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Dion closed the French doors on the howling wind, plunging the study into a sober silence. His face had paled to a chalky white, and he fisted the drapery as he stared through the glass. "Lexi is going to hate me for the rest of her life. I can't live with that guilt."

Z strode across the room and threw his arm heavily over Dion's shoulder. "Lexi will come around. She didn't give me a chance to finish. Once she finds out she's free to attend college, find a nice boy to marry, and start on her chosen career, she'll see the light."

Hades felt his blood pressure rise as he watched Z placate the Maxwells. The gods were a selfish lot, but they were bound by a code of ethics with strict rules against manipulation of free will. Ultimately, it was Lexi's choice whether or not to submit to the whimsies of the gods. While Hades had not planned to intervene, he felt compelled to share his views, and he rose out of his chair to invite himself into the conversation.

"If I may ask..." he said as he stood beside Mr. Maxwell. "When is Lexi expected to take over the post here at the estate? Has this been decided for her, or will you allow her to make the choice?"

Charles glanced at his wife, and neither could hide their guilty conscience. "Lilith was hoping Lexi would choose to live here for a while after she finishes high school. Five years or so. That way Lilith can enjoy her career. They're making great strides in the field of biomedical engineering, and she is eager to participate."

"So, what Z said is not exactly true. You will be asking Lexi to wait five years before she attends college, meets a nice boy, and enjoys her career. If she chooses the field of medicine, that will put her at thirty, minimum, before she can start on the path to her dreams. Am I right?"

Z's face pinched, and he opened his mouth to speak, but Charles raised his hand to stop him. "Please, Z. Hades has a point."

Z's hard edges didn't budge as he waited for Charles to make his case. Despite Hades's opinion that Charles was a self-centered human with a lot of atoning ahead of him, he had to admire the man's balls.

"Lexi should be free to choose her own path, like Dion did. As you said, she needs time to come around. Let's give her the evening to cool off and see where she stands tomorrow."

Mnemosyne rose from her seat and walked over to Z, nudging him gently. "I think we all could use some  quiet time. It has been a long day, and even the gods need rest."

A murmur of agreement spread through the room, and bodies started vacating chairs. Lilith glanced at the door Lexi had stormed out of, looking anxious. "I don't want Lexi out there alone," she said. "I won't be able to sleep until I know she's safe inside the house."

"I will keep an eye on her, Lilith," Hades offered. "Like Z said, Lexi will surely take her grievances out on me, and I have no qualms bearing the brunt of the abuse if it will lessen her anger towards her family."

"That's horseshit!" Z puffed up his chest and tried to stick it in Hades's face. "Your only purpose for attending this celebration was to snatch Lexi's virtue. Persephone has been away from your bed for half the year, and you are looking to satisfy your urges. Well, I won't have it! Not here, and definitely not with Lexi!"

Hot air blew from Z's nostrils, and Hades was forced to concede. His initial motivation for visiting the Maxwell estate was not an innocent one. But what started as a mission to deflower a beautiful young maiden, turned into emotional pandemonium for him. Of course, he would sooner spend a fortnight in Cerberus's dog house than admit that to Z, so the words he spoke next were chosen carefully.

"On my honor as a god and Olympian, I will not attempt to seduce Lexi tonight. That is, if she chooses to speak to me at all."

Z narrowed his gaze further until just a sliver of gray could be seen. Lilith reached out and touched Z's arm softly. "I am willing to give Hades my trust, Zeus. He has done nothing to make me doubt his integrity."

"Lilith," Z growled. "This is your daughter we're talking about."

"And Hades is your brother." Lilith left Z with her sharp reply before turning her attention to Hades, offering him the same friendly smile she gave to everyone. "I am putting my trust in you."

Despite Lilith's approval, Z had not taken his eyes off Hades, and his lips were bleached from pursing them. With stealth and perfect timing, Mnemosyne whispered into Z's ear and distracted him. Hades did not have to guess what she said. The pleasure of sex was the only thing the two had in common, which made Z's accusation a model of hypocrisy. Who was he to judge Hades for wanting to satisfy his urges?

A gale-force wind assaulted Hades as he left the study through the French doors. He didn't doubt his stubborn brother had something to do with the rapidly deteriorating weather, but Hades had grown used to Z's tantrums, as well as Poseidon's. Hades's temper could never match his brothers, and they had dubbed him the black sheep, which kind of suited him anyway.

Hades walked across the patio, making for the path. He had a hunch where he might find Lexi, and when he heard an angry voice coming from the sea, he felt the urge to run. He followed the shouts to the beach where he found Lexi with her pants rolled up to the knees, wading into the water. She appeared to be cursing the waves.

Using the sea grass as cover, Hades moved in closer, trying to make out words over the breaking surf. There was definitely a damn in there, but had he heard the name Poseidon? Was she cursing his brother? If so, he needed to stop her before she truly regretted her choice not to consider the fucking consequences.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: You may have noticed we are referring to Hades by his proper name now. This was done to transition everyone from seeing him as Luke Carrington to his true identity as the god of the underworld. 

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