“Why did you let her believe you did this?” I asked. “You’re not even training me anymore.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be limiting your speaking?”
I rolled my eyes. “Now she thinks you’re some great and terrible half-blood beater or something.”
He pointed to the door. “It wouldn’t be a far stretch of the imagination. Your Instructor allowed it to happen. The doc sees more cases like this than she probably cares to.”
And she probably saw very few pure-bloods who even cared enough to make sure the half was okay. I sighed. “What were you doing over here, anyway?”
There was a ghost of a smile. “Didn’t I tell you that making sure you stay safe is a full-timejob?”
I started to smile, but quickly remembered not to. “Ow.” I ignored his amused look. “So why were you here, for real?”
“I just happened to be over here and looked in the room.” He shrugged, staring over my shoulder. “I saw you sparring and watched. The rest is history.”
I didn’t really believe him, but I let it go. “I would’ve had Jackson, you know? But this damn cold has kicked my butt.”
Aiden’s gaze settled on me again. “You shouldn’t be sick.” He stepped forward, reaching out and carefully placing his hand around my chin. He frowned. “How did you get sick?”
“I can’t be the first half to get sick.”
His thumb moved over my chin, careful to avoid the tender spot. That was Aiden, always so careful with me even though he knew I was tough. My heart jumped. “I don’t know,” he said, dropping his hand.
Unsure of how to respond, I shrugged. “Anyway, thanks for, um… getting Jackson to stop.”
A hard, lethal look flickered across his face. “I will make sure Jackson is punished for what he has done. The Covenant has enough on its shoulders without halfs trying to kill one another.”
I lightly touched my chin and winced. “I don’t know if it was his idea.”
Aiden grabbed my hand and pulled it away from my face. “What do you mean?”
Before I could answer, a fine shiver went down my spine. Seconds later, the door to the room flew up. Seth came through, eyes wide and lips thinned. His gaze went from my lip to where Aiden held my hand. “What the hell happened?”
Confusion and then understanding dawned on Aiden’s face. He released my hand and stepped back. “She was sparring.”
Seth shot Aiden a scathing look as he made his way to where I sat on the table. He clasped my chin with two slender fingers, just like Aiden had. My heart didn’t flutter, but the cord did. “Who were you sparring with?”
“It’s no big deal.” I felt my cheeks start to burn.
“It doesn’t look that way.” Seth’s eyes narrowed. “And you hurt elsewhere. I can feel it.”
Gods, I really needed to work on that shield.
“Thank you for keeping an eye on her, Aiden.” Seth didn’t take his eyes off me. “I have it taken care of.”
Aiden opened his mouth to say something, but then he closed it. He turned around and left the room quietly. The urge to jump off the table and run after him was hard to ignore.
“So what happened to your face?” he prompted again.
“I broke it,” I muttered, straining away from him.
Seth tilted my chin to the side, frowning. “I can tell. This was really done while sparring?”
“Yeah, well, it was done to my face in class.”
His frown deepened. “What is that supposed to mean?”
I knocked his hand away and slid off the table. “It’s nothing. Just a busted lip.”
“Busted lip?” He caught me around the waist, pulling me back. “I swear I see a boot print on your chin.”
“Really—is it that bad?” I gingerly touched my chin, wondering what he’d think if he saw the boot print on my ribs.
“So vain.” Seth grasped my hand. “Who were you sparring with?”
I sighed and tried to wiggle free, but it was no use. Seth—and the cord—wanted me to be here with him. I placed my cheek against his chest. “It doesn’t matter. And aren’t you still mad at me for throwing food at you, anyway?”
“Oh, I’m not too happy about that. I think mayo stains.” His embrace loosened a little. “Does it hurt?”
Lying was pointless, but that’s what I did. “No. Not at all.”
“Yeah,” he murmured against the top of my head. “So who did you spar with?”
I closed my eyes. Being this close to him, with the bond and everything, it was easy to stop thinking. Just like it had been while fighting. “I always get paired with Jackson.”
After class the following day, I piddled around the training center. I found myself walking into the smaller room Aiden had been in when I’d found out about my father. Of course, he wasn’t in there now. No one was. Dropping my bag just inside the door, I approached the punching bag hanging in the middle of the mats. It was an old, raggedy thing that had seen better days. Sections of the black leather had been knocked off. Someone had taken duct tape and patched it up. I ran my fingers over the edges of the tape.
Restlessness inched over my skin. The idea of going back to my dorm and spending time alone wasn’t appealing. I hadn’t seen Seth since he’d dropped me off yesterday. I guessed he was still pissed about the sub issue.
I pushed the bag with my palms. Then I flipped my hands over. Two softly glowing glyphs stared back at me.
My gaze went back to the punching bag. Had my father trained at this Covenant? Stood in this very room? It would explain how he’d known my mother so well. Again, melancholy crept over me.
The door to the room opened. I turned, expecting Guard Linard. But it wasn’t him. My heart did a brief, stupid happy dance.
Aiden stepped inside the training room, the door sliding shut behind him. He wore the garb of a Sentinel: a black long-sleeved shirt and black cargos. I just stared at him like an idiot.
The way my body responded to him—to a pure-blood—was entirely unforgiveable. I knew this, but it didn’t stop the way my breath caught or the warmth that stole over my skin. It wasn’t just how he looked. Don’t get me wrong—Aiden had the whole rare masculine beauty thing going for him. But it was more than that. He got me in a way very few people did. He didn’t need a bond to do so, like Seth. Aiden figured me out through his unwavering patience… and not putting up with any of my crap. During the summer we’d spent hours together training and getting to know one another. I liked to think something beautiful had grown out of it. After what he’d done to protect me in New York… and then with Jackson, I could no longer really be angry with him about the day he’d told me he couldn’t love me.
Aiden watched me curiously. “I saw Seth entering the main part of Deity Island and you weren’t with him. I figured you’d be here.”
He shrugged. “I just knew you’d be in one of the training rooms even though you were told to take it easy.”
Whenever he was dealing with something, he hit the mats. I was the same way, which reminded me of the night I’d accosted him after learning my mom’s true fate. I turned away, running my fingers down the center of the bag.
“How are you feeling—your ribs and lip?”
Both were sore, but I’d felt worse. “Good.”
“Have you written the letter for me to give to Laadan?” he asked after a few moments.
My shoulders slumped. “No. I don’t know what to say.” It’s not like I hadn’t thought about it, but what do you say to a man you’d believed dead—a father you’d never met?
“Just tell him how you feel, Alex.”
I laughed. “I don’t know if he wants to know all of that.”
“He would.” Aiden paused, and the silence stretched out between us. “You’ve seemed… out of it lately.”
I still felt out of it. “It’s the cold.”
“You looked like you were going to faint in Marcus’ office and, let’s face it, there is no reason why you couldn’t have taken Jackson down yesterday… or at least moved out of the way. You’ve been looking exhausted, Alex.”
Sighing, I faced him. He was slouched against the wall, hands shoved deep in his pockets. “So what are you doing here?” I asked, seeking to take the focus off me.
Aiden’s expression was knowing. “Watching you.”
Warmth fluttered in my chest. “Really? That’s not creepy or anything.”
A teeny tiny smile appeared. “Well, I’m on duty.”
I glanced around the room. “Do you think there’re daimons in here?”
“I’m not hunting right now.” A lock of wavy, dark brown hair fell into his gray eyes as he tipped his head to the side. “I’ve been given a new assignment.”
“Along with my hunting, I’m guarding you.”
I blinked and then I laughed so hard my ribs hurt. “Gods, it must suck to be you.”
His brows furrowed. “Why would you think that?”
“You just can’t get rid of me, can you?” I turned back to the bag, eyeing it for a weak spot. “I mean, not that you want to, but you keep getting saddled with me.”
“I don’t consider it being saddled with you. Why would you think that?”
I closed my eyes, wondering why I’d even said that. “So, Linard also has a new assignment?”
“Yes. You didn’t answer my question.”
And I wasn’t going to. “Did Marcus ask you to do this?”
“Yes, he did. When you’re not with Seth, it will either be Linard, Leon, or myself keeping watch. There’s a good chance that whoever meant you harm—”
“Minister Telly,” I added, balling up my fist.
“Whoever meant you harm in the Catskills will try something here. Then there are the furies.”
I punched the bag, immediately wincing as it pulled the sore muscles over my ribs. Should’ve wrapped them first. Stupid. “You guys can’t fight the furies.”
“If they show up, we will try.”
Shaking my hand, I took a step back. “You’ll die trying. Those things—well, you saw what they are capable of. If they come just step out of the way.”
“What?” Disbelief colored his tone.
“I don’t want to see people die for no reason.”
“Die for no reason?”
“You know they’ll just keep coming back, and I don’t want someone to die when it all seems… inevitable.”
The breath that he sucked in was sharp, audible in the small room. “Are you saying you believe your death is inevitable, Alex?”
I pushed the punching bag again. “I don’t know what I’m saying. Just forget it.”
“Something… something is different about you.”
A desire to flee the room filled me, but I faced him instead. I glanced down at my palms. The marks were still there. Why did I keep checking on them like they’d go away or something? “So much has happened, Aiden. I’m not the same person.”