Aiden took another step toward me. I reacted, a response born out of anger and pain. I launched myself at him, using moves I hadn’t practiced in years. Simple things like kicks and punches were one thing, but an offensive attack was something I’d barely learned.
He caught my hand and swung me around so I faced the other direction. In a matter of seconds, he had my arms pinned, but al the pain and the sorrow rose in me, overriding any common sense. I bent forward, intent on getting enough space between us to deliver a vicious back kick.
“Don’t,” Aiden warned, his voice deceptively soft. “I don’t want to hurt you. ”
My breath came out harsh and ragged. I could feel the warm blood trickling down my neck, mixing with sweat. I kept fighting even though my head swam, and the fact that Aiden held me off so easily only made my world turn red with rage.
“Whoa!” Kain yel ed from the sidelines, “Alex, you know us! Don’t you remember me? We aren’t going to hurt you. ”
“Shut up!” I broke free of Aiden’s grasp, dodging Kain and Mister Steroids. None of them expected me to run from them, but that’s what I did.
I made it to the door leading out of the factory, dodged the broken wood and rushed outside. My feet carried me toward the field across the street. My thoughts were a complete mess. Why was I running? Hadn’t I been trying to get back to the Covenant since the daimon attack in Miami?
My body didn’t want to do this, but I kept running through the tal weeds and prickly bushes. Heavy footsteps sounded behind me, growing closer and closer. My vision blurred a bit, my heart thundered in my chest. I was so confused, so—
A hard body crashed into me, knocking the air right out of my lungs. I went down in a spiraling mess of legs and arms.
Somehow, Aiden twisted around and took the brunt of the fal . I landed on top of him, and I stayed there for a moment before he rol ed me over, pinning me down into the itchy field grass.
Panic and rage burst through me. “Now? Where were you a week ago? Where was the Covenant when my mother was being kil ed? Where were you?”
Aiden jerked back, eyes wide. “I’m sorry. We didn’t—”
His apology only angered me further. I wanted to hurt him.
I wanted to make him let me go. I wanted… I wanted… I didn’t know what the hel I wanted, but I couldn’t stop myself from screaming, clawing, and kicking him. Only when Aiden pressed his long, lean body against mine did I stop. His weight, the close proximity, held me immobile.
There wasn’t an inch of space between us. I could feel the hard ripple of his abdominal muscles pressing against my stomach, could feel his lips only inches from mine.
Suddenly I entertained a wild idea. I wondered if his lips felt as good as they looked… because they looked awesome.
That was a wrong thought to have. I had to be crazy—the only plausible excuse for what I was doing and thinking. The way I stared at his lips or the fact I desperately wanted to be kissed—al wrong for a multitude of reasons. Besides the fact I’d just tried to knock his head off, I looked like a mess.
Grime dirtied my face beyond recognition; I hadn’t showered in a week and I was pretty sure I smel ed. I was that gross.
But the way he lowered his head, I real y thought he was going to kiss me. My entire body tensed in anticipation, like waiting to be kissed for the first time, and this was definitely not the first time I’d been kissed. I’d kissed lots of boys, but not him.
Not a pure-blood.
Aiden shifted, pressing down further. I inhaled sharply and my mind raced a mil ion miles a second, spewing out nothing helpful. He moved his right hand to my forehead.
Warning bel s went off.
He murmured a compulsion, fast and low, too quick for me to make out the words.
Son of a—
A sudden darkness rushed me, void of thought and meaning. There was no fighting something that powerful, and without getting out so much as a word of protest, I sank into its murky depths.
WHATEVER MY HEAD RESTED ON FELT FIRM, BUT
ODDLY comfortable. I snuggled closer, feeling safe and warm—something I hadn’t felt since Mom pul ed my butt from the Covenant three years ago. Jumping from place to place rarely afforded such a comfort. Something wasn’t right.
My eyes flew open.
Son of a bitch.
I jerked back from Aiden’s shoulder so fast I cracked my head against the window. “Crap!”
He turned toward me, his dark brows high. “Are you okay?”
I ignored the concern in his voice and glared at him. I had no idea how long I’d been out of it. Judging by the deep blue of the sky outside the tinted windows, I guessed it’d been hours. Pures weren’t supposed to use compulsions on halfs who weren’t in servitude; it was considered highly unethical since compulsions stripped people of free wil , choice, and everything.
Damn Hematoi. Not that they ever cared about ethics.
Before the original demigods had died along with Hercules and Perseus, they’d al shacked up with each other in the way only the Greeks could. Those unions had produced the pure-bloods—the Hematoi—a very, very powerful race. They could wield control over the four elements: air, water, fire, and earth, and manipulate that raw power into spel s and compulsions. Pures never were to use their gifts against another pure. Doing so meant imprisonment—or even death in some cases.
Being a half-blood, the product of a pure-blood and ordinary old human—a mongrel by pure standards—I had no control over the elements. My kind was gifted with the same strength and speed the pures had, but we had an extra special gift that set us apart. We could see through the elemental magic the daimons used. The pures couldn’t.
There were a lot of us halfs running around, probably more than pure-bloods. Considering pures married to improve their position in our society instead of marrying for love, they tended to fool around— a lot. Being that they weren’t susceptible to diseases that plagued mortals, I figured they assumed it was okay to forego protection. As it turned out, their half-blood offspring served a very valuable position in the pure-blood society.
“Alex. ” Aiden frowned as he watched me. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. ” I scowled while taking in my surroundings. We were in something big—probably one of the Covenant’s super-large Hummers that could plow over an entire vil age. Pures weren’t concerned with things like money and gas mileage. “The bigger the better” was their unofficial motto.
The other pure—the enormous one—was behind the wheel and Kain sat in the passenger seat, silently staring out the window. “Where are we?”
“We’re on the coast, just outside of Bald Head Island.
We’re almost to Deity Island,” Aiden answered.
My heart jumped. “What?”
“We’re going back to the Covenant, Alex. ”
The Covenant—the place I’d trained and cal ed home up until three years ago. Sighing, I rubbed the back of my head. “Did the Covenant send you? Or was it… my stepfather?”
“The Covenant. ”
I breathed easier. My pure-blooded stepfather wouldn’t be happy to see me. “You work for the Covenant now?”
“No. I’m just a Sentinel. I’m more on loan for the time being. Your uncle sent us to find you. ” Aiden paused, glancing out the window. “A lot has changed since you’ve been gone. ”
I wanted to ask what a Sentinel got accomplished on the wel protected Deity Island, but I figured it wasn’t any of my business. “What’s changed?”
“Wel , your uncle is now the Dean of the Covenant. ”
“Marcus? Wait. What? What happened to Dean Nasso?”
“He died about two years ago. ”
“Oh. ” No big surprise there. He’d been old as dirt. I didn’t say anything else as I mul ed over the fact my uncle was now Dean Andros. Ugh . I made a face. I barely knew the man, but the last I remembered, he’d been working his way up through the pure-blood politics. I shouldn’t be surprised he’d found his way into such a coveted position.
“Alex, I’m sorry about the compulsion back there. ” Aiden broke the silence that had stretched between us. “I didn’t want you to hurt yourself. ”
I didn’t respond.
“And… I’m sorry about your mother. We searched everywhere for you two, but you didn’t stay in one place long enough. We were too late. ”
My heart squeezed in my chest. “Yeah, you were too late. ”
Another few minutes of silence fil ed the Hummer. “Why did your mother leave three years ago?”
I peeked through the curtain of my hair. Aiden watched me as he waited for an answer to his loaded question. “I don’t know. ”
Since the age of seven, I had been a half-blood in training—one of the so cal ed “privileged” halfs. We had two options in life—either attend the Covenant or go into the working class. Halfs who had a pure-blood wil ing to speak for them and foot the cost of an education were enrol ed in the Covenant to train as Sentinels or Guards.
The other halfs weren’t so lucky.
They were rounded up by the Masters, a group of pures who excel ed at the art of compulsion. An elixir had been created out of a special blend of poppy flowers and tea.
The concoction worked differently in a half’s blood. Instead of leaving them lethargic and sleepy, the refined poppy made them compliant and vacant—giving them a high they never came down from. Masters started indentured halfs on the elixir at the age of seven—the age of reason—and continued on in daily doses. No education. No freedom.
The Masters were ultimately responsible for dealing out the elixir and monitoring the behaviors of the halfs in servitude. They were also the ones who marked them on their forehead. A circle with a line through it—the painful y visible sign of slavery.
Al halfs feared that future. Even if we did end up training in the Covenant, it took only one wrong move before we were given the drink that keeps on giving. What my mom did by pul ing me out of the Covenant without so much as an explanation was a major strike against me.
I was also sure taking half of her husband’s—my stepfather’s—fortune wouldn’t help me out any, either.
Then there were al those times I should’ve contacted the Covenant and turned my mom in, done what was expected of me. One cal —one stupid cal —would have saved her life.
The Covenant would hold that against me, too.
The memory of waking up and stumbling into my worst nightmare resurfaced. The day before, she’d asked that I clean up the balcony garden I’d demanded on having, but I’d slept in. By the time I’d gotten up and grabbed the little bag of garden tools, it’d been noon.
Figuring Mom was already working on the garden, I’d gone out on the balcony, but the garden was empty. I’d stood there for a while, staring down at the al ey across the street, toying with the garden spade. Then, from the shadows, a man had stepped out—a daimon.
He’d stood there in broad daylight, staring up at me.
He’d been so close I could’ve chucked the spade and hit him. With my heart in my throat, I’d jerked back from the railing. I’d rushed back into the house, screaming for her.