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Luke knew Lexi had not seen him observing from the hallway, but he had seen the kiss that proved James intended to take their friendship past conversations in Greek. French was a definite possibility.

Lexi deserved someone like James. He was an overachiever with a genuine interest in the lives of others. With James, Lexi would have a shot at normalcy. Something she wouldn't have if Luke continued his pursuit of her affections. He should feel happy for her. He should use this new development to his advantage and sever the tie. So, why were the veins in his head throbbing. And why was he imagining James's bed catching fire while he slept?

Luke left his hiding place and entered the study, steering clear of Z and taking a seat at the back in a well-worn leather chair. He pressed his fingers to his temples, massaging the ache, and his gaze lifted only when Lexi walked in. She made a determined scan of the room, and when her eyes landed on him, her face brightened. This was enough to bring Luke's blood pressure back to normal, and he straightened in his seat, preparing for the storm that was sure to follow.

Z shut the door behind Lexi and started right in as he guided her with a firm hand. "Let me be the first to tell you how proud I am of you, Lexi. You have grown into a beautiful, intelligent, and self-assured female."

Heads bobbed around the room as Lexi was ushered toward a large mahogany desk. Looking curious but wary, she leaned against it while Z barreled on.

"We have watched you blossom like a well-tended rose, and each of us feels you are ready to receive our endowment. A passing of the torch, if you will. Your brother received the endowment when he reached the age of eighteen, and now we can bestow the same privilege to you."

Z stood over Lexi like the Tower of Babel as she blinked up into his face. "What kind of endowment?" she asked as she turned to offer the same inquiring look to her parents.

The Maxwells stuck to each other like glue, both stricken dumb, and Lexi's forehead creased as she glanced around the room at her mute audience. When her gaze found Luke, he offered a smile he hoped would reassure her. She managed a half-smile back, but it was forced. Would it be the last look she gave him that didn't have loathing behind it?

"Your parents have been providing us refuge here, Lexi," Z said. "Everyone present, and a few who were unable to attend this grand event, we share a kinship with each other. And without your parents' gracious hospitality, we could not enjoy the fruits of your world the way we do. Of course, it used to be our world, a long, long time ago, and we could not bear to part with it. Not after it became too troublesome for the gods to live among the mortals."

Luke watched Lexi's face pale as she squeezed the edge of the desk, bleaching her knuckles white. His pulse revved-up despite his efforts to remain composed, and he leaned forward in his chair, preparing for another rescue, if need be.

"What gods would that be, Uncle Z?" Lexi asked.

Z turned his attention to Lexi's parents, who offered him submissive nods. Was he getting their permission to break the news to Lexi? Surely, he wasn't planning anything outlandish within the confines of the estate.

"The gods from your books of mythology," he told her. "You see, we are anything but myths." Z attempted to soften his stony features as he delivered the blow, but he didn't quite manage it, and Lexi bit down on her lip. "I know this news comes as a shock, and I do not expect you to believe everything that comes from your audacious Uncle Z's mouth, which is why I have prepared a demonstration."

Z gestured to Lady Twila, who stood at the French doors leading into the courtyard. She swung them open, and the wind brought them rushing back towards the frame. Z quickly raised his arm, matching the force of nature with his own powerful influence, and the doors flew open again, straining under his command.

The wind swirled around the room, lifting papers off the desk and whipping the curtains like unlashed sails. To add to the mayhem, Z released a lightning bolt that jettisoned through the open doorway. A snap of thunder pursued it into the courtyard, and Nora squealed with delight.

With a flamboyant sweep of his arm, Z commanded the doors closed again, and the curtains fluttered back into place. The air tasted of electricity, and Luke ran his fingers through his hair to tame the static. Lexi had abandoned the desk and was standing with her parents. After a few moments of deafening quiet, Lady Twila sashayed toward the Maxwells with well-practiced grace, bestowing them with a guiltless smile.

"Signorina, Lexi. Please, forgive me for misleading you all these years. I wish to formally introduce myself to you now. My name is Aphrodite, and I very much hope we can remain friends."

Lexi's mouth dropped open, but she remained silent. A clear sign of shock, and her mother tugged her closer. "Lexi, sweetheart. Would you like to sit down?"

Lexi nodded and was promptly led to a couch where Nora greeted her with an outstretched hand. Lexi hesitated, and her expression turned wary. Another sign of her deteriorating condition.

"It's alright, Lexi," Nora said sweetly. "We all love you like our own flesh and blood. You have nothing to fear from us."

Lexi folded into the seat, never taking her eyes off Nora as she twisted her hands inside her lap. "Your name isn't really Nora, is it?"

"No, but it does have a nice cadence, don't you think? My name is Mnemosyne. I gave birth to the muses. Compliments of your Uncle Z."

Z walked over and knelt in front of Lexi, and Luke noticed her struggling to keep her chin from quivering as she locked gazes with him. "So, Z doesn't stand for Zenith, does it?"

"No, Lexi. I am Zeus. But you can still call me Uncle Z. In fact, I prefer it."

Lexi's eyes welled with tears as Z filled in the blanks, reintroducing her to the friends she had known by other names. She learned that Sir Henry was the ancient messenger, Hermes, Octavius was Apollo, Diana was Artemis, and Athena played the role of Emily. When Z told her Burt was Dionysus, a smile finally broke through her wounded expression.

"I should have guessed that one myself," she said.

And just as he knew she would, Lexi turned her teary eyes on Luke, and he did his best to hold her gaze without wavering. He knew the question that waited on her tongue, and he was sure Z had left him out of the introductions to make the impact all the more devastating for her. Luke's reputation was not well-represented by mortals. But Lexi had a sensible head, even when engaging with preppy clods, and he held out hope she would not despise him.

"I'm almost afraid to ask," Lexi said, sweeping a strand of hair behind her ear with a trembling hand. "Who are you really, Luke Carrington?"











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