I stopped wiggling my toes. “Yeah, we’re going to need to talk about the whole staying here forever part, but first, what do you mean until I feel right?”
His shoulder brushed mine as he stared out over the ocean. “Remember when I told you before that I could barely feel aether in you? Yours has always been strong—almost as strong as a god’s, but like I said before, I can barely sense it now.”
“Oh. Yeah.” I bit down on my lip and then winced when I bit the cut in my lip. “That’s . . . not good.”
“It’s like a light. Normally you’re a beacon to me, but you’re flickering now.” Seth turned his head toward me. “You’re weak, and I don’t mean that to be insulting, but it’s the truth.”
“I will get better,” I told him.
“I know, but I don’t want you risking your life again. Not even for that demigod.”
I forced myself to remain patient as I explained what I felt was obvious. “I cannot forget about him, Seth. You don’t understand. I know just a little bit of what he’s been through, and that’s enough to not be able to walk away from this. And I can’t stay here while everyone else goes out there and risks their lives.”
“Why not?” he shot back. “Haven’t you already lost enough? Sacrificed enough, Josie? You’ve lost your grandparents and then your mother. Your friend Erin? Who knows if she’s really alive? Apollo could’ve lied about that also.” He shot to his feet, pacing. Over his shoulder, I saw thick, gray clouds form. “You’ve had to leave college and your friends. Your whole life has been turned upside down. You were held captive, not once but twice. You’ve given enough.”
My heart started thumping as tears pricked my eyes. “So have you, Seth.”
He stopped. “And look at me. I’m a god. No matter what I’ve given up, it sure as hell paid off in the end for me.”
“That doesn’t change what you’ve had to go through and sacrifice. You made that deal with the gods for Alex and Aiden without knowing you’d become a god one day and the deal would no longer mean anything.”
Thrusting a hand through his messy, golden hair, he growled low. “None of that matters. We’re not talking about me. You’ve done enough, Josie. Let me finish this.”
“Finish this how?” The clouds were racing across the blue skies.
Dropping to his knees in the sand beside me, he clasped my cheeks with his hands. “I can end the Titans. You and the other demigods won’t have to face them.”
In my chest, my heart twisted. “Seth—”
“And I’ll free Mitchell,” he continued. “Even though I really don’t care about him, and I know that is an asshole thing to say, but I only care about you.”
“That’s not true.” I wrapped my fingers around his wrists. “You care about Alex and Aiden.”
His brows rose. “Only because I’m supposed to.”
“Seth,” I replied flatly.
“Okay. It would suck if something bad happened to them, especially Alex. She will always be important to me,” he admitted, and where I used to feel jealousy at hearing that, I no longer did. Somewhere along the way, I’d accepted the special place in his heart that was reserved for Alex. “Aiden? Well, I wouldn’t exactly miss him.”
“But you? If something happened to you again?” Lighting shot between the clouds, lighting up the sky in brilliant white. “I would burn this fucking world to the ground and then I would destroy Olympus.”
Closing my eyes, I didn’t dare doubt what he said. “I know. I know, but you can’t kill the Titans. We have to entomb them, and I have to help.”
“I don’t care about entombing the Titans.”
Sliding my hands down his arms, I dropped my hands and opened my eyes. “You do realize that we have to live on this planet.”
Seth popped forward, kissed the tip of my nose, and then drew back, lowering his hands. “Killing the Titans isn’t going to destroy the whole world. I mean, shit. I killed Atlas and there were just a couple of earthquakes.”
“A couple of earthquakes that freed zombie daimons and probably killed some innocent people.”
He looked at me like he wasn’t sure he knew where I was going with that statement. Good news was, the clouds were already breaking up and blue peeked through once more. “Nothing has happened with Perses.”
“Maybe it’s because he’s not, I don’t know, super important, but we can’t be responsible for hundreds, thousands, or millions of deaths,” I reasoned. “I just can’t stay here and pretend like nothing is happening outside this beautiful island.”
Cursing under his breath, Seth sat back. We were at a stalemate. I understood his protective urge. I fully got it. And he had to understand why I couldn’t sit around here forever. Neither of us truly wanted to budge, though.
“You’re tired,” he said after a moment.
Surprised, I looked up at him again. “Can you feel that too?”
A half-grin appeared. “No, but you just . . . you look tired, Josie.”
He chuckled under his breath as he leaned over, brushing his lips along the curve of my cheek. “You look tired, but you’re still the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”
“That sounds a lot better.”
Kissing my temple, he pressed his forehead against mine. “How about I make you a deal?”
“Depends on what the deal is.”
He reached across me and placed his hand on my hip. “We are trying to find out where the Titans may be. Aiden has people he knows in the pure communities checking to see if there has been any pures that have gone missing. We’re not sitting here and doing nothing.”
Then why did it feel like I was doing nothing but vacationing on a Greek island? Sighing, I flopped onto my back. “Okay. So what’s the deal?”
“You stay where it’s safe until we at least figure out how to get the bands off,” he offered, stretching outside beside me. His thumb moved along my hip, inching my shirt up. “You don’t have your abilities right now. You’re as weak as a mortal. If you went out there now, it would be, frankly, stupid as hell. At least let us figure out how to get those bands off.”
I didn’t like it, but he had a point. With my powers blocked, I was more hindrance than help. “Fine.”
An almost painfully stunning smile appeared on his face, warming his otherworldly beauty. “Is it a deal then?”
“It’s a deal, Sethie.”
The following evening, Josie fell asleep on the couch while waiting for Alex and Aiden to come back in after Aiden received a call from one of the communities in Georgia. They’d only been gone five minutes, and she was already fast asleep.
Sitting at her hip, I brushed her hair back from her cheek. Her skin was too cool. Jaw working as frustration rose inside me, I looked over at a nearby cabinet. Lifting a hand, I willed the door open and tapped into the air element. A soft, thin blanket flew across the room. I snatched it up and then twisted back to Josie, draping it over her body.
Restlessness stirred within me like a slow-moving storm coming ashore, a sure sign that I would need to feed in the next day or so. I could probably go longer, but I didn’t want to let my levels slip. Not when Josie was in such a vulnerable state.
My gaze dropped to those damn bands. We had to get them off. Since the gods had created the damn bracelets, I suspected only they could remove them.
Drawn by approaching footsteps, my gaze flickered to the doorway. A second later, Alex popped her head in through the doorway. I held up a hand. Turning back to Josie, I bent over and kissed her cheek. She didn’t stir as I rose and joined Alex just outside the living room.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
Alex peeked into the living room once more. “She’s asleep again?”
Rubbing a hand across my chest, I nodded. “She fell asleep about a minute after you guys walked out of the room.”