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“Let’s make a promise,” I said.

Three sets of eyes settled on me. “What?” Olivia asked.

I felt kind of corny about what I was about to say, but oh, what the hell. “After all of this is done and over with, let’s promise to do this at least once a week. No matter what we’re doing or where we are.”

A wide smile spread across Olivia’s face. “That’s a promise I’ll love to make.”

“Same here,” agreed Luke, dropping his arm over Deacon’s shoulders.

Feeling good about making plans to do something normal, I dozed off and didn’t wake up until I felt Aiden sliding into bed behind me. I tipped my head back toward him as he slipped an arm around my waist. “How was everything with Marcus?”

“Okay.” He kissed my cheek and tugged me back against him. “He wants me to take my Council seat once everything is…settled.”

I’d figured as much. “What do you think?”

Aiden was silent for a long time. “There are things that I could do on the Council, things that I could help make right, especially when the Elixir stops working for the rest of the half-bloods. It’s just…”

He didn’t finish. The Council seat was a lot of things to Aiden—more than just responsibility. I turned so I was facing him and cuddled up close, wiggling so that my head was under his. “You don’t have to make a decision now. You have time.”

“You’re right.” His hand slid up my spine and settled there. “We have time.”

* * *

After another grueling training session on Friday, I found myself limping into the dean’s office. Our AOA was leaving in the late morning on the following day. There was a lot to be discussed, and I had scored an invite. So did Seth. The only other times we’d been called to the dean’s office in the past was because I’d done something I was about to get in trouble for, and those meetings usually ended in insults being slung back and forth.

Like when I’d threatened to cut Seth with one of Marcus’ daggers.

I had to smile at that memory.

Easing down into an empty chair, I glanced around the room. Marcus was behind the desk, because where else would he be, with Diana alongside him. Aiden and Solos hovered by the desk like two hawks, both wearing intense expressions that told me this was going to be a serious conversation. Even Apollo was there. He’d been hanging around a lot, watching over the training. Right now, he was holding a Newton’s Cradle like he’d never seen one before, his hand hovering over one of the small, silver balls. I looked around again, frowning.

Looking for Perses? Seth glanced at me from where he was leaning against the wall. Last I saw him, he was heading into an empty room with two pure girls.

“What?” I screeched out loud before I could stop myself.

Several sets of eyes landed on me, and Seth smirked. Aiden’s gaze narrowed between the two, and I began to suspect that we were about to have a repeat performance of threatening Seth.

Apollo let go of the silver ball and it swung sideways, knocking into the next ball and creating a chain reaction. A wide smile broke out across his face.

“Did no one ever tell you two that it is not nice to communicate telepathically with one another while others are present?” Marcus said, folding his hands on the desk.

I pursed my lips. “No, actually, no one has said that.”

He smiled tightly. “Well, I am.”

Busted, Seth said.

Gripping the edges of the chair, I stared straight ahead. I hate you. “So, what’s up?”

Other than the fact Perses is getting some instead of being here?

Apollo picked up a silver ball from the other side and let that one go.

Oh my gods…

Marcus’ look turned suspicious as his gaze bounced between Seth and me. “Solos was talking battle strategy with Perses. We figured, since you two play an intricate role in this, it would be smart to bring you in on these meetings.”

Seth strolled forward and dropped down in the seat beside me. “What’s to discuss? From what I understand, it’s fairly simple. The army will attack the front gate while Alex and I sneak in with Perses.”

Perses had discussed his plan with us the previous day between rounds of kicking our butts. Aiden was still taking part in the additional trainings even though he’d agreed to remain with the larger group once we launched our attack against Ares.

Propping his hip against the desk, Solos pointed down at a map of the New York Covenant, a much better map than the one Athena had created. “It’s really not that simple. We have to find a way to sneak you in. I’m sure you remember how well-guarded the Catskills is. Getting past the preliminary fences will be no problem. The wall is another story.”

An insolent smile twisted Seth’s lips. “There was a breach in the east wall. I’ve already told Perses. It’s not a huge hole, but it is large enough for a person to slip through. Unless Ares is interested in masonry work, I doubt it has been repaired.”

“It’s unlikely that Ares would leave the breach unguarded,” Aiden said, his eyes a steely gray. “You won’t just walk in there.”

That smirk on Seth’s face grew. “I wasn’t planning to just walk in there.”

“Okay,” I sighed, interrupting before a battle of wills erupted. “So we will have to scout the wall first. We can—Apollo!”

The god looked up. In his hands, the Newton balls knocked off of each other once more. “What?” he asked.

“What?” I shot him annoyed look. “Seriously. Have you’ve never seen a Newton’s Cradle before? Every time you move the first ball, it’s going to move the rest of the balls.”

“No.” His gaze dipped to the cradle. “Gravity is cool.”

“Oh my gods,” I moaned, slumping in my seat. “My brain hurts.”

Apollo let go of the silver ball once more and then placed the cradle on the edge of Marcus’ desk. “I imagine you’re leaving with the army on Saturday?” he said to Solos. When the half-blood nodded, he glanced at Aiden. “And you will travel with Alex?”

“Do you need to even ask that question?” Aiden replied, placing his hands on the desk and leaning in.

Apollo shrugged.

“I will leave with the army, as well,” Marcus announced, sitting back in the chair.

Diana cleared her throat delicately. “If I may make a suggestion?” My uncle nodded, and she smiled. “I think you are needed here more, Marcus.”

His eyes immediately sharpened into green crystals. “I’m needed in the Catskills.”

“I know you feel that way,” she started again, patiently and understandingly. “You are a Sentinel at heart, Marcus, but there is so much we have to do. More than just fighting.”

“She’s correct,” Apollo said, apparently ready to contribute to the conversation. “Rebuilding is just as important as war, and that process starts long before the war is over.”

Marcus’ jaw tightened. “You are here, Diana, plus other surviving members of the Council.”

“The Council is in ruins, Marcus. We need you here, and we need you alive to help rebuild after all this is said and done,” Diana argued, and I couldn’t but wonder if something deeper drove her conviction. If so, I didn’t blame her. I would cut off my left arm to convince Aiden to remain behind. “We need you here.”

Several agreed, and Marcus stiffened in his chair. “I’m a trained Sentinel. I have assets that will be of—”

“We know that.” It was Aiden who spoke. “But I have to agree with Diana. We have this covered.”

“We do,” Solos confirmed. “Defeating Ares means nothing if we can’t deal with the chaos afterward. And there will be chaos. We have Covenants that are destroyed or heavily damaged, and entire Councils have been wiped out. And we will have half-bloods coming off the Elixir and out of servitude. We will need leadership—strong leadership.”

A proud grin crossed my lips. Marcus would make a great leader. He already was. And I could easily see him taking the role of Head Minister. Marcus might act like he had a stick shoved in a very unmentionable place half the time, but he’d be righteous and fair. Strict, but he would always do the right thing by pures and halfs.

Our eyes met, and I don’t know what he saw in my expression, or if my smile had anything to do with what he did next, but I like to think it did.

Marcus rubbed a hand across his brow, sighing heavily. “I want to be there, but…you’re right. I need to stay here.”

“Well, now that’s settled, I think I’m going to find something soft to lie on.” Seth popped up from his chair, his movements not nearly as fluid as normal. He glanced at me, and a mischievous glint filled his amber eyes. “Want to join me?”

I rolled my eyes.

Annoyance flashed into Aiden’s eyes, turning their hue into a stormy gray as he pushed off the desk and straightened. “Very amusing.”

Seth winked as he backed away. “Hey, just being gentlemanly.”

“Go somewhere else, then,” Aiden replied.

Chuckling, Seth dipped out the door as I shook my head. While Seth and I had been more than friends at one point and our feelings for one another did run deep, I was a hundred percent certain that Seth was just trying to cause Aiden to stroke out.

Once Seth exited, the conversation moved back to the Council, and my interest also exited. Pushing up for the chair, I limped out of the office after telling them I was heading back to my room. I foresaw another herbal bath in my future. I had two more training sessions with Perses, and while each of us was getting better, none of us had taken him down.


One of us had to take him down before we left for the Catskills.

I’d made it halfway down the stairs before Apollo poofed in front of me, startling me. I jerked to the side and lost my balance. Teetering on the edge of the step, visions of bones crunching rang in my head. He caught my arm, stopping my fall.

“Gods,” I gasped, grasping the handrail with my free hand. “Is it necessary to do that?”

“You’re okay.” He dropped my arm. “We need to talk.”

I leaned against the railing, eyeing him wryly. “What? You got bored with the Newton’s Cradle?”

His lips tipped up at the corners. “Why haven’t you transferred the power from Seth yet?”

“He wants to wait until we get to the Catskills.” I paused as his eyes narrowed. “Look, I’m going to try to get him to do it before we leave, but—”

“Seth doesn’t want to do it, and I bet it’s because he’s not sure he can let you do it.” Apollo cursed, and unease blossomed deep in my belly. “This could be a potential problem.”

The unease gave way to irritation. It pricked at my skin and poked holes in my insides. “You know, I love how you just pop in and out whenever you want to and offer little to no answers. Nothing really helpful either, but boy oh boy, there may be a problem!”