Lexi glanced at the scroll in her hand, knowing Melinoe was the next stop on their scavenger hunt. Despite Lexi's reservations about introducing her friends to a goddess whose personality bordered between a Fury and an undertaker, there was no way Lexi could leave her off the route. The consequences of circumventing the dark goddess' cabin would be grave for everyone.
Lexi was about to rally her troops when Lars grunted a warning to Cole, and a moment later Del broke through the underbrush, skidding to a stop as he entered the clearing. It was only the fact that Hades and his team were expected that Del didn't get a spear shoved in his face, but he still looked white as a sheet when Lars and Cole took up positions on either side of him. Lexi called across the camp in the minotaur's native language, telling Lars to stand down, and he nodded his understanding.
Although her heart was racing, given that Del was alone and showed clear signs of distress, Lexi walked calmly across the camp so her friends would be less likely to panic. "Del, where are the others?"
Del talked rapidly as he caught his breath. "They're on their way to the palace. We found Ink. He was inside the mountain. Inside Tartarus. He doesn't look good. We need your help."
"Inside Tartarus? How did he get past the hellhounds?" Lexi tried to stay composed as she glanced at Lars. He had not taken his eyes off Del, and she knew by his focused scowl he was trying to follow the conversation. Surely, he recognized the word Tartarus.
"Hades thinks he disguised himself as a centaur, or maybe a dog." Del's shoulders slouched as he spoke, no doubt in response to Lars and Cole, whose idea of stand down apparently included looming over their opponent.
Lexi took Del by the arm and pulled him toward the fire pit where the other gods waited. None of them seemed inclined to leave their seats, probably fearing they would insult their hosts.
"We need to hurry back to the palace," Lexi told them. "Hades found Ink and he is in dire need of medical attention."
As the gods got to their feet and bowed to the minotaurs, Lexi thanked Cheni and the others while explaining that the missing god had been found and needed her help. Once again, Lars took Lexi by the arm and escorted her back down the path. This time, Lars was the one to help Lexi into her chariot, and when he extended his hand to Odessa, she behaved valiantly, hesitating only a beat before allowing him to do the same for her.
"Let the herd know if we can give assistance to the injured god," Lars said as he handed the reins to Lexi with a gentle touch. If it had been appropriate to hug him, she would have.
"Your offer is very kind. I am hoping my gift will speed Ink's recovery."
Lars imparted his version of a smile as he bowed his head. "Your gifts are great, but your kindness is greater."
Lexi flushed at his compliment. "Thank you, Lars, for everything today. I am sure we will see each other soon."
When Lexi and her team had taken to the sky, Odessa nudged her in the elbow. "Lars is completely smitten with you, Lexi. You know that, don't you?"
Lexi knew she couldn't play the ignorant card with this one. Lars' affection for her was obvious to anyone who saw them together. He had even offered to care for her should she ever become unhappy at the palace. Of course, Hades knew nothing of the offer. "Yes, I know. I healed him when he was an adolescent, and he has had a crush on me ever since."
Odessa chuckled sweetly. "You would have no trouble finding suitors if Hades were not such a perfect mate. Jules looks at you the same way. And, of course, there's Poseidon."
Lexi sucked in a breath before she could stop it, and she glanced at Odessa, hoping to see some humor in her friend's eyes. Fortunately, she found a smile on Odessa's lips.
"It's okay, Lexi. I know Poseidon fancies you. He told me so himself. He didn't want secrets between us, but he didn't have to tell me. A goddess would have to be blind and dumb not to see it."
"I want you to know, Odessa, I have no interest in Poseidon," Lexi explained. "Our friendship means a lot to him, and he is an ally with regard to the council, which I am grateful for. He has even sought my advice about you."
"He has?" Odessa's lush eyelashes fluttered against her lids, giving the appearance of butterfly wings. Lexi could see why Poseidon had become enamored with her.
"Yes. He has asked for advice from both Hades and me. He is sailing into unchartered territory with you, and he wants to do everything right. But you probably shouldn't tell him I spilled the beans just now."
"Spilled the beans?" Odessa appeared confused for a moment then rallied. "Oh, of course not."
A contented smile remained on Odessa's face for the rest of the journey, reassuring Lexi, and as soon as they arrived at the stable, Lexi abandoned her chariot to the skilled hands of a palace nymph. They were directed to a first floor guest room where Ink lay in bed, eyes closed, body immobile. At his bedside, Lisbon and Blythe tended to his wounds while Hades' paced in front of the window. His eyes brightened when Lexi entered the room, and she greeted him with a kiss.
"How is he?" she asked.
"He still hasn't woken. He has lost a lot of blood."
"Has Hecate been informed? She could brew him something to replenish..."
Hades released a long sigh through his nose. "She has been informed, but he has to wake up before we can get anything down his throat."
Lexi bit her lip as she glanced at Ink's prone form. If they were topside, they could get him to the hospital and start an IV, but they were gods and their immortality protected them, theoretically. "I'll see what I can do."
A wash basin sat between Blythe and Lisbon, and Lexi noticed the water was tinged with blood. Lexi had never been a fan of horror movies, but she possessed a high tolerance for gore, so the gaping wound on Ink's stomach didn't catch her completely off guard. The surrounding skin had been cleaned, but the injury site was red and inflamed, with fresh blood pooling over it. She took this as a good sign, as it meant he was still alive, although his breathing was extremely shallow, and his skin held the pallor of bleached sand.
"He will not wake," Lisbon said, her voice a rough whisper. "I have been singing to him since his rescue, but he has not responded."
"Who knows how long he has been like this," Lexi said as she felt for fever on Ink's forehead. The fact that his skin was hot gave her hope his body was fighting to live. "He is probably in shock, but I believe I can help him."
Lisbon sniffled as she dropped her sponge in the basin, but she seemed hesitant to leave Ink's side, and Lexi couldn't help wondering if something significant happened between Lisbon and Ink before he came to the underworld. Lexi began her healing with a prayer to Gaia, a ritual she adopted ever since Pesca's miscarriage. Whether or not her gifts had been imparted by the divine goddess, Lexi had developed a connection with Gaia and often felt her presence when thoughts weighed heavy on her mind.
As Lexi worked, Lisbon sang, and the wistful melody filled the room, telling of a lost soul who searched for peace and the meaning of life. They continued to work together until Ink's wounds were healed and the rhythm of his breathing became stronger. By the time the basin had been filled with fresh water, Ink's eyelids were fluttering open, and Lisbon touched his cheek with her fingers, leaning so close to his face Lexi thought she might press her lips to it.
"Hi Lisbon," Ink croaked as his eyes targeted her. "I had a feeling you were the one serenading me."
Lisbon blushed through a smile. "How are you feeling?"
"Like I've been gutted and skewered. But if you keep singing, I'm sure I'll be dancing in no time."
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Lexi's Promise [Bk 3]Romance
Let's say you found true love. And say you had eternity to spend with that lover. So what if he was the god of the dead and you had to manage his dysfunctional family. You would count yourself lucky, right? Join Lexi and Hades in the final chapter o...