The nymphs had been doting on Lexi all day, making sure she took in nourishment while keeping her cup filled with herbal tea. All the while, the scrying mirror rang off the hook. First, Rhea called to offer her congratulations, followed by Mnemosyne, who recited from an epic poem to pay homage to the unborn child. Then Hera chatted with Lexi, imparting her seasoned wisdom on facilitating a healthy pregnancy and curing nausea with starchy foods. Finally, Persephone called to share her excitement and tell Lexi about a cedar chest in the nursery with baby clothes, although she wasn't sure from which era they came.
When Lexi finally put a nymph on message patrol, she and Blythe were able to inspect the nursery, which took up residence next door to Lexi and Hades' bedroom. Lexi was grateful for the close proximity, and learned that the room had been used as Hades' study until Persephone decommissioned it so she could keep the children close. According to Blythe, Hades was much happier when he moved his study to the other side of the hall.
Lexi and Blythe walked the perimeter of the room, uncovering furniture that had lamented under cloth for years. Lexi knew Hades' and Persephone's youngest son, Mikhail, would be celebrating his four hundred and seventy-fifth birthday that year, but Kylie was the youngest of Hades' kids, at a mere two hundred and eighty. It had been a while since Hades entertained a child of his own. The more Lexi thought about it, the more excited she felt about giving Hades this gift.
"Do you want to keep the same furniture for the nursery, Lady Lexi? Or would you like to commission something new?" Blythe asked as she helped Lexi uncover a baby bed fit for a royal. It appeared to be made of cherry and had been carved with a lathe by a loving hand. Was it mortal or god made?
"As long as the dresser drawers open and close and the crib functions safely, I don't see a reason to upgrade," Lexi said. "I love antiques."
"Crib, my lady? What crib?"
Lexi glanced around the room and realized every bit of furniture had been uncovered, with no crib in sight. "Oh. When was the last time a toddler lived in the palace?"
Blythe pondered the question as she blew dust from a wall sconce. "Kylie was Hades' last babe, although she spent most of her time with her mother during infancy. And Persephone preferred to use badger baskets when she had a new one with her. There has not been a need for a crib here... ever."
A shiver chose that moment to hit Lexi in the spine, and she knew why. "Then I suppose we'll need to commission a crib. I can look for one when I visit my family."
"Very good." Blythe stared at Lexi a moment too long, prompting Lexi to question her.
"What is it, Blythe? Have I insulted you?"
"No, my lady. It's just that... Hecate seems to think your child will be born around winter solstice. That is when you and Lord Hades are to be wed."
"Oh, you're right." Lexi took advantage of the baby bed, dropping onto the mattress to let the weight of Blythe's revelation sink in. "I don't want to look like a blimp when I walk down the aisle."
"A blimp? I am afraid I'm unfamiliar with blimps."
Lexi smiled, forgetting for a moment that nymphs were not mortals. "A blimp is a very large balloon that floats over cities."
"Oh, you could never look like a blimp, Lady Lexi." Blythe climbed onto the bed and began plaiting Lexi's hair into a braid. "You are going to be the most beautiful expectant mother. I am certain of it. Maybe we can reschedule the wedding to a date next year. We haven't sent out invitations yet."
"But, I have already put off Hades for two-and-a-half years while I've played peacemaker. I don't want to disappoint him."
"Oh, my lady, you could never disappoint his grace, especially now that you are carrying his child. He has waited eternity for this."
"But Hades is a father to six. He's done this before."
"Yes, but none of his offspring have remained in the underworld. Persephone's children followed her to Olympus, and Melinoe's children... Well, their duties took them where they needed to be. With you as his queen, the chances this child will choose to stay here are far greater."
Lexi knew Blythe was right. Even Hades had mentioned it. Of course, the child would ultimately be the one to choose where he or she wanted to live, and with the thriving city of Olympus as competition, even the beauty and calm of the underworld would have a hard time making the show.
The doorway darkened and three figures appeared in it, each one as handsome as the next. Hades entered first, his singled-minded gaze on Lexi as he strode determinedly toward her. Behind him, Kade and Ink strolled in.
"I hope our interruption has not disturbed you, my lady," Hades said. "It appears you have found the nursery. I doubt it will suit the needs of a twenty-first century god."
Hades knelt in front of Lexi and lifted her hand to kiss it. The gesture was decadent and romantic. Behind her, Blythe giggled as she fastened Lexi's braid with a ribbon she had pulled from her own dress. This left Blythe somewhat exposed, but she didn't seem to mind as she batted her eyelashes at the gods standing between the door frame. Lexi didn't have to wait long before Hades remembered his duties, and he stood to help Lexi to her feet. Blythe made quick work of fastening Lexi's braid with a flourish and hopping off the bed.
"Ink, I would like to introduce you to my fiancé, Lady Lexi," Hades said as he walked Lexi across the room. "I wasn't sure if you two had formally met."
"No, we hadn't," Lexi said. "Although the intent was there."
Ink didn't appear to remember Lexi's face from the Square of Heroes as he offered his greeting. "Good to meet you, Lexi. I hear you're a rookie here too."
"Almost three years, but I've enjoyed every minute of it." Lexi turned to look at Hades, offering him an unabashed grin.
Blythe slipped up next to Hades and bowed to the general assembly, prompting Hades to drag his gaze away from Lexi to remember his niceties again.
"Blythe, this is Ink. Son of Poseidon," Hades said as he waved in Ink's general direction. "Ink, feel free to address Blythe by her name while you're here. She and the staff of nymphs are at your beck and call. I want your stay to be comfortable."
"It will be my pleasure to make your nephew comfortable, your grace." While Blythe's words were directed at Hades, her eyes were dissecting Ink. It was almost inappropriate. "May I offer you a refreshment, young lord?"
Kade appeared to find Blythe's behavior amusing, and chuckled while Ink placed his order.
"Do you have beer in the underworld? I could really go for a stout."
"Certainly. Lord Hades has a grand collection of beers in the cellar. I will personally choose one and deliver it to you straight away."
As Blythe skipped through the door, Kade called after her. "Hey, Blythe. If it's not too much trouble, I'll take my usual."
Blythe stopped in her tracks, nearly tripping in her haste to curtsy again. "Of course, your lordship. I should have asked. I apologize for my oversight. Is anyone else in need of refreshment?" Blythe offered a guilty smile to Hades and Lexi as she maintained her submissive pose.
"I'm fine, Blythe," Lexi said.
"Take care of our guests first, Blythe," Hades added. "I expect you'll be needed in the kitchen soon. Fiona has informed me we will host Hecate and Melinoe this evening."
"That we will, sire. Very good, sire."
The second Blythe disappeared around the corner, Kade slapped Ink on the back. "I told you you wouldn't have trouble finding entertainment here. Blythe is hot for you."
Lexi exhaled a surrendering sigh. "Kade, I thought we had a discussion about fraternizing with the nymphs."
Kade appeared genuinely taken aback. "Oh, shit. You were being serious?"
YOU ARE READING
Let's say you found true love. And say you had eternity to spend with that lover. So what if he was the god of the dead and you had to manage his dysfunctional family. You would still count yourself lucky, right? Join Lexi and Hades in the third and...