Page 12

“I’m looking for Alex,” he said, carrying a plastic bag. “But I’m curious to know what my brother did now.”

“You don’t even want to know.” Olivia stepped aside. “She’s here.”

“I see.” Aiden lingered at the door, a slight smile on his full lips. “Like the hair.”

I picked up a few strands. “Olivia did a kick-ass job.”

“She did.” He turned that half-smile on Olivia, and her cheeks deepened with color. “I brought some breakfast.”

Hopping up from the bed, I headed toward the door. “Food is calling.” I stopped in front of Olivia. “Thank you again.”

“No problem.” She sprang forward and hugged me. At first, I sort of froze. It felt weird, but good. I hugged her back, and for some reason, that felt like a huge step to me.

* * *

Aiden shoved about half a pig’s worth of bacon at me. I mean, I could eat someone out of house and town on a normal day, but he watched like a hawk until I finished it all off.

“I really do like the hair,” he said, after I returned from washing the greasy goodness off my fingers. He tucked a strand back behind my ear. “But you could be bald and I’d still think you were hot.”

I made a face. “My ears are huge. That would not be attractive.”

Aiden chuckled and pressed a kiss to the corner of my mouth. “Mmm, you taste like bacon.”

“That’s hot.”

His hands settled lightly on my hips, and I leaned forward, resting my cheek against his chest. “Do you want anything else to eat?”

“Oh gods, no. I’m stuffed.”


I turned into his chest, rubbing my cheek against him much like a cat might when it wants to be petted. “I’m sure.” I closed my eyes, knowing why he was suddenly all about stuffing my face. “Aiden…”

“I know.” He circled his arms around me, dropping his chin to the top of my head. “I know what you’re going to say, and I know what we talked about last night, but I think, before we completely rule out anything, we should be careful. You need to get checked out.”

Once more, the idea of skipping down to the infirmary and asking for a pregnancy test was tantamount to sunbathing nude in front of a pack of daimons, but Aiden was right. Lifting my head, I met his gaze. “I will. I promise.”

“Good.” He lowered his head, kissing me to the point where I almost forgot about what I had to do. “You ready? Marcus will be waiting for us at the Council.”

I wasn’t ready, but I said yes. I quickly changed into a Sentinel uniform. The thrill I normally got from donning the all-black uniform was gone.

Completely gone.

You’re not a Sentinel anymore.

Had I ever really been a Sentinel? The first time I’d put the uniform on and left to face my mom, I’d felt like one. The badass rush had filled me when I’d donned one after I broke the connection to Seth and prepared to enter the Underworld with Aiden.

I shouldn’t be wearing this uniform now. The inner-annoying-Alex voice agreed.

But I kept it on, because I needed to look the part even if I didn’t feel it. Strapping the daggers onto my thighs, I slipped the Glock Aiden handed me into the side holster. He patted my rear as I walked past him and, well, that made me feel a little better about the uniform.

My uncle was with Diana, waiting in one of the side rooms. There was a decent crowd out there, and the bacon I’d eaten was doing funny things in my stomach. Standing in the wings of the raised dais reminded me of when Lucian and Seth had turned on the Council.

Marcus still looked rough, but like all pures, he healed quickly. The bruises were fainter, and the swelling had gone down. “How are you feeling, Alexandria?”

One of these days, he would consistently call me Alex, and people would also stop asking how I was. “Okay. You?”

He gave me a tight smile. “Better.”

Solos entered, and Aiden immediately started questioning him about the walls. The gate was holding. There’d been no more attacks, and scouts had been sent out, like the party that had met us at the wall before we entered the University. Luke was among them.

Deacon had been chatting with Olivia, but he’d quieted at that and sat up straight on the bench. His gaze shifted from his brother to Solos, and I was grateful Deacon hadn’t seen the two Sentinels who’d been down by the burnt-out wreckage. His eyes, the only feature he shared with Aiden, were a bright silver. Worry etched into his features.

I made my way over to him. “Luke will be okay. He’s an awesome Sentinel.”

His lips tipped up in an uneven smile. “I know. It’s just…”

No one, no matter how good they were, was truly safe, especially not a Sentinel. I wished there was something more I could say, but if Deacon and Luke were serious about each other, he was going to have to get used to the dangers Luke faced. It was a harsh reality.

“He’ll be okay,” I reassured him, and Deacon nodded, exhaling softly.

Val entered from the main room, a hand on the hilt of his dagger. His blue eyes were extraordinarily bright against his swarthy complexion. “Everyone’s ready if you are.”

My uncle turned to me and nodded. Full of nervous energy, I stepped forward, relieved when he and Aiden followed.

Walking onto the Council dais was freaky. After all, Head Minister Telly, the leader of all the Councils, had once tried to place me under the Elixir and commit me to servitude during a Council session. So, yeah, I wasn’t a big fan of walking before the twelve thrones. All I could think, as I stopped in the center, flanked by two pure-bloods, was that I wished I had prepared a speech or something.

A lot of people were staring at me—well over three hundred, if I had to hazard a guess. In the back were all the Guards and Sentinels not on patrol, and the numbers were disheartening—maybe a hundred to a hundred and fifty. And most of them had to be from the University, meaning most of the others didn’t make it here…or they had sided with the other side.

So not good.

Council members who resided at the University were easy to pick out. They were in their ceremonial robes: red, blue, white and green, representing the different houses of power. Fire. Water. Air. Earth. Council members who had taken refuge here weren’t dressed in their finery, but the cool disdain of seeing a half-blood standing where they belonged was written all over their faces, as well as on the faces of many students and staff members.

One would think in a time of war that prejudice wouldn’t be strengthened, but it seemed to only fortify the age-old beliefs that halfs were less than pures.

A Council member in the front curled her lips as she leaned over to another member, whispering what was probably a very flattering observation.

And then, before I could even open my mouth and say a single, embarrassingly inept attempt of joining the masses, a Council member in red robes stood and the real fun began.

“She should not be standing before the thrones of Ministers,” he said, his hands forming fists against his robes. “This is not what the Council chambers should be used for. And a traitorous pure-blood stands there, too! One who used compulsion on his own kind. It’s a disgrace.”

Aiden arched a brow, looking wholly unrepentant.

I sighed and folded my arms.

A low murmur started from the back of the room. A student shot to her feet. She was a pure-blood, a beautiful redhead who reminded me of Dawn, Lea’s sister. “People are dying outside these walls, mortals and pures and halfs alike, and the first thing you have to comment on is the fact that there’s a half-blood standing on the Council stage?”

The Council member whipped around. “As a pure-blood, you should respect the laws of our society!”

“Laws of our society?” The girl’s eyes widened as she laughed. “Are you insane? I heard that daimons almost broke through the walls yesterday, and that a god was controlling them. Who gives a shit about our laws right now?”

I kind of really liked this girl.

Marcus stepped forward, clearing his throat as he tipped his chin up. “You may not agree with the use of the Council chambers, Minister Castillo, but that is not the point of this meeting.”

As the Minister clearly stated why he felt this was the perfect moment to discuss his opinions, my gaze met Laadan’s. I immediately thought of what she’d told me about my father while we were in Illinois. I’d hoped I’d find him here, but deep down, I knew he wouldn’t be. He’d most likely stayed in the Catskills with the other half servants, protecting and leading them. Head Minister Telly had enslaved him, placed him on the Elixir, and even cut out his tongue, but my father…he was a leader.

And I was his daughter.

“This is stupid,” I said, loud enough that it shut up the over-talkative Council member. All eyes were on me. I took a step forward. “We’re arguing over whether or not I belong on this stage—this stupid stage. That’s all this is. And these thrones? They’re just chairs. Who cares? They mean nothing to me or to the rest of the world. They only mean something to you because you made them so.”

The minister turned the color of his robes. “How dare you?”

“Oh, I dare.” Tapping into some of the anger that simmered in my stomach like a poison, I pulled it to the surface. “Yes, I am a half-blood. I am one of many trained to give their lives so you can sit in your precious chairs. So how about you show the halfs a little bit of respect?”

“Alexandria,” Marcus said in a low voice, stepping up beside me.

I was on a roll, and there was going to be no stopping me. “But I am also the Apollyon. If I wanted to, I could blast your asses into next week, or use compulsion to gain everyone’s agreement here, but I don’t believe in forcing people to do things they don’t want to. You could learn from that.”

Several heads turned to one another. Whispers grew. The Minister tipped his chin up defiantly. “I see what you’re getting at, but that does not change the blatant rape of our laws!”

“Rape of our laws? Whoa. That isn’t insulting or anything.” I shook my head at all of those nodding. “You people are insane. You don’t get it. When Ares gets through the wards, which he will, he will be sitting on one of your precious thrones. None of you will be. And he will do with you as he pleases.”

“He is a god,” another Minister argued, a women in her late forties. “We are their servants. If he—”

“Oh, yeah, you’ll definitely be his slaves. Maybe we should stop right here and invite him in. Karma is a big, fat—”

“Alex,” Aiden said, shaking his head slightly.

I rolled my eyes, but took a deep breath and forced my gaze away from the Minister before I made him start squawking like a chicken. Honestly, that would make just as much sense as the words he was saying. I scanned the crowd. “I watched Ares kill people without lifting a finger. I heard his plans. He doesn’t care about any of you. He sees pures just as you see the halfs. He will enslave you along with the mortals. He believes the gods should rule over the mortal realm once more, and that’s a dangerous desire. He will make war on the mortals, on you, and any god who stands in his way. There will be no Council to argue over. There will be new rules and new laws to follow, and all of us will still be on the same level. I can promise you that. And if he succeeds in turning the First into a God Killer, then the other gods will rip this world apart to stop him. They’ve already begun.”