Need to catch up?
- What is The Business Centaur’s Virgin Temp?
- The Business Centaur’s Virgin Temp: Prologue
- The Business Centaur’s Virgin Temp: Chapter One
- The Business Centaur’s Virgin Temp: Chapter Two
- The Business Centaur’s Virgin Temp: Chapter Three
- The Business Centaur’s Virgin Temp: Chapter Four
- The Business Centaur’s Virgin Temp: Chapter Five
- The Business Centaur’s Virgin Temp: Chapter Six
- The Business Centaur’s Virgin Temp: Chapter Seven
Raised voices shattered the peace of the night, but Marcaeus no longer hoped for peace. At least, not until the Fates snipped every last thread of the Trasket dynasty.
Perhaps, not every one.
He hadn’t made up his mind on that particular point, yet.
Judging by the argument happening in the tholos behind him, Chariclo had.
“You cannot ask this of him, Chiron!” The thunder of toppling waves provided the musical accompaniment to Chariclo’s fury.
“I didn’t ask him. It was his idea!” Chiron retorted, but his wife’s wrath proved great enough to drown out any protest.
“You meddle in the affairs of the Gods!” Another violent blast of punishing sea proved this already tiresome argument was far from over.
It wouldn’t change the outcome. Far from it. Chiron’s resolve might weaken in the face of his mate’s anger, but no tender feelings could move Marcaeus now. He’d made up his mind with regards to this course of action, so there was no reason to doubt it.
He vaguely sensed someone approaching the rise of plush silver grass he rested upon but he didn’t move. There was no danger here, inside Chiron’s temple.
“Are you hiding?”
Marcaeus opened his eyes at the voice. “I was attempting to transport my mind elsewhere.”
He sat up to face Chiron’s daughter, Melanippe. Like her father, she tended to stand with her arms crossed. Like her mother, her entire form was made of the sea, which somewhat affected the visibility of the gesture.
Marcaeus was familiar enough with Melanippe’s body to recognize the posture right away. “Who are you here to scold? Me, or your parents?”
“All three of you.” She sat on the grass beside him. He assumed his human glamor to mimic her two crossed legs.
“Ugh! You look so strange that way.” She gave him a shove and her gaze wandered downward. “Though I see you’ve been quite generous with this form.”
He chuckled and shifted back. “I kept things proportionate.”
Melanippe curled herself against his side, nestling her head in the crook of his foreleg. “You flatter yourself.”
Marcaeus toyed idly with a strand of seaweed that floated close to the surface of her hair. Where Chariclo shimmered like the clear blue Aegean, Melinappe was the forbidding, deep green of the night sea at storm, even at her calmest. The form suited her; her practical nature controlled the tempest within. She wouldn’t let her sentimentality stop her from questioning him, even if she wouldn’t like the answers. “Are you really going to join with the human?”
“Unfortunately.” He wished they could discuss anything else. “I am sorry.”
“I understand. You’re committed to healing the mortal world.”
Her easy acceptance of his decision stung. “You might behave as though this troubles you at least a little.”
She tipped her face up, blinking her large, pupiless black eyes. “Marcaeus, I accepted a long time ago that you would never be mine.”
“I am yours,” he protested. “No matter what that cursed Oracle says.”
She laughed as though he’d told a joke. “Do you really believe you’re wiser than the Oracle? Not that we ever needed to consult them in the first place. I’ve known the truth of our relationship for a long time. You may hold me close to your heart, but I doubt anyone will ever truly claim you.”
There was no point in arguing against the truth. “If anyone could, it would be you.”
“That’s not what the Oracle said.” She dipped her head but couldn’t hide her fond smile. “But I know you believe it’s true. That’s enough for me.”
The Oracle. If things could be damned in Elysia, Marcaeus would curse them now.
How had Melanippe convinced him to seek the Oracle’s counsel in the first place? He wished they never had. They’d entered the temple seeking wisdom and confirmation that the Fates had braided their threads of life together so tightly, the bond would never be broken.
They’d left broken, themselves.
He studied her face silently, for as long as he could bear. Since that day, no matter how many had passed, Melanippe’s presence always brought him back to that awful day, the only time he’d ever seen her weep. Though Chariclo and Chiron had both assured him that Melanippe had accepted the Oracle’s vision of her future–a future that Marcaeus would not occupy–he still blamed himself for wounding her.
Pottery crashed in Chiron and Chariclo’s tholos.
“Are you certain you aren’t devastated that we won’t be joined by Hera?” Marcaeus quipped.
“”Such a union sounds so peaceful.” Melannipe struggled to say in seriousness before they both dissolved into laughter.
Chariclo called, “Daughter? Are you eavesdropping?”
Melanippe got to her feet, and Marcaeus flicked water from his hair.
“No, Mother,” she called. “Marcaeus was eavesdropping. I was just keeping him company.”
Chariclo emerged from her chamber and glided across the moon-kissed grass toward them. “Marcaeus,” she began, stopping with her watery hands clasped against her breast. “Can we not dissuade you from this folly?”
“I didn’t come to dissuade him,” Melanippe interjected.
Chariclo’s clear, blue eyes widened. “I don’t understand.”
“Melanippe and I discussed it.”. He couldn’t resist adding, “At a civil volume.”
“You must excuse me for being so concerned about the happiness of my daughter and my husband’s protegee!”
“He would never have been happy with me, mother.” Melanippe didn’t need to shout to silence her mother. “Besides, you know that the Fates will not bind us.”
“The Fates can swallow their own eye, for all I care!” Chariclo snapped back.
Marcaeus noted the way Melanippe’s fists curled, not a movement of violence but one of resolve. Perhaps this proof of her sadness and frustration should have comforted him. His eyes did not tread such shallow waters. He wished, not for the first time, that he could take her pain away.
“My happiness doesn’t matter.” Marcaeus wondered if he should have those words painted somewhere in his office, to remind him daily. “We can’t let the demon realm gain control of the mortal world.”
All three of them knew it, but Marcaeus assumed it was more difficult to watch one’s child face heartbreak than to endure it one’s self. He wouldn’t begrudge Chariclo her anger. Nor Melinappe’s, should it manifest.
“There was no no promise between your daughter and I,” he said gently. “I think she’ll agree that I never led her on.”
Melanippe nodded before he’d finished speaking. “I have no desire to be with someone who would not be happy with ame. And I would loathe myself if the mortal realm fell into peril because of my hurt feelings.”
Chariclo studied them both, as if deciding whether two naughty children lied to her. “A joining can always be reversed,” she stated finally. She narrowed her eyes and turned away. “I’ll intrude upon your goodbyes no longer.”
As she glided away, she paused to call back, “Oh, and remember, Hera requires a night and a day of chastity before you petition her. Enjoy your evening.“
Marcaeus stepped behind Melannipe and leaned down, lowering his voice and carefully watching to be certain they were once again alone. “I forgot the chastity part. I wish I could give you a proper goodbye.”
“Is that truly the only farewell scenario you’re capable of imagining?” She drifted away toward the fountain, sighing, “Centaurs.”
“What else could I leave you to remember me by?” he teased.
She pretended to consider. “A constellation? Nyx would charge you your weight in ambrosia, but it would be a fitting tribute to all the good times we’ve shared.”
“I could rearrange the stars completely and hardly match the splendor of our night on Olympus after Hephaestus’ birthday.”
They fell into a somber quiet, Melanippe circling the fountain slowly. Her fingertips trailed along the dry lip of the basin, wetting it in their wake. “I know what you can leave me with.” Her voice quivered. “Tonight, spend the last of our time together pretending things are exactly the way they used to be.”
“When? Before I became a C.E.O?” What an astonishingly silly sentence.
“No. Before that. When you were still my father’s student.” She made another pass around the fountain to reclaim the bits of herself she’d left on the stone.
“Ah, before we were brave enough to look each other in the eye.” That shy fondness was centuries away from them, now.
Melanippe played along in their bittersweet game of memories. “Well, you’d been warned not to concern yourself with me.”
“And you’d been warned about what young Centaurs are like.”
A pang pierced Marcaeus’s heart. His eyes met Melanippe’s, and as a cosmic veil fell between them, they knew. This was the moment that the Oracle had predicted. The Fates had finally severed the last of the thread between the lovers he and Melanippe used to be.
She turned away first, wiping bursts of sand from her eyes as though he would not see them. “What is she like?”
Marcaeus did her the kindness of returning her light, conversational tone. “I don’t know. What little time I’ve spent with her, she’s as insufferable as many of her kind. Unable to see past their needs and wants, willing to do anything, no matter how desperate, to get what they believe they deserve.”
“Be kind to her. She’s a mortal. They have so much fear because their lives are too short.”
Melanippe’s generosity toward the mortal condition reminded him uncomfortably of Fiona and her own generosity of spirit. “She falls victim to another human failing. She cares too much.”
“First, she’s selfish, and now she’s too caring?” Melanippe’s tide had somehow turned against him in the conversation. “She was loyal to her friend. She used the only tool at her disposal. Aren’t you doing the same?”
Marcaeus raised a brow. “And what do you know of her loyalty?”
“What? You’re not the only one capable of eavesdropping,” Melannipe observed without remorse. The roiling sea within her calmed; without her waves and currents, stillness erased some of her features.
Marcaeus remembered long nights lying awake, her sleeping form coating him like dew.
“Mortal hearts are fragile,” she warned softly. “And they fall too easily. Don’t let this woman dash hers to pieces over you.”
“What happens to her heart is of no concern to me.” Not when he had to cut Melanippe’s apart because of the human’s actions.
“You have never been cruel.” Melanippe flowed toward him, rising on a tidal surge to stand at his impressive height. “It was your kindness that captured my heart. Not your ruthlessness. Don’t lose yourself, my love. If I can’t keep the heart that won mine, at least, tend it in my absence?”
“I’ll try.” It was the strongest vow he could make. “Every hour I spend with humanity infects me with their materialism and greed.”
“Then you might consider looking for the best of humanity, instead of the worst.” Melanippe receded. “And you might learn something from this human. You’re angry now, but you’ll see the good in her. You’ll see that her loyalty to her friends is not a failure.”
Melanippe studied his face for a long moment, the moon above reflecting off the darkened sea glass of her eyes. “I would stay by your side now, but you need time to think. This won’t be a successful–or pleasant–endeavor if you spend every moment you’re together resenting her. Use this time to find your patience.”
“I will try,” he reiterated, leaning on the last word.
A mischievous shimmer enveloped her form and another surge washed her against him and over him. He couldn’t control his shudder of pleasure and heard the musical drip-drop of her laughter behind him.
“Enjoy your chastity and self-reflection,” she said, giggles punctuating her sentence.
He turned to watch her go, the moonlight playing off her waves until she blended into the darkness, leaving him alone with memories he would rather not let go.