Page 3

“Thank you,” I said as the door closed behind him.

I stood slowly, feeling like I was ninety as my joints popped and my muscles stretched. Stripping off the soiled clothing took an indecent amount of time, and as I turned the water on and steam filled the bathroom, I stepped in. Hot water doused me from head to toe, pricking my raw skin.

The water coursed through my hair and down my body, filling the tub with red and circling the drain like a grotesque raspberry swirl. I washed my hair twice, going through the mind-numbing mechanics until I was satisfied when I didn’t see a hint of pink in the bottom of the tub.

Only then, as I turned off the water and felt the spray lessen until it dripped down the plastic walls, did I look down at my body. From my toes to my collarbone, with only a few places where there were no bones to break, I was covered in the thin lacing of pink scars.

Good gods…I’d never seen anything like this before. I looked like one of those patchwork dolls.

I stepped out of the shower, legs shaking as I twisted to the side. My back was much worse. The coloring was darker along my spine, where many of the vertebrae had been smashed. Had all these bones broken the surface, or had the injuries burst blood vessels? There had been too much pain when it’d happened for me to tell.

Apollyon or not, I couldn’t believe I’d survived this. None of it seemed real.

The numbness in my chest spread like a weed. Maybe I was struck stupid by what I saw, because I had known it was my body that looked like this, but the knowledge had only sunk through a layer or two.

A strange mark on my back, near my hip, caught my attention. Colored like a pale pink rose, it didn’t follow the typical pattern of the rest of the scars.

Swiping the mist off the mirror, I twisted to get a better look at the mark on my lower back. My mouth dropped open. Holy Hades holding hockey sticks, it was the shape and distinct form of a hand.

“What the hell?”

“Alex?” Aiden’s voice came from the bedroom. “Are you okay in there?”

Heart pounding, I grabbed a towel off the rack and wrapped it around me. That was the last thing I wanted Aiden to see. Opening the door, I forced what I hoped was a reassuring expression. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

The look on his face said he didn’t believe me, but then his gaze dropped. It wasn’t the towel that had caught his attention or the fact that so much flesh was exposed. Deep down, I knew why he stared and why his lips thinned. I knew that, when he saw me, it wasn’t my body that held him immobile.

It was the patchwork of web-like scars that now covered almost every inch of me, and it was the first time he was really getting to see them in all their glory.

Embarrassment flooded my cheeks with heat. There’d been scars before—daimon tags and, of course, the stab wound—but never like this. It was ugly, really ugly. No way around that.

His gaze flicked up, meeting mine, and I couldn’t stand to see the emotion churning in his silver eyes or go through another conversation like before.

Hurrying across the room, I grabbed the fresh set of clothing he’d set on the bed and stumbled around, nearly falling into the bathroom. “I’ll be right out.”


I shut the door on whatever he was going to say, which would be something ridiculously supportive and typical Aiden, but I knew better.

It wasn’t okay. This body sure as hell wasn’t beautiful anymore, and I wasn’t stupid enough to believe that.

Tears clogged my throat as I ripped the towel away and threw it to the floor. It was stupid to get upset about this, because it surely didn’t make the Top Ten List of Messed-Up Problems right now, but damn, it burned like a fire in my chest.

Once dressed, I stared at the door. The tears never fell, but the invading numbness spread, leaving behind the worst of emotions: anger and pain.

And fear and anxiety.


Who knew glowing eyes could set an entire room full of people on edge? Everyone, even my uncle, couldn’t stop staring. Or maybe it was my face that held them morbidly fascinated. From a distance, the scars weren’t so noticeable, but after Aiden assured the group that I wasn’t psychotic, everyone got all up close and personal.

The hugs were…uh, awkward.

Even Deacon’s embrace was stilted, and crap was serious if he wasn’t cracking jokes or messing around. I didn’t know if it was because they were worried about my injuries or because they feared I was going to Apollyon-out on them and snap their necks when they least expected it. I wished Lea were here. She would’ve just come out and said what everyone was really thinking without having qualms about it.

But Lea wasn’t going to stride into the room. Lea was dead, and the sharp pang that accompanied that thought hadn’t lessened one bit.

We were in the common room near the main academic campus building. It was almost identical to the one I’d found Caleb in the day I returned to Deity Island, except this one was outfitted with nicer furniture and a much bigger TV.

Olivia’s caramel-hued cheeks were a shade paler than normal as she stepped back from me, her curly hair pulled back in a tight ponytail on top of her head. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m okay.” It was my standard answer, changed out with “all right” and “fine.”

Her gaze met mine and quickly flitted away. “We’ve all been so worried. I’m glad that you’re…okay.”

I didn’t know what to say to that.

Laadan was a lot more tactful, but while she’d always remained a picture of cool collectiveness, the linen pants she wore looked like she’d slept in them and strands of raven-colored hair had escaped her twist. She met my stare and somehow managed to keep the sympathy in her expression to a minimum.

Aiden stayed close to my side, either as my own personal bodyguard or just wisely within tackling distance. He was unusually quiet while everyone settled into chairs or took spots against the wall. Unable to stand still, and figuring I needed to work the ache out of my legs, I paced, and Aiden never strayed more than a step or two away from me.

I asked the first question that popped into my head. “How long has it been since Ares was here?”

“Almost three days,” answered Marcus, and he made talking look painful. Half his face was a swollen array of blues and purples.

From the sofa, Diana, one of the Head Ministers from the Catskills and my uncle’s potential kissy-kiss interest, followed my movements with wary eyes. “Apollo removed you immediately afterward. You were gone for maybe an hour, and you’ve been…asleep since then.”

I glanced at Aiden. My stay in Olympus had felt much longer than that, but time worked differently there, like in the Underworld. Minutes here were hours, if not days, there. “Has Ares returned?”

Aiden shook his head. “No. Apollo threw up wards to keep him out.”

“Why didn’t he do that before?” I asked.

“Apollo didn’t know it was Ares until it was too late,” Aiden answered patiently. “And I believe he assumed the University was safe.”

“Yeah, and we all know what assumptions do.” I passed by the TV again, vaguely aware that it was on a news station. “I thought the talisman was supposed to prevent the gods from discovering where…” I reached for the necklace and found that it was gone.

“Ares must’ve taken it,” Aiden said, a muscle spasming along his jaw. “The only thing that we can come up with is that those Guards and Sentinels on the highway had made some sort of contact with Ares, Lucian, or Seth, and they put two and two together.”

“Or someone is working with him.” No one in the room looked like they wanted to believe it. “Ares said he has many friends.”

Marcus’s eyes followed me warily. “That is something we’ve taken into consideration, but…”

“But how would we know who it is?”

He said nothing, because what could he say? Anyone could be a traitor, but believe it or not, we had bigger problems at the moment.

I took a deep breath and kept my eyes trained on the minuscule space between Deacon and Luke on the couch. “There’s a good chance Seth knows where I am.”

No one in the room made a sound. Not even the guys in the back of the common area. There were twenty or so Guards and Sentinels from the University. I recognized a few from the group that had been led by Dominic, the ones who had met us at the walls when we arrived here. I truly hoped there were more where they came from.

“Besides the fact that Ares had to have told Seth where I was, I…I let the shields drop when I was fighting Ares.” Shameful heat flooded my cheeks as I now stared at a tiny tear in the rug.

“We figured Seth would be aware of your location by now,” Marcus said quietly. “I’m not an expert when it comes to the whole Apollyon connection, but Seth was able to feel what you were experiencing before you Awakened. That’s how we were able to find you in Gatlinburg when you…when you…”

When I’d left to find my mom when she’d become a daimon. I could feel several eyes on me, especially a pair of silver ones. “Yeah.”

“Does that mean he felt exactly what you were feeling when you fought Ares?” Aiden asked, and his voice was deceptively even. That was also known as the calm before the apocalyptic storm.

“Do you really want the answer to that?”


Glancing at him, I wished I hadn’t. Aiden looked like he already knew the answer and was ready to murder someone, and that someone was Seth. I started pacing again. “Yes.”

Aiden swore loudly. His brother jumped to his feet and went to his side, saying something too low and quick for me to make out. Aiden’s hands clenched at his sides, drawing my attention to his busted knuckles.

I wanted to go to him, but I felt rooted to the floor, near where Olivia sat on a black chaise lounge. I willed my legs to move toward him, but nothing happened. Frustration and uncertainty poured into me, overriding the numbness, and my anger skyrocketed.

My gaze locked with Aiden’s, and a godsawful sensation lit up my chest. I yearned to run to him, but a cold primal fear a need to run away from him, was equally powerful.

“Alex,” Olivia whispered.

I looked at her and saw her eyes widened with anxiety. Actually, everyone was staring at me with the same expression. What the…? My gaze dropped.

Oh—my feet weren’t on the floor.

My heart tumbled over. Closing my eyes, I forced myself back down. Relief crashed into me when my sneakers hit the carpet. “Sorry,” I said, putting some distance between me and those in the room. “I didn’t mean to do that. I’m honestly not even sure how that happened.”

“It’s okay,” Laadan reassured with a small smile.

With wide eyes, Deacon remained by Aiden’s side. “If your head starts spinning…”

“Shut up, Deacon,” Aiden growled.

He made a face but remained quiet, and I really felt like a freak.

I remembered what it felt like when the shields came down between Seth and me. So much fury had burned through the connection. Seth had been epically pissed, but I wasn’t sure if it was because of what Ares had been doing or if it was something more than that. The connection had fed him everything: all the pain and the hopelessness I’d felt when Ares had gotten the upper hand. And when I’d wanted to die instead of facing another second of soul-shattering pain, Seth had gotten a taste of that bitter, rotten emotion.