Sentinel (Covenant 5) - Page 16

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“Aiden?” I whispered, my hand shaking.

He nodded slowly, and the one word he spoke was hoarse. “Yes.”

The pressure turned into slicing fear and confusion as I stared at him. The logical part of me screamed that this was Aiden standing before me, that Ares couldn’t get inside the University, but I couldn’t let my guard down, because if it was him…

“It wasn’t you,” I whispered, my finger spasming dangerously over the trigger. “It wasn’t you.”

Tension pulled at his lips. “What do you mean? Because it’s me. I’m here with you, agapi mou. I’m right here.”

A tremor coursed down my arm as uncertainty spread into my chest like a gulp of too-cold water. I knew I should probably lower the gun before I accidentally did shoot Aiden, because it had to be him standing before me, but I couldn’t do it.

“Is it Seth?” he asked, his fingers curling into his palms. “Is he doing this?”

“Seth?” I blinked. “No. It wasn’t you. It was…it was Ares.”

An immediate pain flickered across his face, spreading sorrow into his brilliant silver gaze, and I didn’t like the look because it was such a deep hurt. “I’m here with you. I’ve been here with you this whole time, agapi mou.”

The next breath I took scalded my throat. “I think…I think I’m going crazy.”

“Oh, Alex…”

Those two words broke my heart in a way nothing ever had before. The ache in them settled in my bones like lead. I shuddered.

“Look at me,” he said in a low voice. “You know it’s me.”

Then Aiden stepped forward, and he was the bravest being in this world to do so with a gun pointed at his heart. Slowly, as if not to frighten me, he reached out and gently pried my fingers off the gun. My heart turned over heavily. Without taking his eyes off mine, he placed the gun back on the bed and picked up a quilt. He draped the soft material over my shoulders, pulling it closed in the front as he pressed a small, tender kiss against my forehead.

That tiny show of affection broke me.

“I’m sorry,” I said as my body shook. I’d almost shot Aiden. I could’ve seriously hurt him, if not killed him. “Oh my gods, I’m so sorry, Aiden.”

“Shh,” he murmured, wrapping his arms around me and gathering me close. He sat down on the bed, and I pressed my cheek to his chest above his thundering heart. I squeezed my eyes shut. “It’s going to be okay, Alex. Whatever is going on, we’re in this together, remember? And it will be okay. I promise you.”

A new terror flooded my senses as Aiden held me, one hand curled around the nape of my neck and the other smoothing up and down my back. He rocked slowly, murmuring something that I really wasn’t hearing because all I could focus on was one thing.

It was quite possible that I’d taken a detour straight into Crazyville, which would explain a lot. Would anyone be surprised? People cracked under stress all the time, and half-bloods, even though we were trained to keep our heads together, weren’t any different. But did it matter? Not really, because one thing was true.

Aiden wasn’t safe around me.

* * *

Aiden and I didn’t talk.

I think he was worried about pushing things too far for the time being since I was obviously rocking a first-class ticket to certifiable insanity. After all, a few hours ago I’d shot someone in the head, then I’d hallucinated Ares and pulled a gun on Aiden…while I was buck-ass naked.

Talk about an awkward mood killer.

Somehow, we ended up stretched out on the bed, and Aiden finally drifted off into a fitful sleep. It was late, but I couldn’t sleep. My mind raced with everything. If I was crazy, which I had a good feeling I was, how could I lead the Army of Awesome against Ares? This had trouble written all over it.

And Seth was awake.

He wasn’t trying to communicate with me, and the fact that I knew anyway was freaky on a whole new level, but his consciousness existed on the fringe of mine. He was up, and he was antsy.

And so was I.

As quietly as possible, I pulled myself away from Aiden and dressed in the dark. I figured if I ended up putting my shirt on backwards, I could blame it on my lunacy. Going crazy had to have some benefits, right? Maybe I’d just go fully crazy.

I crept from the room and closed the door behind me. I tried to tell myself I didn’t know what I was doing, but I did. Every part of me knew where I was heading, especially the annoying cord inside me. It was buzzing around like an over-eager puppy that needed to be smacked on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper.

Actually, I needed to be smacked with one.

Moving through the shadows, it took no time at all to make it to the Council building. The entrance to the catacombs housing the cells was heavily guarded.

None of the Guards looked thrilled with the idea of stepping aside and allowing me access to the First. Not that I blamed them. Everyone knew what would happen if Seth transferred my power to him, but he was here, and that fact alone was risky.

Solos moved up the narrow stairwell, his eyes narrowing as he spied me standing before the Guards. “What’s up, Alex?”

“I need to talk to Seth.”

He positioned himself in front of me. “Do you think that’s a good idea?”

“Do you have any other suggestions other than knocking him out every couple of hours?”

His lips quirked into a grin that lessened the severity of the jagged scar running from his right eye to his jaw. “I really don’t see a problem with that.”

I laughed, but it felt and sounded forced. “Neither do I, but I need to talk to him to figure out what the hell he’s really doing here and if the Sentinels on the other side of the gate are going to be a problem.”

“They’re probably going to be a problem,” Solos replied.

He was a fountain of reassuring comments. I shifted my weight impatiently as I tucked the shorter strands of hair behind my ear. “I’m not here to connect with him,” I said in a low voice. “He doesn’t hold that kind of power over me anymore. And besides, I won’t let him get close enough to even try.”

Solos looked away, his jaw working overtime. “I don’t like this. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think you’re going to turn Evil Alex on us, but it’s the middle of the night and Aiden isn’t with you.”

My brows rose. “And what does that have to do with the Apollyon locked in our cell?”

“I just feel a hundred times more comfortable when Aiden is around, especially if you’re chit-chatting with Seth,” he admitted.

“Aiden’s asleep, and he needs to rest. Besides, I don’t need a babysitter.” Of course I did, but I sure as hell wasn’t admitting that. “Come on, Solos, don’t make me make you do this.”

He regarded me closely and then exhaled through his nose. “Don’t make me regret this.”

“What faith you have in me,” I muttered as he stepped aside and I walked past.

“It has nothing to do with faith.” Solos was right on my heels as I went down the steep stairway. A wave of cool air seeped through my jeans. Putting on the tactical pants of a Sentinel had felt wrong, all things considered. “And no offense, I don’t trust anyone. I learned the hard way many years ago, and I see the reminder of that every time I look in the mirror.”

I bent under the low archway and stepped into a wide chamber. Seth wasn’t here. My gaze fell to the titanium door across from me, and then I glanced over my shoulder. “Your scar?”

Solos leaned against the wall and folded his arms. “I didn’t get it shaving.”

“I thought you got it fighting daimons.”

He gave a slight shake of his head. “I got it when I was nineteen.”

As wrong as it might be, I was morbidly curious. “How did it happen?”

There wasn’t an immediate response, and the cord inside me tightened with impatience. “I was out one night patrolling, and toward the end of my shift, I met this woman. She was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. One thing led to another and, well, I was a nineteen year old guy. It was a one-night stand, no commitment or exchange of names, and all that was her idea, not mine. Sign me up for that.”

“Of course,” I said, figuring out where their meet-and-greet had ended up, but not how a hook-up had resulted in such a scar.

“But she wasn’t an ordinary woman, Alex. She was a goddess.”

My mouth dropped open.

“Aphrodite,” he said, tipping his chin down. “Apparently, she was bored and decided to pay a visit to the mortal realm. Wrong place, wrong time kind of thing. Or right place, depending on how you look at it, and who was I to turn that down?” One side of his lips tipped up as I gaped at him. “As you can imagine, good old Hephaestus wasn’t too happy about that.”

“I would think not,” I said slowly.

“He gave me this scar.” He gestured at his right cheek. “And he would’ve killed me if Aphrodite hadn’t intervened. I pretty much had to make myself nonexistent when Apollo brought him to build that cell for you, but I have to say a couple of hours with her was worth it.”

A surprised laugh burst from me, and Solos’ uneven grin spread. “But I learned to never really trust someone when they say things will be cool, you know? And I learned to never, ever trust a god—or anything they create. They’re the snakes in the grass that you never see coming.”

* * *

Solos remained in the circular chamber, and as I walked down the narrow hall lit by torches on the walls, I couldn’t help but feel like I was a snake in the grass. So was Seth. We both were dangerous beings created by the gods, and we could and had turned on everything and everyone around us at one point or another.

Maybe our violent natures were the product of those who created us. No one else in this world was more off their rocker than an Olympian god.

I tucked away Solos’ story as I rounded a corner and saw the cell several feet in front of me. The light from the flames flickered across the titanium bars. A darker shadow was pressed against the bars, and it took me a second to realize it was Seth, his back to the hall.

Stopping a few feet from where he sat, I ignored the near-intoxicating pull of the cord—of our connection.

“Are you coming to knock me out again?” he asked, his voice oddly absent of the lyrical lilt.

I crossed the remaining distance, stopping just out of his reach. “I haven’t quite decided yet.”

“You can save yourself the effort. I’m not plotting a daring escape, and I don’t have any plans to rain down chaos and destruction.”

“That’s good to know.”

“Is it?” He turned his head, and his profile came into view. His eyes were closed, and the long lashes, darker than his blond hair, rested against the tops of his cheekbones. “Does St. Delphi know you’re down here, Alex?”

My eyes narrowed. “I’m not talking about him.”

One side of his lips curled up in a quick grin and then vanished. “Good, because I really don’t want to hear about how happily in love you two are. I rather you’d knock me out.”

Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout Covenant Fantasy