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I flinched.

“It’s safe to assume that she wasn’t a very kind mother,” Lucian continued. “But that boy still managed to impress the Council and gain entrance into the Covenant. He had a tough childhood, always alone. I suppose all Seth has ever wanted is to be loved.” He looked at me. “Could you do that? Give him the one thing he’s always wanted?”

Suddenly, I knew beyond a doubt, Seth hadn’t told Lucian about Aiden. But why? Removing Aiden from the equation would only benefit Seth. Could it be that Seth hadn’t because he knew it would hurt me? If that was the case, then Seth was still thinking. He wasn’t a lost cause, after all.

“I do hope so. Seth is a good boy.”

My eyes widened. “You sound… sincere.”

Lucian sighed. “I’ve never had a child of my own, Alexandria.”

Shock rippled through me. Lucian actually cared for Seth. And Seth saw him as a father. But it didn’t change what Lucian was doing. “You’re using him.”

The Hummer rolled to a stop behind Lucian’s house. “I’m offering him the world. The same thing I’m offering you.”

“What you are offering is certain death for anyone who goes along with this.”

“Not necessarily, my dear. We have supporters in the most… unlikely of places—a very powerful supporter.”

My door opened before I could respond. A Guard waited for me to exit, carefully watching me as if he expected me to sprint away, which was what I’d considered but knew I’d never get away with it. I was led into the house quickly and then left in the opulent foyer with my stepfather.

“It’s a shame that you have to make this so difficult, Alexandria.”

“Sorry to rain on your crazy parade, but I’m not going to go along with this. No one else will, either.”

“Is that so? Do you doubt my impassioned words?” His gaze settled on his half-blood guards. “I want to see a better life for the half-bloods.”

“Bull,” I whispered, and my gaze moved to the Guards. The condemnation that filled their expressions when they looked at me said that they did believe Lucian. And the real question was how many halfs were behind Lucian? The numbers could be astronomical.

Lucian laughed. It was a cold, grating sound. “You really have no control over this.”

“We’ll see about that.” I reached for the doorknob, but froze when it turned and locked in my hand. I loathed the air element with all my heart. Slowly, I faced him. “You can’t keep me in here. Let me out.”

Lucian laughed again. “I’m afraid you will not be allowed any visitors until your Awakening. And do not hope that Apollo will arrive, either. He will not be able to enter my house.”

I frowned. “You can’t stop a god.”

Lucian looked pleased as he stepped aside. My gaze fell behind him and up the wall that Seth had once pinned a Guard to. There was a mark there—a crudely drawn symbol of a man with a snake’s body.

“Apollo cannot enter any home that bears the mark of the Python of Delphi. It was created so long ago as a punishment for breaching the rules of Olympus. Funny, I never knew that until recently.”

I swallowed. The drawing looked like it had been done in blood. “How… how did you figure that out?”

“I have many friends… of great power and consequence.” Lucian gazed at the drawing, a slight smile on his angular face. “I have many friends that would surprise you, my dear.”

I felt the walls closing in, squeezing the breath out of my lungs. I was trapped here until my Awakening. My breath hitched. I should’ve listened to Aiden and never left his house. “You can’t do this.”

“Why can’t I?” He drifted toward me. “I am your legal guardian. I can do with you as I please.”

My temper stretched and snapped. “Really? When has that worked out for you in the past?”

“In the past I did not have Seth, nor were we so close to the Awakening.” He caught my chin, digging his bony fingers in. “You can fight me on this all you want, but in a few days, you’ll Awaken. First, you will connect with Seth, and what he desires, you will desire. And then your power will transfer to him. You can’t stop that.”

I blanched. “I’m stronger than that.”

“You think so? Think about that, my dear. Think about what that means and whether or not there is even a point in fighting what’s about to happen.”

Unease crept over me, but I kept my expression blank. “If you don’t release me, I will break your arm.”

“You would, wouldn’t you?” His breath was warm against my cheek. Bile rose in my throat. “There was only one thing that Telly and I ever agreed on.”

“What was that?”

“You need to be broken down.” He released me, the same damn smile plastered across his face. “Except he went about it all the wrong way. I will not make the same mistake that I made with your mother. I allowed her too much freedom. As of now, you’re mine. Just like Seth is. And you would do very well to remember that.”

I recoiled from him. “You’re a bastard.”

“That may be the truth, but in a few days, I’ll control both of the Apollyons. Then we’ll be unstoppable.”

Chapter 26

DINNER WAS AWKWARD FOR SEVERAL REASONS. THERE were only three of us clustered at the end of the long rectangular table, eating by candlelight as if we’d been thrust into medieval times. Seth alternated between chumming it up with make-believe-daddy Lucian and glaring at me. I refused any attempt Lucian made at luring me into conversation. And I couldn’t even bring myself to eat the mouthwatering steak, which really sucked.

This was going to be my last dinner.

I knew it. What I was planning as I watched the two would surely end up with me being killed, but it was either go out this way or be part of something as heinous as destroying those who did not agree with Lucian and enslaving mankind. Because that’s what they planned—or at least, Lucian planned. Lucian needed the Apollyons—at least, the God Killer—to achieve this. It made sense. The Apollyons had been originally created to keep the pures in line, but if he controlled the Apollyons then he had nothing to fear. Once I Awakened, Seth could take down any god that went after Lucian, making Lucian practically invincible. It was a brilliant plan. One that I knew Lucian probably had worked on from the moment he became aware that there were two Apollyons in one generation.

They’d give Council members an option. Stand with them or fall. With Seth at full Apollyon power—the God Killer—he’d be able to zap any god who came gunning for him. Not that Lucian believed any gods would. Once Seth became the God Killer, no god would be stupid enough to come within a mile of him. The only threat would be members of the Order, but they too would have one hell of a time taking Seth down. Lucian already had Sentinels searching for the remaining members. I shuddered at what I knew they would do to them.

And yet, as much as they talked, I felt there was something they weren’t sharing. There was more to this just as I felt there was more to why Apollo had been so adamant about keeping me safe.

“How did the Order kill the First and Solaris?” I asked, speaking for the first time.

Lucian raised his brows at Seth as he twirled the crystal flute.

“They caught them unexpectedly.” Seth glanced down at his plate. “At the same moment, they were stabbed through the heart.” He cleared his throat. “Why do you ask?”

I shrugged. Mostly because I was curious since it wasn’t like killing two Apollyons was an easy feat. When I didn’t give an answer, they resumed their talking. I resumed my plotting.

I was going to do something I never thought I’d do again. I was going to kill a pure-blood—Lucian. My fingers curled around the steak knife. It was the only way to stop this. Take out Lucian and then Seth would be freed from his freakish parental influence. And I’d be dead, but maybe… maybe Aiden and Marcus could prove Lucian’s insanity. It was worth a shot. I couldn’t let this happen, and it would happen if they kept me here, and then there would be no stopping them.

This was possibly the craziest, most spontaneous and reckless thing I’d ever planned, but what other choice did I have? Lucian already controlled Seth and he could control me through him if Seth willed it. That was everyone’s fear—my worst fear.

I had to do something.

“May I be excused?” I asked.

“You haven’t eaten anything.” Seth frowned. “Are you feeling sick?”

Gee, could it be I’d lost my appetite because I was surrounded by lunatics? “I’m just tired.”

“That’s fine,” Lucian said.

Trying not to think about what I was doing, I placed my napkin over the steak knife and slid it, handle first, up my sleeve. I stood on weak knees. Killing in battle or when I needed to protect myself was totally different than this. Part of me screamed that this was wrong—just as wrong as what they intended to do to Telly, but one life to protect countless more? It seemed worth it.

Okay. Two lives, because I seriously doubted I was going to get away with this. Guards waited just outside the dining room. If they didn’t kill me, the Council Lucian sought to betray would. Ironic.

I walked around the table slowly, calming my breathing and blocking my emotions. I had enough strength to shove this knife through his back, severing his spinal cord. It would be easier to go for the throat or eye, but gods, I was grossing myself out just thinking about it.

Just do it. I reached Lucian’s side and drew in a deep breath as I let the knife slide out from my sleeve. Then a freight train slammed me to the ground.

I hit the tiled floor with a hard crack. Seth pinned my legs as he twisted my wrist until I cried out and was forced to drop the knife. As I tried to twist out of his grasp, Guards rushed into the room, but Lucian held his hand out, stopping them.

“What is wrong with you?” Seth asked furiously, giving me a little shake when I didn’t answer fast enough. “Are you insane?”

My heart pounded against my ribs. “I’m not the crazy one here!”

“Really—you’re not the crazy one?” His gaze went to the knife. “Do I need to explain this to you?”

“Deal with her.” Lucian stood and threw down his cloth napkin, voice eerily calm. “Before I do something I regret.”

Seth exhaled harshly. “I’m sorry, Lucian. I’ll fix this.”

So shocked, I couldn’t speak. He was apologizing to Lucian? I was in crazy land and there was no escape.

“She needs to accept this,” Lucian said. “I will not live in fear of being murdered in my own home. Either she complies or I’ll have her locked up.”

Seth’s eyes met mine. “That won’t be necessary.”

I glared at him.

“Good.” Lucian sounded more disgusted than afraid. It was like I had spit on him instead of trying to kill him. “I’m retiring for the evening. Guards!”

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