“I’m leaving, with or without your help,” she told Jinx before contemptuously walking down the hall, passing Hades and making sure no part of her touched him.
Hades remained impassive as Zerina went down the steps, trying not to wince at the sound of her sobs that could be heard drifting behind her.
“You hurt her,” Jinx accused, her short hair spiking in anger.
“I never offered Zerina anything but friendship.”
“If that’s how you treat your friends, I’ll pass.” Jinx started to go after Zerina.
“If you try to help her escape, I’ll—”
“I’m finished listening to your threats, Hades. I betrayed Zerina because I was afraid. I made a terrible mistake, and she’ll never forgive me, just as she’ll never forgive you.”
“I’m not asking for either of your forgiveness. My will down here is absolute. You’ll both do as I want, regardless of what you both want.”
Jinx stared at him with pity. “Mother sent you down here without a heart. No one who has a heart could have treated Zerina that way.”
“She’s a woman.” Hades gestured to the portraits that lined the hallway. “She will learn that I won’t be manipulated by her wants and feelings.”
“As you were by Persephone?” Jinx hissed in disgust. “You think you were the first god who was manipulated by that bitch? I watched her have Zeus panting after her in Mother’s court. Why is it that men, whether god or human, chase after self-serving bitches, and then are surprised when they are unfaithful?”
“Women are all the same. I should know.”
“You know nothing!” Jinx laughed mockingly. “That you think Zerina is the same as Persephone, or any of these sluts, you couldn’t be more wrong.”
Hades watched as Jinx took a deep breath before she asked, “Do you know why the Moirai dress in such revealing gowns?”
Hades shrugged. “Their gowns are no more revealing than any other goddesses’.”
Jinx gaped at him. “Mother help me!” she pleaded in frustration. “Fate, Destiny, Cara, Broni, and Zerina are royalty! Their gowns show that their souls are pure. They are unable to hide what is inside of them. That’s why Odin and Rocque have been unsuccessfully wooing them to their beds, just as you would have been if Zerina had known about your concubines.
“Zerina, Broni, and Cara’s souls don’t know how to deny their hearts. I told Zerina to develop a friendship with you so we could get the hell out of here. How long did it last before she lost her heart to you? I know for damn sure you know. Despite your lie to the contrary, you never stopped reading her mind. She’s an open book. You had no need to lie to her, except for your own gratification.” Jinx’s shoulders slumped. “And I enabled you by not telling her, so I’m just as guilty.” Jinx left him standing alone in the hall, walking away in a huff.
He waved his hand, returning to his office. Going to the fireplace to stare down into the flames, he didn’t look up at the door when Grimm entered to stand behind him.
“Do you want me to retrieve her?”
“No, she’ll get tired and return to her room.”
In his mind, Hades saw Zerina walking through the levels that he had forbidden her from going. He used the flames to direct her from the areas it wasn’t safe to enter. She thought he was a monster, but the wrong door could introduce her to monsters much worse than him.
He could hear her sobs and Jinx trying to talk to her, which she ignored.
The fairy was right; he had left his heart behind with Mother. No male would be able to endure watching the tears course down the beautiful Moirai’s face and not feel a twinge of regret.
Zerina’s heart would mend. Her despair would pass, and then she would miss what he could give her. If not, when Mother told him it was safe, he would send her home.
It wasn’t like he expected her love to last, anyway. She should have learned that from her parents. Their love hadn’t lasted, if it even was love, which he doubted. Odin had loved Fate for millennia, yet both were too determined not to trust the other.
He had cared about Persephone. Weary of being alone, she had filled a need to keep him sane, to keep the demon within him from taking over. He had seen the demon within her, but he had ignored it, hoping against hope that he could stop it from controlling her, the way she had held back his monster.
It had taken centuries for him to conclude no one could hold the monster within him back. That was why he had given Persephone the last ultimatum, and then divorced her when she had bedded Zeus again. He had grown weary of fighting her inner demon. Having enough demons to deal with in his dungeons, he didn’t need one in his bedroom.
Hades waved Grimm away, wanting to be alone.
He stared around the empty room after Grimm left, his eyes encompassing the starkness of, not only the room, but his existence. Zerina had filled that void for a small time, just as Persephone and countless other women had done.
Reaching into his suit pocket, he pulled out the necklace Zerina had thrown back at him. Sensing the warmth she had instilled in it during the small amount of time she had worn it, he let it disintegrate in his hand.
Jewels and metals were cheap commodities to him. Mother had bestowed the wealth of the earth on him when she had sent him to live his eternal life.
He had made several demands before agreeing to leave the light. She had agreed never to interfere in what took place in his domain—what entered Hades, remained his—and not to demand his interference in petty wars that were fought between the gods. He would remain neutral, as he would when the humans fought. Plus, whether human or immortal, she wouldn’t reveal his entrance. Mother had agreed, and he had remained neutral for centuries.
Zeus and Dionysus already had him expanding his kingdom, making room for the thousands of human souls who were causalities of their betrayal.
He had granted Mother’s request to keep Zerina until they could be found and dealt with by Mother’s justice. Now, he wanted to find Zeus and Dionysus, and get Zerina the hell out of his domain.
Waving his hand, a jug of wine appeared in front of him with a goblet. Pouring himself a goblet of the ruby-red wine, he downed it in one gulp, hoping it would silence his guilty conscience.
He had allowed Mother to give sanctuary to the lovely child he had remembered from the balcony, never expecting the beautiful goddess she had become to wreak havoc on his heart that was filled with stone.
Pouring himself another goblet of wine, instead of raising it to his lips, he raised it up high, toasting Mother before drinking the wine, which did little to alleviate the aching coldness that not even the fire of Hell could warm.
The long tunnel she was walking down grew darker, the torches becoming more and more scarce until she couldn’t see her hand in front of her face. Zerina simply kept her hand on the tunnel’s stony wall. Her tears had dried, and now she was too numb to care where the tunnel led, only that it was leading her away from Hades.
“We should go back. I don’t like the feeling down here.”
Zerina didn’t stop. “You can go back. I don’t need you anymore.” Her emotional turmoil might be making her continue the path she had recklessly chosen, but it wasn’t as bad as the one she had made the previous night.
“I really don’t like here,” Jinx argued.
“At least there aren’t any portraits down here,” she muttered, feeling the wall become damp as they traveled lower.
A torch beamed ahead. Zerina focused on it as she put one foot in front of the other. When they reached it, she took a moment to rest in the small glow, lowering herself to the dirt floor, uncaring that her gown would become even dirtier.
Jinx sat down next to her. She had used her magic to change her clothes to jeans and a T-shirt. Zerina envied her choice of clothes, but what she really wanted was tennis shoes for her feet. She had stubbornly refused to let Jinx use magic for a change of clothes. It was another decision she regretted making in a long list she had
“I feel magic nearby.” Alert, Jinx stood up, her nose winkling as she tried to find where the magic was coming from.
Zerina was too tired to rise, but she looked around the tunnel she could see with the small amount of light they had. Her eyes were moving away from the tunnel ahead, thinking maybe she had missed something in the dark, when the torch flickered and she saw the glint of metal. Using her back, she stood up, feeling the stone scratch her back under the whisper-thin gown.
“Don’t, Zerina,” Jinx pleaded as Zerina made her way down the tunnel. As she drew nearer, she realized it was a wooden door that blended into the wall. A small metal grate was what had caught her eye.
She hesitantly looked through the grate to see who was locked inside.
Gasping, she turned to Jinx, who was staying away from the door. “It’s Morgana.”
She was so furious it took her a couple of tries to open the door. Flinging it open, she ran inside, despite Jinx clutching her gown.
“You bitch!” Zerina snarled, so angry she wanted to slap the woman responsible for her being trapped in Hades.
Merlin’s protégé’s hands were chained to the wall. The cell was dank, cold, and her black gown covered her to her chained feet.
Insane eyes spewed hatred from a gaunt face. “Is that one of Fate’s spawns?”
“You know it is! I don’t know who deserves being here more: you or Hades.”
Her cackling, maniacal laughter didn’t frighten Zerina. In fact, her anger evaporated. Morgana no longer resembled the elegant woman who hung on each of Merlin’s words.
Zerina could feel the senseless anger directed toward to her.
“What have my sisters and I ever done to deserve your hatred?”
“How the mighty have fallen,” Morgana sneered. “How does it feel to know Mother hasn’t lifted a hand to ask Hades to release you? Your harlot of a sister is still doomed to live as a human, and Cara is married to a progeny of Juno’s bastards who hasn’t even the skills to protect himself or her.”
“It’s not Mother’s fault I’m here. It’s yours. Why do you hate us?” Her curiosity outweighed the insults being hurled at her.
Morgana remained mute at her question, her eyes flickering to a movement behind her.
“Jinx? Release me!”
The fairy had hidden behind her when she had entered Morgana’s cell.
“I wouldn’t release you if I were set on fire and you could conjure a fire extinguisher.”
“You’re no family of mine. You told me I couldn’t perform magic if my life depended on it. It’s kind of funny when I think about it. My life doesn’t depend on it. Yours does.”
“I will make you pay for refusing to help when … You have no idea what I’ll be able to do to you when I’m released,” she threatened the timid fairy.
“I don’t think she has anything to worry about. Hades doesn’t release his prisoners. We are just as trapped here as you are. Of course, we aren’t chained to a wall, but Hades’ mood changes daily, so you never know. We may be cellmates in the future.”
“How very brave you are, championing that useless fairy. Listen to my words. I will be free to walk again in the heavens or earth. If you help me, I will see you remain unscratched from others who seek the deaths of you and your family.”