The sky had not yet lightened when something woke Lexi up. It wasn't nausea. She felt good considering her pregnant condition. Her gut was telling her something else. She lay quietly in the reverent peacefulness of the palace, listening for a long minute. Apart from the rhythmic breathing of her lover and her faithful, three-headed friend, she heard nothing suspicious, but that minute was all her mind needed to start rehashing the events of the evening.
After Ink threw his tantrum in the foyer, Hades went after him, using his amazing counseling skills to talk the angry god back across the bridge. Dinner was uncomfortable and mostly silent, with Lexi and Ink offering apologies before everyone retired to their respective rooms. With any luck, the incident would be forgotten by breakfast.
Lexi counted the rafters between the swaths of damask that made up the canopy of her bed. She had gone through the same ritual many nights before when trying to find sleep, but it didn't help to distract her from the strange feeling in her gut. Stealthily, she slid out of bed and walked to the window, slipping behind the thick, forest green drapes. Her eyes adjusted quickly to the dark, and they immediately fell onto the hunting shed where the door stood open. She knew Kade and Ink had used bows and arrows for their hydra hunt, and she assumed Kade would have made sure the shed was locked.
Despite his advanced age, Kade didn't appear to have adopted the habits of an adult yet. Lexi had intended to confront him about his poor judgment call with Ink and the pomegranates, but she figured he had gotten the gist during her tirade. There was a fine line between making a point and earning a less than complimentary title, although it was clear Ink had formed an opinion about her.
Grabbing her robe, Lexi wrapped herself and headed for the door. If she didn't go down and lock the shed, she would never be able to get back to sleep. As she reached for the handle, a thump alerted her, and she turned to find Cerberus stretching his muscular body across the marble tiles. Apparently, she was getting an escort. When he had finished showing off his impressive girth, Cerberus joined her at the door and led her out.
With a massive, three-headed dog plotting her course and wall sconces burning with the eternal flame, Lexi's journey down the stairs was easy, and by the time she reached the kitchen, she had convinced herself she was overreacting about the 'something'. Cerberus sniffed at the kitchen door leading to the rear of the palace, and Lexi opened it quietly, not wanting to disturb the nymphs who slept in a room just above it. She grabbed a lantern off a hook before stepping outside, and Cerberus continued his escort, leading her across the mossy cobblestones toward the stable. As she passed the stable door, she peeked in on the horses. The space was quiet and everything appeared perfectly normal.
Next to the stable stood the shed, and Lexi stopped outside the door, letting Cerberus tromp in to investigate. When one of his heads turned to blink at her, she assumed there was nothing inside waiting to disembowel her, although she knew none of the inhabitants of the underworld were capable of such cruelty, apart from the monsters of Tartarus. But, they hadn't escaped their prison for eons.
It was not hard to miss the empty space on the wall where a bow and quiver usually hung. Either Kade or Ink failed to put away their weapons, or someone had returned to the shed during the night and removed them. Lexi was betting on the latter, and a chill forced goosebumps over her arms as she wrapped herself tighter inside her robe. She needed to shut the door and get back inside before...
"Lexi? What are you doing out here?"
Kade appeared next to the shed wearing only his pajama bottoms. Lexi couldn't help noticing they were black and silk and hung dangerously low on his hips, enough to expose a smattering of black hair disappearing beneath the waistband.
"I could ask you the same thing," Lexi said as she directed her gaze at his face. "I saw the open shed door from my window and came down to investigate. One of the bows is missing, as well as a quiver. Did you or Ink forget to put your stuff away?"
"No, we put everything back, and I locked the shed door." He inspected the lock on the door, clicking his tongue as he stuck his finger through a hole in the wood. "It looks like Ink has had some practice with breaking and entering."
"Do you think Ink did this?"
"Well, he's missing from his room. I'm willing to bet he has helped himself to a few supplies and left the premises."
Lexi lowered her head as guilt swept through her. "Damn. This is my fault. I should not have blown up about the pomegranates. I should have confronted him after my hands stopped tingling. Now he's armed and angry and wandering the underworld. Who knows what he's capable of."
"Don't blame yourself, Lexi. Ink has a lot of issues. It's hard to say what triggered him. I know he was pissed about the punishment Zeus imposed after he battled a goddess during a public event. If anyone is to blame, it's me. I thought he might appreciate the minotaurs better if he saw one. Looking back, I realize it was a stupid idea. I'm sorry."
Although Lexi wanted to agree with Kade about his stupid idea, she held her tongue. "Thanks, but apologies aren't going to help us find Ink. Do you have any suggestions for how to handle the situation? Maybe we should wake up Hades."
"Too late." Hades arrived as stealthily as Kade had, and with his robe flapping loosely at his waist, he was nearly as indecent. "What do I need to be woken up for?"
"It seems Ink has broken the lock, taken off with our weaponry, and disappeared into the dark," Kade said as he made a subtle move away from Lexi. "Lexi and I were discussing what our first course of action should be."
Lexi felt the tension ramp up, and Hades was the source. His eyes shone fiercely in the lantern light, and he slipped his arm possessively around her waist while she reached for the sash on his robe to tighten it. "I know what my course of action will be," he said. "To get my fiancé back to bed so she can get proper rest. We will fix the lock in the morning and revisit this topic over breakfast."
Without further discussion, the shed door was closed and everyone returned to the palace. The heat coming off Hades' body had the effect of a radiator, and Lexi knew he wasn't annoyed about Ink stealing his bow. His behavior at the shed left little doubt he was annoyed with Kade and his receding hairline. Would Hades always feel such jealousy when it came to her? Surely, he didn't overreact when Persephone sampled from the buffet table. They were both sampling back then.
When they climbed into bed, Hades' body still burned like a hot kettle, and Lexi flinched when he spooned her back with his naked body. His breaths were ragged but slowing. "I wish you would wake me before you decide to leave the palace in the middle of the night."
"I didn't mean to worry you, and I took Cerberus with me. It's not like I'm going to be devoured by a monster."
"It's not the monsters I'm worried about."
"Oh, Hades. Do you really think Kade is going to try any funny business here? And, more importantly, do you think I would let him get away with it?"
He sighed as he took her earlobe between his teeth, tugging gently. "I know I am acting like a jealous bastard, but I cannot bear the thought of another god having you. The pain of such action would be worse than having my flesh cut by a thousand swords."
Lexi shuddered at the image he had painted, and she turned to kiss him. "My sweet prince, your weakness for me is endearing, but it is your strength of love that keeps me true to you and only you." She slipped her hand between their bodies, taking him into her hand. "Now, if you want me to get proper rest, you might want to put down your weapon."
"If that is your wish, my lady."
Hades made to pull away, but she stopped him with another kiss. "You're impossible. Do you know that? Now stop trying to set the sheets on fire and have your way with me, already."
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Lexi's Promise [Bk 3]Romance
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 count yourself lucky, right? LEXI'S PROMISE is the final chapter...