My mouth dropped open.
“What?” Alex demanded. “He is not hitting you with a god bolt!”
“This has gotten really weird,” Deacon murmured.
Seth tilted his head to the side. “Not like it’s going to kill him or anything.”
“It’s still going to hurt!” argued Alex.
“Actually, when you’re dead, it just feels like a quick zap.”
My jaw was now on the ground. “Have you . . . been hit with a god bolt before?”
Caleb snorted. “Persephone and Hades are sore losers when they play Mario Kart or when they lose at anything. I’ve been zapped more times than I can count.”
“Alrighty then,” I murmured.
“But I am here to help you. I can remove those bands.” Caleb twisted toward Seth as he spoke. “Just let me spend a couple of minutes with everyone before you send me back, okay?”
Seth appeared to consider this. “You can have as much time as you want.”
“Thank you.” Sliding Alex a coy look, Caleb grinned. “Told you there was always hope.”
Alex’s lips pursed while Seth’s eyes narrowed. I had no idea what that was about, but Caleb took my hands in his. It was only then that I realized that a dead person was holding my hands.
A legit dead person.
I tried to keep my expression blank as he turned my palms up. My gaze flickered over his shoulder, to the gateway. There was nothing but a dark abyss beyond the doors, but I couldn’t help but wonder—if I walked through them, would I be able to find my mother?
It was too much of a risk—for me and for the child I carried.
Caleb smoothed his thumbs over the thin bands. I held my breath. Nothing happened at first. I glanced up at him, and he gave a little shrug. One side of his lips curled down. “It should—”
A soft click interrupted him, and a second later the bands slipped off my wrists. Caleb let go of my hands, quickly catching them as a jolt of what felt like electricity shot through my veins.
Gasping, I took a step back as I lifted my hands. A white tint filled the veins of my hands and flowed up my arms. I could feel the warmth under my skin, washing over me. My attention shot to Seth.
His eyes were luminous as he stared at me. He could see this—the aether following the network of vessels, pumping my body full of light and power. And I could feel it.
It was like stepping under cold water first thing in the morning. My body was thrust into shock, kicking my pulse and heart rate up. A rush of pins and needles started at my feet and hit every inch of my body. A final pulse of heat invaded my insides, centering around the scar Apollo had left behind on the center of my chest.
And then it was all gone, except . . .
Except I could feel the aether in me. Sucking in a sharp breath, I turned to Seth. “Do I . . . Can you see it now?”
“Yeah.” Amber eyes glowed as he stared at me—at my stomach. He looked like he might tip over and fall on his ass again. “Yeah, I can see it. Can you use it?”
There was only one more way to make sure that I was back to, well, what the new normal was. Focusing on the can of soda on my tray, I lifted my hand.
Luke backed up. “Oh jeez.”
Ignoring him, I tapped into the air element. The can shook and then lifted straight up. I snatched it out of the air, sloshing brown liquid over my hand. My gaze flew to Seth’s. “I’m back.”
Seth reached over, taking my free hand. He tugged me toward him. I was careful to not spill my drink on him. Wrapping an arm around my waist, he tilted his head toward Caleb. “Thank you, man.”
“Yes. Thank you,” I said to him.
“No problem.” Holding the bands in his hands, he grinned. “Not often I get to actually be helpful. Kind of like old times.”
My heart tugged as I saw Alex’s face crumple a little. She made a sound that sounded like a squeal and then grabbed the blond boy, pulling him in for a hug. Within seconds, Caleb was surrounded by her, Deacon and Luke. Aiden joined them, too.
I guessed Alex and Aiden got to see Caleb when they were in the Underworld, but I supposed it was different to see each other here, where everyone was actually . . . sort of alive.
As the happy reunion took place, Seth pressed his cheek to mine. When he spoke, he did so in a low enough voice that only I could hear him. “How are you feeling?”
“Good.” I knew what he was asking. “I feel the same, but just not as . . . as tired, if that makes sense.”
“It does.” He kissed the space below my ear. “I now understand what I saw flickering when I looked at you.”
I turned my cheek to his. “What do you mean?”
The breath Seth took, I felt. “Remember when I said the aether looked like it was flickering in you? It wasn’t your aether I’d been seeing. You must’ve been nearly depleted, because I can still see the part that’s flickering. I think . . . no, I know it’s the baby.”
“What?” I drew back, gaping.
His eyes were soft as he kept his voice low. “I can still see it. I see your aether and I see the . . . I see the baby’s.”
My lips parted, but I didn’t have the words. Emotion crawled up my throat. He could see the aether in our child? That was . . . Wow. I really didn’t know how to process that. “Does it . . . does it look good? Like, okay?”
“I think so.” He placed his forehead against mine. “I mean, it has to be.”
And I suddenly wanted to cry—cry happy tears.
So I face-planted his shoulder.
Somehow Seth got the can of Coke out of my hand and it went somewhere, who knew where, and then both of his arms were around me. “I’m not usually this emotional,” I said into his chest, repeating the same thing Alex had said mere minutes before.
“What?” he asked.
My voice was still muffled but I continued anyway. “It’s just that . . . you can see it and that just makes it all the more real.”
His hand pressed into my back as he whispered my name into my ear. “Sometimes I have no idea how your brain words, but I love you,” he said, his grip tightening. “I love you with every ounce of my being.”
There was no stopping my smile. No matter what, this was a beginning.
Before I zapped Caleb back to the Underworld with a god bolt, I pulled Deacon aside while Josie sat with Luke and listened to Deacon regale them with tales of the Underworld, Nintendo edition.
He had the info that I needed.
The name of the warehouse was in fact an abandoned warehouse just outside Piney Woods. That was where Josie had been held, along with the other two, and it was most likely where I would find Hyperion.
Something told me that if he sensed me, he would come. He was a dumb motherfucker like that.
“What are you going to do?” Deacon asked as he glanced over at the group. “Do some scouting? Free the demigod?” He paused. “Call out Hyperion and kill him?”
I shrugged a shoulder.
Deacon tipped his head back. “You don’t have to tell me, because I’m sure I already know.”
“Is that so?”
He nodded. “I don’t blame you for it.”
I started to ask him what he wasn’t blaming me for, but I stopped as my gaze landed on him. Those silver eyes were far too observant. Sometimes I forgot just how tuned into things Deacon was. We all did.
“Just make sure you come back,” he said, looking away—looking at Josie. “She doesn’t deserve to be left again.”
“I know,” I said, following his gaze. “And I will come back.”
Kissing Josie on the cheek, I closed my eyes and forced myself out of the bed. It was a hard thing to do. The warmth of her bare skin against mine and the taste of her on my tongue was a lure that was hard to resist.
But I had to, because there was something I needed to take care of before she woke.
I changed quickly, leaving the daggers on the dresser. I would not need them. Not for this. Before I left, I allowed myself one more long look at her.
She was so beautiful to me.
Curled on her side with her hands snug under her cheek and her long hair sprayed out across the pillow, she looked like an angel to me. And she really was my own personal angel. I knew if she was awake and knew of my plan, she would advise me against it. Josie might even manage to sway me. After all, she was a calming presence when I wanted to Hulk-smash the world, but I didn’t need to be calm.