[This post is from Hecate’s point of view.]
Still, the nightmare haunted her, even as Matt held her tightly against his chest. Hecate listened to the thud of his heart, counting the beats in an effort to shake off the last vestiges of the horror she’d experienced. This—this was solid and real. That was nothing but an ephemeral thing, a spectre conjured by her darkest fears. It wasn’t anything to dwell on.
It wouldn’t let go of her. She kept seeing the images from that nightmare over and over again, kept seeing Cíar taken from her—a punishment, Aietes roared at her, for her blatant disrespect and refusal to cooperate with him. She could hear the crack of the whip, taste the salt of her tears and the copper of blood from a bitten lip—a lip bitten to keep from screaming, because screaming at her former husband to stop had only made him angrier, made him attack Cíar all the more savagely.
It was as much dream as it was memory—there had been beatings, though most of those had been designed to keep Cíar in line, not her. He’d been willful, especially at the beginning. As they grew closer, threats against her had worked—it was something she’d tried hard to forget. Not everything had remained a secret. Aietes had railed against it when it had happened, but when Cíar had been given to her custody, things had been easier for Olympium, but not for her. Aietes hadn’t wanted to let her go and it had taken more pleading than she liked to remember to win free of that binding.
The dream had changed abruptly, and that was the part that terrified her more than any memory ever could have. Cíar had become Matt and the whip had grown barbs, flaying his back open until all she could see was red. She remember choking on bile, shaking all over, and screaming, unable to stop herself. It hadn’t made a difference. Aietes had turned to her and smiled that wicked, cruel smile of his, the hungry one that warned of more and worse to come.
Then he’d come to her, hands still drenched in the blood of both of her lovers.
Mercifully, she couldn’t remember anything else—didn’t want to, not now or ever.
“You’re crying,” Matt whispered. “’Peia, what is it?”
“I will never let him hurt you,” she whispered, blinking back the tears as she looked up at him. “Never.”
“Aietes,” she whispered. “I will never let him touch you. No matter what. I promise—I swear it.”