Chapter 17: Betrayal


I have always tried to do the right thing. To be honorable, to put duty over desire and others over myself.

I wonder if all that is rendered futile now after just one act. I wonder, too, if this is what I've been missing out on all of these years. It is strange to suppose that I am now one of those women you hear about only in hushed tones and vague wording, like Marcus's mother or maybe even Lucien's. I never once in my wildest imaginings thought I would stray from selflessness to sin. I've only pictured my name spoken in commendation, not condemnation.

But it didn't feel wrong, and I don't feel evil. My fall felt nothing if not right, and I feel divine, as close to something real and consecrated as I have ever known. Maybe that is the draw of the devil, and maybe that is the worst part.

What happened here today bears no resemblance to my marital duties. Lucien seemed infinitely more concerned that I would slip away than break, as though afraid if he paused or let go if only to take a breath I wouldn't be there from that moment to the next. His movements were urgent instead of awkward; the entire affair so fervent I forgot anyone, anything else existed outside our little spot of forest. He drank of me like the scarcest raindrops in a drought, and suddenly I was a treasure where before I'd been but a toy, and a fragile one at that.

Here with him, somewhere between two houses in which I never really belonged, I feel at home.

We did not sleep, but we lay quite still for some time before finally I found my voice.
"We can never do that again."

"That is the cruelest thing you could possibly say to a man who just took a step into the heavens."

For all the gravity that should have befallen us in our disastrous situation, I was rendered entirely unable to take him seriously after a statement like that and laughed not an inch away from his ear. To my relief, he followed suit and laughed as well. To my alarm, an all too familiar appearance of mischief overtook him and the next thing I knew he was carrying me at quite a speed towards an end I could not imagine. It took a second for the shock to wear off, at which point I began a struggle in earnest, but each swat I walloped him with seemed only to further his amusement. It was only as he held me over the lake that I stopped squirming, afraid of falling into the frigid waters below.

"Take it back."


"Take it back. Or…" his eyes moved to the water, unaware that the smile he could not contain in his eyes attenuated his attempted threat.

"Lucien!" I gave him my most serious face of scorn, the one that had always cowed him when we were kids, and was rewarded with being righted on my feet immediately. The audacious imp he'd been but a moment ago was replaced at once with the chided, gentle boy I'd always known, an apology already forming on his lips. I didn't allow him the chance to piece one together. How little he had learned over the years. Despite my employing this very tactic a multitude of times before, his eyes widened in shock as my push sent him sprawling backwards, landing with a satisfactory splash.

Doubled over as I was with laughter, I was helpless to resist his dripping tackle of vengeance. Here I thought I had unequivocally won as usual, but wouldn't you know it, as he finally stopped my laughter with his lips it was he who got his way after all.