Prying the toothbrush out of my hands, he tossed it in the sink after filling up the cup. “Here you go.”
Cheeks flaming, I took the cup and swished the water in my mouth.
Aiden handed me another empty cup. “Rinse and repeat.”
I glared at him, but secretly did a happy dance in my head when he laughed again. Once I didn’t have toothpaste falling out of my mouth anymore and my hands were empty, Aiden bent and carefully slid an arm around me. “I can stand without help,” I grumbled.
“Sure you can.” Aiden’s hair tickled my cheeks. “That’s why you’re sitting on a bathroom floor. Come on, back to bed.”
The door in the main room opened. “What’s going on?” Marcus’ voice carried through the room. “Is Alexandria okay?”
Crimson stained my entire face.
“She’s fine.” Aiden easily hauled me to my feet. The tender skin pulled a little, but I kept my expression blank. Didn’t want him having a heart attack. “She just wore herself out,” he continued, grinning as he let go. “You okay to make it back to the bed?”
I nodded. “It’s not my fault. Leon—Apollo—whoever he is—didn’t fix me right. Godly powers my—”
“I did fix you, but you were dead. Give me some credit,” Apollo said.
I jumped, smacking my hand on my chest. Apollo sat on the edge of the toilet seat, one leg crossed over the other.
Beside me, Aiden bowed stiffly. “My master.”
“Oh, my gods,” I said. “Seriously. Are you trying to kill me again by giving me a heart attack?”
Apollo tipped his head at Aiden. “I’ve already told you. You don’t need to do the ‘master’ and bowing business with me.” Little sparks of electricity rimmed those all-white eyes. “Why are you out of bed? Doesn’t getting stabbed warrant some downtime?” He smiled at Aiden, who was now standing. “She really is hard to take care of, isn’t she?”
Aiden looked a little pale. “Yeah…”
“I… I felt gross.”
Apollo disappeared from the bathroom and popped up behind Aiden. Marcus took a step back, his eyes wide. He bowed too, and I really thought for a moment that Marcus was going to drop to his knees.
“Good gods,” Aiden said under his breath as he led me out of the bathroom.
I stared at the hulking god in the corner of the room as I climbed back into bed. “Did anyone know about this?”
Apollo glided to the bed. It was strange looking at him and seeing some traces of Leon. The face was basically the same, but more refined, sharper. Hair that looked like spun gold replaced the short crew cut Leon had favored, falling just below his broad shoulders. And he seemed taller, if that was even possible. He was achingly beautiful, lacking the rougher edges, but his eyes… they creeped me out. There were no pupils or irises just white orbs that seemed full of electricity.
The Sun God.
I was staring at the mother effin’ Sun God… and yet, it was like staring at Leon. It was bizarre that a god would even be on earth, but to be as comfortable as Apollo seemed was unreal.
Apollo arched a brow as he slowly turned his head to Marcus. “I know this is a little… shocking, but what I was doing required that I disguise who I was.”
Marcus blinked, as if he was coming out of a daze. “Are there more like you here?”
Apollo smiled. “We are always around.”
“Why?” Aiden asked, dragging his fingers through his hair. He looked a little out of it also.
“Things are complicated,” Apollo said.
“So, was Leon a real person? Did you like, take over his body or something?” I folded my legs under the blanket. “Or have you been Leon this entire time?”
The corners of Apollo’s lips twitched. “We are one in the same.”
Slowly, I reached over and poked his arm. It felt like real flesh, warm and hard. Disappointed, I poked him again. I was expecting something amazing—celestial—by touching him. Instead all I got were weird looks from everyone in the room, including Apollo.
“Please stop touching me,” Apollo said.
I jabbed his arm again. “Sorry. It’s just that you’re real. I mean, I just thought you guys weren’t really around here.”
“Alex.” Aiden sat on the edge of the bed. “You should probably stop touching him.”
“Whatever.” I dropped my hand into my lap. I still wanted to touch him, though, which was really weird. I kind of wanted to rub all over him like a cat or something… and that was more than weird, and a little uncomfortable.
“Usually we’re not,” Apollo said, frowning at me. “When we are on earth our powers are limited. Everything about this place drains us. We tend to stay away and if we do visit, it is only for a short while.”
“Long enough to hook up with some mortal chicks?”
“Alexandria,” Marcus snapped.
Apollo faced me. “No. We haven’t spawned any demigods in centuries.”
I shuddered when my gaze met his. “Your eyes are really freaking creepy.”
He blinked, and in a nanosecond, his eyes were a brilliant, intense cobalt. “Better?”
Not really. Not when he was staring at me like that. “Sure.”
Marcus cleared his throat. “I’m really at a loss of what to say.”
Apollo waved his hand dismissively. “We’ve worked together for months. Nothing has changed.”
“We didn’t know you were Apollo.” Aiden folded his arms. “That changes things.”
“Why?” Apollo smiled. “I just don’t expect you to be as willing to spar with me now.”
The skin around Aiden’s eyes crinkled as he smiled. “Yeah, you can be sure of that. All of this is just… I mean, how did we not know?”
“Simple. I did not want any of you to know. It made things easier… blending in.”
“I’m sorry,” I interrupted. Apollo arched a brow, waiting. I felt my cheeks flush. “This is just really awkward.”
“Do tell,” Apollo murmured.
“I mean, I’ve like insulted you every which way from Sunday to your face. Multiple times. Like when I accused you of chasing boys and girls and how they turn themselves into trees to get away—”
“Like I said before, some of those things are not true.”
“So Daphne didn’t turn into a tree to get away from you?”
“Oh, my gods,” Aiden muttered, rubbing a hand along his jaw.
A muscle popped on Apollo’s jaw. “That was not all my fault. Eros shot me with a damn arrow of love. Trust me, when you are hit with one of those things, you cannot help what you do.”
“But you cut off some of her bark.” I shuddered again. “And wore it as a wreath. That’s like a serial killer collecting their victim’s personal items… or fingers.”
“I was in love,” he replied, as if being in love explained away the fact that the chick turned herself into a tree to get away from him.
“Okay. What about Hyacinth? The poor boy had no idea—”
“Alexandria,” Marcus sighed, looking near apoplectic.
“Sorry. I just don’t understand why he hasn’t smited me or something.”
“The day is still young,” Apollo said, grinning when my eyes widened.
Marcus glanced at me. “You’re here because of her.”
Apollo nodded. “Alexandria is very important.”
This was weird to me. “I thought the gods weren’t fans of the Apollyons.”
“Zeus created the first Apollyon thousands of years ago, Alexandria, as a way to ensure that no pure-blood would become too powerful and threaten the mortal race or us,” he explained. “They were created as a system of checks and balances. We are neither fans nor enemies of the Apollyon, but see them only as a necessity that will be needed one day. And that day has come.”
“WHY NOW?” I ASKED WHEN NO ONE ELSE SPOKE. I think the pures were a little star-struck. Apollo was a rock star to them, but even with his otherworldly beauty he was still just Leon to me.
“The threat has never been greater,” Apollo answered. Seeing my confusion, he sighed. “Perhaps I should explain a few things.”
“Perhaps you should,” I muttered.
Apollo drifted over to the bedside table and picked up the pitcher of water. Sniffing it, he placed it back down. “My father has always been… paranoid. All that power, but all Zeus has ever feared is his children doing what he did to his parents. Overthrowing him, conquering Olympia, slaughtering him in his sleep—you know, the same old family drama.”
I shot Aiden a look, but he was riveted by Apollo.
“Anyway, Zeus decided that he should keep his enemies close. That is why he called all the demigods back to Olympus and destroyed the ones who didn’t heed his call, but he forgot about their children.” Apollo smirked. “All that power, and sometimes I wonder if Zeus had been dropped on his head as a baby. He forgot about the Hematoi, the children of the demigods.”
I laughed, but Marcus glanced up at the ceiling as if he expected Zeus to strike Apollo with a bolt of lightning.
“The Hematoi,” Apollo looked at Marcus and Aiden pointedly, “are watered down versions of the demigods, but you are very powerful in your own way. Your numbers frankly outnumber the gods by thousands. If there was ever a cohesive attempt to overthrow us, it might just succeed. And the mortals, they would not stand a chance against the Hematoi.”
“I thought you guys were, like, all-knowing. Wouldn’t you know if you were about to be overthrown?”
Apollo laughed. “Legends, Alexandria, are hard to separate from the truth. There are things we know, but the future is never set in stone. And when it comes to any creature living on this planet, we cannot see or interfere with them. We do have… tools we use to keep an eye on things.”
“That’s why the oracle lived here,” Aiden said.
Again, there was a tickle in the back of my head. Something about an oracle poked at my fuzzy memories. It stayed out of reach.
“Yes. The oracle answers to me and only me.”
“Because you’re a god of prophecy… among five hundred other things,” I added, picking back up on the conversation.
“Yes.” He came back to the bed, tilting his head to the side. “Once Zeus realized that he had forgotten about the Hematoi, he knew he had to create something that was powerful enough to control the Hematoi but could not populate like the Hematoi did.”
Marcus sat in the only spare chair in the room. “And so the Apollyon was created?”
Apollo sat beside Aiden, which really crowded the bed. “An Apollyon can only be born when the mother is Hematoi and the father is a half-blood. It is the aether of a female pure combined with that of a half-blood which creates the Apollyon. It is similar to the way a minotaur is born. Apollyons are nothing more than monsters in the scheme of things.”
I frowned at his back. “Gee. Thanks.”