Silence, coating the air, forcing it to hang about stagnantly, heavily.
Even the sound created by his rising breath did little to alleviate that damnable stillness; its presence only heightened the quiet, rendering it more awkward, more clumsy, more uncomfortable.
He wasn’t sure how much more he could take.
Antony trained his eyes downward, studying the face of the woman lying beneath him. Octavia stared blankly at the ceiling, her lips set in a firm line as she endured her husband’s claim of his marital rights. Her body shook fractionally with each thrust, but she made no sound of reaction…he felt her foot tap impatiently against his ankle. His stomach lurched with disdain as his erection dwindled…he’d find no release this time. He withdrew from her sharply, dark eyes gleaming with bitterness and a hint of embarrassment. To be unmanned in his own marriage bed, lying beside a glacial, unsympathetic wife…miserable.
“Juno’s cunt,” he hissed, his skin tingling with a sudden rise of temper. Leaning up against the headboard, Antony turned his full gaze to Octavia, who continued her observation of the molding along the ceiling frame. He stared silently for a time, watching her breathe…despising every rise and fall of that alabaster chest…imagining the satisfaction of holding a pillow over her face…his next thought rose unbidden into his throat, clipped tones rankling the immobile air: “Can’t give me any relief, can you?”
And there were her eyes, cold and piercing. “I don’t know what you mean.” Octavia adjusted herself beneath the coverlet, depriving him even of the sight of her naked form. “I’m not stopping you. Do what you like.” Those damned words again…so it had been since their wedding night, him taking his “pleasure” while she grudgingly tolerated his advances…such a fucking martyr, isn’t she?
“What I like? You think I enjoy this?” His volume grew dramatically, and her eyebrows darted upward in surprise. But her reply betrayed nothing but icy contempt:
”I really wouldn’t know.”
Antony felt his jaw clench, his hands ball into fists…he wanted to scream himself hoarse, to deafen her with the full impact of his frustration. His breaths grew erratic with fury, and he prepared to launch into an impromptu tirade: “You—“
But there he halted. A sudden and chilling sadness seeped into his being at the sight of her, flattened against the headboard, facial muscles tensely awaiting his anger. This steely creature, using her disdain for him as a shield…he’d never encountered a loathing such as this. And from my own wife.
Several moments passed before he finally found the inclination to speak, his voice coming in soft, defeated tones: “You really hate me, don’t you?
He flinched at the sudden shift of intensity within her stare…her eyes drove into him like spears…cold, sharp, painful. Iron. Her words, hushed and low in pitch:
“Yes. I really hate you.”
After her response, Octavia turned her face away, and Antony silently observed the hard resolve draining from her expression, replaced by an unsettling distance…a deadness.
Anger or emptiness. That’s all she has to offer. All I can do is choose which I’d rather live with.
The decision was not difficult.
Antony forced his lips into a sardonic smirk before relaxing his posture and crossing his arms across his bare chest. “Well, that’s a better reason than what I’d supposed.”
“Reason for what?”
His smile broadened; her voice contained a slight inkling of interest. This was going somewhere.
“For why you lie there like a corpse night after night.”
Her cheeks began to flush crimson, her blue eyes to flash indignantly.
She said nothing, and so he continued:
“Naturally, I knew that your opinion of me was less than positive…but when has that ever stopped anyone from enjoying a good fuck?”
She winced at the language, nostrils flaring…good sign…
“So I gave it some thought…and it occurred to me that you just might not know how to please a man.”
He struggled to keep his voice as blasé as possible, all the while harboring a fiendish delight at the sight of her, trembling in her silent rage. Time to go in for the kill.
“Of course, of course you’ve been married before…you’re no virgin, after all…but I thought that you may have simply forgotten, having spent so much time licking Servilia’s cunt.”
He paused. Any second now…
“How did you hear about that?” She was fairly apoplectic, her pale face glowing vermilion, her eyes narrowed, her lips taut. He felt a slight stirring in his loins at the sight of her heaving chest, the sounds of her ragged, infuriated breaths…
He leaned into her, speaking barely above a whisper: “Never underestimate the abilities of Roman gossips, my dove.” She positively convulsed at the mocking term of endearment, and he closed the small distance between them, lips grazing her ear as he continued:
“Yes, I know all about you, whoring yourself for that wrinkled old bag…letting her stroke and suck your firm young skin…putting your head between her bony legs…what honor you do bring to the house of the Julii.”
And her palm was suddenly on his cheek, reddening it with a stunning blow. He lifted his own hand to his face, running a finger over the assaulted skin. She stiffened with anticipation, surely waiting for him to reciprocate with an injury of his own…he grabbed hold of her shoulders, brown eyes meeting blue, the energy of her rage warming the air…
He lowered his head to her shoulder, lips poised above the small patch of skin directly above her collarbone. Drawing his face closer, he pressed his mouth to her neck and buried his incisors into her pearly skin. She gasped sharply…he drove his teeth farther into her flesh, lips spreading into a smile at her whimpers of pain. Detaching, he lifted his head level with hers and grinned wickedly, all the while running his tongue over the droplets of her blood that stained his lower lip.
A moment of stunned silence, and then she was on him, thrashing, kicking, pummeling. Her nails dug into his back, causing rivulets of blood to drip copiously onto the bedsheets. He let himself feed off of her furious energy; he grabbed at her skin, squeezing her hips, her breasts, her backside with a force that would surely leave bruises. She cried out indignantly, and then she was biting down his neck…marking his shoulders, his chest, his inner thighs…
He felt a sudden and enthralling rush of blood to his nether regions, and he wound his hands in her tousled golden hair, pulling her upward and reveling in her cries. Roughly grasping her hipbone, he threw her up against the headboard and thrust into her as hard as he could manage…he wanted to break her, to shatter her into pieces…
And she was atop him now, grinding her pelvis violently against him, her moans taking clear verbal form: “I hate you I hate you I hate you…”
A red miasma danced before his eyes…his body crying out in pain, pleading for release…he emptied himself within her, trembling and panting and melting…
She lay beside him now, flushed and dampened with perspiration and blood, trying in vain to catch her breath…the torchlight painted her skin golden…beautiful…
And for a moment he forgot himself, forgot his contempt, forgot her hatred…he leaned into her, brushing his lips against hers with excruciating gentleness.
He lifted his face from hers and stared at his reflection in her blue eyes, scarcely daring to move. She remained still, doll-like, silent.
Then she lifted a hand, drew it back, and delivered a harsh backhanded slap to the already-tender skin of his cheek. He fell backwards against his own pillow, too dazed and tired to retort. He heard her turn away from him, retreating to her side of the bed…he glanced down at his arm, trailing a finger along the vicious red marks, which continued to leak blood onto the coverlets.
The laundry slaves would be curious.