Hades met her eyes. “Zerina. If I fail, she will die. You all will.”
“No one has that power but Mother.”
He shook his head. “Fate, you and Destiny … All of us know one action can have a domino effect. It has caught up to us. If it isn’t stopped—which it is already too late—none of us but the most powerful will survive.”
The younger woman started crying. Hades was unmoved by the varied range of expressions around him. The other girl remained quiet, her grey eyes showing not fear, but anger that he was frightening the girl. He must have aroused the protective instincts in Adam, too, who moved to block them from his sight.
“You don’t seem very concerned?” Adam searched Hades’ calm expression.
Hades pushed his glass away. “I’m here. That speaks to the degree of my concern.” He turned glacial eyes toward Fate. “Find Zeus.”
Fate put her hands up in the air. “Everyone is searching for him.”
“If you use the same determination you used to find Zerina, Zeus would have already been found. Even Odin and Rocque are too busy watching out for you both, instead of doing what needs to be done to find him.
“Zerina is fine. She may not be content, but she is alive and well, which is more than is going to be said about us all if Zeus doesn’t intervene.”
“You also could let Zerina go and allow us to concentrate solely on Zeus,” Rhys countered, pulling Broni back again when she tried to step nearer to Hades.
“I could, but I won’t. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not here to spread good will. Zerina is now mine. I don’t see myself giving her back, so Fate and Destiny must accept that fact or they will never see Zerina again. Or …”
“Or …?” Fate snapped.
“Or, like I said, we can be one big, happy family, and as a family, I will allow your visits.”
Fate stood up, moving between the men who had sought to protect her. “It sounds like a win-win situation for you.”
“You’d think so. Unfortunately, I seem to find myself caring that she is unhappy, despite my attempts.”
“Uh, Hades, I hate to bother you, but do you think you could let Rocque go? I’m sure he’s calmed down now.” Destiny placed a hand on Rocque’s arm in case he wasn’t.
Hades waved a dismissive hand at Rocque, releasing him.
“If my daughter is unhappy, you’ve done something to make her that way. Zerina is a loving, gentle—”
“You don’t have to expel the virtues of your daughter. She has taken exception to a few things I may have done.”
Smoothing down his suit sleeves, Hades didn’t become angered at Fate’s antagonistic attitude.
The human women were watching him like a slug that had crawled out from underneath a rock. While the men were looking at him sympathetically, as if they had made mistakes of their own.
“She found out I have a few concubines … after we were intimate.”
“You bastard!” Fate hissed. “In other words, you fucked my daughter over, and now she doesn’t want anything else to do with you!”
“That about sums it up,” Hades concurred.
“I want my daughter back! Now! You son—”
“I did not come here to be chastised by the mother of the woman I care about.” Hades slicked his sleeve down again.
Fate stared at him, dumbfounded. Destiny didn’t have the same problem.
“You basically want our permission to screw Zerina over?” Destiny jeered. “What happened, Hades? Was the sex better than you expected? Or, knowing my niece, she doesn’t have any intention of joining the ranks of your concubines. Am I right?”
Hades let his silence speak for himself.
“Then find one of those fire pits of yours and throw yourself in it.” Fate regained her composure. While she wasn’t as hot tempered as her sister, she made no attempt to hide her contempt.
“That isn’t an option.”
“I don’t see why not. I’m sure you have more than one,” Fate jeered as she approached him with a mother’s fury. “I have raised my daughters to expect to be cherished by their choice of mates. Jericho and Rhys were slow to realize what treasures they had been gifted with when my daughters fell in love with them. But you? Hades, I must admit, you disappoint me. A god of your standing and intelligence should have been smart enough to recognize the quality of the gem presented to you.” Her scornful ire became more vicious. “When you found Persephone had fucked around on you, did you even care?”
“Watch it, Fate.” Hades stonily stared at her as she moved closer.
“Or what? You’re the one who needs to be afraid of me.”
“Really?” he scoffed at her. “Why in the fuck would I have to be afraid of you?”
“How content do you think Zerina will be to never see me or her sisters again? Having an unhappy concubine can be dealt with by sending her away.”
“Which I refuse to do.” His triumphant smile faltered when she smugly stared at him. Foreboding raced up his spine. “What aren’t you telling me?”
“You’ve been around Zerina long enough; how do you think she will deal with centuries of not seeing any member of her family? That’s why you’re here now, and you’ve only had her for months. You think Zerina will be able to live with the knowledge that she’ll never see us again? That her sisters have probably had children and she won’t be able to recognize them?” Her eyes didn’t miss that his bronze skin had grown increasingly pale. “You’ve already underestimated Zerina once, I wouldn’t do it twice if I were you.”
“She wouldn’t succumb to the light.”
“A goddess or god has never willed themselves to die, and I think it would take centuries of Zerina being without us before she considered, but I could see Zerina taking that option if she had no other recourse. Her body would stay in your domain, but her spirit would return to Mother, and she would be confident that Mother would see to it that she was returned to me. Zerina isn’t afraid of being born again. We already have an old soul in the family.” Fate jerked her head haughtily toward Broni. “What’s one more?”
“I will never permit Zerina to escape me, even in death.”
“You aren’t capable of earning my daughter’s love. You’re too concerned with your own wants and needs. There’s a simple fix to mend Zerina’s feelings, but you’re too fixated on what you want to discover it.”
“So, you won’t help me?”
Hades stood up. “Then there is no need for me to waste my time further. It was a pleasure to meet you, Broni.” Bowing toward Broni, he raised his eyes toward Adam. “I look forward to seeing you again.”
Adam shoulders tautened. “I can’t say the same.”
Hades’ lips twitched, moving his gaze to the young woman Adam was standing protectively beside. “I wouldn’t waste what time you have left trying to repay mistakes that were committed by those in your club. The thing I admire about you is your ability to ignore your conscience. Don’t let it fail you now.”
“I have no intention of following any advice you may give, when you came here for a solution to your own problem.”
Hades’ smile broadened into one of pure mockery, his gaze now encompassing the entire group.
“Did I? Or did I try to light a fire under each of you to realize that time is running out. I found myself in a generous mood. Zerina loves her family. I have now allayed their fears and told them that I care about her and no harm will come to her. Is it the outcome they wanted? No, but I’m not Mother—I don’t make wishes come true.”
“I gave you a warning. Disregard it and you wi
ll all perish. As well as Zerina and I. Nothing or no one will be left to grieve over. Mother will become a memory to the few who are left.”
Hades wanted to reach out and shake sense into those staring at him as if he was the monster they believed, one who kept Zerina from rejoining their family.
“I’m not a monster, or a promiscuous god who has no concept of morality. I am always faithful to Mother, and she knows that. You may hate me right now, but I sincerely hope you have enough faith in Mother to heed my warning.”
He turned toward Fate. “Fate, as always, it’s been a pleasure seeing you again.”
Before Fate could once again plea for Zerina’s return, he waved his hand and disappeared, leaving the group in stunned silence.
“That was really Hades?” Broni breathed out, breaking the anxiety that had risen among them at Hades’ warning.
“Broni?” Rhys muttered, jealousy in his tone.
“Yes?” she answered distractedly, searching the room as if Hades would reappear. She missed Rocque throwing Destiny over his shoulder, carrying her down the hallway to their room, while Adam shouldered Abby back into the kitchen.
Zandra watched the men with widening eyes, turning at the sudden gasp coming from Broni when Rhys lifted her into his strong arms before disappearing with her.
“Where did they go?” The young girl stared in confusion at Fate.
“Your friends are fine. I’m sure they’re finding out Hades isn’t the only one with a big … ego.”
Hades appeared back in his office. The door standing wide open wasn’t his only warning that something was wrong. The balls on his desk had been cracked.
Repairing them, his mind instantly filled with images of what had happened while he was gone. The demon buried in his soul started running, forgetting in that moment of fear that he could transport himself where he wanted to go. It took three steps before he could collect his thoughts enough to transport himself to the bowels of hell that he despised going to, much less Zerina being held captive there.
When he materialized, he saw Zerina hanging helplessly over the fire pit where she had once bargained for Jinx’s life. Her silent screams echoed around his mind as he saw the woman responsible for Zerina’s cruel punishment gloating when she saw him.