The Struggle (Titan 3) - Page 31

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But I was going to be here for her now.

Smoothing a hand over her wet hair, I brushed the strands back from her face. The bruises stood out starkly against her pale skin. Rage caused my hand to tremble as I tugged the comforter up to her shoulders.

Alex was probably going to cut off my balls the next time I saw her. Well, that was only if she got to me before Josie was back to . . . to herself.

Gods.

Of all the moments for Josie to wake up and find her way outside, it had to be right then. First, I needed to explain to her what she saw outside. Then I’d explain it to Alex, but I wasn’t sure how Josie could accept this—accept this new reality.

~

Josie

When I opened my eyes, I didn’t know where I was.

The room was dark and I was lying on something soft, which didn’t make any sense to me, and—oh my gods, I was naked under a sheet. I was on a bed and I was naked. A hundred horrible fears poisoned my brain. Had Hyperion—? I couldn’t even finish the thought. My heart leapt into my throat as I realized my arm was resting against a hard, warm surface that felt an awful lot like a chest.

Panic exploded like buckshot racing through every cell. My body moved before I could slow down and process anything. Jackknifing off the bed, pain flared all across my body as I threw my legs off the bed. I toppled forward, my knees cracking off the stone floor. Eyes wide, I scanned the dark room as my heart thundered in my chest. Where am I? What is happening? The form on the bed—the body on the bed—moved, sitting up.

I scuttled across the floor, my palms slipping off the smooth stone. A scream built in my throat, but I couldn’t get enough air in my lungs.

“Josie?”

Stilling at the sound of the voice, I drew my knees up. I knew that voice. Seth. It was his—that deep voice that was musical in quality, slightly accented. But that didn’t make sense, because how could I be here with Seth? Unless everything had been a nightmare—no, no what had happened wasn’t a nightmare. It had been real.

The shape on the bed suddenly moved closer. Feet landed on the floor and took a step toward me. A strangled sound left me as fear overrode my senses. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t do—

The shape froze. “It’s okay, Josie. You’re here with me. You’re safe.”

That voice—it had to be Seth, and I’d heard that word before. Safe. Alex had told me that when I . . . when I woke up earlier. I struggled to push the cobwebs of sleep and confusion aside.

“Seth?” I whispered.

“Yes. It’s me. It’s just me and you in here. I’m going to turn on the light. Okay?” he asked, and when I didn’t respond, he turned. I heard a click a few seconds later, and buttery soft light flooded the room. No longer in the darkness, the events of the last couple of hours rushed to the surface.

Seth stood in front of the bed, his arms at his sides. He was bare-chested and was wearing a pair of loose sweats. Blond hair fell in a mess of waves over his forehead and curled over the tips of his ears.

I remembered.

He’d found me in the shower and he held me while I cried. I wasn’t in that horrible room anymore. I wasn’t being dragged from the dank cellar to serve as a battery pack for Hyperion or Cronus. I was here with Seth. I remembered seeing him outside on a balcony, embracing another woman.

Sucking in a shallow breath full of pain, I curled my arms around my knees to try to hide my nudity. Not that Seth hadn’t seen it all and then some, but I was uncomfortable and overexposed.

Especially with the way he was staring at me.

His amber gaze roamed over me, and even though most of all the private parts were hidden, I knew he was seeing the network of bruises and red marks—the bites and torn, frayed skin. I knew this because of the way his striking face was tight and drawn. It was in the way he spoke next.

“Josie, babe . . .” Seth’s amber eyes glimmered as he crouched in front of me, not coming any closer. “I . . .”

As he trailed off, I squeezed my eyes shut. What was I doing? Other than sitting on his floor naked as the day I was born? My throat felt raw as I forced my tongue to move. “I woke up and I didn’t remember where I was. I thought I was still back there. I’m . . . I’m sorry.”

I didn’t hear him move, but my eyes flew open when I felt his hand land gently on my arm. “You do not need to apologize, psychi mou.”

Psychi mou? Seth had never called me his soul before.

Sorrow filled his brilliant amber gaze. “Let me get you something to wear, okay? And then we’ll move on from there. If you want to stay right where you are, we can do that. If you want to go back to the bed, then that’s the plan. You let me know what you want to do, and we’ll do it.”

Glancing down at my bruised knees, I nodded jerkily.

Seth was still for a moment longer and then he rose, stepping around me. I kept my eyes closed until he returned and soft cloth was draped over my shoulders. The last thing I really needed at this moment was to fully process the fact I was naked on the floor with my arms around my knees.

A girl could only take so much.

Forcing my eyes open, I avoided Seth’s gaze as I shoved my arms through the sleeves of an unbelievably soft and fluffy robe. He tugged the belt forward and I reached down, gathering the sides of the robe closed.

Seth secured the belt. “What do you want to do now?”

A flush crawled across my cheeks. “The . . . the bed.”

Before I had a chance to stand, Seth slipped an arm under my knees and easily lifted me up in the air. In a few heartbeats, he had me back on the bed, propped up against a mountain of pillows. Sitting next to me, he quickly rearranged the bottom of the robe so that it covered my legs.

“Let me get you something to eat,” he said.

I shook my head. “I’m not hungry.”

His chin tilted to the side. “You said earlier you weren’t . . . you weren’t sure when the last time you ate was. You need to eat.”

“I know,” I answered wearily, peering up at him. Seth looked so different to me with his expression full of concern and trepidation. I couldn’t remember if I had ever seen him like that before. “I’m just . . . Not right now.”

The muscles along his shoulders stiffened. “Josie, you really need to eat something.”

Nodding absently, I toyed with the edges of my belt. There was so much floating around in my head, but there was something just out of reach, lingering in the recesses—something important that I needed a reminder about.

“Do you know what woke you up?” Seth asked.

My fingers tightened around the edge of my belt. “I think I was having a nightmare. I thought I was back . . . back there when I woke up.” The next breath I took scalded my throat. “And I just freaked out.”

“It’s okay. And it’s totally understandable—” He picked up my hands, sucking in an audible breath. “Josie, your skin is like ice.”

Skin like ice.

I withdrew my hands, curling them against my chest. I’d felt skin like that—skin that was cold and didn’t feel weird. A memory wiggled free. I’d crawled across a floor on my knees to check the pulse of Lauren—of the bound demigod. She’d been dead. “Oh my gods,” I whispered, lifting my gaze.

“What?”

“Oh my gods,” I repeated as more memories resurfaced at a rapid clip. “I saw the demigods—the missing demigods. One of them—her name was Lauren. She was . . . she died while I was there.” Horror filled me as I remembered the feel of her skin and her starved, abused body. “They did horrible things to her, Seth. Horrible things and she died—” My voice broke off, and I swallowed hard. “She died in a room with a dirt floor.”

“Josie,” he said, voice gruff.

“She had to have been starved and beaten. She was covered in dirt and bruises.” I had to keep going, because I had to get the words out of me. It was like lancing a blister. “I thought . . . I thought I was going to become her. You know? I mean, she’d been there for months and months. I can’t even imagine—” I sucked in a sharp breath as a sound came from the back of Seth’s throat. “They left her in the room with us even after she’d died.”


Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout Titan Fantasy
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