Page 6

One would think most of the eyes would be faced forward at a funeral, but they weren’t. A lot of people stared at our group, namely Aiden and me. Some of the stares were openly hostile. Others looked disgusted. Those looks came from the pures. The halfs just seemed shocked and awed.

Aiden’s hand tightened around mine.

I glanced up at him, and he gave me a faint smile. There was no way he didn’t know half the congregation was staring at us, but he held onto my hand. I think he knew I needed that connection.

It was funny how things were so different. Before everything had happened, whenever Seth was around large groups of halfs, he got stared at in wonder.

I got stared at because I was holding hands with a pure-blood. How messed up was that?

Looking over the crowd, I caught the eye of a pure-blooded student. Pures looked just like halfs, but all of us had this gods-given, wonky ability of sensing the difference between the two. He stared at us like he wanted to rip my hand out of Aiden’s and then take a day’s worth of time to explain why we shouldn’t be holding hands.

My eyes narrowed on him as I raised my free hand and scratched the bridge of my nose…with my middle finger.

The pure’s head whipped forward. Back in the day, I probably would’ve been beaten for that, but I was the Apollyon, so I doubted he’d go tattle. And honestly, there were much bigger problems than a half and a pure being naughty.

Tightening my grip on Aiden’s hand, I forced my gaze to the pyres. The words spoken were in ancient Greek, and for one of the first times in my life, it didn’t translate into “wha-wha-wha.” I understood the language, and the words were powerful and moving, prayers and accolades truly fit for those who’d died by Ares’ hand, but there was something missing. Not that Diana or the other minister was doing anything wrong. I didn’t understand it at first, but then I got it.

What was missing…it was inside me.

The words spoken meant something, and I felt the somber pall hanging over the campus. As the torches were placed along the foot of the pyres, I even thought about Lea and how she deserved this kind of burial, not a hastily dug grave out in the middle of nowhere. My chest ached for her and all those who were being mourned.

I mourned.

But while I felt these things, I really didn’t feel them. The sharp pang of grief, a feeling I’d become well familiar with over the past year, was numbed. When the orangey flames licked into the air and covered the bodies like blankets, I didn’t turn away like I always did. The finality of it was muted. There was this ball of coldness deep in my chest, sharp shards of ice in my veins, and every so often fear, spiked like the flames.

Fear and pain were things I did feel—they were real, and tangible enough that I could taste them. Everything else was dulled, like I was disconnected and detached from the rest of the human scale of emotions, and I didn’t understand why.

Realizing this caused that very fear to skyrocket, bringing along a nice little dose of anxiety, and it figured that, since fear and apprehension were like two peas in a messed-up pod, it made sense that if I felt one, I’d feel the other.

My heart was pounding like a jackhammer and my palms were sweaty by the time the funeral was over and the sun was directly overhead. The crowd started to move back toward the campus. There’d be a feast in the memory of those who were lost, and most of group was attending it. Marcus had left to join Diana. Solos was chatting it up with Val, and Luke and Deacon were walking ahead with Olivia.

Air sawed in and out of my lungs at an alarming rate, and I only became aware of how slowly we were walking because there was a good distance between us and the crowd ahead.

The cord was spazzing out. Maybe it was reaction to my anxiety levels or something, but sights and sounds were amplified. The calls of the birds were shrill. Leaves rustled like a thousand papers crinkling. The sun was too bright, conversation from the mass of people too loud. Gods, the pressure came out of nowhere, clamping down on my chest—holy crap, it was hard to breathe—like someone had put vise grips on me. A sharp, hot tingle swept up my spine and spread along my head.

There was something definitely wrong with me, and it wasn’t of the panic attack variety. Running through my head on repeat was one thought: why couldn’t I really feel anything other than this? Where was the grief? Why did my chest feel empty and cold unless I was angry or scared? But last night, when I’d been in Aiden’s arms, the numbness hadn’t felt so bad, like the lid had been unscrewed just a bit more. And I was normally a pretty emotional person. In any given day, I experienced a hundred different things like I was trying ice cream flavors.

This wasn’t right or normal, and it terrified me.

I stopped suddenly, and so did Aiden. Holding onto my hand, he looked over his shoulder at me. “Alex?”

My chest hurt. “I can’t feel anything.”

Facing me fully, he cocked his head to the side, brows lowered. “What do you mean?”

I placed my free hand on my chest. “I can’t feel anything in here.”

Aiden started to let go of my hand, but I held on for dear life. “What’s happening?”

“I don’t know.” I took a shallow breath. “I can’t feel anything except—except fear and pain. Everything else feels muted. I can’t cry—I didn’t even cry when I saw my mom.”

Shock flickered across his striking face. “You saw your mom?”

“See!” Panic dug in with rotten claws. “I didn’t even tell you about that, and I tell you everything. I haven’t even thought about it, not really. I’m like meh. Everything is meh.”

Concern replaced the surprise as he shifted closer. “Do you think it’s Seth?”

I shook my head so fast the choppy hair smacked my cheeks. “He’s not talking to me.”

“But that doesn’t mean it’s not him,” he reasoned, and anger flashed among the concern.

“It doesn’t make sense. What does he have to gain from doing this? Then again, does it have to make sense?” I pulled free then, tugging the hair back from my face. “What if I’m broken? What if this is how I’m always going to feel? What—”

“Whoa. Slow down, Alex.” Aiden cupped my cheeks. “You’re not broken. You’re not going to always feel this way. You’ve been through some crazy stuff. It’s going to take time for you to process everything. Take a deep breath. Come on, just a deep breath. Inhale, and let it out slowly.”

I gripped his wrists, barely able to get my fingers around them, and did what he said. “Okay. I’m breathing.”

“Good.” The silver hue of his eyes was my entire world. “Keep breathing with me.”

I kept breathing, but I also started moving. I don’t know why I did what I did next. Maybe it was because if I didn’t really feel this, I was screwed six ways from Sunday. Rising up on the tips of my toes, I kissed Aiden.

Yeah, totally not appropriate after-funeral behavior.

But I kissed him.

I needed to feel something other than numbness, pain, and anger, if only for a little bit. And when Aiden kissed me, I’d always felt so many emotions I was dizzy from them.

Aiden lifted his head slightly. “Did you feel that?”

“Yes,” I breathed, shivering as our lips brushed.

His lips curved into a one-sided smile. “I was kind of hoping you’d say you didn’t so I’d have a really good excuse to kiss you again.”

My fingers dug into his arms. “You don’t need an excuse.”

And I didn’t have to wait long. His lips were on mine again, an incredibly gentle sweep that sent another tremble through me. It was slow and soft, kicking my heart rate up. The tingling in the back of my neck resided and returned, spreading across my belly and lower, but it was a different sensation. I felt Aiden—I felt love in his arms, and I didn’t want to lose that feeling.

Desperate to keep the numbness and colder, darker feelings at bay, I pressed against him, practically stepping on his shoes. He was so much taller than me, but we made it work. Well, Aiden did. The arm around my waist tightened, and I was lifted onto the tips of my toes. He supported most of my weight as I reached a hand up, threading my fingers through the hair resting against the nape of his neck. Heat swept through my veins; it felt like it had when Seth lent me his energy. Like I was opening my eyes again and coming alive. Glyphs rushed to the surface and spread across my skin.

So all I needed to do was kiss Aiden to feel something real and good?

Sign me up for that.

But in the back of my mind, I knew that wasn’t normal, or right, or half a dozen other things. I ignored that annoying voice because, seriously, that voice wasn’t helping right now. I deepened the kiss, parting his lips and sweeping my tongue inside his mouth. A deep, sexy sound rose up from his chest, and his other hand wrapped around the back of my head.

“Alex.” There was a soft warning in his voice.


His head tilted to the side, causing his nose to brush mine. “You don’t know what you’re doing.”

I almost laughed. “I know exactly what I’m doing.”

“Gods…” Aiden cradled my cheek as he shifted my hips closer to his. My stomach dipped in such a pleasant way. “You’ve been through a lot. You’re still healing and—”

“And what?”

“I’m not perfect. I only have so much control.” His eyes were like heated quicksilver. “And if you keep kissing me like that, we won’t even make it somewhere private.”

Oh, me likie the sound of that. “And there’s something wrong with that?”

“No. Yes.” He pressed his forehead to mine, and the once-wonderful dipping motion suddenly twisted. “You’ve been—”

“I’m okay. I’m better than okay when I’m like this with you.” A desperate edge rose to my voice as I clutched his arm. “I need this. I need you, Aiden. Please don’t—”

Aiden’s mouth crashed into mine. Whatever I had said was like finding the map to a treasure. Bam. Right there. His kiss swept me up into a place where I wasn’t thinking. There was no Ares. No looming battle to plan for. No Seth. No pain or fear. All I felt was warmth and love and Aiden.

All I felt was him.

We made it into the closest building—the training center. Aiden opened the first door he found unlocked. A supply closet. It would work.

Our gazes locked. His were like liquid pools of silver, and his chest rose sharply. “We need to talk about what you told me,” he said.

“I know.”

“But not right now.”

A breath caught in my throat.

In one powerful lunge, he was on me. Our mouths came together as he backed me up. My hip bumped into a cart. Folded white towels toppled to the floor. There was an ache in my bones, but a deeper one drove me to ignore the pain. “When you were in that room, I thought…” He kissed me again as his hands dropped to my hips. They trembled. “I thought I’d never have this with you again. Gods, Alex, I…”