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Thankfully, dinner was light. The nymphs served a crisp summer salad with sliced avocados and raspberry vinaigrette, accompanied by Lexi's favorite dinner rolls. The smile Hades adopted when they left the stable had not left his face as he watched Lexi enjoy her meal.

"Did you have a good time at the party?" he asked as he swirled the wine inside his goblet.

"It was like any over-the-top, decadent event at the palace of the gods. How did you spend your afternoon?"

"I thought we were talking about your afternoon?"

"You go first." Lexi grinned over her plate, hoping Hades wouldn't suspect she was stalling. She dreaded telling him about the incident at the tree planting ceremony. Although she knew he would be happy to hear of her newest gift, he already suffered from insecurities about her duties taking her away from home. Of course, it had to be done. She didn't want him to find out through the grapevine.

"There is not much to tell," he said. "You had mentioned wanting a crib for the nursery, so Kade and I made a trip to the forest to fell a tree."

"Oh, Hades. You're building a crib for our baby? That's wonderful." Lexi bit her lip when she remembered Blythe telling her there had never been a crib in the nursery.

"I will make sure to include all the modern safety features," he said, having noticed her apprehension. "We can pick up the hardware while we're in Nova Scotia."

"I trust your judgment, Hades. I know you would never compromise the safety of our child. So, I take it you didn't run into Ink while you were in the forest?"

"No sign of the renegade god, but your friend Lars found us. He and a comrade just happened to be in the neighborhood, and they helped us accomplish our mission, which was fortuitous, since we were down to one ax and the tree was quite large."

Lexi realized she had been holding her breath the whole time he talked about Lars, and she exhaled in a rush as she spoke. "Did he say anything noteworthy? Lars, that is. How did he greet you?"

Hades chose that moment to take a long pull off his goblet, forcing Lexi to wait for his answer. He was such a tease sometimes. When he had swallowed, he reclined in his chair, his beautiful amber eyes twinkling, although she couldn't tell if they were filled with amusement or misgiving. "He shook my hand and congratulated us on our future offspring and on our upcoming marriage. After which, I extended him an invitation to the palace."

Lexi wanted to fist pump the air. Lars was making great progress. "Excellent. I was a little worried about the minotaurs' reaction to the news about Ink. I didn't know if they would place the blame on us. Earlier today, I helped some of the females plant pomegranate seeds to replace the ones Ink had stolen – in a show of good will."

Hades nodded, and this time, she definitely read misgiving in his eyes. "Lars mentioned your gracious gesture. He told me the seeds you planted sprouted into trees and developed buds soon after. His opinion of your godly gifts is quite high, as is mine."

Hades didn't take his eyes off Lexi as he watched her eyes widen in surprise. This was news to her.

"That must have happened after I left," she said. "I didn't know I had such a gift until... until this afternoon, at the tree planting ceremony."

"Oh? What happened?"

Hades set his goblet on the table and leaned forward, placing his chin on his fisted hands while Lexi shared the series of events. How she suspected Rhea had put her name on the list. How she tried to heal the sapling's broken branch with her powers, causing it to sprout into a fully grown tree. And how Zeus had reacted like a butthead, accusing her of hiding her gift and making him look like a fool in front of his adoring subjects. Lexi purposefully left out the part about Phoebe believing she possessed the gifts of Gaia. She didn't want to dump that heavy load on Hades yet, and she suspected the few who were privy to it would keep it to themselves. At least, she hoped they would.

"That must have been a sight to see," Hades said as he downed the rest of his wine. "I am sure you are the talk of Olympus right now. In fact, I am surprised Poseidon didn't mention it when he contacted me to say you were coming home."

Lexi nodded as she sipped from her water goblet, hoping it would hide her anxiety. After asking Poseidon for the favor, she immediately regretted her choice of messengers. "I'm glad he remembered to do that for me. I suspect he didn't mention it because his mind was elsewhere. He seems to be giving a lot of attention to Odessa these days."

Hades nodded. "Actually, he did mention that."

"Really? What did he tell you?" Lexi abandoned her goblet to stare at Hades, anxiety forgotten.

"He asked me how you and I are able to stay faithful to each other and still be happy."

A small squeak escaped her. It appeared she was right about Poseidon and Odessa. "Wow. Has he ever asked you for relationship advice?"

"Never. You haven't been playing matchmaker, have you?"

"Not that I know of, but I did ask Poseidon why he thought Odessa chose her life of chastity, and his response was... enlightening."

"How so?"

"He said he believed those goddesses aren't willing to risk their hearts to gods who are only interested in loveless sex."

"You had a conversation with Poseidon about sex?"

"Geez, Hades. It wasn't about sex. I was trying to figure him out. To see if he might be able to cultivate a long lasting relationship with someone. I don't think he's had much practice with that, and his behavior around Odessa tells me he's struggling to find his comfort zone. His call to you tonight proves my point. He is falling in love with her."

Hades' eyes had glazed over, although he continued to give Lexi his undivided attention. This was her cue to take evasive action, and she pushed her plate away, grabbed her goblet and the carafe of wine, and stood from her chair. "Come, my handsome prince. I need an escort to the dome room. I believe I have found my second wind."

Hades never removed his hand from Lexi's back as he ushered her up the endless staircase. She hoped it wasn't too late to prevent the onset of a brood, which happened any time Poseidon's name was brought up. For a god who counseled the dead on letting go of resentment, Hades had a few things to let go of himself, and Lexi wasn't going to pacify him by avoiding a subject, especially when she knew she could fall back on sex as a pacifier.

At the top of the staircase, Lexi realized she was completely out of breath, which hadn't happened in a long time. Maybe she should have suggested their chamber instead.

"Are you all right, Lexi? Have a drink of water." Hades nudged her hand and she brought the goblet to her lips, drinking her fill. He waited patiently before taking the goblet from her and opening the door. "Wait here, my love." He hurried into the room and deposited the beverages on the end table. When he returned, he scooped Lexi easily into his arms and carried her over the threshold.

"It won't be long before I'm too big for you to carry," Lexi said. She had already imagined her ninth month of pregnancy, and she was not looking forward to feeling like a beach ball with limbs.

"You forget, my lady. We are gods. You will never be too cumbersome for me to carry." He lowered her gently onto the velvet chaise and sat next to her, laying his hand on her belly, which protruded due to the large amount of food she'd consumed. "You cannot imagine how excited I am to experience this pregnancy with you. I want you to share everything that happens, from the insignificant to the significant."

His heartfelt confession gave Lexi an overwhelming urge to hug him, and she followed her impulse, throwing her arms around his neck and pressing her cheek against his face. She wanted him to feel the love she had for him. He had been denied so much, and he deserved the world.

"Something significant is happening right now," she said at his ear. "My need for you is very significant."

A deep groan vibrated inside his chest as he claimed her with his mouth, taking his fill of her lips before moving to her throat. "It will be my pleasure to slake your lust, although it may take me a while. Your skin is so sweet."

Lexi smiled as she played with the hair at the nape of his neck, twisting it gently around her finger. "You forget, my lord. We are gods. We have eternity."


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