“Dio!” Pax shouted and threw himself into the man’s arms. “You’re alive! I thought you died!”
Dionysus let out a hearty laugh. “My man, you know I wouldn’t die so easily.”
“Well duh, I told everyone that but Auntie Astra said you were dead!’
“You did what now?” He raised his brow at the girl.
“I meant to me only. I uh…” She scratched the back of her neck nervously. “Sorry.”
He gave her a brilliant smile despite her harsh words. “No problem, I forgive you. You can tell everyone that I’m alive, but they probably don’t want to hear it.”
“Mom does.” Pax nodded enthusiastically. “Dad too! I think grandpa might be mad at you, Ethan too…but I know you’re not as bad as they say you are!”
“Pax…” Astra pet his head affectionately. ” Does your mom know you’re out here?”
“No.” He shook his head. “But she doesn’t know that you’re out here either.”
“Ouch Charlotte is going to kick both of your butts.” Dionysus grinned.
“No way. I’m here because of the rule.” He looked at Astra. “We’re not supposed to go out by ourselves, remember?”
“Pax.” Astra tugged at the bottom of her shirt. “That’s different. I’m an adult.”
“Who can still get hurt out here.” He pointed to her finger, ladden with dried blood. “Pax is right to be concerned. Let me thank you personally for that.”
“Duh, of course!” Pax grinned smugly. “I know what I’m doing, you know. And that cut is from a cat, and I’m allergic! Otherwise I would have helped.”
“You’re not allergic to cats.” Astra shook her head.
“But I don’t like them. They’re mean. Look what that cat did to you!”
“Cat?” Dionysus’ ears perked up. “Which way did it go? That’s exactly who I’m looking for!”
“Camilla is a cat?” Astra rolled her eyes. “You were making that big of a deal over a cat?”
“Not just any cat. Camilla is my cat-OUCH!” He looked down at the blood dripping down his ankle. “Not cool Camilla, you don’t have to bite me. Also, don’t go around biting people who’ve done nothing to you.”
“Oh, uh I was reaching out to grab her. It’s probably my fault. I must have scared her.” Pax was standing behind Astra.
“She doesn’t like you, so now she’ll leave me alone!”
“I don’t think it works that way.” Astra let out a small giggle. “Anyway, we better get back before it gets late.” She looked up at the sky. “It’s going to get dark really soon and I don’t want to explain to your parents why you’re out in the forest this late. We’ll both be in some trouble.”
“We should be going too.” Dionysus kneeled down and picked up Camilla.
Astra turned to leave, but Pax didn’t move. “You have to come with us, Dio. You have to. Everyone misses you.”
“He can’t do that, Pax.”
“Yeah, kid. I’m sorry.” He frowned. “I can’t do that. I have a mission that I have to complete. It’s important.”
“Will it save people?” Pax asked.
“Yes.” He nodded. “I wouldn’t do it otherwise. Do you trust me?”
“Of course I do.” He nodded again. “Always.”
Dionysus ruffled his hair and shot Astra a look. Her heart sunk in her chest. Things could have been different between them. They had let Audric come between them and ruin a perfectly good friendship. She’d regret it for an eternity, but she couldn’t do anything about it now. It was complicated. “We have to go, Pax.”
“Fine, but promise that we’ll see you again.” Pax gave him a stern look.
Dionysus was about to answer, when a rustle could be heard in the distance. “Shit. Quick, come with me.”
“Dionys-” Astra began.
“Just trust me. Let’s go.”
Pax rushed forward, grabbing both of their hands. “Just trust him Aunt Astra, okay?” Well, how could she say no to those two adorable faces?
Once they reached the small house, Astra let out a big breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. “Pax, are you alright?” She straightened out his denim jacket.
“Yes, I’m fine.” He fidgeted in her grasp. “Really, I am.”
Satisfied with her nephew’s response, Astra turned her attention to Dionysus. “Do you plan on explaining what just happened out there, or what?”
He pulled himself up on the counter so that his legs were dangling as he sat. “The part where I saved your life? Okay sure. You guys are on the run, right?” He looked at Pax, rather than Astra. “I heard a rustling, which could have been anything. Until we started actually moving away then I felt a presence. It’s an unfamiliar one, but I don’t think they wanted to just say hi.”
Pax’s eyes lit up. “So you saved us then?”
“Yeah, I think we lost their trail. But it’s late and I don’t think it’s safe for you guys to head out again until morning. I will personally walk you back if you’d like then.”
“Is this your place?” Astra looked around, noticing how much nicer his accomodations were than hers.
“Yeah.” He nodded. “It’s just me and Camilla here. We won’t mind staying down here for the night. You guys can take my bed upstairs.”
“We’re not spending the night,” Astra said.
“Are you just going to waltz right into Declan’s grasp?” Dioysus asked. “You can’t leave now. I know you probably hate the idea, but it’s the safest bet.”
“Dibs on the couch!” Pax pushed passed Dionysus and Astra. “I’m going to watch TV all night long! We only get the crummy channels on the one in our place!”
“Nothing violent,” Astra warned. He promised he wouldn’t, but it didn’t matter much because within a few minutes of lying on the couch, he had passed out from exhaustion. Apparently they walked farther than she had initially thought. Sprawled on the floor in front of him was the black cat that had scratched Astra. Camilla.
“He’s so peaceful when he’s sleeping,” Dionysus mumbled quietly. “He’s gotten really big.”
“Yeah,” Astra agreed quietly. “He’s a good kid. Graciela too. Oh, and now there’s Waverly.”
“Another one?” Dionysus smiled, but it looked forced. “I’m glad that you guys aren’t letting this whole thing get to you.”
“Of course we are,: She answered seriously. “It’s not all rainbows and butterflies. This here is a nice place. There are seven of us and 1 toddler sharing a two bedroom house. And I don’t even think it’s supposed to be two bedrooms to begin with. Things are far from being okay, and even Charlotte is at her breaking point. Maybe you’re fine, wandering on your own. You have the forest to return to. Our home is destroyed, we literally have nothing left. Everything is gone.”
Dionysus carefully rand a hand down her back, and she eased into the touch. It was warm, but made her back tingle. “I wish things could be different.”
She nodded. “I know. Me too.”
He led her upstairs solemnly. Astra was taken aback by the cleanliness of the room, and the sheer brightness. Things hadn’t gotten to the point of complete and utter destruction, but still, it was shocking to see a normal house. He was living a much nicer life than she had been, and why wouldn’t he? He detached himself from the Grays. Things would be better. It hurt her heart thinking about the injustice of it all, and what used to be. “I don’t mind staying downstairs and watching the kids. You can have my bed.” She had been lost in her thoughts, so hearing his voice had startled her enough for her to give a tiny jump. “I’m sorry about that.”
She shook her head. “It’s uh…fine. I’m just fidgety because of everything.” She scratched her head. “You said kids, you mean like…the cat?”
Dionysus shrugged. “It’s complicated, forget about it.” She nodded, not wanting to delve further into something this late at night.
“I’m really sorry,” She whispered. “I’ve been nothing but a shitty person to you since I met you. I was always pushing you away when I could have sat down and just talked to you.”
“Don’t you dare beat yourself up about the way you treat me. It’s what I deserve from you. You’re a great person, and I was immature to stop talking to you because of Audric.”
At the name, Astra rubbed her arms. His name brought on thoughts that she tried to block out. The stronger they were, the harder it’d be to keep him from her thoughts. She looked at Dionysus, biting her lip she stepped forward. “I’m not perfect, but I know when I’m wrong. I was wrong to treat you like that, even earlier when all you wanted to do was help me.”
In this moment, hearing his admissions, Astra felt like a totally different person. Despite her shitty attitude and the mistakes she had made, he still held her and her family in the highest respects. He was helping her and Pax now, and the Grays as a whole in his own way. He wasn’t working against them. If she was being honest with herself, she enjoyed the attention she got from Dionysus. It was sweet and genuine. Now, more than ever, she needed those kind words. She needed his belief in her, when she felt like everyone around her was overlooking her. So, maybe it was her loneliness orchestrating her next moves. She had never been so forceful in her life. Her stutter had long since been gone, and she was working with dismissing her fears and anxieties. She pressed herself onto his body, and being the guy that he was, or maybe just his curiosity, he allowed her to make her movements. He didn’t grab her, or stand firmly in place so that she couldn’t move him. He fell backwards onto the bed as Astra willed it. He looked at her with a mixture of bewilderment, shock and amusement. Without a single word, Astra kissed Dionysus with all the passion and force that she could muster. All of her fears, anxieties and insecurities were poured out into the passionate lip lock. Dionysus shut his eyes and wrapped his arms around her back. How long had he been waiting for this moment to happen? He didn’t think that it ever would.
Her hands traveled up his chest hungrily. She was tired. Tired of being alone. Tired of feeling unwanted. Tired of seeing her sisters happy with their partners while she agonized for hours wondering if Audric had really loved her. She was tired of it all. His skin was soft under her touch. Giving in to her instincts, she allowed her hands to glide further and further down his body, stopping at the elastic of his pants.
Dionysus’ shock was overcome with passion, but he couldn’t continue like this. Pulling away from her, he took in a large breath. “You missed me that much?” Of course he knew the possibility of her using him for some fleeting pleasure, but he had wanted this for a while now. To feel Astra’s body pushed against his in a passionate embrace…
“Less talking, more kissing,” She mumbled, going back to work with the drawstring of his sweatpants.
“Astra,” He breathed out. “Pax is down there. We can’t-”
“Pax is a heavy sleeper, especially when he does a lot of activity.” She untied his hair, letting the orange locks fall on his shoulders and frame his golden face.
“And you’re sure you want to do this?” He asked. “Right here, right now?”
“Yes,” She whispered. “Please.”
Gingerly, he held her waist with one arm. The other cupped her face, willing her to look at him. “You and Audric never…?” He was searching for the right words. “Are you a virgin?”
She nodded slowly. “Does it make a difference?” She knew that he probably wasn’t, but what mattered to her was what was here and now.
“No. Of course not.” He felt his heart beat quicken. The thought of her choosing him over Audric to give herself to…for the first time…it meant something. To him at least. He would make this special for both of them. “You know that I’ve always loved you.”
But, she didn’t answer him. She simply slammed her lips onto his again. Passionately, they made love, oblivious to everything happening between them, and the world around them. Both, lost in the physical pleasure and their own oblivion.