Lighting quick, he caught the candelabrum and tossed that to the side, too. “Always throwing things,” he said, voice thick and different. Gone was the musical quality. “Such a naughty, naughty Alex.”
I inhaled raggedly. “This… this is not you.”
“It is me.” He reached for me. “And this is us.”
Dawn’s voice distracted him. “This is treason!” she said. Terror filled her amethyst eyes. She was trembling, hugging her elbows. Other Ministers stood behind her, faces pale. “This is treason against the gods, Lucian. What you ask from us cannot be given.”
“Do you think change is not needed?” Lucian asked.
“Yes!” She unfolded her arms and raised them in front of her, as if she was shielding herself. “Change is needed. Half-bloods need more freedom and choice. There is no doubt to that. I have a half sister. I love her dearly and want a better life for her, but this… this is not the way.”
Lucian cocked his head to the side as he smoothed his hands over his white robes. “And what about the gods, my dear?”
Her breath came out ragged as her spine straightened. “They are our only masters.”
All my nightmares were coming true, as were the Order’s. History was on repeat. Seth stepped to the side, facing the Council members who would not bow to Lucian’s will.
“No!” My voice came out ragged as I slid along the wall, away from Seth. “Seth, don’t!”
But Seth was on autopilot. He grabbed my hand again. Mark pressed against mark. Pressure filled me and then the cord snapped again, pushing akasha through the bond. There was no reaching him when the power took over, no compassion.
Seth was just Lucian’s killing machine.
The brilliant amber light erupted from his hand a second time.
Screams rose above the pandemonium. I swore I could hear Lea’s above them all. I knew that couldn’t be true, because everyone was screaming. I was screaming.
Seth released his hold, and I dropped to my knees, gagging and choking on the smell of burnt cloth and… flesh—burnt flesh. Where the seven had once stood, only three remained huddled together as they stared at Seth in horror. One whimpered, clutching a blackened arm.
Lea’s sister—Dawn—was gone.
He had done it—attacked the Council. My cheeks were damp. When had I started crying? Did it matter? I didn’t know.
Lea’s sister was gone.
I pressed my hand to my mouth, ordering myself to pull it together. Something had to be done. This was bad—horrendous—but it would get worse once I Awakened. In the chaos, I could escape. I couldn’t break down now. Struggling to my feet, I held my breath and edged toward the stairs as Seth’s back was to me. I reached the steps and arms went around my waist, lifting me over the edge. Warmth immediately surrounded me, my body—my heart—telling me who it was who’d grabbed me. Sweet relief flooded me.
“I’ve got you.” Aiden set me on my feet. His eyes searched mine intently. “Can you run?”
I heard him as though through a tunnel, and I think I nodded.
Within seconds, we were surrounded.
“Shit.” He let go of my hand, blocking my body with his. Coiled tension rolled through his body.
I wished I’d had the foresight to find the lost dagger, because then I’d at least have something to ward off Lucian’s Guards. Not that I’d be able to do much with it. It was taking everything in me to stand, to push through the nearly overwhelming exhaustion that’d come when Seth tapped into my power.
Then Aiden sprang. Spinning around, his boot connected with the jaw of the closest Guard, and then he dipped under the outstretched arm of another. Coming up, his fist struck the second in a fierce uppercut. Without missing a beat, he caught another with a kick to the chest, knocking the Guard back several feet.
It had been so long since I’d seen him fight. Forgetting how graceful and fast he was, I stared in awe. Not a single Guard made it past him. He mowed them down with just his hands and kicks.
One, however, did creep up behind us.
The Guard grabbed me from behind and started to pull me back toward the dais, toward Seth and Lucian. With my arms pinned to my side, I was only able to slam my foot down on his. He grunted and his grip loosened, but that was about it.
Aiden turned, seeing my predicament. Our eyes met for a brief second, and then his gaze dropped. I let my legs collapse. Aiden moved so fast the air stirred around me. A second later the Guard hit the ground, unconscious.
“Nice,” I croaked as Aiden tugged me to my feet.
His smile was tight as he grabbed hold of my hand again, and we were running up the center aisle. My uncle and the stranger were making short work of the Guards by the door. On the floor, Luke was holding Lea, rocking her back and forth as he kept an eye on the battle. When he saw us, he stood and pulled Lea to her feet. She was hysterical. I didn’t think she even knew what was going on around her, not even when the stranger with the scar threw a dagger and took out a Guard right beside her.
“Who… who are you?” I asked.
He bowed at the waist and grinned. “Most call me Solos.”
“Solos from Nashville?”
Solos nodded, spun around and punched the living crap out of a Sentinel who’d made a run at us. The punch knocked the guy off his feet. It was pretty epic.
“Are we getting out of here?” Luke asked. He held Lea close to him, his movements near frantic. “We’ve got to get out of—”
The air popped and crackled. Light followed, flashing over the entire room. When it receded, Apollo stood in the middle of the aisle. “Go,” he said. “Get off the island now. I will hold him off, give you enough time.”
“Alex!” roared Seth.
Cold shivers went down my spine.
“Whatever you all do, do not stop. Do not stay to help,” Apollo ordered before he turned around. “Go.”
“Come on.” Aiden had me again. “We have a car waiting down the street, by the beach.”
“You can run, Alex!” Seth’s voice carried over the uproar. “Run all you want! I will find you!”
Aiden dragged me toward the front doors. I looked back, seeing Seth standing in the center of the dais, his chest heaving. The body of the furie lay at his feet like a sick trophy.
“Stop them!” Lucian ordered, moving behind Seth. “Don’t let her out of here.”
The Guards in front of the dais turned and froze. Then they scattered like roaches.
Apollo moved up the aisle. “Yeah, that’s what I thought.”
“I will find you! We’re connected. We are one!” Seth was still screaming. His gaze fell to the god. He sneered. “You want to fight me now, in your true form?”
“I will fight you in any form, you little punk-ass brat.”
Seth laughed. “You can’t kill me.”
“But I can beat the living snot out of you.”
That was all I heard. We were out of the courthouse, into the sunlight. Pures and halfs streamed out behind us. We kept running. I struggled to keep up with Aiden, breathing harshly. I could barely feel my legs. Stumbling more than once, Aiden caught me each time, urging me on. Then Marcus appeared at my side, and without a word, swooped me up in his arms.
Indignation swept through me. I loathed the idea of being carried, but I was more of a hindrance on my feet. Only then did I realize that my runes were still burning, the skin throbbing. My stomach started to roll violently.
“I’m going to be sick,” I gasped out.
Marcus stopped immediately, placing me on my feet. I hit my knees, and the contents of my stomach emptied on the sidewalk outside a coffee shop. It was quick and powerful, over as soon as it started, leaving my insides aching.
“Alex!” Aiden tracked back to us.
“She’s okay.” Marcus helped me to my feet. “She’s all right. Aiden, go ahead. Make sure your brother is there and get those kids to safety.”
Aiden hovered. “I’m not leav—”
“I’m fine. Go.”
Obviously reluctant to do so, it took Aiden a few more seconds before he spun around and took off.
“Are you okay?” Marcus asked. “Alexandria?”
I nodded slowly. My hands trembled. “Sorry. I’m so sorry.”
Marcus’ eyes softened, possibly for the first time since I’d known him. He stepped forward, wrapping his arms around me. It was a brief hug, but tight and everything it should’ve been. And oddly, I discovered it was something I’d been yearning for.
“Good gods, girl,” he choked out, releasing me. “Do you think you can run? It’s not very far. We have to get back to the St. Delphi’s.”
Tears clawed at my throat as I nodded. It wasn’t far, but the poor man would die carrying me the whole distance. Hoping my stomach didn’t decide to jump out of me again, I started running as fast as I could.
The run ended up nearly killing me. When we finally reached the sand, and were running into the wind, my muscles screamed and protested. I kept going, almost crying out when I saw the two black Hummers… and Aiden.
He met us halfway, thrusting a bottle of water in my hands as I slowed down. “Drink slowly.”
I sipped the water as Aiden clasped my shoulders. I wanted to tell him that I was okay, that I wasn’t who he should be worried about, but we were moving again.
Deacon was pacing at the rear of the Hummer. “Is someone going to tell me what the hell is going on?” He followed us past the first car. “Lea is hysterical. Luke won’t talk. What the hell happened?”
“Did you get the bags in the cars?” Aiden asked, taking the bottle from me before I forgot about the sipping rule. “All of them, like I said?”
“Yes.” Deacon ran his hands through his curls, eyes wide and intense. “What happened?”
Solos jogged up to us. “It’ll take about eight hours to get where we’re going. We should have at least half of that time in before we stop for gas.”
“Agreed,” Aiden said. He took hold of my limp arm in a gentle grasp, taking on most of my weight. I hadn’t realized I’d leaned against the Hummer. His worried gaze kept falling back to me.
“Tell me what happened!” Deacon yelled.
“Seth… Seth attacked the Council.” I winced at the words.
Deacon stared incredulously. “Oh my gods.”
I broke free of Aiden and looked inside the Hummer. Piled in the back were suitcases. They’d had it all planned. Pushing away from the back of the car, I watched for Seth. How long could Apollo hold him off?
They were finalizing plans, and I was still staring at the suitcases. Obviously they’d hoped to grab me at the Council somehow, not knowing the kind of chaos that was going to erupt. What would they have risked to get me out of there? Life and limb, most likely.
The wind picked up.
Aiden headed back to me, all determination and purpose. “We have to leave now.”
Solos called out to Marcus. “You ready for this?”
“Let’s get out of here,” Marcus replied, casting a long look at me. “You holding up?”