“He knows I killed a pure-blood,” I whispered. “And he knows either Seth or a pure covered it up.”
Aiden said nothing.
I really started to freak out. “He’s definitely part of the Order, and I think he’s the one who sent the Guard to kill me. It’s the only way he could know unless the compulsion—”
“The compulsion hasn’t faded.” Aiden dragged his hand over his head. Dark waves tumbled through his fingers. “We would know. I’d be arrested by now.”
“Then the only way he would know is if he sent the Guard to kill me.”
Aiden clasped the back of his neck. “Are you sure he knows?”
I laughed harshly as I gestured at my cheek. “He did this when I wouldn’t admit to it.”
The silver in his eyes burned. “I want to kill him.”
“Me too, but that’s not really going to help things.”
He flashed me a wild smile. “But it would make us feel better.”
“Damn, you’ve gotten dark. Funny, but dark.”
Aiden shook his head. “What did he say, exactly?”
I told him the questions Telly had asked. “You know, the only good thing about this is that he didn’t think using my father had any pull on me. But he said that, if I turn myself in, he wouldn’t push to find the pure who covered for me. If I didn’t tell him, then he would go after every pure who seems to tolerate me: you, Laadan, Leon, even Marcus. I guess he doesn’t think he can get Seth or he’s afraid of him.”
“I don’t know what to do.” I pushed off the couch, sidestepping him. I prowled the length of the small living room, feeling caged. I stopped, my back to Aiden. “I’m screwed, you know that, right?”
“Alex, we’ll think of something.” I felt him come up behind me. “This isn’t the end. There are always options.”
“Options?” I crossed my arms. “There were options when the Guard tried to kill me, and I chose the wrong one. I made a huge mistake, Aiden. I can’t fix that. And you know what? I don’t even think he cares about that Guard.”
“I know,” he replied softly. “I think he sent that Guard knowing that you’d be able to defend yourself, that you would probably even kill the Guard. It makes sense.”
I turned around. “It does?”
He nodded, eyes narrowing. “It’s the perfect set-up, Alex. Telly sends the Guard to kill you, knowing there would be a good chance that you’d fight back and kill the Guard out of self-defense.”
“And self-defense means nothing in this world.”
“Exactly. So Telly would have you then. No one could stop him from having you killed or at least placing you into servitude. He puts you on the elixir and you don’t Awaken. Problem solved, except Telly didn’t expect a pure to use compulsion and cover it up for you.”
I nodded. “But he now knows that someone did.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Aiden said. “He may know but he has no evidence without incriminating himself. Telly may be the Head Minister, but he does not wield the kind of power where he can indiscriminately go after pure-bloods. He can accuse us all he wants, but he can’t do anything without evidence.”
A tiny seedling of hope rooted in my chest. “He has a lot of power, Aiden. He has the Order, too, and gods know how many people belong to it.”
“It doesn’t matter, Alex.” Aiden placed gentle, strong hands on my shoulders. “All he has right now is fear. He thinks he can scare you into admitting the truth. He’s using that fear against you.”
“But what if he does go after everyone? What about you?”
Aiden smiled. “He can, but he’s not going to get anywhere with it. And when you don’t admit to anything, then he’ll go back to New York. And we’ll be ready if he tries something again. This isn’t the end.”
I nodded again.
Aiden looked me straight in the eyes. “I want you to promise me that you won’t do anything stupid, Alex. Promise me that you won’t turn yourself in.”
“Why does everyone think I’m always going to do something stupid?”
His look said he knew better. “Knee-jerk reaction, Alex. I think we’ve covered that.”
I sighed. “I won’t do anything reckless, Aiden.”
Aiden stared at me for a moment, then nodded. Instead of relaxing like I thought he would, he seemed to grow more tense. He exhaled roughly and then nodded once again. Whatever he was thinking, I knew it wasn’t good.
And when his steely gaze met mine, I knew there was a good chance he didn’t believe any of the promises I’d made.
LATER THAT EVENING, I HELD THE CELL PHONE TWO feet from my head and still felt like Seth was yelling in my ear.
“I’m going to kill him!”
“Yeah, you’re not the first one to say that.” I climbed off the couch, scowling at the door. I didn’t need to check to know that Leon stood right outside my room. Thank the gods most of the kids were gone, because having a personal Sentinel guard would make me an even bigger freak. “And it’s pretty sad when I’m the voice of reason.”
“What else do you suggest?” he asked. “He’s the Head Minister, Alex. It’s obvious that he ordered that Guard to attack you.”
“Yeah.” I headed to my bathroom, turning my head to the side. The left side of my cheek was red and slightly swollen. A bit of blue lined my jaw. Jackson had done worse. Telly hit like a girl. I started to smile. “But Aiden said that he doesn’t—”
“Aiden’s an idiot.”
I rolled my eyes. “Anyway, why didn’t you answer the phone last night?”
“Are you jealous?”
“What? No. It was just weird.”
Seth laughed. “I was busy and it was too late by the time I had a chance to call you. Did you miss me or something?”
Not really. I pushed away from the mirror and went into the bedroom. “Seth, what are you really doing up there?”
“I already told you.” Static filled the line for a few seconds. “Anyway, is that really important right now? You should be worried about Telly.”
I sat on the edge of the bed. “Telly said that you were there to deal with the halfs who were causing problems and weren’t responding to the elixir. Is that true?”
Knots started to form in my stomach. “Seth.”
He sighed into the phone. “Alex, that isn’t the problem right now. Telly is.”
“I know that, but I need to know what you’re doing up there.” I plucked at a loose thread in the bedspread. “My dad… I know he wasn’t responding to the—”
“I haven’t even seen your father, Alex. Granted, I really don’t know what he looks like and Laadan isn’t telling. He could be here. He could be gone.”
Anger and frustration rushed to the surface. “What are you doing to the halfs who aren’t responding to the elixir?”
A sound of exasperation traveled through the phone. “What I’ve been ordered to do by the Council, Alex. Take care of them.”
Blood froze in my veins. “What do you mean by ‘take care of them’?”
“Alex, that isn’t important. Look, they’re just half-bloods—”
“What the hell do you think we are?” I stood and started pacing. Again. “We are half-bloods, too, Seth.”
“No,” he replied evenly. “We are the Apollyons.”
“Gods, I wish you were in front of me.”
“I knew you missed me,” Seth said. I could hear his smile.
“No. If you were in front of me, I’d kick you in your junk, Seth. You cannot be okay with… taking care of those halfs! Wrong doesn’t even sum up what that is. It’s disgusting—revolting.”
“I’m not killing anyone, Alex. Gods, what do you really think of me?”
“Oh.” I stopped, feeling my cheeks turn red.
A couple of moments passed in silence. It sounded like Seth was walking somewhere fast. “I’d like to be in your head for just one hour,” he laughed. “No. Forget that. I don’t. You’d kill my self-confidence.”
“Let’s focus on the important stuff here, which is Telly. I don’t believe he doesn’t have a damn thing. He wouldn’t hold that threat of going after the pure responsible for the compulsion without having something.”
Fear spiked. “You seriously think he has something?”
“Telly is a lot of things, but he isn’t stupid. He waited until he knew that neither Lucian nor I were anywhere near you before he made his move. I wouldn’t be surprised if Telly didn’t screw with the elixir weeks ago as a fallback plan. He needed a distraction and he got one. And Aiden isn’t stupid, either,” he said. “He’s telling you what you need to hear to stop you from doing something stupid.”
Feeling dizzy, I sat back down. “Shit.”
“Listen to me, Alex. None of them—your uncle or Aiden—is important. Stay away from Telly. Let him act on his threat, whether he has proof or not.”
“What?” I stared at the phone as if he could somehow see me, which was kind of dumb. “They’re important to me, Seth.”
“No. Aiden is important to you. In reality, you could care less about the rest,” he corrected.
“That’s not true!”
Seth laughed, but there was no humor in it. “Alex, you’re a terrible liar.”
What the hell? Did everyone think I was prone to acts of stupidity and a terrible liar? But I wasn’t lying. Laadan and Marcus were important to me. Even Leon, though he was kind of weird.
I took a deep breath. “So, you think Telly does have something?”
“I don’t think Telly would make idle threats and hope you fall for them. Look at all that he’s done so far.”
I dropped my head into my open palm. “Seth, I can’t let him go after them.”
“You can and you will. They. Are. Not. Important. You are. We are.”
“I hate it when you say things like that,” I seethed.
“Because it’s true, Alex. Why? Because once you Awaken, we can change things.” Seth paused and then his voice lowered. “You have no idea what the majority of the Council wants done to the half-bloods up here. Luckily, my presence seems to be keeping most of them in line, but they do want them killed, Alex. They see the half-bloods as a problem that they don’t have the time or manpower to deal with. Especially now that the daimons have no qualms about attacking the Covenants.”
“I thought you didn’t care about the half-bloods.” I lifted my head and stared at the blank wall across from the bed.
“Not losing sleep over their crappy lives and being okay with exterminating them are two different things, Alex.”
“Gods, Seth.” I shook my head. “Sometimes I don’t even know you.”