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READ THE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS: Gilded Ruins (Blinding Night, #2) by Chantal Gadoury

Bestselling author Chantal Gadoury returns with the last chapter in a whirlwind mythological romance...

When she and Darce are summoned to Mount Olympus by Zeus himself, Summer Mavros finds herself faced with a new cast of Gods and Goddesses. Suddenly, the destined lovers themselves separated—but Summer would search both heaven and hell to find him.

Explore the Grecian Underworld with Summer and Darce this Tuesday!

Pre-order your copy here, and be sure to join the Official Underworld Facebook Group in time for Chantal's release day blitz on Tuesday, May 12th! It's going to be a whimsical celebration you won't want to miss!

"The Story Continues...

Summer and Darce are summoned by the order of Zeus himself to travel to the home of the Gods: Mount Olympus, where they're to face even more ancient Gods and Goddesses.

Summer braces to confront her mother again, illuminating secrets about the truth of her tragic pasts, while also persuading Zeus to allow her to stay with the God of the Underworld, her true love - Darce.

Aboard Poseidon's luxury yacht, Summer meets her mythological family, while also uncovering what exactly happened to her past lives - and the true roles her mother and Darce played.

When Darce and Summer suddenly find themselves separated, Summer must find her inner power and unite them together, before her mortal time runs out."

Chapter One

Arae adjusted a curl around my ear as she placed a golden crown of twisting vines on my head. I knew she was enjoying this. Far more than I was. The soft, blue dress she had chosen for me to wear hung off of my shoulders, pooling onto the ground like a waterfall. Intricate pieces of gold thread weaved through the gown, making it sparkle like a crystal in the sun. It was vastly different from all the jeans and sweaters I had been wearing since my arrival to the Underworld. I never thought in a billion years I’d ever say that. Me—in the Underworld. “If you’re going to face the Gods of Mount Olympus, you should appear as a Goddess,” Arae said as her fingers trailed along the length of my necklace. It was like wearing a costume piece from the Moulin Rouge, and where I was Satine, the large black diamond sitting on the hollow of my throat was a gift from my own Duke. When I first saw it sitting among the selection of gowns Arae had brought, I thought it was as black as death—if death was a color and black could be any shade darker. “But I’m not one,” I muttered under my breath as I gently pushed her prying fingers away from my neck. “Well, not completely.” “That may be,” she agreed, breaking the silence. “But you are the one Darce has chosen.” Arae wrinkled her nose, irritated. She had been the one to insist I come to her room and try on a gown she had picked out for me. She had been the one advising me on “Goddess” lessons—quizzing me on the different names of those I would likely meet at Mount Olympus. I was tired of the endless cycle of names and fabrics. It had only been three days ago when the messenger of the Gods—Hermes—had appeared in the dining hall of Elysian announcing Zeus’s request. I could still see the warm, clever smile on his lips as he gave us the order from the God of all Gods. He, in his golden glory, had come for me, to whisk me back to my mother’s side. Back to the Goddess, Demeter and the nameless other Gods who all had sided with her. I could feel the united scoffing and eye-rolling of all my past lives at the thought of my mother—our mother. I still hadn’t come into the powers that I had hoped to obtain again—whatever powers Persephone had possessed. I didn’t expect anything as dramatic as Superman’s flying, or Spiderman’s ability to create webs, but I at least thought I’d feel different after everything that had happened. While I was the one Darce had been searching for-the reincarnation of his long-ago bride—Persephone, I still didn’t feel like a Goddess. In reality, I had only gained the power of knowledge. Persephone had come to the world during various eras, and each time Darce had found her, she had slipped between his fingers. Instead of Spring and growing flowers, I had experienced death four times over and I had watched Darce’s agonizing expression too many times to count now.

I had been different. After losing both of my parents in a car accident, Darce had brought me down to the Underworld, in hopes of remembering the past. “You’ll see for yourself,” Arae’s voice cut into my reverie. “The Gods and Goddesses of Olympus care more about how you dress and carry yourself, than your ranking as a mere mortal.” “But you care quite a lot about that detail. . .” I retorted, glaring at her. She returned it with a snark smile and took a step back as she lifted her hand to her chin. She eyed her work curiously, scanning me from head to toe. “I don’t,” she replied. I snorted. “Yes, you do.” She shrugged and crossed her arms. “It’s not my fault you choose to look like a vagabond.”

“Excuse you,” I muttered under my breath. “It’s casual mortal fashion. Geez.” “Shoes?” She asked, pointing to the hem of the long dress and ignoring me entirely. I knew it was coming, too. With a grimace, I lifted the dress just slightly, revealing my Keds. I shouldn’t have been surprised that she would crack down on me, especially after everything she had done to get me in the dress I was wearing. “I told you,” she said, clicking her tongue. “It matters on Mount Olympus.” “Won’t they be too busy talking to Darce and I—” “Do you recall a French Queen from your mortal history?” Arae asked, raising a brow. “Imagine Mount Olympus as though it were Versailles. And you are a foreign queen entering new territory. Everyone who’s anyone will be there. Everyone judges everybody. They’ll be exceptionally ruthless when it comes to you.” “Even my shoes?” I lifted the hem of my gown, revealing my Keds once again. “Oh Summer,” she growled as she snapped her fingers. “Take them off.” Pursing my lips, I glared at her as I pushed them off. She crossed the room and gathered a pair of what looked to be gladiator sandals. They were a light beige-tan but encrusted with small diamonds over the tops of my feet. “And these are supposed to be better?” They looked uncomfortable. “At least it goes with the outfit,” she replied with an irritated sigh. “Did you dress Darce this diligently too?” The curt look she gave me could have sliced bread. “Thankfully, my Lord knows how to dress himself, unlike his counterpart.” If there was only one thing we could agree on, it was that Darce did in fact know how to dress himself. He definitely knew how to undress not only himself, but me, like a pro. In the few days that had passed since Morpheus had shown me my past lives, Darce and I had filled the few hours that we had together, with each other. Maybe he thought of it as making up for lost time? Either way, what bliss. Since Hermes’ arrival, Darce hadn’t let me out of his sight. Not that I could really blame him. If Hermes took me back to Mount Olympus without him. . . I was almost sure that I would never see him again. After dinner each night, Darce led me back to my room, and peeled away my clothes. Peeled away the layers of the memories I hadn’t discovered yet. In-between the silent hours, Darce would tell me stories about the women I had been before; Winnie, Celena, Lorena, and Persephone. Sometimes, when I closed my eyes, and sank into my bed beside him, I wondered who he missed the most. If he, as he watched me from across the table at our meals, looked at me and wished for another face to be there instead. The thoughts were fleeting as Darce would pull me closer, tighter against him—keeping me warm and safe in his embrace. This certainly wasn’t where I imagined myself to be these summer months—hidden away in the Underworld with a Greek God. I also never imagined that I—Summer Mavros—was actually a Greek Goddess: Persephone. Yet, here I was, having a gown prepared for my arrival to the infamous Mount Olympus, a place I had always presumed was fictional. I was going to meet the most famous Greek God—Zeus, along with the many other Gods and Goddesses I had only heard about in books and movies. “Does this really mean Zeus is my father?” “He was the father of Persephone, so I suppose that would mean he’s yours too.” Arae replied as she took a step back, tapping her finger against her chin. Sometimes I wondered if she was contemplating a curl or my entire head of hair. “But wouldn’t that make . . . Darce. . .my uncle?” I cringed at the thought. “Look,” Arae replied, snapping her fingers as she gazed at me. “Things are different here. Much different than in your rule-riddled world. Gods and Goddesses aren’t made the way you humans create life.” “Then how?” “How were the first humans created by God?” Arae asked, raising a brow. “He made them from ash and dirt, correct?”

She was right, but I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction. Instead I quietly chewed at my bottom lip and turned back to look at my reflection. I didn’t recognize the girl—woman—I saw staring back at me. It was much more than just the beautiful gown I wore or the crown of golden leaves on my head. I was so much more than who I was before everything happened, which I credit to my “spring awakening,” as Thanatos had jokingly referred to it. I was meant to be a Greek Goddess now. “I think you finally look presentable enough,” Arae murmured before she flicked a strand of my hair over my shoulder. “Enough to appease the Gods of Mount Olympus.” “I’m not going there to appease anyone,” I muttered under my breath.

“For the last time,” she hissed. “You’re not going there for a party. You’re being summoned. That means you and Darce are in more trouble than you might realize.” “We didn’t do anything wrong.” “Minthe will say otherwise.” Right. Minthe. She was the sole reason why Hermes came to the Underworld in the first place. She had been rejected by Darce and ran to Mount Olympus to tell Zeus and my mother where I was. That I, Summer Mavros was indeed, Persephone, and had been returned to Hades. “Currently it’s her word against yours.” “But soon it’ll be hers against Darce. That should make a difference.” I swore I heard Arae mutter, “not likely,” under her breath, but I didn’t bother to ask for clarification. She was still too busy inspecting me like a prize horse readying for a race.

“Perfect. When we go to Mount Olympus, this is exactly how you will dress.” Arae stated confidently. “Adhere to my fashion advice and there will be no question of who you are.” As I tilted my chin back towards the mirror’s reflection, I couldn’t help but feel the lie layered in Arae’s words. There was a good chance that everyone who looked at me would see who I was trying to be—someone hoping and willing enough to fill the shoes of the long-ago Persephone. But then, they might also see right through that act and see me for what I was. . .Darce’s partner. The Summer of today was not the Summer of four weeks ago. I carried a lot of responsibility, especially now that I knew my life was the last in Persephone’s long line of reincarnations. “Where is Darce again?” I asked, turning my attention back to Arae.

“He and Thanatos are on the other side of the Underworld, in the Asphodel Meadows.” “Oh,” I murmured as I quickly began to pull the golden crown from my head. “I think I’ll change and start packing.” “You could leave the packing to me,” Arae said with a smirk. Yeah right. Arae detested my comfortable human clothes, and I wasn’t willing to give up my comfy clothes just yet. She couldn’t make me surrender my leggings and sweaters if she wasn’t the one packing for me. Even if it meant I could only wear it in my room with Darce, I still wanted the pieces of my things that were still me. I tried to give her a warm smile as I shook my head. “Don’t worry, I’ll pack what you want me to.” “You’ll thank me later,” she promised in a sing-song voice. “Mmm,” I hummed in my throat as I reached for the clasp of the necklace. This time it was my turn to mutter, “not likely.” Arae scoffed as I set the necklace in her open palms, but she didn’t say anything more. I decided to leave before she tried though, so I jumped up as quickly as I could and disappeared through the door of her room. I was glad that at least the shoes she had selected for me didn’t clatter against the marble floor as I walked. She had tried putting me in heels once and the constant clicking drove me batty, so I had stashed them behind a potted plant. I wondered how long it had taken her to find the discarded heels. Just as I reached the hallway leading back towards my rooms, I decided to take the other way, leading to the docks. If there was a chance Darce and Thanatos had come back early, then maybe I could ask Darce for his real opinion of Arae’s dress. I smiled to myself, despite how awkward I felt. I knew he would like it on me regardless. As I approached the main entrance, I saw the familiar outline of wings and a flash of silver and blue hair. It fluttered in the gentle breeze coming off the river. Sometimes he was an enigma to me, but easy to spot in a crowd—anywhere really. Morpheus. The God of Dreams. He braced himself casually against a wall with one hand, watching the river as the waves moved across the surface. I could picture his relaxed and thoughtful expression. No doubt he was brooding over something. Sometimes I wondered what it would be like to read his mind, especially since he could practically see into mine. He had a love for Persephone once, too, and he still seemed to hold a flame for her. I knew better not to ask. I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to know. He was my first real friend, and while our first encounter upon my arrival to the Underworld had been strange, things had quickly changed. Sometimes, it felt as though he were my only friend, short of Darce. Morpheus had welcomed me without question, unlike Arae, who had taken some getting used to. He had been the one who had helped me realize the truth about my past; the truth about my being the Goddess, Persephone. Without him, I might have lost Darce to Minthe. Without him, I might have lost myself too. I watched as he tilted his chin to the side, turning slowly to glance over his shoulder.

The corner of his lips turned into a careful smile as he caught my gaze; his eyes were warm and welcoming. “I see Arae got her hands on you,” he said with a slight chuckle. “Is it that obvious?” I asked, wrinkling my nose as I slid my hands to my waist. He parted from the wall and tucked his hands into his dark trousers pockets; his clothing was the usual black with the swirling silver crest of the Underworld on his chest. Upon his head, he wore a small silver diadem—a formality. “I’m surprised you let her,” Morpheus replied, raising a brow. “I really didn’t have much of a choice.” I explained as I tugged at the skirt. “His Lord isn’t back yet, but should be soon,” Morpheus explained, gesturing back towards the river with his hand. “I presume he is the reason you’re here.” “My cheeks flushed as I slowly nodded. “I apologize,” he said as he slowly turned on his heel, glancing back at the water. “I must be a disappointing sight.” I shifted slowly, taking a step closer toward the dock. I could feel his unease. “You being here isn’t disappointing, Morpheus,” I admitted softly. Since he had helped me in remembering my past lives, something had changed between us in our short-lived friendship. Now when I gazed at Morpheus, I saw a deep sadness in his eyes—as dark as the night sky. I was too terrified to ask about it; too terrified to know the reason why. I wrapped my arms around myself and chanced a quick glance in his direction. He was still focused on the water. “Are you sure you want to go to Mount Olympus?” I asked sheepishly. “And leave you and Darce to all the fun?” He asked with a small smirk. I felt him watching me, and I shrugged as indifferently as I could manage. Morpheus shook his head. “Someone must keep an eye on you. Darce. . .will have his own things to attend to.” “I don’t need a babysitter,” I replied sharply, meeting his eyes. His eyebrows rose with amusement. “Don’t you?” I tilted my chin slightly before releasing a soft denial, “no, I don’t.” “Defiant. As expected.” Morpheus paused, clearly amused by my response. “I suppose I should go for Darce’s sake. He’ll be worried about you when he’s occupied with the others. You know nothing of the ways of Mount Olympus, of the Gods and Goddesses. You’ll be glad to have a friend on your side.” “I only know what you’ve shown me,” I responded. Morpheus had shown me an image of what it was to live on the mountain. To have all the Gods and Goddesses present, drinking and laughing with one another. It was almost like a scene from a time-period movie. It was a different sort of living from the Underworld. I suppose there would be a difference from a place where only the regal lived, compared to the place where the dead occupied. “Exactly,” he said with a nod. “Which is why I’m going.” There was a finality in his voice; a tone that meant there was no arguing the matter. “How soon?” I asked, tucking a strand of loose hair behind my ear. I knew Hermes was anxious for us to leave with him, but Darce had done his best in delaying the move for a few days. We all knew it wouldn’t last long. Eventually, we would—I would—have to go with Hermes. I would have to go to Mount Olympus to face the Gods—Zeus—and my mother. “I suppose his Lord will tell us soon. . .” Morpheus said with a shrug. “I would make sure your bags are packed. I suspect we could be departing as early as this next morning.” The morning? Tomorrow? Would we really leave so soon? I had hoped for at least a few more days. The mere idea of leaving this place behind caused my stomach to twist into knots. I nervously chewed my lip as I gazed out over the waters. My thoughts drifted to my mother and all the things I wanted to ask her. All the questions that I needed answers to. Why had she kept the truth from me? Why had she made it impossible for Persephone and Hades to be “reunited? Why had she made my entire life out to be a lie? Why now? Why did Dad... have to die? Tears stung my eyes as I thought about him. My fun-loving dad who had never known the truth about who my mother truly was. My dad, who had brought us to Greece for the summer. . . And then everything changed. Morpheus sighed softly. “Everything will be alright.” “Easy for you to say,” I said, turning my tear-filled gaze away. “You know what you’re getting yourself into.” “Which is why everything will be alright. Neither his Lord, nor I, will leave you alone with them.” I let his words settle in my mind before I swallowed my breath and continued. “Are they all really so bad?” “Some more than others,” Morpheus murmured. “Some are tolerable. Some have good intentions. And some are quick, and clever and will do anything to twist and manipulate you into thinking Darce is the enemy.” “But he’s not. . .” I replied, shaking my head. “I know he’s not the enemy.” “No, he’s not. But they’ll make you believe something entirely different if you let them. You’re human. To them, you’re easily manipulated.” A shiver ran down my spine as I lifted my hands to my arms again. Human. I was human. It was as if the mere fact of my mortality was the answer to everything. “Is it possible to become like. . . you? Like Darce?” Morpheus straightened his shoulders as the echo of my name suddenly surrounded us. Off in the distance, I could hear Darce “calling for me. I turned my attention back to the water—back to the small boat heading our way. As Darce drew closer, I could make out the figure of Thanatos beside him, and the golden-haired God: Hermes. My stomach twisted at the thought of being torn away from Darce. Being led to believe that he was the enemy. We hadn’t started off on the right foot in the beginning; we bickered more than anything. But things changed. I changed. “Speak of the devil, as they say,” Morpheus murmured and gave a slight bow in my direction. “I’ll take my leave, then.” “You don’t hav—” I began, but paused as he turned to go, disappearing into the darkness of the corridor. My cheeks warmed from my frustration. The sting of his departure sat in my chest for a long time after.

Chapter Two

"Good day, Mil’ady,” Hermes said as Darce gave a final push towards the dock. I was careful not to ruin the dress as I leaned forward and grabbed the edge of the boat. Thanatos acted quickly, tying the boat into place by a large plank of wood. I gave a small nod towards Hermes before my eyes drifted slowly back to Darce.

His dark eyes were cool as they gazed at me and I could have sworn I saw a glint of delight. Of course he was amused by my outfit. I shouldn’t have expected anything less than Darce’s poignant humor. I waited for him as he took a step from the boat, and onto the dock. It was hard not to admire him as he approached and suddenly I heard Arae in my head. Darce definitely had no problems dressing himself. He wore a cream kaftan, surrounded by black, grey and silver shawls around his shoulders, and down the length of his torso, all tied together around his waist with a rope belt. He looked majestic, and yet, so seemingly modern compared to the others around him. It was different from the black tunics with silver threading I so often saw him and the men of his court wearing. “You look. . .” He began as he reached his hand out to me. I peered at his hand as I felt my heart pound uncontrollably in my chest. “Be nice,” I warned softly, preparing for his teasing. Darce chuckled as he raised a brow and took a step closer towards me. “You look quite regal, my Lady,” he replied softly, a tease in his tone as he lifted my hand. “Like a Queen.” A Queen. His Queen. Queen of the Underworld. The mere thought of the intimidating title sent a shiver down my spine. I still wasn’t sure how I felt about it. I wasn’t sure how I felt about becoming or being the Queen of the Underworld. I didn’t know a thing about ruling… I hadn’t even graduated from college yet. Darce let go of my hand and instead pulled me close, pressing his lips gently against my forehead. He lingered for a breath and then turned to glance over his shoulder. My eyes darted from Thanatos to Hermes, both of whom were watching us.

Thanatos tried to appear distracted, while Hermes grinned shamelessly from ear to ear. “Is everything alright?” I asked, doing my best to keep my focus on Darce. “Arae mentioned that you were at Asphodel Fields.” “We just had a few loose ends we needed to attend to before his Lord leaves,” Thanatos replied. “As much as I attend to the Underworld when his Lordship is gone, I still require him for certain… situations.” Thanatos grinned wickedly, peering at Hermes before he gestured towards the entrance of our home. I still didn’t understand exactly what it was that he and Thanatos did in the different parts of the Underworld. I hadn’t asked too much about the different lands or the tasks they attended to. I knew as souls came to the Underworld, they needed to be led to the afterlife. Whatever that was. I wondered about my father… if he was happy. If Darce had attended to his soul the way I had hoped. Dad. . . I sucked in a breath and tried to collect myself, but my eyes stung with unshed tears I wouldn’t cry—couldn’t cry. I felt Darce’s hand slide along my spine; the warmth of his fingers tingling my skin. He was getting very good at sensing when I was upset. A touch from him was the same as telling me that everything was okay. “I shall go attend to my other duties, my Lord,” Thanatos murmured. Darce gave him a nod. “Wait. Leave?” I asked, looking between the three of them confused. “So we are leaving soon?” “We should leave before nightfall,” Hermes interjected before either Thanatos or Darce could respond. “Zeus is not at all the patient sort. He won’t want to be kept waiting much longer. You know how he—” “Yes,” Darce replied sharply. His words were short; his tone curt and unimpressed. “I know my brother.” I reached for Darce’s hand, pulling his attention away from Hermes. “So that’s it then? Today? Will I have enough time to pack my toothbrush?” A smile pulled at the corner of his lips and he whispered low enough for my ears only. “You’ll have time for that, and more.” My skin tingled as he began tugging me away from the two other Gods. I glanced back for only a second, catching the grimace Thanatos shared with Hermes. His lips moved imperceptibly, as if sharing his displeasure. I wished I could have heard him. Ever since Hermes had appeared in the Underworld, everyone had been on edge and distempered. The usual banter I had experienced when Minthe was still around, was all but gone now. None of the teasing and playing, only silence. Even Arae, I noticed, had none of her usual biting candor. At breakfast, she had nearly downed an entire pitcher of wine, and if it had not been for Thanatos cutting in, she might have had the rest. Or more. “Here I thought she was intolerable with Minthe,” Thanatos had mumbled when the wine had been stolen and Arae had stormed out. When we left the dining room behind, I couldn’t help but feel like I should have taken Arae another pitcher for the one she had lost. “Darce,” I tried, stopping in the long, golden hallway. “Are we really leaving tonight?” He released his grasp on my hand and replied with a silent nod. His dark eyes were filled with what I thought was regret. “I know. The timing is not ideal.” “It didn’t feel real before.” I admitted. “But now that it’s here, I don’t know if I’m ready.” Several days had passed since Hermes had first appeared in the Underworld. Darce had negotiated for more time; time that I needed to prepare to meet Zeus, to see my mother again. Time that he needed to make arrangements with Thanatos. He had asked for so much already. Even still—it hadn’t felt like enough. With a sigh, Darce shook his head. “Zeus isn’t the sort to show much patience. If we stay any longer, Zeus will call for us, and it won’t be as pleasant as sending Hermes the first time. I won’t chance that,” he explained. “Technically, he only really called on me,” I muttered.

“Us,” Darce corrected, tucking a strand of my hair behind my ear. “Where you go, I go.” There were more than a thousand words written in the crease line between his brows; words he chose not to say aloud. Reading his face was like reading the lines on my palms. He would not chance losing me again—losing Persephone again. Centuries of his love for us, in each of our lives, was worth more to him than anything. Going alone was never an option. “You should get changed. I’m sure Arae will come looking for the dress,” he said as he gestured to the soft blue fabric around me. “Yeah, probably.” I nodded slowly, releasing a soft breath. “We’ll eat before we depart for Athens.” “Athens?” I asked, slightly confused. “I thought…” “We’re going to the human realm tonight. We’ll stay in Athens, and then leave for Mount Olympus in the morning.” “Why—” “We cannot shift from the Underworld to Mount Olympus. It doesn’t work like that here, remember?” “But you said. . .” I drew out softly as I took a step closer to him. “I recall a time when you and I. . .” We had shifted from one end of his palace, to my room. To my room where he and I. . . My cheeks warmed at the memory. In the whirl of the dreams Morpheus had given me, and the night in Darce’s arms, that I discovered the truth about myself. About Persephone and all the other past lives. I had found Darce with Minthe—the woman who so desperately wanted not only Darce for herself, but the Underworld. The crown. She was the reason we were in this mess. After she had left the Underworld, she ran back to my mother, to Zeus, and any God or Goddess that would listen to her. Now, Zeus wanted me at Mount Olympus. My mother wanted me to return to her. Minthe would more than likely want another chance. . .another opportunity to seduce Darce; to take him away from me. The night Minthe’s plan unraveled, Darce and I. . .we had. . .and he had moved us from one room to another in the blink of an eye. It was the same magic he had used when we had last been in Athens, escaping the runaway spirits. My cheeks flushed at the memory of that night; the memory of the first time Darce had made love to me. “That was different,” Darce whispered with a smile. “This is my domain, remember?” As he peered at me, I could have sworn I saw a hint of a glint of amusement in his eye. His hand gently tilted my chin, as his thumb brushed over my bottom lip. I stared up at him, parting my lips just slightly. He watched me closely as I slid a hand up over the curve of his chest. “I remember.” I said, feeling lightheaded. “I would take you back to my room,” Darce murmured huskily. “If we had the time.” I knew he would. I knew he’d take me back to his room, close the door and pull me into the warmth of his arms. I’d allow myself to get lost in the feel of him; the softness of his lips, and I’d become nothing but molten lava there. I still wasn’t used to his attention. To the way he looked at me and spoke to me. I still couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that Darce—Hades, God of the Underworld was real. Not only was he real, but in love with me. Me. Summer Mavros. A rising sophomore in college.

I hadn’t ever known anyone like him in my entire life, and to suddenly have him there. . .it was too simple to call it different. He wanted me. He. . .loved me. I sucked in a breath as he leaned forward and pressed a gentle, tender kiss against my temple. “I saw Morpheus earlier,” I whispered. Darce leaned away just enough for me to see the arch of his brow. “He said that I should be careful,” I continued. “That they’ll try to make me think differently of you.” I felt his body become rigid and tense beside me; his hands sliding down to my waist. As he took another step back, I saw his jaw tightened. “Is that true?” I asked. “Will they?” Darce sighed and shrugged slightly. “They might.” “My mother, you mean? She’ll try. . .” “Not just her,” he replied, shaking his head. “There will be others. Friends of Demeter. Friends who believe in her innocence in all of this. Your innocence.” “I’m hardly an innocent party in all of this. I’m. . .” I bit down on my lip, holding back my frustration. “I made my decision. Then and now.” “No matter how you might feel, you and Persephone. . .all of them, will be perceived as the victims in all of this. You know that.” “My mother killed all of them,” I argued, feeling myself shake from the anger rising in me. I knew he didn’t need to hear this. He knew all of this. Had lived through all of it. “She thinks of it as having saved them from me. She saved them from the fate of a lifetime spent in the Underworld.” “But that’s not—” “That’s how she will make it seem, Summer. I told you. I told you the way the story has been shared for centuries. . .the truth of what really happened. It’s been lost to time. The lie is now the truth.” He wasn’t wrong. Even with the knowledge I had tucked away in my memory, there was no undoing the web of lies my mother had made. He sucked in a breath. “You have to trust me.” “And Minthe?” I tried. “What will happen to her now?” Darce tilted his back slightly, slipping a hand through his hair. “Hermes has explained that Minthe has been invited by Zeus to stay in Mount Olympus until we arrive. Her testimony is expected. Afterwards, she will have no real importance to any of them. The only hand she carries is the one with our names on it.” “Summer!” The echo of my name made me jump, and I turned on my heel to see Arae walking carefully down the hallway towards the both of us. The way Arae carried herself, the way she flicked her long red hair over her shoulder and moved her hips, she reminded me of a model making her way down the catwalk. She could give Heidi Klum a run for her money. “Summer,” she called away, her voice silky but stern. “I need the dress. It will be better folded carefully in your suitcase, rather than worn.” As she approached, I could have sworn I heard her mumble something about my chances of ruining it before ever getting to our destination. “I’m not a child,” I chided her, rolling my eyes. “I can take care of nice things.” Arae clicked her tongue and shook her head. “I’m not taking a chance with this. You might not be a child, but you are. . .human.” “And that makes me clumsy?” “Yes,” she hissed.

I gave her a withering look. “Looking ravishing as always, Arae!” Hermes voice boomed from behind us. He must have been following quietly enough that I hadn’t noticed him. I hated how persistent he was being about all of this. Arae sucked in a breath and rolled her eyes. “You can look, Hermes. But you can’t touch.” Hermes opened his mouth, but Arae didn’t give him the chance to respond. She casually wrapped her hands around my forearm and started leading me away. “Come on, Summer. We have a lot to do to prep for your visit. Gods know, we certainly don’t have much time left.”

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