He strode after her, spilling more wax as the candle flames guttered in the breeze. “Damn it. What am I supposed to do with these things?”
She took one of the candles. “Shield it and make a circuit of the chapel for luck.”
The bell had stopped ringing. A gust grabbed his flame and blew it out before he caught up with Ariadne at the front of the church again. He didn’t know if she’d blown hers out, or if the wind had gotten it, too.
“So much for luck. Story of my—”
The sudden scream of a rocket exploded over the village, flare dazzling his eyes.
“Take cover!” Blinded, he lunged to grab her arm.
“Wait. It’s only the celebration, Peter—fireworks.” She pulled her arm free and headed up the road. “I want to show you something.”
She led him uphill through a dark tangle of thorn and boulders, onto a slanting outcrop. Another rocket soared and blossomed in a shower of blue sparks over the rooftops below. In the dark alleys, silver and gold sparklers danced through the night to children’s shrill laughter. A muffled pop and whoosh, and a crimson streamer of fire snaked across the sky, burning its afterimage on his eyes.
“Quite a show.”
“Uncle ordered special rockets from Athens. He’s like a child about fireworks. But come, there’s a place I want you to see.”
She climbed over the rock and down a steep drop, nimble as one of the wild goats. He stumbled, muttering a curse. She took his hand and led him through a gap between crags. “Dmitrios showed me this place when I was a girl. I thought it was a magic world.”
They dropped lower, down a narrow cut, then suddenly out onto an open plateau looking over the distant sea. Peter caught a sharp breath. Before him a white stone maze glimmered under the rising moon—an expanse of twisting curves, convoluted angles, tortuous spirals carved into the rocky earth. A labyrinth of silver and shadow.
He blinked. It was the ruins of an ancient town, broken walls and twisting alleys and fragments of stairways climbing toward the stars, all hacked seemingly of one piece from the white stone.
She led him in silence down the deserted narrow passages between walls, threading the shadowy maze inward. A whisper surged and ebbed in his ears—voice of the sea echoing in an empty spiral shell. Peter was lost, wondering if he’d wander the twisting paths forever.
Ariadne ducked through a dark gap, climbed the stairs carved into the side of a wall, and sat atop it. He sat beside her, looking out from the center over the glimmering stone tracery.
“What is this place?” It came out a whisper.
She lifted her palms. “No one knows. We think one of the ninety-nine fabled cities of the ancient Minoans.”
“And Ariadne. Her labyrinth?”
“Who can say? There is power here.”
They sat in silence, watching the distant flare and sparkle of fireworks.
She turned to face him as another fireburst reflected in her eyes. “Peter, you were right. We need to talk.”
“About what just happened in the church? Saint Ariadne and her miracles?”
“Nonsense.” Her voice took on an edge. “My work has nothing to do with churches and miracles.”
“It did for that girl and her mother. She was down on her knees to you.” Something—maybe the shadowy power of the place urging him to just the opposite—made him goad her. “Why don’t you let them worship you?”
“I don’t want that.”
“Then why did you go down that night and heal those plague victims at the village? That’s what Georgios said. You did, didn’t you?” His voice echoed from the stone walls, angry, and he wasn’t sure why. He edged back uneasily to stare at her.
She met his gaze in the dimness. “I am all too human, Peter. As you reminded me that night.”
“Now, wait, I—”
“And I must ask you now to make a choice.” She sighed, raising a hand in that gesture he’d come to know, to touch the crystal over her breast. Somehow in the shifting moonlight and cloud-shadow the movement was slow and sensual, beckoning him closer—to feel the heat of her skin, inhale the fragrance of her hair flowing over him like dark waves, let his hands ride the full curves of breasts and thighs into sweet oblivion. . . .
He blinked and caught himself leaning closer to her. He pulled back to see she was swaying, eyes closed and lips parted, gripping the necklace.
He shivered. “Ariadne. . . .” His voice came out hoarse.
She lowered her hands and took a deep, shuddering breath. “Ohi. Not that way,” she whispered in Greek.
A ragged cloud drifted across the moon, and she turned back to him, a trick of shadows and moonlight now seaming her face like the ancient, storm-weathered stones around her. She said abruptly, “Peter. Will you come to Delphi with me, to the last site I need to test? It will be difficult, and dangerous for you—not only danger from the mercenaries or my father’s men, but for what you may see. I can’t explain, only that it must be done. If you turn back now, I’ll be grateful for all the help you’ve given me. If you come, you must trust me.”
The waxing moon sailed free of the clouds as she dropped her gaze to her fingers plaiting themselves in her lap. She bit her lip, looking all at once like that shy young girl in the photo in Demetrios’s parlor. “Petro. . . .” Her voice trembled. “As I’ve learned to trust you.”
He reached over to take her hands between his and still their tremor. “Easy, now.”
She met his gaze. She looked tired, but holding firm.
He gave her a wry smile, squeezed her hands, and released them. Etse k’etse. “I guess we’re both crazy. Count me in.”
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