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The sky hung black outside the window when Hades realized he was alone, save for Cerberus perched alert and wary at the foot of the bed. His companion apparently also noticed Lexi had abandoned their shared chamber, leaving only the faint aroma of lemon verbena. Perhaps she had gotten up to use the bathroom. Hades lay his head on her pillow, breathing in her heavenly scent and remembering the way they had fallen asleep, tangled in each other's arms. He felt such love for her, he often wondered how his heart could hold the weight.

When Hades' thoughts abated, something drew him out of bed to investigate Lexi's continued absence. Cerberus clamored to the floor, following Hades across the room to the door leading to their private bath. Hades pressed his ear to it, which did no good. The palace doors had been built to withstand the apocalypse, or at least the monsters of Tartarus. He gently tugged at the latch and the door opened. The room was dark, but he didn't need the light to hear the sound of Lexi retching. Had she eaten too much at dinner? Was she suffering from overindulgence? He didn't think so.

While Lexi's body was hidden behind a heavy, wooden screen, the sound was unmistakable, and Cerberus attempted to stick one of his heads through the open door out of concern for his mistress. Hades shook his head at Cerberus as he closed the door, nudging the great beast back to bed where they both resumed their positions. Hades stared up at the canopy as he did a few calculations in his head. The last time Lexi had her menses was near the spring equinox. That was three months ago. Did she think he hadn't noticed? Had she convinced herself she was simply experiencing an irregularity in her cycle? Had she failed to mention this because she was worried about his reaction?

Lexi reappeared and padded across the marble floor, slipping under the sheets and snuggling against him as her peppermint-scented breath wafted between them. Hades pretended to be roused from sleep, wrapping his arm around her waist and speaking softly into her ear.

"I love you."

"I love you, too," she said as she placed a small kiss on his cheek.

Their exchange ended there, and Hades assumed she had fallen asleep within a few minutes, but the sky was just turning when Lexi slid out of bed again. Only, this time, she walked onto the balcony, pulling the heavy drapes closed to keep the light from disturbing him. With no chance of returning to sleep, Hades left their bed and followed her out. Lexi stood at the stone barricade, looking out over the gorge when he joined her.

"You're up early, my love," she said, although she spoke to the sky rather than to his face.

"So are you."

Lexi hugged her bare chest as if to ward off a chill, in spite of the fact that it was nearly July and the air hung as warm and sultry as monsoon season in India. Hades wanted so badly to hold her, but he knew when a woman didn't want to be touched. Instead, he stood beside her, watching the horizon lighten to lavender while sneaking glances at her nude body.

"Should I go?" he asked, finally. "You appear to be lost in thought."

She turned to offer him a reassuring smile. "You're welcome to stay, but I'm not interested in sharing my thoughts at the moment. I know that's what you'd like."

"How is it you know me so well?"

"Because you don't hide anything from me. It's one of the things I love about you, among many others."

She surveyed his body, also unhindered by clothing, and she reached out to trail her fingers down his chest, stopping just above the smattering of hair she loved to fondle. He returned the gesture, tracing circles over her belly and letting his mind wander to their future. They were to be married in December, and he would finally have a wife, someone who promised to return his unyielding devotion. And he would be marrying the most sought after goddess among the gods, the goddess who pledged her allegiance to only one. Him.

Lexi caught his hand and brought it to her lips, kissing his thumb before sucking it into her mouth and lavishing it with her tongue. "Do you want to fool around before Hecate arrives?" she said, her voice a lusty whisper. "It has been a while since you have taken me on the balcony."

Hades recalled the last time he and Lexi enjoyed each other on the balcony. It involved several bolsters from the bed and a good amount of stretching afterward to remove the knots in his calves. He nodded his agreement without hesitation. "Shall I get the bolsters?"

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