Page 46

“I will,” he promised. “And it’s only a matter of time before they make their way in here. Both will come to your aid, and I know, oh yes, I know you’ll do anything to keep them safe,” Ares said. “And I will kill one of them, and you’ll have to choose. I just need to bide my time.”

Seth was almost on him.

I allowed myself a smile. “That’s the funny thing about time. You never have as much as you think.”

Ares opened his mouth, but his words were cut off by Seth’s dagger. Shoved deep into Ares’ back. The god reared and screamed. “I’m going to kill you!”

“It’s a little too late for that,” Seth said, yanking the blade out of Ares’ back.

I snapped forward at the same moment Ares threw his arm out, sending Seth flying into the air. Seth hit a pillar with a sickening crunch I couldn’t allow to distract me. Akasha rushed through me, and my vision tinged with white.

Ares whirled on me, swaying to the side as I unleashed the purest power in and out of the mortal realm. Throwing my arm out, akasha flared from my shoulder, just like the cord that had connected me to Seth. Spiraling down my arm, it erupted in a burst. Ares tried to move, but he wasn’t fast enough.

The bolt of akasha hit him in the center of the chest, and I kept the stream of energy up, throwing everything into the attack. Light crackled and spit into the air. Wisps of fine smoke radiated above the cord.

Stalking forward, I kept on him, not giving him a chance to slip away. I could feel the energy in me waning with each passing second, but I gritted my teeth. This was it. There would be no second chances. When the akasha sputtered out, which it would, I would be down for the count.

But Ares…he was backing away, still able to walk, and I was weakening fast. I had no idea how much more I had in me or what it would take to truly kill an Olympian. But the stream of akasha pulsed, and then the light weakened. My breath expelled from my lungs harshly as an ache started behind my eyes.

Then Seth was beside me, grasping my free hand, and he squeezed. The cord between us reappeared, wrapping around our joined hands. Suddenly, it made sense to me. I drew in a breath, and Seth jerked as if a puppet master had pulled on his strings. The light from the akasha flared intensely, growing until it was too bright to look upon. Pulling from us both, the blast of energy became a white fire.

Ares’ fury-filled roar developed into a terror-filled scream. A loud popping sound, like a hundred guns going off at the same time, followed. The akasha faded out, not snapping back to me, but simply fizzling like fireworks vanishing into the sky.

I still held onto Seth’s hand, my body shaking as Ares came into view.

The gods’ eyes were wide, his arms stretched out at his sides. He tipped his chin down and his mouth opened, but no sound came out. A ball of crackling white light was embedded deep in his chest. The light spread out, following the intricate network of veins until his chest lit up.

I took a breath, but it got stuck.

Ares lifted his head as the white lines reached across his shocked face, covering his head within a second.

He disappeared under the white light.

The sound of deafening thunder cracked through the room. The air distorted and rippled, and I saw it coming a second too late. The sonic wave rolled across the room at frightening speed, slamming into Seth and me. It broke my hold on him, splitting us apart, and we flew backward, hit the floor, and slid. An explosion rocked the room, and fine, white dust poured into the air like snow. Starbursts flooded my vision like a thousand bombs going off.

And then there was silence.

Hands and arms shaking, I rolled onto my side and lifted myself halfway up. The wall across from me was gone. A hole had been blown straight through it, exposing beams and crumbling brick and sunlight.

I looked over my shoulder and let out a ragged breath.

The spot where Ares had stood was empty. On the floor, the blackened tile formed a perfect circle, like a brand. I knew in my bones that Ares was gone. The blast was a release of his essence, returning it to wherever it came from.

Shifting onto my butt, I winced at the ache that consumed my body as I scanned the room for Seth. The white dust had settled like a fine blanket of snow. Near the entrance of the ballroom, Seth lay face-down.

I stared at him for a moment, my brain slowly catching up to my surroundings, and when it did, my heart nearly exploded in my chest.

Seth wasn’t moving.

Oh gods…

I staggered to my feet and rushed toward him, ignoring the weakness in my limbs. “No. No. No.”

Dropping down beside him, I grabbed his shoulders and rolled him onto his back. “Seth,” I whispered, shaking him. “Seth, come on.”

His eyes were shut. Golden lashes fanned cheeks that didn’t move. There was a wrenching feeling deep inside me, a splintering and tearing in my chest that felt so very real.

He wasn’t moving.

I grasped his cheeks. The marks of the Apollyon—the beautiful blue marks flared under my fingers. No. No. No. I tried our bond to reach him. Seth? But there was no answer, nothing but a low hum. Panicked, I shook him again, and when he didn’t respond, a broken sob racked its way through my body as I dropped my head onto his chest.

Grief tore through me—the kind I hadn’t known would be possible to feel again, because I had felt this when I’d held Caleb as he died. No matter what Seth had done, the terrible things he’d started, he’d made it right in the end. And even if he hadn’t, if it had been my hand in the end that brought him down, the pain would’ve still been there. Seth was a part of me—my other half. And I was losing that part. Forever.

I can’t breathe.

“Neither can I. You’re squashing me.”

Jerking back, I let out a startled shriek. Seth stared back at me, his amber eyes slightly unfocused, but he was breathing. He was alive.

I smacked him. Hard.

“Ow!” Seth rolled onto his side, out of my grasp. “What the hell was that for?”

“Don’t ever do that again, you jerk!” I smacked him again, hitting him on the hip. “I thought you were dead!”

Seth chuckled hoarsely as he rose onto his knees. “I was knocked out, Angel. Please don’t do that again.”

I stared at him, caught between wanting to hit him and hug him. “I hate you.”

“I’m going to have to call bullshit on that.” Lifting his chin, he squinted as he looked around. “You did it, didn’t you? Ares is gone.”

Sitting back, I followed his gaze. Pillars cracked. Walls destroyed. I nodded slowly. “We did it.”

Our gazes locked, and a silly grin appeared on Seth’s face as he extended his hand. I took it, and we stood together.

Then I remembered a very important, currently MIA Titan. Dropping Seth’s hand, I turned around and scanned the room. Nothing. And Perses was kind of hard to miss, which meant he was gone. The gods weren’t going to be happy about that.

“Crap,” I muttered. “He bounced.”

“There’s nothing we can do about that now.” Seth pressed a hand against his ribs. A grimace shot across his face. “He’s their problem.”

Not true. “He’s our—”

The air thickened around us, filling with static.

“It’s not going to be their first problem,” I said, letting out a ragged breath as my heart jumped in my chest.

In front of the massive hole in the wall, shimmery forms appeared like rays of sunshine, one after another after another. I counted the glowing figures once, then twice. “Oh, crap.”

Seth wrapped an arm around my waist. “I’m going to admit this. My eyes are kind of blurry, but there are eleven shiny things surrounding us, right?”

I practically plastered myself to him, nodding. There were eleven shiny things forming a wide circle around us. The Olympian Twelve—er, Eleven. Would’ve been twelve if Ares hadn’t been obliterated. My breath caught.

Two floated forward, becoming more solid. Lifting my arm, I shielded my eyes. Their light was so bright, so beautiful. For a moment, all I could do was be awe-struck by what I was seeing.

“You should have waited before you hit me. I think you broke me,” whispered Seth.

“Uh, you’ll be okay,” I said, and Seth’s muscles tensed around me.

“So, you think they’re here to congratulate us?”

I lowered my arm, watching as the lights took on human forms. A male and female stood before us, their features not so distinguishable yet, but I knew they weren’t Apollo or Artemis.

“I don’t think so,” I whispered.

“Maybe they’re mad because you’ve been sleeping with a pure,” Seth joked, but his voice was laced with unease.

I looked over my shoulder at him. “Really? That’s the reason? It couldn’t be that you took out an entire Council of pures?”

A wry smile formed on Seth’s lips. “You’re splitting hairs, Alex.”

“Gods, you’re so annoying.”

He stepped forward, blocking me from the two closest gods. Rolling my eyes, I moved so that we were shoulder to shoulder.

Seth looked down at me. “If I tell you to run, you run.”

“No.” I grabbed his hand and held on. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that they weren’t here for him. “We face this together.”

The shimmery light faded, revealing the gods around us, but I didn’t see past the one in front of us. A million years could’ve gone by and I never, ever thought I would lay eyes upon him.

Zeus was not as I imagined.

I’d always pictured this older guy with a potbelly and bushy, gray beard, but that was not what Zeus looked like. Not in the slightest.

Dressed in some kind of white, linen pants, his chest and stomach were bare. And ripped—ripped like you could cut your fingers on those abs. The curve of his strong jaw was also bare of hair. He was sublimely handsome, his lips wide and eyes tilted exotically. His features were sharp, breathtakingly angular.

I could see a bit of a Titan in him.

The only thing my imagination had gotten right was his hair. It was shockingly white.

“You did well,” he spoke, his voice as deep and commanding as Perses’. There was no anger in his tone. I knew in that moment, before Zeus even spoke again, that Apollo hadn’t come through. My knees suddenly felt weak, and if I hadn’t been holding Seth’s hand, I would’ve sunk to the floor. “You will be rewarded greatly.”

A shudder rocked through me, but Seth…he didn’t understand—he didn’t get what Zeus hadn’t tacked on at the end. “Well, that’s surprising,” he murmured.

My gaze darted to the gods, finding Apollo standing next to a somber Artemis. Apollo shook his head no, and my heart sank all the way. I took a jerky step back, my skin turning icy.

“Don’t,” Zeus said, his voice level and calm. “This is the only way.”

Seth’s grip on my hand tightened. “What’s the only way?”

Zeus ignored him. “You know this must be done. We cannot allow a God Killer to exist. The threat is too great, even greater than what Ares posed.”