"Lexi!" A male voice called from the recesses of a bar, and Hades caught sight of a young man on a stool, not much older than twenty-five, throwing money onto the counter and heading their way. He was dressed in beige, pleated trousers and a blue collared shirt with an emblem on the pocket, looking very much like a privileged youth.

"Brent. It's good to see you." Lexi greeted the boy with a stiff hug while Brent made a show of sweeping her into his arms. This is when Hades noticed how ruggedly handsome he was, with light brown eyes and golden hair. His striking features would fit comfortably among the gods, especially the way he raked his gaze over Lexi like he could easily claim her. Hades hated him immediately.

"Brent. This is... Luke, my fiancé," Lexi said as she slipped her arm around Hades' waist.

Brent shoved his hand forward and Hades shook it, making every effort not to add a little heat to the exchange. "Good to meet you, Luke," Brent said. "It's too bad we have to do it under sad circumstances. I'm really sorry about your dad, Lexi."

The boy's version of a frown appeared forced, but Hades' perception was probably skewed by his desire to scalp him. Hades also noticed Lexi's gaze didn't quite reach Brent's eyes when she spoke to him.

"Thanks for doing this, Brent. I'm sure you had to rearrange plans to fly us to Boston. Is your dad here too?"

"No. He's in Tokyo on business, but he sends his regards to you and your dad. C'mon, let's get going before the air traffic gets bad."

The six passenger aircraft looked new and smelled of polished leather. The Shermans had means, which was apparent in Brent's posture and cheeky tone. Brent climbed into the open cockpit, gesturing to a pair of sleek, black chairs behind him.

"Just set your bags under the seats. Once we're airborne, we can chat and catch up. You're welcome to sit up front, Lexi, if you want a better view."

"I'm good with the view back here, thanks."

Lexi squeezed Hades' hand and offered a weak but warm smile. He knew she had noticed his grimace, the one that showed up as soon as Brent hopped off the barstool. Hades had to remind himself it wasn't Lexi's responsibility to reassure him. It was her father laid-up in the hospital. Hades leaned over and kissed her cheek as he helped her attach the seatbelt, making sure she caught his eye. He wanted her to see how much he loved her. She appeared to read him perfectly and relaxed into her chair, her hand wrapped firmly around his, and as the aircraft took to the sky, a calm settled over Hades. He enjoyed plane fight, although the only real advantage was travel time, otherwise he preferred the wind against his face.

"So, Lexi, what have you been up to for the past seven years?" Brent asked, giving no regard to Lexi's closed eyelids and slumped posture. "Are you in college?"

Lexi blinked slowly, looking resigned to her obligation of catching Brent up. She had repeated her fictitious background history enough times to make it rote script for her.

"I continued boarding school until graduation and now I'm attending the University of Bath. What have you been doing with yourself, Brent?"

"Well, when I'm not flying my dad's clients around in this thing, I'm managing his finances. I've got one semester left before I can hang my BS degree in my office."

"It sounds like you're following your dream," she offered. "I remember you saying you wanted to work with your dad."

"Yeah, but that was because he was gone all the time and I missed him. Now I need to take breaks from him. A lot." He laughed as he turned to study the instrument panel, and a second later he was continuing the siege. "So, how did you two meet?"

Hades took his cue from Lexi, who looked annoyed and fatigued, and he stepped in to navigate the conversation. "We met at a Freshman mixer at Lexi's school while I was visiting my sister. We hit it off straight away. The rest, as they say, is history."

"Hmm. It's funny my parents never mentioned your engagement. So, you've been exclusive for a couple years?"

"Yes." Hades and Lexi offered their sentiment simultaneously, and the conversation appeared to come to a close, although Hades had not failed to notice Brent looking at Lexi's bare ring finger.

Hades knew how mortal men behaved when it came to a woman they were interested in. They behaved similarly to gods, and Brent's arrogant attitude had triggered Hades' radar. Was there a history between Lexi and Brent, something Lexi never felt the need to share? Hades knew she had been closely guarded by her family during her adolescence, but a parent cannot shadow their child every moment. Without provocation, Lexi turned to smile at Hades, and he put his petty emotions to rest. He knew her love for him was absolute. In fact, he had never been more sure about anything in his life, and he would prove it to her before they returned home.


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