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Anger flared in his eyes, dispelling the softness that had gathered in them. His hands curled into fists. “Whatever it is that… you two are doing that’s causing those runes to show up, you need to stop.”

I looked at him blandly. “I’ve already decided that, but that isn’t going to stop it from happening eventually. And you know what the really messed up thing is? My mom warned me that the First would drain me. I just thought she was being all daimon crazy.”

Aiden reclaimed the little distance I’d been able to put between us. “I’m not going to let anything happen to you, Alex. That goes for Seth, too.”

Whoa. My heart did a crazy thing there. And he really sounded like he believed he could. “Aiden, you can’t stop this. No one can.”

“We can’t stop you from Awakening, but the power transfer will only happen if you touch after you turn eighteen, right? Then you don’t touch.”

I couldn’t possibly imagine Seth being down with the whole “not-touching” part, but he’d understand once he knew what it could possibly do. “He’ll understand,” I said. “I’ll talk to him when he gets back. This is probably something better to discuss face to face.”

Aiden didn’t look convinced. “I don’t like this.”

“You don’t like him,” I pointed out gently.

“You’re right. I don’t like Seth, but there’s something more to this.”

“Isn’t there always?” I moved slightly and felt his breath over my lips. If I moved an inch, our lips would touch. And Aiden was suddenly staring at my mouth.

“I’ll talk to Marcus,” Aiden said, voice gruff.

“You already said that.”

“I did?” His head angled slightly. “We should head back.”

I swallowed. Aiden wasn’t moving and every muscle in my body demanded that I cross that tiny space between us. But I pushed back the chair, making a horrible scratching noise. I stood. There didn’t seem to be enough air in the little room with faded, pea-green walls. I started toward the door, but stopped when I realized I’d left my bag on the table. I turned around.

Aiden stood in front of me. I hadn’t heard him rise or move toward me. He had my bag in hand, book already tucked inside. And he was standing so close that the tips of his shoes brushed mine. My heart was racing and it felt like a dozen butterflies had exploded in my stomach. I was half-afraid to breathe, to feel what I knew I wasn’t allowed.

He placed the strap of my bag over my shoulder and then he tucked my hair back behind my ear. I thought that maybe he was going to hug me—or shake me, because that was always a possibility. But then his hand slid over my cheek and his thumb smoothed over my lower lip, careful with the faint scar over the center, even though the pain had long since ceased.

I sucked in a sharp breath. His eyes were liquid silver. My pulse pounded through me. I knew he wanted to kiss me, maybe do other stuff. My skin was tingling with excitement, anticipation, and so much want. And I think he was feeling what I was. I didn’t need a stupid cord to tell me that.

But Aiden wouldn’t act on it. He had the kind of self-control that rivaled those of the virgin priestesses who’d served in Artemis’ temples. And there were all the other reasons why he shouldn’t—why I shouldn’t.

Aiden closed his eyes and exhaled roughly. When his eyes reopened, he dropped his hand and shot me a quick smile. “Ready?” he asked.

Missing his touch already, all I could do was nod. We walked back to my dorm in silence. I kept stealing glances at him, and he didn’t look angry just lost in his own thoughts and perhaps a little sad.

Aiden walked me straight to my door as if some crazy Order member or a furie was going to jump out of a supply closet. The hall was nearly empty since I shared the first floor with a lot of pures. Their parents had pulled them from class on Monday, getting an earlier start on winter break. He nodded curtly and waited until I closed and locked the door.

Dropping my bag by the couch, I sat and pulled out the cell phone Seth had given me. There was only one contact saved in the address book: Cuddle Bunny.

I couldn’t help but laugh. There always seemed to be two sides to Seth—the funny and charming side, the one who could be patient and gentle. And then there was a whole different side—the Seth I didn’t really know, the one who seemed to only tell half-truths and was the physical embodiment of everything I feared.

Taking a deep breath, I pressed on the name and heard the phone ring once, twice, and then kick over to a standard voicemail greeting.

Seth didn’t answer. Nor did he call back that entire evening.

Chapter 12

I HAD NO CLUE WHAT SETH COULD BE DOING THAT HE was unable to return a call. It wasn’t like I was worried about his safety. Seth could take care of himself. But I did wonder if he was still mad at me. Funny thing was, if he wasn’t, he was going to be after I got done talking to him. Pushing Seth out of my mind was surprisingly easy as I entered Technical Truths and Legends.

Deacon glanced up, grinning as I sat beside him. I was surprised to see him on the last day of classes. I figured that, out of everyone, he would have wiggled his way out of class. “How did your library visit go? Get any studying done?”

I peeked at the front of the classroom. Luke was talking to Elena, but he was watching us—Deacon—out of the corner of his eye. “My library visit?” I focused on Deacon. “How was yours?”

“Good. Got a lot of studying done.” Deacon didn’t even miss a beat.

“Wow.” I lowered my voice. “Amazing, considering neither of you had any books to study.”

Deacon opened his mouth, but shut it.

I winked.

The tips of his ears turned bright red. He tapped his fingers on the top of the desk. “Well, then.”

Part of me wanted to tell Deacon that Aiden knew and he had nothing to worry about, but that was so not my place. But maybe I could give it a gentle push in the right direction. “It’s not a big deal,” I whispered. “Honestly, no one here, pure or half, cares about that.”

“It’s not like that,” he whispered back.

I raised a brow. “It’s not?”

“No.” Deacon sighed. “I like girls, too, but…” His gaze found Luke. “He’s different.”

Well, at least I hadn’t been completely off-base when it came to Deacon’s preferences. “Yeah, Luke sure is different.”

Deacon cracked a smile. “It’s not what you think. We haven’t… done anything.”

“Whatever.” I grinned.

He leaned over the gap between our desks. “He’s a half, Alex. Of all people, I think you know just how dangerous that is.”

I jerked back and stared at him.

Deacon winked as a sly grin crossed his face. “But the question is: worth breaking the number one rule or not?”

Before I could even open my mouth to respond to that—and honestly, I had no idea what to say—two Council Guards stepped into the class, silencing the entire room. I shifted back in my seat as my unease blossomed, almost wishing I could slide under the table.

The one with cropped brown hair scanned the room, his lips pressed into a hard line. His gaze landed on me. The blood froze in my veins. Lucian wasn’t here, and I didn’t recognize the two Guards.

“Miss Andros?” His voice was soft, yet full of authority. “You need to come with us.”

Every damn kid in the class turned and stared. Grabbing my bag, I met Deacon’s wide eyes. I headed toward the front of the class, forcing a “whateva” smile on my face. But my knees were shaking.

Council Guards calling someone out of class was never a good thing.

There was a low murmur radiating from where Cody and Jackson sat. I ignored them and followed the Guards out. No one spoke as we walked through the halls and up the ridiculous number of steps. Dread continued to weave its way through me. Marcus wouldn’t have sent Council Guards to retrieve me. He’d have sent Linard, or Leon, even Aiden.

Covenant Guards opened the door to Marcus’ office, and I was ushered in. My gaze traveled over the room, quickly seeking out the occupant.

My step faltered.

Head Minister Telly stood in front of Marcus’ desk, hands clasped behind him. Those pale eyes sharpened the moment our gazes locked. The gray seemed to have spread from his temples since the last time I’d seen him, now peppering his hair. Instead of the lavish robes he’d donned during the Council, he wore a simple white tunic and linen pants.

The door shut with a soft click behind me. I spun around. There were no Guards, no Marcus. I was completely alone with Head Minster Douchebag. Great.

“Will you sit, Miss Andros?”

I turned around slowly, forcing myself to take a deep breath. “I prefer to stand.”

“But I prefer that you sit,” he replied evenly. “Take a seat.”

A direct order from the Head Minister was something I couldn’t refuse. But it didn’t mean I was just going to bend right over for him. I made my way to the chair as slowly as possible, smiling on the inside when I saw the muscle in his jaw begin to tick.

“What can I do for you, Head Minister?” I asked after I made a show of placing my bag by my feet, smoothing out my sweater, and getting comfortable.

Disgust filled his gaze. “I have some questions for you about the night you left the Council.”

Acid was eating its way through my stomach. “Shouldn’t Marcus be here? And don’t you have to wait till my legal guardian is present? Lucian is in New York, where you should be.”

“I see no reason to include them in this… unseemly business.” He turned his attention to the aquarium, watching the fish for a few moments while I grew more uncomfortable. “After all, both of us know the truth.”

That he was a giant asshat? Everyone knew that, but I doubted that was what he was getting at. “What truth?”

Telly laughed as he turned around. “I want to chat with you about the night the daimons and furies attacked the Council, about the real reason you fled.”

My heart stuttered, but I kept my face blank. “I thought you knew. The daimons were after me. So were the furies. See, I was terribly popular by the end of the night.”

“That is what you say.” He leaned against the desk and picked up a small statue of Zeus. “However there was a dead pure-blood Guard found. Do you have anything to add to that?”

A bitter taste formed in the back of my mouth. “Well… there were a lot of dead pures and halfs. And a lot of dead servants that no one gave two shits about. They would’ve been saved if someone had helped them.”

He arched a brow. “The loss of a half-blood is hardly a concern of mine.”

Anger was a different taste in my mouth. It tasted like blood. “Dozens and dozens of them died.”

“As I said, how would that be a concern of mine?”

He was goading me. I knew it. And I still wanted to punch him.

“But I am here about the death of one of my Guards,” he continued. “I want to know how he died.”