When his thudding steps, clad in heavy leather sandals, would not pause but continued onward toward his fate…his inevitable doom, she called out to him once more.
“Please,” she whispered on the heels of a raspy breath that made her lungs ache.
He stopped, but refused to turn toward her. It pained her to part with him under such terrible conditions. No husband and wife should ever separate on the wake of a turbulent disagreement. All she sought was to save his life. To keep him living…breathing…walking…existing upon this earth with her, if only for one more day. Had she been able to convince him to forestall the start of his campaign for one more night of blistering love making, one more day of heated kisses…perhaps she would be able to erase the notion of marching into certain death from his mind completely. She nearly laughed. Her mighty champion would never abandon his honor or forsake his duties…not even for her…not even for their unborn child, still nestling in its mother’s warm womb. The man Phaedra had chosen to wed, had given her heart and even her soul to, would give every drop of his warrior’s blood, even his very life, if it would save his people from slavery and annihilation.
“What is it, wife?” When he finally spoke, Theseus’ voice was clipped and tight, short on mercy and heavy with irritation. “Speak now or hold your peace until I return.”
“That is what grieves me greatly, husband.”
Unable to give her speech to the back of his stoic figure, Phaedra advanced until she stood before him. He was tall and brood, with blue eyes that raged like the Aegean on a stormy night. Hair black as midnight and strong lips set with determination. In a word, he was beautiful, and she nearly wept at the thought of never laying eyes upon his perfect and handsome face ever again…at least, never again in this life.
“What if you do not return to me? What then? How shall I ever behold any measure of peace again?”
The silence between them was unbearable. She watched his lips part then close. His nostrils flared then calmed. After another moment of tension, Theseus’ thoughts became a voice. Gentle and calm, his breath was as soft as a summer breeze across her skin. He touched her then, sparking a flame of desire beneath Phaedra’s tanned flesh. With his wide palm laying ever so lightly upon the curve of her face, her tears almost broke free, but she refused them any escape. No, she would not cry. Though she was a woman, subject to emotional upheavals to rival even great Aetna, she was also the bonded mate of a warrior, therefore she would never succumb to such weaknesses. She would be strong…for now…in this last moment before the rumors of war became reality. Yes, she would be strong…for him.
“Dearest Phaedra,” Theseus said while the tip of his thumb began a gentle stroke along her cheek then dipped down to trace the outline of her full lips. “I swear to you, by all the deities of heaven and of the earth…I will return to you…I will always return to you.”
He pushed closer to her smaller figure, closing the distance between them, and pressed the hardness of his broad body flush against hers. The sensation of having him so very near caused her belly to quiver with barely restrained lust. If she could, she would have taken him inside her now and ever, delighting in the intensity of their oneness. When his arm looped around her slim waist and hugged her tight to him, Phaedra would have fainted under the spell of his masculinity if Theseus had not captured her slight form and secured her firmly against him. Sliding his hand upward, he buried his thick fingers in the long curls of her dark hair.
“Wife, you are more than my love,” he spoke as he leaned in and pressed his brow against hers. “The very air that I breathe contains only your essence…You are my life and the beating of my heart pulses only because I know that I have twined your soul with my very own.” He paused and inhaled a whiff of her scent, causing a shiver to erupt from deep with her. “Hear truth in these words, Phaedra…I will see you again. No man or beast or god or spirit will ever keep us apart. You are all I live for.” The arm encircling her hips slipped forward and began to caress the small bump that sat upon her once flat belly. “Our growing family is the source of my strength and my courage. Because of this new life within you, I will be victorious this day.”
He kissed her then. Soft and sweet at first, but quickly consumed her lips and tongue with his own. If her heart were to beat any faster, she feared it would suddenly stop from overexertion. No longer could she hold back the stream of salty tears that had threatened her composure. The dam had burst and the depths of her love came spilling forth. When Theseus finally pulled away, Phaedra was left breathless from desire mixed with agony. She hid both behind a veil of certainty.
“Victorious you shall be, beloved husband.”
He promised her a speedy return, and Theseus had always been…would always be…a man of his word. One last lingering kiss upon her smooth brow then he was gone from their home, taking Phaedra’s heart and soul along with him…until they were united as one…again.