Son of Zeus: Chapter Two
The Story Continues!!
“Are you sure about this?” Nikki asked. “The language he speaks is so weird. It isn’t really Greek Greek at all. And then this business about being a king? I mean look at him. He’s dressed like some weird renaissance festival reject in some kind of dress. He could be completely unhinged and you’ve just invited him to spend the night.”
Thalia poured a glass of soda for Pirithous. She’d found him some cold pizza in the fridge, but he hadn’t eaten any of it yet, or even sat down at the table, too busy examining the counters and the appliances as if he’d never experienced anything close to a modern kitchen before.
But it wasn’t really a dress. More like a long t-shirt, not quite reaching his knees. A tunic, or something, with little to nothing underneath, from what she’d seen. She was still trying to decide if the armbands and the plain circlet, half-hidden in his light brown hair, were actual gold or some kind of plastic.
“What’s he saying?” she asked.
Nikki sighed. “Something about metal, maybe. I’m not entirely sure. Sometimes I can get the gist of what he’s saying, but he might as well be speaking bad Latin to my French, and I’m not sure he understands everything I tell him either. The words he chooses are so…old.”
“Maybe that’s just how they speak in Thessaly.” She shrugged. If he’d meant to hurt them, he wouldn’t have announced himself coming out of the woods. And he wouldn’t have stopped to help them steal the no hitchhiking sign. Which was going to fit perfectly on her living room wall in her new apartment. “But if you’re that worried about it, lock your door.”
“He has a sword, Thalia!”
“It’s a thick door. You’ll be fine.” She picked up the glass and crossed to him where he stood by the stove. “Pirithous?”
He turned, his eyes warming as they fell on her. Her stomach twisted, remembering the way he’d kissed her hand. “Thalia.”
“Something to drink?” She offered him the glass. “To go with your pizza.”
He took the drink from her hands, lifting the glass up to study it before taking a sip. His expression altered at once from curious to offended, and she thought for a moment he was going to spit it out. But he swallowed, his jaw tight, and glanced at Nikki, speaking slowly in that Greek that wasn’t Greek.
Thalia had never wished her parents had forced her to learn fluent Greek until that moment. She distinctly remembered teasing Nikki over her classes on more than one occasion, but the last thing she wanted was to need someone else to translate for her all night long. Especially if they were going to be a buzzkill about it. She’d been lucky to get Nikki to unwind enough to even stop by that road sign, and the moment Pirithous had showed up, Nikki had stiffened right back up again.
“Coke,” Nikki said clearly in English, before going on in Greek.
Of course Nikki had taken Greek. Her parents spoke more Greek than English at home, and even if she hadn’t had to go to Greek school, she’d have spoken it fluently. Thalia’s parents hadn’t given up their Greek entirely at home, but they’d encouraged their children to study more practical languages. Like Spanish. Not that Thalia knew that very well, either.
Pirithous shook his head, holding up a hand to stop Nikki’s explanation, and interrupting her with what sounded like another question. Nikki stared at him like he had two heads.
“What did he say?” Thalia asked.
“I think he wants to know where the nearest church is? But he keeps using the word for temple, and it seems like he expects it to be a quick walk into the trees or something. He wants to... eat there? maybe?”
Nikki started to answer him in Greek, and Thalia watched his forehead furrow. She couldn’t quite figure out how old he was. Sometimes he looked like he couldn’t be more than his mid-twenties, but when he frowned, he looked closer to thirty-five. He interrupted Nikki again and she pressed her lips together.
“He wants a fire. To burn um. Prayers?”
“There’s the pit in the yard.”
“Are you sure you want to let him start a fire? What if he burns the house down?”
“He’s not going to burn the house down if he uses the fire pit outside,” Thalia told her, rolling her eyes. “Really, Nikki. Not everyone is a serial killer. In fact, the majority of people aren’t interested in causing anyone else trouble. And if he really is a king—”
“Oh please! You can’t really believe that.”
“Why not?” Thalia gave him a quick glance again. Good posture and he obviously took care of his body to have all that muscle, but it wasn’t just that. There was something about him. In his eyes, maybe. He was used to being obeyed, to getting his way. “He certainly has the presence.”
Nikki rolled her eyes and answered Pirithous. He smiled, his gaze shifting to Thalia. He said something very carefully, as if willing her to understand.
Thalia smiled back, but shook her head. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re saying.”
“He wants you to show him,” Nikki said. “And something about starting the fire.”
“Oh! Of course.” She pulled open a drawer and dug out the long wooden matches they kept in case the pilot light went out inside the stove. There was lighter fluid outside, plenty of wood stacked beneath the deck, and dry newspapers kept in a sealed bin for tinder. She went to the back door and pulled it open, then realized Pirithous wasn’t behind her. He’d gone back to collect his plate and his drink.
“Do you want me to come with you?” Nikki asked.
“I’ll shout if I need you, but I think we’ll be fine. There isn’t much to be said about building a fire.”
“Yeah, but. Are you sure you want to be alone with him?”
“Nikki. If he was out to kill us, don’t you think he’d’ve already taken care of that on the side of the road instead of helping us steal that sign? I mean, really. Besides, if he’s some kind of predator, why would he be more interested in the windows than ripping our clothes off?”
Pirithous had slipped by her, waiting on the back deck with his plate and the glass of soda in his hands. Thalia waved to Nikki and slid the door shut before a bat came swooping inside. If there was one thing she didn’t want to deal with while she had the house open, it was bats. Alexandros would be thoroughly disgusted with her if she had to call someone to play tennis with a flying rodent.
“This way,” she said, skipping down the steps. She stopped to grab a few pieces of wood, some newspaper, and the lighter fluid.
Whether Pirithous understood her or not, he followed. When they reached the pit, he smiled, setting his food and drink down around the outside. She could feel him watching her as she dropped the wood and began balling newspaper up. She piled the tinder all together in the middle of the pit, then made a kind of tee pee with the wood over it before dousing it all with lighter fluid. When she struck the match, Pirithous flinched, then stepped closer as the newspaper curled against the heat. It caught and she jerked her hand back when the flames shot up over the wood, nearly falling backwards.
Pirithous steadied her with a hand at her waist, his mouth pressed into a thin line as he stared at the fire. She shook out the match, but he stopped her before she could throw it back onto the burning newspaper, taking it from her fingers and examining it closely.
“It’s just a match,” she said.
He shook his head just slightly and tossed it into the flames, mumbling something to himself. Then he smiled at her, repeating the phrase he’d used so warmly in the car, earlier. Even not knowing the words, the meaning was clear. His hand found hers and he raised it to his lips, pressing another kiss to the back of her hand.
“You’re welcome.” She smiled back, sure she was blushing. When he looked at her like that, her stomach fluttered. His lips twitched. Maybe that was why he looked at her that way. “Is there anything else you need?”
He released her hand, his fingers falling away from hers only to brush against her cheek. He murmured something she would have given her left arm to understand, and her heart started racing in her chest. He was going to kiss her. She could see it in the way his gaze shifted to her mouth. She wanted him to kiss her. Oh god, she really was out of her mind.
The thought jerked her back to reality. She turned her face away and stepped back, tripping over the can of lighter fluid. It clattered over the concrete surrounding the pit, and Pirithous caught her again before she fell, releasing her as soon as she’d found her balance. She wasn’t sure whether she was relieved or annoyed when he turned his attention back to the fire.
The flames crackled, one of the three pieces of wood dropping into the newspaper with a shower of sparks and ash. Pirithous crouched down, drawing the knife from his belt to scrape a trench through the soot and dirt from the edge of the circle to the fire. He wiped the blade clean on the material of his shirt, and before she realized what he meant to do, he’d gouged his fingertip with the point of the knife.
“What are you doing!” She lurched for the knife too late, and of course he didn’t answer. He pulled the knife away so quickly she might have blinked and missed it, and then he was on his feet, leaving her standing on the other side of the fire.
He dunked his bleeding finger in his glass of soda, mixing it until it foamed. His lips moved, but she didn’t hear the words over the popping of the wood. If he drank that soda with his blood in it, she was going to make a run for the door and lock him out, she decided. Good-looking king of Thessaly or not.
“Thalia.” He gestured for her to move back. He said something else too, but without Nikki she’d probably never know what it was, and thank God Nikki wasn’t here to see this, or she’d have called the police the minute he drew the knife, never mind that he hadn’t used it on anyone but himself.
She hesitated and his mouth curved up with the barest hint of a smile, his eyes dancing in the firelight.
“Fine,” she said, stepping back. She couldn’t quite keep from crossing her arms over her chest, but Pirithous only nodded and poured the soda into the groove he’d cut. It flowed smoothly along the trench into the fire, sizzling and steaming and he spoke so quickly, she didn’t think even Nikki would have understood the words. Then he went for the pizza, carefully ripping off the crust and wrapping a bit of cheese around it before throwing that into the flames too.
The fire jumped and flared, orange shifting to blue, then green, and Pirithous mumbled something similar to the words she’d come to associate with ‘thank you’ before he turned. He held out his hand to her, a boyish excitement in his expression, and she couldn’t help but smile. No matter who they were, or how strange, she’d yet to meet a man who didn’t love playing with fire, and weird though this little ceremony had been, it seemed Pirithous wasn’t immune.
She took his hand and the warmth of his skin spread up her arm, sinking into her bones and shivering down her spine. He smiled, looking into her eyes, searching them as if they held the answers to the greatest mysteries of the universe.
The alphabet song started playing in her head, repeating, and Pirithous’s smile grew into a grin. He was so good-humored. When he’d laughed with her over the sign she’d known he wouldn’t hurt her. Even if he was a little bit strange.
A dull throbbing began in the back of her skull and her eyes watered from the smoke of the fire. The wind must have shifted, blowing it toward them, but she couldn’t do more than blink, and even that took more effort than it should have. The throb turned into an ache, and she groaned, pressing her free hand to her temple. That stupid alphabet song. She hadn’t sung it in years, but now it wouldn’t shut up. And the trees were spinning. Or maybe she was.
Her knees buckled, but Pirithous’s arm wrapped around her waist, easing her down, supporting her against his body.
“Shh,” he said. “Just rest for a moment.”
And then everything went dark.
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