~28~

43.2K 2.1K 189

The after party turned out to be more productive than Lexi imagined. She and Odessa hunkered down at an abandoned table and talked for two full hours about the new council. They came up with some major points for an agenda, and Odessa shared a list of gods who had voiced their interest. Poseidon seemed unwilling to leave Odessa's side, which Lexi didn't think was due to his interest in the topic. In fact, Lexi had a hard time focusing on the topic when she was constantly distracted by the adoring looks Poseidon relished on Odessa, and she couldn't help speculating whether it was the prelude to love, or the byproduct of lust.

As dusk approached, the guests were called outside, and a procession of well-dressed gods traveled the length of a winding trail leading to a grove of trees. Many of them were gnarled from age, the trees not the gods, while others had barely made it past the sapling stage, and each tree had been outfitted with a gold lantern. Once the party goers had gathered around the grove, Zeus walked to the end of a row where a hole had been dug. This was where he stood to speak to the crowd, and when his presence had commanded instantaneous silence from everyone, a smile found his face for the first time that evening.

"Greetings! Another Olympic games has come and gone, and there were many fine feats displayed. I want to thank everyone who participated in the events, as well as those who offered support. Your commitment to tradition is praiseworthy. Now, to conclude the festivities, we will honor Gaia through a tree planting ceremony and lantern lighting. If I can have the names, please, we shall see which fortunate god or goddess will be given the privilege of planting this year's tree."

The crowd remained silent but their excitement was palpable as a satyr appeared with a ballot box, handing it reverently to Zeus, and Lexi felt a twinge of disappointment at not having put her name on the guest list. Zeus lifted the lid, reached in, and pulled out a folded slip of paper. After forcing everyone to hold a collective breath, he opened the paper to read it. His eyes widened and he began searching the crowd, keeping everyone in terrible suspense. When his gaze locked on Lexi, her heart leaped into her throat.

"It seems my daughter, Alexandra, has earned the privilege of planting this year's tree. Come forward, Lexi."

Lexi was greeted with cheers and clapping, but Zeus didn't seem to share their enthusiasm. He was doing a poor job of hiding his pout behind his beard. Was Lexi just overanalyzing his grumpy mood? Why did her mind want to tell her she was the cause of it? Odessa nudged Lexi in the back, causing her to remember herself and acknowledge the raucous crowd. Some even chanted her name, which she guessed was Jules and Gunther, and her entire body heated as she walked in front of the throng. But, how had she been chosen when she hadn't put her name on the guest list? It didn't take long to get her answer when her gaze landed on Rhea, who offered a wink and a conspiratorial nod.

When Lexi arrived to stand next to Zeus, he put his hand on her shoulder, speaking so only she could hear. "It appears you have earned yourself some admirers, in spite of the fact that your visits come few and far between."

Lexi wasn't quite sure what to make of Zeus' comment, or the firm grip he had on her shoulder. "I am here any time I am called. And it is a lot more often than you realize."

The noise level among the attendants dropped to a whisper, probably in an effort to hear the conversation, and Zeus appeared to interpret this as a show of respect. He cleared his throat to preempt his address.

"As protocol dictates, Lexi will be presented with an elm sapling and a shovel. She will place the sapling into the hole and throw the first pile of soil on top. At which time, anyone else who is interested in adding soil to the tree can do so."

Zeus gestured for a satyr to bring over the sapling, which was sitting ready inside a wheelbarrow. In his haste to oblige Zeus' commanding wave, the satyr tripped and the wheelbarrow tipped over, dumping its contents. Zeus moved in with lightning speed, catching the sapling before it hit the ground. Another round of applause broke out to salute his stealth efforts, although he really didn't need more fuel to boost his ego.

Lexi's Promise {Book 3}Read this story for FREE!