I feigned boredom. “I’d say it probably had to do with the daimons that were swarming the building. They do tend to kill people. And the furies were ripping through people.”
The smirk on his face faded. “He was killed with a Covenant dagger.”
“Okay.” I sat back in the chair, cocking my head to the side. “Did you know that halfs can be turned now?”
The Head Minister’s eyes narrowed.
I slowed my speech down. “Well, some of those halfs were trained as Sentinels and Guards. They carry daggers. And I think they know how to use those daggers, too.” Eyes wide, I nodded. “It was probably one of them.”
Surprisingly, Telly laughed. It wasn’t a nice laugh—more like a Dr. Evil laugh. “What a mouth you have on you. Tell me, is it because you think you’re so safe? That being the Apollyon makes you untouchable? Or is it just blind stupidity?”
I pretended to think about that. “Sometimes I do some pretty dumb things. This could be one of them.”
He smiled tightly. “Do you think I’m stupid?”
Odd. That was the second time I’d been asked a version of that question within the last twenty-four hours. I gave the same answer. “Is that a trick question?”
“Why do you think I’ve waited until now to question you, Alexandria? See, I know about your little bond with the First. And I know that this kind of distance negates that bond.” His smile became real as my hands clenched the arms of the chair. “So, right now, you’re nothing but a half-blood. Do you understand me?”
“Do you think I need Seth to defend me?”
The hollows of his cheeks started to turn pink. “Tell me what happened that night, Alexandria.”
“There was this giant daimon attack that I tried to warn you guys about, but you ignored me. You said it was a ridiculous notion that daimons could pull off such a stunt.” I paused, letting that jab sink in. “I fought. Killed some daimons and brought down a furie or two.”
“Ah, yes. You fought magnificently from what I hear.” He paused, tapped his chin. “And then a plot was discovered. The daimons were after the Apollyon.”
“I find that strange,” he replied. “Considering that they were trying to kill you in plain sight of Guards and Sentinels. Who, by the way, are loyal to the Council.”
I yawned loudly, doing everything to show I wasn’t afraid while I was shaking inside. If he saw that, then he’d know he was onto something. “I have no idea what goes on inside the mind of a daimon. I can’t explain that.”
Telly pushed off the desk, coming to stand in front of me. “I know you killed the pure-blood Guard, Alexandria. And I also know that another pure-blood covered it up for you.”
My brain sort of emptied as I stared up at him. Terror, so potent and so strong, knocked the air out of my lungs. How had he known? Had Aiden’s compulsion worn off? No. Because I’d be in front of the Council, handcuffed, and Aiden… oh gods, Aiden would be dead.
“You have nothing to say to that?” Telly asked, clearly enjoying this moment.
Pull it together. Pull it together. “I’m sorry. I’m just a little shocked.”
“And why would you be shocked?”
“Because that’s probably the stupidest thing I’ve heard in a long time. And have you seen the people I know? That’s saying something.”
His lips thinned. “You’re lying. And you’re not a very good liar.”
My pulse pounded. “Actually, I’m a great liar.”
He was losing his patience quickly. “Tell me the truth, Alexandria.”
“I am telling you the truth.” I forced my fingers to relax around the chair arms. “I know better than to attack a pure, let alone kill one.”
“You attacked a Master at the Council.”
Crap. “I didn’t actually attack him—I stopped him from attacking someone else. And well, I learned my lesson after that.”
“I beg to differ. Who helped you cover it up?”
I leaned forward in the chair. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“You are testing my patience,” he said. “You don’t want to see what will happen when I lose it.”
“It kind of sounds like you have lost it.” I looked around the room, forcing my heart to return to normal. “I have no idea why you’re asking me these questions. And I’m missing the last day of class before winter break. Are you going to give me an excuse or something?”
“Do you think you’re clever?”
Telly’s hand snaked out so quickly I didn’t even have a chance to deflect the blow. The back of his hand connected with my cheek with enough force to snap my head to the side. Disbelief and rage mixed, rushing through me. My brain flat-out refused to accept the fact that he had just hit me—actually dared to hit me. And my body was already demanding that I hit him back, lay him out on his back. My fist practically itched to connect with his jaw.
I gripped the edges of the chair, facing him. That’s what Telly wanted. He wanted me to strike him back. Then he’d have my ass on a golden platter.
I returned the gesture, ignoring the stinging in my cheek. “Thank you.”
Anger flared deep in his eyes. “You think you’re tough, don’t you?”
I shrugged. “I guess you could say that.”
“There are ways of breaking you, dear girl.” His smile increased, but it never reached his eyes. “I know you killed a pure-blood. And I know someone—another pure or the First—covered for you.”
A shiver ran down my spine, like icy fingers of panic and terror. I shoved it down, sure to revisit it later… if there was a later. I arched a brow. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’ve already told you what happened.”
“And what you’ve told me is a lie!” He shot forward, gripping the arms of the chair. His fingers were inches from mine, lips pulled back, face red with fury. “Now tell me the truth or so help me…”
I refused to pull away like I wanted to. “I have told you.”
A vein popped on his temple. “You are treading on dangerous ground, dear.”
“You must not have any proof,” I said softly, meeting his enraged stare. “If you did, I’d already be dead. Then again, if I were just a half-blood you wouldn’t need much proof. But to take me out, you need the Council’s permission. You know, being the precious Apollyon and all.”
Telly pushed back from the chair, turning his back to me.
I knew I needed to shut up. Taunting him was probably the stupidest thing I could do, but I couldn’t stop. Anger and fear were never a good mix for me. “What I don’t understand is how you’re so certain that I killed a pure-blood. There were obviously no witnesses to his death. No one is pointing a finger at me.” I paused, enjoying the way the muscles in his back tensed under the thin tunic. “Why would you…?”
He turned around, face impressively blank. “Why would I what, Alexandria?”
My stomach churned as realization set in. My suspicions had been correct. I stared at his elegant hands. “How can you be so certain unless you ordered someone—a Guard—to attack me? Then I guess you’d be fairly certain if that Guard did turn up dead, but you wouldn’t have done that. Because I’m sure the Council would be pretty pissed. You might even lose your position.”
So busy gloating, I didn’t even see him move.
His hand caught the same cheek. The burst of red-hot pain stunned me. It was no pansy hit. The chair went up on two legs before settling back down. Tears stung my eyes.
“You… you can’t do this,” I said, voice hoarse.
Telly grasped my wrist. “I can do as I please.” Telly hauled me to my feet, his fingers bruising my arms as he dragged me across my uncle’s office. He shoved me toward the window overlooking the quad. “Tell me, what do you see out there?”
I blinked back tears, biting down on the fury threatening to boil over. Statues and sand, and beyond that, the ocean rolled and tumbled with rough waves. People were scattered across the campus.
“What do you see, Alexandra?” His grip tightened.
I winced, hating my moment of weakness. “I don’t know. I see people and freaking sand. And the ocean. I see lots of water.”
“See the servants?” He gestured toward the atrium, where a cluster of them stood waiting for orders from their Master. “I own them. I own all of them.”
The muscles in my body locked up. I couldn’t pull my gaze from them.
Telly leaned in, his breath hot in my ear. “Let me tell you a little secret about the true nature of your other half’s trip to the Catskills. He’s been brought in to deal with any servant who is off the elixir and is refusing to submit. Did you know that?”
“Deal with them?”
“Take some of that cleverness from your mouth and apply it. I’m sure you can figure it out.”
I could figure it out, but I couldn’t believe it. There was a difference between those two things. Because I understood that Telly was claiming that Seth would take down any half-blood who was causing problems, but Seth wouldn’t actually agree to something like that. And I also knew that Telly was telling me this to rattle me.
It was working.
“I have something else I want to tell you,” Telly said. “I do have a favorite of all the servants, you see. One I personally requested many years ago. Did you know I knew your mother and father?”
I closed my eyes.
“What, Alexandria? Has someone already let that little bird out of the cage?” He let go of my wrist, chuckling. “To think your beautiful mother had tainted herself in that way, to mix with a half-blood. Did they really think they’d get away with it? And do you really think Lucian has forgotten the disgrace she placed upon his head?”
Dad. Daddy. Father. All titles which hadn’t really meant anything until I read Laadan’s letter. But now they meant everything.
“I know he must mean nothing to you,” Telly continued. “You’ve never known him, but I do know that whoever covered up what you did must mean a lot to you. And what do they say? Like father, like daughter?”
Desperation washed away any relief I felt. Telly wasn’t going to use my father against me. He was just going to use Aiden.
Telly left me by the window, returning to the center of the room. “This is your last chance. I will leave the day after tomorrow, before dawn, and if you haven’t turned yourself in by then, there will be no more chances. This could end easily.”
I didn’t even feel the throbbing in my face anymore.
Telly smiled, reveling in my silence. “Admit to killing the Guard, and I won’t push on…” his lip curled, “who covered it up. And trust me, I will find out. There are only a few I have noticed who have taken any interest in you, other than the First. What?” He laughed. “Did you think I hadn’t been paying attention?”