And I was standing there, holding her sweater in my tight grip when I wanted to be holding her.
Whitish-red flames crackled over my knuckles, spitting tiny sparks into the air above my hand. I stared at the fire, a little awed over the fact that this was something I could create out of thin air and that I could actually control it.
And well, that was pretty damn amazing.
I wasn’t going to think about the fact that it had taken three weeks of working with Laadan to get to this point where I was now an official firestarter. Three. Long. Weeks.
Laadan was an excellent teacher and incredibly patient, even when I’d singed her eyelashes on more than one occasion. Deacon had been helping out on and off, and he wasn’t as terrible as he’d made it seem. Deacon could control fire. Marcus had been right. Working on controlling one element helped with the other three.
Two days ago was the last time I’d incorrectly summoned the wrong element, but that had been a fluke. I’d been distracted, because as I stood in front of Laadan, focusing on summoning the element of earth, I’d seen Seth on the closest walkway.
I’d accidentally knocked Laadan over.
Seth . . .
My chest ached and the flames faded out. I’d barely seen him since the day in the gardens. I couldn’t believe I’d even tried to talk to him after he’d been such a jackass, but I’d been desperate to know what had gone wrong between us. Sort of still was. What had I done wrong?
But he kept away and I didn’t give in to the urge to visit him. I’d thought that the pain would lessen as each day passed, but it hadn’t. The hurt was just as raw and brutal as day one.
But I was . . . I was going about my life. I was mastering the elements and I was getting really kick-ass at the whole hand-to-hand fighting thing, able to stand on my own against Solos and Luke. I hated myself for thinking this, because it was so lame, like the lamest of the lame, but Seth would’ve been proud if he’d seen how I’d taken Solos down yesterday, sweeping his legs right out from underneath him.
I’d done a little dance.
I’d looked like a chicken with its head cut off, but I’d rocked that dance and I was going to rub it Solos’s face every chance I got.
After practices, I avoided the garden. What once had been a brief respite from all the crap now made me feel uncomfortable, like I needed to bury my face in a pillow and never resurface. But Seth hadn’t scared off Colin.
Glancing over to where he sat, legs stretched out in front of him and his back against a tree, he was intent on whatever he was reading. On the other side, Luke was studying and Deacon, well, he was not even pretending to study. While Luke held the textbook open, pressed against his chest, Deacon had his head in Luke’s lap. For a few minutes, he’d napped. Now, every couple of seconds, he flicked his fingers off the back of the textbook. Luke had either the concentration of a cobra or the patience of a saint, because he hadn’t punched Deacon yet.
I looked down at the textbook I’d swiped from Deacon’s room a few days ago, after we did our daily librarian check. It was Myth and History 101, a true account of their history, which was pretty much a Lifetime movie with cheating couples who were immortal and had superpowers. Every one of the gods pretty much hooked up with anything that walked, and I mean, anything that walked.
I shuddered just thinking about the section on my father. Good gods, I was traumatized. Like there had been this nymph who literally turned herself into a tree to get away from Apollo.
Turned. Herself. Into. A. Tree.
Then there was this poor guy who got turned into a bush or something, and that’s not even the worst of it.
My father put the “who” in whore.
Speaking of less traumatizing things related to Apollo: he hadn’t shown up since appearing when Seth and I had . . . I cut the thought. There was no news. So no demigod bloodhound, but oddly, I was beginning to be able to sense the difference between pures and halfs. It was something that had started off as a barely noticeable ripple of energy, like a warmth I felt whenever I was around a pure-blood. I didn’t feel it around Luke or Colin or Solos. I’d mentioned it to Laadan and she felt that it was some of my demigod powers starting to kick in, slowly but surely, and she’d said there’d probably be more. Since I was sensing the aether in the pures, I wondered if eventually I would be able to find the other demigods. At this rate, I might have to, since Daddy Dearest was MIA.
The aether-sniffing thing was pretty cool.
But weird, really weird.
Things were rather calm, though. Actually, that wasn’t necessarily true. Things were calm for me. Everyone pretty much gave me a wide berth. Only a few brave souls came around when Colin was hanging out with us. They’d chat with him while trying to inconspicuously stare at me. Other than that, no one really seemed to be all that interested in having a demigod on campus.
What was going down between the halfs and pures, on the other hand, was not calm. From what I gathered there had been no leads on who had killed the half-blood or who had been responsible for the horrific things done to that girl, Felicia. Colin believed that the powers that were—the campus council—hadn’t tried hard even though half of the Council was made up of halfs. It was one of those things you didn’t want to believe, but had to accept as being true, because it was.
There had been two more rallies in the last week, with halfs calling for serious investigations into what was happening at the campus and in other communities. Deacon and I had joined Colin at the last one, and so far everything had remained peaceful. Probably had to do with Marcus and a crap-ton of Guards having been present.