As if he knew what I was thinking, Deacon sighed. “Aiden doesn’t like to stay at the house. Reminds him too much of our parents, and he hates the whole lavish lifestyle thing.”
“Oh,” I whispered, glancing at the front of the classroom. Our teacher was always late.
“Anyway, back to my story. I overheard them talking.” Deacon’s chair and desk made a terrible scratching noise as he scooted closer to me. “Want to know?”
Luke, who had been sitting on Elena’s desk, faced us. His brows rose when he saw us. “Sure. Spill it,” I said.
“There’s something going on with the Council—that has to do with the half-bloods.”
“Like what?” I asked.
“Don’t know exactly. But I know it has something to do with the New York Council.” Deacon looked away, focusing on the front of the class. “I figured you might know, since you were just up there.”
I shook my head. There was always something going on with the Council, and it probably had to do with the elixir. Then I realized Deacon was still staring at the front of the classroom. I followed his gaze. He was staring at Luke.
And Luke was staring back at him.
Like in the really intense way I sometimes stared at… Aiden.
My eyes darted back to Deacon. I couldn’t see his eyes, but the tips of his ears were pink. After several moments, like too long for one dude to be looking at another dude casually, Deacon leaned back. I thought about the phantom voice I’d heard with Luke in the sensory room. It had sounded familiar… but no way.
“Anyway,” Deacon cleared his throat. “I think I might throw a party for those left behind during winter break. You think Aiden will be game?’
“Uh, probably not.”
Deacon sighed. “It’s worth a try.”
I glanced at Luke again. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“It’s not working.”
Seth made an impatient sound in his throat. “Try concentrating.”
“I am,” I snapped, pushing the windblown hair out of my face.
“Try harder, Alex. You can do it.”
I hugged myself, shivering. It was freezing out by the marshes. The cold, damp wind beat against me and the heavy sweater was no help. We’d been at this for the better part of Saturday. When Seth had suggested I try to blow something up, I’d assumed he’d been joking.
I’d been wrong.
Closing my eyes, I pictured the thick boulder in my mind. I already knew the texture, the sandy color, and its irregular shape. I’d been staring at the damn thing for hours.
Seth moved behind me, taking my hand and placing it against the spot the latest mark had appeared. “Feel it in here. Do you?”
Feel the cord? Check. I also liked the fact that he was now blocking the worst of the wind.
“Okay. Picture the cord unraveling, feel it coming alive.”
I had a feeling Seth was enjoying this way too much, considering how he was pressed against me.
“Yeah, I feel the cord.” I did feel it opening up, slithering through my veins.
“Good. The cord is not just us,” he said softly. “It’s akasha—the fifth and final element. You should feel akasha now. Tap into it. Picture what you want in your mind.”
I wanted a taco, but I doubted akasha could serve me up some Taco Bell. Gods, I’d do some terrible things for Taco Bell right about now.
“Alex, are you paying attention?”
“Of course.” I smirked.
“Then do it. Blow up the rock.”
Seth made it sound so easy. Like a toddler could do this. I wanted to elbow him in the stomach, but I pictured the rock and then pictured my cord shooting from my hand. I did this over and over again.
I opened my eyes. “Sorry, this isn’t working.”
Seth moved away, brushing back the shorter stands of hair that fell out of his ponytail. He popped his hands on his hips and stared at me.
“What?” Another gust of biting wind had me shuffling to stay warm. “I don’t know what you want me to do. I’m cold. I’m hungry. And I saw that National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is on TV for some odd reason and I must watch it since you soaked up all the time it was on TV during Christmas.”
His brows inched up. “Watch what?”
“Oh, my gods! You do not know of the trials and tribulations of the Griswold family?”
“Wow. That’s kind of sad, Seth.”
He waved his hand. “It doesn’t matter. Something must trigger your ability to tap into akasha. If only…” A thoughtful look crept over his expression and then he clasped his hands. “The first time you did it, you were pissed. And then when you went all crazy ninja on the furies, you were angry and scared. You have to be pushed.”
“Oh, no no no.” I started backing up. “I know where you are going with this and I’m not doing this with you. I mean it, Seth. Don’t you—”
Seth raised his hand and the air element smacked me in the chest, knocking me flat on my back. Fighting the use of the elements was something I had gotten a bit better with. I did tap into the power then and I felt the cord tense, then snap. I buckled, breaking through what felt like hurricane-force winds. Rising up, my hair blew straight back.
I was going to maim Seth.
Then he was on me, using his weight to force me back against the coarse, dead grass. Small pebbles dug into my back as I squirmed under him. “Get off, Seth!”
“Make me,” he said, lowering his face to mine.
I tipped my hips, wrapped my legs around his waist and rolled. For a second, I had the advantage and I wanted to wrap my chilled fingers around his neck and choke the living crap out of him. I didn’t like being pinned or the ensuing feeling of helplessness. And Seth knew that.
“Not like that,” Seth grunted. He grasped my shoulders, flipping me onto my back. “Use akasha.”
We struggled, rolling through the small bushes. He was growing more frustrated each time he slammed me back, and I was feeling murderous. Rage, sweet and heady, rushed through me, twisting around the cord. I felt it building. My skin was tingling. The marks of the Apollyon seared and pulsed.
Seth’s lips curved. “That’s it. Do it.”
And then Leon was above us, grabbing Seth by the scruff of his neck and tossing him several feet back. He twisted in midair like a cat, landing in a crouch. The marks of the Apollyon came out all at once, blurring across his skin in dizzying speeds. He zeroed in on Leon. There was something deadly in his eyes—the same look he’d given the Master after he’d hit me. I thought of Jackson.
I jumped to my feet, rushing Seth. “No! No, Seth!”
“You really shouldn’t have done that.” Seth advanced, his intentions clear.
Leon arched a brow. “You want to try that, boy?”
“You want to die?”
“Stop it,” I hissed, squirming between them. I looked over my shoulder at Leon. The pure-blood Sentinel didn’t even look concerned. He was crazy. “Leon, we were training.”
“That’s not what it looked like to me.”
Over Seth’s broad shoulder, I saw several Guards and Aiden heading our way. I hoped they picked up their pace and got here before one of these idiots did something stupid.
“Leon, he wasn’t hurting me,” I tried again.
“What do you think you’re going to do?” Seth demanded. “To me?”
He stared down at Seth. “You really think you can take me, don’t you?”
“I don’t think.” Akasha, brilliant and beautiful, surrounded his right hand. The air crackled around the ball. “I know.”
This was insane. I grabbed Seth’s arm and a rush of anger hit me. I wanted to attack Leon, needed to show him that he was messing with the wrong person, that I was better than him. He wouldn’t dare touch me again. I was going to show him.
“Bring it,” Leon said, his voice low.
“Hey!” yelled Aiden. “That’s enough!”
Seth and Leon moved at the same time, both of them knocking me aside. The combination of their arms sweeping out and hitting me sent me flying backward. I hit the boulder I’d been trying to blow up, tumbling over the top. Twisting so I didn’t hit the soggy marsh face first, I landed on my hands and knees. Icy muck saturated my jeans and splashed my face.
Stunned more by the pure rage than anything else, I lifted my head and peered through my hair. What the hell had just happened? The whole pushing me thing had been an accident, but the violence I’d felt had not been my own.
It had been Seth’s. It wasn’t like those times I’d had those hot flashes. This had been different. I’d felt what he’d felt, wanted what he’d wanted. Had that happened before? I didn’t think so. My hands shook.
The Guards had reached Leon. I wasn’t sure if they were trying to protect Leon or Seth. Aiden, though, went after the Apollyon, like I should’ve known he would the moment I spied him stalking across the wind-tossed sand.
I was sure Aiden knew what had happened had been an accident, but he looked like he wanted to pummel both guys. By the sounds of their arguing and shoving one another, Leon blamed Seth. Seth blamed everyone but himself. The Guards looked increasingly worried.
Staggering out of the marsh, I headed toward them just as Seth tried to sidestep Aiden.
Eyes flashing, Aiden grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and pushed him back several feet. It was like he didn’t even see the strongest and deadliest element known to the gods inches away from his body—or he didn’t care.
“That’s enough,” Aiden said, shoving Seth as he let go. “Back off.”
“You really want to get involved in this?” Seth asked. “Right now?”
“More than you would ever know.”
Akasha fizzled out and Seth pushed Aiden. “Oh, I think I do. And you know what, it’s something I think about… every time. You get what I’m saying?”
“That’s the best you got, Seth?” Aiden went toe-to-toe with the Apollyon. And suddenly, I knew this wasn’t just about what had just happened. This was more. “Because I think you and I both know the truth about that.”
Oh, dear gods, this was turning into a boy fight.
Seth moved so fast it was hard to see him. An arm cocked back, aiming right for Aiden’s jaw. Reacting just as fast, Aiden caught Seth’s arm and threw him back again.
“Try it again, and I won’t stop,” Aiden warned.
A second later they were crashing into each other. Both hit the ground, rolling and throwing punches—a blur of black garb as each one gained and lost the upper hand. I started forward, but stopped short. They weren’t even fighting like Sentinels. There was nothing graceful in their punches or blocks. They brawled like two idiots high on testosterone, and I had the strongest urge to walk up and kick them both in the head.
I threw my hands up. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
The Guards and Leon shot forward, grabbing for the two guys. It took several tries to get Aiden off Seth. A cut marred his right cheek. Blood beaded. There was a split in Seth’s lip.