“I know you care about him, but you’ve suspected that Seth hasn’t been honest with you.” Aiden strode forward and dropped into a chair. His gaze lowered and heavy lashes fanned his cheeks. “You shouldn’t be around him—not when he can come and go at Lucian’s.”
Aiden had a point. I’d give him that, but I seriously doubted that was the whole reason. “And you feel this way all because of what Apollo said?”
“No. It’s more than that.”
“You don’t like Seth?” I asked innocently, setting my mug down.
He flashed his teeth. “Besides that, Alex, he hasn’t been honest about a lot of things. He lied about knowing how an Apollyon was created, about the Order, and there’s a good chance he’s… giving you those marks on purpose.”
“Okay, besides all those reasons?”
He stared up at me. “Well, I don’t like that fact that you’re settling for him.”
I rolled my eyes. “I hate when you say that.”
“It’s the truth,” he said simply.
Irritation started to burn below my skin. “That’s not the truth. I’m not settling for Seth.”
“Let me ask you a question, then.” Aiden leaned forward. “If you could have… who you wanted, would you be with Seth?”
I stared at him, somewhat shocked that he’d even throw that out there. And it really wasn’t a fair question. What could I say to that?
“Exactly.” He sat back, smiling smugly.
A fierce emotion blasted through me. “Why can’t you just admit it?”
“That you’re jealous of Seth.” It was one of those times I needed to shut up, but I couldn’t. I was angry and thrilled all at once. “You’re jealous of the fact that I can be with Seth if I want to be.”
Aiden smirked. “There. You just said it yourself. You’d be with Seth if you wanted to be. Obviously you don’t, so why are you with him? You’re settling.”
“Ugh!” My hands curled into fists and I wanted to stomp my foot. “You are absolutely the most frustrating person I know. Fine. Whatever. You’re not jealous of Seth or the fact that he’s been sleeping in my bed for the last two months, because of course you haven’t wished that was you at all.”
Something dangerous flared in his silvery eyes.
Cheeks flaming, I wanted to smack myself. Why had I said that? To piss him off orto make myself look like a total ho-bag? I’d accomplished a little of both.
“Alex,” he said, voice low and deceptively soft.
“Just forget it.” I started past him, but his hand shot out as fast as a snake striking. One second I was walking and the next I was in his lap, straddling him. Eyes wide and heart thundering, I stared at him.
“Okay,” he said, grasping my upper arms. “You’re right. I’m jealous of that little punk. Happy?”
Instead of basking in the glory of having him admit that I was right, I placed my hands on his shoulders and basked in something totally different. “I… I keep forgetting how fast you can move when you want to.”
A strange small smile played over his lips. “You haven’t seen anything yet, Alex.”
My pulse went into cardiac arrest territory. I was done arguing—done talking in general. Other things were on my mind. And I knew he was thinking the same. His hands moved down my arms to my hips. He tugged me forward, and the softest part of me pressed against his hardness.
Our mouths didn’t touch, but the rest of our bodies did. Neither of us moved. There was something primal in Aiden’s gaze, wholly possessive. I shivered—the good kind of shiver. All I could think about was how good, how right his body felt pressed against mine.
I cupped his face and then slid my fingers through his hair, amazed that the intensity of what I was feeling was stronger than any bond with Seth. Delicious sensations rolled through me as his hands tightened around my hips, and when he rocked against me, the way his hands trembled and the powerful way his body coiled completely undid me.
“There’s something I need to tell you,” he whispered, his eyes searching mine. “That I should’ve told you—”
“Not right now.” Words would ruin things. They brought logic and reality into the game. I lowered my mouth to his.
A hallway light turned on outside the room.
I sprang away from Aiden as if he’d caught fire. From several feet away, I struggled to catch my breath as my eyes locked with Aiden’s. He came out of the chair, his chest rising and falling sharply. There was a second when I thought he was going to say the hell with it and pull me back into his arms, but the sound of encroaching footsteps knocked some sense into him. Closing his eyes, he tipped his head back and exhaled loudly.
Without saying a word, I spun around and left the room. I passed a sleepy, confused-looking Deacon in the hallway.
“I’m thirsty,” he said, rubbing his eyes.
Muttering something that resembled good night, I fled upstairs. Once inside the bedroom, I collapsed on the bed and stared at the vaulted ceiling.
Things just weren’t meant to happen between us. How many times had we been interrupted? It didn’t seem to matter how strong our connection was—our attraction. Something always got in the way.
Fully clothed, I rolled onto my side and curled up into a ball. I wanted to spin-kick everyone who thought me staying with Aiden was a good idea. We—I—had enough problems right now without throwing myself at Aiden.
Not that I’d really thrown myself at him this time… or the last time. Oh hell…
I reached under my shirt and felt the scar below my ribcage. The act served as a painful reminder that my love problems—or lack thereof—were not my greatest.
THE FIRST THING I DID WHEN I WOKE UP WAS TAKE A nice, luxurious bath in the garden tub. I stayed in that thing until my skin started to wrinkle and even then it was hard to pull myself out of it.
It was heaven in a bathroom.
After that, I went downstairs and found Deacon sprawled across a couch in the rec room. Knocking his legs aside, I sat down. He was watching Supernatural reruns. “Good choice,” I commented. “They’re two brothers I’d like to meet in real life.”
“True.” Deacon knocked wild curls out of his eyes. “It’s what I watch when I’m not in class or pretending to be in class.”
I grinned. “Aiden would kill you if he knew you skip class.”
He kicked up his legs and dropped them in my lap. “I know. I’ve cut back on the skipping class thing.”
He’d also cut back on the drinking thing. I glanced at him. Maybe Luke was a good influence on him. “You doing anything special for Valentine’s Day?” I asked.
His lips pursed. “Now why would you ask that, Alex? We don’t celebrate V-Day.”
“But you do. You wouldn’t have that… tree if you didn’t.”
“Are you?” he inquired, his gray eyes dancing. “I’d swear I saw Aiden at the jewelry—”
“Shut up!” I hit him across the stomach with the throw pillow. “Stop saying things like that. Nothing is going on.”
Deacon grinned, and we watched the rest of the shows he’d recorded. It wasn’t until the afternoon that I worked up the nerve to ask where Aiden was. “He was outside with the Guards the last time I checked.”
Part of me was glad that Aiden was doing his babysitting outside. My cheeks caught fire just thinking about us in the chair last night.
“So you two were up pretty late,” Deacon said.
I kept my expression blank. “He was showing me the house.”
“Was that all he was showing you?”
Shocked, I laughed as I twisted toward him. “Yes! Deacon, geez.”
“What?” He sat up and swung his legs off my lap. “It was just an innocent question.”
“Whatever.” I watched him stand up. “Where are you going?”
“Over to the dorms. Luke’s still there. You’re more than welcome to come, but I doubt Aiden will let you out of this house.”
Pures and halfs could be casual friends, especially while they were in school together, and a lot of them were, although not so much since the daimon attacks at the beginning of the school year. Zarak hadn’t thrown any of his huge parties lately. But for a half to be hanging out at a pure’s house would raise questions.
“What are you two doing?” I asked.
Deacon winked as he backed out of the room. “Oh, I’m sure the same thing you and my brother were doing last night. You know, he’s going to show me around the dorm.”
Several hours later, Deacon returned and Aiden finally reappeared inside. Avoiding my gaze, he went straight upstairs. Deacon shrugged and coaxed me into making cookies with him.
When Aiden finally came downstairs he lingered in the kitchen while Deacon and I made cookies. I sort of gaped at him—dressed down in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt—so long that Deacon elbowed me in the side. Once Aiden loosened up, he joked around with his brother. Every so often our eyes would meet, and electricity danced over my skin.
After eating our weight in raw cookie dough, we all ended up in the living room, sinking into couches bigger than most people’s beds. Deacon controlled the TV for four straight hours before ambling off to bed and Aiden went outside to check in with the Guards—why, I had no idea. I roamed around the house. What had Aiden wanted to talk about before I told him to stop talking? Had he been ready to talk, like he’d hinted when I was still in the med clinic? Restless, I found myself in the MHT tree room.
I poked the bulb, smiling as it swayed back and forth. Deacon was so bizarre. Who had a Mortal Holiday Tree? So weird.
It was late, and I should’ve been in bed, but the idea of sleeping was unappealing. Full of restless energy, I drifted around the room until I came to a stop in front of the door. Curious, and with nothing else better to do, I tried the handle and found it unlocked. Glancing over my shoulder, I pushed open the door and crept inside the softly lit room. At once I realized why Aiden had kept this room off his tour.
Everything personal was crammed into the circular room. Pictures of Aiden lined the walls, chronicling his childhood. There were photos of Deacon as a precocious-looking little boy, head full of blond curls and chubby cheeks that hinted at delicate features.
I stopped in front of one of Aiden and felt my chest tighten. He must’ve been six or seven. Dark curls fell across his face instead of the looser waves he had now. He was adorable, all gray eyes and lips. There was a photo of him with Deacon. Aiden was probably around ten or so and he had one lanky arm draped over his younger brother’s shoulders. The camera had captured both boys laughing.
Moving around an overstuffed couch, I slowly picked up the titanium picture frame that was on the fireplace mantel. My breath caught.
It was his father—his mother and father.
They stood behind Deacon and Aiden, their hands on the boys’ shoulders. Behind them the sky was a brilliant blue. It was easy to tell which boy favored which parent. Their mother had hair the color of corn silk that fell past her shoulders in springy curls. She was beautiful, as all pures were, with delicate features and laughing blue eyes. It was shocking, though, how much Aiden looked like his father. From the almost-black hair and piercing silver eyes, he was an exact replica.