Darien bent to kiss her, capturing her lower lip with an audible groan as he pulled her to him with an insistent hand to her lower back.
He could feel the collective gazes of their audience settle and linger over them like a heavy cloak one might wrap around a child to spare it the terror of the coming death-stroke. It was the gusting scents—jealousy, betrayal, hatred—that lent potency to that dark image, signaling imminent threat he could not preempt. He must allow it to play out, no matter his desire to protect Syteria.
Unaware, his beloved returned his kiss, one hand splayed across his cheek, as if she was afraid he was going to make it brief.
A younger, more impetuous version of him would’ve made an even greater display of his affection, so that no one watching would have any doubts about her status, about what she meant to him, about whose she was.
Bomani’s words about painting a target on Syteria’s back echoed as he reconsidered his newfound prudence. When he let go of Syteria’s lip she tilted her head in question.
He smiled and offered her his arm.