But who will protect her from you?
The whispered words stopped me dead in my tracks. They were too real. Spoken out loud and yet inside my head. Turning around, I scanned the grounds with narrowed eyes.
Leaning against the golden statue of Apollo, arms crossed and one leg cocked, was that damn nymph. It winked at me.
“What the fuck, man?” I demanded.
Moonlight reflected off the shimmery skin as one bare shoulder rose. “I was just saying what you were thinking.”
“How do you know what I’m thinking?”
“I’m special like that,” the nymph replied. “So special that I’m going to point out something very important to you.”
“Oh, lucky me.” My gaze narrowed on him. “Why are you here?”
He raised his chin and smiled. “Does that matter?”
“Hell, yes, that matters. You came to our aid before, when we were outside these walls, but that doesn’t mean I trust you or your intentions, whatever they may be.” Suspicion bloomed inside me. “What is your deal?”
The nymph blinked out and reappeared directly in front of me. Impressive. Even I couldn’t track its movement. “You’re making a huge mistake.”
Gods. Some nights just couldn’t get any worse. “My entire existence is a mistake, so you’re going to have to get a little more detailed about what exact mistake you’re talking about.”
The nymph’s all-white eyes crackled little bolts of light. “Staying away from her won’t save her.”
Well, I was immediately proven wrong. Tonight was officially getting worse.
“And it won’t save you either,” the nymph added.
I barked out a harsh laugh. “There is no saving me. I know what the end game is.”
“There is no such thing as finality,” he replied, leaning in so when he spoke next, his cool breath moved over my jaw. “All prophecies are designed to be rewritten. No fate, no matter what is sacrificed or bargained, is final.” He paused. “All the pieces are never shared.”
Stiffening, I resisted the urge to draw back from the weird nymph. “You don’t exactly believe in personal space, do you?”
He laughed, and got closer, which I didn’t exactly believe was possible until that very moment. It was. His chest brushed mine. “I don’t exactly believe you’re understanding what I’m saying to you, Apollyon. You had a chance to rewrite a prophecy before, but you failed.”
Everything in me stilled, right down to my heartbeat. I knew exactly what prophecy he was talking about. The one that ended in Alex’s mortal death.
“You forged your own path. You listened to no one and thought you knew best. In the end, your hands were covered in the blood of the one you were entrusted to protect.” The nymph’s icy breath was as cold as his words. “You continue on this path, history will repeat itself, and there will be no salvation for you. There will only be an eternity of retribution and vengeance.”
The nymph disappeared without sound or movement, leaving me standing there. Turning slowly, I looked around and there was no sign that the nymph had ever been there in the first place.
“Hell,” I muttered, rubbing my hand along my jaw.
I wasn’t sure what to think of the nymph, whether he was friend or foe, but in the end, what the nymph had said was mostly true. There was blood on my hands, and there was only retribution and vengeance in my future.
My face hurt.
So did my head and eyes. Actually, every part of me ached. My head was stuffy and eyes swollen from crying enough tears to fill the stupid room, and my stomach was brutally empty. I’d gone way past the stage of being hungry. It felt like I wouldn’t eat again.
At some point, I’d managed to pull myself off the floor and kick off my sneakers before face-planting my bed. That had turned out to be a major mistake, because the sheets, the pillows?—everything—smelled like Seth. Like the outdoors and the unique scent that reminded me of burning leaves. The tears had really started at that point, and it had been ugly. The big, fat sobs came from a deep place inside of me and they shook my entire body. I’d cried myself asleep, and when I woke up the tears started all over again. For a while, there seemed like there’d be no end in sight.
That had been Friday morning. I’d barely moved from the bed in two days, and my eyes were as dry as the desert. My hair was limp and greasy. Showering seemed like it required way too much effort.
I’d never been in love before.
I’d never had my heart broken by a guy before.
Yes, my heart had been wounded a time or two. There was this guy in high school who I had a pretty big crush on and he’d thought I was a freak. Then there’d been this dude in my history class my freshman year at Radford. I’d spent all semester crushing on him and working up the nerve to say more than a handful of sentences to him, only to find out that he was in a committed relationship, baby daughter included.
But I’d never been in love, and oh God, I was so in love with Seth. I wasn’t even sure at what point it happened. The first time he’d shared a piece of himself with me? When he’d talked about his mom? Or was it when he decided to stay and train me? It could’ve been the first night he told me I could use him as a Pillow Pet. It could’ve been the night he told me I was his salvation.
Or when he had finally kissed me.
Now . . . I swallowed hard. Now he wanted nothing to do with me, and the confusion had nothing on the pain eating away at my chest.
Saturday afternoon, Luke had stopped by again. Like the day before, I hadn’t answered the door. I wasn’t ready to face him. Not when I wanted my mother. I wanted my grandmother. I wanted Erin. None of them were here. None of them could be.