~8~

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The council meeting after party commenced, and Lexi helped herself to the smorgasbord laid out by the palace staff. It filled the space of one entire table, and while she loaded her plate with sliced fruit and cheese, Poseidon waved down a nymph, ordering two glasses of white wine. Lexi ignored the condescending voice in her head tsking about the wine. Nomatter her condition, a glass of wine now and then was perfectly admissible,especially when taken as a stress reliever.

She reached for a basket of fluffy biscuits, and the basket was pushed toward her by a large hand. Lexi looked up to find Cronus dropping into the chair next to her. Despite Cronus' less than stellar reputation, Lexi had become attached to him, and not just because he would be her father-in-law in six months' time.

"It's a pleasure to see you again, Lexi," he said, smiling through a rough beard. Big beards were favored among titan males, something Lexi figured was as a sign of seniority, although they all could still pass for thirty-something.

"The same to you, Cronus. You're looking well." Lexi acknowledged him with a smile before taking a biscuit from the basket and scouring the table in search of honey.

"That is a great compliment you offer me. I'm older than dirt, you know." He chuckled as he took a biscuit for himself and stretched behind him for a pot of honey, handing it over to Lexi. "I see Poseidon is still vying for your affection. My sons are tenacious when it comes to females."

Lexi really didn't want to talk about Poseidon, or how tenacious Hades used to be, but she indulged Cronus as she spooned honey onto her plate. "That they are, your lordship. I hope you're content to have only one son winning my affection. Hades and I are perfectly matched."

His smile softened. "I can see that, and I commend both of you for your strength of commitment. It is a rare trait among gods. Eternity is a long time to eat from the same honey pot, one might say."

Before Lexi could react to Cronus' speech, Rhea appeared, squeezing between a pair of chatting gods to sit on the other side of Lexi. "Good day, Lady Lexi," she said as she held out a roll of paper tied with a shiny gold ribbon. "I said I would have the guest list to you by today, and here it is, as promised."

Grateful for the distraction and also because she loved Rhea dearly, Lexi smiled with warm relief. "Thank you for all the time you've devoted to our wedding, Rhea. I surely couldn't do it on my own."

Based on the weight of the scroll, the guest list was extensive. Of course, a venue hadn't even been chosen, and Lexi was to blame. She didn't want to hurt Hades' feeling by suggesting they marry at a location other than the underworld. It was more for the comfort level of the guests than for her. She would marry Hades in the pits of Tartarus, although she'd never been there to make a comparison.

"It is my pleasure to do this," Rhea said. "You have made Hades so happy, which is all I have ever wanted for him." She gave the table a brief survey before reaching for a puff pastry. Like Hera, Rhea had a robust figure, which complimented her brunette hair and green eyes, making her look like a living Peter Paul Rubens painting.

As Lexi watched the titaness enjoy her food, she realized neither Rhea nor Cronus had reacted to Phoebe's prophecy. The meeting started and finished in less than ten minutes, giving nobody time to offer input, and the weighty subject appeared to dissipate like weak cologne in a barroom. Was that Zeus' intention? Lexi decided she wouldn't be betraying the council if she fished for a bit of insight.

"What do you think about Gaia's message?" she asked, looking from one titan to the other.

Rhea and Cronus exchanged glances, which Lexi had fully expected, but their expressions gave nothing away. It was Cronus who spoke first. "I have faced death and even wished for it, but those days have long past, and I have since lived the life of a pampered god. For me, a change of pace would be a novelty."

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