Dedicated to remain virginal for Artemis, it is not until Nikia meets the hunter Theron that she realizes what she has given up with her vows to the goddess. In the heat of her newly-discovered passion, no touch but Theron’s can remove Nikia’s lust. Nikia and Theron form an uneasy kinship, united by the cruelty of unrequited desire. Together, they will make unlikely sacrifices for Artemis, and together, they will receive an impossible reward. (M/F, F/F, M/F/F)
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Seeing no sign of Theron again, I dismounted and walked my mare back to the stable. I prayed, begging the goddess to forgive him for what he wanted from her, and to forgive me for what I wanted from him. I tried to placate her with hymns, and even accused Aphrodite of plotting against us.
Nearing the stable, I spoke the truth of my heart into the night. “Lady of the hunt, I don’t know if I am fit to be in your service. If there is something you would have from me, take it and release me.”
At breakfast in the morning, Theron sat with eyes blackened and shadowed by the night’s ride. I would come to know the look well, for every night he went riding after the goddess, and every night I followed him until my horse could no longer run. And though he rarely looked at me, our kinship grew.
Autumn faded and winter threatened every evening. The leaves fell and crunched sharply underfoot. The wind traded claws for teeth, biting ever deeper during the midnight rides I took in pursuit of Theron. The naked trees struck obscene poses against the sky, digging into the earth with fisted roots and spreading their branches apart like pairs of legs.
Theron hadn’t eaten in days. The endless hunt had wasted him, wearing thin the beauty of his face. The hard man beneath attracted me even more than before.
A hand closed over my shoulder as I crept behind him one night. “Nikia,” Eurydice said. “What are you doing?”
“I go riding at night.”
“So I hear. They say it’s him you ride.” She jerked her chin toward the stable, where I knew Theron would be saddling his horse.
Would he notice my absence? Or had I been creating a bond that only mattered to me?
Eurydice misunderstood the blush in my face. “It’s true, then,” she said.
I flashed a smile. “Eurydice, any fool can see he cares only about the goddess.”
“And what about you?”
“I see nothing but him.”