“What do you want to know?” Samuel asked.
Martina lowered her eyes. “I was wondering about the whole thing about having kids, and… you.”
Several semi-trucks decided he was driving too slow and started passing him, forcing him to focus on the road. “Yes?”
“Can you? What I mean to ask is, have you ever had kids?”
He looked back at her. “No, I can’t have children. I’m barren.” He never talked about it, but his friends having kids had reopened an ancient wound he carried around hidden deep in his heart. Of all the creator’s progeny, he had always felt less because of his inability to propagate his own species.
“Oh… I’m barren myself. Giulio wanted a big family, and when it became clear I couldn’t give him kids, he changed and turned against me.” She rested her head on the backrest of her seat.
“You know it isn’t your fault.” He reached for her chin and caressed it.
“I know, but when I was young, I dreamed of one day having children. I even named them.” She smiled, but it was a sad smile and it hurt him.
He lowered his hand and laid it on her leg. “I was never a kid.”
“What do you mean?” She covered his hand with hers and squeezed it.
“I sprang to life exactly the way you see me.” Sometimes, he walked to the park across his apartment in Rome and watched mothers and kids play.
“Wow. That’s…” She stared at him, eyes wide, and puzzled expression on her face. “I don’t even know what to say.” She shook her head, then opened her arms, hands up. “Somehow, I keep forgetting you’re not human and that there’s a whole world I don’t know anything about. And I have so many questions‑”
One eye on the road, he turned slightly toward her. “Go ahead.”
She brought a finger to her lips and made an mmm sound. “Your friends—?”
“They aren’t human.”
“I assume from what you told me that they aren’t angels, right?”
“Marcus and Alexander are immortals. Ancient gods turned them two thousand years ago.”
She raised one hand. “Wait a moment. Were they alive in Roman times?”
“Yes. They were both centurions in the imperial army.” He passed a few trucks on the slow lane.
Samuel noticed how Martina turned toward the window. “Ophelia is a werewolf.”
She wrung her hands in her lap and kept her body angled away from him. “Oh—”
He waited for her to add anything to that, but she let the silence prolong until it became awkward. “What is it?”
“She is very beautiful, isn’t she?”
Samuel merged into the slow lane. “Yes, she is. She’s also good, and caring.”
Martina’s shoulders hunched, and her body shrank farther away from him.
He heard her intake of breath and reached for her leg. “But most of all, Ophelia is a loyal friend.”
She moved ever so slightly toward him. “Nothing more?”
“Please, look at me.” He applied some pressure to his hold. “I’d rather talk to you than to the back of your head.” He drove to the emergency lane and stopped the car.
She dropped her head. “I’m sorry. I’m so embarrassed. I know better than to ask those kinds of questions, but I couldn’t stop myself.”
“Come here.” He took her by her waist and pulled her away from her seat and onto his lap, then lowered his forehead to hers. “I haven’t felt any attraction to anyone in over a thousand years, but I saw you and I did everything in my power to get to know you.”
She leaned away, a small smile on her mouth. “Did you really?”
He nodded. “Sparring together was my idea, not Alexander’s. And I asked him to call me when you were at the gym.”
“Every time I came to exercise, I hoped you were there.” She closed the gap she had created and kissed the point of his nose. “Samuel…” When she looked at him, her eyes were wide and her chest raised and fell against his. “I’ve never felt anything like this before.”
The tense moment was gone, replaced by an undercurrent that left both of them breathless. “My Martina…” He took possession of her lips as his hands caressed her back and pressed her closer to him at the same time. He kissed her with abandon, letting his senses govern his actions, uncaring of the cars whizzing by mere centimeters from them. His hands found their way under her top. He was unhooking her bra when a truck’s horn made them jump.
Samuel laughed and hugged her to him. “You drive me crazy.”