“But why do you have to go?”
“I don’t know, Alex. Can we talk about this later?” He looked down at me, eyes glowing. “There are other things I want to do.”
The cord buzzed its approval. “But—”
Seth kissed me again and the hand against my stomach pressed down. I let go of his wrist, intending on pushing him off, but then I was gripping his shirt. The air around us seemed to crackle. There was something building inside me, a warning that the damn bond was up to no good.
I felt the cord rushing to the surface before I actually opened my eyes. Amber and blue lights cast strange shadows across the wall of my bedroom. I was transfixed by them for a moment. It was so bizarre that we were responsible for them. That they even came from within us.
It freaked me out a little.
But Seth’s free hand was everywhere, skimming down my arm, over my leg, and our cords were spiraling together, connecting us. My fingers clenched his shirt and I was pulling him down one second, then pushing him away the next.
Suddenly, the skin under his palm burned. Tiny pricks of pain stole my breath. I felt the rushing building in my stomach, akasha passing through the cords. A brief flicker of sanity reminded me of what had happened the last time we’d held on. Us, moving together on the bed, and there were fewer clothes to be removed this time.
Panic dug its claws deep in me. I wasn’t ready for this—with Seth. Letting go of his shirt, I pushed him hard enough that I was able to wiggle out from underneath him, breaking the connection. I scrambled onto my knees, clutching my stomach. “That… hurt.”
Seth looked dazed. “Sorry, it kind of just happened.”
Hands shaking, I pulled my shirt up far enough to see what I suspected was going to be there. Centered above my navel, right under my rib cage, was a glowing mark that looked like two check marks joined at the top.
“The power of the gods mark,” Seth whispered, sitting up. “Damn Alex, that’s a big one. Tomorrow, we should try blowing something up. I know you completely sucked at it when you did it the first time, but I bet it would work now.”
I couldn’t believe how quickly he went from wanting to get it on to wanting to blow something up. Seth seemed more excited about the rune than the other thing. Hell, his eyes had that crazy look again.
He placed his hands around the mark reverently. “There are four marks that appear first: courage, strength, power, and invincibility. But the power one, that’s akasha. See how it’s placed here?” He went to touch the mark, but I scooted back. He frowned. “Anyway, that’s where you pull power from.”
It was also where the cord slumbered when it wasn’t trying to turn me into one giant, raging hormone. “What happens when you get the fourth mark?”
Seth ran a hand through his hair, tugging it back from his face. Moonlight cut through the blinds, slicing across his face. “I don’t know. Mine came all at once, but they appeared in that order: on both of my palms, my stomach, and then on the back of my neck. Then everywhere else.”
My mouth suddenly felt dry. I dropped my shirt and backed up to the edge of the bed. “Do you think I’ll Awaken early if the fourth one appears?”
He lifted his eyes. “I don’t know, but would it be such a bad thing?”
Dizziness swept through me. “Maybe we should stop… touching or whatever until I turn eighteen.”
“Seth, I can’t Awaken ahead of schedule.”
He shook his head. “I don’t understand, Alex. Things will be so much better once you Awaken. You wouldn’t have to worry about Telly or the furies. Hell, the gods won’t even be able to touch us. How is that not a good thing?”
It wasn’t a good thing, because once I Awakened, there was a strong chance I’d lose myself in the process. Seth had warned me long ago that it would be like two halves coming together, that whatever he wanted would color my choices and decisions. I’d have no control over myself or my future.
And Aiden had been right that day in the sensory deprivation chamber. It terrified me.
“Alex.” Seth took my hand carefully, gently. “You Awakening now would be the best thing for… us. We could even try it. See if we can get the fourth mark to appear. Maybe nothing will happen after that. Maybe you’ll Awaken.”
I pulled my hand free. The eagerness in his voice creeped me out. “Are… are you doing this on purpose, Seth?”
“Trying to get me to Awaken early by touching me or whatever?”
“I’m touching you because I enjoy it.” Then he reached for me again, but I knocked his hand away. “What is your deal?” he asked.
“I swear to the gods, Seth—if you are doing this on purpose I will destroy you.”
Seth’s brows furrowed. “Don’t you think you’re being a tad bit melodramatic here?”
“I don’t know.” And I really didn’t. My palms tingled, my stomach burned, and the cord was finally settling down. “You haven’t done anything with me except training in weeks and then you show up tonight, all touchy and feely. Then this happens?”
“I was all touchy and feely because I’m going to be gone for weeks.” Seth slid off the bed, standing in one fluid motion. “And I wasn’t really avoiding you. I was just giving you some space.”
“Then why did you come here tonight?”
“Whatever the reason was, clearly it was a mistake.” He bent, grabbing his shoes. “Apparently, I’m just here to use you for my nefarious plans.”
I climbed off the bed, hugging my elbows. Was I being paranoid? “What are you doing?”
“What does it look like? I don’t want to be where I’m not wanted.”