~37~

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Morning dawned hot and muggy, but Hades didn't mind. He loved the stark contrasts in temperature, something he wasn't afforded much in the underworld. A thin ray of sun slanted across the bed, moving gradually closer to Lexi's sleeping form. Her head was cast in the glow of the white lights twisting through the wrought iron at her head, lights she claimed made her think of solstice. It made him think of her splendor.

"Didn't your mother ever tell you that staring is rude." Lexi spoke in that sultry tone he had come to recognize as her early morning voice, and he felt his arousal as he watched her wake, gracing him with a glimpse into those sapphire eyes.

He leaned into her face, kissing first one cheek then the other. "I wasn't staring. I was admiring. You are exquisitely beautiful, my love."

She reached out to fondle the strand of hair where it tickled his eyebrow. "Right back at cha. How long have you been awake?"

"Long enough to know your brother has left for work and your mother is waiting patiently for us to escort her to the hospital to visit your father. Oh, and she had a few baked goods delivered for breakfast. I believe croissants were involved."

"Croissants from Three Sisters Bakery? I'm all over that."

The hospital staff greeted them with news that Mr. Maxwell's condition had improved significantly over the last twenty-four hours, and he had been moved out of the ICU to a private room. Lilith exchanged a covert smile with Lexi as the doctor on staff gushed about the near total post-surgical healing of Charles' spleen. His kidneys had also recovered their functionality, and the rib fractures were barely detectable by x-ray. They felt sure if he continued on the same recovery track, he could be released from the hospital the following day.

When they entered Charles' room, he was sitting up in bed speaking on his phone while he typed one-handed on his computer. He looked up from the screen to greet them and his phone tumbled onto the bed. Lilith ran over to retrieve it, holding it to his ear and brushing strands of hair away from his forehead. The tender exchange between the two touched Hades. He knew they had been struggling to keep their marriage whole.

"Good morning, family," Charles said as he ended his call and closed up the computer. "How is everyone feeling today?"

"Shouldn't we be asking you that?" Lexi strode over and kissed Charles on his forehead, offering him a cheeky grin. "The doctor says you're a miracle man."

"Thankfully, I've got connections," he said, returning her grin. "How long are you two planning to stay in Boston? I had a visit from Theresa Sherman last night and she offered her box seats to the Boston Symphony tonight as a thanks for saving Brent's life. She divulged to me that Brent has a congenital heart condition and likely would have died if you two hadn't been there to help."

Lexi stepped away from the bed and slipped her arm around Hades' waist. "I'm not going to accept a gift I don't deserve."

Charles frowned. "Lexi, your mother told me what really happened between you and Brent, and believe me, if I had been in a fit state, I would have strung him up by his goddamned neck. Brent is facing the consequences of his poor choice, and there is no reason for you to carry the burden of someone else's mistake. Accepting Theresa's gift will make her happy, and I know you like to see people happy."

Lexi's chest lifted then lowered heavily. "Okay."

Having given no thought to attending a symphony when they packed for their trip, Hades rented a limousine to shuttle he and Lexi from one boutique to another as they attempted to put together an ensemble for their evening on the town. During his fitting at an off-the-rack suit shop, Hades inquired about local eateries. The attendant was a native to the metropolitan area, and Hades received the gentleman's expert opinion on everything. If it was in Hades' power to do so, he would help Lexi forget the dismal experiences of the previous day, apart from the licentious, wanton shower sex.

After making ready at Lexi's townhome, the limo transported them to Petit Café Francais, an intimate French bistro near the symphony hall. Hades had been suppressing a hard-on ever since Lexi emerged from her bedroom wearing a black dress that seemed to have been constructed for that purpose. While the dress still fit the formal parameters of the event, affording her blossoming belly a place to stretch out, the décolletage swagged over her breasts as if inviting passersby in for drink. The erection stayed with him the entire ride.

Inside the restaurant, the Maître D' appeared to share Hades' sentiments about Lexi's dress, although Lexi didn't seem to notice his turning head, nor the gazes of the other patrons as they beheld her radiance, but Hades noticed. He always noticed.

"You are like a star escaped from the heavens," he said, once they were alone at the table.

"If that were true, it is only because I was pulled down by your magnetism." Lexi reached for his hands and clasped his fingers tightly. "The world could disappear and I would still have a reason to shine as long as I had you."

The waiter arrived, invading their romantic ballads, and they were offered an adequate number of wine selections. Hades allowed Lexi to choose, knowing her sizeable knowledge of wine, and this was followed by the arrival of a basket of bread, baked in-house. Lexi eagerly indulged herself, augmenting each piece with copious amounts of whipped butter. Dinner progressed just as Hades had hoped, with the exchange of benign pleasantries. If the topic veered and worry lines appeared between Lexi's brows, Hades steered the conversation elsewhere.

With half an hour to spare, they arrived at the symphony hall and made their way to the balcony box shared by the Shermans and another family by the name of Jameson. Lexi claimed to know the Jamesons through her parents and the many events they attended, but she admitted it had been a long time since she had seen them. When they entered the modest balcony, an elderly man and woman were already seated. Both were rendered completely white-haired, but where the man's body appeared sturdy, the woman's frame looked as delicate as a hummingbird's wing. Hades heard Lexi take in a sharp breath as they sat down next to the couple.

"Good evening, Hugh. Evelyn," Lexi said. "It's nice to see you again."

The woman eyed Lexi inquisitively, her face resembling that of an orange left too long in the basket. "Do I know you, young lady?" The woman's voice came out as a lilt that was barely audible over the drone of the lively hall.

The gentleman beside her leaned into the woman's ear. "Evelyn, dear. This is Lexi Maxwell, daughter of Charles and Lilith Maxwell." He spoke loudly as he extended his hand to Lexi. "Good evening, Lexi. I apologize for my wife's lapse in memory. She often forgets who I am."

Lexi nodded solemnly. "I understand. I'd like to introduce my fiancé, Luke Carrington. Luke, this is Hugh Jameson and his wife, Evelyn."

"It's a pleasure to meet you both." Hades admired the firm grip the man offered, and he immediately took a liking to him. It was Lexi he was concerned about. She sat stiffly as she watched the ancient woman gaze over the railing. The crowd below was striking to watch, as well-dressed mortals greeted each other and spoke with animated gestures, but Lexi didn't notice any of it, and Hades had an idea why. Evelyn Jameson wore an aura of death.

Hades waited for the noise level to rise before he leaned into Lexi's ear. "Are you all right?"

Lexi dragged her gaze away from the woman to offer it to Hades. She looked haunted, and it triggered his pulse. "I have a terrible foreboding," she whispered behind her hand. "Mrs. Jameson may not make it through the performance."


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