The Struggle (Titan 3) - Page 33

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“Of course.” He stepped forward, obviously happy to have something to do. “I will bring up some rice and soup. That should work well.”

“Thank you.”

Basil smiled brightly, bowed, and then he was off. I stood there for a moment and then closed the door. I turned around. The air punched out of my lungs like it had earlier when she woke from a nightmare.

Josie was awake.

Not only that, she was sitting up, clutching the blanket to her chest. Her eyes were wide, and there was a faint flush of pink on her unbruised cheek. Her gaze was on my face and then it dropped to my bare chest and stomach. The pink in her cheeks heightened. This time was nothing like the last time she woke up.

Relief almost cut my knees out from underneath me, and I actually stumbled forward a step. “You’re awake,” I said, realizing how stupid that sounded because she was, in fact, awake. And she had been awake earlier.

Her throat worked. “I was dreaming, and I thought . . . I thought that this was a dream.”

Gods.

That killed me all over again. “You’re really here, Josie. You’re really safe now.”

Her eyes shut for a moment and she clutched the blanket tighter. Pain flickered over her face and when she reopened her eyes, there was a glimmer of tears. I moved to her without thinking. Within a heartbeat, I was sitting on the side of the bed, next to her.

Josie jerked, eyes widening. “That . . . that was fast.”

Fast was an understatement. I remembered that she had no idea what I was now. We hadn’t gotten the chance to talk about any of that. “How are you feeling?”

She hesitated for a moment. “I don’t know.” Her gaze flickered to the curtained windows. “How long have I’ve been asleep?”

“A couple of hours.”

Her forehead creased. “You . . . you haven’t left, have you?”

“No.” I took a deep breath. “I know you’re mad at me. You want me to—”

“I’m not mad at you,” she said so quietly that I thought it was my imagination at first. “I mean, I . . . I want you to try to find Mitchell. I’m not giving up on that. I just . . .” She slowly shook her head. “I’m just not mad.”

I stared at her in disbelief. “How can you not be mad at me? You should be furious. You should—” She should hate me. I couldn’t bring myself to say that out loud. “I don’t know how you can’t be angry.”

“Maybe I will be again later.” A tremor coursed through her as she lowered her hand to the blanket.

My chest hollowed. “Are you in a lot of pain?”

“Not too much,” she said, lowering her gaze to the bedspread. Her fingers tightened around the edge of the blanket.

“I see the bite marks. I can tell you were fed on a lot. You’re bruised.” I paused. “All over.” Anger beat at me, and I worked at keeping my voice level. “Did he—did they—do anything to you I can’t see?”

Her eyes squeezed shut, and I barely had a wisp of restraint left. Outside, there was a flash of intense white light and then thunder boomed. Her eyes flew open. “You mean, was I . . . raped? No,” she said, fingers twisting the blanket. “Hyperion . . . he threatened it, but he didn’t—didn’t get the chance. For the most part, he was disgusted by me.”

I didn’t feel much relief. Some rapists didn’t have to like or even be attracted to someone to rape them. It wasn’t about any of that, and all I could hope was that Josie wasn’t hiding something. It was obvious he’d found other ways to torture her and he had, but some of my violent anger cooled. There’d be no storm outside. “There is a lot we need to talk about.”

Josie stared at me a moment and then her gaze flickered around the room. “I . . . I don’t know what is happening.” She swallowed hard. “When I woke up earlier, I was confused and . . . I just don’t know what is happening.”

All I wanted to do was gather her into my arms, but she didn’t sound right. There was something missing from her voice and she had the look of a cornered, confused animal. I had the suspicion she needed some space right now. Probably would be wise of me to sit in one of the numerous chairs in the room, but I couldn’t make myself move.

So I sat very still. “I’ll fill in as many blanks as I can for you, but I have Basil grabbing some food for you. He’ll be coming up here shortly. I want you to eat this time.”

Her brows rose. “Basil? Like the plant?”

I smiled faintly. “Basil means kingly in Greek. He’s a half and a servant here.”

She blinked slowly. “You have half-blood servants here?”

“Yes, but it’s not what you think. When I first got here, I told them all to leave. They didn’t listen,” I explained, wanting her to understand. “None of them are on the elixir. They are all here out of free will.”

Confusion increased in her brilliant blue gaze. “But why would you have servants?”

“That’s kind of a convoluted story that I will tell you, but there is something more important I need to say.”

She shifted and winced.

“You okay?”

Josie nodded. “I’m just . . . sore.” She seemed to war with herself and then lifted her gaze to mine. “I’m guessing Hyperion is still alive.”

“Not for long,” I promised, one I fully intended to keep.

“Then how am I here and not there, in that—?” She trailed off with a sharp breath. “I’m so confused.”

Gods. She’d been through a lot, too much. I started to rise. “This can actually wait. I don’t—”

“No.” One cool hand wrapped around my wrist in a surprisingly strong grip. I looked down at her. “I’m fine. You can talk.”

My gaze held hers and then dropped to the bracelet around her slender wrist. Reaching down, I lifted her hand to my mouth. I kissed her palm.

Josie’s breath caught and then she pulled her hand free, folding her fingers around the blanket once more. “You . . . you really need to start talking.”

“I do.” I took a deep breath, inexplicably nervous. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt so much anxiety. Actually, I could. It was the last time my mother held a party here. I’d wanted to hide, because I knew she was going to pull me out, do the dog and pony show, pretending to actually care, pretending to be proud. Everyone would stare at me, afraid but curious.

“Seth?”

Shaking my head, I focused on her and said, “I know I said this before, but I have to say it again. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for leaving you in Malibu.”

Several moments passed, and I began to fear that she wouldn’t say anything. “Why?” she whispered. “Why did you leave me after . . . after everything we’ve shared?”

“I thought I was protecting you from what . . . what I’ve become,” I explained. “I fed off you without you knowing. I saw how horrified and disgusted you were, and you had every right to be.”

“I was shocked,” she said, lifting one hand to brush back her damp hair. “And yes, I was . . . I was pissed. What you did was wrong, but we could’ve worked through that. You didn’t give us a chance.”

“I know,” I agreed, leaning toward her. “I know I didn’t give us a chance, but I thought I was doing the right thing. Especially after Atlas, and what I’ve become.”

“The God Killer?” she asked.

I nodded. “When I came to and realized what I was, it . . . Fuck, it freaked me out, Josie. I didn’t know what I was capable of or what I was going to do. That’s no excuse. I get it. But I freaked out, and I have never, Josie, never been more sorry about anything I’ve ever done. Anything.”

Josie’s chest rose with a deep breath. She started to speak, but there was a quiet knock on the door.

“It’s most likely Basil.” I rose but paused. “Are you okay with him coming in here?”

“Yes.”

I went to the door, opening it. Basil stepped inside, his gaze focused on the floor. The scent of herbs filled the room. “Would you like me to place the tray on the bed, Kýrios?”


Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout Titan Fantasy
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