Page 44

The soft-as-wind-chimes laugh came again.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I moaned. “Seriously?”

Two furies floated before us, their translucent wings moving soundlessly through the air. Blonde and delicately pale, they were frighteningly beautiful in a way that was deceiving. These creatures were ugly in their true forms. And vicious. Very vicious.

One moved closer, her hair drifting around her slim body. “We’re not here for you.”

“This time,” the other finished.

The closest furie’s smile was edged with unimaginable cruelty. “The gods have heard Apollo’s pleas and have responded.”

Well, color me surprised and call me shocked.

Static crackled through the air, and a low-level hum teased my ears. Turning around, my eyes widened.

“Shit,” Perses exclaimed. “I don’t believe it.”

Across the lawn, about halfway between the group of soldiers and us, a mist gathered, blanketing the overgrown grass. Out of the wispy fog, nine forms took hold. Within seconds, nine Olympian gods stood there.

Artemis yanked the bow off her back and glanced over her shoulder, spotting us. She winked, and then turned, letting loose a silver arrow.

The furies rose into the air, shedding their pearly luminous appearances. Their skin and wings turned gray and scaly. Snapping snakes replaced their hair. They flew above the gods, and I saw one swoop down, catching a man in her talons. A spray of blood spurted into the air and something—oh gods—red and ropey spilled onto the ground, steaming.

The soldier had been torn in half.

Tipping her head back, the furie’s laugh tinkled on the wind, prickling the skin on the back of my neck.

Perses’ brows rose. “They are as bloodthirsty as I remembered.”

I looked at him. “And creepy.”

He smiled. “I think they’re magnificent.”

Of course he did. One of them had a mortal’s head in its hands and looked like it was about to play volleyball with it. Perses and the furie should hook up, I thought bitterly.

“Come on,” Seth called, motioning to us. He was by the shattered doors. “They got this.”

That they did. One last look over my shoulder confirmed it. Apollo had obliterated the soldiers, and the gods were now joining the mess of fighting bodies around front. Hurrying after Seth and Perses, we were inside the Covenant, possibly steps away from Ares.

Stopping in front of us, Perses cocked his head to the side then glanced back at Seth and me, wiping the spray of blood off his cheek. A slow, calculated smile pulled across his face.

He disappeared.




Seth’s mouth dropped open. “Shit!”


We stood just inside the servant’s entrance, the hall splitting into two directions. Gray stains smudged the walls, as if there’d been a small fire.

I couldn’t move or speak for several seconds. “I can’t believe it!” I exclaimed. “That son of a—”

Soldiers poured into the entrance. Their camouflage uniforms were so noticeably mortal, but the armbands with Ares’ symbol were anything but mortal. Their guns were raised, and they were ready to fire.


Throwing out my hands, I tapped into the element of air. Wind gusted in behind the soldiers. Their boots skidded over the tile floor. The guns shook in their hands. Seth got in on the game. A few soldiers went down. Guns misfired, and one by one, the weapons flew from their hands, sliding across the floors. The soldiers scrambled to their feet as the winds died down.

Can we let them go? I asked.

Seth shook his head and started forward, withdrawing his daggers. They’re under compulsion.

I wanted to argue, but the soldier closest to Seth engaged, swinging his arm out. There was a wicked-looking knife in his hand, the kind I imagined serial killers would covet. Anyone in their right mind would’ve run from us, but those under compulsion would fight to the death.

There was nothing we could do.

Seth dipped under the attacker’s arm and sprang up, slamming the hilt of one dagger into the back of a soldier while catching another in the chest. Vaulting over the body of the fallen soldier, I dipped down low and spun, taking the feet out from underneath another man. He sat up, impaling himself on the waiting dagger.

I pulled it free, the fleshy suction sound echoing in my head. Wincing, I ignored the stirrings of guilt and threw myself into the fray.

These soldiers were highly trained, no doubt strategically kept inside the Covenant to be the last line of defense if anyone made it inside. Rolling into a kick, I welcomed the sharp slice of pain, then sprang up, arcing the dagger to catch the soldier under the chin. Whipping around, I saw Seth grab one by the head and twist. The crack was lost in the punch thrown at me. I ducked, catching the attacker in the stomach.

Without any warning, my legs were taken out from under me with a brutal swipe, and my training kicked in. Allowing myself to fall, I twisted at the last second and rolled, bringing the soldier around so he was under me.

I saw his face for the briefest second. He was young—too young. Barely out of high school and with his whole life ahead him. A deeper pain, more intense than any kick or punch, sliced at my heart as I brought the dagger down on his chest, ending his life in seconds. Wet warmth hit my face.

Springing up, I breathed heavily as I wiped the back of my hand under my chin once and then twice. I didn’t want any of the boy’s blood on me. I turned as Seth caught the last soldier by the neck, slamming him into the floor with enough force to crack the tile, and the man’s spine. His last breath gurgled out a moment later.

Seth looked up, his eyes meeting mine. Standing slowly, he hooked his daggers to his thighs and then motioned me forward.

Keeping my eyes off the floor, I followed Seth into the hallway on the right. This close, the aether in us acted like a silent guide, pulling us to where Ares was located. We crept down the wide corridor, silent and watchful for any more surprise attacks. It was the same hall that Seth and I had run down once before, except this time it wasn’t littered with bodies. It was disturbingly empty, but there were scuff marks on the once-pristine floors and walls and patches of rust-colored stains every so many feet.

Seth saw me looking at the stains. “It was bad here, when Ares first occupied the Covenant. A lot of people put up a fight.”

I raised my gaze, wondering how Seth slept at night.

He seemed to read the question from my thoughts because he looked away, a muscle thrumming along his jaw. “I don’t sleep, Alex. Not very well or very long.”

Part of me wanted to say something reassuring to him, but what could I say? Who knew how many innocent people Seth had ended? And for what? I had no idea how he could atone for that. Or, if he ever found forgiveness in other people, would he ever find it in himself? Drawing in a shallow breath, I moved in front of him.

We’d taken a few steps when words echoed down the hall. Familiar ones.

I heard Perses’ deep voice taunting Ares, and I almost fell to my knees and started praising every god there was, maybe even a few random celebrities and fictional characters. The relief was that palpable.

He didn’t abandon us.

Seth gave a curt nod. I never thought he did.

I rolled my eyes. There was a moment when you did. Admit it.


Creeping closer, I stuck to the wall. They were in the ballroom, the very same one where I’d faced off against the furies and killed the pureblood.

How fitting, Seth remarked.

I shot him a death glare, and he grinned—that cocky, insufferably arrogant grin that had been absent for weeks. My lips twitched in response, but I focused. I was happy that Seth had found his mojo or whatever, but I really didn’t have time to pat him on the head.

Five doors, all open, lined the hall before the entry to the ballroom. Fingertips tingling, I peeked inside the first room. Nothing. I inched forward, resisting the urge to bum-rush down the hall.

“You can’t beat me, Olympian.” Perses’ voice stopped me for a second.

Ares laughed, but it sounded off. Rattled. “Need I remind you that it was I who wrapped the chains around your wrists?”

“Only with the help of your brethren,” Perses responded. “The very ones outside this wall, raging a war on your army. I doubt they will help you this time.” He paused. “You’re a fool, Ares. An arrogant fool. Make war for the pure bliss of it, but never make war in order to take control.”

What the what?

I glanced back at Seth, who shrugged. Why Perses had run off just to lecture Ares was beyond me. Apparently he wanted to get the last word in or something. With gods, it was anyone’s guess.

Now two doors away from the ballroom, I was a second from checking the room, when a Sentinel unexpectedly stepped out, startling me.

He opened his mouth, about to give away our location. I didn’t stop to think. Springing forward, I grabbed the dagger off my leg with one hand and placed my other over his mouth. Our eyes locked for a brief moment. His blue eyes were unfocused, hazy—a sign of a compulsion. Remorse pricked at my chest, but I slammed the dagger into his chest, above the heart, to the hilt.

Seth caught the body, easing it into the floor as I sheathed the dagger. He quickly surveyed the room and motioned me to continue. I stepped carefully around the body, inhaling deeply.

It had to be done, Seth said.

I know.

He glanced over his shoulder, eyebrow arched as if he didn’t believe me, and he was right. Killing a Sentinel under compulsion sucked as bad as killing the mortals who were under Ares’ control.

All right, I’ll tear myself apart about it later, but for right now, I’m fine.

That’s my girl.

I frowned. That’s twisted.

Letting Seth check the next room, I slid around him. My heart pumped fast. The ballroom was next. Somewhere, the imaginary clock stopped ticking.

Seth caught my hand, spinning me around and into an empty, dark room. He pressed me back against the wall, his breath warm against my forehead. Raising my free hand, I was about to punch him in the face when his voice in my head stopped me.

Do it. Transfer the power now.

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t worried about this moment from the time Seth had suggested it. Even before it, when Apollo had said it was the only way, I’d worried. Seeing how Seth struggled with the allure, with the need that existed between us, I was prepared to knock Seth out and then transfer the power, if necessary.

He bent his head quickly, kissing my forehead. Do it, Alex.

Full of surprise, I hesitated as I stared into eyes that were identical to mine. I’m not going to fail you, he had said, and he hadn’t been lying.

Now, he said again, closing his eyes as he let go of me.

My hand trembled as I reached between us, gripping his right hand. “Θάρρος.” Courage.

A shock rippled across my hand and shot up my arm, followed by a wealth of warmth. Seth jerked, but remained there, his eyes closed. The tingling ended at my shoulder, and I felt it then, the collapse of fear in my chest replaced by fiery determination. This was right. I would not be stopped.

I cupped my hand around his right hand, squeezing it. “Δύναμη.”