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Hades stood at the end of the bridge until the chariot carried his beloved beyond the lavender horizon. He couldn't say why he felt a strong desire to fetch Spartan and chase the chariot down. His unease surely stemmed from knowing Lexi would soon face her father's temper without the benefit of the scrying glass to keep her safe. While Hades did not believe Z would purposefully hurt her, he didn't trust his brother not to put her in danger from the fallout of his wrath.

Hades' conscience was also bothering him. As of yet, he had not divulged his exchange with The Fates to Lexi, or anyone else for that matter, and true to his nature, Kade dropped the subject once the palace doors closed behind them. Now, Rhea's lifestrand felt like a noose around his neck. He was withholding proof the prophecy was true, evidence that could help spearhead Lexi's legacy council, another obligation that would take her to Olympus and away from him. If The Fates were to be believed, a handful of weeks would not give adequate time to change the inevitable. It would happen with or without a legacy council.

With his worries taking precedence in his thoughts, Hades did not see the movement until Lars was standing at the edge of the forest, looking like an inflexible pine. Hades raised his hand in greeting and Lars mimicked the gesture before returning to his stiff-backed pose. Had Lars witnessed Lexi leaving the palace? Did he scout the area on the chance he might glimpse the lady of the castle? Was it innocent infatuation or something more?

A hand came to rest on Hades' shoulder, and he turned to find Kade at his side, with Ink and Lisbon coming up to flank him. The fact that he had not felt their presence on the bridge only proved how far away his thoughts had taken him.

"Is that the fallen leader's son?" Kade asked as he jutted his chin in Lars' direction. "The one who helped us fell the tree for the crib?"

"Yes. He has taken a strong interest in Lexi. He always seems to be nearby whenever she is coming or going from the palace."

Ink snorted out a chuckle. "I hope you're not worried Lexi will be tempted by him. Minotaurs are hung like bulls."

Lisbon gave Ink a lighthearted smack on the arm. "Manners, Ink. Remember who you're speaking to."

Ink feigned innocence as he shrugged. "You said you would always love me in spite of my filthy mouth."

Ink's mouth did not bother Hades. He was more concerned that Ink and Lisbon would tire of each other once their infatuation waned. They had thoroughly pissed-off the ruler of Olympus, which meant the likelihood of an earthly escape was remote. If they didn't handle things tactfully, they could both end up regretting their decision to spend eternity in the underworld.

"How far ahead have you two planned past the decision to give up your rights to Olympus?" Hade inquired. "Have you thought of where you'd like to build your home," Hades captured Lisbon in his steady gaze. Admittedly, she had the most to lose by her decision. She had already lived seventy years as a privileged goddess, and her mother and siblings had no interest in the underworld. It would not be long before she felt the loss.

"We found a beautiful area south of the river Styx," she said as she looked to Ink for confirmation. "It's close to the gates, which would give Ink a quick commute on the days he helps with the souls. Pesca and Emeron are settling nearby."

Hades watched Ink's expression as Lisbon spoke, looking for signs of uncertainty, but Hades only saw determination there. Hades had come to terms with the fact that Ink had inherited his father's fierce blue eyes, and like Poseidon, they were very telling. "Is that what you'd like to do, Ink? Help usher the souls through the gates?"

"Yes. Despite all the crap I took growing up, and the weird looks I get when some soul is following me down the aisle at the quickie mart, I realized I get-off communicating with the dead. Some of them are fucking hilarious." Ink glanced at Lisbon as she cringed. Hades merely saw Ink's uninhibited use of language as a byproduct of his upbringing, which had the potential of serving him in the underworld. Not so much in Olympus.

"Very good," Hades said. "I will draft a request for the council of the gods. I won't say it will be an easy task to get approval, but you are both welcome to stay at the palace until we see this through. If you're inclined, I can ask Hestia if she will assist you with your house plans. She has an inspired vision of architectural design that I think you'll find refreshing."

Lisbon bounced on her toes as she clasped her hands together. "I just adore Hestia. She designed mother's home."

"Do you think you could help Lisbon and me secure a horse for our travels?" Ink asked. "I can see one coming in handy. This place is bigger than Yosemite."

"I believe that can be arranged without much trouble," Hades said. "The nymphs tell me Spartan and Misty will be expecting their first foal in the spring. Of course, you will have to wait until the horse is of age before he or she will be useful, but you can use one of mine until then."

Lisbon took that opportunity to hug Hades tightly around his neck. "Thank you, Hades. I know how much we've disrupted life around here, and I'm going to make it up to you and Lexi. I want to help in any way I can."

"All I ask is that you give your decision to stay here careful consideration, Lisbon. This is more than just two people falling in love and creating a life together. We are talking about eternity in the underworld away from family and friends. And you will need to figure out how to fulfill your godly duties here. That is something the council will give strict attention to when deciding your fate."

Lisbon's shoulders slouched, and Hades immediately felt like an ass for dashing her hopes.

"You're right," she said. "I have not considered my gift, but I don't use it that much. It's not like singing can fell a tree or resurrect someone from the dead."

"But it can soothe a troubled soul," Kade said as he pulled her in for a hug.

"Kade hit the nail on the head," Ink added. "Your voice was the first thing I heard after I passed out in Tartarus. I thought I was dead. I thought you were an angel serenading me on my way to heaven. I have never felt so peaceful."

Lisbon's eyes brightened as she surveyed their faces. "Do you think I could help with the souls too? Maybe I could sing to them as they walked the path, or when they climbed into Charon's boat."

Hades smiled, grateful for Kade and Ink's input, although he suspected Lisbon would not last a day with Charon. 

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