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* Steam Warning *

The wine hit Lexi like a powerful ocean wave. The kind that catches you when you're not looking, and she set her empty glass on the balcony wall as she stared at the breathtaking scenery. Hades had suggested the balcony after she admitted to feeling overwhelmed, although standing on a tower that floated magically over a vast gorge wasn't exactly calming, but the one hundred eighty-degree view made her giddy with wonder. Of course, that might have been the wine.

The trees glowed with fall color, which she confirmed was not her imagination. The underworld's seasons mimicked the ones at home. That, alone, gave her some peace, and she also couldn't believe there were minotaurs, centaurs, and all manner of mythical creatures living there, although Hades was quick to point out not all of them were civilized.

"The Asphodel Meadows are perfect for a picnic," Hades said as he stood behind her, his arms wrapped around her waist and his chin resting on her shoulder. He'd been there since they arrived on the balcony, and Lexi felt his engine revving at her back.

"I'm good with that, as long as there's no chance of being trampled by wild beasts. How far is Tartarus from here?"

"Tartarus and its residents live at the farthest reaches of the underworld. Don't worry about Tartarus, Lexi. The entrance is well protected. Imagine two dogs like Cerberus only five times larger."

"Hellhounds?" she whispered.

"In mortal terms, yes. We just call them hounds. How are you feeling, now? Has the wine helped?"

As Hades spoke, he peppered every inch of Lexi's neck with light kisses, as if he didn't want to miss a morsel. Lexi felt the same hunger, but she was stalling. Was it the fact she didn't want to make love to him in the same bed he shared with his former lover? The gods probably did it all the time. Would it be rude to ask for another room? Hades and his nymphs had already been more than accommodating.

"I need you like the horizon needs the sun." Hades whispered into Lexi's ear, making her heart skip around like a giddy wino, and she turned in his arms, offering a shy smile. This seemed to be all the validation he needed, and he scooped her into his arms and carried her to the bedroom. When they reached the foot of the bed, he set her on her feet, his eyes smoldering like an ever-burning flame.

"My desire for you is consuming me," he said. "But, I sense your apprehension. If you need more time, I understand. I have waited a lifetime to find a goddess who stirs me like you do, I can wait a little longer to claim you. A flower blooms fresh but once, and it is only the most fortunate who are there to witness the splendor."

Lexi felt sure she would swoon, and she leaned into his hand as he brought it to her cheek. Despite his position as an Olympian and Lord of the underworld, Hades had no qualms wearing his emotions on his sleeve. She loved this about him. His human side.

"I have never been more ready to be claimed by you," she said.

Hades' lips lifted and twitched subtly, making Lexi's thighs clench. "Your surrender is my salvation. May I divest you of your clothing, Lady Lexi? I wish to gaze upon your lovely flesh unhindered."

A blush heated her cheeks as Hades continued his poetic assault, proving that romance was not only the way to a girl's heart, but also the way into her panties. Was this really her future? She friggin' hoped so.

Lexi nodded and Hades stepped closer, his musky scent filling her head like smoke at a Flaming Lips concert. Deftly, his fingers worked to untie the cords of her blouse, and he folded the collar back, exposing her cleavage. The expression he wore as he trailed his fingers over her skin, teasing his bottom lip with his teeth, devouring her with his fiery gaze, triggered an ache inside her. The ache of expectation.

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