"I am a man, not a god, Xochi. I told you that before."
"And I am not Xochiquetzal; I told you that before. When will you listen to me?" She pulled against his hold, but it only tightened. She frowned at his fingers wrapped around her wrist, his grip skirting the edge of pain. "Let me go."
He pulled her closer, forcing her to step towards him. "Xochiquetzal is the only name you have ever given me. What would you have me call you?"
"Given my druthers, I'd have you let me go and be on my way. I may be your wife, but I'm not yours to command as you wish, nor anyone's."
"A trade, then?"
She laughed, but it was laced with pain. The primal instincts of the animal within her had taken hold of her; Tezcatlipoca held her captive, and her only recourse was flight or flight. After the night she'd spent in his arms, she didn't have the strength or will to fight him. Gods knew he'd be sure to win. But her limbs ached for the freedom of flight; her heart fluttered within her chest, fueled by adrenaline that made her muscles twitch with the need for use. "My freedom, for my name? Why do you care?" And Huitzilpoctli, why wouldn't he let her go?
"Why do I care?" His eyes narrowed; his voice turned husky, dangerous. "Why do I care about the woman I married? Why do I care about the woman I shared passion with, who showed me overwhelming passion unlike any I've ever known?" His grip tightened, drawing her forward now with an urgency that refused to be denied. "Why do I care about the terror I see now in your eyes when you look at me? Why do I care about you? Gods--how can I not care?" He shook his head, a single quick, hard shake that spoke eloquence about the frustration that made his voice waver as he spoke. "And how can you not understand? Do you not care to know my name, to know me for me, instead of the god all of Mexica expects me to be?"
"I. . ." She drew a deep breath. She tread foreign ground here, aspects of herself that she'd never thought to pay attention to before. "I have never thought of you as anything other than my god. I have always worshipped you"--he grimaced, and she hurried to correct herself--"worshipped Tezcatlipoca above all others. Ever since I experienced my first shift. He is the Leopard Lord; it only made sense. And I have never thought of you as anything other than him. I have never been given the chance. I was chosen as an ixiptla candidate because of my overwhelming devotion to Tezcatlipoca, and I have had lessons of how I should behave and how my lord should be treated pounded into my head for the past eleven months. When everyone and everything I am taught revolves around holding you up as Tezcatlipoca himself, how am I supposed to think any different?"
"I might ask you the same question." His eyes were dark, unreadable. His hands were bands of iron around her upper arms, holding her locked against his chest. "Do you think my priests have been regaling me with stories of your mortality, your humanity? Don't you think that I have suffered the same propaganda that you have? I have gone through lessons for this past year just as you have, on how to treat my new wives, on how delicate and fragile my new goddess-wives will be. . ." He made a disgusted sound and shook his head. "We're beyond that, aren't we?" He paused for a long moment, a painful expression transforming his face. "You are the only wives I shall ever know, you and your sisters. Would you now force me into a mockery of marriage, as I have been forced into a mockery of godhood?"
She wanted escape. Every shred of common sense she possessed told her to run, to escape from his hold and just run. But another part of her, deeper, cousin to the feral jaguar that always waited crouched within her, wanted to stay, to teach him her name, to learn his is return. That part of her held her frozen within his grasp, trembling, yearning to give in.
Too long, she'd done what she'd had to, at the expense of all the things she'd wanted to do. Too long, she'd been slave to her common sense, to the predator's demands for survival. She was tired of sacrificing; she was tired of being led around on the leash of obligation.
"Eleuia," she whispered, her voice shaking as she spoke the one word she wanted to speak, and the one word she shouldn't.
"Eleuia." He whispered her name, his lips curving into a soft smile. His voice turned it into a caress. "You have a beautiful name, Eleuia."
She let him draw her forward, until her forehead rested against his. "I want to hear yours." She spoke softly, the barest of whispers. "I want to know your name. Please."
She had to chuckle. "Every name I have to call you by is a mouthful. Do you not have a shorter name, that I may use?"
His smile spread. "I would be honored if you would call me Neza."
"The honor is mine." No sooner had the words passed her lips than he pulled her tight against him, and covered her mouth with his own. There was passion, just as there had always been, but this time there was tenderness, as well. There was intimacy, and caring. A new level had been added to their relationship, and Eleuia shivered at the implications.