Pure, p.26
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       Pure, p.26

         Part #2 of Covenant series by Jennifer L. Armentrout
 
Page 26

 

  “No. ” Tears rolled down my cheeks now. “I did it because I was being stupid. We just wanted to get some drinks. I didn’t think anything would happen. If I could change it, I would. I would do anything. ”

  “Alex. ” Seth closed his eyes.

  “I mean it. I would do anything to change what happened! Caleb—he didn’t deserve that. I did know better. If we’d stayed in my room, he would still be alive. I know that. ”

  “Alex, please. ”

  “I know I acted stupid. ” My voice cracked. “And if I could go back, I would. I’d switch places with him. I would—”

  “Stop,” he whispered, his thumbs wiping away my tears. “Please stop crying. ”

  Everything inside me felt like it was tensing and twisting into one giant knot. “I’m so sorry. I want to take it all back. I want a do-over, because I can’t do this again. ”

  He made a strangled sound as he pulled me to his chest, holding me there until my heart stopped racing and the tears subsided. “You have to do this again and you don’t get a do-over, Alex. None of us do. You can only move forward from here, and the first step is going to his funeral. ”

  I drew in a deep breath. “I know. ”

  Seth caught my chin with the tip of his finger, tipping it back. I think that’s when he realized I wore nothing more than a towel. His eyes flicked down for a moment and then his entire body seemed to stiffen. It could have been all the extreme emotions rolling through both of us, or the connection we shared, but every inch of my body suddenly felt warm.

  It was strange how the body could forget all these terrible things so quickly. Or maybe it was the soul that worked that way, seeking out warmth and touch, needing to prove that we were still in the world of living. I leaned in, resting my cheek against his shoulder. I closed my eyes.

  “You’re shaking,” Seth murmured.

  “I’m cold. ”

  His hands slid over my shoulders. “You really need to put some clothes on. You shouldn’t be dressed like that. ”

  “You came in here. That’s not my fault. ”

  “Still. You need to put some clothes on. ”

  I bit my lip and pulled back. Seth stared back at me, his eyes unnaturally bright. “Okay. But you’re going to have to let go of me first. ”

  His hands tensed on my back, and for a second… well, he looked like he wasn’t going to let me go. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. Seth did let go, but he leaned in, resting his forehead against mine. “You do smell better now. I think we’re making progress. ”

  My lips twitched. “Thanks. ”

  Some of the tension in his body seemed to seep out. “You ready?”

  I breathed in deeply, and it felt like the first time in days. “Yes. ”

  When I was little, my mother had once told me that only in death could a pure and a half be viewed as equals. Both would stand before the River Styx, waiting for their souls to be carried into the hereafter.

  Everyone had already filed into the cemetery by the time Seth and I made it there. The pures stood up front, before the halfs, which made no sense to me. Caleb had been one of us, not them. So why should they stand closer to him? Aiden would say it was tradition.

  It was still wrong.

  I roamed the outer edge of the groups with Seth, dodging outright curious looks and even a few stares of condemnation. I tried to convince myself I wasn’t looking for a certain, dark-haired pure as my gaze kept returning to the group at the front. Aiden was the last person I wanted to see.

  Seth finally stopped, so I did, too. He hadn’t spoken since we’d left my room, but he kept glancing at me. I think he worried I’d flip out again. Tucking my still-damp hair back, I looked up at him, chewing on my lip.

  “You’re going to thank me, aren’t you?” Seth sounded amused.

  “Well… I was. Not so sure about that now. ”

  “Come on. I want to actually hear you say it. It’ll probably be your first and last time. ”

  I squinted against the sun’s harsh glare. Far away, I could see the pyre, the body swathed in white linen. “Thank you for staying with me. And I’m sorry for being such a bitch toward you. ”

  Seth unfolded his arms, nudging me with his elbow. “Did you just call yourself a—”

  “Yes, I did, because I am one. ” I sighed loudly. “You didn’t deserve it when I yelled at you… about Caleb. ”

  He stepped closer as Lucian moved to stand before the pyre. As the Minister, he would give the parting speech, eternal life and all that. “I deserve a lot of things,” Seth said.

  “Not that. ” I tore my eyes from the scene before me. I focused on a nearby hyacinth bush. The single dense spike of flowers was a vibrant red, the blossoms shaped like little stars. They signaled grief and mourning, and they were everywhere in the cemetery, reminding all of us of the tragedy of Apollo’s love for the beautiful Hyacinth. Back when the gods roamed the earth freely, people who ended up dying some tragic death became a flower if they were young and beautiful, male or female, and had earned a god’s favor.

  Twisted.

  Seth shifted closer, his arm brushing mine. “You know, the connection between us didn’t leave me with any other choice. ”

  I rolled my eyes. “Well, thank you, anyway. ”

  Lucian started in on the memorial speech, speaking about Caleb’s spirit and strength. The ache in my chest grew and the sweetly scented air felt cool against my damp cheeks. When the pyre was lit, my insides twisted and I couldn’t stop the shudder that kept running through my body. I turned halfway, pressing against the waiting warmth while the air filled with the sounds of crackling wood and quiet sobs.

  I don’t know what hurt more: the fact I’d never see him again or that I’d never hear his infectious laugh. Each realization sent a sharp pang through me.

  It wasn’t until the crowds began to disperse did I grasp the warmth I’d sought out actually belonged to a body—and that body belonged to Seth. Cheeks flushing, I stepped out of his embrace. I’d cried on him enough to last me a lifetime. “I need to…”

  “I understand. ” Seth stepped back. “I’ll wait for you outside. ”

  Grateful that he got it without me actually having to say anything, I watched him head back to the cemetery gates. I wiped under my eyes again and turned around.

  I froze.

  Olivia stood in front of me, dressed in black slacks and a sweater. Her skin was shades lighter; her eyes, usually so warm and open, were now cold and angry. Tears ran down her face unchecked.

  I stepped toward her, wanting to comfort her. “Olivia, I’m so—”

  “Why didn’t you do something?” Her voice broke. “You were his best friend. You could’ve done something!” She moved forward, her arm trembling as she pointed at me.

  Luke reached out and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “Don’t. It’s not Alex’s—”

  “You’re the Apollyon!” Olivia cried out, her words ending in a broken sob. “Yes, I know! Caleb told me what you are, and I’ve seen you fight!” She turned to Luke, eyes pleading. “You’ve seen how fast she can move. Why didn’t she do something?”

  I knew—I knew there was nothing physically I could’ve done. I wasn’t the Apollyon—not yet—but to hear her say that? Well, it was like hearing Marcus’s voice in my head. People expect more from you, because of what you will become.

  “I’m sorry, Olivia. I’m so—”

  “Don’t say you’re sorry! That won’t bring Caleb back!”

  I flinched. “I know. ”

  “Olivia, come on. Let’s go back to your room. ” Luke sent me an apologetic look as he started inching her around.

  Elena came forward, taking Olivia’s hand. “It’s okay. It’s going to be okay. ”

  Olivia slumped against Luke, her head falling to her chest. The full weight of her loss was visible for all of us to see.

  Grief clawed its way through my chest. I turned away, feeling
a rush of hot tears. Blindly, I stumbled away from them, roaming deeper into the memorial grounds. It wasn’t until I bumped into someone did I look up, wiping under my eyes. “Oh, sorry—” I stopped, mid-apology.

  It wasn’t a person I’d run into, but a statue. A small laugh crawled out of my throat as I stared up at the striking, yet woeful face carved out of stone. The sculpture had been shaped so that he bent at the waist slightly, one hand reaching out toward something, palm open in a beckoning manner. My gaze drifted down to the base, where the name Thanatos had been scripted. Under his name was a symbol—a torch turned downward.

  I’d seen it before… on Instructor’s Romvi’s arm.

  CHAPTER 14

  SIGHING IN FRUSTRATION, I SHOVED MY HANDS INTO

  the pockets of my hoodie and scanned the night sky. Stars broke up the darkness, some shining more brightly than the others. The last time I’d seen the dark sky had been more than a week ago. I’d been behind the dining hall, holding Caleb’s cold body.

  Caleb.

  I squelched the rising tide of sorrow and regret before it consumed me again by focusing on something that had been nagging me since his funeral. Why in the world would Romvi have the symbol of the god of Peaceful Death tattooed on his arm? And wasn’t he the same god that old book had claimed was responsible for killing Solaris and the First Apollyon? I wasn’t sure it really mattered, but the image kept coming back to me.

  “You okay?”

  Every muscle in my body locked up. I reminded myself that it was only going to take eleven hours to get to the Catskills—eleven hours stuck in a car with the guy I loved, the guy I’d practically begged to love me in return. Maybe not in so many words, but that was how I felt. This was going to be easy. Yeah, really easy.

  “Alex?”

  I turned around. Aiden was tucking my suitcase into the back of the Hummer, watching me over his shoulder. My gaze skittered away, unable to really, really look at him. “Yeah, I was just thinking. ”

  “Is this all your stuff?”

  Nodding, I kicked the toe of my shoe along the asphalt. I needed to act normal or this was going to be the longest car ride of my life. “How… how is Deacon?”

  A few seconds passed before he answered. “He’s doing okay. ” He shut the rear door. “He wanted me to tell you that he’s really sorry about… what happened. ”

  I faced him, keeping my eyes trained on his shoulder—which was one really nice shoulder—when I spotted a silver chain around his neck. It disappeared under his sweater. Odd—Aiden never wore jewelry. “Tell him I said thanks. ”

  Aiden nodded as he headed around to the side of the vehicle, but then he stopped so unexpectedly that I bounced off his back. He turned and caught my arm, setting me right. Our eyes met for a fraction of a second, and then he dropped my arm.

  He stepped back. “I don’t know what you were thinking. ” He broke off, glancing toward Leon, who waited under the awning of the Covenant.

 
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