Pure, p.20
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       Pure, p.20

         Part #2 of Covenant series by Jennifer L. Armentrout
 
Page 20

 

  I searched for something to say, but came up empty until my gaze fell on a statue of Apollo. “Hey, you kind of look like Apollo. Has anyone told you that? All you need is blond hair and raging hormones. Maybe he’s your great-great-great-great grandfather or something. ”

  Leon’s gaze flicked over the marble statue. “No. No one has ever said that. ”

  “Huh. Funny. ‘Cuz you do. I wonder if you have anything else in common with Apollo. ”

  “Like what?”

  “You know. Didn’t Apollo have a thing for pretty boys?” I snorted. “Wait, didn’t Apollo have a thing for just about everything that walked? Until they got turned into trees or flowers, that is. ”

  “What?” Leon came to a complete standstill, gaping down at me. “There are some myths that are true, but most are exaggerated. ”

  I raised my brows quizzically. “Didn’t realize you were an Apollo fanboy. Sorry. ”

  “I am not a fanboy. ”

  “Okay. Never mind, then. ”

  “Do you know what I find interesting, Alexandria?” he asked after a few moments.

  “No. Not really. ” I shivered in the rapidly cooling air.

  “How you happened across the oracle right before she died. ”

  I glanced around the nearly empty campus, spotting only Sentinels and Guards. I hadn’t realized it had gotten so late. “I have no clue. I guess I have that kind of luck. ”

  “Twice?”

  I looked at him sharply. And there was another thing I hadn’t known he was aware of. “I guess so. ”

  Leon nodded, eyes scanning the pathway to the girls’ dorm. “Did you know the oracle only seeks out those she wants? That many, many pure-bloods go their entire lives without even seeing the oracle once?”

  “No. ” I wrapped my arms around myself, wondering where summer had gone. It was almost the end of October, but usually it didn’t get this chilly.

  “Then she must have had something very important to tell you,” Leon said. “I’d assume something more than just being able to change history. ”

  My steps slowed as the oracle’s words rushed through me. He is not what he seems. He has them all fooled. He plays both sides. I glanced up at Leon, wary of where this conversation was going. There was nothing I knew about Leon except his wonderful ability to pop up when I didn’t want him around—and his fanboy love for Apollo. “That’s all she said. ”

  Leon stopped in front of the steps to the dorm, folding those massive arms over his chest. “Seems rather vague. ”

  “Piperi is—was—always vague. Nothing she ever said has made much sense to me. ”

  He cocked his head to the side and a small smile appeared on his face. I think that

  was the first time I’d ever seen him smile. “That’s the thing about oracles. They do tell you the truth, you just have to really hear it. ”

  My brows inched up my forehead. “Well, I guess I didn’t hear it. ”

  Leon’s gaze fell on me, heavy and hard. “I’m sure in good time you will. ” Then he twisted around and disappeared down the pathway.

  I stood there a few more moments, staring after him. That had been the longest conversation I’d ever held with the guy and it ranked right up there with the conversations I’d held with the oracle. It made no sense.

  It also filled me with a decent amount of unease. There was always something about Leon that didn’t seem right—a sort of otherworldly trait I couldn’t quite put my finger on. But could he be the mystery man the oracle had been talking about?

  I shivered and headed up the stairs. I hoped not. There was no way any of us could take that massive hunk of flesh out in a battle.

  CHAPTER 10

  I WAS A NERVOUS MESS OF FUNK.

  It had to do with the little box in my gym bag. Nice of Deacon to gift wrap the guitar pick, but now I felt stupid for giving it to Aiden, especially after everything that had gone down between us at the zoo.

  But I had it and I needed to give it to him. If I didn’t, there was a chance Deacon could make some passing comment to him about it and then I’d be even more mortified. And it was just a guitar pick. It wasn’t like it screamed I love you or anything. Not that it mattered since I’d already blabbed that.

  I went through practice with Aiden sort of numb and hyperaware. I kept missing chances to say “happy birthday” or give him the damn box. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

  What if he laughed at me? What if he hated it? What if he looked at me and said, “What the hell is this for?” and threw the box on the mat? Then stomped on it?

  I couldn’t stop thinking about how many ways this could go wrong. Did his reaction really matter? Since our trip to the zoo and my embarrassing declaration of love, he’d kept things perfectly cool between us. There were only a few times I’d caught him watching me with this hawkish level of interest. I always wondered what went through his mind then.

  Aiden sent me another weird look, and I felt my face turn red.

  I’d never hated myself more.

  Unsurprisingly, I ran out of time. While my heart pounded in my chest, I bent down and dug the little white box out of my bag. Deacon had even put a black bow on it. I hadn’t known he was such a crafty guy.

  “Alex, what are you doing?”

  Clenching the box in my hand, I stood. “So are you doing anything… um, special tonight?”

  He dropped the mat he’d been rolling up. “Not really. Why?”

  I shifted uncomfortably, keeping the box hidden between my hands. “It’s your birthday. Shouldn’t you be celebrating?”

  Surprise flashed across his face. “How did you know it was today? Wait. ” He gave a rueful smile. “Deacon told you. ”

  “Well, your birthday is the day before Halloween. Kind of hard to forget. ”

  Aiden brushed off his hands. “We’re going to have dinner with some people, but it’s nothing big. ”

  I smiled, inching closer. “Well, that’s doing something. ”

  “Yeah, it’s something. ”

  Just give him the stupid box, Alex. “Well… you don’t have to work tonight, right?” Give him the damn box, Alex, and stop talking. Like forever.

  Aiden flashed a quick grin as his gaze drifted toward me. “No. I got the night off. Alex, I need to tell—”

  I stepped forward, shoving my hands at his chest. Well, I shoved the box at his chest. “Happy birthday!” I looked and felt like the worst kind of dweeb.

  His startled gaze dropped, and then flicked back to mine. He took the little box. “What’s this?”

  “It’s just a small gift. Nothing big,” I said in a rush. “It’s for your birthday. Well, obviously. ”

  “Alex, you really didn’t have to do this. ” He turned it over, running those graceful fingers over it. “You didn’t have to get me anything. ”

  “I know. ” I pushed a few strands of hair off my face. “But I wanted to. ”

  “Can I shake it?”

  “Yeah, it won’t break. ”

  Grinning, he shook the box. The pick rattled off the sides. He glanced at me once more and then untied the black bow. Holding my breath, I watched him carefully open up the lid and peer inside. Aiden’s eyes narrowed and his lips parted. I didn’t know what that expression meant. Slowly, he reached inside and plucked the pick out of the box.

  Aiden held the gemstone pick between two long fingers, his expression incredulous. “It’s black. ”

  I glanced around the room. “Yeppers. It’s black. Um, I saw that you had every color except black. ” He continued to stare at the pick with this dumbfounded look on his face. I folded my arms, suddenly wanting to cry. “If you don’t like it, I’m sure you can return it. I got it at this store online. They do—”

  “No. ” Aiden looked up and his eyes met mine. They were a dark gray, bordering on silver. “No. I don’t want to return it. ” He flipped the pick over, smoothing his thumb over it. “It’s perfect. ”
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  I flushed, still wanting to cry, but in a totally good way now. “You really think so?”

  Aiden took a step forward, his eyes like liquid pools. They took up his face, my entire world. I didn’t know what was going to happen next. All I knew was that I was hooked on him, irrevocably so.

  “There you are. ” Marcus stood at the entrance to the training room. “I’ve been searching everywhere for you. ”

  There was sort of grace to how fast Aiden slid the gift into the pocket of his pants and twisted around. I couldn’t see his face, but I knew it was perfectly devoid of any emotion. Only his eyes would give anything away, and Marcus would never be able to tell anything from their colors like I could.

  However, I was also sure my face would give everything away. I hurried over to my gym bag and became fascinated with its strap.

  “What can I do for you?” Aiden asked casually.

  “Practice is running a little late for you two, isn’t it?”

  “We were just finishing up. ”

  “Alexandria, what are you doing over there?” asked Marcus.

  Cursing under my breath, I shouldered the bag and faced my uncle. He wore a three-piece suit. No one on campus dressed as well as he did.

  “Nothing, just getting my stuff. ”

  He raised a brow elegantly. “Were you running late from class and held up Aiden? You should have more respect for his time. ”

  I shot my uncle a dirty look, but managed to keep my mouth shut.

  “It’s fine,” Aiden responded quickly. “She wasn’t that late. ”

  Marcus nodded. “Well, I’m glad I found you two together. ”

  My brows inched up my forehead, and the urge to laugh hit me hard. Aiden looked less amused.

  “I’ve given what you asked some thought and I do agree with what you’ve suggested, Aiden. ”

  The lines around Aiden’s mouth tightened. “I haven’t had a chance to discuss this with Alex. ”

  Marcus frowned. “Don’t concern yourself with that. You’ve done wonderfully with her. I have to admit, I didn’t think she’d be able to get caught up, but you were right. We can end the additional practices. ”

  I stepped forward, but I didn’t feel the floor under my sneakers. “End my practices?”

  “Aiden feels that you no longer require these additional practices, and I happen to agree with him. You’ll still be working with Seth, but this will afford you some time off and also allow Aiden to return to his Sentinel duties fully. ”

  I stared at Marcus, hearing him but not really understanding. Then I turned toward Aiden. His face was utterly blank. I knew I should feel good about this, because it was a huge step in the right direction and Marcus had sort of complimented me, but I couldn’t get past the hole opening up in my chest. Aiden and I would never see each other if we didn’t train together.

  “Aiden, you’ve spoken about this with Seth?” Marcus asked. “Discussed areas for potential improvement?”

  “Yes, Seth is aware of things she can use additional work on. ” Aiden’s voice sounded surprisingly empty and flat.

 
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