Hey, fellow readers! Welcome to my new story! Before you dig in, I'd just like to point out that this is a Spin-off to one of my other stories, titled Forever Mine. I do suggest reading Forever Mine first. Without the background of Forever Mine, it might be hard (if not impossible) to get into this story.

If you do decide to tackle Heart Of Darkness without reading the story where these characters originated and you don't know what the hell is going on, you can find me on Twitter ( LustAndLoveFF) and you can hit me with your questions there! I check that account every day (I created it exclusively for FanFiction) and I'd be more than happy to help out!

Enjoy!


Heart of darkness

Prologue

The air was musty and warm; the soft, silver light from the moon that shone through the open curtains doing little to pierce the darkness. Adrianna had no idea where she was. She'd never been in this room before, she'd never seen the red, velvet chaise longue that stood in the center of it and she'd never gazed up at such a beautiful arched ceiling...and yet, she felt at home.

Because he was there.

She couldn't see him yet, but she knew he was near, hiding in the shadows, watching her. She could feel him. Shivering, she hugged herself, surprised when her hands touched bare skin. Looking down, she found she was wearing a cream-colored satin-and-lace negligee, the sexy kind that she would never buy in real life...and yet, here, she loved it. This was were she could let go, where she could be free and like other girls, if just for a few hours.

"You look beautiful."

His warm, deep voice behind her made every cell in her body vibrate. Aching, she turned, her heart leaping when she saw him, leaning back against a pillar, his black eyes simmering on hers. He was wearing a pair of dress pants with a white button-down shirt tonight and that combined with his black hair and those muscles which she knew were hidden underneath the fabric...made it even harder to breath.

"Hi," was all she managed to say.

He growled softly and then, he was in front of her, kissing her in a way no man had ever kissed her. His lips molded against hers with just the right amount of pressure, one hand softly brushing the exposed flesh of her back as the other found her raven curls. It didn't feel like just a kiss, it never did...It felt like he was worshipping her, like she was important, treasured.

When he released her lips, he kept his forehead pressed against hers, his warm breath feathering her skin as he whispered, "Hello, Cara."

She smiled. Growing up in Italy, she'd had many men call her Cara -meaning Beloved- and she'd never like it...but when he said it, it made her melt.

Letting out a deep breath, she pressed herself closer against him, slipping effortlessly into his arms. "God, I needed this."

"You sound distressed," he rumbled, his fingers slowly stroking her back, setting her skin ablaze. "Did something happen?"

She shrugged, breathing in the smell that was so intricately his. She'd never smelled anything like him and something told her she never would again. There weren't words to describe the musk that clung to him, the scent of male dominance that oozed out of his pores, that made her feel safe and wanted. It filled her body, her blood, made her anxieties drift away...

"Hey," he whispered, tilting her chin up, forcing her eyes on his. "Talk to me."

"It's nothing."

"It is if it's upset you."

Her heart melted a little. No one in her real life cared about her like he did. She had family, off course-and they loved her-but she'd never had someone look at her the way he looked at her; care for her the way he cared for her and she'd never felt anything for any other man that even came close to what she felt for him.

"It's just my job," she caved, seeing in his eyes that he wasn't going to let it go. "I'm having some trouble with my superiors."

"What kind of trouble?"

She sighed, raising on her tiptoes, sweetly kissing his chiseled jaw. "Do we have to talk about work?"

"That depends," he growled, leaning into her kisses. "Are you talking about it to anyone else?"

She sank back down on her feet, her lips twitching. He knew very well she didn't bother anyone in the real world with her problems, her worries, her fears. She didn't want to be seen as vulnerable, as weak...but that also meant she never got anything off her chest. And then, she fell asleep and he was there and for some reason, she shared every part of herself with him, without hesitation. She trusted him, completely...

"What's so funny?" he rumbled, his thumb brushing over her curling lips, sending tiny sparks through her body.

"You. No one knows me like you do."

"Good. I love that there's a part of you that's all mine."

"Every part of me is all yours."

She could feel his fingers tightened on her hips, his dark eyes blazing as he growled, "I wish you knew."

"Knew what?" she breathed.

"What I feel when you say those things to me."

Her heart broke as she watched a deep sadness take over his beautiful eyes, a sadness she'd seen there more than once. She didn't know much about his life beyond this dreamworld-he shared little about it-but she knew that wherever he was when he wasn't with her, it wasn't a nice place. And he was lonely there. She got lonely, too...but not like him. His loneliness seemed to be such an deep-rooted part of him that it refused to release him from its clutches, no matter how desperately she tried to free him from it. There were times when she was successful, though; there were moment when he seemed completely at peace and happy...but then they would part ways and the next time they'd meet, it was as if he'd reset...and she tried to free him all over again.

Swallowing hard, she cupped his cheeks, rubbing her thumbs across his skin.

"Tell me you're alright," she whispered as his eyes drifted closed under her touch. "Tell me that wherever you are when you're not with me, you're okay."

He moved one of her hands to his lips, kissing her palm. "I'm okay right now, here, with you. That's good enough."

She shook her head softly. "No, it's not. You should be happy, always."

"That's not in the cards for me, Cara."

"It could be," she whispered. "Come to me."

He growled, his eyes darkening just as they always did when this subject came up. "You know I can't."

"Why not?"

He brushed back one of her curls, his fingers following the curve of her ear. "There are rules not even I can break."

Her blue eyes dropped. She hated those vague answers; she hated that she knew nothing about his life beyond this realm; she hated that they couldn't be together outside of it...but she also knew she didn't hate it nearly as much as he did.

"Hey," he whispered, his fingers tilting her chin up until his dark eyes touched hers again. "Do you want me to go?"

"No," she rushed. "Off course not."

He let out a deep sigh. "Good, because I really don't want to go."

Her knees trembled at the rough sound of longing in his voice. She'd never been as desired as she was by him. He didn't just have a physical want for her, there was something deeper, something primal.

Unable to stop herself, she swirled her fingers down his stomach, making him groan. Beneath the material of his shirt, she could feel his muscles contract. "Why is it that you're dressed and I'm wearing near to nothing?"

His lips curled in a roguish smile as his eyes ran over the exposed skin of her body, trailing fire everywhere his gaze touched her. "Perhaps I had a hand in your particular attire tonight," he admitted.

"Well, I don't think it's fair," she teased, biting her lip.

Holding her gaze, he started unbuttoning his shirt, baring his muscled chest.

Watching the fabric slide down to the ground, her heart-rate sped up, her tongue running along her lips. God, he was handsome.

"Better?" he asked, his voice raw.

He didn't wait for her to answer.

As his lips pressed down on hers again, she reveled in the heat he poured into her, allowing it to flow free between them. She melted against him, his fingers digging into her behind as his tongue slid alongside hers. His body was soft and hard at the same time, his fingers everywhere in touches that became progressively more insistent. She ran her hands down his back, slipping them inside his jeans, brushing her palms over his hard behind.

He moaned into her mouth, a moan she felt all the way down to her toenails.

"You cannot touch me like that and expect me to remain in control." The warning in his voice was heated, as heated as her blood which she swore was about ready to boil.

"Who says I expect you to remain in control?"

A shiver of pure desire rippled down her spine as he bent her backwards and licked the valley between her breasts, growling against her skin. She clutched a handful of his hair as his mouth moved in hot circles around one satin-covered nipple. She ached to kiss him, taste him, her body tight...but their standing position was too uncomfortable for her to maintain for long.

As if reading her mind, he swept her up into his arms and carried her to the red chaise longue. He laid her down gently, standing over her for a moment, gazing at her with eyes that made her feel like the most beautiful woman to ever walk the earth. She stretched with a sensual languidness, watching him as he unbuckled his belt, drinking in the exceptional male specimen that was towering over her. When he'd removed the last shreds of his clothes, his hand caressed her inner thigh before he gently nudged her knees apart and joining her on the chaise.

A shiver swept over her as he pushed the satin nightgown up, kissing in the wake of the lace that hemmed the bottom. His mouth was soft and loving as he feathered her belly with kisses, moving higher as he bared her breasts, the hot brand of his body singeing her flesh wherever they touched. She arched beneath him, mindless to everything but the touch of his mouth and hands as the negligee dropped in a pool of satin on the floor. She rubbed herself against him, her legs closing around his hips in an overwhelming wave of need; a need for him, not just his body in hers, but for all of him, merged with hers in a way that was beyond sexual.

He tipped her head back, burning her lips with his and in that moment, she knew she was meant to be there, with this beautiful man who made her feel like the woman she wished she could be outside of this world as well; strong, confident, desired...

"Do you have any idea what you do to me?" he murmured, his normally beautiful voice hoarse with passion.

Incomprehensible sounds fell from her lips as he slowly, slowly pushed inside of her. Her nails dug into his back as he stretched her and then held still, giving her time to adjust to his girth.

"Adrianna."

Her name was spoken gutturally, and she marveled in it as his hips flexed and he started moving inside of her, causing a friction that drove her wild. She knew this technically wasn't real. This entire interaction only took place in her mind while her physical body was lying in a bed, in her apartment, alone...but it felt more real than anything she'd ever felt in the real world. He felt more real than anything or anyone.

Her vision blurred and her world narrowed until all she was aware of was the sensation of his body, riding inside of hers.

"So soft," he groaned, his lips brushing her breast as her body arched. "So sweet. All mine."

She was so full; full of him. Widening her legs, she took as much as she could, bracing her palms on the chaise as he began to move faster.

"God, Adrianna." He repeated her name over and over again as sort of oath, splaying his hands over her behind, keeping her pressed tightly against him.

"Kiss me," she breathed with desperation.

He gave her what she wanted without a second thought, his warm lips sending her over the edge. Her orgasm hit her without warning, making her scream out. Her palm covered her mouth, embarrassed by the sounds she made...but he wouldn't have it. With a growl, he peeled her hand from her lips, holding it above her head as his black eyes pierced hers intensely. "Don't hide from me, Cara. I want to hear you come."

She whimpered as his lips found that sweet spot behind her ear, as he seated himself deeper inside of her...

"I'm going to come." He moved faster, harder. "Come with me."

She wanted to tell him she'd just climaxed, hard and that she couldn't possibly come again...but then he hit a spot inside of her only he could hit and before she knew what was happening, she was screaming again; only this time, he screamed with her. She tried to push her legs even farther apart, giving him access to her very core as his body racked with pleasure and his heat warmed her inside.

"Cara." He buried his face in her hair, his voice nearly desperate. "Perfect."

Panting, they laid there for a long moment, her fingers dancing on his back...and then, out of nowhere, tears filled her eyes.

Noticing, he gazed down at her, his face horrorstruck. "You're crying," he whispered, worried. "Why are you crying?"

She shook her head softly, feeling her chin tremble. "Because I won't remember this when I wake up."

His gaze turned tortured. "Adrianna-"

"I know," she cut him off, brushing her fingers over his jaw. "I know that's the way it has to be...but I miss you. Even though I can't remember you outside of this world, I miss you. There's this void inside of me, all the time, and I don't know why it's there...not until I fall asleep and find you here." She huffed, spilling more tears. "And I don't even know your name."

"Names aren't important."

"They are to me," she sniffled. "If this was real life and I would tell my friends that I've been having mind-blowing sex for four years now with a man who's name I don't even know, they'd think I'm some slut-"

He growled deep in his chest, his black eyes turning even darker. "Don't call yourself that."

She blushed, her spend body responding to his dominance.

"And please-" he added, his gaze softening again. "-please, tell me you don't think that's all this is. You know this isn't just sex, right? You know you're so much more to me-"

"I know," she whispered, letting him off the hook. Off course she knew it wasn't just sex. Whenever they were together, no matter in which state of undress they were, there was a connection there that ran so much deeper than a physical one. When she was with him, she felt whole...like she'd been waiting for him her entire life without even realizing it.

"Does not knowing my name really hurt you that much?" he rumbled, brushing away a tear with his thumb.

She nodded softly. "You say my name with so much adoration. I want to do the same with yours."

"Then name me."

She frowned, smiling confused. "What?"

"Name me," he repeated, his eyes serious on hers. "My real name was given to me by people who don't care about me at all. I'd much rather have a name of your choosing slipping from your lips whenever I make you squirm."

She bit her lip, her hands running up his impressive torso. "Are you sure?"

He nodded slowly, his eyes simmering on hers. "Choose a name, Cara."

She stayed silent for a long moment, staring into his dark depths...and then, out of nowhere, she found herself whispering, "Lucian."

His lips twitched. "Lucian?"

She nodded and when his smile turned into a full-on grin, she pushed against his chest, forcing him on his back so she could straddle him, looking down with fake indignation. "Are you laughing at me?"

"I would never," he said, that grin still on his lips.

"Lucian is a great name," she defended. "It's mysterious, like you. And it has an air of danger about it, like you."

All the amusement left his face. "You think I'm dangerous?"

"Yes."

He sat up straight, forcing her to hook her legs behind his back to keep up straight, too. "Are you afraid of me?"

"Yes," she whispered again, adding when she saw the sadness in his eyes, "But not in the sense you're thinking of. I'm afraid of you, because I think you're the only one with the power to hurt me."

His body tensed against hers, his strong arms wrapping around her. "I would never hurt you."

"If you disappear on me-"

"I won't."

"Promise me."

Watching her closely, he cupped her neck, rumbling. "I promise."

She sighed, burying her face in the crook of his neck, breathing him in.

"It means light, you know," she whispered as she felt his fingers comb through her hair.

"What does, Cara?"

"Lucian," she felt him tense against her. "It means light."

"Then you should choose a different name," he growled. "It doesn't suit me at all."

She pulled back, watching him with stubborn eyes. "I will not. You're Lucian. You're my Lucian."

His fingers dug into her back as she felt him harden inside of her again.

"Yours," he growled before suckling her lip into his mouth, biting it softly. "I'm yours."

She answered by threading her fingers through his hair and deepening their kiss, her tongue finding his, her breasts rubbing against his hard chest...and then, suddenly, he forced his mouth from hers, his eyes shooting fire.

"Fuck."

She frowned as he rolled her over again, laying her down gently before pulling out of her body. She whimpered at the loss of him, at the emptiness.

"What are you doing?" she asked, watching him get dressed.

"I have to go," he growled, anger in his words.

She swallowed hard, grabbing her negligee of the floor and draping it over her naked body. "Did I do something wrong?"

His eyes turned even angrier. "No. God no, don't ever think that. You're perfect."

"Then stay."

He shot her an apologetic look. "I-"

"-can't," she finished, slipping the gown back over her head. "So you keep telling me."

He sighed softly, kneeling down in front of her, kissing her thigh sweetly. She brushed her fingers through his hair, sighing too. "I know it's not your fault...but I wish you could stay."

His lips moved to her other thigh. "If I stay, they'll track me and follow me here."

Her fingers froze on his scalp. This was the most he'd ever revealed about his life...but she wanted more.

"Who will track you?" she whispered, realizing she was pushing her luck. "Who will follow you here?"

As she'd expected, he froze. He'd said too much without meaning to. His hands clutched by his side, he rose, pressing a sweet kiss to her lips on the way up.

"Will you be back tomorrow?" she asked, rising, too.

He growled again, cupping her cheeks, watching her with such torture in his eyes. "I'll do everything in my power to make sure of it."

She smiled, but could feel her eyes water at the same time. "I hate that you have to go back to a life you clearly hate. I hate that I can't help you-"

He hugged her to his chest. "You help me every day, Cara. Not just when we're together, but every single moment of every single day. Just knowing you're out there...You have no idea what that does to me."

One of her tears dripped onto his shirt. "Lucian?"

"Yes, Cara?" he whispered, his warm fingers stroking her back.

"I love you."

Words that had never been spoken aloud before hung in the air...and then, he was gone. Her arms were no longer wrapped around his torso, his warmth no longer enveloped her...and as she hugged her cold body, she sank back down on the chaise and cried.


His eyes flew open, immediately pinning down the brunette who'd roused him with an evil glare. Off all the times to fucking wake him up!

Adrianna had never told him she loved him...and he'd hadn't spoken the words either. Not once in the four years since he'd found a way to reach her. But that wasn't because he didn't feel the same way; he'd just figured he had no right to say such a thing to her. If he told her how he felt, if she truly understood the gravity, the depth of his adoration for her, he feared she would either flee and never return to him...or she would feel compelled to say it back and he didn't want to force her to lie. After all, who could love him?

But tonight, she'd said it...out of her own accord.

She loved him.

She loved him?

How?

"Finally," the woman said, crossing her arms over her chest. "It took forever to wake you. What the hell did you take?"

He got up from the cold floor, hiding the vile that had contained the potion. He didn't sleep naturally like she did, so he had to resort to other measures to see her.

"What are you doing down here?" he snarled, slipping the jacket of his black suit back on.

"Your brother is having a meeting with pretty much everyone of importance and he's asked you to join in."

He cocked a skeptical brow. "Me? Since when am I included in these things?"

She shrugged...but he could see she knew more than she was letting on.

"This better be important," he gnarled, vanishing from the darkness and appearing in a room that bathed in white light. In the middle stood a long table, outlined with chair after chair...and every chair was occupied. His brother was at the head of the table, unsurprisingly. He'd stood when he'd entered, gesturing at the empty seat beside him.

"Why am I here?" he gnarled, already missing her touch, her voice, that smell...

His brother shot him an annoyed look. "Just sit down, Hades."

His jaw set, Hades did as he was told...at his own pace. When he finally slid down on the chair, Zeus remained standing. That egotistical bastard enjoyed his role on Olympus way too much...and why wouldn't he? He was the supreme ruler, living in this heaven of light, friendship and love...while he was below, alone, in constant darkness, joined only by those who'd died.

"Let me start of by saying that this is a curtesy we're bestowing on you," Zeus said, towering over him with a stern look on his face. "What we're about to tell you is not open for discussion."

Hades cocked an annoyed brown, his eyes gliding over the others. Aris, Artemis and Apollo were in their armors, per usual, their faces stoic and not betraying anything. Athena had that same look on her face, but as the goddess of reason, she always had that look on her face, so he couldn't read anything off her either. His second brother Poseidon-who was seated next to him-matched Zeus' stern look, but that was nothing new. The three of them didn't exactly see eye to eye on...anything. His sister Hestia, on the other hand, he liked. Well, maybe liked was stretching it. Let's just say, he didn't completely despise her, which was strange, because as the goddess of family, she was everything he was not; kind, caring, sweet...and yet, tonight, she was purposely avoiding his eyes for some reason. That made the first alarm bell in his head go off. The second bell rang when he noticed Aphrodite being deep in thought, a hint of panic and sadness in her eyes. But what really alarmed him, was the big grin Hera-the brunette who had woken him-had plastered on her lips. She was Zeus' wife, but only in title. The two hated each other. Zeus never paid mind to her-which for a vain woman like Hera was like a slap in the face- and Hera only took pleasure in two things: Sabotaging Zeus' plans and watching others suffer... He had the ominous feeling she was about to indulge in the latter.

"What is this about, Zeus?"

Zeus sat down, his chin raised as he said, "It's about the Salvatore girl."

"Seriously? This is about Elena? Again?" Hades sniffed, relieved. "It's been decades, brother. Drop it already. So what she had a couple of supernatural kids? She defeated Niklaus, for heaven's sake. We have his Soul. I think it's safe to say we owed her some happiness after everything-"

"Not Elena," Hera cut him off, that smile widening. "Her daughter. I think you've heard of her, haven't you? Adrianna Salvatore?"

Hades could feel flames lick his feet as her name slipped from the bitch's lips. "What about her?"

"We know about you and Adrianna, Hades," Poseidon gnarled.

How the fuck did they find out?

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

Zeus sighed. "We know, brother, so must we really do this dance where you pretend you don't know her and we confront you with your own misconduct?"

The flames licked higher up Hades' legs. "I did nothing wrong."

"Oh, really?" Hera spit out. "Is that why you've been hiding your little whore from us?"

"Careful!" Hades barked, lying in a calmer voice, "And I wasn't hiding anything. I just didn't think it was any of your business."

"You thought wrong!" Zeus snapped.

Hades tried to keep his cool, forcing the ever-rising flames to temper. "Look, I didn't break any of your rules. Adrianna doesn't know I'm a god; she doesn't even know my real name and once she wakes, she doesn't remember me." His heart ached as he spoke those words, hating that he was only a shadow-constantly entering and exiting her life-while he craved to be with her every moment... "I didn't expose us."

"This isn't about exposure, Hades!" Zeus snapped, leaning in, a fire swirling through his golden eyes. "This is about you and the motives behind-and consequenses of-your actions!"

Hades opened his mouth to ask what the fuck he was talking about, but before he could speak, Zeus snarled, "We've spoken to Lucrecia."

He tried to hide the shock that he felt in that moment, but he could tell by Hera's delighted reaction that he hadn't succeeded.

"She told us you came to see her a little over four thousand years ago to get her advice. She told us you had a vision of a girl, a girl you'd never seen before...a girl who somehow made you feel. Now, you and I both know you were designed not to feel anything, Hades. It came with the job you chose-"

"Chose?" he snarled. "That's a nice way of putting it."

"The point is-" his brother continued. "-she made you feel something, something you obviously liked feeling because you spend the next few years searching for her...and when you didn't find her, you figured someone was playing a cruel joke on you, so, you crawled back in the darkness and tried to forget...but you never could."

Hades swallowed hard, his eyes flashing. Why the fuck had Lucrecia told his brother this? She'd been the closest thing to a friend he'd had down there in the darkness. Why had she betrayed him?

"Enter Elena Gilbert," Poseidon jumped in, his voice riddled with anger. "The very second she died and you saw her, you had that same vision. You saw that girl again and you knew that somehow, Elena would have a hand in you finding her. So, what did you do? You broke every rule there is, bringing her back from the dead over and over again, justifying it to us by spewing some bullshit about how an Oracle had told you she would take down Niklaus Mikaelson-"

"I was told that, by Lucrecia in fact," Hades snarled back. "-and she did take down Niklaus!"

"Enter Damon Salvatore!" Zeus took over again, paying no mind to his interruption. "When he showed up in your club with Elena over his shoulder and you saw them together, the image of that girl came to you again, clearer than ever before and that's when you knew, wasn't it? You knew they would birth that girl-"

"Adrianna," he snarled, hating the demeaning way in which Zeus kept saying that girl. "Her name is Adrianna."

"We know her name!" Poseidon barked beside him. "What we don't know, is how you though you would get away with lying to us!"

"I didn't lie-"

"We are not fools, brother! So do not treat us as such! You didn't want Elena to live to take out Niklaus! And if you did, it sure as hell wasn't your primary reason! You wanted that girl!"

"What do my reasons matter-"

"Your reasons matter because when Elena Gilbert met Damon Salvatore, it was your duty to warn us! You should've told us she would Mate with that vampire and procreate! But you didn't, because you knew we would never allow it and now, we have to rectify your fuck-up!"

An ice cold feeling clutched his stomach. "Rectify my fuck-up?"

"Her birthday is coming up," Zeus took over again. "Her twenty-fifth birthday, Hades. She will have to choose between remaining The Crescător or becoming a vampire...and we can't let either one happen."

Hades no longer tried to hide the dark flames, letting them run freely over his body. "If you're suggesting what I think you're suggesting-"

"We're not suggesting anything," Poseidon said, unimpressed by his brother's show of force. "If she joins her brothers as an Immortal, there is no telling how powerful they will be as a Trinity and if she chooses to be The Crescător, it's only a matter of time before history repeats itself! We can't let more pure blood vampires and Crescătors be born, Hades. The girl has to die."

His blood boiling, Hades rose, slowly, his eyes completely black and murderous. "Listen to me very carefully-"

"Brother-"

Hades' palms slammed down on the table. "I SAID, LISTEN!"

Audible gasps echoed through the room. No one ever spoke to Zeus like that. You could voice your concerns, you could express your opinions, but you never, ever, blatantly defied him...

But Hades didn't give a fuck about the rules, not then.

"If you touch Adrianna-"

Zeus rose too, getting in his face. "You don't want to threaten me."

"And you don't want to threaten her!"

"I'm not threatening her! I'm telling you what's going to happen!"

"You can't just kill her!"

"Yes, I can! Especially since she's only alive because I allowed you to revive her mother over and over again-"

"That was my call! I rule the Underworld!"

"And I rule everything else! And I decide she is now a threat to our way of life!"

"A threat to our way of life?! She's just a girl!"

"So was her mother and now, we have two pure blood vampires and a second Crescător on our hands!"

Hades' nostrils flared, everything inside of him clenching, his anger turning his dark heart even darker. "I won't let you do this! I will fight whatever demon you send after her!" And he fucking meant that. He couldn't touch anything in the world above, couldn't feel anything...but demons weren't part of that world, they were intruders, like him...so he could and would fight them, even if that meant exposing himself and everyone involved!

"We know you would intervene," Zeus said, unaffected. "Which is why you're on lock-down."

"Lock-down?!" He spit out. "What the fuck does that mean?"

The answer came to him in the form of golden shackles clasping around his wrists and ankles...and he felt like a fucking moron. Had he really believed his brothers had brought him here as a curtesy? How stupid could he be? This had all been a trick to trap him. They knew he would never let them harm her.

"Don't do this!" Hades snarled, fear seeping into his blood alongside the anger. Zeus' shackles weren't attached to any restrains, but they were spelled to keep whoever they were on, grounded at Olympus...

He couldn't go to her.

He couldn't help her.

They would send their demons...and she would die.

"Please."

Every pair of eyes shot to him,widened, shocked.

"What did you just say?" Hera asked, still amused.

Hades jaw locked, but the time for pride was over. It had ended the very second those shackles had locked around him. "Please," he repeated, searching Zeus' eyes. "Don't hurt her. I'll do anything."

"I don't like this situation either," Zeus said, kinder. "But we have to do damage control-"

"She's not damage." Hades' voice broke, fear starting to cripple him. "Please. I've waited for her for millennia. Don't take her from me now that she's finally here."

He could see Zeus hated what he was about to do...but he was about to do it nevertheless. There was a determination there that wasn't going to falter.

He's going to kill her.

"If I may." Aphrodite rose, her long, blond curls flowing over her gown, her golden eyes seductively on Zeus. "I think I may have a solution that will appease every party involved."

Zeus waved his hand, gesturing for her to continue as he sank back down on his throne.

"Adrianna Salvatore is currently leaning towards becoming a vampire, simply because her entire family is Immortal," the goddess sang. "She has mortal friends and a mortal job, sure, but if she would have to choose now, she would choose Immortality and join forces with her brothers."

"Get to the appeasing-part," Hades snapped, noticing Zeus tense.

"I think it's safe to say we would rather see Adrianna remain human, yes?"

"Yes," Poseidon said. "But she won't ever be a normal human-"

"-because she's The Crescător," Aphrodite cut in. "I know. And once she does the ritual and binds herself to a vampire, she'll breed with him."

Hades felt a growl built in his chest, jealousy raging through him. He didn't want her with another...but he'd always known the day would come that she would find someone in her world and built something real, without him...

"But what if she doesn't bind herself to a vampire?" Aphrodite said, the bracelets around her wrists chiming. "If she chooses a mortal, if she binds herself to him so she can have children with this man, have a family...Well, then that would change things, wouldn't it?"

Hades saw Zeus straighten, his brows knotted together. "I suppose."

"Then why not steer things in that direction? Right now, the girl has no substantial reason to choose any other faith then becoming a vampire, but if we put a mortal she could love on her path and give her a taste of what it could be like to remain human and start a normal human family...she might choose that faith. She might want to stay human to be with him. A normal human."

"And where, do tell-" Poseidon asked, skeptically. "-are we going to find a human that can convince her to change every plan she's made for her life in eight months, which is when she turns twenty-five."

Aphrodite's golden gaze fell on Hades, a smile on her pink lips. "We won't have to look far."

"Hades?" Hera snapped. "He's not a mortal."

"We can make him one," Aphrodite said. "For a few months."

"Hades?" Zeus frowned. "Why him?"

"Because she already loves him," she sang, her eyes soft on Hades'. "Sure, she doesn't remember him when she wakes up, but there's a connection between them and I have no doubt that she'll feel it once he enters her life. He goes to her as a mortal, he makes her fall for him, makes her choose to remain mortal with him so they can start a family together. Since she can only remain human by doing the Crescător-ritual, she'll do it with him and commit herself to a mortal life."

"With Hades?" Poseidon snapped. "As much as I hate it, we need Hades here, Aphrodite! Who else is going to rule The Underworld? It's not exactly a coveted position-"

"Hades won't have to stay," she cut him off, replacing the joy that had entered Hades' body with an even deeper darkness than before. "Once she's done the ritual, the decision has been made."

"But then we once again face the problem of her being The Crescător," Hera said. "After Hades leaves, any vampire could charm his way into her pants-"

"Let them," Aphrodite said. "It won't matter. The Crescător can only bind herself to one person, human or vampire. Once the ritual has been performed, she can only breed with whoever-or whatever- she did the ritual with, in this case Hades. And with him gone, she won't be able to have any kind of offspring and she won't be able to turn into a vampire. She'll be just another huma-"

"No."

All eyes flew to Hades, who's body was once again covered in flames.

"No?" Aphrodite repeated, surprised.

"Do you have any idea what you're asking me to do?" he barked, glaring at her. "You want me to enter her life, seduce her, make her want to be with me above anything else, promise her a family, a future...only to leave her once she's bound herself to me, mortal and barren?" He shook his head. "It would destroy her. I won't do that to her."

"You won't?"

"No!"

"Okay then," Aphrodite said, crossing her arms over her chest. "Then I guess she dies tonight."

Hades growled, flexing his muscles, trying to shake of the shackles with all his might...but he knew they would never budge. He had no way out, no way to save her...unless by choosing the cruel path that was being laid out for him...

"I would agree to this, Hades," Zeus said, watching him closely." I would agree to giving you seven-and-a-half months to insert yourself in her life and have her do the ritual with you, have her choose mortality. Off course, if you fail to do so in that time, we will eliminate her, but if you succeed, we will allow her to live a full life, grow old. I need an answer right away though, Hades. Will you do it? Or do I send your demons?"

Hades sniffed, his blood turning cold at the prospect of what he was about to do. "As if that's even a choice."

"Good," Aphrodite sang, smiling. "Give me a moment."

As she disappeared from the room, Hades sank down on his chair, defeated, his heart protesting his decision...but his head knew this was the only way to keep her alive...

"It goes without saying that you can't tell the girl-or anyone involved-who you are," Zeus clarified. "Or why you're there. Our existence must remain a secret. If you do anything to break that rule, we will be forced to take immediate action and the girl will die."

"Her parents know me," Hades gnarled. "We might cross paths."

"Then it would be in your best interest-and that of their daughter's- to convince them to keep their mouths shut about who you are."

Hades nodded, his eyes on the table, a numbness taking hold of him.

Aphrodite reappeared again, holding a silver chain with a white crystal attached.

"Wear this," she said, holding out the chain. "Once you put it on, you'll become human and be send to earth. The crystal will consume your powers, your Immortality and keep them safe. If the crystal breaks, you will be turned back into a god. Now, for safety reasons, the crystal can only be broken by you and only if you have the clear intention to do so...but once it's broken, there's no going back."

"In other words," Poseidon jumped in. "If you break the crystal, for whatever reason, before Adrianna Salvatore does that ritual and she is no longer a liability to us, this deal is off and we will kill her. Understood?"

Hades locked his jaw. "You know, I never thought I'd see the day that you two would outshine me at being evil, brothers. Congratulations."

"Remember the rules, Hades," Zeus snapped back. "There will be no second chance."

Shooting the god one last glare, Hades slipped the chain over his head, his entire body tense with anger and hate...

But there was also that little part of him that was excited.

He was going to see her, touch her, in her world...

...and then betray her in the worst possible way.


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