Right now, his expression was carefully blank. “You may come in, Josie.”
As I walked forward, I shot the blonde Guard a look that I would probably feel bad about later, because she was just doing her job. Marcus stepped aside, and the moment I entered the large room, my already-racing heart jumped into my throat.
Seth was sitting in the chair in front of the large desk, his back to the door. His shoulders were stiff and as straight as a board, and he didn’t turn around—didn’t look in my direction even though he knew I was there. The knots in my stomach tightened painfully.
“I don’t think you’re looking for me,” Marcus said, closing the door behind him. He walked past me and took a seat behind the desk.
I shook my head. “I want—”
“Don’t,” Seth said.
Blinking, I stared at the back of his golden head. “Excuse me?”
“I know why you’re here,” he added, his voice exceptionally level. Scarily so. It was as if he could care less about what he was saying. “It’s about training, and there’s nothing to be discussed. It’s done and decided.”
My mouth moved, but there were no words as heat crept into my cheeks. Marcus—the freaking dean of the University—was watching us, watching me, and possibly searching Seth down to this room had not been a good idea. “I . . . I don’t understand what’s going on.”
Seth didn’t turn around, and I stared at him, totally unbelieving of what was happening. A hole opened up in my chest, split wide open, because I knew—oh God, I knew deep down—this wasn’t just about training. Seth wasn’t just pulling back on that.
He was pulling back on us.
“Solos is going to take over with Luke’s help,” Marcus stated, folding his hands on the desk. “He is an amazing Sentinel, and his experience will be invaluable.”
I bet Solos was a badass ninja. I mean, he knew how to use nunchucks, so he had to be awesome, but he wasn’t Seth. And before, Seth hadn’t wanted Solos training me. What had changed?
“He will be . . . perfect for you,” Seth said in the same flat voice.
I inhaled, but the air got stuck in my lungs and my chest seized. “Why?” I whispered.
Seth continued to stare face forward. “It’s just for the best. That’s all you need to know.”
All I needed to know?
“Laadan will be able to help you with the elements. She cannot control all of them, but it’s the best we have right now,” Marcus continued. “At least until Apollo returns. If he comes through with what Seth has informed me, then another demigod can surely help you.”
“But we don’t know when Apollo is returning or who he’s bringing,” I argued. “Am I supposed to not work on akasha until then?”
“Yes,” Seth replied coolly. “That would be it.”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“It makes perfect sense to—”
“How about you actually look at me when you talk to me?” I snapped as anger shot through my system like an out of control arrow. Papers on Marcus’s desk rattled. “I don’t like talking to the back of a head.”
“Well,” Seth said, drawing the word out as he slowly twisted sideways in his chair. Cool amber eyes met mine. “I also don’t like talking to the wall.”
My eyes narrowed as I stepped forward. “I can totally sympathize with that, especially right now.”
“This,” Marcus said quietly, almost to himself. “This is so entirely familiar to me.”
I didn’t get what Marcus had meant, but Seth closed his eyes briefly, squeezing so hard that the skin puckered at the corners. “Exactly,” he muttered.
“What is that even supposed to mean?” I threw my hands up. “Everything was fine yesterday and now it’s not? I don’t get what—”
“Don’t make this difficult, Josie.” A heartbeat passed, and his lean body tensed in the chair. “Don’t embarrass yourself.”
Sucking in a shallow, messy breath, I drew back as if I’d been slapped right across the face. “Don’t embarrass myself?”
He said nothing, but the muscle along his jaw began to tick.
My face was burning like a wildfire. I was embarrassed to be having this conversation in front of the Dean, to stand here and have Seth talking to me like he was.
Like I was absolutely nothing to him. As if he was in the position to scold me. Embarrassed wasn’t the right word. Humiliated came to mind. Hurt did too.
It was like earlier, when I was frozen in the training room. Everything shut down for a long, stretched-out moment as a deep crack lit up my chest, sharp and unbelievably real.
I swallowed past the rapidly growing lump in my throat and saw Marcus. His attention was turned to the window, and it hit me once more that we had an audience for this.
Seth’s gaze shifted away from me, to the wall. I drew in another breath and it got stuck. There was nothing else for me to say right now. Nothing at all.
Squeezing my hands closed until my nails bit into my palms, I glanced at Marcus. “Sorry to, um, be a bother. The . . . the training situation is fine.”
Seth’s gaze flew back to mine, but I forced myself to turn around. I walked out of the room, each step stiff. I had to leave before I embarrassed myself further, because I was seconds from either screaming at Seth or crying, and those were two things I didn’t want to do in front of Marcus. Or anyone.
I put one foot in front of the other and kept walking—kept going until I was all the way downstairs and then outside, the whole time my head a whirl of questions and confusion. I blindly headed toward the dorm, because there was no way I was going back to training. Not today. No way. There was a horrible burning sensation in my eyes.