“You really love him?” Seth asked quietly.
“Yes.” I opened my eyes. His gaze was downcast. Thick lashes fanned his cheeks. “I do.”
He slowly lifted his eyes. “I’m sorry.”
I seized the moment. “And I care about you, Seth. I really do. Seeing what you’re doing—what you’re becoming—is killing me. You’re better than this, stronger than Lucian.”
“I am stronger than Lucian.” He leaned against the door, watching through heavy lidded eyes. “I’ll be stronger than a god soon.”
And that was that. Seth didn’t move away from the door, and eventually I went to the window, hoping I could catch a glimpse of my uncle and Aiden. The terracotta roof over the library blocked the view.
We didn’t talk again.
Time was running out and I had to do something.
Seth was antsy the following morning, unable to sit still for longer than a few minutes. His constant pacing and jerky movements were so at odds with his normal otherworldly grace. He had my nerves stretched thin and each time he looked my way, I felt a lump of dread and fear inch up my throat. But he never approached me and he didn’t touch me again. Seth would just turn away and stare out the window silently, waiting.
The morning after Marcus’ visit, I had to see the rune on the back of my neck again. With my energy at normal levels, I found a hand-held mirror and craned my neck, twisting until I caught a glimpse in the bathroom mirror. It was faint blue, shaped like an S that closed at the end. The invincibility rune. I reached back and touched it. The skin on my fingers tingled from the contact.
I lowered the mirror to the counter and turned around. My eyes looked way too wide, scared almost. There were shadows forming under them, dulling the brown irises. Not that my brown eyes were extraordinary in the first place, but geesh.
The skittish look in my eyes hadn’t gone away, even after I’d showered. Weight settled on my shoulders, squeezed my chest. Seth had been trying to Awaken me this entire time, like I’d feared. He’d lied. I pushed my damp hair back. Luckily he hadn’t succeeded, but there was undeniably something different. I could feel it just below the skin.
There was a knock on the bathroom door. “Alex?” Seth called, and knocked again. “What are you doing in there?”
Gathering up my strength, I focused on the neon pink walls and reinforced the mental shields, blocking him out.
His sigh was audible. “You’re just blocking me to tick me off, Alex.”
I gave my reflection a weak smile and then I opened the door. Brushing past him, I tossed my dirtied clothes in the corner.
“So you’re not going to talk to me?” he asked.
I sat in the chair and picked up a comb.
Seth knelt in front of me. “You know, you can’t stay silent forever.”
Combing out the tangles, I decided I could try.
“Do you know how long we’re going to be together? This is going to get boring and old real quick.” When I didn’t answer, he grabbed my wrist. “Alex, you’re being—”
“Don’t touch me.” I jerked my arm free, ready to turn the comb into a deadly weapon if need be.
He smiled as he stood. “You’re talking.”
I threw the comb down and shot to my feet. “You’ve lied to me over and over again, Seth. You used me.”
“How did I use you, Alex?”
“You got close to me just so you could try to Awaken me! You used this stupid connection against me.” I sucked in a sharp breath. Betrayal sat like stones in my stomach. “Did you plan this all along, Seth? Was this what you were thinking when we were in the Catskills? When you asked me to make a choice?”
He whirled on me, eyes a fierce, angry ocher. “That was not the sole reason, Alex. Not that it matters now. You made your choice. You chose Aiden, as pointless as that was.”
I didn’t even think. Full of rage and sorrow, I swung at him.
Seth caught my fist before it connected with his face. “We are not training, Alex. We are not playing around. Swing at me again and you will not like the consequences.” He released me.
I stumbled back, half-tempted to test out his warning with a kick to the face. A knock on the bedroom door interrupted our stare-down. One of the Guards was on the other side, speaking too low for me to understand.
Seth nodded and then faced me. “We’re leaving in five minutes.”
My heart stuttered. “Leaving? Going where?”
“You’ll see.” He paused, his gaze dropping over me. “You have five minutes to put something decent on.”
“Excuse me?” I was wearing jeans and a black turtleneck. “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”
“You will be an Apollyon… my mate, so to speak. You should wear something nicer—classy.”
I didn’t know which part of what he said made me want to punch him again most. “First off, you don’t tell me what to wear. Secondly, I am not your ‘mate’. Thirdly, there is nothing wrong with what I’m wearing. And finally, you’re insane.”
“You now have four minutes.” Seth spun around and left the room, locking the door behind him.
A whole minute passed while I stared at the closed door. Then I sprang into action. I raced to the bedroom window and pushed it open. When I’d been younger, I’d used my bedroom window to climb out on the roof above the library and stargaze. I knew I could make the jump. It was actually shorter than the one I’d made in Miami.
Wasting no time, I wiggled out on the ledge. The muscles in my arms screamed as I slowly lowered myself down. Gods, my upper body strength could use some work. My feet dangled about half a foot from the roof. I felt like a ninja spy in that moment. I started to smile, but the familiar tingle spreading over my skin quickly knocked it right off my face.
I let go.
Hands clamped down on my forearms and hauled me up, back through the window. Kicking and lashing out, I struggled like a wild animal until Seth set me back on my feet.
I spun around. “I still had three minutes.”
A reluctant grin appeared on his face. “Yeah, and about a minute after I left your room I realized you’d probably try to escape. Throwing yourself out a window is a better choice than putting on something nice?”
“I wasn’t throwing myself out the window. I was escaping.”
“You were in the process of breaking your neck.”
My hands curled. “I would’ve made the jump, asshat.”
Seth rolled his eyes. “Whatever. We don’t have time now. We’re needed now.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you.”
Frustration rolled off him. “Alex, I’m not asking.”
I folded my arms. “I don’t care.”
Groaning low in his throat, he shot forward and grabbed my arm. “You always, always have to make everything so damn difficult.” He started dragging me toward the door. “I don’t know why I expected anything less from you. Part of me—and this is sick, I know—is somewhat excited about the idea of you fighting me. It’s amusing. Better than you sitting there not speaking.”
I dug at his fingers, but there was no releasing them. “Let go of me.”
“Yeah, not going to happen.”
We were already to the end of the hall, at the top of the stairs. Below I could see a small army of Guards waiting. “What the hell?” I dug my feet in and grabbed the railing with my free hand. “What’s going on?”
Exasperated, Seth grabbed me around the waist. Using brute strength, he yanked me away from the railing. “Now you’re just being cute.” He started down the steps, carrying me easily even though my sneakers hit every step.
Unease lined only a few of the faces of Lucian’s Guards as Seth dragged me past them. Cold, bright sunlight met us outside, and Seth didn’t release me until he shoved me into the back of a waiting Hummer. And then, he climbed in right after me and caught both my wrists in one hand.
“Sorry. There’s a good chance you’ll try to throw yourself out of a moving car.”
I glared at him, our faces inches apart. “I hate you.”
Seth lowered his head until his cheek pressed against mine. “You keep saying that, but we both know it’s not true. You can’t hate me.”
“Is that so?” I elbowed him in the stomach. It did very little. The Hummer started moving. “What I’m feeling right now is definitely not warm and fuzzy.”
He laughed, stirring the hair around my temple. “You can’t hate me. You weren’t built that way. And soon, we will be the same person. You were created to be mine by the very gods we’re going to take down, starting today.”
SETH’S WORDS STUNNED ME INTO SILENCE. OLD FEARS, never too far away, resurfaced. I had no control in this… fate. No sense of myself. My heart was racing painfully. I couldn’t be built for him. He wasn’t my existence.
I was my own existence.
I kept telling myself that as Seth led me from the Hummer and into the back entrance of the Courthouse on the main part of Deity Island. I had a sick feeling about this, knowing that Telly was in a cell in this building and that something horrific was about to happen. I could feel it and there was nothing I could do.
Holding my hand in a tight grip, he led me through the narrow halls to the waiting room just outside the glass-domed session area. Through the open door, I could see the place was packed. Every pure who remained on the island during break seemed to be there, as were many of the half-blood Guards and Sentinels. But even more strange was the presence of the halfs who had remained behind at school. Luke sat toward the back with Lea; both of them appeared just as curious as everyone else—even a bit awkward, like they felt out of place. What were they doing here? Half-bloods were never allowed to attend Council unless they’d been summoned to do so.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
Seth kept his hand on mine, as if he knew I would bolt if given the chance. “Lucian has called an emergency Council meeting. See?” He gestured toward the front of the square room. “Everyone is here.”
The Council filled the titanium-trimmed dais. Easily recognizing Dawn Samos’ coppery head in the sea of white robes, I felt my stomach twist.
My eyes scanned over their curious expressions and then I turned to the audience. In the back was my uncle. He was standing, arms folded across his chest. There was a hard, cold look to his emerald gaze. Beside him was a man I’d never seen him before, a tall half-blood built like a Sentinel. Lean and coiled muscles flexed under the black uniform. His brown hair was on the longish side, pulled back in a ponytail. His skin was a mix of ethnicities, deeply tanned. He would’ve been handsome if it wasn’t for the jagged scar slicing from above his right eyebrow down to his jaw.
The doors opened suddenly in the back, and more entered the room. Aiden was among them. My heart thundered in my chest as he stopped beside my uncle. He leaned over, his mouth moving quickly. Marcus stared straight ahead, but the stranger nodded. Then Aiden straightened and turned, looking straight at where I was standing.