Page 44

In a rush of activity, they followed Lucian out of the room. Some of them were pures. Had he promised them something worth going against the Council and risking death? I knew what he’d offered the halfs.

Seth still held me to the floor. “That was possibly the stupidest thing you’d ever tried to do.”

“Too bad it didn’t work.”

Appearing incredulous, he hauled me to my feet. The moment he let go, I bolted for the door. He caught me before I made it out of the room, clamping his arms around me. “Stop this!”

I threw my head back, narrowly missing his. “Let me go!”

“Don’t make this hard, Alex.”

I struggled in his viselike grip. “He’s using you, Seth. Why can’t you see that?”

His chest rose against my back. “Is it so hard for you to accept that Lucian cares for me—for you?”

“He doesn’t care about us! He just wants to use us.” I kicked my legs out to use the wall, but Seth anticipated this and spun me around. “Damn you! You’re smarter than this!”

Seth sighed and started dragging me toward the hall. “You’re such a little fool sometimes. You will want for nothing, Alex. Nothing! Together we will be able to change our world. Isn’t that what you want?” We had reached the bottom of the steps, and I kicked for the statue of some god I didn’t recognize. “Gods! Knock it off, Alex. For someone who’s so short, you’re freaking heavy. I don’t want to have to carry you up these stairs.”

“Gee. Thanks. Now you’re calling me fat.”

“What?” His arms slackened.

I slammed my elbow into his stomach hard enough that the impact rattled my entire body. Seth doubled over, but didn’t let go. Cursing wildly, he flipped me around and bent at the waist. He clamped his arm down on my waist and hauled me over his shoulder. Before I could kick him where it counts, he caught my legs and held them down.

“Put me down!” I pounded on his back with my fists.

Seth grunted as he started up the stairs. “Seriously, I can’t believe I have to do this.”

I continued my assault on his back to no avail. “Seth!”

“Maybe you deserve a spanking, Alex.” Laughing, he rounded the landing as I jabbed him in the kidneys. “Ouch! That hurt!”

We were making enough noise to rouse every Guard in the house, but no one intervened. I recognized the upside-down hallway and the door Seth pushed open. It was my old bedroom in Lucian’s house.

Seth stormed across plush white carpet that so had not been in my bedroom when I’d stayed in this house. Back then, I’d had bare floors that had been cold in the winter. He dumped me unceremoniously on the bed and then planted his hands on his hips. “Behave.”

I sprang to my feet. Seth caught me around the waist and pushed me back down with little effort on his part. An incredible amount of rage filled me with energy, sweeping through me like a rush of roiling waves. And I let the fury swell and spread like the rising tide.

“You’re being ridiculous, Alex. And you need to calm down. You’re making me wish I had some Valium.”

My hands balled into fists. “He is using you, Seth. He wants to control us so he can overthrow the Council. He wants to be greater than the gods. You know they’ll never allow that! That’s why the Apollyons were created in the first place.”

Seth arched a brow. “Yeah, Alex, I know why the Apollyons were first created. To make sure no pure-blood achieved the power of the gods and blah blah. Let me ask you a question. Do you think any of the gods care if you die fighting a daimon?”

“Obviously they care, because they brought me back.”

He rolled his eyes. “What if you weren’t the Apollyon, Alex? What if you were just a normal half? Would they care at all if you died?”

“No, but—”

“Do you think that’s right? That you’re forced to be either a slave or a warrior?”

“No! It’s not right, but the gods didn’t decree that. The pures did, Seth.”

“I know, but don’t you think the gods could’ve changed that if they wanted to?” He moved closer, lowering his voice. “Change needs to happen, Alex.”

“And you think Lucian is really going to bring that kind of change?” I willed Seth to understand. “That once he takes complete control of the Council, he’ll free the servants? Relieve the halfs from their duty?”

“Yes!” Seth dropped to his knees in front of me. “Lucian will.”

“Then who will fight the daimons?”

“There will be those who volunteer just like the pures who do now. Lucian will do this. All we have to do is support him.”

I shook my head. “Lucian has never cared about the halfs. All he has ever cared about is himself. He wants ultimate power—to enslave the mortals instead of the halfs. He said so himself.”

With a disgusted humph, he stood. “Lucian has no intentions of doing such a thing.”

“He told me in the car!” I grasped his hands, ignoring the way the cord jumped. “Please, Seth. You have to believe me. Lucian will do none of the things he’s promised you.”

He stared at me a moment. “Why would you even care if enslaving mortals was his ultimate plan? I don’t get it. You couldn’t stand living among them when you did. Why would you want to protect the gods when the Order killed you—killed you—to protect them? And you have a problem with a few pures dying along the way? Look at how they’ve treated you. I don’t get it.”

Sometimes I didn’t get it myself. The pures treated us halfs like crap. And the gods, well, they were as much to blame as the pures. They’d allowed this to happen. But this was more wrong. “Innocent people will die, Seth. And what do you think the gods will do? They may not be able to touch you and me, but they can be vengeful and downright sadistic. They’ll start slaughtering halfs and pures by the busload. Apollo has said so.”

He squeezed my hands. “Casualties of war—it happens.”

I pulled my hands free. My stomach turned over. “How can you be so uncaring?”

“It’s not that I’m uncaring, Alex. It’s called strength.”

“No,” I whispered. “That has nothing to do with strength.”

Seth moved away from me, running his hand through his hair, pulling strands free from the leather tie. Had he always been like this? There had always been a degree of coldness to him, but nothing like this.

“It will be okay,” he said finally. “I promise. I’ll take care of you.”

“It’s not going to be okay. You have to let me go. We have to be apart from each other.”

“I can’t, Alex. Maybe in time you’ll forget about him and…”

“This isn’t about Aiden!”

Facing me, his lips twisted into a bitter, cynical smile. “It’s always about Aiden. You don’t care about the mortals. If you could still have him and let us have our way, you wouldn’t care.”

“I do care. You’re going to have to kill innocent people to do this, Seth. Can you seriously live with that? Because I can’t.”

“What pure is truly innocent?” he asked instead of answering my question.

“There are pures who don’t want to see halfs enslaved. And yeah, the gods are a bunch of dickheads, but that’s what they are.”

“We’ve already been over this, Alex. We aren’t going to agree. Not yet, at least. But your birthday is only days away. You’ll understand then.”

I gaped. “Seth, please listen to me!”

A cool mask slipped over his face, locking him down. “You don’t really get it, Alex. I can’t—won’t let you go.”

“Yes, you can! It’s quite simple. You just let me walk out of this house.”

Seth was in front of me within a second. He gripped my hands, pressing his palms against mine. “You don’t know what it feels like now, but you will. The more marks you take, the more akasha drains into me. Nothing—nothing feels like that. It’s pure power, Alex. And you haven’t even Awakened! Can you imagine what it will be like then?” His eyes took on that crazed, overly-passionate gleam I’d seen and disregarded before. “I can’t give that up.”

“Gods, do you hear yourself? You sound like a daimon craving aether.”

He smiled. “It’s nothing like that. It’s better.”

That was about when I realized that between Lucian’s influence and the allure of akasha Seth had been twisted into something dangerous. Apollo had been right. Dammit. Grandma Piperi had been right.

And I had been so, so wrong. I was in a precarious, bad position. Anything was possible and my heart rate doubled. I wanted to smack myself for not letting Apollo stash me away, but when he’d made that suggestion, all I could think was that was what Lucian had wanted to do. I was disgusted with myself for the time I’d wanted to throw the towel in. Running was not something I ever did.

But now I needed to run, because that was the only smart thing to do.

“I want you to leave my room.” I forced my knees to stop shaking and I stood. “Now.”

“I don’t want to leave,” he replied evenly.

My heart leapt into my throat. “Seth, I don’t want you in here.”

He cocked his head to the side, eyes heating up a notch. “Not too long ago you had no problem with me being in your bedroom… or your bed.”

“You have no right to be in here. You’re not my boyfriend.”

Seth’s brows flew up. “You speak as if what we are can be simplified with little labels. We aren’t boyfriend and girlfriend. You’re right about that.”

I pushed away from the bed, eyes desperately searching for a way out of the room. There was only a bathroom, closet, and one window. And my old dollhouse… what the hell was that still doing here? Perched atop the house was a creepy porcelain doll I’d hated as a child and still did.

Sneaking up behind me, he whispered in my ear. “We are the same person. We want and need the same things. You can love whoever you want and you can tell yourself whatever you want. We don’t have to love one another; we don’t even have to like each other. It doesn’t matter, Alex. We’re stuck with one another, and the connection between us is far stronger than whatever you feel in your heart.”

Whirling around, I put space between us. “No. This is it. I’m calling on that promise you made me. I don’t want to do this. You need to leave. I don’t care where you go. Just go—”

“I’m not leaving.”

Dread turned into something far worse and far more powerful. Fear snaked its way into me, biting deep and spreading through my veins like venom. “You promised me, Seth. You swore that you would leave if this became too much. You can’t take that back!”

His eyes met mine. “It’s too late for that. I’m sorry, but that promise is null and void. Things have changed.”