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Gods had been arriving at the palace since breakfast, which Hades admitted felt very strange. Kade and Kylie showed up together and helped themselves to leftovers as they engaged everyone in lively conversation. Although Hades had seen Kylie numerous times at different locales in the mortal world, she had not called the palace home for over two centuries.

Persephone and Aphrodite also paid a visit, staying long enough for Aphrodite to inspect Lexi's gown and accessories, while Persephone doted over the babes as they were being dressed for the occasion. Once the last well-wisher had left, Hades was banned from his bed chamber and relegated to his study. This was where he and Kade chatted while Hades dressed in his finest black suit.

"I had nearly lost hope," Kade offered as he made an attempt to secure Hades' tie.

"Well, you know what they say about patience," Hades said.

"They say a lot about patience, and this has nothing to do with that. Some of us will live out eternity and never find our perfect mate. You found her. And you're not the only one to benefit from her grace. Lexi is a goddess with the power to bless us all. She is going to make one helluva queen."

Hades grinned as he poured scotch into two crystal glasses. He handed one to Kade and lifted his own in a toast. "To Lady Lexi. Future queen of the underworld."

Embracing the burn of liquor on his tongue, Hades ignored the niggling doubt in his belly, which he decided was the product of wedding day jitters. He walked to the speaking tube and called to his bed chamber, talking with Lexi over the boisterous voice of his son.

"Kade and I are heading to Port Oceanus, my lady. Will I see you there?"

Lexi chuckled before she offered her response. "Only if you promise me a night of uninterrupted exploits after the nuptials."

"As always, your wish is my command."

Hades piloted his chariot to the port, where every able hand prepared for a wedding fit for a queen and her humble prince. Lars was the first to greet Hades and Kade as they pulled into the carriage house, the one Hades commissioned to encourage visitors. The minotaur had donned a kilt made of woven minotaur hair, a traditional ceremonial item for a herd leader and an acceptable means of keeping his family jewels under wraps. Hades appreciated this, as he was sure there would be impressionable goddesses present.

As a gesture of thanks for delivering his son, Hades had asked Lars to join the wedding party and stand up for him, but Lars was more comfortable acting as a bodyguard. Hades didn't have the heart to tell Lars that fights usually didn't break out at weddings, although Hades wasn't completely convinced his and Lexi's nuptials would be incident-free.

"All the lanterns are in place, ready for you to light them, your grace," Lars said, shadowing Hades and Kade as they walked together. Tension had lessened between Lars and Kade but had not disappeared completely, which was evident in the sidelong glance Lars gave Kade.

Hades surveyed the palatial dock, where eighty or so chairs had been set up for the ceremony, each one adorned with a blue sash tied with a white ribbon – a symbol of the union that was set to occur. Hades strolled along the pier, inspecting the stone pillars that rose every few feet on either side. Small iron sconces framed in frosted glass panes swagged between them. He had enlisted the help of Spikenard, a skilled metalsmith, to craft them in the hopes they would remind Lexi of her solstice lights.

Standing before the first sconce, Hades conjured a flame in his palm, lifting it to the wick and igniting it. Within seconds, the flame traveled to the second lamp, then the third, continuing until every sconce illuminated with the eternal fire of the underworld. More sconces hung from the rafters that traversed the dock, and Hades floated a fireball up to reach the first string, setting off another parade of lights. Each lamp had been assigned a symbol, which was molded out of iron. When lit, the symbol reflected its likeness off the structures surrounding the grand space. Hades only had time to commission a few of these special sconces before the wedding, but he eventually wanted every symbol represented. For now, these would serve as a surprise for Lexi. He wanted this day to be as memorable for her as he knew it would be for him.

Poseidon's yacht arrived at port, ferrying a good number of wedding guests, and Hades made his way over to greet them, but he was stopped in his tracks when he saw Zeus and Poseidon carrying Rhea's bier off the ship. This was something he had not expected, nor had his opinion been solicited, but what worried him more was how Lexi would react.

"Tell me you are not suggesting we hold the ceremony in Elysium," Hades said once they had reached him.

"No, dear brother," Zeus said as he forced Hades to backtrack across the dock to avoid a collision with the bier. "Poseidon and I just thought it would be fitting that Rhea be present in body, if not in spirit. I hope you don't mind."

Hades pursed his lips, but neither brother appeared to notice. "I am not opposed, per se, but Lexi..."

Poseidon hesitated as he glanced at Hades, but Zeus merely shook his head. "This is a tribute to Rhea not a snub to Lexi or Gaia. We know when to leave it alone."

As Hades watched Rhea's bier being arranged at the back of the dock, he couldn't help wondering if either of his brothers really knew when to leave it alone, but his attention was soon directed back to the pier as gods and goddesses disembarked, and he resumed his position at the gangplank, extending each one his greeting. Many of those he welcomed he had not seen for centuries, including a few goddesses he had dalliances with, although that was water under the bridge, and as the line of attendees grew, he questioned whether there would be enough chairs to accommodate everyone.

It was not long before the dock was filled with bodies, more than it would ever see in corporal form no doubt, and a murmur circulated through the crowd as faces rose to the sky where a pair of chariots approached. Hades' heart swelled as he watched his beloved arrive behind two of his finest horses. She was dressed in a simple ivory gown with lace sleeves, and the lightweight fabric fluttered like angel wings behind her. It was then that reality hit him hard. He was to be wed to his true love, and there was nothing more he could wish for. Lexi had given him everything, including Olympus.

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