The Goddess Legacy
Page 8

 Aimee Carter

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“Hera…” Demeter reached for me, but I pulled away.
“If you had proof, if you had witnesses—but you don’t, because he’s loyal to me. He respects me, and he would never hurt me in such a way. He would never leave me like that.”
“Zeus would say or do anything to get you to marry him,” she said. “It’s a game to him. I’ve no doubt he loves you, but that doesn’t mean he’ll remain loyal as soon as he has what he wants, and you must be prepared for the possibility—”
“It is not a possibility,” I said. “He’s changed, and you will see. You’ll both see. Unless you intend on sabotaging his efforts to prove me wrong.”
Her eyes widened. “No, of course not—”
“Do you love him? Do you wish you were in my place? Do you have aspirations to be his queen, Demeter?”
My sister’s expression hardened. “The only thing I wish is for you to be happy. If that’s suddenly a crime or something worthy of your anger, then so be it. I don’t regret looking out for you.”
“I don’t need you to look out for me,” I snapped. “I’m Queen. I can look out for myself.”
Fire flashed in her irises, and for a long moment, she said nothing as she stared at me. At last, as if it gave her great pain to do so, she curtsied. “As you wish, my queen.”
She may as well have slapped me. I didn’t want her condescending deference. I wanted her respect. Her acknowledgment that I was more than some silly little girl who saw marriage as the end of aspiration. I wanted her to trust me to make my own decisions, rather than allowing my siblings to dictate it for me. It was my life. What I chose to do with it was my business, and she had no say. Yet with that single gesture, she’d said more about what she thought of my choice than words could possibly express, and I hated her for it.
“Come,” said Hestia, touching my hand. “It’s nearly time. Zeus will be waiting.”
I said nothing as she led me from my chambers and down the sunset hallway. If Demeter wanted to disapprove, that was her burden to bear, not mine. I was walking toward the rest of my eternal existence. If she chose to remain behind me, then so be it.
* * *
Hades was waiting for me in the antechamber.
I felt his presence as soon as Hestia left, and until that moment, I hadn’t realized how much I’d craved being with him in the time we’d been apart. Warmth washed over me, and I smiled. It was as if I were coming home.
“I missed you.” I stepped toward the window, where he stood gazing out across the endless sky. “I was worried you’d decided to separate from us completely.”
“Never.” He turned, and his eyes swept over me. “You look beautiful.”
My cheeks grew warm, and I moved to stand beside him. “I am getting married today, you know.”
“So I’ve heard.” His fingertips brushed mine, and I slipped my hand into his without further prompting. “Demeter told me about your argument.”
The bubble of happiness inside my chest popped. “She had no right.”
“She’s only looking out for your well-being,” he said. “We’ve all seen what Zeus is capable of, and we all love you. No one wants to see you hurt.”
I shook my head. “He’s changed. You haven’t been here to see it, but—he’s different now. He’s proven himself to me again and again, and he loves me.” My voice hitched. “That’s all I want, you know. To be loved and respected.”
“Yes, I know.” He squeezed my hand. “You’re certain you will be happy no matter what the eons bring?”
I took a deep breath. “He’ll stick to his promises, Hades. I know him. And he loves me.”
“Love is not always enough, as much as we may want it to be.”
His words were a knife, slicing me open and stabbing me in the heart. “It is, if it’s with the right person. He doesn’t break his promises to me. He doesn’t abandon me without a word. He doesn’t smile at me and never follow through.”
Hades frowned. “I never made you any promises—”
“You did.” My voice broke, and I let go of him. “You did, Hades. You promised you’d come visit me. You said you’d be there for me. You swore I’d never be alone, but I was. I waited for you, and you never came.”
Silence. He reached for my hand again, and I snatched it away. He swallowed. “I am sorry. I didn’t realize—”
“What’s done is done.” I closed my eyes. I had to regain control. “You had your chance, and now it’s over. Zeus loves me. He’s loyal to me, and he treats me like the queen I am. He’s there for me every single day.”
“And is he what you want?” said Hades quietly. “Do you love him?”
“I wouldn’t be marrying him if I didn’t.” I stepped back, cementing the distance that had grown between us. I wouldn’t let Hades do this to me, not after all this time. Zeus was the best I could ever hope to have. Once upon a time, that had been Hades, but he’d proven he was nothing more than empty words and promises. I wanted more. I deserved more. “I need to finish preparing for the wedding now.”
He tilted his head in acknowledgment. “I wish you all the love and happiness in the world, sister. And though I may not have been there as I should have been, I am here now, and I will forever be there for you should you need me.”