Crooning a soft song, Terra stroked Caelus’s hair back from his forehead. “She’ll be okay.”
“That bastard,” he gritted out, tension filling his body until he was a rigid weight beside her.
Aer and Mare, playing chess by the balcony doors that led to the Void, froze. The shuffling sounds of the marble pieces came to a halt at Caelus’s statement.
“I don’t know why you’re stressing so much,” Mare murmured, as calm as ever.
Terra peered over at him, and had to hide a smile. He was naked, of course. The man was an exhibitionist bar none, and rarely wore clothes in their quarters unless attire was imperative . . . which it wasn’t.
Not that she was about to complain.
Terra might have been with Aer, Mare, and Caelus since the beginning of time, but those asses?
A woman, not even a Goddess, could never get tired of those buns.
With his stomach as hard as the marble in his hand, Terra licked her lips at the sight of his cock which was stirring under her gaze. Her eyes flickered up to his, and she saw his cheeky grin. Unable to quell her own, she winked, and turned her attention back to Caelus.
He felt more than any of her lovers.
He was of the Cosmos. Aer was of the air and Mare of the sea. They were grounded, they had form. They had somewhere to vent their emotions, and as a result, were far calmer, far more at peace. Caelus didn’t have that, and his emotions were usually as volatile as could be. She’d taken it as her duty to soothe him, to give him succor. When she didn’t, well, volcanoes tended to erupt and comets and asteroids appeared far too close to Terra’s land.
Not just for Caelus’s sake did she try to soothe him, but for their children on Earth as well.
She rubbed his temples, then bent over to press a kiss to his forehead. “She will be well,” she told him, as she’d told him a thousand times since this had begun.
“How can you say that?” he demanded, sitting up and slouching forward. He rested his forearms on his knees, curving his back in a way that showed her all the delineated muscles along his spine.
“I say that because I have faith.”
“I have faith, too.”
“No, you don’t,” she countered gently, lips twitching at the pout in his voice. “Thalia is our child, Caelus. I understand that you fear for her more than most. . . .”
Caelus peered at her over his shoulder, “They’re all our children.”
She smiled at him, it was a soft smile, a tender one. “No. Not like her, and you know that. That is why you fear for her most.”
He heaved a sigh and faced forward once more. “She is in your image. It is hard not to be protective.”
Yes, Thalia was.
Even Goddesses could be surprised; when Thalia had reached adulthood, and her features matured, Terra saw herself in the girl. They were mirror images. It had been disconcerting to say the least, and was proof that even creatures as powerful as they, did not hold all the cards.
The Fates, those naughty minxes, could throw their hand in from time to time and shake things up.
“She handled the Beta, didn’t she?” Aer inserted gruffly. “What’s to worry about?”
“You know full well she’ll have to take on more than a Beta—”
Terra placed her hand on his back. “Less of this. By the time she faces those struggles, she will be stronger. We all know what will happen when she claims her mates.”
Aer cleared his throat. “Isaura made a sacrifice the other day.”
Now, the tension plaguing Caelus filled her. “I’ve told you not to speak her name to me.”
Aer’s sigh was deep. “She begs for mercy for her people.”
“I gave them mercy. They must live with their mistakes.”
“You say that like you haven’t sent their redemption to them,” Mare pointed out, flinging his legs out as he turned his chair slightly, his focus shifting from the chessboard to her.
Even the sight of his legs, so thick and brawny, his cock, so delicious and so perfect for her, couldn’t ease the misery in her belly. “They are fortunate I am giving them Thalia.”
“Even with her, that wouldn’t be enough for Isaura. You know this,” Aer pointed out softly. “You can’t blame them all for Morningstar.”
“Can’t I?” she countered, the bitterness making her own ears sting. She sliced a hand in front of her. “Enough. I don’t wish to talk about this any longer.”
Caelus shuffled around, letting her see his pained eyes and his shaggy hair, which was more tousled than usual thanks to the way she’d been playing with it. “Isaura’s son will be Thalia’s mate, Terra. Think you not that it would be prudent to break bread? Isaura is territorial. You know this.”
“It is to her detriment if she is so,” Terra retorted blandly. “I have given Thalia the tools she requires to achieve our goals. She can take on Isaura.”
Mare shook his head. “We all know we can’t take the Fates out of the equation.”
That made Terra stiffen, for he was not wrong. Their will carried weight in the grand scheme of the universe. Nothing happened without her or her lovers’ touches, however, the Fates tended to twist things. If Terra planned for something, or someone, to reach point A, then the Fates saw to it that Terra’s plan would be successful, but only after point D and E had been reached first.
“Informing Isaura of Thalia’s existence might make things easier on the girl,” Aer reasoned, his tone as calm as a gentle summer breeze.
“If things are too easy, you and I both know the people will not respect Thalia. I will not have my daughter being disrespected among those lesser than her.” Terra clenched her jaw. “I am resolute in this. She will strengthen further when she is claimed. Whatever the mischief the Fates make, it will be character building.”
Mare snorted. “‘Character building’? We all know we never intended for Thalia to be exiled. How much more character does she need to build?”
Terra winced. He wasn’t wrong. Terra hadn’t foreseen the treatment her child would receive from those who bore her.
Lifting a hand to her temple, she murmured, “I need to rest.”
Mare shot her a knowing look. “Sex won’t make you forget what’s happening.”
Caelus grunted. “I can concur with that. I’m scared for her, Terra. What if she doesn’t survive?”
“She will survive. She is born from our bone, Caelus. We have to have faith,” she repeated staunchly.
When her males just looked at her, their disagreement evident on their faces—Aer’s expression was doubtful, Mare’s mocking, and Caelus’s agitated— she got to her feet in a puddle of linen as her toga righted itself. Striding over to the terrace that overlooked the Void, she ignored their murmurs as she stepped out.
Ahead, Caelus’s domain glittered and sparked. The Cosmos was beautiful with its gassy clouds that sparkled pink overhead. It tinged the ground and the land beneath with those hues, morphing the great oceans that were Mare’s territory, and the sky that was Aer’s, from blue to purple.
The abyss between the Void and Earth was where Terra’s first-born lived. They were her greatest weakness, her biggest mistake.
As she watched them fly around, unaware of her attention, she focused on the temple where Isaura and her mate, Kane, resided.
One day, Thalia would usurp Isaura. But as Mare had commented, the Fates had a habit of muddling things. While Terra felt certain Thalia would take Isaura’s place, she had no idea when, and she had no further clue as to how much blood would be shed in the process.
Nor did she know if Thalia, though strong enough to oppose Isaura’s rule, would survive it.
Being capable of usurping and being well enough to claim such a seat were two separate things entirely.
Stomach churning with some of the anxiety Caelus was feeling, she shifted her focus from the abyss and onto Earth itself.
As always when she viewed the noxious gases that polluted the air, she sighed angrily.
Why couldn’t any of her children accept her gifts and cherish them?
When she bestowed something upon them with love, why did they always destroy it?
Tears pricked her eyes at the thought, and when her mates clustered around her, she felt not only their love but also the effects of their proximity.
Now that Aer was close, the sky shone brighter. Terra saw more gases, more pollution. She saw the glinting of too many airplanes, and the spaces in the atmosphere where heat leaked.
Mare’s presence highlighted the refuse in the oceans. The dying sea creatures, the rising sea levels.
She couldn’t even begin to imagine the pain they suffered from their domain being so contaminated.
Caelus, thank the Void, did not suffer with such worries, and for that she was grateful. He was strong, but his volatility would have had him punishing those who perpetuated the damage on Earth. Sometimes, she wondered what the children would have to do to anger Mare and Aer into such action—punishment was approaching, that she knew. Terra just didn’t know when or what would occur as a result.
Mare slid his arm around her waist and tugged her into his side. Aer, crossing his over Mare’s, mimicked the pose, so she was tucked tightly between them.
“Where is Caelus?” she asked quietly, tears still falling.
Aer pressed a kiss to her temple, and with a gentle finger, traced the path of a teardrop. She watched as he gathered it on the tip, studied it a second, and then flung it off the balcony, down to the abyss and through to Earth.
Within seconds, the scene below changed. Rain stirred, wind gathered, and a storm was born.
“You didn’t have to do that,” she said softly, nuzzling into him as a great clap of thunder boomed through the air.
“Aye, I did. And Caelus is bathing,” he informed her quietly.
The three of them watched the children beneath them scurry in the rain.
In the back of her mind, she heard their prayers—rain only fell in the abyss when Aer wanted it to, so they knew they were being punished for something, they just didn’t know what.
She shoved their mumbles aside as she’d done for millennia now, and focused on a tiny town on Earth. It was called Austin, and it was there where the child of her and her mates’ bones slept.
With a shaky hand, she pressed a kiss to her lips and blew it over the balcony, into the abyss as Aer had.
She watched as Thalia stirred in her sleep and clutched tighter to her mate.
“Blessed be, child,” she whispered, then ceased watching.
No good would come of her hovering.
What would be, would be, and there was nothing Terra could do now to alter the path Thalia was set on.