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As the tree collapsed across the road, Hades grabbed the steering wheel of Lexi's car and yanked it to the right, helping her avoid it.

"I got this!" Lexi batted his arm away as she accelerated around the fallen branch while evading the oncoming trees. The ping of rocks on the undercarriage echoed inside the car as she maneuvered over loose gravel, cursing through clenched teeth. "Arrogant prick!"

"It seems Mnemosyne couldn't keep Z occupied as long as I'd hoped," Hades offered as he took hold of a handle above the window and held on tight.

Lexi spun onto the main road and punched the gas. Within a few minutes, they were slowing behind a line of cars. "Damn. I forgot it was a holiday. Traffic is going to be hell." Lexi craned her neck to see past the taillights, her jaw set like granite. "We should have ridden Jackie O. It would have been faster. Where are we headed, anyway? The gorge, I assume?"

Taking her eyes off the roadblock, Lexi blinked at him like an innocent young doe, dazzled by the lights. Was it fair to lead her so far astray? To promise her happily ever after?

"Yes. The gorge."

"Okay." Another blink, and Lexi's eyes were back on the road. "If I could just get around these laggers."

As the traffic started moving, Lexi flashed her lights and punched the gas, jerking the wheel to speed around several cars before yanking it back to avoid an oncoming bus. Several horns blasted, and she rolled down the window to offer an apologetic wave. Hades tightened his grip on the handle as she continued her high-stakes game. Was it wise to put her in charge of their escape?

"I should inform you that gods may be immortal, but we are not impervious to pain," he explained. "And everyone else is mortal."

"Noted." Lexi bobbed her head as she maneuvered down the right side of the road, and like a woman possessed, she deftly navigated traffic, her lights flashing and her arm waving. Despite his white knuckles, Hades couldn't help being impressed, and he pictured her atop her horse, a leather harness in her hand, unswerving in her mission.

Hades glanced into his mirror and found the sky clear, although he knew Z wouldn't chase them in his chariot. Too many witnesses, but they were not out of the woods yet.

"You're worried about Zeus catching us and kicking our asses, aren't you?" Lexi said.

"I'm more worried about the consequences he will inflict on you, whether or not this plan succeeds."

"Will he follow us to the underworld?"

"He avoids it like the plague, but his temper fuels him. So, we shall see. Of course, I my duties cannot be avoided, and I expect my next meeting with him will involve some pain on my part, but it will be worth it." Hades tried to reassure Lexi with a smile, but she bit her lip and let the car slow.

"What will he do to you? Will he torture you? Will he take Persephone away from you? I can't let that happen. I'm not worth it, Hades."

"Yes, you are worth it. Keep driving, Lexi." He pointed at the road where the gap in the cars had grown. "You will come to realize that Z is the only one who considers himself powerful. Persephone and Demeter have more sway over him than any of us. They maintain the balance of nature, and he has crossed them only once."

After creeping forward a few yards, Lexi nodded, and they sped up again, but she didn't appear to care about the hard left they needed to take up ahead. She blew past the sign for Monkey Paw Gorge, slipped through a narrow piece of road, and sailed by the entrance.

"Lexi, I believe that was our turn."

"I know another way in. Maybe it will throw Zeus off our trail."

A short way down the road, where the trees grew thick along both sides and traffic had thinned, Lexi whipped onto a rough path. This one appeared to be fit only for horses, and she cursed as branches scraped across the fine finish of her car. A sign came into view that read Park Personnel Only and the trail curved, coming to a stop at a wooden hut.

"I know every park ranger here," she said as she climbed out and glanced around. "This station is only used for storage, so no one will be here, but they'll know who the car belongs to when they discover it."

Hades watched Lexi, buoyant and breathless, and a swell of emotion rose in his chest. He stepped up beside her, and she offered him a warm smile, but it didn't hide her fear. It was there in her blue eyes, glowing like neon.

"Lexi, I know you're afraid, and it makes me love you even more. For the first time in your life, you're making choices based on emotions rather than logic. Embracing your vulnerability. I'll admit, my job has made me overly sentimental, but I think you'll find that emotions are a better guide to maintaining long-term happiness."

The smile never left her as she inhaled deeply. "I believe you."

Hades leaned in and kissed her, savoring the taste of her mouth and relishing a moment that could vanish in a flash. He knew Lexi's fears ran deeper than backlash from her irrational father or uncertainty over her future. He knew she had worries about Hades's commitment as a lover. While he intended to satisfy every one of Lexi's whims, life was changeable, no matter how hard mortals and gods fought against it. Whatever choices they made, they were both at the mercy of their destiny.

PLAYLIST SONG: Be Still by Kaskade feat. Sunsun

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