Page 7

I brought out mouths together, silencing both our fears. Aiden’s fingers were tight on my waist as he lifted me up, placing me on the now-cleared cart. My heart skipped a beat as his lips trailed across my forehead and my cheek. There was a lot we should be doing, but at the moment, nothing seemed more important than this.

We kissed like it was the last time we’d have the luxury of drinking each other in. My breath caught again. Coldness seeped into me like a chilly, rainy day. My insides numbed. The moment that thought formed, I realized how true it was. There was no promise of tomorrow or the next hour. Ares could find a way in. Seth could show up. Aiden could—

“Hey, where’d you go?” Aiden asked softly, holding my cheeks with the tips of his fingers.

When I didn’t answer, he brushed his lips over mine, coaxing them open with infinite patience. He pulled me back into the moment, away from the coldness building in my chest.

He gently tilted my head back. “Stay with me. Okay? Stay with me.”

I curled brittle-feeling fingers into the front of his shirt, grounding myself in the feel of him. His lips touched mine, pushing away the invading numbness. He tilted his head, deepening the kiss and—

A shrill, eardrum-bursting alarm went off from somewhere within the campus, starting as a low hum that increased, causing Aiden and me to jerk apart.

Sliding off the cart, I glanced up at the flashing red light above the doors. I recognized the sound, knew what it meant. My muscles tensed as my wide eyes met Aiden’s.

There was a security breach, and just like at the Covenant in the Catskills, I knew this wasn’t a false alarm.

We were under attack.


Aiden flipped from sex god to warrior god in about two seconds flat while I just sort of stood there, rooted to the floor like one of the many statues outside. My lips still tingled in a pleasant sort of way, but the ball of ice was back in my chest, spreading like a winter storm.

He spun toward me, dipping his head and kissing me quickly. “We’ll have to pick this back up later.”

Then he started for the door.

I forced myself to follow him out of the supply closet and down the empty hall. Sirens continued to scream, and the whole time all I could think was that Ares was back and trying to get past whatever wards Apollo had thrown down. It couldn’t be Seth, because I didn’t feel him.

My steps were slow, but Aiden’s were long, purposeful strides. He was ready to face whatever waited outside. I wasn’t. In my chest, my heart was throwing itself against my ribs, and my palms were sweating again. The rush of nervous energy made me feel sick. An image of the shattered aquarium and the vibrant-colored fish flopping on the floor filled my head, followed by the sound of Ares’ cold, taunting laugh.

I can’t do this again.

Air punched from my lungs in an unsteady rush as Aiden pushed open the heavy double doors. I had to do this. Battle was what I’d prepared for, and as a Sentinel, we could be walking into a fight at any given moment. That was why two Covenant daggers were attached to Aiden’s legs, hanging from his black tactical pants. The same were secured to my thighs, their weight so familiar that I’d forgotten them.

A Sentinel never left home without them.

Reaching down, I curved my fingers along their slender handles. This is what I’d trained for. Well, kind of. I’d trained to face daimons, not a cray cray God of War.

I have to do this.

Outside, we headed toward the front of the campus. Several Guards had taken up defensives stances outside the coliseum-style building that held the common rooms and cafeterias. Most of the campus would be in there right now for the feast, but as we rounded the building, pure-blooded students were being ushered inside, their faces pale and fearful.

I wondered if I had the same look on my face. If so, I bet that wasn’t very reassuring to them.

“What’s going on?” Aiden asked one of the Guards.

The half-blood shook his head. “Something’s going down at the wall. We’ve been ordered to get all the pures into one safe area.”

“It can’t be what they said,” another Guard said, eyes wide as he gripped the handle of his Glock, his attention being pulled toward a group of pures who appeared from the side of the building. “Hey! You all need to get inside. Now!”

“What did they say?” I asked, happy to hear my voice didn’t crack, but there was no answer. The Guards were distracted with the lagging group of pures. “Never mind, then,” I muttered.

Before I could start forward, though, Aiden turned to me, putting his hands on my shoulders. “You should stay back.”

“Huh?” It was the only thing I could come up with.

Determination flashed in his gunmetal gray eyes. “Alex, you’re not completely healed, and we have no idea what the hell is happening up there.”

A big, really irresponsible part of me wanted to say “okay” and skip into the building to join the frightened masses, but no matter how scared I was, I would not fall apart. “I’m fine, Aiden. I—”

“You are a lot of things, Alex. Strong. Brave. Beautiful. Incredibly sexy,” he said with a quick grin. “But you are not fine. You and I both know that.”

Okay. He had a point. “You’re right, but you don’t understand. I can’t hide. If I do…” I took a deep breath and decided to be honest for once. Go me. “If I don’t go out to that wall and face whatever’s there, I never will. You get that? And I can’t let myself do that. I have to…I have to get over this.”

And that was true. So much was riding on me. I needed to face Seth and transfer the power of the God Killer from him to me, and that was going to require a major throwdown between us. Then I’d have to face Ares. I couldn’t wimp out because I got my ass handed to me. I needed to pick myself up and get going. I’d done it before.

But this time is different, whispered that annoying voice that sounded so much like me.

I ignored the voice. “I have to do this or…” Or I would hide again.

Aiden looked away, drawing in a deep breath. His shoulders tensed, and I knew he was going to argue with total Aiden logic. He let out the breath. “Okay. But stick close to me. If it gets out of hand, and if I think you can’t handle it, I’m throwing you over my shoulder. Do you understand?”

Color me surprised—and a little annoyed—about the high-handed statement, but I got that it was coming from a good place, and the sirens weren’t shutting up anytime soon. I nodded.


I sighed. “Deal.”

“Then let’s do this.”

Picking up my pace, I forced my tired muscles to work as we jogged down the pathway. As we got closer, we were joined by several more Sentinels, and I could already see a couple dozen near the wall.

The sirens eased off, but the thick, unnatural tension hanging in the air like heavy clouds told me that whatever had happened hadn’t ended. Scanning the grounds, I felt my stomach dip. To our left, a small group of Guards and Sentinels crouched, circling something. I recognized Luke, Olivia, and Solos, and I wasn’t surprised to see them in the thick of things. They didn’t hesitate. Even though Luke and Olivia hadn’t technically graduated, they were Sentinels.

I, on the other hand, was a poser in black.

Solos straightened, tucking back a strand of shoulder-length brown hair that had escaped his low ponytail. He turned at the sound of Aiden’s voice, and the jagged scar stood out against his abnormally pale cheeks.

I didn’t hear what he was saying. My gaze was fixed on what the other Sentinels were staring at.

A body was on the ground, totally unrecognizable. Male? Female? No clue. It had been a Sentinel, that much I could tell from the tattered remains of the black uniform. The skin and clothing looked like they had been pecked away until only thin slices of flesh and muscle remained. Even the eyelids and eyeballs were removed.

My stomach turned. “Good gods…”

Olivia rose, smoothing her hands along her thighs. That’s when I saw the other Sentinel on the ground, knees bent and hands clenching over her stomach. Blood streamed across them. Deep, vengeful cuts tore through her cheeks. Her left eye was a bloody mess. Moaning softly, she was trying to stay still as another woman wrapped white gauze around her face, covering her destroyed eye.

“They were out doing rounds, down by the burnt-out cars. They’re saying they came out of nowhere,” Olivia told me in a hushed voice. “She almost got taken out by them pulling him back to the gate.”

I tore my gaze from the body. “What came out of nowhere?”

Olivia opened her mouth, but the eeriest high-pitched squawk I’d ever heard cut her off. It was a constant crescendo of harsh screeching.

Several shots boomed and my chin jerked up. Beyond the wall, a dark cloud zoomed across the horizon, heading straight for us. Except it wasn’t a cloud.

I took a step back, my hands going to the daggers.

The cloud arced up and shattered into hundreds of mother-freaking crows.

My jaw dropped open. “Holy crows…”

“There’s a couple of eagles mixed in there,” Luke commented.

“And a few hawks,” Aiden added.

I rolled my eyes. “Okay. Holy birds of prey! Is that better?”

“Much,” Aiden murmured.

The birds blanketed the sky, so thick they eclipsed the sun for a moment. I’d never seen anything like it. They swirled overhead, a dark, ever-expanding funnel. They changed course suddenly, flying down toward us like little, winged torpedoes with sharp claws and beaks. I thought of the flayed body and almost hurled.

“They’re possessed!” shouted a Guard. Dirt streaked his white uniform.

I wanted to thank the guy for the obvious. I wasn’t an animal specialist, but I knew birds didn’t go psychotic for no reason, which meant there had to be daimons nearby…either them or a god. A god could influence our feathered friends. But my smartass response died on my tongue when the birds from hell swooped.

They were on us in seconds.

Dipping down, Olivia shrieked as she batted one away. “Ah! Birds! Why did it have to be birds?”

I smacked one before it got its gross little claws in my already jacked-up hair. How in the hell were we supposed to fight a swarm of birds? Talons grazed the back of my hands, and the pain was sharp and quick.

Solos spun around, his arm arcing gracefully. A dagger flew across the space, tip over handle, and embedded deep into the back of an eagle that had attached to a Guard’s shoulder.

Well, that was one way—a little time-consuming, but effective. However, I had a better idea. Waving my arms like a deranged crossing guard, I darted toward Aiden. He’d grabbed a hawk off a fallen Sentinel. Tiny red scratches bled on his cheeks.

“Fire!” I yelled. “Light the sky up!”

Luke was swinging at the sky with his blades like a cracked-out chef. “Olivia and I will cover you two!”

Sheathing the daggers, Aiden raised his hands, brows lowered in concentration and the line of his jaw tightened. Sparks flew from his fingers, and a second later, his hands were on fire. I reached over, wrapping my hands around his wrist. I took a deep breath, ignoring the wings that came awfully close to my cheek and the willies the feeling gave me.