“Unfortunately, going outside is the only method of traveling to other parts of the campus, unless you know something I don’t.”
“You could just do us all a favor and stay in your dorm,” he suggested.
Shivering, I hugged my elbows. “Do you have any idea how nice it is to be able to do something other than train or stay in my room?”
“Or spend time with Seth?”
I looked at him closely, trying not to smile. “Was that a joke? Oh, my gods. It was.”
His features remained expressionless. “There is nothing about that boy that is a joking matter.”
“Okay.” I turned around and started walking. This time Leon walked beside me. “You really don’t like Seth, do you?”
“Is it that obvious?”
I peeked at him. “No. Not at all.”
“Do you?” he asked as we rounded the corner of the training center. The wind off the ocean was unnaturally brutal. “I’ve heard rumors… that two Apollyons share a powerful bond. It must be hard to know how you truly feel about someone if that’s the case.”
Now this was awkward. There was no way I was discussing my relationship troubles with Leon of all people.
He sighed deeply as he stared up at the statue of Apollo and Daphne, a distant look on his face. “Emotions that are forced always end in tragedy.”
That was deep. Another gust of frigid wind cut through me. The look on Daphne’s face was tragic. “Do you think Daphne knew that the only way she could escape Apollo was by dying?”
He didn’t answer immediately, and when he did, his voice was thick. “Daphne did not die, Alex. She still remains as she was the day… she was lost. A laurel tree.”
“Man, that sucks. Apollo was such a freak.”
“Apollo was struck by a love arrow and Daphne was struck by a lead one.” He looked down as he gestured at the statue. “Like I said, love that is not organic in nature is dangerous and tragic.”
Tucking my hair back, I glanced at the statue again. “Well, I hope I don’t have to turn myself into a tree.”
Leon tsked. “Then pay attention to what is need and what is want.”
“What?” I looked at him sharply, squinting. The sun had begun to set, casting an eerie golden halo over him. “What did you just say?”
He shrugged. “Your other babysitter is here.”
Distracted, I turned around. Aiden was strolling up the walkway. I’d kill to see him in jeans again. I winced. Okay, maybe not kill, but close. I twisted back around. Leon was gone.
“Dammit,” I muttered, scanning the growing shadows creeping across the beach and garden.
“What?” Aiden asked.
My chest fluttered like always as I faced him. There was a slight bruise along his jaw from his scuffle with Seth. “I was talking to Leon and he just up and disappeared on me.”
Aiden smiled. “He has a habit of doing that.”
“It’s just that he said something—” I shook my head. “It doesn’t matter. Are you my babysitter for now?”
“Until you decide you’re staying in for the evening,” he responded. “Where you headed?”
“I was going to the rec center, but I have something I want to show you.” I tapped the bottom of my bag. “You up for it?”
His brows rose. “Should I be concerned by what’s in your bag?”
I grinned. “Maybe.”
“Well, what is life without taking risks? Do we need privacy?”
“I know just the place.” He shoved his hands into the pockets of his cargos. “Follow me.”
Grasping the strap of my bag, I ordered myself to pull it together. I wasn’t talking to him just so I could ogle him or flirt. Or do anything I wasn’t supposed to be doing. I had a purpose for this, so there was no reason for my heart to be racing as fast as it was.
No reason at all.
Aiden nudged me with his elbow after a few moments of walking in silence. “You look different.”
“Yeah, you look more like…” He fell quiet. By the time he spoke again, the ocean was a golden red as the sun slowly disappeared over the horizon. “You just seem more relaxed.”
“Well, I have some time to myself. That’s relaxing.” I wondered if I did look different. Didn’t seem that way when I got ready this morning. The only thing I really noticed that was different was that the marks hadn’t burned or tingled once since Seth left.
“Oh, I almost forgot. Your letter was sent to New York, ahead of the crew that just went up there. Laadan should’ve received it yesterday or today.”
“Really? I hope my father… isn’t one of the ones who are missing.”
“How do you know about that?” His eyes narrowed. “Never mind. Seth?”
I nodded. “He told me that some of the half servants were missing and that the elixir wasn’t working.”
A troubled look darkened his eyes. “How much did he tell you?”
“Not much at all.”
Aiden nodded curtly. “Of course not. Some of the halfs aren’t responding to the elixir. There’ve been outbreaks of fighting among the servants; they’re refusing Masters’ orders and disappearing. The Council fears there will be a rebellion, and the New York Covenant has been weakened since the attack. And no one knows exactly how or why the elixir stopped working.”
I thought of my father. Was he one of those who’d disappeared, or was he fighting back? I knew he had to be one of the ones the elixir had stopped working on. “I should be there.”
“You should be anywhere but there.”
“Now you sound like Seth.”
His eyes narrowed. “For once, I have to agree with him.”
“That’s shocking.” My gaze fell on the main academy building, and I knew immediately where we were going. “You’re taking me to the library.”
The smile returned. “It’s private. No one is ever in there at this time, and if anyone spots us, you’re studying.”
I laughed then. “And someone is going to believe that?”
“Stranger things have been known to happen,” he replied as we headed up the wide steps.
We passed two Guards posted at the entrance. Ever since the attack here that had taken Caleb’s life, and the subsequent one in the Catskills, security had gone through the roof. Back in the day I would’ve bitched about this because it made sneaking around so much more difficult. But now, after everything, I was relieved to see the increased numbers.
Toasty air greeted us as we entered. Silently, I followed Aiden down the hall toward the library. Several Instructors still lingered in their offices, and we passed a few students heading out.
Aiden stepped forward and opened the door to the library, forever the gentleman. Smiling my thanks, I stepped inside and came to a complete standstill.
Luke and Deacon were emerging from one of the tall stacks, shoulder to shoulder. When they saw us, I’d swear they jumped at least three feet apart.
“Deacon?” Aiden sounded shocked. “You’re in the library?”
“Yeah.” Deacon brushed the mop of curls off his forehead. “We were studying for trig.”
Neither of them had a single book in their hands. I looked at Luke expectantly. He looked away, but his lips twitched.
Aiden eyes widened. “Wow. I’m sort of proud of you. Studying?”
I clamped my mouth shut.
“Turning over a new leaf and all.” Deacon bumped into his older brother. “Taking my education seriously.”
My tongue was literally burning to say something.
Aiden nodded at Luke. “Keep him out of trouble, Luke.”
Oh jeez. By the way Deacon was shifting back and forth on his feet and the size of Luke’s grin, I figured Aiden had no idea what kind of “trouble” those two were probably getting into. Same-sex relationships in our world didn’t even have a place on the list of taboo things to do. It was the fact that Deacon was a pure and Luke was a half.
And of all the half-bloods in the world, I knew just how stupid and dangerous whatever it was that they were doing was. I glanced at Aiden. He caught my eyes and smiled. My belly flopped. Stupid and dangerous, but it didn’t change how I felt.
I WAS STILL STRUGGLING TO KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT when Aiden found an empty study room in the back of the library, somewhere near the Books-I’d-Never-Read and the Books-I’ve-Never-Heard-Of section. He left the door cracked open, which relieved and disappointed me in the same breath.
Sitting down, I dropped my bag on the table. “That’s really cool that Deacon is studying and all.”
Aiden took the seat beside me, turning so that his knee pressed against mine and he was facing me. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure.” I pulled out the massive book and placed it between us.
“Do I look stupid?”
My hand froze over the edge of the book. “Uh, is this a trick question?”
He arched a brow.
“No. You don’t look stupid.”
“I didn’t think so.” He reached over, taking the book away from me. His hand brushed mine as he did so, sending little shivers through my fingers. “They were doing the same amount of studying that we’re doing.”
I wasn’t sure how to proceed with this. So I said nothing.
Aiden stared at the book, brows lowered. “I know what my brother is doing, Alex. And you know what? It pisses me off.”
“Yes.” He looked up, meeting my gaze. “I can’t believe he thinks I’d care if he was into guys or whatever. I’ve always known he’s been that way.”
“Deacon is good at hiding it. What am I looking at?” he asked. I reached over, opening the book to the section about the Order of Thanatos. Understanding dawned. He turned a couple of the pages before going back to the beginning of the section. “He’s always pretended to be interested in girls, and maybe he is, too. But he never had me fooled.”
“He had me fooled.” I watched a wavy lock of hair fall over Aiden’s forehead. An insane urge to brush it back hit me hard. “So he’s never said anything to you about it?”
Aiden snorted. “No. I think he believes I’d be upset or something. And trust me, I’ve wanted to tell him I don’t care, but I think it makes him uncomfortable. You know, talking about it. So I just pretend like I don’t see it. I guess he’ll talk to me about it eventually.”
“He will.” I bit my lip. “But… it’s Luke.”
A muscle popped in his jaw. “I don’t like the fact that he may be… involved with a half, but I trust that he won’t do anything—” He broke off, laughing. “Yeah, well, I’m not the person to be lecturing on the whole pure and half business.”
A flush crept over me. Aiden looked up, and our eyes locked. He opened his mouth, but shut it quickly. He turned back to the book, clearing his throat. “So, the Order of Thanatos? Not exactly fun reading material.”