The problems only started after they put those herbs on the bonfire.
But then the drums started. Reminded of the Rite earlier, Elia’s heart raced and she started to shake. Reth took her hand and leaned into her ear, “No more killing, I promise.”
She nodded, but her heart didn’t slow.
Then the woman who had questioned Reth after he chose Elia as mate walked forward with a large basket that she placed on the massive fire. The first curls of smoke smelled strongly, but it wasn’t offensive. It reminded her of Basil, or Thyme. But then the smoke began to bloom, curling over itself and expanding, fingers of dark grey twisting together and waving through the air like snakes until the smoke. Elia’s first inhale after it had wafted over them turned into a cough—as did many people around her. But as the cloud became a haze that enveloped the entire clearing, Elia found herself… well… buzzing.
It was an odd feeling, but not unpleasant. As if everything was slightly unreal. The night, the flames, Reth—they all had a slightly dreamlike quality. And for the first time since she’d opened her eyes in the clearing for the Rite, she felt herself relaxing. She turned to look at Reth. He had a small smile as he stared down at her.
“I told you,” he whispered in a rumble. “This is the fun part.”
Elia found she didn’t really feel like talking, so she just nodded and took another, deeper breath. The smoke pinched her throat a little, but the rest of her tingled deliciously. She looked down at her own arm and touched it, marveling at how even her own touch made her skin fizz, and the little hairs stood up under her hand. Then Reth took one finger and pushed a strand of hair back from her face, to behind her ear, and she shivered.
“Oh, yes,” he said, his voice so deep it seemed to come up from the ground itself. “This is definitely the fun part.”
The drums… the drums weren’t beating a funeral march anymore. They were keeping the beat of a song she could only just hear, as if the melody floated in the smoke and when you tried to grab it, it just slid through your fingers—only to curl around your skin and stick to you anyway.
A small laugh bubbled out of her throat and she clapped her hand over her mouth. When she looked at Reth, he was grinning. He opened a hand to her and said, “May I have this dance?”
Unable to resist, she placed her hand in his and let him walk her forward, closer to the heat of the flames, where he pulled her into his chest until they were pinned together and he loomed over her as they swayed together.
She was about to say they couldn’t dance because everyone would watch, when she realized that everyone else was up on their feet and swaying to that distant music too.
She had no idea how long they swayed, and turned and leaned—more than once Reth bent her backwards over his arm until she was stretched almost back onto her own head. But instead of worrying that her tiny top would slide up, or legs might give way, she just relaxed into his grip and let her skin tingle under his touch.
Her breath came faster, but not because the dance was difficult. Rather, because his closeness, his scent, made her blood fizz the way her skin did when he touched her.
Everything within her suddenly wanted more. But more of what?