“You never tried to,” he said, without a trace of anger. “And it really doesn’t matter right now. All that matters is that you stay safe. Look, I got to go. Just stay in your room, at least until Telly leaves. I know he has to be back here by Friday because they are having a session.”
“All right,” I said. “Seth?”
I bit my lip, having no idea what I wanted to say to him. There was just so much, and none of it was anything I was willing to get into right now. “Nothing. I’ll…I’ll talk to you later.”
Seth hung up, without making me promise to stay out of trouble. I think he knew my word was just as good as his.
The next twenty-four hours crept by painfully slowly. I wasn’t allowed to leave my room. Food was brought to me by one of my babysitters. Besides them, I had no visitors. Bored out of my mind, I cleaned my bathroom and started to rearrange my closet, which ended with clothes strewn across the floor.
There was a moment when panic punched a hole through my chest. Was I making the right decision by not turning myself in?
I tried calling Seth a few times but that was a total bust. He eventually called back just after I’d changed for bed. We didn’t talk for long or about anything important. I think he was just surprised that I was still in my dorm and hadn’t done anything dumb yet.
It took hours of tossing and turning to drift off to sleep. But I didn’t stay asleep for long. I woke up while it was still dark, the comforter twisted around my legs.
I watched slivers of light slice across the ceiling, disappearing when the moon dipped behind a cloud outside my window. My brain immediately kicked into hyper drive, replaying everything that had happened with Telly, then with Aiden and Seth. What if Seth had been right and Telly had a way of finding out that it was Aiden? Or even if he didn’t, what if he did go after him? And it wasn’t just Aiden I cared about. What would it say about me if I let others be harmed so I skated through until the next time? Because there would be a next time—I knew it. And who would risk their future and their life then?
It wasn’t right or fair.
Sitting up, I swung my legs off the bed and stood. Cool air spread goosebumps over my bare legs. I grabbed a long, chunky sweater off the corner of my bed and slipped it over my tank top. Creeping to the window, I pried the blinds apart and peered outside. I couldn’t see anything in the darkness and I wasn’t even sure what I was looking for.
“What am I doing?” I asked myself.
“Absolutely nothing if I have anything to do with it.”
Shrieking, I dropped the blinds and spun around. Heart pounding, I squinted at the tall outline taking up the entire doorway to my bedroom. Once I recognized who it was, it did nothing to calm my racing heart. “Holy daimon babies! You gave me a heart attack.”
Aiden stepped forward, folding his arms. “Sorry about that.”
I pulled the sweater closer, staring at him. “What are you doing in my dorm?”
“You have a problem with guys in your dorm now?”
“Ha. Ha.” I hurried over to my bedside table and flipped on the lamp. A soft glow filled the room. “Actually, I never invited Seth in here. He just kind of made himself at home.”
A ghost of a smile appeared on his face. As always, he was in his Sentinel garb. Then it struck me. My mouth dropped open.
“You’re working, aren’t you?” I demanded.
“Well, there was a good chance that you’d try to sneak out and turn yourself in before Telly could leave in the morning. We were taking precautions just in case you did.”
“We?” I sputtered. “Is anyone else in here?”
“No, but Leon was in right after you fell asleep. Linard is patrolling the outside.” He paused. “I just switched shifts with Leon. I’m sorry if I woke you.”
I stared at him, dumbfounded. “You guys have been switching off in here while I slept? Last night, too?”
He nodded. “Thankfully, Marcus suggested the idea. Otherwise I have a feeling Linard would’ve been chasing you across the quad and stopping you before you ran off.”
“I’m not stupid.” My fingers curled around the edges of my sweater. “Do you really think I’d just up and go turn myself in to Telly in the middle of the night?”
He cocked his head to the side. “This is coming from the girl who once snuck out of the Covenant to find a daimon.”
Touché. “Whatever. I wasn’t planning to do anything like that again.”
I shook my head. There had been a part of me that had been considering it. “I couldn’t sleep. There’s a lot going on in my head.”
“That’s understandable.” His eyes drifted over me, settling on my cheek. “How is it?”
I tipped my head, shielding my face. “It’s fine.”
He looked away a moment, then his gaze swung back to me. “You’ve been through worse, I know, but still. You should’ve never had to deal with what you did… or with Jackson. Any of this really.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing—I’m just rambling.” Aiden’s shoulders relaxed as he glanced around the room. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been in here.”
I followed his gaze, which had landed on the bed. A warm flush went from my hair to the tips of my toes. A dozen or so vivid images danced in front of my eyes—all of them completely wrong considering everything that was going on.
“It was your first day back here,” he said, and a small grin appeared. “There were clothes on the floor then, too.”
Surprised, I focused on him—the real, completely clothed Aiden. Of course, he’d been in my living room area, but he was right. He hadn’t ventured any further than the couch. “You remember that?”
He nodded. “Yeah, I was lecturing you.”
“After I pulled Lea out of her chair by her hair.”
Aiden laughed and the sound warmed me. “You finally admit to it.”
“She kind of deserved it then.” I bit my lip as he looked up, his gaze meeting mine. What was he thinking right now? I sat on the edge of the bed. “I’m not going to do anything, even though I should. You don’t have to stay in here.”
Aiden was silent a couple of moments, then he made his way to where I was sitting and sat beside me. The air in the room suddenly got heavier, the bed smaller. The last time we’d been on a bed—and I’d been this close to being undressed—had been the night in his cabin. Impossibly, I grew warmer at the memory, and nervous—a lot more nervous. I should’ve stayed asleep.
“Why do you think you need to turn yourself in, Alex?”
I scooted back and tucked my legs under me. The distance helped a little. “Seth said that there’s a good chance Telly can prove that it was you or that he will make a move against everyone he suspects.”
He twisted around, facing me. “It doesn’t matter if he does, Alex. Going to Telly means the end of you. Don’t you understand that?”
“Not going to Telly could mean the end of you—of anyone who he thinks may have helped me.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“You sound like Seth—like no one else’s life is important but mine. That’s bullshit.” I rose to my knees, dragging in a deep breath. “What if Telly does something to you? Or to Laadan or Leon or Marcus? You expect me to be okay with that? To live with that?”
Aiden’s eyes darkened. “Yes, I expect you to live with that.”
“That’s insane.” I climbed off the bed, feeling the spicy rush of anger. “You’re insane!”
He watched me calmly. “It’s the way it is.”
“You can’t say that my life is more important than yours. That’s not right.”
“But your life is more important to me.”
“Do you hear yourself?” I stopped in front of him, hands shaking. “How can you make that decision for other people—for Laadan and Marcus?”
“Look,” Aiden said, his hands rising into the air. “Get mad at me. Hit me. It doesn’t change anything.”
I moved toward him, to push him but not actually hit him. “You can’t—”
Aiden caught both my wrists and hauled me into his lap, switching my wrists to one hand. He sighed. “I didn’t mean for you to actually hit me.”
Too stunned to respond, I just stared at him. Our heads were only inches apart. My legs tangled with his, and then he reached up with his free hand, smoothing the mess of hair back from my face. My breath caught as my heart sped up. Our gazes locked and his eyes turned to quicksilver.
He cupped the nape of my neck. I heard his sharp intake of breath. Then he let go of my wrists and grasped my hips. Before I could blink, I was on my back, and Aiden hovered over me. Using one arm to support himself, he lowered his head and brushed his lips over my swollen cheek.
“How do we always end up like this?” he asked, voice rough as his gaze traveled away from my face and down my body.
“I didn’t do this.” Slowly, I lifted my hands and placed them against his chest. His heart jumped under my palm.
“No. This was all me.” The lower half of his body shifted down. Our legs were flush. His eyes searched mine. “It gets harder every time.”
My brows rose and I bit back a giggle. “What does?”
Aiden grinned and his eyes lightened. “Stopping before it’s too late.”
In a second, everything—the rift that had come between us the day I’d given him that stupid pick, what I’d seen in the Catskills, the mess we were in, and even Seth—everything vanished. The words came out of me in a rush. “Don’t stop.”
AIDEN’S EYES SEEMED TO GLOW FROM WITHIN AS HE stared down at me. Like in the library, I knew he wanted to kiss me. His resolve was cracking and the hand against my cheek trembled.
I slid my hands down his taut stomach, stopping above the band of his pants. More than anything I wanted to lose myself in him, to forget about everything. I wanted him to lose himself in me.
He sucked in air, lips parted. “It probably would be a good idea if Leon or someone else was watching you during the night.”
His lips tipped into a crooked smile as his hand drifted away from my cheek, down my neck and under the collar of my sweater. I jumped a little when his hand skimmed over my shoulder. “People say hindsight is always twenty-twenty,” he said.
I didn’t care about people’s eyesight. All I cared about was his hand on my skin, pushing the sweater down my arm. “When… when does the next babysitter arrive?”
“Not until morning.”
Butterflies went crazy in my stomach. Morning was several hours away. A lot of things could go down in those hours. “Oh.”
Aiden didn’t respond. Instead, his fingers skimmed over the tags on my arm and then he closed his eyes. A shudder rolled through his entire body, shaking me to my core. Then his head dipped and dark waves of hair fell forward, but not quick enough to shield the hunger in his stare.