Rocque and the entire table stared at her as if she had turned into a vampire.
“You don’t eat meat?” Tandy, who was about to sit down after serving the food, reached over her shoulder and took the plate away. Destiny didn’t miss her satisfied smile when she took the other seat next to Rocque. Just when she had started to feel a sliver of liking for the woman, she had to spoil it by being a bitch.
Destiny got up to go into the kitchen for another plate. Then she sat back down and filled it with potatoes and a roll.
“You don’t eat much, do you?” Aatto bit into a roll with his sharp teeth.
“Only immortals who are earthbound need food to survive. I only eat for pleasure.”
“I’m getting a great deal of pleasure eating your venison. You don’t know what you’re missing.” Tandy rested her hand on Rocque’s as she spoke.
Destiny picked up the knife by her plate before leaning across the table.
Tandy leaned back with a fearful gasp, removing her hand from his.
Destiny shot her a triumphant look then cut off a tiny portion of meat. Placing the tip of the knife in her mouth, she bit the meat off then placed the knife back down when she finished. Her stomach roiled, but she managed to keep it down.
“It’s not to my taste. I prefer … How can I say this delicately? I prefer a fleshier meat in my mouth.”
Tandy turned bright red, lowering her eyes.
Destiny couldn’t even enjoy discomforting the bitch, afraid she would dispel the piece of meat onto the table.
Rocque poured her a glass a water. “Maybe this will help.”
Destiny took the glass, taking only a sip under his gaze. Then, taking a bite of potatoes to still her stomach, she saw the men’s mirth as she forked another bite into her mouth.
“What?” she snapped.
“Nothing. I think you’re going to make me a fine wife.”
Destiny nearly choked on her food. When she managed to clear her throat, she had to take another sip of water.
“What makes you say that?” Her face screwed up in anger.
“You just exerted dominance over Tandy. As my wife, it’s expected of you to keep the bitches in line.”
Destiny relaxed. She liked the thought of keeping bitches in their place. Mother was always reprimanding her for that when she was in court.
“You know what, Rocque? Being your wife might not be so bad.”
The sound of a page turning in the old book she was reading was the only break in the silence of the library. Zerina spent most of her time there when she wasn’t sleeping, seeking the only escape she could from Hades.
Since she was a young child, books had always captured her imagination. Now older, she had turned them into old, treasured friends, imagining herself back in her mother’s library, where Fate would walk through the door at any minute. She hadn’t.
It had been two moons since Jinx had left, and while she missed her every day, she was relieved that she was where she could get well.
“This isn’t what I meant when I told you not to confine yourself to your bedroom. You have free reign of my castle, other than the restricted areas.”
Zerina didn’t look up from the page she was reading. Every day, he tried to initiate a conversation with her. Usually, she would leave the room or ignore him, as she was doing now. At night, Grimm would request her to have dinner with Hades. Then the reaper left as soon as she spoke her refusal.
She heard the rustle of his clothes as he sat down next to her on the bench she had found in the upper story of the library. “What are you reading?”
Zerina forced herself to concentrate on the words before her, not even stiffening when he bent down to look at the page.
“Ah, you’re reading poetry. That book has one of my favorite poems by Seamus Heaney.” Hades unabashedly took the book from her, turning the pages then giving it back.
Zerina read the title of the poem aloud, “The Toome Road.” She read it then flipped the book back to the page she had been reading.
“It mentions the Omphalos Stone. Did Fate ever tell you about the stone?”
She turned another page, not answering his question.
“The only time Mother stepped foot on earth was when she created it. Before leaving to return to the heavens, she took a stone from the center of the earth as a memento. Knowing she would never step on earth again, she wanted the stone so, if she was angry enough, she could throw it back to earth to destroy that which she had created.
“Mother made the mistake of confessing this to a goddess. The goddess didn’t keep the secret, and the gods started looking for where she could have hidden it. It’s a mystery that has never been solved.”
Her curiosity was sparked. “My mother told me that Zeus found it. That he sent out two eagles, and when they met, there was a large stone that could be seen poking out above the ocean. That he tried to take it, but it was too heavy.”
“That’s one of the myths. No one but Mother knows what it looks like or where it is.”
“Why does Zeus want to hurt Mother?”
“He doesn’t. Zeus has always had a troubled history with Chronos. Mother was always the peacemaker between all the gods. Time hasn’t been kind to Chronos. I haven’t been around Zeus for centuries, but I would have thought if Zeus tried to destroy anyone, it would be Chronos, not Mother.”
“Then why did he search for the stone?”
“He said it was because he didn’t trust it in anyone else’s hands.”
“Not even Mother’s?”
“If she had made the mistake of confiding it to one goddess, what would keep her from confiding in another where the stone is? In the wrong hands, it would not only destroy earth, but every immortal, god, and goddess bound to earth. It would be apocalyptic.”
“That means, even you wouldn’t survive.” As much as she hated him, she didn’t want him destroyed, either.
“As wouldn’t Poseidon, which is why I don’t believe it is Zeus. We’re brothers. We’ve had our moments, but not enough to forget we have that connection.”
“You don’t hold a grudge against Zeus because of Persephone?”
“Zeus goes after every goddess. I warned Persephone, and she cheated, not once, but twice. I gave her one more chance than I would have given anyone else.”
“She was probably sick of seeing the portraits.” Zerina rose with the book, intending to leave. He had piqued her interest, making her forget her vow of silence
where he was concerned. However, she had no intention of remaining in his company and pretending all was forgiven.
“How long are you going to act out like an injured innocent?”
Zerina lifted her chin stubbornly, narrowing her eyes on Hades. His reflected a hatred that had her wanting to throw the thick book at him.
“Are you reading my mind?”
Hades sighed. “Yes.”
“Then how long do you think it will take?” She opened her mind, letting him read it just like one of the books on the shelves behind him, letting every emotion blast at him. Her hurt. How humiliated she felt. The deep sense of loss from his friendship. Through a veil of tears, she regarded him until he looked away, wincing.
“If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to return to my room so my injured innocent act doesn’t incur further recriminations from you.”
Aware that he was watching, she went down the steps.
Standing at the railing that overlooked the library, Zerina’s resentment toward Hades grew as she was confronted by the portraits on the side of the wall. Each one was like a knife thrust into her injured heart. The necklaces they wore showed Hades hadn’t cared about her more than the others. And the look of aching love in their eyes highlighted that she wasn’t the first nor the last who had fallen in love with the callous god.
The only comforting thought she had was that at least a portrait of her wasn’t hanging around, silently mocking her stupidity.
“What will it take for you to forgive me?” Hades stood stoically at the railing, his hands gripping it.
As angry and hurt as she was, her sensitive soul cried out for her to forgive him.
It wasn’t in her nature to remain detached. That’s why her job as bearing souls had been gifted to her. The joy of seeing the parents welcome their child into the world, whether the parents were good or bad, even they felt the overwhelming miracle of birth.
Her soul eagerly tried to convince her to take what she could get from Hades, not to ask for more than he could give. But she couldn’t. Even through her anger, she loved him. But to open herself once again was asking for more than she could give.