I didn’t know if the alternating sharp pulse and echoing hollow feeling in my chest were normal, but I was soul sick. I felt shattered, split in two, and I had no idea how to even begin to piece myself back together.
Rolling onto my back, I blinked open my eyes. It was Sunday evening. I was going to have to pull myself together by tomorrow morning. I couldn’t hide in my room for the rest of my life. I’d need cats or something if I was seriously going to attempt that. And I couldn’t do that even if the Covenant allowed animals onsite. I was important. A demigod.
I needed to finish training, and I needed to be ready when my absentee father showed back up with another demigod. There was so much I had to do, and probably would epically fail at, but I couldn’t hide myself away. Because I was a mother-freaking demigod.
A demigod with a broken heart.
A demigod with a broken heart who couldn’t even become a crazy cat lady, because I didn’t have cats.
“God.” I smacked my hands over my face. The burn was back, behind my eyes, and I wanted to punch myself in the lady parts.
I had to pull myself together. The next breath I took got stuck. Okay, I at least had to pretend to have it together.
A knock interrupted my crappy pep talk. I turned my head toward the living area, but didn’t move more than that. The knock came again and then a voice followed.
“Josie, open the door.”
Curly-haired, silver-eyed, beautiful Deacon. I sighed. He didn’t have a broken heart. He had Luke, who was madly in love with him.
“I have French fries,” he coaxed from the hallway.
Fries? My stomach shifted, reminding me that it did, in fact, want some food. I lowered my hands.
There was a pause. “They’re fresh and that perfect mix of crispiness and softness.”
Oh my, that was the best.
“And I have ranch dressing,” he added. Slowly, I sat up and pushed a few strands of gross hair out of my face. “If you don’t answer this door, I will do something drastic.”
“I can use the fire element, which means I can melt the insides of this lock,” he explained. “And I’m not that great at controlling fire. I’ll probably end up catching the door on fire.”
“Whoa,” I muttered, swinging my legs off the bed.
“And then the fire will spread to the walls and the next thing you know, the whole dorm is burning down. Roof on fire kind of shit and Marcus will get really pissed—”
“Okay!” I shouted, standing. “I’m coming.”
“Good.” Satisfaction practically bloated his voice.
Shuffling to the door, I threw the lock and opened it. True to his word, Deacon stood with a bag in one hand and a bottle of Coke in the other. Eyeing the red and black bottle, I could already feel the wonderful, acidic burn in my throat. The aroma was greasy heaven. As I stepped aside, my gaze flickered over his shoulder and landed on Seth’s door. An ache pierced my chest, stealing my breath.
Deacon breezed on past me, placing the bag on the coffee table, along with the bottle of Coke. Closing the door, I exhaled softly and then turned—
Suddenly, Deacon was right in front of me and his arms were around me. One second I was just standing there and the next, my face was plastered against his surprisingly hard chest, my nose buried in the loose, long-sleeve shirt. And he was hugging me, really hugging me. Not one of those lame, weak ones that made you feel like the other person was frail. No, this was a hearty one, and God . . . Gods, it almost broke me all over again.
“I . . .” I didn’t know what to say. Tears clogged my throat again, cutting off my words and all I could whisper was, “I’m s-sorry.”
“You don’t apologize,” he said, pressing a kiss to the top of my gross, greasy head, unlocking best friend status.
I folded my arms around his slender waist and squeezed my eyes shut. “Seth. He . . . he said everything was a mistake. We—” My breath caught. “That we were a mistake.”
His arms tightened around me.
“I . . . I love him,” I said, shaking. “I love him, Deacon.”
“I know,” Deacon said, and his hug became my everything. “I know.”
“You’ve done very well today, Josie.” Laadan stood with her back to the sun, her long dark hair pulled up in a neat bun. The ballerina kind of bun, which was something I couldn’t pull off if my life depended on it. My hair currently looked like a bird was nesting in it. She smiled at what must’ve been my doubtful expression, and the smile was real. Kind. Warm. “It’s not second nature to you. It’s going to take some work.”
Laadan always looked elegant, though. I’d seen her around the Covenant often, typically with the Sentinel who didn’t speak—Alex’s father. She had a timeless kind of beauty, she was a pure-blood, and she had come here after the Covenant in New York was attacked during Ares’s rampage. She was good people—kind and patient.
Squinting, I shrugged as I walked over the pebble-filled dirt. A dull ache throbbed behind my eyes. “It should be second nature. I’m a demigod. I should be wielding the elements like Airbender.”
Her brow wrinkled. “I’m not sure what this Airbender is, but even pure-bloods struggle when they’re children.”
Children. When they were children. Exactly.
“She’s right,” Solos offered from where he was perched on the low wall surrounding the cemetery. “My half-sister is a full pure-blood. She controls air, and when she was little, she used to throw everything in the house around when she was in a mood.”