Home > Soul in Darkness(13)

Soul in Darkness(13)
Author: Wendy Higgins

“Your husband knows much about you.”

I paused, uncomfortable at the thought of how he’d obtained such knowledge, before taking another small sip and letting the warmth fill me.

“Madam?” Her voice was hesitant. “You’re still in the clothing from yesterday. Let me fill you a bath while you choose a clean dress.”

“No. Those aren’t mine.”

“But they are!” She sounded cheerful. “Each was made specially for you with your exact measurements. He chose the details for every outfit. They’re exquisite.”

“He chose them? My…”

“Your husband. Yes.”

I thought of the closet full of inhumanly perfect fabric and couldn’t fathom how that was possible.

“Renae…what does he look like?”

“Oh, madam.” She sounded wistful. “Even if I wanted to disobey him, the spell would never allow my tongue to form the words.”

Curses. “He spelled you?”

“No. There is a spell over him, his home, and all within it.”


“So, what can you tell me about him?”

“Nothing at all, madam.”

I sighed, vexed. “Any advice, then?”

“Yes. Bathe yourself. And do what he says.”

With those unhelpful words, spoken in exasperating kindness, she shuffled away on heavy feet. I sniffed and squared my shoulders, the stubbornness setting back in the moment the door closed.

He already thought I smelled badly, so what difference did a bath make? If he thought I was going to come to his home, enjoy luxuriating baths and fawn over fine clothing until he was ready to strike, he was mistaken. I would not play the pretty princess with him.

I’d nearly drunk the full pot of tea and was sitting full and sleepy when one of the windows began to shake and clatter. It blew open with a gust of fragrant, warm air that lifted my hair and took my breath away. The unmistakable sound of beating wings filled the room, and I stood, spilling my tea as I backed against the wall.

His presence brushed against my senses, nearly physical in its force. Dark Hades…had he flown through the window? What sort of horrible creature was he? With a whoosh, the window closed again, and the bolt came down. My eyes darted around uselessly. Everything went very still, and I held my breath until the room began to dim. I squinted toward the windows and watched, startled as the bright sky darkened into evening twilight. Candles erupted around the room, flames flickering to life.

“But…there were only a few hours of daylight.”

“I prefer night.”

He had done that, changed it from day to night, just as he’d said he could. My mouth fell open and snapped shut again. I didn’t want him to think I was in awe of that sort of power.

“In your home,” he said, “you happily bathed and changed your wardrobe daily, often more than once.”

“How do you know that?” I challenged.

“Is it not the truth?” he asked. “It matters not how I know. What matters is why you deny yourself those simple pleasures here, in your new home.”

This is not my home. I bit my tongue to keep from releasing the thought.

“Do you believe you are somehow punishing me by refusing to bathe or dress or leave your chambers?”

I lifted my chin, wondering if he could see the involuntary tremble of my muscles and smell the tell-tale scent of my fear. I hated my body for its lack of cooperation.

A gasp was wrenched from my throat as the bathroom door flung open and the sound of rushing water filled the room. Then I let out a yelp when my husband spoke low, close to my ear.

“My wife.” I spun to face him. “You will bathe and enjoy the comforts I give you.”

I gritted my teeth. “You can force me to do something, but you cannot force me to enjoy it.”

“Try not to enjoy it then, bright soul.” He dared to sound amused.

The air seemed to press against me, urging me in the direction of the bathroom. I tried to dig my toes into the rug, but I slid easily right through the doors until my thighs bumped the porcelain tub. The water still rushed forth from the spout, lightly steaming. How did he get the water to come out already warmed? I knew the wonders of piped, pressurized water, but at home it was still cool and needed to be heated manually.

It did look inviting with a frothy milkiness from vanilla scented soap. I shot a glare toward the doorway, and it shut with a bang, making me jump. The water stopped of its own accord and the room was suddenly silent. I peered around, suspicious.

I felt no presence in the room with me, yet that did not put me at ease.

“Bathe,” came his voice from outside the door.

I sucked in a trembling breath and let it out, still glaring at the door.

“Shall I call in Renae to assist you?”

“No,” I said ungraciously. I unclasped the pin at the shoulder of my stola and let the silken, dirty material fall down to my waist. I’d never been prone to modesty, but the thought of my husband possibly watching somehow caused me to cover my chest with one arm while I tugged at the rope around my waist with the other. As my stola fell around my feet in a pile, I stepped quickly into the tub and slid down with a slosh. I accidentally let out a sigh. The water wasn’t normal. It had a thick, wondrous consistency that made me feel cradled and buoyant.

Great Olympus, it was magical. On the other side of the door my husband chuckled, and despite the heat of the water, I shivered at the sound.

I made quick work of my clean up, scrubbing my skin and hair, working very hard not to relax too much or give him the satisfaction of a long soak. The moment I finished I stood, squeezed out my hair, and snatched a cloth wrap from a nearby bench. I rubbed my hair as fast as possible and wound the cloth about my body. When I went still, the door opened, causing the air to hitch in my chest and my heart to gallop.

The air propelled me forward again, a giant, gentle hand pushing me out of the bathroom, through the bedchamber, and straight into the closet. I fought to right myself when the air abruptly left me standing on my own. Three drawers covered in rose carvings slid open, revealing luscious looking sleeping gowns. A wave of sleepiness hit me then, making me peeved since my mind knew I shouldn’t be tired yet. This place was maddening. I grasped the closest nightgown, a vivid green with soft cream lacing at the edges and high waist, and slid it over my head, keeping the bath cloth around me until I was fully covered. As the wet cloth fell to the floor, the air lifted it and carried it out of sight.

Then the wind pushed me out of the closet until I was standing directly in front of a massive high-back chair with an indentation in the seat.

“Come now, Psyche,” said my husband in an amused rumble from the seat. “You were never this oppositional at home.”

His nonchalance over my situation made me want to spit fire.

“Nobody at my home was toying with me like a cat batting a mouse.”

“Am I batting you?”

“Yes.” I cleared my throat. “Or fattening me up for the kill.”

“I see.” His voice was deep and lackadaisical. “Your attitude on the mountain when we were pronounced married…you were frightened, but not angry. Not like this.”

I lifted my chin, ignoring my continuous trembling. “I willingly gave myself as a sacrifice for the transgressions of my family and people; however, I thought—” My head dropped as I attempted to fight back the emotions that pummeled me now.

“You thought what?” he asked quietly.

Still fighting for composure, I swallowed hard and drew in a breath. “I thought you would have your way with me and dispose of me quickly.”

“I see,” he said again, this time more firmly. “And your way of dealing with the fact that you believe I am toying with you is to be angry.”

I cleared my throat and gave a small shrug. “I suppose so.”

“You are not accustomed to feeling anger, are you?”

My eyes welled. I rarely became angry. To feel it so acutely each moment I’d been here was exhausting. The fact that he seemed to know it made me ill. I didn’t want to be analyzed. I didn’t want him to know me, or anything about me, and yet here he was. Learning me as I learned myself.

“There is nothing I can say that will ease your mind, Psyche. Only time can do that, if you allow it. But time is a fragile commodity, so I hope you will come to terms with our situation sooner rather than later.”

I froze as the indentation in the cushion lifted, and I heard the slow padding steps of my husband drawing nearer. My instinct to run struggled against the riddled words he’d spoken. I hated the fact that my gut believed him to be genuine. This entire, horrid situation would be much simpler if my body, mind, and intuition behaved as one, but he had a way of muddling it all with his strange, gentle sincerity. A heap of fear mingled with a sliver of hope. Raging anger battered against a glimmer of tenderness. This had to be his plan.

To drive me to madness.

I closed my eyes and pressed my fingers into my palms, making fists.

“Whatever you’re going to do,” I said through gritted teeth. “Just do it.”

“Psyche…” His voice was pained. Curse him.

“Do it!” I opened my eyes and screamed at his invisible features. “Take me! Hurt me! Consummate this bloody marriage and end my life!” I rushed forward to pummel my fists into his chest but heard a whoosh and felt the movement of air as his body shot up from the ground. He spoke from above me, making me lift my sodden face to the ceiling’s gold patterned tiles.

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