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Hades laid awake in his room replaying the events of the day, but mostly he thought about Lexi. She had faced every challenge wholeheartedly, and, when necessary, wrestled it to the ground. With wit and skill, she bantered with anyone fortunate enough to engage her, all while maintaining her graceful stature. She even imposed limits on her fiery temper.

He chuckled to himself, remembering her unintended confession in the living room, which led to her disappearance, which led to their kiss. Even as he brought these moments back as images, his adrenaline surged. He wanted to love her. To protect her. And his chest tightened each time he recalled the scene in the study. How she had cursed her family when they revealed their secret. Then, how she had clung to him when he carried her home. 

The next memory to surface was Lexi climbing into bed. As he tucked her in, he remembered her softly spoken questions as exhaustion pulled her under. Are you using your powers to seduce me? Is this your true form? Will I ever see you again? But the words that resonated most were the ones she spoke just before he closed the door. I don't want to hate you.

Hades couldn't begin to count the times mortals had vowed their hatred for him, and he had long ago built up defenses against their slings and arrows. In his life's work, there was no room for regret or remorse. Yet he knew if Lexi denounced him, the pain would stay with him until he found a way to resolve it.

Was it his need to possess every female he set his sights on that had him so tense, or had Lexi truly affected him in a way few had done before? Persephone was the first goddess to command his heart, and since the day she agreed to be his mate and follow him to the underworld, he had considered only two as worthy consorts, both of whom ultimately rebuffed him. But they were goddesses who knew what they were getting into.

A soft thud echoed from the hallway, distracting Hades from his thoughts. Had someone walked into a wall in their attempt to find the bathroom? He listened keenly in case his help was needed, and his heart stuttered when he heard the sigh of a female outside his door.

Knowing full well who had made the sound, Hades climbed out of bed and pulled on his pants. It would be improper to greet someone in the nude, although the thought had him chuckling. He loved to pull that trick on women.

Hades stowed his smirk as he tugged open the door and stuck his head out. He just caught a glimpse of a figure disappearing around the corner, and the scent of lemon verbena hung in the air. So, he followed the fragrance into the living room where he found Lexi standing in front of the glass door. When she noticed him, she offered a weary smile. Then her mouth fell open slightly as she took in his bare-chested condition.

"I didn't think I would see you again until breakfast," he said. "This is a pleasant surprise." He strolled up beside her and realized the glass did a splendid job of reflecting their faces. They looked quite nice together.

"After you left my room, my mind just wouldn't shut down," she offered. "That's not unusual for me, but this was different." Lexi teased the edge of her lip with her teeth as she turned to look at him. "I was worried if I fell asleep, I wouldn't see you again, and I didn't want you to think I hated you. I came downstairs to tell you that, but I couldn't bring myself to knock on your door."

"Well, I heard your frustrated sigh, and I'm glad I followed my instincts to investigate. I was having trouble sleeping myself, and for the very same reason. What brought you to that conclusion?"

Lexi swayed slightly as she blinked her exhaustion away, and he slipped his hand into hers for support. Without even trying, her touch had his heart racing. "You've given me no reason to hate you. In fact, I feel the opposite of hate when I'm around you. And I know why you couldn't tell me the truth about your identity. So, I don't hold that against you."

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