I awoke in mild discomfort, the grass beneath me in no way having provided the softness of blankets I was used to in the night.
"Ouch," I muttered as I sat up.
Beside me, Romulus snored lightly. I stifled a giggle.
"Can't believe you're mine," I whispered as I reached out to stroke his cheek.
He smiled in his sleep and wriggled like a cat rolling around on its back.
I chuckled. I lay back down beside him and just watched him as he slept, motionless now save for the rise and fall of his chest. Gradually, I felt desire creep up on me. I wanted to undo the buttons of his shirt, trace the line of his sternum and then lean ... down ... slowly ... to kiss the hollow of his neck.
I rolled over so my back was towards him, breathing heavily. Whoa! I'd never experienced such rapidly overwhelming urges before.
"Of course not, Tilly," Romulus said and I rolled over to see him, eyes open, regarding me with an amused expression on his face. "You're mine, and therefore you're more desirous."
"So do you feel it this often and this strongly?"
"Wow. Tough life being you."
Romulus snorted. "Nothing stops me from attaining what I want."
I laughed. "I guess not."
"So, shall we give in together?" he whispered seductively.
My stomach rumbled and I shook my head
"I'm sorry. I would. But I'm kind of hungry."
"You could devour me," he suggested.
I sat up and shook my head again.
"I want food. So I have enough energy for next time."
He grinned. "Fine. You've swayed me."
Silently we redressed. Afterwards, Romulus stood up and held out a hand. I took it and pulled myself to my own feet.
"Where are we again?" I asked, looking around at the unfamiliar landscape.
Romulus shrugged. "A random hill. I don't think we're too far from the house. Let's go."
And he walked ahead, leading the way back to the house where we had breakfasted that morning after I'd first slept with him.
He threw open the door, calling, "Morning, people!"
A tall man who looked like Peter, but wore glasses, appeared in the entryway of the kitchen and said, "Romulus?"
"Oh, hey, Dad."
Romulus's dad looked disapproving.
"Another girl, Romulus?"
Romulus looked innocent. "We started going out a month after Jade."
Romulus's dad shook his head.
"What are we going to do with you?"
Romulus shrugged. "I dunno."
Romulus's dad turned to me, sighing exasperatedly.
"I guess I should ask your name."
"Tilly," I answered. "It's nice to meet you, sir."
Romulus's dad blinked. Then his expression turned very stern and he said, "Romulus, a minute, please."
Romulus sighed. "Fine."
He turned to me and smiled ruefully.
"Wait in the living room. Don't eat the fruit off the tree."
My smile was equally apologetic.
"See you in a minute."
Romulus headed to the kitchen. I heard the door close as I sat down in the living room. I gazed at the tree and wondered if the fruit was poisonous. While I waited my stomach grumbled loudly. To be honest, as we'd walked here I'd begun to feel a little dizzy and now that I still wasn't eating anything, I felt a bit sick. I found myself gazing longingly at the pretty Asterian tree. My stomach growled, trying to make me ignore Romulus's warning. I ignored it.
And in a moment Romulus had returned anyway. He caught me looking at the tree, though, and he chuckled.
"Well, you could eat one if you liked but it makes one awfully desirous."
I turned to him and stared.
He sat beside me, smiling.
"It what?" I asked, sure I had misheard.
"It makes you feel desire," Romulus replied. "Hence why the leaves are shaped like the symbols of the night. It's the Desire Fruit Tree."
I stared at him a moment. Then I shook my head.
"You're having me on."
"After breakfast, I'm going to eat one," I said, "and I will prove that you're teasing."
"You'll prove nothing of the sort. Why would I tell you not to eat it if I were joking? I can feel how hungry you are, Tilly."
I looked at Romulus in disbelief.
"What's it doing in your living room?"
He grinned. "Peter and Dad are too innocent to know. They just think it's an ornament. But Mum told me that I should feed this to my girlfriends if they ever seemed frightened."
"No way!" I said, laughing.
"She's a great woman. Anyway, let's get some food in that belly of yours, Tilly. I'm desperate to see you eat a Desire Fruit."
"Sounds like you won't need one," I remarked as we stood up and I followed him to the kitchen.
"Do you think I've ever needed one?" Romulus asked, pulling out a bag from the fridge. He took out a couple of slices of the triangular shaped bread I'd seen before and placed them under a grill.
"No," I answered, laughing. I sat down at the table. "So, what did your dad say?"
Romulus looked amused. "That you were too decent a girl for me. That I should stop using my mental powers. That it just wasn't fair. Also, that you were more Peter's girl."
I had been grinning up until the last sentence. Then, my brow furrowed and I felt a sudden sharp pang in my chest.
"Is he right, d'you think?" I murmured.
Romulus walked up to me, raised my chin with one finger and looked down into my eyes. His gaze was calm and serious.
"No," he answered, and he pulled me up into a standing position and kissed me.
I stood still as dizziness swept over me, and tried to ignore my nausea as pleasure flowed through me. The kiss was very warm for Romulus. The delight produced was different: softer, calmer, safer than that with which I was familiar (the overwhelming, chilling, thrilling sensation). This glowing brightness filled my core, spreading through me slowly, soothingly.
Romulus withdrew as I didn't return the kiss, brow creased.
"I really am hungry," I said, blushing. "I'm sorry. That was lovely. And I mean lovely. What happened to my dark-hearted boyfriend?"
"No idea," he said, letting go of my waist (yes, my waist, not my hips) and walking over to the grill. He turned it off, pulled a plate out of a cupboard and put the toast onto it. He returned to the table and began munching on one, his expression thoughtful.
"Well, I liked it. Though I do prefer being seduced by you." I grabbed the other piece of toast and began chewing heartily.
He grinned. "Well, after this we can take a bite of the Desire Fruit at the same time."
"Your first ever time!" I exclaimed.
He nodded. "Yup."
"And mine too." I smiled. "New experiences together, Romulus."
Romulus laughed. "Whatever you say."