A Darker Love Ch. 03byAMY_Monaco©
Melissa shot up from the bed and searched the room. Then she winced when the sunlight that poured in through the sheer drapes burned her eyes. Blinking rapidly to adjust her eyesight, memories started to flood her mind.
Her friend was missing. Ben was bleeding and there was a knife...
She was relieved when she looked down and saw that she was still in her own clothes. But everything else was unfamiliar. Glancing around, she saw a very modern, clean-lined bedroom. No frills, no hints of mess or antique. But the colors were warm and brightened by what looked to be the afternoon sun.
"Good, you're awake."
Melissa's attention darted to the figure at the door. Ben stood with a tray in his hand, which he set down on the bed. She could smell the freshly brewed tea.
"I wasn't sure if you were hungry." He said, indicating the plate of biscuits.
She arched an eyebrow. "I don't want your tea. I want to know where I am."
Ben was looking incredibly handsome in khakis and a polo shirt. He sat down on the edge of the bed.
"You're in Tuscany, Melissa."
"Tuscany?" She stared at him, dumbfounded. "As in Italy?"
The corner of his mouth lifted slightly. "Is there any other?"
"How did you get me here? You should be arrested -- this is kidnapping, Ben. If that's even your real name."
"It is my name. And I brought you here because it would be easier to...explain things."
She went pale, remembering in detail the knife in the kitchen, how she'd used it in defense. He had encouraged her, driving the blade into his own chest, only to pull it out and have her witness something she couldn't even fathom.
"The knife." She whispered, her eyes going to his chest. She started moving to the opposite side of the bed. "What are you?"
"I already told you I wouldn't hurt you." He said calmly. "Will you believe me, at least enough to let me explain?"
She slowly nodded.
"A man named Cosimo has your friend."
"You mean he kidnapped her."
Ben stood up, taking a step toward her. "No. Not when they are destined to be together."
"I trust you have heard of things happening for a reason. Well, long before Alaina was born, she was destined to be with Cosimo."
What was this nonsense? Melissa was really beginning to think Ben to be mentally unstable. "Is he your friend?"
Ben seemed to hesitate.
"Why am I here?"
He thought for a moment. "Every person's life is woven into the thread of everyone else's. Your being friends with Alaina naturally makes you involved in this."
"This doesn't answer my question. What am I involved in?"
"Listen to me, Melissa. You are no longer living in a world of humans, where you are as safe as anyone can be. You asked me what I am? I am a pure-soul."
"A pure-soul." She repeated dully, staring at him. "Like an angel? But...But I saw you kill someone."
Benedict chuckled. "Angels are only versions of pure-souls and guardians put together. They do not really exist, but you humans often insist they do. Pure-souls control much of life and the living, we have powers over the good that exists in these worlds."
She let out a nervous laugh. "You expect me to really believe all this? Pure-souls. Worlds -- plural? How many are there?"
"There are dozens of realms you are unaware of." He said quietly. "The man who has your friend is a demon." He held his hand out. "No, there's no need to worry. Cosimo is not known to harm those he loves."
Melissa's eyes glanced down at the tea. "I'll need something stronger than tea, if you're going to go on about demons and realms."
The corner of his lips only lifted. "We can go have some local wine in a little while, if you like. I expect that you would like to experience something of Tuscany. Much of my explanation can be done as we make our way into town."
He stood up. "I took the liberty of gathering some of your things before we came here. Bathroom is through there."
"How exactly did we get here?" She asked suspiciously. A wicked gleam shone in his eyes, mingling with a dark humor.
"You don't want to know just yet." He started for the door, but turned suddenly with a serious expression on his face. "You are one of the few humans to mingle with our kind, Melissa. Because of that, it makes you vulnerable. Trust no one."
She arched an eyebrow. "Not even you?"
"I want you to trust me." He said simply and left the room.
In a white convertible, they zipped through the countryside roads at an alarming speed. Melissa chose the blue halter dress from the selection he'd brought. When she'd seen her limited wardrobe, she could only arch her eyebrows in suspicion. Benedict had only chosen the fancier pieces from her closet, dresses and outfits that would reveal a bit of cleavage and leg.
Very soon, they entered Florence, a mass of old buildings and uneven roads. People lined the streets, sat at small tables in café fronts and pigeons pecked at crumbs on open pavements where tourists were seen taking pictures. It was something out of postcards, all the architecture that had survived decades of wars and weather.
"I thought you were going to explain things." Melissa said as he parked the car.
She deliberately slammed the door after she got out of the car, but Benedict didn't seem to care.
He pocketed the keys in his khaki pants and held his hand out for hers. When she refused to take it, he let his hand rest on the small of her back as they crossed the street.
"I want to show you something."
They entered a large building of stone and columns. It was the Galleria degli Uffizi. It housed some of the most famous paintings in the world, like Titian's Venus of Orbino and Botticelli's Birth of Venus. With two tickets in hand, they walked through the galleries, with him in the lead.
Having never been out of the country, much less surrounded by such exquisite art, Melissa's eyes darted around, taking in the shapes of marble sculptures and busts, following the contours and brush strokes of oil and acrylic paintings.
Suddenly, Benedict stopped in front of a painting so large, it took up nearly one wall. Several people were standing back from it, some discussing it to great length, some analyzing the scientific and artistic composition, the rest merely enjoying it for what it was.
She and Benedict stood back from it. To her, it looked like an allegory. An epic scene of royalty and excess luxury. It was remarkably well preserved, the colors still very robust and the entire painting framed in gold.
Staring at it, Benedict spoke.
"Look at the figures. All paintings tell a story."
She glanced at him, but only briefly. "Are you going to launch into an art history lecture?"
But she took in the subject, nonetheless. Men, half naked and built of athletic and muscular bodies stood in what seemed to be battle-ready stances, while others dressed in pomp and costume of the time period stood in the background, though their figures were still painted rather largely.
Fabric seemed to flow in a nonexistent breeze, echoing the moodiness of the clouded sky and overcast lighting that lay shadows over the arches that were depicted. The women, dressed in equal splendor held secret smiles and pretty blushes, as they conversed with each other and eyed the men.
There were no angels or cherubs. No heavenly actions or beams of light. Yet it was the couple just off the center of the painting that really caught her eye. A man with an intensely dark gaze was watching a woman just a few feet away. The woman seemed not to notice her admirer, having dropped her handkerchief and bending to pick it up. Her handmaiden stood behind her, adjusting the train of her mistress's dress.
"Those in the background, wearing the fur-lined robes and dresses. They are the Medicis."
Her interest immediately perked up. Her eyes flew to those figures on the canvas. The Medicis were famed in Florence during the Renaissance for their wealth and patronage of the arts.
"In the front, there is Isabella, her two sisters Caryn and Valeria. There, her uncles and cousins. And the figure who stands there brooding while he watches the maiden, that is her brother Cosimo."
She almost smirked, but her eyes focused on him and strangely, it matched the very face of the man she'd seen at Sully's. No, it couldn't be...
"That maiden bending down, if observe closely, will resemble your friend Alaina, and her handmaiden, you."
"What?" She took a step closer and true enough the resemblance was there. "You've lost me again."
"Oil on canvas, 1465. Artist is unknown." He recited, as if from the plaque hanging next to the painting. "At least to the general public. When the Medicis were alive and at the height of their power over Florence, Cosimo and his family had formed a friendship with them. This was to commemorate the meeting of his sister Isabella to a lesser-known member of the Medicis family, whom she later married. Sketches were taken from everyone for the piece and they were told how to pose. Yet the artist, for reasons unknown decided to add this little scene to it."
Benedict pointed to Cosimo and the two women. "At the time, Cosimo was guiding Lorenzo the Magnificent through his rule over the city and had no time to pose for the painting. Many thought the artist wanted to add a little humor by putting in the two women. When Cosimo saw the finished product, he could not stop staring at the women, who was bending over to pick her handkerchief up, just like his counter-part in the painting. When asked where he'd found his muse for the woman, the artist just shook his head and said there'd been no muse. It just came to him. So for centuries, Cosimo searched for her."
"And now he's found her. What does all this have to do with anything?"
"See that man, half hidden behind the stone arch there? His shoulders are tense and there is malice in his eyes. You can see a hint of the dagger he holds in his hand."
"He's a cousin of Cosimo's?"
Benedict nodded. "Orfeo was also away when this was being painted, so the artist had foreseen many things."
"I'm still very lost."
"You've heard of the Greek Gods, the Hindu and so on. You've learned about their strong family bonds, their jealousy, their revenge and eternal love, I'm sure. They still teach it to children." He turned to look at her. "D'Alesandros are to this day, the most powerful ruling family in all the realms."
"How come we've never heard or learnt about them?"
Benedict shrugged. "They prefer to spend more of their time in other realms. They often find Earth sort of boring...I agree with them."
Melissa crossed her arms over her chest. "Well, thanks." She said sarcastically. "Listen, if my company is boring you, I would really appreciate it if you'd take me home and bring back my friend, so we can return to our normal lives. You can go back to wherever you came from."
He suddenly smiled and wrapped an arm around her waist, bringing her closer to him.
"You are most attractive when you're angry." She was flustered by his touch and angry at herself for being so. She shrugged him off. "Could you -- could you not do that?"
He merely chuckled.
"I just wanted to prove to you that this is real. The...people, for lack of a better word, that we are dealing with hold a lot of power. You don't want to cross them."
"It's like you're talking in circles. If Alaina is with Cosimo now, then fine. But why am I in Tuscany?"
"That is the reason why I am here. I need to know where you fit into all this. Like the maiden there, there was no muse for your look-alike. And somehow, both you and Alaina were born in the same generation and met to become friends. You will play a major part in this."
While Alaina slept, Cosimo made his way down the hall in his robe. With the wave of his hand, the double doors swung open and later closed behind him to offer privacy. The illuminating light that Alaina found so strange brightened the room, though the walls here were of cavernous ragged rock and the ground was uneven. The sound of water could be heard distantly.
He made his way to a reflecting pool of water that was at ground level. With another wave of his hand, the light lifted off from the water and slowly started to form. Mist that hovered over the floor began to mix with it and faint color started to show.
Soon that light and mist started to form a shape of a woman, life-sized and beautiful. She wore a flowing gown, her long hair bound up by an exquisitely crafted comb. She was young and curvy -- the very image of what many would call a goddess.
"Has anything changed, Calla?" Cosimo asked.
"No, I am sorry." She answered in a husky voice. Cosimo began to pace in front of the diaphanous figure.
"Tell me once again what you know."
"I see war. Your cousin Orfeo is determined to take your place. He's caused riots within his people, and the Ottavians now want to go to war with yours."
"Even as we speak, the Carthanians are preparing for the Ottavian's attack."
"Damn it." Cosimo slammed in fist into a bed of rock nearby.
"The war will be a long one." She said in a strange voice, as if she was overcome with a sudden vision. "Already the Ottavian's are raiding your people in small groups." Then, as quick as it came, it faded. Her voice became normal again. "Prisoners of five and twenty will be taken."
Cosimo said nothing. Twenty-five people were nothing compared to the larger numbers he would lose when his people went through with the predicted war.
"If you choose to save her, then you will die."
He looked up, having heard these words several times already. "Not if." He said gruffly. "I just need to know if Alaina will live."
"That is something I cannot yet see."
He sighed wearily. "Thank you." He said and with the motion of his hand, Calla dissipated into thin air.
So many centuries and to finally have found her, he was only to lose her. His thoughts were filled of her as he returned to their room. She was still sleeping peacefully, her legs tangled in the sheets, her beautiful chest exposed to his eyes.
He grew hard just remembering what he done to her hours ago. Her sighs and the sweet warmth of her surrounding him.
When she rolled onto her stomach, he couldn't wait any longer. He pulled the robe off and climbed onto the bed, balancing his weight on one elbow as he came over her. The swell of his cock rubbed against her buttocks and gently, he moved against her. In her sleep, Alaina made a sound akin to a soft moan.
Experimentally, he slipped a finger down between her legs and found her ready. Playfully, he teased her opening with the head of his cock, wanting to wake her slowly.
At the blunt entering of his member, Alaina woke from her slumber.
"Cosimo?" Came her questioning voice, husky from sleep. He pushed into her and with a gasp, she realized what was happening. He buried himself in her, brushing aside her hair as he kissed her neck. Their lovemaking was slow and she let him control the pace. His breath was hot against her ear as he whispered to her what if felt like to be buried inside her.
Her hands formed fists in the sheets as she became lost. The strength of his lovemaking was climbing, as he quickened the pace. Then his hand came around and touched the very center of her desire and she cried out her climax.
The twenty-five prisoners were taken from Cartha directly to Ottavia. Twenty-three of them were men of all ages. The Ottavian soldiers thought, that in view of the coming war, a sacrifice to their ruler, Orfeo, Lord of the Underworld would ensure their victory.
The men were chained to the large blocks of stone, their bodies bruised from a beating because of their resistance. The women were stripped of their clothing and lain down on the sacrificial block, where the open courtyard let the moonlight shine over their shapely bodies.
To the humiliation of the women, one of the soldiers stuck their fingers into their private parts. The two that were married hissed and fought their confining chains as they were violated.
Altair, the youngest of them was too scared to protest. But as she felt the soldiers hand lay against her naked thigh, she jumped, her chains jerking against her wrists. Her breathing became rapid and her eyes shot up to the soldier. His face was weathered, but he didn't look old. In fact, even in her fear she noted that he was handsome, his golden colored hair hanging over his shoulders.
"Don't, please." She whispered, but his hand slid down and she felt his finger enter her swiftly. His finger went still inside her.
"She's a virgin." Announced the soldier, with a note of surprise in his voice. The other men grunted, one smirked.
"Virgin sacrifice to Lord Orfeo."
At this, a few of them laughed.
One of them came forward and started to unchain one of the women.
"I'm taking her. Orfeo can choose from the others."
The woman started to fight and curse; her screams only frightened Altair even more. What was worse, the soldier still had his finger inside her and started to thrust it in and out of her. She wondered if he would decide to take her and prayed he wouldn't. It would mean selling her body to these men for the rest of her life, as it was surely the future of the woman being dragged away.
But the soldier surprised her by pulling his hand away and bending down to kiss her on her abdomen, then murmuring, "Bring us victory." And he and the rest of the soldiers left the temple.
The hours passed. Vaguely, she heard the men speak of escaping. How they would free themselves from their chains, she didn't know. What was going to happen to them tomorrow?
Exhausted, Altair finally succumbed to sleep. And in those hours while she slept, silent as ever, a liquid smoke appeared in the air, hovering over her naked figure. It took shape of a man lying next to her with his hand over her stomach. As soon as his skin made contact with hers, he was the form of smoke again.
Instantly, their bodies disappeared. The chains that once bound her to the stone block clinked gently on the stone block.
Orfeo was considered the black sheep of the family, as the saying went. Then again, weren't all members of the family who dealt with death considered as such? Hades wasn't very well liked in his family circle.
His palace was decadent, built into the rock of a mountain no one would ever discover. And deep into the grounds of that enormous mountain lay the collection of souls to be weighed and decided. It was not a job he liked, but it was what he was born to do, so he did it, and with much aplomb.
In the wide expanse of the greeting hall, sounds of water echoed within the obsidian walls. It was not an incessant dripping or the sound of waves crashing, instead, it was an eerie whisper. It couldn't be heard when the hall was filled with people, but when one was alone, one had the feeling that they were deep under water.
For hours he watched the activity of his people, the Ottavians. He'd been curious as to how they were handling news of the impending war with the Cartanians.
Orfeo had wanted his cousin's position for himself for as long as he could remember. It only made sense that he, Lord of the Underworld be in control of the chaos of the worlds. But one could only inherit a power by killing the one who held it. He was fond of Cosimo in his own distant way, but he desired his cousin's powers more.
But now, he tired of watching over his people and soon abandoned the task to return to his room. Then he remembered the girl. He'd left her in one of the grandest bedchambers he'd ever had designed, one he'd never let anyone use because it'd been too special to him, until now.
She was resting in a daybed draped abundantly in silks and sheer materials all in the shades of water. The palette suited her coloring. Her chestnut colored hair matched his own. Hers flowed around her head in a soft, touchable length.