"Why do you want to become a Sentinel? Is it a sense of obligation or…?"
That question took me a few moments to respond to. "It's not about protecting pures, if that's what you're getting at. That's what the Guards are for."
"Of course you wouldn't settle on being a Guard," Seth said mostly to himself.
"Daimons kill for no reason-even mortals. What kind of creature just kills for the fun of it? Anyway, I'd rather do something about it than sit around and wait for them to attack."
"What if you had a different choice?"
"Servitude?" I stared at him. "Are you serious?"
He rolled his eyes. "I mean, what if you had other choices not given to half-bloods? To live a normal life?"
"I already did that," I reminded him, "for three years."
"Would you do it again?"
Why he was asking this? "Would you?"
Seth snorted. "I wouldn't give up being a Sentinel for the world. Or being the Apollyon. I rock."
Laughing, I rolled my eyes. "Wow. You're so humble."
"Why should I be humble? I'm great."
I didn't even bother responding, because I felt confident he was being serious. We sat in silence for a little while. I knew he caught I hadn't answered his question, but in not-so-typical Seth fashion, he didn't push it. "Did you see the furies in the lobby?"
"Aiden said they're here because the gods feel the Council isn't doing an adequate job." I toyed with the hem of my shirt. "Do you think… we need to be worried about them?"
"Ah… if they get loose, then it could be a… potential problem."
"Oh." I don't know what made me say the next thing that came out of mouth. "I yelled at Aiden in training."
Seth nudged my arm with his shoulder. "I'm afraid to ask."
"He agrees with the new rules." I yawned. "So I yelled at him."
"And he said you were being irrational, huh?"
"Yeah, so I yelled at him some more. I told him he was just like all the other pures."
"Well, he is like other pures."
I shifted down, trying to ease the ache in my side. "Not really."
Seth frowned down at me. "Alex, he's a pure-blood. Just because he chose to become a Sentinel doesn't make him any different. Ultimately, Aiden will always side with the gods. Not us."
"You mean the pures, not the gods." Weary, I lay my head down on the pillow and closed my eyes. Our hour was almost up. Maybe I'd get some sleep tonight. "You don't know him, Seth."
"I don't need to know him to know what he's capable of."
My brows rose, but I ignored that. "I need to apologize to him."
"You don't need to apologize to him." He bent down, brushing my hair off my cheek. "I'm being serious. You'll be the next Apollyon, Alex.
You won't apologize to him, to any pure, or even to a god."
After a few moments of silence I said, "You know you need to leave, right? Even if I fall asleep, you're going to leave?"
"Of course." I couldn't see him, but I heard the smile in his voice. Seth kept talking, bombarding me with questions, but I gave up answering them as sleep pawed at me, the kind of sleep I was almost sure I wouldn't wake up from in an hour or two. I finally gave into it, confident that when I awoke in the morning, Seth would be gone.
It felt like someone had trapped me face down on the bed. I thought I was having one of those dream paralysis things I'd read about once, but then I realized what pinned me to the bed was an arm.
And that arm belonged to Seth.
He hadn't left, and apparently, Seth was a cuddler.
His arm curled around my back, fingers balled into the comforter. His steady breath blew across my neck, almost as if he had moved my hair out of the way. Under a different circumstance, I would have enjoyed the feeling of having someone wrapped around me so closely. Because the warmth Seth exuded was nice-very nice. It was Seth, yet for a moment-a really tiny moment-I closed my eyes and drank in the warmth.
Then I wriggled out from underneath him, beat him on the chest until he woke up, and yelled at him for staying. All of this made me late for my first class, and the whole episode left me in a weird funk, which wasn't helped when I passed Lea in the hallway.
Even with the black eye and bandaged nose, Lea looked good. No one could sneer like her. I ignored her for the most part, feeling ambivalent for doing so.
In Technical Truth and Legends, which was a cross between history and English, I usually sat beside Thea, a quiet pure I'd met over the summer, but today Deacon St. Delphi slid into the seat beside me.
I liked Deacon for a lot of reasons-none of them being the fact he was Aiden's younger brother. He tended to drink a bit too much, but he was fun-lots of it.
"Hey there." Deacon dropped his book on the desk.
"Why isn't Thea sitting here?"
He shrugged and several blond curls fell across his gray eyes, the only physical trait he and his brother shared. "Some of the pures are scared of you. Thea knows we're friends. She asked to switch."
"Thea's scared of me? Since when? What did I do to her?"
"It's not you personally. A lot of us are freaked out right now."
"That's nice to know." I focused on the chalkboard. Our teacher hadn't showed yet.
"Besides, you should be nice to me."
I cracked a half smile for him. "I'm always nice to you, Deacon.
"Yeah, but you need to be nicer. I'm losing a lot of cool points being seen talking to you."
I glared at him.
Deacon grinned. One dimple in his right cheek appeared. "Not just you, but any half at this moment. We pures don't trust a single one of you. Every half is suspect. We're just waiting for one of you to pounce on us and suck away at our aether."
"Then why are you talking to me?"
"Have I ever cared for what the other pures think?" His voice was loud enough for several of the pures seated around us to hear. I cringed inwardly. "Anyway, my brother thinks I need a babysitter while he goes to Council. Probably thinks I'm going to overdose or something without him being up my ass."
"That's not what he thinks. He's probably worried someone will suck up all your aether."
Deacon arched an eyebrow at me. "Defensive, aren't you, when it comes to my brother?"
Looking away, I felt my cheeks flush. "No. You give him a hard time when all he does is care about you."
"I don't know. He just thinks I'm a drunk little shit, which I am." He grinned, but it rang sort of false. "Anyway, his birthday is coming up. He's going to be twenty-one, yet he acts like he's thirty."
"'Cuz thirty is real old," I said. Of course I hadn't forgotten Aiden's birthday. It was the day before Halloween, and a week or so before we left for the Council.
"Anyway, I thought about throwing him a party. You should come."
I shook my head, grinning. "Deacon, I'm not allowed to go anywhere. None of the halfs are." I also doubted Aiden would be down with a party, but I didn't say that. I think Deacon was serious in wanting to do something for Aiden, and I didn't want to hurt his feelings.
"So you excited about going to Council? I hear they know how to party up there.
Edginess turned my tummy upside down. "Excited isn't the word I'd use."
Our teacher finally showed up and launched into a long-winded, dry lecture about archetypes and the first creation of the Council. Other than wanting to bang my head against the desk, the class was a breeze. So was the rest of the morning, once I got used to the suspicious looks. They weren't directed just at me, but at any and all half-bloods.
The pures were a paranoid bunch.
Halfway through Silat training, several Guards entered the room, bringing everyone to a halt. I sent Caleb and Luke a nervous look as the first Guard started reading out names in a flat, emotionless tone. My name was among the ten called out.
My stomach turned over as I grabbed my bag and followed the other halfs out. Their faces were pale, eyes sharp with distrust. Quietly, we trailed behind the three Guards to the med center. The sickening feeling expanded when I saw we were going to the same room Kain had been kept in. That alone was enough to make me want to flee.
One of the male nurses, a pure with salt and pepper hair, faced our group. Part of me hoped Lucian really had promised Seth that I wouldn't have to go through with the exams, but I should've known better. There was no bond between us, nothing to make him care about me.
The pure smiled, showing off a row of straight teeth. Something about his smile clenched my lungs. There were three female halfs in the group, and his mouth twisted into a greasy grin. Nausea rose sharply.
"We will take you in one at a time. We will make this as fast as possible for you," the pure said. "Any questions?"
I raised my hand, heart tumbling over itself.
"Yes?" He sounded surprised.
"What if we don't agree to this?"
The pure's gaze darted to the Guards behind me, and then bounced back to me. "There's nothing to be worried about. It will be over within a couple of minutes."
I nodded slowly, feeling the eyes of the other halfs on me and the Guards shifting uncomfortably. "Yeah, I'm not down with this."
"But… you have no choice," he said slowly.
"But I do and I'm choosing no. And if you don't like that, then I'd like to see you try to make me do this."
That was pretty much when the Guards behind me decided they were going to try to make me do this. And that is when I decided I was going to be hitting someone again.
I ELBOWED THE FIRST GUARD IN HIS STOMACH. THE SECOND Guard tried to force me into a corner, but my spin kick sent her flying into a gurney. The third and final Guard took a swing at me, and I'm not sure what happened, but I do know I kind of lost it.
A deep and terrible rage flowed through me. Time sped up incredibly fast. I caught the Guard's hand and twisted his arm backwards, spinning him around. Planting my foot in his back, I knocked him into a table. The first Guard came at me again. He dodged my kick, but I spun around before he could anticipate my next move and my foot connected with his chin. The impact sent him staggering back.
The female half rushed me. I jumped the table of medical gloves and cotton swabs with startling grace. There was a second when I acknowledged that I shouldn't have been able to do that. Not clear a five-foot table with one jump. Especially when I hadn't even looked behind me, but then the heel of my shoe slammed into the cart, crashing it into the female's chest. The three Guards struggled on the floor in various degrees of pain.