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Hades stared across the table at Lexi. She looked radiant as she enjoyed the splendid meal the nymphs had set before them. Conversation was lively, with mirthful voices floating back and forth, but his thoughts were singular in their focus - the beautiful young goddess who held his heart. All of it.

"Don't you agree, Hades? Hades?" Hecate's sharp tone forced him to abandon the image of Lexi holding hands with their laughing toddler, and he smiled at Hecate, offering his usual response. "Of course, Hecate. When do I not agree with you?"

Kade laughed, spitting wine onto his plate as he forced what was left down his throat.

Hecate shook her head, looking only mildly annoyed. "You have no idea what I said, do you, Hades?"

"Not a clue." Hades took a bite of yellow squash, chewing before he added, "But I expect you will fill me in."

"I was telling Ink the weather in the underworld does not vary more than thirty degrees." Hecate waved off Hades' indifference, choosing not to take him to task on it. She had been basking in the same glow as the rest of the palace. Everyone was excited about Lexi's pregnancy.

"Where did you live before Poseidon plucked you out of the mortal world and dragged you off to Olympus?" Melinoe asked Ink. The dark goddess had been sulking over her personal carafe of wine during most of the meal, which Hades attributed to her discomfort at being surrounded by extreme cheerfulness.

"I spent the last three years in Sacramento enjoying the fine service at the California State Prison. I have to say, the nymphs are much more accommodating than the correctional officers." Ink held out his goblet and Blythe appeared instantly to fill it. Her infatuation with him had become blatantly obvious the tenth time she offered him food and drink.

"Prison, huh? What were you charged with?" Melinoe pressed on like the brilliant interrogator she was.

"Assault and battery."

"And were you employing your godly gifts when you found yourself at the wrong end of the mortal law?" she asked.

Ink took a long swig from his goblet, forcing everyone to wait for him to divulge. Hades knew the tactic well. "The official records state otherwise, but yeah, I was. I started moving objects when I was sixteen, which is not the best talent for a fatherless kid with anger management issues. The cops scratched their heads a long time after their squad car mysteriously ended up in a ditch."

Kade didn't even try to stifle his laughter, in spite of Hecate's disapproving gaze as she usurped the conversation.

"Well, I believe you will find more creative outlets for your talents now that you know about your parentage," Hecate said. "From what I hear, you have inherited a gift from Hades. Your ability to communicate with the deceased."

Ink brought his goblet back to his mouth and downed the contents, looking less than enthused about the subject change, but there was no alternative than to indulge her. "Yes, but I'm still trying to embrace that gift. Everyone thought I was nuts when I was a kid. Even I did."

"You did a fine job with that young soul today," Hades offered. "You demonstrated a skill that took me many years to cultivate."

"That skill came mostly from self-preservation. I either had to accept it or join the psychos in the loony bin."

"And now you're here with us," Kade said, patting Ink on the back. "Welcome to the loony bin."

The minotaurs chose that moment to announce the onset of nightfall, howling their mournful cry and halting all conversation. Clearly intrigued by the sound, Ink stared though the dining room window, which granted a view of the minotaur forest beyond the gorge.

"What kind of creature is that?" he asked.

Hades deferred to Lexi, who appeared to have her speech prepared. He could already see the twinkle in her eyes. "Those are minotaurs. They call to their herd at the approach of nightfall to bring everyone back to camp. How much do you know about the minotaurs, Ink?"

"I only know what I've seen on television, although Kade told me they used to be hunted here and now they're not. Too bad I missed that boat. I'm pretty decent with a bow and arrow."

With the swiftness of sand through an hourglass, Lexi's face bloomed into a shade of rage she usually reserved for her obstinate father. She set her goblet down and leaned over the table toward Ink, capturing his attention with her now fiery gaze.

"The minotaurs are an intelligent race with the ability to love and protect their own. They are also skilled with tools and weapons, and they can just as easily pick you off with a bow and arrow and mount your head. But they wouldn't, because it is not in their nature to hunt for sport, unlike the gods. I will ask you to remember that as long as you are here."

Ink raised his hands in a show of submission. "Hey, I'm cool with that."

Lexi sat back in her chair, giving the storm a chance to subside while everyone found interest in the remains of their dinner. Even Melinoe said nothing, although she eyeballed ink over her wine goblet, probably waiting for a duel. To his credit, Ink did the intelligent thing and kept his mouth shut. Being one of three brothers, Hades knew the difficulty of admitting defeat, even a small one. As for Lexi, her wins were just gaining in number. She was going to make one helluva queen.

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