Soul in Darkness (Page 56)
“Lord god of love,” one of the gargoyles said thickly through massive teeth that curved upward. “You have brought a mortal to Jupiter’s home?”
“I have,” Cupid said, clutching my hand. “This is Princess Psyche, my wife. Jupiter knows of her. He will grant us entrance.”
The gargoyle lifted a hand to signal a younger beastly thing behind him. The creature ran up the alabaster steps faster than my eye could trail and was back just as quickly. He nodded his furry head and spoke with a squeak.
“The king says welcome!”
Cupid smiled at me, and we continued ahead as the gargoyles stepped from our path. I held tight to my husband, nervous about Jupiter’s so-called “gift.” It was hard to trust the immortals. After today, I would be glad not to step foot in Olympus ever again unless it was Cupid’s property.
We were led by a sharply dressed, bearded satyr into a throne room that overwhelmed my senses. So large, so bright, so ornate—I had no idea where to look. My eyes flitted about, one hand on my chest, the other squeezing Cupid’s hand hard enough to numb his fingers. It soon became clear where to look as Jupiter rose to his feet at his throne in the center of the room. Cupid bowed at the waist and I dropped to my knees in reverence, never letting go of my husband’s hand.
“Stand, please, and come forward.”
I couldn’t control my nervous reaction, and I was never more grateful to have someone at my side who loved me. My head bowed again to Jupiter as we stood directly before him, and then I peered up into his eyes, like jewels that held the skies inside them. His beard and hair were utter perfection. But it was the way he stood, his imposing height and confidence, that cowed me. Even as he smiled down at me, I felt shy.
“I see you have made amends?” He grinned back and forth between the two of us.
Cupid and I shared a timid smile.
“Yes, Lord King,” Cupid said. “We will remain husband and wife…for all of Psyche’s days.”
I brought a hand to my chest to cover the pang inside.
Jupiter studied us, gripping his thunderbolt. I stared at the thing, not able to wrap my mind around the power it held. All he had to do was point and command, and he could tumble whole mountains. I shivered and moved closer to Cupid.
“As I said, I have a gift.” Jupiter walked to the high table nearby, beckoning us over. We followed. On the table were two golden goblets filled with shimmery nectar like the kind my husband had once shown me at his palace, though one appeared darker, like a star-filled night sky.
Cupid squeezed my hand. “What is this?” he asked in a hoarse voice.
“A toast,” explained Jupiter. “To your lives together…if you so choose.”
I gave Cupid a confused look, but he was staring at Jupiter with wide eyes.
“You don’t mean…?”
“I do.” Jupiter looked directly at me, and I had to fight the urge to fall to my knees. “I offer you eternal life, Princess Psyche. To be immortal. To live forever with your husband and the babe within you.”
I blinked rapidly and swayed before righting myself. “I—what?”
The god chuckled, and Cupid’s breathing quickened. “Truly, Lord King? But this…this is beyond…” My husband was beside himself, unable to finish a sentence. He turned to me and grasped me around the waist, lifting me and spinning me, making me scream with dizzy laughter as I gripped his shoulders.
“Immortality, Psyche!” Cupid set me down, his smile radiant. “You, me, our child!”
“Verily,” I whispered, at a loss, because this was bigger than anything I could understand. The room spun, and I had to rest my forehead against his chest.
Jupiter’s voice filled the silence. “I will leave you to decide.”
I wanted to lift my face, to thank him, but bewilderment had struck me dumb. Cupid had to gently pry me back from his chest to tilt my face up to his. He must have seen the terror in my eyes because his own filled with disappointment.
“You do not want to be with me forever?”
“Of course, I do!” I whispered. “I just…it is so…permanent.”
His shoulders drooped, but he managed a reassuring smile. “You are right. It is permanent. Perhaps I should give you a moment.”
I held tightly to his waist when he tried to pull away. “Don’t leave me. I need to process this, but I want you right here.” I went into his arms and he wrapped them securely around me as my mind raced through the information.
Immortality. Why was I hesitant? I loved Cupid with all of my heart, but in that moment of absolute clarity, I was able to see my fear for the ugly thing it was. I feared Cupid would stop loving me, and I would be stuck living forever without him, long after my family was gone. The ultimate loneliness.
If I chose not to accept this gift, I would age and eventually make my way to the Underworld again. Without Cupid. He would live, unable to get to my soul, wherever it ended up. Would he find another to love? Would I spend eternity in the afterlife longing for the only soul who truly accepted and understood me? And who would take on the role of mother for my child?
My eyes squeezed shut. Cupid was not human. He’d had many lovers in his lifetime, but had never loved until me. He was not an indecisive man of Earth, who allowed his sentiments to change on a whim. What did my instincts tell me? That he loved me. That his love for me would endure. So, would I allow my fears to steal the future from both of us?
No. I would never again let my fears lead me into regret.
I choose love.
I pulled back from my husband, letting our fingers slip away. The look of worry on his face nearly broke me. My lips rose into a nervous smile and I turned to the table, taking the darker goblet in my shaking hand.
“Is this one mine?”
Again, that smile of radiance filled his face, making my heart jump. He leaned down and took my lips with his, a firm profession without words.
“Are you certain?” he whispered against my mouth, our foreheads touching.
“I am,” I whispered back.
“I will spend eternity making sure you never regret it.” He took up his goblet, and we touched the rims together. “Forever, my love.”
“Forever,” I said.
And together, we drank.
I thought I knew what love meant, but the moment I laid eyes on the tiny person whom my body had wrought, a new type of love coursed through me, stronger than any instinct before it. She was mine to care for. Mine to teach. Mine to protect.
I peered up at Cupid, who stared down at our daughter with awestruck adoration, and I knew he felt the same. I had to amend my thoughts.
Ours to care for, teach, and protect. Ours to love.
“We shall call her Voluptus,” Cupid whispered, meaning Hedone: Pleasure.
“Beautiful,” I agreed. Together we lay there, admiring every detail of her being, from her tiny toes with miniscule nails to her silken ringlets of glistening tawny. Each mewl she made, every stretch, had us laughing and fawning. Even Mino kept trying to edge his way between us to lick whatever portion of the babe he could reach.
Sphinx could not have been less interested.
Renae bustled back into the room with a fresh basin of steaming water and clean cloths. She’d been my midwife, coaching me through the entire delivery. The woman could do it all. Cupid had wanted to place his hands on my body and remove every vestige of pain, but I would not allow it. Well, I allowed him to relieve my back when I thought it would crack in half. But I had wanted to feel as much as possible, to have the experience so many women had endured before me.
“Your soul right now,” Cupid said, his eyes roaming me warmly. He shook his head as if there were no words, and my cheeks heated. I reached for his hand.
“I love you, Husband. I love our little family. I could want nothing more.”
His fingers entwined with mine. “Your words echo my own heart.”
We stared for a long moment before I knew I had to breach a delicate subject. “I would like my family to meet her. Mother, Papa, and Miracle. Will you bring them?”
His jaw was set, but he nodded, and my heart softened further. Since becoming immortal, visiting Earth was frowned upon, and in truth I had no urge to go there. But I did miss my family, and if they were willing to visit, we would bring them. Dawn wanted nothing to do with me. Miracle had said she was horrified to hear I’d given up my mortality. Her exact words had been, “Am I expected to bow down and worship her now?”
Nothing I did would be found pleasing to Dawn, and though it hurt deeply, I had to let her go. As for the rest of my family, their lives would be snuffed faster than I could blink. I would cherish every moment spent with them. Knowing their mortality was so fleeting caused me to hold my daughter tighter.
From outside the windows came a whooshing sound. Both Cupid and Renae rushed to the windows, their faces darkening.
“It is my mother,” Cupid said. “I will send her away, Psyche. I will not have you upset.”
“No,” I said, sitting up to bundle the baby in a tight swaddle. “She should meet her granddaughter. Renae, send her in.”
The servant gave a nod and left us. Cupid paced at the end of the bed.
“Worry not,” I told him, but he glared at the door anyhow.