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Lexi had just finished buttoning her dress when a knock came at the chamber door. She couldn't help wondering how it happened that she and Hades were never interrupted during sex. Were the nymphs blessed with some kind of sex radar, waiting to knock when the moaning and panting ended? She glanced at Hades' state of undress. He had slipped on a pair of lightweight drawstring pants, but that was it. She wouldn't mind if he chose to pad around the palace bare-footed and bare-chested every day, although it would probably increase the number of times the nymphs had to employ their sex radar.

"Enter." Lexi called to the door, and Lacy slipped through the small opening she had made for herself. Of all the nymphs, Lacy was the only one with strawberry hair, and her robust figure and pink cheeks reminded Lexi of a rosebud preparing to bloom. "Pleasant evening, Lacy."

"Pleasant evening, Lady Lexi. Lord Hades." She offered Lexi and Hades separate bows before stating her purpose. "I came to deliver a message. Pesca is awake and has requested to see you, my lady."

"Pesca? Is she in the foyer? What do you mean 'awake'?"

"Did no one tell you? The satyr was brought to us while you were in Olympus. She suffered some distress and her centaur friend delivered her here. We have kept her comfortable in one of the first floor guest rooms."

Lexi turned to Hades, her eyebrows already raised as she questioned him. "I assume you knew about this?"

"Of course, I invited Pesca to stay until you arrived home. I am sorry I didn't tell you earlier. I admit, I had other things occupying my thoughts." He grinned sheepishly before tugging a cotton shirt over his head.

"I will take you to her, if you are ready." Lacy waltzed up to Lexi, smoothing the front of Lexi's dress. "You are going to need new clothing, my lady. Something that will accommodate your growing belly."

"I agree. I thought I might pick up a few things in Nova Scotia the next time I visit. The maternity fashions these days are more flattering than they used to be. Women don't have to wear tents to cover up."

Lacy giggled into her hand. "A tent would look terribly silly on you."

Lexi held her hand out to Hades. "Will you join me, Hades? If Pesca has concerns, I want you there to offer your sage advice."

He crossed the room and captured her hand, bringing her ring finger to his lips to kiss it. "I am at your service, although I expect your advice has as much chance at being useful as mine."

As they took the stairs, Hades filled Lexi in on the story Emeron told him, and she grew angrier the more he divulged. By the time they reached the guest rooms, Lexi was working hard to keep her temper. She knew the leaders of Pesca's herd were strict, but Pesca's family should have done more to protect her. The first door they arrived at stood open, propped by a copper monkey wearing an organ grinder's hat. Pesca lay reclined on the floor, surrounded by colorful pillows. She looked like a harem girl, only with hairy goat legs, and she pushed herself upright to greet Lexi and Hades with a smile.

"Your graces. I am so grateful to you both."

"Pesca. How are you feeling?" Lexi made herself comfortable on the floor and took Pesca's hand, which felt warm but not feverish.

"The cramps have stopped and I am not so exhausted, thanks to the nymphs. Their knowledge of medicinal teas is large, and they can make the most unpleasant herbs taste good. But I believe their cheerfulness is what helped the most."

Lexi nodded. "I agree. Hades and I are fortunate to have such helpful and pleasant company." Lexi looked pointedly at Lacy, who wore a wide grin as she filled a tray with empty dishes. "Hades told me about your predicament, Pesca. I feel awful about what's happened to you, and I am going to make it right. I will talk to your herd leaders."

Pesca's face contorted as if Lexi had pinched her. "Please do not do that, Lady Lexi. I could not return now after the humiliation I suffered. A satyr's memory is very long. My shame will not soon be forgotten."

"But what will you do, Pesca? Will your own family not come to your aid?"

"My family has chosen my brother, Root, to watch over me as I find my own way, but he must do it in secret or he, too, will face severe punishment."

Three years ago, Lexi would have found Pesca's situation deplorable, but she had learned a lot about the inhabitants of the underworld and their extreme methods for maintaining compliance within the herd. While she didn't agree with everything, she understood the purpose for setting boundaries. Lexi looked up at Hades as he stood over them, his hand caressing the strong contours of his chin. He didn't appear to be ready to share yet, so she continued her questioning of Pesca.

"Haven't you been involved in training the young satyrs to read, Pesca? We could use this as a point of argument to cite your importance to the herd."

"I teach them to write as well. The language of the Greeks has been spoken among the herds for centuries, although it is used strictly as a form of entertainment during our evening fire rituals. Sadly, my contribution is not as highly regarded as others because it does not provide a life-giving service "

"If it is something you are passionate about, then it is providing a life-giving service to you, which should be recognized. Would you consider staying at the palace for a time and offering your expertise here? I am very interested in languages, particularly ancient Greek." Lexi glanced at Hades again. He had begun to pace. "Hades, what do you think about Pesca staying here until she finds a suitable home? Do you think it would disrupt the balance of the underworld? Has anything like this been done before?"

Hades held up a finger, signaling he was still deliberating as he continued his journey from one end of the room to the other. In the meantime, Lacy abandoned her duties at the table to bow to Hades and Lexi.

"If I may speak freely, your graces." Lacy said. "My sister nymphs and I have grown fond of Pesca, and I believe I speak for all of us when I say we would be delighted to count her as family."

Hades stopped pacing and stood in front of the window, giving his attention to the ivy climbing up the gorge wall. Lexi touched Pesca's arm, excusing herself as she lifted from the pillow pallet to join him.

"I'm sorry if I put you on the spot, Hades. I'm sure we can work out another arrangement if you're not comfortable having Pesca stay at the palace."

"I have no problem offering Pesca accommodations here, I am only concerned with the repercussions of our actions." He stopped talking to the window pane and captured her in his thoughtful gaze. "How do you think the elders of her herd will react when they find out she has been given sanctuary here after they sought to punish her for her actions?"

"I thought of that as well, but you have to admit, their actions were unreasonably severe."

"Not to them. The satyrs operate under a similar set of restrictive, antiquated laws as the gods of Olympus. This is all they know, and no god is going to convince them to change." As Hades softened his expression, which she knew was done to lessen the blow of his words, Lexi reminded herself she was a newcomer to their world.

"Could we build Pesca a shelter in the forest nearby?" she suggested. "She would have a comfortable place of her own, and we can keep an eye on her while she recovers from her trauma."

Hades smiled as he reached out to take her hand. "I believe your idea has merit, and Pesca will probably appreciate living in an environment more suited to her inclinations. Until then, I don't see a problem hosting her here while her strength returns."

Lexi wrapped her arms around his neck, pressing an enthusiastic kiss on his cheek. "Thank you, my love. You are the most charitable god of the lot. Our children are very fortunate."

As Lexi walked back to share the news with Pesca, she glanced over her shoulder, catching the crimson blush on Hades' face as he reacted to her compliment, which only proved she was right about him.

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