This couldn’t be happening.
Not after everything, this wasn’t happening.
Alex and Aiden were beside us. They were shouting, but their words weren’t making sense to me. Erin was there, as frozen as one of the entombed furies.
Josie shuddered, her entire body rocking mine. My gaze flew to hers. Her eyes were closed. “Josie! Open your eyes. Babe, come on. Open your eyes for me. Please.”
Her eyes didn’t open.
Terror turned my skin to ice. “Psychí mou, please open your eyes. Please, baby. Open your damn eyes.”
She didn’t move.
Her chest didn’t rise.
“Oh my gods,” Alex whispered, dropping down to her knees.
Hands slick with blood, I checked for a pulse, sliding my thumb along the side of her neck. I felt… Oh gods, I felt nothing. No pulse.
“No. No. No.” I fell back on my ass, pulling Josie into my lap. She was so limp. Her arms hanging loose at her sides. I looked up at Alex and then Aiden. His silver eyes were shadowed. “I don’t know what to do.” My voice cracked. “Tell me what to do.”
He shook his head wordlessly.
“She can’t go without oxygen for long. Her… The baby…” I turned back to her, dragging her hair out of her face. “I’ve got to get her breathing again.”
“Mouth to mouth,” Alex suggested, her voice thick. “You can try—”
A fissure of energy rippled across the beach. The glyphs appeared on my skin. There was a flash of light and then a shadow fell over us, blocking out the sun.
Apollo knelt between Alex and Aiden, his gaze focused on Josie.
“Help her,” I begged him. I didn’t care that I had never begged a day in my life before. “Please, Apollo. Help her.”
He touched her forehead. “Her soul is leaving, Seth. The wound is deadly. Your child is already—”
“No!” I shouted, my grip tightening on her. “She is not dead. Our child is not dead.”
He smoothed the blood from her forehead, blood I had tracked there. “I’ve seen this,” he said, trailing his fingers down the side of her face. “I’ve known this was going to happen. You do not understand how hard it is to know how your daughter and grandson will die.”
I stared at him. “No.”
His gaze shifted to mine. “It is Fate, Seth. It is the prophecy written eons ago.”
“No.” Rage filled me as I rocked back. My cheeks were damp as my vision blurred. “Fuck Fate! Fuck prophecies! I will not lose her or my child. This will not be taken from us. I swear to gods, I will—”
“You will do nothing,” he said calmly, his eyes turning all-white. “For it is not your prophecy. It is mine. And it is your son’s. For love is the root of all that is good, and the root of all things that are evil. Love is the root of the Apollyon. Fate is afoot,” he continued, moving his hand to Josie’s sternum, over his icon that was engraved in her skin. “Things cannot be undone. Fate has looked into the past and into the future. History is on repeat.”
“What the hell?” snapped Alex, recognizing the prophecy that she’d heard years ago at the Covenant in North Carolina.
Fine hairs rose all over my body as Apollo’s voice carried through the salty air.
“Know the difference between need and love.” Apollo began to glow. From the top of his golden head, down through his entire body, he became as bright as the sun. “For what the gods have feared has come to pass. The end of the old is here, and the beginning of the new has been ushered in.” His voice rose, carrying out to sea and over the cliffs, just as Ewan the nymph’s voice had. “For the sun child and the new god will give birth to a new era and the great creators will fall one by one, reshaping our homes and hearths, reaping man and mortal alike.”
I shuddered as the glow radiated from his hand and enveloped Josie in warm golden light, blurring out her features as I held her in my arms.
“A bloody path was chosen,” Apollo said, and lightning ripped across the rapidly darkening sky. Night fell, pitching the world into darkness. “The Great War fought by the few has come to pass, and in the end, the sun has fallen, and the moon will reign until the new sun rises.”
My skin burned from holding onto Josie, but I didn’t let her go. I would not let her go. I’d promised her I wouldn’t let go, and I would never do it. Never.
Apollo’s voice had weakened as the light pulled back from Josie and traveled up his arm. I could see Apollo’s features again. He stared down at Josie. “She carries the god of music, truth, and prophecy, the god of sun and light, plague and poetry, and when he comes of age, he will take his rightful place among the Olympians. He will rule until end times.”
The bright glow receded from his eyes. The whites were milky and flat. “Tell her that I have always been proud of her. That I have always loved her. Tell her that I give this to her not out of obligation, but out of love for my child. Tell her that, Seth.”
I opened my mouth, but fuck, I was out of words. All words. Across from me, Alex fell to her butt, a broken sound coming from her, because Apollo… He was…
Flaking piece by piece, drifting into the air around him. The night cleared as rays of sunlight streamed down, reflecting off the glittering sand. Apollo was slowly, right before our eyes, becoming nothing as he returned to the light all around us.
“The new sun…” Apollo said, his voice faint as he simply disappeared. “…has risen.”
Josie jerked in my arms, and my gaze shot back to her face. Color returned to her skin, spreading across her face and down her throat, a pink flush that brought life back to her body. I trembled. Her eyes flew open as she dragged in a huge gulp of air. Her chest rose and fell heavily.
“Seth?” she whispered, voice hoarse.
Lifting her against my chest, I buried my face in her neck as I lost all control. Didn’t even care. I fucking sobbed as I held her.
“Seth.” Her voice was muffled. She managed to pull back and lift her arms. She clasped my cheeks and tilted my head up. Seth? Why are you crying?”
A hoarse laugh escaped me as I pressed my forehead against hers. “I love you, Josie. I love you.”
The rising sun crested along the horizon, turning the sky a burnt orange and deep violet as a warm breeze washed over my skin, stirring the gauzy curtains of the open doorway behind me. Having woken an hour or so ago and unable to lie still, I found myself out on the balcony, listening to nothing but the rolling waves and distant call of waking birds.
I wanted to be in there, asleep beside Josie, but my damn brain just would not shut down, damn near replaying every moment of my life the last couple of years. From the moment I found out I was the Apollyon, to when I first stepped foot on Deity Island and beyond, it was “Seth’s Greatest Hits,” and then not so much, on repeat.
It was like I was trying to figure out how, after everything that had happened and everything I’d done and after every good and bad moment, I had still gotten here.
Closing my eyes, I tilted my head back, letting the warmth of the sun bake my skin. The future was…it was here.
Sounded corny as hell to think that, but it was true.
How did I get so lucky? It was a question I’d asked myself a hundred times since I met Josie, but after I’d almost lost myself only to almost lose her and our child, it was a question I couldn’t shake. There were so many people who were better than me who had lost so much.
But here I was still tasting the bitter fear and rancid hopelessness as I’d watched the life start to seep out of Josie’s beautiful eyes. Probably be a hundred years, maybe even a thousand before I forgot that feeling. Hell, there was a chance I never would, but Josie was safe. Our child was safe.
And I wasn’t living with that fear and hopelessness. I wasn’t living that life of loss that Josie had experienced while I’d been trapped in that nothingness. Instead, we were…
We were home.
This island, this house, had never felt like home to me. Hell, no place had felt like a home, but this house? It had been a cold and barren place, no matter how bright the sun shone on it or how many people filled the rooms. This house was just the bones of a home, nothing of substance inside, tainted by memories of a cold mother and a fate I’d never asked for.