Wow, it's been almost two months...so sorry for the delay and thanks so much for being patient with me! The poem is the last stanza from "Barter" by Sara Teasdale. Enjoy.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

Chapter 29

Persephone.

I shuffled back to my room in a trance, my eyes too clouded with otherworldly things to pick my feet up. Nearly passing my doors for the second time today, I sluggishly leaned against the door and smacked madly at the latch. It gave way and I ambled in, casting glances here and there at the familiar objects in my room: fireplace, mirror, combs, rug, Hades on my bed, pillows, tapestry. Hades on my bed. I jumped almost out of my skin—certainly out of my dreaminess and landed in the present with an uncomfortable start. "Good Lord," I breathed, falling back on old habits, "You startled me."

"It wasn't my intention. Though good is up for debate," he said darkly as he stood from the bed. "Where were you today?" he asked, not bothering to veil his annoyance.

"That's direct." I shot back.

"I want to know. Where did you and Nyx go?"

"Now that doesn't make me want to tell you anything," I frowned.

"Then you are mistaken in thinking that I wish to persuade you. You will tell me where you went."

"Well," I hedged, swinging around one of the giant bed posts to face him, "That depends."

"On?"

"Where you will be in two day's time."

"I fail to see the significance," Hades said, crossing his arms firmly over his chest.

I continued lightly on, "There are two, options, shall we say,"

"The first?" He was growing impatient I could tell.

"If you say you will not attend the festivities with me, I will say that Nyx and I spent the evening in the company of some very friendly satyrs."

"And if I don't believe you?"

I pretended I hadn't heard him, "Did you know that goats have a technique called mouthing? You see, what they do is put their lips on things, to see if it's something they'd like to eat. Mouths and tongues too, of course."

Hades' lip edged up into a snarl as if he smelled something very foul.

I nodded vehemently, asserting the obvious truth of my words, "Mm-hmm, they're very sensitive." I puckered my lips and made a wet smacking sound.

"And the second option?" Hades asked, not looking at all amused, "If I say I'll go you will tell me some other ridiculousness?"

"How do you know the first isn't true?" I countered.

He cocked a suspicious eyebrow, "What if none of that nonsense suits me?"

I raised a knee to the bed and crawled across, right up to him. I faced him and I was still just under his height. I leaned slowly in, cupping the side of his face, tracing the sharp line of his cheekbone and placing a small kiss on his unresponsive lips. Abruptly he turned from me, "That won't work Persephone" he said sternly.

Not to be discouraged, I inched farther forward, rested my hands on Hades' broad shoulders and breathed my carefully chosen words on the back of his neck, "Darling, you were mistaken in thinking you had a third option." It sounded vaguely sinister, a foreign sound to my ears.

Hades opened his mouth to interrupt, but I tangled my fingers in his hair and violently pulled his head backwards, constricting whatever words were waiting in his throat. "Well, I suppose you were mistaken in thinking you had even two options" I said seriously.

I let go with one arm and wrapped it around his chest, keeping the other arm firm. I heard his breath hitch and recover in surprise though it remained quick. "And while you are so busy not talking; I'll explain that even if I wanted to tell you where I was tonight, I don't think I could. Besides," I continued sweetly, "I don't think that would be a fair trade, and I've heard you like things fair," I whispered so close to his ear that he probably felt the words before he understood their meaning.

"This would not be the first time I have been called unjust, love." His voice had a hard metallic edge, which should have been a warning to me. "And I don't think you are at all incapable of telling me where you were." The metallic edge flashed like a razor, and with a quick burst of energy he flung my arms away from him, turned around and recaptured them in an iron grip. His hair was mussed from my grip and it hung just over his inhumanly chilling eyes.

"Are you calling me a liar?" I spat.

He let out a low, fierce growl, heaved me off the bed and drove me into the nearest wall. My back hit with a dull thump, I ducked my head to avoid hitting my skull on the stone, but he seized my chin, forcing our eyes to collide and lock in hard on one another. A wordless, fevered heat built between us: a flame fanned by our closeness and a tension fueled by fiery anger. Conflicting courses of action burned potential images in my head, making the searing silence unbearable. His hands still gripped my arms unyieldingly, making deep impressions in my flesh. From his imposing height he angled his head down to me; his dark hair fell against my face.

"Yes." He pronounced the word hard, though pointed at the wall, purposefully distant from my cheek. The force of the word was not lost on me, however. I felt the weightiness of accusation in his voice and I found myself objecting not to his accusation but to his need to know. Fury flushed my veins free of sense; it ran smooth, thick and sulfurous like the dense smoke of Tartarus. With an upward thrust I threw his hands off me and unrestrained I shoved him, "Am I not Queen of the Underworld?" I bellowed imperiously.

He fell several paces back and the sudden space between us was dizzying, like being thrown wet directly into a cold gust. It cleared my head a bit, after the raging fever, but I suddenly ached for the invasive heat and the pressure of Hades nearness.

"And am I not its King?" he roared louder still, balance flawless as he recovered.

"What good is a king without a queen?" I scoffed. Garnering all the strength of presence I could, I advanced on him. "But I was never supposed to be your equal, was I? How could I, me, poor inexperienced Persephone, married to a god who's had eons of time and practice to perfect his skills, ever hope to have her husband look at her from anywhere but down his nose." Beautiful though it is, I thought to myself. But there was no way I was going to let that slip, not when I meant what I said and not when this realization was beginning to dawn on Hades' face.

"You will keep secrets from me then?" Hades demanded venomously. His inflection was not that of a question. Instead it rang out in challenge and he stood, like a bound river raging against a weakening conduit, fists clenched and jaw set, primal force barely repressed by years of taming patience. Dizzying anticipation swirled in my gut. I knew my answer would most likely snap the last shaky lock on his practiced self-mastery. The muscular twitch in his jaw confirmed my thoughts, but then I saw something much more startling.

Through the fierce austerity and aggression in his posture, somewhere between the honest black anger at my refusal and the taunting curiosity at my display, there was a stunning flare of life and hunger. I saw it in his sweeping appraisal of my body, the unmasked wanting and waiting; I saw the resuscitated feeling of action shiver through his arms and legs, like a predator licking his lips. Flexing muscles that had atrophied due to a well established reputation for merciless and unfeeling elimination of any opposition, he was preparing for battle. And I was secretly thrilled to find that I too, was preparing for an entanglement. It was like some sort of test I had passed, that I could rightly be sovereign because my reflexes were working properly: my pulse was quickening, and my mind was racing, though I wished that through the tempestuous montage I could decipher which of the carnal, violent, grasping, falling-through-flames visions were the result of the argument or some other dark expectation.

Hades' gaze was still fastened on mine, waiting for my answer, the trigger. The tightness and tension between us made my nerves crackle to a breaking point. Determined to catch him off guard, I ran and at the last second leapt at him and we both crashed to the ground. Hades hit the floor first, knocked flat on his back and I straddled his chest, ignoring the stinging pain in my knees from landing on the hearth rug. Heat from the fireplace rushed over us, and its warm light blazed so that Hades' face was suddenly illuminated. I leaned down, grabbed his jaw and forced his head sideways in order for him to better hear me.

"I will keep whatever I like from you. Some things in this place will be mine. Only mine," I growled.

I only saw the profile of his smirk, and quicker than my eye could perceive, I was flipped over and it was my back on the floor. I tried to protest, but the wind was knocked out of my lungs so all I could do was open and close my mouth, gasping for breath.

He flashed his sharp teeth at me, "Everything in my kingdom belongs to me, so there is nothing I can be denied. Least of all from the queen." He traced the edges of my lips and suddenly it wasn't him I was fighting, it was my own traitorous body, straining to keep my mouth firmly closed. He sighed lightly to himself, "So exquisite," and his fingers trailed down my neck to the line of my collarbone and he paid such close attention to each inch of skin he passed over that I felt a blush skim across my cheeks. I was losing fast. I struggled under him, making futile attempts to free myself but his attention snapped back and his hands flew to my wrists. I pushed down hard as he pulled up, "Hades," I croaked, my voice strained with the effort of keeping my arms safely by my sides. He just scowled down at me, as if scolding a misbehaving child, and slowly his strength overcame mine, stretching my arms over my head as he continued to hold on.

A plan occurred to me, it was a bit of a long shot and I wasn't sure if it would work, but as he gripped my arms I fluttered my eyes closed, submitting myself to him. Something flicked across his gaze. It might have been confusion; I hoped it wasn't suspicion. He dipped his head and took a kiss from me. I could almost taste the disappointment on his tongue as it brushed past mine: that I would give up so easily.

I chose that moment to take advantage of his underestimation, and as he sank lower against me I bit down hard on his lip. His grip immediately released and I flung my arms down and threw him off me. I lunged forward to stand, but Hades was incredibly agile—he twisted to his stomach, reached and snatched my arm before I could get away. Plunged back downward by the sudden change momentum, I spun so that as I landed Hades arm was twisted behind him, with my knee driving into the small of his back. I allowed myself a victorious smirk and said, "I will have my place in this kingdom and it will be at your side not below you, and your place will be at my side not above me."

His response was muffled by the rug, but I heard him protest, "But where did you go?"

I put more weight on my knee and pressed his arm higher, "Where will you be in two days?"

He responded this time with pointed silence. Again I forced his arm higher and drove my knee harder into his back. He winced and grumbled something unintelligible.

"I'm sorry, I didn't quite understand that. Where will you be? Maybe louder this time, it is difficult to hear from up here." I drawled, enjoying myself immensely.

He lifted his head as far as he could and said in a low hiss, "By your side."

"And am I not Queen of the Underworld? Is that not my title?"

I could feel his growl as it resonated darkly through his back.

"Then I will rule here as I please, including, no especially, the king." I said, unable to hide the triumph in my voice. I eased my hold on his arm, leaned forward and placed a warm kiss at the nape of his neck.

But I didn't notice his other arm snake around to seize the outside of my waist. I was pulled into a spinning tumble to the floor as he shot out from under me, but his strong hands caught me in a close cradle, holding me just off the ground, his body covering mine. My arms slid around his neck. He gave me one of his rare, sinister grins, "Then please tell me, my Queen; how might I serve you better?"

A/N: I might write a more extended version of this scene if there's any interest. So if you'd like to read it, just message me and I'll send it to you...