Tears rushed to my eyes. I didn’t know what to say. My mind was still reeling from everything—total brain overload. And he was holding my hand, which was not the most shocking event of the day by any means, but it affected me just the same. I’d died. And a god who was apparently a Sentinel here had brought me back, and all that jazz. But it was the way Aiden was staring at me, like he’d never expected to talk to me again, see my smile, or hear my voice. He looked like a man who had stood at the edge of despair and had been pulled back at the very last second, but was still feeling all those terrible emotions, still not quite believing that he hadn’t lost something—that I was still here.
I realized something so important, so powerful then.
Aiden could tell me he didn’t feel the same way I did. He could fight what lay between us night and day. He could speak only in lies from here on out. It didn’t matter.
I would always, always know differently.
Even if space separated us, or a dozen rules were imposed to keep us apart, and we could never be together, I would always know.
And gods, I loved him—loved him so much. It would never change. There were so many things I was unsure of, especially right now, but that I knew. Before I could stop it, a single tear escaped, running down my cheek. I squeezed my eyes shut.
He drew in another breath, this one much sharper, more broken. The bed dipped as he moved, and his hand slid into my hair, where his fingers curled around the strands. His lips were warm and smooth against my cheek, kissing the tear away.
I became very still, afraid that any movement would send him away. He was like some kind of wild creature about to break.
When he spoke, his breath danced over my lips, sending shivers through me. “I can’t feel that way again. I just can’t.”
He was so close, still holding my hand tightly in his while his other slipped out of my hair and traced an invisible line over my face.
“Okay?” he said. “Because I can’t lose—” He cut off, looking toward the door. The sound of footsteps grew closer. His lips pressed into a tight line as he turned back to me. He dropped my hand and straightened. “We’ll talk more, later.”
I sat there dumbly, my heart fluttering spastically, and said the most eloquent thing I could. “Okay.”
The door opened, and Marcus walked through. His shirt was half-tucked in and his usually-pressed trousers were wrinkled. Like Aiden, he looked a mess, but relieved. He stopped beside my bed, exhaling loudly.
I cleared my throat. “You’re wrinkled.”
Aiden stood. “That she is. I was just filling her in on everything.”
“Good. That’s good.” Marcus stared at me. “How are you feeling, Alexandria?”
“Okay, I guess, after dying and all.” I shifted, uncomfortable with the attention. “So about this Leon god thing? I don’t know of any gods named Leon. Is he like the red-headed stepchild god that no one claims?”
Aiden retreated to the corner of the room, a much more appropriate distance for a pure-blood. I immediately missed his closeness, but he kept his eyes on me. It was like he was afraid I’d disappear. “That’s because Leon isn’t his real name,” he said.
Marcus sat in Aiden’s spot. He reached out, but stopped and lowered his hand into his lap. “Do you want some water?”
“Um, sure.” Weirded out a little, I watched him refill my cup and hold it for me to drink. The alien in my uncle had obviously taken full control. Soon, it would claw its way out of his stomach and tap dance across my bed.
Aiden leaned against the wall. “Leon is Apollo.”
I choked on the water. Wheezing, I clutched my stomach with one hand and waved the other in front of my face.
“Alexandria, are you okay?” Marcus set the cup down and glanced over his shoulder at Aiden, who was already beside the bed. “Go get one of the doctors.”
“No!” Eyes watering, I dragged in air. “I’m fine. Water just went down the wrong pipe.”
“You sure?” Aiden asked, looking torn between wanting to drag a doctor in here and taking my word for it.
I nodded. “Yeah, that just surprised me. I mean, whoa. Are you guys sure? Apollo?”
Marcus watched me carefully. “Yes. He’s definitely Apollo.”
“Holy…” There weren’t enough words in the world to do that justice. “Did he explain anything?”
“No.” Marcus tucked the loose blanket back around me. “After he brought you back, he said he needed to leave and that he’d be back.”
“He kind of popped out of the room.” Aiden rubbed his eyes. “We haven’t seen him since.”
“And that was yesterday,” Marcus added.
“So I’ve been sleeping for an entire day?” My gaze darted between the two. “Have either of you slept this entire time?”
Aiden looked away, but Marcus was the one who answered. “A lot has been going on, Alex.”
“But you guys—”
“Don’t worry about us,” Marcus interrupted. “We’ll be fine.”
Not worrying about them was easier said than done. Both of them looked terrible. “Is… Linard is dead.”
“Yes,” Marcus said. “He was working with this… this Order.”
I glanced at Aiden, now remembering that sickening crunch I’d heard. If I was expecting remorse in his steady gaze, I didn’t find it. Actually, the look on his face said he’d do it again. “What about Telly?”
“He never landed in New York. Right now, we have no idea where he is. Instructor Romvi has also disappeared.” Marcus dropped his hands into his lap again. “I’ve made some calls and I have a few trusted Sentinels looking for Telly right now.”
“Trusted like Linard?” As soon as those words came out of my mouth, I wished I hadn’t said them. My cheeks started to burn. “I’m… sorry. That wasn’t right. You didn’t know.”
Marcus’ green eyes flashed. “You are right. I didn’t know. There were a lot of things I wasn’t aware of. Like the real reason you left New York and the fact that you’ve already been receiving the Apollyon marks.”
Oh, no. I didn’t dare look at Aiden.
“It wasn’t until a few nights ago that I was even aware that the Order of Thanatos could be involved,” Marcus continued, his shoulders stiffening. “If I had known the truth, this could’ve been prevented.”
I squirmed as much as I could. “I know, but if we’d involved you in what happened in New York, then you’d be at risk.”
“That doesn’t matter. I need to know when these kinds of things happen. I’m your uncle, Alexandria, and when you kill a pure-blood—”
“She did it out of self-defense,” Aiden said.
“And you compelled two pure-bloods to protect her.” Marcus shot a glare over his shoulder at Aiden. “I get that, but that doesn’t change the fact that I needed to know. All of this created a perfect storm for something like this to happen.”
“You’re not… mad at Aiden? You aren’t going to turn him in?”
“Sometimes I doubt his critical thinking abilities, but I understand why he did it.” Marcus sighed. “The law requires that I do, Alexandria. It even requires that I turn you in, and by not doing so, I’ll face charges of treason. Just as Aiden will face charges of treason if anyone discovers what he did.”
Treason equaled death for them. I swallowed. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I dragged all of you into this.”
Aiden softened. “Alex, don’t apologize. This isn’t your fault.”
“It’s not. You can’t help… what you are. And all of this is because of what you are.” Marcus’ lips curved into a half smile. “I don’t agree with a lot of the decisions you’ve made or the fact that both of you have kept very important things from me, but I cannot blame Aiden for doing what I would’ve done in the same situation. I’m your uncle, Alexandria, and I will be tough on you, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care for you.”
Stunned into silence, I stared at him. Could I’ve totally misinterpreted everything about this man? Because I seriously would’ve bet my life that he couldn’t stand me. But had it just been his version of… tough love? Blinking back tears, I suddenly wanted to hug him.
The look on Marcus’ face told me he probably wouldn’t be comfortable with that.
Okay. We definitely weren’t on hugging terms yet, but this… this was good. I cleared my throat. “So… wow. Leon is Apollo.”
Grinning back at him, I suddenly felt panicked and it took me a second to realize why. “Oh, my gods.” I started to sit up, but Marcus stopped me. “I need to call Seth. If he suspects anything, he’ll go crazy. You don’t even know.”
Aiden’s grin faded. “If he’d known—felt it through your bond, then he’d have already gone crazy. He doesn’t know.”
He had a point, but I still needed to talk to him.
“We think it’s best that he doesn’t know, not until he is here with you,” Marcus said. “Right now, we cannot afford for him to lose it. And he did call for you last night. Aiden told him you were sleeping.”
Aiden rolled his eyes. “After he complained about me answering the phone that he gave you, he hung up. If he felt anything, he doesn’t know why.”
Sounded like Seth. Relieved, I settled back down. “Can someone grab my phone, though? If he doesn’t hear from me, he’ll suspect something and blow someone up.”
“That can be arranged.”
“I’ll get it,” Aiden said, sighing.
“Good. And while you go get it, why don’t you take a shower and get some rest. You haven’t slept since yesterday morning,” Marcus said. “Lucian’s Guards are outside the door. No one will get past them.”
The only reason I trusted Lucian’s Guards was the fact that there was only one person who wanted me to Awaken more than Seth, and that was Lucian. “Does Lucian know what happened?”
Marcus stood. “Yes, but he agreed that it would be wise to keep Seth in the dark for a little while.”
“And you trust Lucian?”
“I trust that he understands that we cannot afford any acts of retaliation from Seth. Other than that, not particularly, but he needed to know about Telly. He has some of his people looking for the Head Minister,” He paused, running a hand down the side of his face. “Don’t worry about things like that right now. Get some rest. I’ll be back later.”
There were still a lot of questions, like who were the Sentinels that Marcus trusted? And how in the world could we keep a secret like this from Seth? But I was tired and I could tell that both of them were, too.
Aiden lingered after Marcus left. He came to my bedside, his silvery gaze drifting over me.