“Then why are we doing this? Seriously? We could leave.”
I pinned him with a look.
He laughed again, and this time, he sounded more like himself. “You could bring St. Delphi along.”
“I’m sure he’ll appreciate the invite.” Truth was, the idea of running away was tantalizing as hell. It wasn’t like I hadn’t considered it before, and we could hide for as long as we could, but it wasn’t right. “There’s enough of me left inside that knows I can’t do that.”
Seth cocked his head against the bars but said nothing.
“I especially can’t after what Ares did, but it’s more than that. There are so many innocent people who will end up enslaved by him or dead. I couldn’t live with myself.”
One side of my lips tipped up. “Of course.”
There was a stretch of silence, and then he said, “You’re so different.”
I didn’t know what to say.
“It’s not because you’re crazy, but I know what you went through.”
The muscles along my back tensed. “I wanted to die.” There. I said it out loud, and it sounded just as horrible as when I thought it.
Seth lowered his gaze. “I know.”
“Part of me wishes—”
“Don’t say it.” Seth stood quickly and backed away from the bars. A niggle of shame rose like a weed, and he looked away. “I know you’re not going to let me out. It’s probably better if you don’t until we have a plan that we can act on immediately. It will make everyone else feel better.”
“Would it make you feel better?” I pushed to my feet.
Seth backed farther into the shadows of his cell. “It should make you feel better.”
I was pretty sure I belonged in a cell, too, like the one Seth was in.
“You don’t,” Seth said. I must’ve thought that at him. “You’re not crazy, Angel.”
“Don’t call me that.”
Seth didn’t respond. The conversation was obviously over. I lingered for another moment, unsure if there was anything else to say at this point. I ended up not saying anything as I turned around and headed toward the titanium door I’d left cracked open.
One thing I knew for certain: Seth wasn’t going to trick us. And if he came after me, it would be like a daimon going for aether and for no other reason. It didn’t mean he was safe, but it was better than him working with Ares.
Opening the door, I spied a lithe form leaning against the wall. It wasn’t Solos.
I closed the door behind me, took a deep breath, and faced Aiden. Locks of dark hair fell over his forehead in uncontrollable waves. His hair was starting to curl like Deacon’s, and I favored that wilder look. Right now the edges of that hair brushed equally dark eyebrows—eyebrows that were currently slammed down. His lips were in a taut, tight line, and his eyes were a gunmetal gray. He was not a happy camper.
“Hi?” I said lamely.
The muscles in his folded arms rippled under the black shirt he wore. He was so still he was almost a part of the wall. “You left in the middle of the night.”
I shifted my weight from one foot to the other. “I did.”
“Without saying a damn thing,” he added in voice that was too calm. I knew him well enough to know how misleading that was. I was entering the danger zone. “Especially after what happened between us? Did you stop and consider what I would think when I woke up and found you gone?”
He had a point. “I’m sorry, but I’m okay.”
“Obviously, you’re not okay.”
I opened my mouth, thinking he was referencing the whole gun thing, but then I realized something else. Knots formed in my stomach. “How much did you hear?”
Aiden unfolded his arms. “Enough.”
My brain winced. Doesn’t sound possible, but it was. “Aiden—”
“Hearing you say that you loved him was…well, there aren’t many words for that.”
Heat rushed my face. “I said not in the same way I feel for you.”
“Wait.” He held up his hand, silencing me. “For days I’ve been trying to get you to talk to me about everything. I figured you weren’t ready, so I haven’t pushed it, but then you leave me in the middle of the night to go talk to him.”
“And then you tell him what’s going on in your head when you’ve barely told me anything?”
Backed into the corner, I reacted the only way I knew how—the only way the old Alex, the Alex before Ares, would’ve reacted. “Maybe you shouldn’t have been eavesdropping.” The moment those words left my mouth, I wanted to drop kick myself in the face, because Aiden had a right to be pissed. “It’s rude,” I finished weakly.
“Are you serious?” Aiden pushed off the wall, and his eyes flashed quicksilver. Double uh-ohs. “You went to him.”
Whoa. Wait a second. “It’s not like that. I didn’t go, go to him.”
“It’s not like that?” Aiden stopped directly in front of me. He lowered his chin, and his eyes flashed with anger. “You told him how you were feeling—what you haven’t been feeling—”
“I’ve told you that!” My hands clenched into fists as my own anger surfaced like an old friend. Yes. I grabbed onto that anger. At least it meant I was feeling something.
“You told him you wanted to die.” His voice broke on the last word, and the quick burst of anger inside me vanished. Pain poured into his expression, paling his face. “And I know you were about to say that part of you still wishes you had died that day.”
I took a step back, wanting to deny that, but words left me and the shame came again, stronger this time. I wrapped my arms around my waist, trying to stop it from spreading. Aiden was the last person I’d wanted to know how weak I’d been—how weak I still was.
“It kills me to know you think that.” A muscle ticked in his jaw as his gaze locked with mine. “Why wouldn’t you come to me with that?” He shook his head, his throat working. “Why would you go to him of all people? After everything he’s done?”
“You don’t understand.” And he didn’t. No matter what, Seth and I were the same person. That didn’t mean he was all forgiven, but Seth knew what I’d been through without me telling him, and I never wanted to share that with Aiden. I knew I needed to tell him that, but the words wouldn’t come out.
Aiden drew in a shallow breath. “You told him you thought you were pregnant.” He looked like I had stabbed him in a chest with a Covenant dagger. “How could you even trust him with something like that? What if he’s playing us? What if he takes that knowledge back to Ares?”
“He’s not playing us.”
His eyes widened as his stance shifted. “How can you be so sure, Alex? We all saw what Seth was like way before you did, and none of us had a connection with him. He has control over—”
“He doesn’t have any control over me! I know he’s not playing us. I know.”
“Maybe you’re right,” he said, the heat dying in his eyes. “But that’s not a risk I’m willing to take, and you didn’t stop to take that into consideration. You…” He stopped and looked away, thrusting his hand through his hair. “You didn’t take how I would feel into consideration.”
“I…I’m sorry. It’s just…” I shook my head helplessly.
He then did something I honestly couldn’t remember him ever doing to me before.
Aiden walked away from me.
* * *
I went back to the room I was sharing with Aiden, but he wasn’t there, and by the time I’d drifted off to sleep waiting for him, he hadn’t returned. And when I woke up, there was no sign of him, but he had made an appearance at some point while I’d slept.
The quilt that had been pushed down to the edge of the bed had been spread over me.
I knew that wasn’t a white flag, and Aiden had every reason to be upset with me. I wished I had explained why I told Seth what I had. Not that I really believed Aiden would’ve been a hundred percent understanding, but it would’ve been better than apologizing or saying nothing.
Or telling him not to eavesdrop.
I pulled myself out of bed and took a quick shower. My empty stomach growled as I pulled on a pair of jeans and a shirt that belonged to Aiden. It swallowed me, but it smelled like him. Before I left the room, I scrubbed my hands down my face.
I would find Aiden, and somehow I would make this up to him.
Going to Seth had been wrong when I had been with the one person who had always been and always would be there for me. My intentions hadn’t been malicious or shady, but they still stung like a hundred bees. The only good thing to come from it was that I knew Seth wasn’t playing us.
Convincing everyone else would require nothing short of a miracle.
The first place I checked for Aiden was the common area in the dorm. He wasn’t there, but Luke was sitting at one of the tables along with Deacon and Olivia.
And there was a mammoth plate of bacon and sausage links in front of them.
Lured by the wonderful, greasy scent, I drifted over to their table, my mouth watering at the sight. Bacon made everything better.
“Want some?” Deacon offered, knocking a mess of blond curls out of his face. “Because you look like you’re about to start eating our faces if we don’t give you some.”
Olivia’s nose wrinkled. “Ew.”
I sat beside Aiden’s brother and helped myself to a heaping of the crispy goodness. “Thank you.”
I was munching away on my fourth slice when I felt eyes on me. Glancing up, my gaze met Luke’s. His cheeks were red, as if he’d been kissed by the sun. “What?” I asked around a mouthful of bacon.
“I don’t know how he did it—Seth.” He sat back in his chair, rubbing his hand along his jaw. “I remember being out by the cars and seeing a few Sentinels I didn’t recognize, and then the next thing I know, I’m standing inside the gate and there you two were.”
“Compulsion,” Deacon said, turning to me. “I’ve been telling him that all morning.”
“He has,” Olivia threw in.
Luke frowned. “I know it was a compulsion, but damn, I never felt something like that before.”
“I have.” Olivia looked at me pointedly, and my appetite vanished at the reminder. “You weren’t responsible, Luke.” She speared a link with her fork. “And now we have another crazed Apollyon—no offense, Alex—locked in a cell.”
“None taken,” I muttered, and then sighed. “It really isn’t your fault, Luke. Deacon could do a compulsion, but one from an Apollyon packs a punch.”
Luke didn’t look relieved by that, but he grabbed a handful of bacon, so I figured if he was eating like that, he wasn’t too traumatized.
“So what are we doing with Seth?” Deacon asked after a few moments.