.  She raised her chin high and replied haughtily, "I didn't think you'd take too kindly to the idea that I was Ares' priestess.  Your hatred for him is well known."

Hercules sighed heavily.  "Cassandra, how can you waste your life like this?  How can you be his priestess?"

Cassandra stiffened.  "How dare you judge me," she flared.  "Ares is good to me.  Better than my FAMILY ever was."

"He's a monster, Cassandra.  He has so much blood on his hands he could never get them clean."

"Oh, right," Cass retorted with a small snort.  "I suppose you've never killed anyone before."

Hercules' expression grew thunderous.  "Not like him," he said gruffly.  "Not indiscriminately."  He came toward her, his hands held out in supplication.  "Cassandra, you're a nice person.  Just look at what you did yesterday, coming to the aid of a total stranger.  There is so much you could do with your life instead of spending it with that bloodthirsty brother of mine.  Have you ever heard of Xena?  She used to follow Ares, but she wised up one day.  Now look at the good she does all over Greece.  You could be like that, too.  All you have to do is leave the temple."

Cass glared at him, hating the way his words made her feel.  Suddenly she felt a familiar tugging at her senses and heard the faint sound of air being displaced.  She turned her head to see Ares appear behind her, total fury on his beautiful face.

"What business is this of yours, brother?" the god asked scathingly.  "Must you try to subvert ALL my followers.  Weren't Xena and Serena enough for you?"

"If I could, I'd 'subvert' every last one of them," Hercules retorted.

"Please," Cass cried, not liking the direction this was going in one little bit.  "Would you two just stop it?"

Ares turned on her, but before he said a word, a confused expression skittered across his face.  "What in Tartarus did you do to your hair?" he demanded.

Cass reached up and smoothed her hair down nervously.  "I cut it off," she replied faintly.

He stared at her a moment, then remembered the situation at hand.  "What are you doing with him?" he asked, pointing toward his brother.  "How could you bring him here?"

"I didn't bring him anywhere, Ares," she retorted.  "He followed me."

"But you helped him," the god growled.

"I didn't know who he was," Cass explained patiently.

"And if you HAD known?" he asked in a deadly still voice.

Cass sighed, but she knew it wouldn't do to lie to him.  He could always tell when she was lying.  "I still would have helped him," she said softly.

Ares strode across the room and came to stand before her, his arms crossed over his chest as he glared down at her.  Cass began to shake at the fury so evident in his gaze, but she did her best to hold herself still, determined not to show her fear.

"You are my priestess," he announced.  "You're supposed to follow me and do whatever I ask."

"And I do," Cass pointed out.

"Then kill Hercules," Ares commanded in a flat tone.

Cassandra gaped at the god.  Surely he couldn't ask something like this of her.  She glanced over at Hercules, but he didn't seem too concerned about his fate.  He simply gazed back at her with so much compassion that she felt tears spring to her eyes.  She looked back at Ares.  She had sworn to serve him.  She had given herself to him completely, body and soul, but she would not do this for him.  "I'm not a murderer," she said roughly.  "If you want him dead, then have the courage to do it yourself."

She immediately regretted her flippant words.  Ares' expression darkened, and the air around them became charged with suppressed power.  The hairs were standing up on her arms and the back of her neck as he slowly raised a hand to point at her.  With a sinking heart, Cass realized that she had just signed her own death warrant, but she refused to cringe.  She faced her fate with her head held high.

The air seemed to heat up around her, but none of the searing lightning that she'd expected sprang toward her.  Instead, a strange feeling enveloped her, quickly replaced by a horrible emptiness.

"What did you do?" she whispered harshly, clutching her stomach.

Ares gazed down at her, his beautiful face completely devoid of emotion.  "I released you," he said simply.  "You are no longer bound to my temple."

"What?"  Cassandra couldn't believe her ears.  Surely he wasn't serious.

"You can have her, Hercules," the god said coldly.  "She's of no use to me anymore."  With those words he disappeared in a contracting burst of bright blue light.

"Ares," Cassandra whispered, but there was no answer to her plea.

"Cassandra?" Hercules said softly.  "Let's get out of her."

Cassandra whirled around, anger flaring inside her.  "Do you have any idea what you've done?" she shouted.  "I love him!  He is my life.  And now I've lost him thanks to you.  I have no home, nowhere to go.  Does that make you happy, great Hercules?  Do you enjoy meddling in people's lives like this?"

"Cassandra," the hero replied, pain evident on his face.  "I'm sorry, but it'll be for the best.  I know it.  You're too good of a person to be Ares' priestess."

"You don't even know me," Cass retorted coldly.  "I'm leaving, but not with you.  Just stay away from me."  With those words, she stormed from the temple, leaving Hercules gazing sadly after her.


The night that Cassandra spent alone by the side of the road after her encounter with Hercules and Ares was a far cry from the first on her journey.  She was exhausted, but she couldn't sleep.  Every small sound made her jump, and this new emptiness inside her was a constant ache, a terrible reminder of what she'd lost.  She lay on her back staring at the stars overhead, wondering what she would do now.  She couldn't go to her father's kingdom; after refusing Marias' proposal, she wouldn't be welcome there.  She had no place to go except the temple, but she was afraid that Ares would shun her should she return.  She couldn't beg for her place back.  That would be too humiliating.

She rose as soon as it was light enough to see and continued her weary journey.  She headed back toward the temple anyway, although she knew she'd never have the nerve to go inside.  At least she could stop at the town just before the temple and rest a while.  Maybe she could decide then what to do with her life.

By the time she was nearing the town, Cass was staggering from exhaustion.  In a daze, she stopped to rest, stumbling over to an overturned tree trunk at the top of a cliff and collapsing on it.  She stared off over the vista revealed in the canyon beyond the cliff, feeling a despair greater than any she'd felt in her entire life.  Even when she was younger and discovered that Marias was bound to wed another she hadn't felt this much pain.  She still couldn't believe Ares had been so angry with her over Hercules that he'd released her from the temple.  He'd actually asked her to kill someone in cold blood!  It was one thing to kill in battle, but to murder someone?  Surely he knew her better than that.

She gazed over the beautiful landscape, her eyes filling with tears.  Just beyond the canyon, she could see the beginning of the forests surrounding the temple.  How was she going to survive without it?  Without her friends?  Without Ares?  Was life worth living with no one to call family?  No place to call home?  She rose slowly from her perch on the log and walked slowly to the edge of the cliff.  She gazed down at the boulders that lay at the foot of the cliff.  Her head swam with pain and exhaustion as she contemplated the drop.  Did she dare?  But truly, what did she have to live for?

"Cassandra," an angry voice said behind her.

Cass whirled around, her sword out of its sheath before she'd realized she'd drawn it.  When she saw who her visitor was, though, she lowered her blade slowly.

Ares stood before her, his full lips tight with rage as he glared at her.  "What are you doing?" he asked angrily.

Cass glanced back at the drop behind her and shuddered. What had she been about to do?  "I was resting," she said forcefully, trying to convince herself almost as much as the god.

Ares strode over and grabbed her arm, pulling her away to safety.  "First you defy me, then you lie to me."

Cass tried to disengage herself from his grasp, but he held her too firmly.  "I'm not your priestess anymore, Ares.  Remember?"

The fury on Ares' face seemed to burn at a brighter level as he took hold of both of her arms and gave her a little shake.  "Why were you coming back to the temple then?" he countered.

Cass shrugged.  "I don't know," she replied flippantly.  "Habit?"

Ares pulled her closer to him, his face inches from hers as he growled, "Don't mock me, Cassandra."

Cass quailed at the expression of total rage on his face, but she stood her ground.  She knew that he wanted her to beg to return, but Hades could damn her if she gave him that satisfaction.  Suddenly, her earlier depression and fear fled to be replaced by an anger that matched the god's own.  "What do you want, Ares?  I have places to go."

A dangerous spark lit deep inside the dark depths of the god's eye.  His expression tightened even more, then suddenly he threw back his head and laughed.  When he lowered his head, his eyes were dancing with a jocular light.  "That is extremely amusing, my dear.  You have nowhere to go."

"What do you care?" Cass asked scathingly.  "You released me, remember?  I don't belong to you anymore."

The two of them glared at each other, then Ares let go of one arm and plunged his hand into her hair, pulling her face up to his.  "You will always belong to me," he growled, then captured her lips in a brutal embrace.

Cassandra fought him.  It didn't matter that her entire body ached for him, she had no intention of giving into him right now, not after what he'd done to her.  Unfortunately, he was a god, and her struggles were to no avail.  He held her in an iron grip as his lips devoured hers, and she felt her traitorous body responding to him despite her best efforts.

"Yes," he whispered softly as his mouth left a blazing trail down her neck.  "Fight me, Cassandra.  Show me the passion you try so hard to hide."

His teeth nipped her neck, and she couldn't hold back a moan.  She wanted nothing more than to throw her arms around him and surrender, but she couldn't let him win this fight.  "No," she protested.  "Let me go, Ares."

"Never," he growled.  "You're coming back with me, right now."  In the blink of an eye, he had transported them back to his bedroom in the temple.

Cassandra managed to pull out of his grasp and put some distance between them, even though her entire body was straining toward his.  Her breaths were coming in short gasps, and she was sure her desire was more than plain to the god.

"You can't do this," she protested.  "You said you released me."

"I take it back," the god said with a wave of his hand.

Immediately that empty feeling left her, but that did not assuage her anger.  "I'm not some toy you can play with and then toss away when you get bored, Ares," she complained.

"Oh, but you are," he said with a predatory smile as he stalked across the room toward her.  "All mortals are my toys."

"Not this one," she murmured as she shot past him toward the door.

It was locked, of course, and he was on her in a second, trapping her up against the thick wood of the door as his lips began to move over her neck once again.  She could feel the hardness of his desire pressing against her, and despite herself, she felt a sharp stiletto of desire slide through her body as she anticipated having him inside her.

"You are mine," he whispered as moved aside the thin strap of her top and his lips seared a path over the bare skin of her shoulder.  "I told you before.  I own you.  Your heart.  Your body.  Your soul."

Cass shook her head in negation, but she could feel herself giving into him.  A part of her was so relieved that he had brought her back into the temple, but she certainly wasn't going to make this easy for him.

"Let me go, Ares," she said coldly.

He turned her around, pressing her back against the door.  His eyes were still alight with fury, and his lips were still curved in that frosty smile.  "Never.  Fight me if you must.  Try to defy me, but I know how much you want me.  I can feel your desire."  He took her hand and dragged it down to touch his shaft.  "As you can feel mine."

Cass tried to pull away, but he refused to release her.  He began to stroke himself using her hand, and she could feel him hardening even more under the caress.   Ares leaned against her, burying his face in the crook of her shoulder, and she found her lips against his neck before she quite knew what had happened.  She instinctively started to kiss him there, but as he pressed harder against her, she opted for biting him instead.

He jerked back, startled, even though she knew she hadn't hurt him.  His eyes narrowed, but then his grin seemed to widen even further. "So that's how you want it, is it?"  In one smooth movement, he swooped her up in his arms and threw her on the huge bed, covering her body with his before she could slip off the other side.

He caught her head in his hands, gazing down at her with smoldering dark eyes.  She could see anger there, but also a desire so deep it seemed to sear right through her.  She almost lost herself in his gaze, but as his lips descended once again and his hands began to move over her body, she remembered his impossible request in Colgath and began to fight again, striking out at him even as his mouth devoured hers.

Her struggles meant nothing to the god.  Ares simply grabbed her hands and held her arms up above her head, effectively pinning her.  His leather-clad knee moved between her legs, stimulating her roughly as his lips left hers and began to slide down her body.  Her clothes disappeared, and he honed in on her breasts, licking the nipples until they were hard, then lightly biting them until Cass thought she would scream with her need.  Her body was no longer under her control; it arched up toward him, and he happily complied with her unspoken desire, sucking each nipple in turn, sending sparks shooting through her body and down to the very center of her being.

He released her arms, and this time, instead of fighting him, she plunged her hands into his hair and roughly pulled his head back up to hers, capturing his lips in a soul-searing kiss.  He met her passion, possessing her mouth brutally, his tongue forcing its way inside to entangle with hers.  His hands began to move down her body and between her legs, his fingers plunging inside her.  He was not gentle, but by this time, Cass was too far gone to care.

Ares' clothing vanished, and his manhood sprang free, pressing against her thigh.  She snaked a hand down between their bodies to grasp it, amazed at how hard he was. She didn't think she'd ever seen Ares quite this excited before.  She began to stroke him roughly, and he groaned deep in his throat, thrusting his body against hers as she stimulated him.  She squeezed just a bit and was rewarded with another deep groan.

He pulled away from her then and roughly pushed her legs apart, stretching her wide open for him.  In one swift stroke he was inside her, filling her more deeply than ever before.  Then he began to move, pounding into her with furious abandon, each thrust rubbing against the sensitive core of her womanhood, stimulating her almost painfully.

"Ares," she groaned, arching up to meet each stroke.  She wrapped her legs around his waist, pulling him even deeper inside her as his mouth descending to her breasts once again.  He sucked each nipple hard, biting them as he ground his manhood into her, and suddenly her orgasm was upon her.  It started at the very center of her being and exploding outwards, a white heat that surrounded her and blinded her.  Her entire body began to shake; her fingers and toes began to tingle.  As she began to convulse around his shaft, Ares cried out and plunged into her one last time, his godseed pouring into her, liquid fire, filling her deep inside.

His hands came up again, holding the sides of her head so that she was forced to look into his eyes.  "I do not forgive you for defying me," he said, his voice hoarse from passion.  "But I want you to stay."

Cass' eyes narrowed.  "I won't murder for you, Ares.  I'll fight for you.  I'll go into battle for you.  But I won't murder an innocent man just to please you."

Ares stared down at her, a considering expression on his face, but at last he nodded.  "That is acceptable, I suppose.  But you'll have to make it up to me."  Another grin crossed his face, but Cass was thankful to see that this one held no anger, only lust.  "I'm sure I can think of some very interesting things for you to do."

Cass suppressed a sigh, but she nodded her assent.  "Whatever you desire, Lord Ares," she said formally.

"No," he said, a frown crossing his beautiful face.  "Not like that."  He bent to kiss her once again, more gently this time, his tongue tracing her love-swollen lips.

"Ares," she whispered, sliding her hands up into his hair again, reveling in the silkiness of his dark curls, then lightly stroking his beard with the tips of her fingers.  "Don't you know by now how much I love you?"

He pulled back, gazing down at her with something almost resembling love in his gaze, if a god can truly love.  "I know," he said softly.  "That's why your defiance hurt so badly."

Cass shook her head.  "What you asked was too horrible to even contemplate.  I still can't believe you asked that of me."

Ares' expression became distant.  "I suppose it was a little much.  I tend to lose my head around my brother."  He focused on her again, lightly caressing her cheek with his strong fingers.  "He was trying to convince you to leave me," he said softly.  "I thought you were considering it for a moment there."

Cass shook her head quickly.  "Ares, how many times do I have to tell you this?  This is my home now.  My friends are here.  You are here.  I'll never leave you unless YOU force me to go, do you understand me?"

Ares gazed down at her, his expression pensive, but at last he nodded.  "I understand, but I want you to stay close to the temple for a while."

Cass groaned.  "Great.  Now you don't trust me?"

Ares shook his head.  "No, I don't trust my brother.  He seems to delight in taking things away from me."

Cass reached up and touched the god's face.  "Hercules will never take me away from you.  I love you too much."

His dark eyes bored into hers, searching her face for any sign of deception, but at last he seemed satisfied.  "Very well, then," he said.  "No one need know of this incident.  And I won't punish you."

Cass stiffened, but then Ares chuckled.  "You can never take a joke, can you?" he said with a lazy smile, then bent to kiss her soundly.

Cassandra hesitated for a moment, then gave herself to her god.  He made love to her once again, more gently this time, confirming his feelings for her and letting her know that she was welcome in his temple once again.  But Cass knew that their relationship had been severely strained.  Only time would tell if the breach could truly be healed.

Continue on to the sequel Betrayal

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