Seth pulled back before Aiden could see us. I scowled at Seth, and he smiled back at me. “We’re special guests,” he said.
“That you are, my boy.” Lucian strode through the waiting room. His gaze settled on me and cooled. “Has Alexandria been amicable?”
“What do you think?” I snapped before Seth could respond.
Lucian graced me with one of his plastic smiles. “You’re not as wise nor strong as you think you are, Alexandria, but soon you will be.”
I shot toward him, but Seth pulled me back and slipped an arm around my waist. That left my arms completely free and, boy, did I try to get hold of Lucian’s hair… face… whatever I could grab.
“You are lucky that no one can see what you just tried to do,” Lucian hissed. He stopped by the open door, his Guards blocking the entrance. “Or I’d be forced to do something about it. Make sure she behaves, Seth. And that she understands the consequences of acting rashly.”
Seth held me, my back against his chest, waiting until Lucian and his Guards reached the dais. “Alex, don’t do anything you’ll regret.”
I struggled against him, getting nowhere. “I’m not the one who’s about to do something they’ll regret.”
His chest rose sharply. “Alex, please. If you try to run while we’re out there or if you do anything crazy, I’ll be forced to stop you.”
My movements ceased. Wariness crept over me and I felt like I could never be warm again. “You would do that… to me?”
It seemed like forever before he answered. “I wouldn’t want to, but I would.” He paused and another breath shuddered through him. “Please don’t make me.”
A lump formed in my throat. “I’m not making you do anything.”
“But you have,” he whispered in my ear. Mixed shivers ran down my spine. “Since the first time I met you. You just didn’t know, so how can I really blame you?”
Lucian was taking center stage, starting the Council session. All eyes were on him. No one knew of the drama playing out just behind the walls.
“I don’t understand.” I closed my eyes against the rush of tears. “Seth, please…”
“It’s this.” Seth shifted slightly, pressing his hand on my stomach, above where I felt the cord, close to the jagged scar. “You don’t know what’s it’s been like. To feel your power and mine together, to know that it will only grow stronger. It’s the aether, yes, but it’s also the akasha. It sings to me like a siren.”
My breath hitched and I swallowed hard as the cord responded to him.
Seth rested his chin atop of my head. “I can even feel it now—I know how to use it. Together, we’ll do this together.”
I opened my eyes. “Gods, you sound… insane, Seth.”
His fingers curled into my sweater. “One man’s insanity is another man’s sanity.”
“What? That doesn’t even make sense.”
He laughed softly. “Come on. It’s starting.”
Just like that, Seth changed. He tugged me to the door, where we remained hidden but could hear what was happening. His grip on my hand loosened, but I knew better than to try to make a run for it. I really believed that he’d stop me—painfully, if necessary.
The members of the Council were talking among themselves, and then they quieted.
Lucian glided to the front of the dais, clasping his hands together in front of him. An elderly, stately Minister spoke first, her voice raspy but strong. “Has there been additional evidence indicating more daimon attacks?”
“Or is it the elixir?” another asked, his hands clasping the arms of a titanium-trimmed throne. “Are we having problems here?”
There was an immediate hum of questions from the crowd and the Ministers. Some of the faces were panicked. Daimon attacks had come too close to home, and the idea of the elixir not working probably horrified those who relied on halfs to do everything for them.
I stiffened and the worst—absolutely worst—idea took hold.
“What are you thinking?” Seth’s voice was low, soothing, and at complete odds with what he was capable of.
Marcus had suspected that the daimons who attacked the Council had help, and Seth had suggested that Telly had messed with the elixir to cause a distraction, but as I stared at Lucian, I wondered how much Seth really knew.
Lucian, the perfect pure-blood in his pristine white robes, gazed over the near chaotic crowd with a tight, well-practiced smile on his face. Had Lucian been behind all of this? To create chaos? Because I remembered one of my lessons in Myth and Legends—of how all the societies that had been on the brink of upheaval were the easiest to control, shape, and manipulate… and overthrow.
Sucking in breath, I shook my head.
“I did not call this session to discuss those things,” Lucian began. “Today is a day of discoveries, my fellow Councilmen. Our world is on the brink of great change. A change that is needed, but feared by some. Today, those who fear change, those who have worked in the shadows to stop it, will be unmasked and prosecuted.”
My breath caught. Telly. But I didn’t see him anywhere.
“What are you speaking of, Lucian?” asked a Minister. Her voice was clear but strained. “What fear and change is so great that we were called back early, away from our families and our vacations?”
I almost rolled my eyes at the last part.
Lucian remained staring straight ahead. It was then when I realized at least half of the twelve were smiling. They knew—they supported Lucian. This did not bode well.
But the others had no idea.
“We have been taught to fear the possibility of two Apollyons,” Lucian said. “Taught to see them as a threat against our very livelihood and the gods, but I am here to tell you that, instead of fear, we should feel joy. Yes! Joy that we will have the God Killer to protect us in just a few days.”
“Protect them against what?” I muttered. “Crazy-ass Ministers?”
“Shh.” Seth glared at me.
My jaw ached from clenching my teeth so hard.
“But first, we must deal with something that is both unsavory and,” he clapped his hand over his chest, “close to my heart. Guards!”
The door on the other side opened, and in an ironic twist of fate, Guards led Head Minister Telly out to the center of the dais. I couldn’t help but remember when Kelia Lothos, the half who’d loved pure-blooded Hector, had been brought before him, half-naked and shackled.
Karma was a bitch.
That didn’t make what was happening right, though. I itched to run out there and warn all of them what was about to happen, what I could feel building under my skin.
There was a collective gasp from the audience and half of the Council when Telly was forced to kneel. He lifted his head, but his glazed-over eyes didn’t focus on any one thing in particular.
“This man has plotted against the Council’s own decision and against my stepdaughter.” Lucian’s voice hardened as his lips pulled back. “And I have evidence.”
“What evidence do you have?” Dawn spoke up, her eyes darting from Lucian to the silent Head Minister.
Seth’s breath danced along the back of my neck. I tried to step away, but he pulled me back. My temper, my nerves—everything was stretching too thin.
“During the November Council session, my stepdaughter was unfairly targeted. She’d been asked to attend to give her testimony based on the unfortunate events in Gatlinburg. However, Head Minister Telly proved to have nefarious motives.”
No one on the Council looked too concerned. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to feel angry or sad about that.
Lucian turned to Telly. A real smile—a satisfied one—appeared on Lucian’s face. “My stepdaughter was a victim of several attacks. Some of you,” he glanced over his shoulder at the Council, “may find this of no concern. But she is notjust a half-blood; she will be the next Apollyon.”
“What attacks?” asked an elderly male minister. The cane he clutched in his left hand was just as weathered as his face.
“She was placed under an unlawful compulsion and left in the cold to die. When that failed, he attempted to coax the Council of Twelve to have her placed on the elixir and enslaved,” Lucian announced. “When the Council found no reason for doing so, a pure-blood was compelled to give her the Brew.”
“Oh gods,” I muttered, feeling my cheeks burn.
“Alexandria was unaware of this,” Lucian continued, now appealing to the females on the Council. “It is believed that she was set up to be found in a… compromising position with a pure-blood.”
“Son of a bitch,” I whispered. The bastard was pulling the family card.
“Not very nice,” Seth murmured.
I ignored him.
Dawn looked pale as she watched Lucian. “That… that is most revolting.”
“And that is not all.” Lucian turned back to the audience. “When all of these things failed, Head Minister Telly ordered a pure-blood Guard to kill her after the daimon attack. If it wasn’t for Aiden St. Delphi, who used a compulsion on two pure-bloods, the Head Minister would’ve succeeded.”
My heart slammed against my ribs as my mouth dropped open. I so got what Lucian had just done. He’d let out the cat out of the bag, making it sound like Aiden was some kind of hero to him while knowing what it meant for Aiden.
A Minister eyed Aiden with open disgust. “That is an act of treason against our kind and must be dealt with immediately. Guards!”
No. No. No.
Several people turned toward where I knew Aiden stood. Guards rushed forward, as if Aiden now was the greatest threat. They surrounded Aiden within seconds, daggers out and ready to be used.
Aiden stood remarkably still. There wasn’t a flicker of emotion in his face or eyes as the Guards closed in on him.
There was no way I was letting this happen. I started forward, but Seth stopped me. “Don’t, Alex.”
“How could you? They’ll execute Aiden for this.” Raw panic tasted like metal in my throat. “He’s turned the entire society against him with those words, Seth.”
Seth said nothing.
“Wait.” Lucian’s voice traveled, stopping everyone. “The pure is not a concern at this moment. The Head Minister’s attempts in the Catskills failed numerous times, but he did not cease in his actions. He sought her out, leaving the New York Covenant in a state of disarray to continue to threaten her with servitude.”
“What happened to the Guard who supposedly attacked her?” asked the female Minister who’d spoken first.
“He has been dealt with,” Lucian responded, pushing on before that could be further examined. “Head Minister Telly went against the Council’s wishes and still tried to force her into servitude. She was even attacked here, stabbed by a half-blood Guard ordered to do so by him.”
“And the proof?” the elderly Minister asked. “Where is the proof?”