A retelling of the classic Grimm's tale "Snake Leaves."
It's Eve's wedding day to Raul, but something has gone seriously awry. Following a veiled warning from her brother-in-law Roman, the prodigal son who has returned for the wedding, and a drugged wedding night she can barely recall, Eve's life is set on edge. Which brother is lying? Which is protecting her, and which is dangerous to her? Or...are they both?
CONTENT ADVISORY: This is a re-release title.
Eve took a bite of the cake Raul held to her lips, savoring the flavor. The rum warmed her throat...then her body, as the alcohol raced into her bloodstream via her tongue.
His whispered words skated over her lips. "When one finds a worthy wife, her value is beyond pearls. Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize."
She smiled. "Beautiful." Her voice was slightly slurred. "What is it?"
"Proverbs chapter thirty-one, verses ten and eleven. Don't you recognize it?"
Her head spun lightly. "Yes...yes, I do. I'm... I feel strange, Raul."
His lips pressed to hers, a sweet, slow kiss. His free hand tangled in her hair. Hoots and cheers rose around them.
"You like?" he whispered.
Her entire body was tingling in need. "Hmmm... Are you trying to take advantage of me?"
Raul pressed Eve tight to his erection. "I will be taking advantage, Eve. Don't doubt it. I have waited far too long for you."
"Bialan. Bialan," the crowd chanted.
A slow rhythm she didn't recognize started up, and Raul led her through the smooth, gliding motions. His hands on her hips guided her...this way and that, small, mincing steps that assured she wouldn't trip over her own feet in her unbalanced state.
Eve clung to him, abruptly tipsy though she'd had only two glasses of champagne and the slice of Tortuga cake. Raul lifted her from the floor entirely, spinning her with him, the lights and colors a blur not unlike a carousel at full speed. Just when she would have begged him to stop, he went back to the swaying.
The rocking both soothed and excited her, making her acutely aware of the rigid length of him. She'd waited so long for Raul, and tonight the waiting would end.
"May I?" a deep, masculine voice intoned.
Eve raised her head from Raul's shoulder and tried to focus on the new arrival, but her eyes were playing tricks on her. The man's image was fuzzy and distorted, as if she viewed him through warped glass.
"Roman," Raul greeted him fondly. "You may, but remember that she is mine."
"How could I forget that, brother? After all, your ring is on her finger."
There was something mocking in his tone, but Raul laughed heartily and guided Eve into his brother's hands. Roman's arms encircled her, and his scent enveloped her.
He was nothing like Raul. Roman took after his father: tall and broad, dark hair that verged on black, a woodsy smell about him. Raul was his mother's son: of average height and lean muscle, hair that barely earned the descriptor of brown, and possessing of a clean, crisp scent. Now that her eyes had focused, however tenuously, Eve could see that Roman was darker in complexion. His eyes were nearly black, not the midnight blue of Raul's. The brothers were nearly as different as two men could be.
So intent was she on her examination of Roman that Eve barely realized they were swaying to the music. She shifted from foot to foot, never moving their little spot on the floor.
"You married him," Roman whispered, his jaw tensing.
Eve smiled, though it felt crooked. "Until death do us part," she agreed.
There was a hard edge to his laughter, something that sent a shudder down her spine, muddled as she was.
"That's not what you promised before God, chicita."
Eve replayed the ceremony in her head with no small amount of difficulty. It was the usual ceremony, in most respects: love, honor, obey, do not set asunder what God hath joined together...
For all eternity. Forever by my side.
She'd thought it quaint when she'd repeated it. The change had been a lovely sentiment of Raul's love for her and hers for him.
"You're saying?" she prompted him. Her logic was slow forming. Was he saying she was never allowed to marry again, if Raul died? That was crazy. Though some Christians still rejected divorce...and the Castillos were among them, none she knew of stopped a widow or widower from remarrying.
Roman's smile suddenly seemed brittle. "I suppose you'll learn it soon enough." Then he was gone, striding through the parting crowd.
Eve wrapped her arms around herself, chilled, shaking, her balance uncertain.
Raul's arms were a warm comfort. "What did he say to you?" There was an edge of near-violence in his tone.
She shook her head, at a loss to put her unease into words. When all was said and done--and it seemed it was--Roman hadn't said anything of consequence.