The Guards immediately stepped aside, revealing the strong winter sun glaring off the still waters. At first I was surprised, but then I remembered whose Guards they were—Lucian’s.
Aiden moved uneasily. His hands opened and closed at his sides.
Seth feigned a look of sympathy. “Don’t look too happy about this, Aiden.”
I kicked Seth in the shin.
“Ouch,” he hissed, blasting me with a look. “Kicking is not nice.”
“Antagonizing people isn’t nice,” I shot back.
Aiden sighed. “You have twenty minutes. Then we’ll come looking for you.”
Backing down the steps, Seth bowed at Aiden and then pivoted around. Wind caught and tossed his hair around. Sometimes I forgot how… beautiful Seth was. He could give Apollo a run for his money. Both of them had this type of cold beauty that didn’t seem real, because it was flawless both far away and up close.
I fell into step beside him, shoving my hands into the center pocket of my hoodie. “I wasn’t expecting you back so soon.”
Seth arched a golden eyebrow. “Really? I’m not surprised by that.”
My cheeks flushed. There was no way he could’ve known what had happened between Aiden and me. The bond didn’t work over that many miles. Taking a deep breath, I womaned up. “Seth, I have to—”
“I already know, Alex.”
“What?” I stopped, pushing my hair out of my face. “You know what?”
He faced me and leaned in, bringing his face mere inches from mine. The cord went crazy inside me, but it was manageable… as long as he didn’t touch me. Oh gods, this wasn’t going to be easy. “I know everything.”
“Everything” could mean a lot of things. I hunched my shoulders, squinting against the harsh glare. “What exactly do you know?”
His lips tipped into a small smile. “Well, let’s see. I know about that,” he gestured to the St. Delphi house, “back there. I knew that was going to happen.”
I went hot and cold all at once. “Seth, I’m really sorry. I don’t want to hurt you.”
He stared at me a moment, then laughed. “Hurt me? Alex, I’ve always known how you’ve felt about him.”
Okay. I must’ve been on crack when I thought I’d seen vulnerability in Seth before. Silly me, he was the boy with no feelings or something. But even for the cocky, annoying version of Seth, he was taking this surprisingly well—too well. My suspicions skyrocketed. “Why are you so okay with this?”
“Am I supposed to be upset? Is that what you want?” He tipped his head to the side, brows slanted. “Do you want me to be jealous? Is that what it takes?”
“No!” I felt my face flush again. “I just didn’t expect you to be so… okay with it.”
“Well, I wouldn’t say I’m okay with it. It is what it is.”
I stared at him and then a thought struck me. “You’re not going to turn him in, are you?”
Seth slowly shook his head. “How would that benefit me? You’d be in servitude and on the elixir.”
And I wouldn’t Awaken, which it always seemed to come down to, and I was big enough person to admit that stung. I wondered what bothered Seth more—my life being virtually over or my Awakening not happening. I looked away, biting my lip. “Seth, I found some stuff out while you were gone.”
“So did I,” he responded evenly.
That was cryptic. “You had to know about the Order and how an Apollyon is made.”
His expression didn’t change. “Why is that?”
Frustration flared. “You once said that when you Awakened, you knew everything from the previous Apollyons. One of them would’ve known about the Order, and about how they were born. Why didn’t you tell me?”
Seth sighed. “Alex, I didn’t tell you because I didn’t see a point.”
“How could you not see a point after everything that happened to me in New York? If you’d told me about the Order, I could’ve been better prepared.”
He looked away, lips pursing.
“And I asked you while we were there if you knew what that symbol meant,” I said. Anger and so much disappointment swamped me. I didn’t even try to shield my emotions from him. “You said you didn’t know. When I asked if you knew about a half and a pure mixing, you said you guessed your father had to be a half. You knew the truth. What I don’t get is why you didn’t tell me.”
“I was told not to.”
“What?” Seth started walking, and I hurried to catch up with him. “Who told you not to tell me?”
He stared up the beach. “Does it matter?”
“Yes!” I practically shrieked. “It does matter. How can we have anything If I don’t trust you?”
His brows shot up. “What do we have exactly, Alex? I do remember telling you that you had a choice. I didn’t ask for labels or expectations.”
I remembered that, too. The night in the pool seemed forever ago. Part of me missed that playful Seth.
“And you made your choice,” Seth continued softly. “You made your choice even when you said you chose me.”
I also remembered that fleeting, satisfied look when I had said that I’d chosen him. Shaking my head, I searched for something to say. “Seth, I—”
“I don’t want to talk about this.” He stopped where the sand faded into pavement, reached down and brushed his knuckles across my cheek. I jerked back, startled by the contact and the electric shock that followed. Seth lowered his hand, staring at the backs of the small shops lining the main road. “Anything else you want to talk about?”
He hadn’t answered a damn question, but I did have one more. “Did you see my father, Seth?”
“No.” He met my eyes.
“Did you even look for him?”
“Yes. Alex, I couldn’t find him. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t there.” He pushed back the shorter strands that had been blown free. “Anyway, I brought you back a gift.”
I wasn’t sure I’d heard him right, but then he repeated it, and my heart sank. “Seth, you shouldn’t have brought me anything.”
“You’ll change your mind once you see it.” A wicked grin pulled at his lips. “Trust me, this is a once-in-a-lifetime type of gift.”
Great. This was making me feel better. If he handed me the Hope Diamond, I was going to throw up. He and I had never been in a relationship, but guilt still twisted at my insides. When I looked at him, I saw Aiden. And when Seth touched me, I felt Aiden. The worst thing of it all was that Seth knew.
“Alex, just come on.”
“Okay.” I drew in a deep breath and then pressed my lips together. The wind that kicked up from the ocean was shockingly cold, and I huddled down in my hoodie. “Why in the world is it so cold? It never used to be this cold here.”
“The gods are pissed,” Seth said, and then laughed.
I frowned at him.
Seth shrugged. “They are putting all their focus into this little piece of the world. It’s because of us, you know. The gods know change is coming.”
“Sometimes you really kind of freak me out.”
I made a face. We walked in silence after that. I kept expecting him to turn toward the Covenant-controlled island and when we didn’t, then I thought we’d head toward Lucian’s house, but he led me straight through town and toward the courthouse, which was used by the Council members.
“My gift is in the courthouse?”
Honestly, I never knew what to expect from Seth. Even with the bond, I didn’t have a clue what went on in his head half of the time.
The normal number of Council Guards stood just inside the Courthouse, hidden from mortal tourists; beyond them, three of Lucian’s Guards blocked a door. They stepped aside, opening the door for us.
I halted, knowing where the door and the stairs led to. “Why are we going down to the cells, Seth?”
“Because I’m going to lock you up and get all freaky.”
I rolled my eyes.
Taking my elbow, he tugged me forward. Down we went. My eyes adjusted to the darkness of the stairwell. Old boards creaked under our feet. The cells weren’t underground. They were actually on the first floor. The main entrance opened up to the second floor, but it still felt like we were walking down into some dank, dark place.
Dim light lit the hallway. Over Seth’s shoulder, I could make out several cells lining the narrow corridor. I shuddered, picturing myself stuck in one of them. Gods, how many times had I come close to that?
Ahead of us, two Guards stood in front of the very last cell. Seth walked up to them and snapped his fingers. “Leave us.”
I gaped as the two Guards left. “Do you have special Apollyon finger-snapping powers?”
He tipped his head toward me. “I have a lot of special Apollyon finger powers.”
I shoved him. “Where’s my gift, perv?”
Seth backed up, grinning. He stopped in front of the barred door and spread his arms. “Come look.”
Okay. I was curious. Stepping forward, I stopped in front of the door and peered through the bars. My mouth dropped open as my stomach hollowed.
Huddled in the middle of the cell, with his hands tied to his ankles, Head Minister Telly stared back at us with blank eyes. His face was battered, barely recognizable, and his torn, dirtied clothing hung off him.
“Oh, my gods, Seth.”
STUNNED, I JERKED BACK FROM THE CELL DOOR. Everything Apollo had warned me about rushed to me at once. Everyone had been afraid of something like this happening—everyone but me, and still I had a hard time believing that this was actually happening.
“What have you done?” I asked.
“What? I brought you a gift—Telly.”
I turned to him, shocked that I had to explain all the things wrong with this. “Seth, most guys bring girls roses or puppies. Not people, Seth. Not the Head Minister of the Council.”
“I know what he did, Alex.” He placed his hand over the scar Linard had left behind. “I know he ordered this.”
Through the heavy material, I could feel Seth’s hand. “Seth, I…”
“I felt something when it happened… like our bond had completely disappeared,” he said quietly and quickly. “I couldn’t feel your emotions but I knew you were there… and then you weren’t for a few minutes. I knew. Then Lucian told me. My first reaction was to bring just his head back to you, but I did the next best thing.”
I felt physically ill as I stared at Seth. And when I looked at Telly in the cell, I saw Jackson’s battered face. I should’ve known. Good gods, I should’ve known he’d know… and he’d do something like this.
“It didn’t take much for me to find him,” he continued casually. “And I know people were looking for him. Leon,” Seth laughed, “or should I call him Apollo? Yeah, I beat him to the punch on this one. Those two days you didn’t call me? That’s all it took for me to find him.”