Pure, p.15
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       Pure, p.15

         Part #2 of Covenant series by Jennifer L. Armentrout
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Page 15


  I needed to get a grip.

  I knew this, but I rarely saw Aiden in anything other than workout clothes or a uniform. He’d been wearing something different the night I’d sent those spirit boats into the sea, but I hadn’t been paying attention. My mind had been occupied.

  It was sure as hell occupied in a totally different way now.

  “It’s no problem,” he said. “You ready?”

  I nodded in a jerky motion. Suddenly, I felt as adept as a cow in a china shop. “So what are we doing?” I asked, humiliated to hear my voice crack halfway through the question.

  Either Aiden hadn’t noticed or he pretended otherwise. “It’s a surprise, Alex. ” He started walking. “Are you coming, or what?”

  I hurried behind him, my suspicions were confirmed when he led me out the back way. “We’re leaving the Covenant, aren’t we?”

  He pushed the hair off his forehead, clearly trying not to smile. Aiden reached into his pocket and dangled keys in front of my face. “Yes. ”

  “Field experience! I knew it. ” Silently, I thanked every god there was that I’d developed enough common sense to change shoes.

  Aiden looked at me strangely. “I guess you can consider this field experience. ”

  I followed him to one of the black Hummers, feeling rather smug for figuring out his surprise. “So what are we going to do? Trail some daimons back to their hive?” I climbed into the passenger side and waited until he got behind the wheel. “I have to admit, I’m not really good at the whole tailing thing. I’m more—”

  “I know. ” He turned on the engine and eased the dinosaur-sized vehicle out of the fleet of cars. “You’re more of an action girl instead of a sit-and-be-quiet girl. ”

  I smiled in spite of the fact I doubted that was a compliment. “Well, my quiet-as-a-ninja skill could definitely use some practice. ”

  Another quick smile appeared. “But the other skills? Not so much. I really don’t think you need much more of the additional practices. You’d definitely have more time to yourself—time to rest. ”

  Now I really beamed. . . for about three seconds. No extra practices also meant no Aiden. My smiled faded as I stared at him. Suddenly, a giant clock appeared between us, quickly counting down to when there would be no more Aiden in my life.

  A rather depressing thought.


  I faced straight ahead, swallowing down the lump in my throat. “Nothing. ”

  When we were stopped by the first set of Guards, I expected them to demand what Aiden was doing with a half-blood. But they let us pass without so much as asking for an explanation. The same thing happened at the second bridge, the one leading off of Deity Island and onto Bald Head Island.

  “I can’t believe they just let you take me off the island without a single question,” I said as Aiden navigated the streets of the mortal island. “What happened to the rules?”

  “I’m a pure-blood. ”

  “And I’m a half-blood—a half-blood who’s not supposed to step one foot off the Covenant, let alone Deity Island. Not that I’m complaining or anything. I’m just a little surprised. ”

  “They assume we’re doing field training. ”

  I glanced at him. “Aren’t we?”

  Smiling, Aiden leaned over and turned on the radio. He settled on a rock station, and I stared at him. The early smugness started to flake away. He didn’t give any further explanation when I asked again, and finally, I decided to stop asking and we started talking about normal things. My classes, an episode of some TV show called Sanford and Son—never heard of it—but some guy apparently pretended to have a heart attack every episode, and Aiden found it hilarious. I wasn’t convinced of the hilarity.

  We talked about how I’d almost beaten him in practice yesterday, and how he was considering buying a motorcycle. Which I was strongly behind, because really, what could make Aiden hotter than he already was?

  A motorcycle.

  “What kind of bike are you looking at?”

  He got this dreamy, far-off look on his face—almost like the kind of look I got when I saw chocolate… or him. “A Hayabusa. ” He passed a string of cars without missing a beat.

  “A crotch rocket?” I reached for the radio, flipping the stations. Aiden had the same thought in mind, because his fingers brushed over mine. I jerked back, flushed.

  Aiden cleared his throat. “It’s more than a crotch rocket. It’s, well, let me put it this way. If it came down between me saving a Hayabusa or the Minister, it would be a difficult decision. ”

  I busted out laughing. “Oh, my gods, I can’t believe you admitted that. ”

  He started to smile. “Well. ”

  “It’s awesome,” I gasped.

  The smile grew, exposing the deep dimples in his cheeks. For a moment, I stopped laughing, stop smiling—hell, I stopped breathing. Then I saw the sign along the interstate for Asheboro, and I really did stop breathing for a couple of seconds.

  We were thirty miles from Asheboro. “I know Asheboro,” I whispered.

  “I know. ”

  I could feel his eyes on me, but I couldn’t pull my gaze from the window. The trees lining the road formed an array of browns, reds, and yellows. The last time I’d been near Asheboro it had been summer, and the rolling hills had been green.

  Seven years ago.

  Tearing myself away from the window, I stared at Aiden. He focused on the road. “I know where we’re going. ”

  “You do?”

  Excitement bubbled through me. So did disbelief. I bounced forward in my seat. “This isn’t field experience. ”

  Aiden’s lips twitched. “Consider it an experience in taking a day off—a day being normal. ”

  “You’re taking me to the zoo!” I screeched, bouncing again. The seatbelt choked me back.

  He couldn’t keep the smile back. It covered his face, filled his eyes. “Yes, we’re going to the zoo. ”

  “But—but why?” I swiveled around in the seat, pressing my face against the window. The smile on my face was absurdly huge. “I don’t deserve this. ”

  Several moments passed. “Yes, you do. I think you deserve a break from everything. You’ve been working so hard, pulling double—triple—duty. And you really don’t complain—”

  I shot around, facing him. “I complain. I complain all the time. ”

  Shaking his head, Aiden laughed. “I stand corrected. ”

  Shock kept pushing more stupid statements out of my mouth. “But I’ve been in so much trouble. I threw an apple at Lea’s face. I fought Guards. I cheated on my trig exam. ”

  Aiden looked at me, frowning. “You cheated on your math exam?”

  “Uh, forget that. Anyway, wow, I’m just surprised. ”

  “Alex, you need to get away from it all every once in a while. You need a break—a real one. Just like I do,” he paused, concentrating on the road. “I figured we could get away together. ”

  I think my heart may have exploded, right then and there. The importance of what he was doing—the implication of it—didn’t pass me by unnoticed. This was huge—huge to us. Pures and halfs didn’t get away together for a relaxing day. We may coexist together, but we lived in different worlds. We had to. It was the rules, the way of our society. Aiden risked a lot by doing this. If by random chance we were spotted, he’d be in a lot of trouble. Maybe not as much as me, but hell, I didn’t care. I cared that he wanted to do this for me.

  That had to mean something—something really wonderful.

  Aiden glanced at me, his eyes shining—with what? I didn’t know, but in that instant, I could only think about what I felt for Aiden. Until then, I hadn’t been willing to admit that it was anything more than a crush or lust, because really, who didn’t lust after him? But what expanded in my chest, swelled my heart until I felt sure it would burst from my chest, wasn’t a silly crush. It wasn’t just a physical attraction.

  It was love.
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  I loved Aiden—I loved a pure-blood.


  I STARED AT HIM, CAUGHT UP IN MY REALIZATION. I LOVED Aiden. I loved him, really loved him.

  Oh, gods, I was so totally screwed.

  Aiden’s cheeks flushed under his natural tan. “I mean, all of us need a day away from our world. We need moments to take a breather and let it all go. ” He glanced at me, a wry grin replacing the one I’d throw pretty much anyone in front of a daimon to see. “Anyway, today is just a normal day. We aren’t going to talk about training or the daimon attack. ”

  “Okay. ” I took a deep, calming breath and ordered myself to pull it together. Then I saw the sign for the zoo and I face-planted the window again.

  “We can’t stay for long—only a couple of hours—or the Guards will suspect something. We also need to keep this a secret. We can’t let anyone find out. ”

  I nodded. “Of course. I won’t say a single word. I just can’t believe you remembered this. ” I also couldn’t believe I was in love with a pure-blood.

  He merged toward the exit ramp, expression suddenly serious. “I remember everything you say. ”

  I peeled myself off the window. It was all too easy for me to recall the day I’d told him about my love of animals and zoos. It’d been in the small med office, when he’d rubbed that gunk over my bruises. But I didn’t expect him to actually remember that day, or any day for that matter. And if he really did remember everything I said, then…

  My fingers curled in my lap. I was a big douchebag. I said mean things. A lot. I took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. ”

  Aiden looked at me sharply. “For what?”

  I stared down at my hands, guilt gnawing at my insides. How could I not have apologized sooner? “I’m sorry about saying you’re like other pure-bloods. I shouldn’t have said that. Because you’re not—you’re nothing like them. ”

  “Alex, don’t apologize. You were angry. So was I. It’s in the past. Over. ”

  The guilt eased off a little bit as I gazed out the window, but an old yearning pulled at my heart. Mom had loved it here. The sights brought forth a mix of sorrow and happiness. I sighed, wanting to be happy but feeling bad about it.

  Trees dotted the winding road leading up to the entrance. Mom had known the names of the trees. I didn’t. Off in the distance, I could make out the top of the main building.

  “It bothered you though,” I said as Aiden coasted the Hummer to a stop. The lot was full for this time of year, but the weather was still warm enough. The zoo would be packed. I undid the seatbelt and twisted toward him. “I know it did. ”

  Aiden cut the engine and pulled the keys out. Lifting his gaze from his hands, those eyes pierced me. “Yeah, it did. ”

  I bit my lip, wanting to apologize again.

  “I don’t want you to see me like that. ” A short, harsh laugh escaped him and he focused on the steering wheel as he held the keys in a tight grip. “The funny thing is that what you said shouldn’t have bothered me. I’m a pure. So I should be like all the others. I really shouldn’t care if you saw me like that. I should care how the other pure-bloods view me. ”

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