Wonderbody gave you a flower. Hades gave you a life sentence.

But the devil was in the details, because that's what he lived for. Infiltrating the petty, day to day nonsense that human beings operated under the delusion of controlling, gliding around on his smoke-screen deals and mile-a-minute snark.

Making girls feel feelings they should not be feeling.

And the award for worst judgment calls ever goes to Megera, for the second year in a row!

Unbelievable. Even her subconscious sounded like him.

The flower Herc had given her was as pure as the driven snow. And she supposed that was how he saw her—virginal, polite, sassy in an appropriate way but still submissive enough to bring home to Mother and Father.

Hades knew what she was. Who she was.

No man is worth this.

Except that wasn't true in any sense. Not true because, for one, she had already traded herself into the Underworld for a man who traded her in for a new model, and subsequently moped around for months and months until Hades actually offered to kill her out of kindness.

Also not true because Hades wasn't a man no matter how you looked at it.

He wasn't a god, wasn't a hero the way Hercules was. But he wasn't a demon either. He was just a force to be reckoned with, the voice of reason in her unreasonable existence, someone who made her see the fun in living and dying and all the shit that happens in between.

You know the cliche. The hero gets the girl. Just let him have you.

Except that wasn't Meg, anymore. She didn't fall for the first lug who came bounding out of adolescence proclaiming he'd save her from the big bad world.

If only she were still that kind of girl. It would be easier.

Easier than being the kind of girl who enjoyed watching her ex-boyfriend get tortured by the Lord of the Dead. Easier than being the kind of girl who craved sex not as a simple expression of pleasure, but as a twisted and delicious game of power and pressure and difficulty and escape. Easier than being the kind of girl who killed monsters, real ones, in order to heal her wounds.

Learn your damn lesson, Megera.

Except she had! That was the problem.

She had learned her lesson and that's why Hades was so different. Hercules was the kind of man she should love because all women loved him, but there was no fire behind his gaze, no shiver down her spine in his touch.

You knew this would happen.

Hades was impossible to read, manipulative, moody, and, oh yeah, the teensiest bit controlling. She knew that within their initial meeting, but she signed the contract anyway, and not just out of love for her ex.

There was something else. Something she had shifted towards the back of her mind with the rest of her twisted and improbable thoughts, something she thought she'd revisit in the future, when she had healed.

Well, she'd healed, but she was scarred and now she was bleeding all over again anyway.

Get a grip.

Except she had nothing to hold on to except another damn man, and she didn't want to settle anymore. How could she?

Why should she?

The greatest irony of her situation was that she had never felt freer while in someone else's service. Her whole life had been a succession of bending over backwards to accommodate others, but with Hades it wasn't about accommodation-it was about compromise. Power she had given away in exchange for something else.

If this were a scene from a play, they'd be dueling right now.

And she'd supposedly want Hercules to win, but really she'd be rooting for Hades the whole time and she'd maybe throw a few punches of her own even though girls weren't supposed to and maybe Hades would look at her in that subtly admiring way he sometimes did and she'd feel prouder than she ever had.

If this were a play, she's be sighing at the beauty of the dumb white flower that naieve blockhead had given her, instead of sighing at the thought of smoke in her eyelashes and blood on her dress.

But if this were a play, she'd have a real choice.

And she didn't. Not really. Not when it came to the order of things and not when it came to Hades. Because she could daydream all she wanted but how could he ever see her as anything more than a latchkey? Hercules thought she was the next Aphrodite, and there was the small matter of a life on earth with security and safety and a wholly intact soul and zero complications.

She had nothing. Nothing but pillars closing in on her and heroes and gods to chase. To keep chasing, until they grew bored of her or until her mortal life expired.

Our little nutmeg has to go all noble.

This pillar was martyr white. The whore's virgin sacrifice. Her second and last sacrifice.

Say it out loud.

"People do crazy things…when they're in love."