Divine slept on his side of the bed. Josephine on the other. Why couldn’t he relax? She never crossed the line by wrapping herself around him. This wasn’t the first time they shared a bed. Why did his body tense? He jumped at imaginary noises and shadows. Didn’t help that Josephine wasn’t asleep either.
A hand rolled him on his back. Josephine straddled his waist. She lost her mind. Divine clenched his fist by his side. The last thing they needed was for him to hurl her through the wall. He went to bed in thin shorts, Josephine her underwear. Too much of Josephine’s skin was touching his.
“What do you want?” he asked.
“I spent almost a year asleep. My body seems sick of it.”
“And you had to sit on me to tell me that?”
Josephine shook her hips.
“First time I straddled a man and received no reaction. It’s a little liberating.”
Divine became even more aware of Josephine’s skin. The image of Josephine on top of another man made him want to kill someone. Divine backed away from that anger. He didn’t want to examine why he felt that way. They were no longer the two people who saw each other as objects to control.
“You want to have sex?” he asked.
Even if Josephine said yes, he wouldn’t give her what she wanted.
Josephine snorted. “Baby steps. How about we get used to touching each other? I’ve had time to examine my memories. I like you Divine Mathews. I don’t think I ever hated you. You’re infuriating but not so loathsome that I can’t stand the mere sight of you.” Josephine poked his chest. “I’m going to make you mine.”
Divine felt hot, uncomfortably so. His heart wouldn’t calm down.
“I’m not a possession.” He couldn’t think of a better response to her confession.
“I examined memories of your feeling as well, from those times our minds merged. You like me too.”
Divine’s thoughts stumbled. He wanted to say something clever. He wanted to change the subject. All she could do was stare at her with his mouth open. Beside, this wasn’t Josephine speaking. Their repaired connection and a year’s worth of loneliness was making her think she liked him. Divine’s chest tightened. When she settled in, their relationship would return to normal.
A shadow passed the window. Josephine winced.
“Ferran’s cane, I’m too old to be jumping at shadow.”
He never heard that expression before. He grabbed onto that phrase as if it was the only thing saving him from death.
“What in the name of Darkness is Ferran’s cane?” he asked.
Josephine dropped on top of him, cuddling her face against his neck. The sensation was as aggravating as a feral rash. Well, it wasn’t entirely unpleasant.
“I’ll allow you to change the subject.” She kissed his neck. “I didn’t realize I said Ferrain’s cane. I try not to swear by obscure gods. Loses impact if people don’t know what I’m talking about. Farran is…Canan for a reaper—sort of. He’s works in an Annissian tribe’s version of the underworld. He punishes adulterers. He marks adulterers with his cane. Their bodies would slowly decay. When someone has a skin illness, it was said they were touched by Ferran’s cane.”
Josephine’s wild hair covered his face. He smoothed it back. Divine’s fingers refused to release her hair. She seemed to calm down, at least.
They never spent much time talking about what they did before Silhouette. Josephine had been given the rare opportunity to take a team of people to explore uncharted areas of the world. Her university sent her out to find rare items or undiscovered structures that would bring her territory wealth. When the Walls rose, many territories gave up on breathing life back into Jaelian farmland. They instead decided to grow crops in the city. Any structure deemed useless was torn down. Universities were the main target since they occupied the most land. Schools that didn’t give people useful skills had to justify their existence.
Josephine was, in a sense, a trained thief. She was successful at sniffing out ancient temples or hidden chambers. Divine had similar experience. He was better at manipulating people into telling him thing they were swore to never talk about.
“When I traveled through different areas,” Josephine said. “I tried to pick up the local ways of speaking. It often endeared the residents to me and my team. This included swearing by the right god. Unfortunately, I often spent months with one group of people, which meant it was difficult for me switch back to Jaelian.”
“You’ve taken swear words from different cultures. Has that ever gotten you in trouble?”
She laughed. He didn’t mind her breath across his neck.
“Makil is the god of two cultures of the Annissa islands. For Kel’rl, it is acceptable to swear by him. For Elho, his name is sacred. Swearing by him is blasphemous. When I first started traveling, I spent time exploring the islands and getting to know the locals. I made the mistake of swearing by Makil when I was with the Elhos. To appease the god, the blasphemer is supposed to be burned. I couldn’t let that happen. It would’ve revealed me as something not human. Since I negotiated the release of the chief’s daughter from the rival tribe, they allowed me the honor of being purified by the eldest son’s seed.”
Divine stopped stroking her hair.
“You mean you had unprotected sex with a male who never visited doctor.”
He felt Josephine shrug. “He went to the village’s doctor. It’s not like I can catch a disease.”
Josephine was insane.
“Will you be quiet,” Blae called through the wall. “Sensitive hearing plus a connection with my sister has me feeling like I’m the one straddling Divine. Stop it.”
Leave it to Blae.
“Thanks for killing the mood little brother,” Josephine called.
“Thanks for making me ill little-big sister.”
“You’re shorter than Aliceanna,” Josephine muttered.
“I’m not actually. We’re the same height.”
“You’re short, Royal” Aliceanna said. “Deal with it. Besides, Divine doesn’t have a problem with a partner he can fit in his pocket. Now, will you shut your mouths before I cut your tongues out,” Aliceanna roared. Her voice lingered.
“Shouting for people to be quiet makes things worse,” Kaige called from the second floor.
“Go run your mouth through a grinder,” Aliceanna snapped.
“Very adult of you,” Kaige said.
Mauve giggled. “I love this house.”
“This was not a conversation for the entire house,” Blae said. “Everyone end it.”
“Shove it Blae, this is getting good,” Aliceanna said.
“Do you have any idea what time it is?” Bel roared. “Stop shouting across my house.”
“Please,” Aliceanna yelled. “We aren’t eight. It’s not like we have a bed time.”
“Some of us have work tomorrow.”
“Not like we have to get up at the crack of dawn.”
Josephine snickered. Divine groaned. How had it gotten this out of hand?
“You voices are torturing my ears, be quiet or I’ll melt your throat” Kaige snapped.
“Aliceanna if you responded, I’m sowing your mouth shut,” Bel threatened.
Divine sensed Aliceanna debating on whether he was serious.
“That’s enough everyone,” Divine said, gently shoving Josephine off him.
“The vermin says enough and we’re supposed to obey,” Kaige mumbled.
Fortunately, Kaige wasn’t so childish to start screaming across the house just because Divine told everyone to be quiet.
Mauve’s giggles reached through the floor. They soon tapered off. The house remained quiet. Josephine rolled to her side of the bed and turned her back to him.
“This house in fun.” She yawned.
Fun? More like a nail. At least Josephine was on her way to sleep.
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