Apollo’s expression slipped into a scowl, but I was on a roll. No stopping me now. “You know, all of this is bullshit. I said it before, and I’ll say it again, Ares is your problem. He’s the gods’ problem.” His mouth opened, but I kept on going. “And don’t you dare say it’s Seth’s problem! Ares created this mess ages ago when he started this crap with Solaris and the First. But you guys didn’t really do anything then, did you? You sent the Order in to kill them instead of getting to the bottom of what was happening.”
“And now it’s happening again. We are going to war for you—for the gods. People will die. My friends and the people I love could die! I could die!” My voice cracked, and I took a step down. My throat felt like it was on fire. “I haven’t forgotten that, Apollo. I know I could die in the end.”
He clapped a heavy hand on my shoulder and squeezed. “I promise you, Alex, that no matter what happens, I’ll take care of you. I told you that, and I always keep my promises.”
A knot in my throat made it difficult to speak. The probability of my inevitable death at the hands of those who needed my help wasn’t something I’d forgotten about. In reality, it was just something I couldn’t fixate on. Since the hellboy twins had been exorcised from me, I had refused to dwell on it, and the reason why descended in startling clarity in that moment. In the end, no matter what Apollo wanted, he would not disobey the other Olympians. Doing so would further split them, and it could become disastrous.
Blinking back tears, I looked away, working my throat until I was sure that, when I opened my mouth, it wasn’t a sob. “I don’t want to die.”
“I know,” Apollo said, and his voice was surprisingly gentle. “I will do everything in my power to make sure that doesn’t happen. I haven’t let you down yet, have I?”
My gaze crawled over the gray cement walls, finally settling on his. Had he? He’d skirted the truth and divulged information only when he felt like it, but had he let me down? I didn’t answer the question. “The gods should be fighting. You know that, Apollo. They should be a part of this.”
Seconds passed. “You’re right.”
Wow. I was stunned into silence. Next thing I’d knew, Aiden and Seth would start to make out and profess their undying love for one another. “I’m right?”
“You are. They do need to be involved. They need to fight.”
It took me a couple of moments to remember how to use my tongue. Hope kindled in my chest like a fledging, delicate fire. If the gods would fight, then the losses on our side would be less. “And you can make this happen?”
Apollo lowered his chin. “I will do everything I can to get them involved.”
“You should. This is their fight.”
“This is everyone’s fight,” he corrected. “Because it’s everyone’s future.”
Saturday had been a day full of pain.
While we were getting better at fighting Perses, we still were getting our butts handed to us. Seth had come close to taking Perses down with a kick. The Titan had stumbled, but he hadn’t fallen. He’d come back at Seth, and within seconds the First was on his back.
But Sunday got worse.
“Mats are for the weak,” Perses announced as I bounced across the blue butt-saver, and that comment took the happy right out of my step. He raised a hand, and the mats flipped up on their own, starting to fold like accordions. “Warriors do not need mats.”
Jumping back, I missed being smashed and folded by less than a second. Under the mats was nothing but cold, hard floor. I sighed, knowing this was going to sting, and as usual, we had a crowd watching. Three pures had mixed among my friends. Solos was already cringing.
Perses motioned me forward. “Come on, girl.”
I took a deep, calming breath before I stalked toward him. Attacking in anger seemed like a good idea. The gods knew I was known to do so from time to time, but I made mistakes in the heat of it, and making mistakes with Perses or Ares wouldn’t end well for me.
He immediately launched at me, swinging a meaty hand at my head. Easy. I dipped down, avoiding the attack. Springing up, I twisted to the left as he kicked out with a booted foot. I blocked him at the knee, and then struck out for his throat. Perses countered, sneaking a punch that caught my arm and spun me. I tried to twist out of it into the fall, but as I turned, he threw his arm out, hitting me across the chest. Air exploded out of my lungs. Stumbling back, I was unprepared when he kicked out, sweeping his legs out from underneath me. I hit the hard floor on my back, knocking the oxygen out of my cells this time.
“Ow,” I moaned, bending my knees. I blinked the ceiling back into focus, clearing the white flecks of light from my vision.
Aiden’s curse rang loudly.
Hovering over me, Perses’ laugh grated on my nerves. “I hope, when you become the God Killer, Ares stands still for you.”
I flipped him off.
The Titan tipped his head back and laughed. “Charming.”
Rolling to my feet, I limped over to the side, passing our little audience. Olivia caught my eye and smiled sympathetically. Almost, she mouthed.
Almost didn’t really count. I joined the guys by the wall. “Well, that was a fail.”
“It wasn’t.” Aiden tucked a stray piece of my hair back behind my ear. “You did well.”
“She looked like a pancake when she hit the floor,” Seth remarked, earning a pissy look from both of us. He laughed as he jogged off toward Perses.
Sitting down, I took the bottle of water Aiden handed me and gulped it down. As Seth squared off against Perses, I readied myself for another round. When Seth ate floor, Aiden took his place. Half of my bones felt brittle, as if they were about to break, and I couldn’t fathom why Aiden was subjecting himself to this when he didn’t have to. Not that Perses was complaining. The more butts he was kicking, the happier he was. I stretched my legs out, easing the sore muscles. Every time I went up against Perses, I wanted to tap into akasha and just give a good old, aether-fueled bitch-slap in the—
“Holy daimon butts,” I whispered.
Seth glanced down at me, frowning. “Uh, what?”
Popping up to my feet, a smile split my lips. “I got it.”
He shook his head as he studied me. “Got what? Milk?”
“No.” Excited, I couldn’t wait until Aiden went down. Not that I really wanted that, but I wanted at Perses. “I know how to take him down.”
I ignored his lack of faith in my ability. Never once during our training had Perses told Seth and me that we couldn’t use our Apollyon abilities. We’d just assumed that we couldn’t. After all, we were treating these training sessions like we were back in class, fighting instructors. But we weren’t. We also weren’t normal students.
Aiden caught a kick in the middle of the back, taking him to his knees.
“We’re so stupid,” I said to Seth, grinning.
His brows rose. “Speak for yourself, Angel.”
As Aiden started back toward us, I passed him halfway, brushing my fingers down his arm. “I got this,” I told him.
He smiled down at me, and as I continued forward, I saw the pures gathered at the doors exchange looks of disgust and disbelief. I flipped them off.
Perses yawned. “Back so soon, girl?”
“I can’t wait to see your face when you hit the floor.” I shook my arms out, letting the rush of power in my veins make it to my skin.
His gaze flickered over me, and I knew that he, like the gods, could see the marks of the Apollyon. A smooth brow rose. “Well, let’s do this.”
Backing off, we circled one another, eyeing each other for that fine, slim moment of weakness. Springing forward, he twisted in midair, kicking out, but I spun to the side. He landed in a crouch, shooting up. Summoning akasha, I welcomed the rush of power as I threw my hand out. Shock flickered across his face. A pulse of light arced across the short distance between us, smacking into his chest. It wouldn’t kill him, but it definitely did the trick.
Perses stumbled back, his body bending at the waist. There were only a few seconds to complete this. Spinning around, I aimed my knee for his stomach. He tried to avoid the kick, but he wasn’t fast enough. I caught him in the midsection. He went down on one knee as I straightened. Bringing my arm down, I slammed my elbow into his back, between his shoulder blades. He planted his hands on the floor to catch himself. Moving lightning-quick and putting every muscle into the motion, I brought my leg up. The toe of my sneaker connected with his solar plexus. Perses flipped.
He hit the floor on his back, his eyes wide.
It was like the sound had been sucked out of the room. And then I heard Aiden yell, and then Luke, and then Olivia. I’d done it.
I’d taken down a mother-freaking Titan.
Ares could suck it.
Standing over Perses, a ridiculously large smile crossed my face. “I don’t think you’ll be calling me ‘girl’ anymore.”
“What the hell?” Seth stalked up to us. “You used an element—akasha. How was that fair?”
Rocking back on my heels, I resisted the urge to start jumping around and clapping. “He never said we couldn’t use our abilities. We just assumed we couldn’t.”
Seth stared at me.
Perses shifted to his feet. “She’s right. It’s only taken a week for you idiots to figure that out. Even that one,” he said, gesturing to where Aiden waited. “He could’ve used fire, but he never did. To defeat Ares or any god, you will have to use every weapon you have. That was the lesson.”
I almost giggled with glee—actual glee.
Seth’s mouth dropped opened. “If that’s the case, I’ve couldn’t taken you down the first day.”
“But you didn’t.” Perses smiled as he tapped a long finger against his head. “You need to start using this as well as your muscles.”
Okay. I felt like clapping.
Seth rolled his eyes, but he turned to me. Nice work, Angel.
My smile spread, and I let my pride consume me for a moment. Perses ended the session shortly after that, and Seth disappeared out the door, parting the crowd like he was our version of Moses. I watched him go, knowing I needed to track him down. We had to do the transfer tonight.
Aiden hugged me when I joined him, resting his chin atop my head. “Brilliant.”
I laughed as I squeezed him. “Not really. Think about how long it took me to figure out that we should’ve been using our abilities the whole time.”
“Seth and I didn’t figure it out at all, so you’re one step ahead of us.” He stepped back, sliding his hands off me. A shiver coursed through me, something that didn’t go unnoticed. His eyes switched from gray to sliver. “What are you doing now?”
A flutter started in my stomach. “I’d love to do what you’re thinking.”
“I need to talk with Seth.” Stretching up, I kissed his cheek. Part of me might have done it because the gaping pures were still at the door even though our friends had disappeared. The other part did it because I liked kissing Aiden. “See you in a bit?”