Karina smiled faintly. “That is not important right now. Josie is a part of your—”
“No,” I cut her off. “She is no longer a part of anything that has to do with me.”
“Why?” Her brows knitted together. “You fear yourself around her? That you will hurt her? Have you not realized anything? Feeding is—”
“I do not want to speak of her with you. That is the only warning I will give you.” My hands closed into fists. “What I do from here has nothing to do with her.”
“So your desire to seek vengeance against the Titans is driven by some other need?”
My eyes narrowed. “Careful.”
She raised a shoulder and then turned back to the ocean. “You are the first,” she said after a moment. “You are the only god to be risen, to be appointed with all the godly abilities. Do you know why the gods fear the God Killer so much? It is not just because you have the ability to kill them, but because you are absolute when only three others are. Zeus, Hera, and Cronus. They feared you, because they knew you could become them.”
“And what exactly does absolute mean?” I asked. I’d never understood why the gods had created the God Killer in the first place. Apollo had tried to explain it once before in the vaguest terms possible, claiming it was a checks and balance system. Ares had never explained either. It made no sense that they would create something that could ultimately destroy them.
Then again, the gods seemed to excel in bad life choices.
And mortals consistently created things that would lead to their ultimate destruction.
So, hey, what did I know?
“You have the abilities of the gods, but you wield the ultimate power to destroy a godly being,” she explained patiently. “Since Ares’s destruction, there is no natural end to your beginning. The only true threats to you now are Zeus, Hera, and Cronus.”
My brows flew up. “Wait. I get that Cronus could take my ass out, but how can Zeus or Hera do it when they weren’t able to when I was the Apollyon?”
“Because you were the Apollyon. It added some measure of protection for you, but trust me when I say they would’ve found a way to destroy you, because they knew what was possible.” She paused. “They’ve always known.”
Of course they’d known and failed to mention all this shit. “So I’m guessing they’re absolute?”
“Only absolute beings can kill absolutely. They could fight you and perhaps they would win,” she said. “But you are the God Killer, the Appointed. They would not be wise to seek to do battle with you.”
Well, I was more badass than I originally believed.
“You’re immortal, Kýrios. You are a god.”
Those words finally, finally sunk through and it hit me then. Thunderstruck, I couldn’t speak. I’d long accepted that I had no future. That once the gods had figured out how to end me, they would, and that my afterlife meant I’d be Hades’s bitch. It wasn’t until I met . . . I met Josie that I ever regretted making the deal that took away any real chance to have a long, happy life. But now?
I had a future.
I had an eternity.
It didn’t matter what deal I’d made. The gods could no longer control my actions or my future. They could no longer control me.
I shook my head, still bewildered by all of this, but I could no longer deny the truth. “I’m a god.”
“Yes.” Karina pushed away from the railing and faced me. “And there is so much you need to learn.”
I was going to die.
I was dying.
Standing among tall elm trees—trees so thick and full that only sporadic streams of light had broken through their bushy limbs—I could feel the life slipping out of me.
Cool air raised tiny goose bumps along my bare arms. I tried to draw in a breath, but the air went nowhere as I looked down at the beautiful white gown that tickled the tops of my feet—the gown I’d been so happy to wear.
Blood poured out of my chest, spilling down the front of the gown, ruining it. Pressing shaky hands against my chest, it did nothing to stanch the blood flowing from between my fingers.
Oh gods, I was going to die.
My knees gave out, but I didn’t hit the ground. Arms folded around me, easing me down, holding me close. I blinked, trying to focus as I pressed against the warm, hard chest. Amber-colored eyes stared back into mine.
“Seth,” I whispered. “Don’t let me go.”
“No.” His face contorted. Tears filled his eyes as he lifted my head, pressing his mouth to my forehead. “I’ll never let you go, Josie. Never.”
My hands slipped away, falling to the sides. I tried to speak once more, to tell him that I loved him, that I’d always love him, but I couldn’t force the words from my tongue.
“Josie.” His voice cracked as he rocked us back and forth. “I love you. I love you and I won’t let you go. I will never—”
Gasping for air, I jerked upright and my eyes flew open. Darkness greeted me, and my body protested at the sudden movement. Every part of me ached—muscles, bones, and skin. Probably even my hair. Everything hurt, but I was alive.
“It was just a dream,” I whispered hoarsely, gingerly leaning back against the hard, cold wall. “Just a dream . . .”
But there was something different about it, something too clear and crisp, too real. I could feel the fresh air on my skin, smell the metallic scent of blood, and I heard Seth—felt him against me.
But he wasn’t here.
It was like those dreams I had while at the Covenant in South Dakota. The ones that had warned me that he was coming, and the voice had turned out to belong to Atlas, and he had come. They had been . . . prophetic in their tone, and I had the same ache in my temples as I did then. I wondered if they were dreams at all, and if they hadn’t been simple dreams, was the one of me bleeding rivers in a white gown a warning?
None of that really mattered now.
Weary, I closed my eyes and pressed my lips together to stop the bitter sob swelling in my throat. Fuzziness clung to my thoughts, and I stilled for several minutes until it passed.
My throat was dry and my stomach empty. I was so incredibly thirsty and hungry, and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a glass of cool water or food that wasn’t stale hamburgers or possibly rotten fries.
The Titans tended to forget to feed us, and when they did, it was like they purposely found the most disgusting things to eat, but when hunger gnawed at our insides, we didn’t really care what we put in our mouths. We became desperate.
I was that desperate.
Opening my eyes, I squinted into the darkness. I was alone again. I hadn’t seen Mitchell in a while, and I had no idea if he was alive or if he was like . . . like that poor girl.
Before I’d been taken away, the girl had begun to . . . to decompose. The stench had been choking. The female Titan—Tethys—had finally removed the bound demigod’s body and had done so without an ounce of care or respect for her. The Titan had grabbed her by the shoulders and dragged her body out of the room. Dragged her.
A shudder racked me.
I was now kept in a smaller room with a packed dirt floor that smelled of roots and mold. There might be mice in here, but I tried not to think about that.
I tried not to think about a lot of things.
I had no idea how many days passed since Hyperion had snatched me off the cliffs in Malibu. There’d been at least three, because I had been allowed to spend time in the sun three times when Hyperion had taken me above, and it had felt like days had passed between those times, but I couldn’t be sure other than that there was a pattern emerging to his visits.
Hyperion would feed.
Another shudder worked its way through my body as I pulled my legs up to my chest. Sometimes he’d do it like Seth . . . like Seth had done—like when Seth had fed off me and I hadn’t even noticed, but Hyperion made damn sure I knew exactly what he was doing. He’d press his hand into my sternum until the skin bruised, and I’d fight until the pain took over and all I could do was breathe through it.
It felt like every cell in my body was being scattered and the skin sliced off the muscles with a rusty butter knife, and I couldn’t fight that. No matter how strong or brave I tried to be, the pain was all-consuming, and all I could do was shrink away from it, pray for an end, for the blissful nothingness that eventually followed.