I spent the better part of the afternoon and evening playing Scrabble with Deacon. I think he regretted asking me to play, because I was one of those Scrabble players—the kind who played three-letter words every chance I got.
There was a part of me that kept expecting the gods to zap one of us for finally breaking all the rules. So when Apollo popped in on our fourth round of Scrabble, I about had a heart attack.
“Gods!” I clutched my chest. “Can you stop doing that?”
Apollo looked at me strangely. “Where is Aiden?”
Slowly rising to his feet, Deacon cleared his throat and bowed. “Urn, I think he’s outside. I’ll go get him.”
I glared at Deacon’s retreating form. Left alone with Apollo, I wasn’t sure what to do. Should I stand up and bow, too? Was it considered rude to sit in the presence of a god? But then Apollo sat beside me, cross-legged, and started messing with the letters on the board.
“I know what’s happened,” Apollo said after a few seconds.
My brows furrowed. “What are you talking about?”
He nodded at the board.
My gaze dropped to the game and I nearly passed out. He’d spelled SEX and AIDEN with those stupid little squares. Horrified, I shot to my knees and swept the letters off the board. “I-I have no idea what you’re talking about!”
Apollo tipped his head back and laughed, like, chortled really loudly.
I think I hated him, god or not.
“I’ve always known.” He leaned back against the couch, folding his arms. His blue eyes burned unnaturally, lit from within. “I’m just surprised you two made it this far.”
My jaw hit the floor. “Wait. That night Kain came back? You… you knew I was in Aiden’s cabin, didn’t you?”
“But… how do you know now?” My stomach dropped. “Oh, my gods, have you been doing some kind of creepy peeping-god thing or something? Did you see us?”
Apollo’s eyes narrowed as he tilted his head toward me. “No. I do have better things to do.”
His pupils started to burn white. “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe track down Telly, keep an eye on Seth and, If I get lucky, bring you back from the dead. Ah, and I forgot making a few appearances at Olympus, so that I don’t have every one of my siblings curious about what I’m doing.”
“Oh. Sorry.” I settled down, feeling chagrined. “You are really busy.”
“Anyway, I can smell Aiden on you.”
My face caught fire. “What? What do you mean, you can smell him? Dude, I showered.”
Apollo leaned over, his gaze meeting mine. “Every person has a unique scent. If you mix yours enough with that person, it takes a lot to get their smell off you. Next time you might want to try Dial soap instead of those girly body washes.”
I covered my flaming face. “This is so wrong.”
“But it does amuse me greatly.”
“You… you’re not going to do anything about it?” I whispered, lifting my head.
He rolled his eyes. “I believe that is the least of our problems at the moment. Besides, Aiden is a good guy. He will always put you first, above all else. But I am pretty sure he will get overprotective at some point.” Apollo shrugged while I stared, open-mouthed, at him. “You will just have to set him straight.”
Was Apollo giving me relationship advice? This was officially the weirdest moment of my life, and that was saying something. Thankfully Aiden and Deacon returned then, and I was saved from dying of humiliation.
Deacon shoved his hands into his pockets. “I’m just going to go busy myself with… something. Yeah.” Spinning around, he closed the door on his way out.
There was something really weird about Deacon’s reaction to Apollo. For his sake, I seriously hoped he hadn’t done anything with Apollo. He might end up a flower or a tree stump.
Aiden strolled into the living room and bowed. “Is there news?” he asked upon straightening.
“He knows about us,” I said.
A second later, Aiden hauled me to my feet and shoved me behind him. In both of his hands were Covenant daggers.
Apollo arched a golden eyebrow. “And what did I say about the whole overprotective bit?”
Well, he did call it. Cheeks flaming, I grabbed Aiden’s arm. “He doesn’t seem to care, apparently.”
Aiden’s muscles tensed under my hand. “And why should I believe that? He’s a god.”
I swallowed. “Well, probably because he could’ve killed me already if he was going to have a problem with it.”
“That is true.” Apollo stretched his legs out, crossing them at the ankle. “Aiden, you cannot actually be shocked that I know. Do I need to remind you of our special hunt in Raleigh? Why else would a man hunt down someone like that unless it was for love? And trust me, I know the crazy lengths people will go to for love.”
The tips of Aiden’s cheeks flushed as he relaxed by a fraction. “I’m sorry for… pulling these on you, but—”
“I understand.” He waved his hand dismissively. “Have a seat, cop a squat, whatever. We need to talk, and I do not have long.”
Taking a deep breath, I sat where I’d been before. Aiden took the arm of the couch behind me, remaining close. “So what’s going on?” I asked.
“I was just with Marcus,” Apollo answered. “He’s gotten Solos on board.”
“On board for what?” I glanced at Aiden. He looked away. Equal parts curious and angry, because I knew that meant he was keeping something from me, I elbowed his leg. “On board for what, Aiden?”
“You have not told her, have you?” Apollo scooted further away. “Don’t hit me.”
“What? I don’t just hit people.” Both stared at me knowingly. I folded my arms to keep from hitting them. “Fine. Whatever. What’s going on?”
Apollo sighed. “Solos is a half-blood Sentinel.”
“Gee. I’ve figured that part out.” Aiden pushed me in the back with his knee. I shot him a death glare. “What does he have to do with any of this?”
“Well, I am trying to tell you.” Apollo rose to his feet fluidly. “Solos’ father is a Minister in Nashville. He’s actually the only son of the Minister; he has been doted on and raised with a lot of knowledge of the politics of the Council.”
“Okay,” I said slowly. Pures caring for their half-blood children wasn’t unheard of. Rare, yes, but I was an example of that.
“Not everyone on the Council is a fan of Telly, Alex. Some would even like to see him removed from his position,” Aiden explained.
“And if I remember correctly, he was outvoted when it came to placing you into servitude.” Apollo glided over to the window. “Word of what he’s involved in will not sit well with those members of the Council, including Solos’ father, who, by the way, is a softie when it comes to the treatment of half-bloods. Having them on our side can only help.”
“What do you mean, his father is a softie?”
Apollo faced me. “He is one of those who do not believe that half-bloods should be forced into servitude if they do not fit the mold of a Sentinel or Guard.”
“Well, you have no one to blame for that rule but yourself.” Anger sparked inside of me. “You’re responsible for the way we’ve been treated.”
Apollo frowned. “We have had nothing to do with that.”
“What?” Surprise colored Aiden’s voice.
“We are not responsible for the subjugation of half-bloods,” Apollo said. “That was all the pure-bloods. They decreed the separation of the two breeds into castes centuries and centuries ago. All we asked was that pures and halfs not mix.”
Those words pulled the world out from underneath my feet. Everything I’d been taught to believe was no longer true. Since I was a small child, I’d been told that the gods saw us as lesser and our society acted on that belief. “Then why… why haven’t you guys done anything?”
“It was not our problem,” Apollo responded blithely.
Rage whipped through me like a red-hot bullet and I shot to my feet. “It wasn’t your problem? The pure-bloods are your children! Just like we are. You all could’ve done something years ago.”
Aiden caught my arm. “Alex.”
“What did you expect us to do, Alexandria?” Apollo said. “The lives of half-bloods are literally a step—a small step—above those of mortals. We cannot interfere in such trivial things.”
The slavery of thousands and thousands of halfs was a trivial thing?
Breaking free of Aiden, I charged Apollo. Looking back, not a good idea, but I was so angry, so shocked that the gods had stood by since the beginning and allowed the pures to treat us like animals they could herd. A small, rational part of my brain knew not to take it personally, because this was how the gods were. If it didn’t involve them directly, they didn’t care. It was as simple as that. The pissed part beat out the rational part.
“Alex!” Aiden yelled, reaching for me.
I was so much faster when I wanted to be. He couldn’t stop me. I made it about a foot in front of Apollo before he held up his hand. I smacked off an invisible wall. The force blew my hair back.
Apollo smiled. “I do like your feisty temper.”
I kicked the shield. Pain fired through my foot. I hobbled back. “Ouch! Dammit, that hurt!”
Aiden got a secure grip around me. “Alex, you need to calm down.”
“I am calm!”
“Alex,” Aiden chided, obviously trying not to laugh.
Apollo lowered his hand, appearing contrite. “I do… understand your anger, Alexandria. The half-bloods were not treated fairly.”
I took several deep, calming breaths.
“By the way,” Apollo said, “the next time you charge a god, and it is not me, you will be destroyed. If not by that god, then by the furies. You are lucky the furies and I do not get along. They would love to see my entrails strung upon the rafters—”
“Okay. I get the picture.” I eased my aching foot down. “But I don’t think you really understand. That’s the problem with you gods. You created all of this and then just left it. Taking no responsibility for what happened. You guys take ‘self-centered’ to a whole new epic level. And all of our problems—the daimons and even the Apollyon crap—are the gods’ fault. You said it yourself! If you ask me, you guys are freaking useless 99% of the time.”
Aiden placed his hand on the small of my back. I expected him to tell me to shut up, because I was yelling at a god, but that’s not what he did. “Alex has a point, Apollo. I didn’t even know… the truth. Even we are taught that the gods decreed the separation of the two breeds.”
“I do not know what to say,” Apollo said.
I smoothed my hair down. “Please don’t say you’re sorry, because I know it wouldn’t be true.”