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As he and Lexi stared at each other across the room, Hades thought his chest might burst from the amount of joy overtaking him. Lexi's eyes glistened with tears, making them look like turquoise pools reflecting the sun. Were they tears of happiness, or was she experiencing confusion and fear? Did she think he would be angry? Was she worried motherhood would make her less desirable? He had been through enough pregnancies with Persephone to know what kind of emotions plagued a woman as they faced the daunting task of child rearing.

"I'm going to slip into the kitchen and see what the nymphs are whipping up for breakfast," Hecate said as she abandoned her supplies on the table and swiftly strode out of the room, pausing long enough to offer Hades a pat on the back.

In three easy strides, Hades bridged the gap between himself and Lexi, stopping in front of her without taking his eyes off her face.

"Please, don't be angry," she said as she blinked a tear onto her cheek. "I didn't mean for this to happen so soon. I've been so busy."

"Shh." Hades pressed his finger to her lips as he brought his mouth to her cheek, kissing the tear away. "Oh, Lexi. I am not angry. You have no idea how happy you have made me."

He licked the salty residue from his lips before sharing it with Lexi, kissing her passionately as his hands pursued the curves of her body. She did the same, slipping her arms around his waist while her tongue dove into his mouth. The urgency in her exchange communicated her relief. Giggles erupted from the foyer, and he and Lexi turned to find Sella and Blythe dancing across the marble floor, hands clasped and toes pointed like ballerinas. They seemed to be competing for who had the widest grin.

"Apparently, Hecate has taken it upon herself to divulge your secret," Hades said as he and Lexi smiled at the nymphs' celebratory display.

"That's okay. I don't often see the side of Hecate that ignores protocol and indulges in gossip. I think she's happy for us."

"Not as happy as I am." Hades took Lexi's hands and lifted them to his mouth. "You are going to make the most beautiful mother."

Breakfast was delivered by a pair of beaming nymphs, while the rest of the staff filed into the dining room to offer their congratulations. Even Hecate exhibited a seldom seen spell of enthusiasm, offering advice to Lexi and forcing her to drink a brew of herbs while explaining the benefits of red clover tea and daily exercise. Lexi, for her part, appeared cheered by the excitement surrounding her pregnancy news, catching Hades in her shy smile more than once as she methodically devoured everything the nymphs put on her plate.

After breakfast and a longer than usual goodbye to Hecate, Hades was called to his study to speak to his son, Kade, on the scrying mirror. He dragged Lexi along with him, not wanting her further than arms' length, at least not while they were basking in the glow of her news. As Lexi inspected the texts on his bookshelf, Hades stood in front of the mirror, trying to control the perpetual grin that had taken over his mouth.

"Greetings, Kade. I hope you and the family are well," he said as she slid his fingers through his neglected hair.

"They're all healthy as horses and putting me through my paces." Kade smiled but something in his demeanor told Hades he had not called to exchange social niceties. "I have called to enlist your advice, Hades, if I may cut to the chase."

"Oh? What troubles you?"

"I assume you're aware that Poseidon's son, Ink, has arrived in Olympus."

Hades nodded, having heard about the young rogue and his unruly antics. "You're talking about the juvenile delinquent Poseidon abandoned to the mortals, the one who can't keep himself out of trouble? Is he wreaking havoc in Olympus now?"

"You could say that." Kade appeared frustrated as he slid his fingers through his hair, and Hades grinned at the gesture. "Poseidon has asked me to take Ink under my wing, so to speak, to teach him protocol and demonstrate the proper methods for conducting himself in Olympus. I'm not exactly sure why Poseidon thought I would be the best god for the job, although he said it was because I had overcome similar obstacles. Care to offer your fatherly wisdom on this one?"

Hades glanced at Lexi, who was watching him over the top of a book. Did she have the pleasure of meeting Ink while Poseidon escorted her around Olympus? "Well, you did have a somewhat tumultuous childhood, Kade. But you know what they say, 'like father, like son'."

"So, you're offering clichés instead of advice? I could have gone to Zeus for that."

"You didn't let me finish. I was going to suggest you bring Ink here. From what I understand, he has a gift for attracting troubled souls to him. Maybe I can help him find a productive outlet for his gift."

Kade look satisfied as he smiled into the mirror. "I was hoping you'd say that. I didn't want to invite a juvenile delinquent to your home without asking you first. How do you think Lexi will feel about it?"

"It's fine with me, Kade," Lexi called from the bookshelf where she scoured the titles.

"Oh, she's there with you? I hope I didn't interrupt anything... important." Kade did a poor job of hiding his smirk, and Hades knew precisely what Kade was insinuating, but nothing could ruin Hades' superb mood.

"Actually, Lexi and I were discussing an important matter, something we plan to share with everyone at some point." Hades glanced at Lexi and shrugged his silent question. Would she read his cue?

"Sure, go ahead and tell him."

"Tell me what?" Kade asked, his eyes widening with curiosity.

"Lexi is pregnant." Hades couldn't control his broad grin as the rush of emotions overtook him again.

"Wow. That's great. Congratulations to both of you. Do I have to keep it a secret?"

Again, Hades deferred to Lexi, and she walked over to the mirror, addressing Kade with a warm smile. "Yes, for now. I made Hecate promise the same thing until I have a chance to tell Zeus. He'll want to be the one to make the formal announcement, and I don't want him to hear it through the grapevine."

"Aw, c'mon. Let him hear it through the grapevine. Those pampered Olympians need to have their feathers ruffled."

Lexi raised an accusatory eyebrow. "I'm not sure Poseidon's idea to pair you with Ink was one of his best. You two better behave yourselves while you're here, and no fraternizing with the nymphs. The last time you visited, Lacy was useless for two days after you left."

Kade laughed. "That was all her doing. She wouldn't stop pestering me until I gave in."

"Well, why don't you take the opportunity to demonstrate your powers of restraint to Ink. That is, if you have any."

Lexi's comment had both Hades and Kade laughing heartily. Lexi just shook her head and walked back to the bookshelf. Once she was out of earshot, Hades thought he heard her whisper 'stubborn men'. Although Lexi displayed infinite compassion and unyielding love for him, Hades knew she was including him in her accusation, and he had no intention of questioning her assessment. She was spot-on.


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