Marin glared up at the god from where he lay sprawled on the sandy beach.
Caspian held out his hand. “Perhaps we should call it a day?”
“It’s still light,” Marin argued, though he accepted the outstretched hand and let Caspian pull him to his feet.
“You’re getting tired.”
“I’m fine.” He picked up his trident and took his fighting stance once more. “Come on. You’re a god, you’re not tired.”
Caspian shrugged and placed his feet in the sand. “You need to work on your balance.”
Marin snorted. “I’ll be facing Urion underwater. What’s the point of learning to balance when I’ll be swimming?”
“Because I said so,” Caspian replied as he thrust his trident at Marin.
Marin dodged the jab with ease and countered with a stab of his own. Caspian swung to avoid his attack, and with one sweep of his weapon, he sent Marin flying again.
“You’re too tired,” Caspian said. “When you’re fresh and concentrating, you can anticipate that move with ease. Come. Let’s get something to eat and call it a day. We’ll practice again tomorrow.”
Marin opened his mouth to argue but Caspian had already vanished from the beach.
With a frustrated sigh, Marin scrambled to his feet and walked over to the path leading from the beach to Caspian’s temple and palace.
The temple was overgrown and sorely neglected. Caspian had told him that part of the building was forbidden to him. Marin had no problem with that. The place gave him the shivers.
The palace was in a slightly better state of repair, though not by much, and only a few rooms were habitable. The rest were dusty and unused and didn’t beckon explorers at all.
Caspian had brought him here two days ago. He’d given him a quick tour of the rooms he could go into and had made it clear that everywhere else was strictly out of bounds. When Marin had asked where Caspian’s own rooms were, in case he needed something, Caspian had told him he didn’t live here, but the god wouldn’t elaborate further.
Marin didn’t press for information. It wasn’t any of his business. He was here so Caspian could train him for his battle with Urion. He didn’t need to know any more than that.
When Marin arrived back at his rooms, he found Caspian setting the small table. He’d clearly been somewhere to get what he told Marin was a takeaway while Marin had been walking back from the beach.
“What do you intend to do tonight?” Caspian asked after they had begun eating.
Marin shrugged. “Sleep and get an early start with our training in the morning.”
“It’s the solstice,” Caspian said.
“Yes, I know.” Marin had felt the heat of the mating fever rising throughout the day. He’d done his utmost to ignore it. It wasn’t as if he had any intention of breaking his fever. It was his second solstice without Calder and the pain was already worse than the last, but he was trying as hard as he could to put it out of his mind.
“Would you like me to take you to the island that the mer from Atlantis are using?”
“No, that won’t be necessary.” Marin concentrated on his food and tried not to think about the mating seasons he had spent during happier times.
Older and more experienced, Calder had known without being told what Marin needed on the night of the solstice. On their first night together, Calder had taken him to a secluded grove and initiated Marin in the ways of mermen who craved the touch of their own gender.
Big and strong, Calder had been the most powerful of the Atlantean guards, yet he had submitted to Marin without hesitation, spreading his legs for the younger merman with a willingness that had been as arousing as it was surprising.
They had never spent a solstice apart.
Until Calder had been cruelly taken from him.
“The pain from your fever will get worse if you don’t break it,” Caspian reminded him.
Marin glared across the table. “Do you think I don’t know that?”
“Sorry, but I’m sure there are many mermen who would be happy for you to suck their cock.”
“That’s not my trigger,” Marin replied.
“Oh. Sorry. I guess I just assumed. Well, even so, many mermen would be happy to fuck you, too.”
Marin didn’t bother to reply to that, annoyed that Caspian, like everyone else, automatically assumed that he would be the one taking another man up his arse. Truthfully, he didn’t mind being on the receiving end of a good fuck, and he and Calder had often switched roles the rest of the year, but it wasn’t what he needed during the mating season.
“It’ll only take a few seconds for me to transport you to the island,” Caspian continued. “I can collect you later and bring you back.”
Marin pushed back from the table. “I have no intention of breaking my fever. Tonight I intend to honor Calder’s memory by remaining abstinent.”
Caspian stared at him, his expression unreadable, for several long seconds. “Even though you know it will bring you pain?”
“Yes,” Marin replied.
Caspian nodded slowly. “I understand. Now, finish your meal and I’ll say no more about the solstice.”
Marin hadn’t thought he would convince Caspian so easily. He pulled back to the table and picked up his fork once more.
It was going to be a long night, but he owed it to Calder to be strong and focused.
* * * *
“I’m ready,” Marin declared.
“No, you’re not,” Caspian argued. “If you leave now, you’ll die.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Yes, he does.” Cari appeared behind Caspian. “Calder was a fine merman and I’m truly sorry for what happened to him.”
“Not sorry enough to do anything about that monster that murdered him,” Marin pointed out. “And if you and the rest of the gods aren’t going to bring him to justice, I will.”
“Justice will be served,” Cari said.
“I don’t know, but it will come to pass. I promise.”
Marin paced away toward the edge of the water. “That’s not good enough. I want him dead.”
“Revenge isn’t the answer.”
“He murdered the only merman I’ve ever loved. I want justice for him.”
“You want revenge. There’s a difference.”
“I don’t care,” Marin screamed.
“Urion’s death won’t bring Calder back,” Caspian said.
Marin glanced over his shoulder to glare at Cari’s brother. “For a God of Justice, you don’t seem to be delivering it. I’d say you’re somewhat slacking.”
“It won’t take away the pain of his loss either,” Caspian added, ignoring Marin’s jibe.
Marin choked out a bitter laugh. “What would you know about loss? You and the rest of the gods have never had to lose anyone. You’ve not had to hold your lover in your arms while he takes his last breath. You’re immortal. How can you ever understand what I’m going through?”
Marin flinched at the booming voice. The god who had shouted appeared a moment later.
“Grandfather.” Cari bobbed a low curtsy that the god completely ignored.
“This is Antar,” Caspian said. “He is our grandfather and the God of Space and Time.”
Antar ignored Caspian’s introduction as well. “You, merman, dare to raise your voice to a god?”
“It’s fine,” Caspian interrupted. “Marin is just a little upset.”
“Entire armies have been destroyed for lesser insults,” Antar continued.
Lightning flashed over the water, even though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
“Grandfather, leave Marin be,” Caspian said. “He’s been through enough.”
With a wave of his hand, Antar froze both of his grandchildren in place.
Marin took a step back.
“Yes, you should be scared,” whispered Antar, the soft tone even more terrifying than when he’d shouted. “You show disrespect to those who have shown nothing but kindness to you. You aren’t worthy of their attention.”
A waft of perfume heralded the arrival of Medina, the Goddess of Love.
“Stay out of this, Medina,” Antar warned, without turning his steely gaze from Marin.
“Marin is a merman who has lost the one he loves. His heart cries out to me.”
“A broken heart is no excuse for disrespecting the gods.”
“I’m sure he didn’t mean to. Perhaps a second chance, before you do anything drastic?”
“Why does this insolent creature deserve a second chance?” Antar growled.
“Look into his eyes,” Medina said. “See what Caspian, Cari and myself already have.”
Antar seemed to take her at her word and stared right into Marin’s eyes, searching for goodness knows what.
“Ah, I see,” Antar finally said.
“If you punish him for his insolence, the repercussions will be disastrous.”
“I presume your appearance here means you have another suggestion?”
“Marin needs to remember how to love,” Medina said.
“I know how to love,” Marin interrupted. “I love Calder.”
Antar nodded. “He does have a point there. But he has forgotten so much. Perhaps it is time he remembered.”
Marin felt rooted to the spot, unable to move his limbs or utter a word.
The wind howled through his ears, though not a hair moved on the heads of any of the immortals standing before him.
Lightning flashed over the ocean and the earth seemed to shake beneath his feet.
“Remember,” Antar whispered. “Remember…”