“Mixing of the two races was forbidden to ensure that there would not be many and the Hematoi were ordered to kill any offspring of a pure and a half.”
My mouth dropped open. “That’s terrible.”
“That it may be, but we could not have a dozen Apollyons running around.” He looked over his shoulder at me. “Two are considered bad enough. Can you imagine if there were a dozen? No. You cannot. And besides, one slipped through every generation as planned. Though, we do make mistakes every once in awhile.”
I was really beginning to dislike Apollo. “So I’m a monster and a mistake?”
He winked. “The perfect kind of mistake.”
I scooted away from him a little.
The grin reached his vibrant eyes. “As long as the Apollyon behaves himself, he is left alone to do his duty. But when there is a second in the mix, it ups the power of the First. This was something we had not accounted for. Zeus thinks it is a kind of cosmic joke.”
Marcus leaned forward. “But why do you even allow the second to live if one is such a threat?”
Apollo stood again, apparently suffering from a hyperactivity disorder. “Ah, you see, we cannot touch the Apollyon. The markings are… wards against us. Only Thanatos’ Order can carry out a successful attack on the Apollyon and, of course, an Apollyon can kill another Apollyon.”
My head was starting to hurt. “And Seth would know this, right?”
“Seth would know all of this.”
I exhaled loudly. “I may just kill him.”
Apollo arched a brow. “Mankind and the Hematoi have something greater to fear than the daimon… issue. And by the way, the whole daimon problem can totally be blamed on Dionysus. He was the first to discover that aether could be addictive and he just had to show someone. Once Dionysus got so high off the stuff, he actually showed himself to a King of England. Do you know how many problems that caused?”
It was official. The gods were overgrown children. “That’s good to know, but can we get back to the whole greater fear thing?”
“The oracle had a prophecy upon your birth, that one would bring the true death to all of us and the other would be our savior.”
“Oh geez,” I muttered. “Grandma Piperi strikes again.”
Apollo ignored that. “She could not tell which one, though. And I grew curious. When Solaris came around, there had been no such prophecy. What made this time so different? So I checked in on you both throughout your lives. There was nothing particularly remarkable about either of you.”
“You’re really doing wonders for my self-esteem.”
He shrugged. “It is only the truth, Alexandria.”
“You did not tell the rest of the gods about Seth and Alexandria?” Marcus asked.
“No. I should have, and my decision not to has not made me many fans.” He folded his arms. “But then three years ago, the oracle foresaw your death if you stayed at the Covenant, which led to your mother leaving to protect you, although her prophecy did come true.”
It struck me then. “Because I came back to the Covenant…”
“And you did die,” Aiden finished, his hands curling into fists. “Gods.”
“The oracle is never wrong,” Apollo said. “I kept an eye on you up until the night before the daimon attack in Miami. I thought you had sensed me once. You were returning from the beach and you stopped just outside your door.”
My eyes widened. “I remember feeling something weird, but I… didn’t know.”
“If only I had stayed around…” He shook his head. “When I learned that the Covenant was actively seeking you, I disguised myself as Leon to see what was going on. I had no idea Lucian was aware of your true identity.”
“I never told him,” Marcus said. “I only knew because my sister confided in me before she left. Lucian already knew by then.”
“Interesting,” Apollo murmured. “I do believe I am not the only god hanging around.”
“Wouldn’t you know if there were other gods around?” Aiden asked.
“Not if they did not want me to know,” he answered. “And we could be moving in and out at different times. Although, I do not know what any god would have to gain by ensuring that the two Apollyons were brought together.”
“Do any of you want revenge?” I asked.
Apollo laughed. “When do we not want revenge against one another? We are constantly irking one another out of boredom. It would take no stretch of the imagination for one to take it all too seriously.”
“But what is the fear, Apollo?” Marcus asked. “Why would the Order try to take out Alexandria when she has done nothing?”
“It is not Alexandria they are trying to stabilize.”
“It’s Seth,” I whispered.
Aiden stiffened. His eyes turned a thundercloud gray. “It’s always about Seth.”
“But he hasn’t done anything,” I protested.
“Yet,” Apollo replied.
“Have you, I don’t know, foreseen him doing something?”
“Then this is all based on crazy Grandma Piperi?” I tucked my hair back. “And that’s all?”
Marcus’ eyes narrowed. “It does sound extreme.”
Apollo rolled his eyes. “You cannot tell me that Seth is not primed for disaster. He already has an ego of a god, and trust me, I would know. The kind of power that a God Killer can harness is astronomical and unstable. He is already feeling the effects of it.”
“What do you mean?” Aiden asked.
“Alex?” Apollo said softly.
I shook my head. There were moments when I questioned Seth’s sanity and even his intentions. Then there was Jackson. I couldn’t prove that it had been him, but… I shook my head. “No. He would never do something so stupid.”
“It is sweet.” In a second, Apollo was in front of me and at eye level. “That you would defend him even though I know you do not trust him entirely. Maybe at one point you did, but not anymore.”
I opened my mouth, but closed it. Lowering my gaze to my palms, I bit my lip. Once again, something poked at my memory. I swallowed.
“I must leave now,” Apollo said quietly.
I looked up, meeting his gaze. Apollo creeped me out and made me really question just how cool I was, but I sort of liked him. “Will you be back?”
“Yes, but I cannot be Leon anymore. My cover is… blown, and I must answer for not informing Zeus of what I have been doing.”
“I will probably be grounded.” He laughed at his own joke. I just stared at him. “I am Apollo, Alexandria. Zeus can kiss it.”
Marcus once again looked like he wanted to crawl under the bed.
“I will check in when I can.” He turned to Marcus. “I will also see if I can track Telly down. Oh, and see if you can have Solos Manolis transfer up here from Nashville. He is a half-blood you can trust.”
“I’ve heard of him,” Aiden spoke up. “He’s quite… outspoken.”
Apollo smiled and then, without so much as another word, disappeared from the room.
“Well, he sure knows how to make an exit.” Aiden stood, shaking his head.
Marcus and Aiden made plans to contact this Solos, but I was only half-listening. Curling on my side, I thought about what Apollo had said about Seth. Part of me flat-out refused to believe that Seth could be dangerous, but when I was being honest with myself, I wasn’t so sure about that. There were moments he’d proven that I really didn’t know what was going on in his head or what to expect from him. I couldn’t even figure out why he was so trusting of Lucian—a man who was as plastic as they came.
I hadn’t even realized Marcus had left until Aiden sat and placed his hand on my cheek. I wondered if he realized how much he’d been touching me lately. It was almost like an unconscious move on his part. Maybe he did it to remind himself that I was alive…
Suddenly, the fog cleared around my memories. I sat up so quickly that I gasped.
“Alex? Are you okay?” Aiden’s eyes were wide. “Alex?”
It took me several seconds to say it. “I remember… I remember what happened when I died.”
The look on his face said he hadn’t expected me to say that. His hand slid around the nape of my neck. “What do you mean?”
Tears clogged my throat. “I was in the Underworld, Aiden. There were all these people there, waiting to pass over and guards on horses. I even saw Charon and his boat—and his boat is much, much bigger and nicer. There was this girl named Kari who’d been killed by daimons while shopping for shoes and…”
“And what?” he asked, gently wiping away a tear.
“She said she was an oracle. That she knew we’d meet but not like this. And I saw Caleb. I got to talk to him, Aiden. Gods, he looked so… so happy. And he plays Wii with Persephone.” I laughed and wiped at my face. “I know it sounds crazy, but I saw him. And he said my mom was there and that she was happy. He told me that a big blond god was arguing with Hades over my soul. He must’ve meant Apollo. It was real, Aiden. I swear.”
“I believe you, Alex.” He cradled me against his chest. “Tell me what happened. Everything.”
I pressed my cheek against his shoulder, squeezing my eyes shut. I told him everything that Caleb had told me, including what he’d said about Seth. When I asked Aiden to get Olivia’s number so I could pass on his message, he shook his head, expression pained.
“I know you want to tell her,” he said, “and you will, but right now, we don’t want a lot of people knowing what happened. We don’t know who we can trust.”
In other words, it wasn’t Olivia we needed to be worried about, but we couldn’t run the risk of things being repeated. I hated the idea of not telling her right now, because it was important, but how could I tell her without giving away what happened? I couldn’t.
“I’m sorry, Alex.” His hand smoothed along my back. “But it has to wait.”
Part of me ached worse after realized I’d been with Caleb, because his loss was fresh again. But as Aiden held me long after I’d quieted down, the tears that came, in spite of everything, were joyful ones. The pain of Caleb’s loss was still there, but it was lessened by the knowledge that he was truly at peace, and so was my mom. And right now, that was all that mattered.
MY HEART WAS RACING, PUMPING BLOOD THROUGH my body way too fast for someone who’d died and all. I tried and failed not to stare at Aiden as a Guard carried my bags into his parents’ house. It was the middle of the night, and I should’ve felt cold, but I felt ridiculously hot. Especially after Deacon met us in the foyer with a funny little grin on his face.
“This is probably the safest place to stash you until we find Telly and are able to determine if anyone else here is tied to the Order.” Marcus dropped his arm on my shoulders. “Once I get back from Nashville, you’ll stay with me, or with Lucian, once he returns from New York.”