I rolled my eyes as I shoved a piece of melon into my mouth. “Whatever,” I muttered around the fruit as Kieran dipped out of the room.
“I won’t be gone long. Kieran will be here—and I know you don’t need a guard,” he added before I could say anything. “But he insisted, and it makes me feel better to know that someone else will be here. You should try to get some more rest. I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt.”
I swallowed the urge to tell him that I didn’t need a bodyguard. “Okay.”
His eyes narrowed on me. “That was a surprisingly quick submission.”
“Submission?” I arched a brow as I took a drink of the wine. “I wouldn’t call it that.”
I shook my head. “I hate the idea of having a babysitter, but a group of people did try to kill me earlier, and we have no idea if there are more of like mind. So I would call my quick agreement common sense.”
The dimple appeared in his right cheek. “Common sense. That must be a new thing for you.”
“I’m really imagining kicking you in the face now.”
He chuckled, kissing me quickly once more. “I won’t be gone long.”
“Take as long as you need.”
Casteel touched my cheek and then left. I exhaled heavily as my gaze flicked to my half-full glass. I leaned over the platter of food, placing the glass on the nightstand. As I ate a few cold strips of grilled chicken breast, nothing but silence came from the living area. What was Kieran even doing out there? Probably just standing by the archway, arms crossed and looking as bored as ever.
Rolling my eyes, I sighed. “Kieran?”
“Poppy?” came the response.
“You don’t have to stay out there.”
“You’re supposed to be resting.”
“All I’ve done today is rest.” I popped a piece of cheese into my mouth. “But you lurking on the other side of the wall is not at all restful.”
“I’m not lurking,” he replied dryly.
“You’re standing just out of sight, keeping watch. I don’t know if there could be a better example of lurking than that,” I replied. “Or I could come out there. Not sure how relaxed I would be in...” I grinned as Kieran appeared in the doorway. Walking over to the corner of the room, he dropped into the chair and looked at me. I gave him a little wave. “Hi.”
“Hi.” He stretched out his long legs, loosely crossing them at the ankles.
I stared at him. He stared at me. I picked up the small plate from the platter. “Cheese?”
A faint grin appeared as he shook his head. “You’re going to make this weird, aren’t you?”
“I offered you cheese.” I placed the plate back on the bed. “How is that making anything weird?”
“You waved at me.”
I crossed my arms. “I was being polite.”
“The fact that you’re being polite is also weird.”
“I am always polite.”
Kieran lifted his brows, and I didn’t need to read his emotions to sense the incredulity.
“I was going to offer you the last of the chocolate, but you can forget about that now.”
He laughed as he leaned back. “So, what are you more uncomfortable with right now? The fact that you tried to feed from me, or that I saw you naked—though I saw a lot more than that—?”
“You really don’t need to bring any of that up,” I stated, glaring at him.
“Or is it the Primal notam?”
“I’m regretting inviting you in here,” I muttered. “Honest? All of it makes me a bit uncomfortable.”
“You don’t need to worry about how you were when you woke up,” Kieran told me. “It happens.”
“How often have you really had someone try to eat you upon waking up?”
“You’d be surprised.”
I opened my mouth to ask for details but then closed it, thinking it was probably a road I really didn’t need to travel right now. “I don’t know what to think about any of this.”
“It’s a lot. A lot has changed for you in a very short period of time. I don’t think anyone would know what to think.”
I peeked over at him, wanting to know how he felt about the whole thing, but I really wanted to know if we had somehow communicated without speaking. “I—”
“Let me guess,” he said. “You have a question.”
I frowned as I crossed my arms over my chest.
“What?” He glanced over at me.
“Nothing.” I exhaled heavily. A moment passed. “Kieran?”
“I have a question.”
He sighed, but there was a slight curve to his lips. “What is your question, Poppy?”
“How do you feel about the notam?”
He was quiet for a moment and then he asked, “How do I feel about the notam? What do my people think? They are amazed. They are awed.”
“Really?” I whispered, picking up one of the pillows and hugging it to my chest.
“Yes.” He rose and made his way to the bed, sitting so we were shoulder to shoulder. “So am I.”
I could feel my face heating. “Don’t be. It makes me feel weird.”
He grinned as he dipped his chin. “I don’t think you understand why we feel…honored to be alive when a descendant of the gods is present. Many of my kind are not old enough to have lived among them. Alastir was one of the only few, and well, fuck him, right?”
I grinned. “Yeah. Fuck him.”
He smiled. “But the children of the gods have always held a special place with the wolven. We exist in this form because of them. Not because of the Atlantians.”
I squeezed the pillow tightly as I wiggled down onto my side, remaining silent.
“My ancestors were wild and fierce, loyal to their packs, but the kiyou were driven only by instinct, survival, and pack mentality. Everything was a challenge—for food, mates, pack leadership. Many didn’t survive very long, and the kiyou were on the brink of extinction when Nyktos appeared before the last great pack and asked that they protect the gods’ children in this realm. In return, he offered them human form so they could communicate with the deities and have long lifespans.”
“He asked and didn’t just make the kiyou wolven?”
“He could have. He is the King of Gods, after all. But he made it clear that the agreement was not servitude but a partnership between the kiyou and the deities. There cannot be equality in power if there is no choice.”
He was right. “I wonder why Nyktos asked for this partnership. Was it because he is the only god who can create life? I imagine being given a mortal form was like creating new life. Or perhaps because he is the King of Gods?”
“Probably all those reasons, but also because he is one of the few gods that can change forms,” he said.
“What?” I didn’t know that.
He nodded. “He was able to take the shape of a wolf—a white one. You haven’t seen much of Atlantia, but when you do, you will see paintings and statues of Nyktos. He’s often depicted with a wolf either at his side or behind him. When the wolf is behind him, it symbolizes the shape he can take, and when the wolf is beside him, it represents the offer he made to the kiyou.”