Pure, p.27
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       Pure, p.27

         Part #2 of Covenant series by Jennifer L. Armentrout
 
Page 27

 

  “We just wanted to get some drinks from the cafeteria. ” I swallowed, but the lump in my throat didn’t go away. “We were going to watch movies. ”

  “Are we ready?” called Leon. “We should be leaving now if we want to reach the Catskills before noon. ”

  “Yeah. ” Aiden turned away, but then faced me again. “Alex?”

  Slowly, I lifted my eyes to his. That turned out to be a mistake of epic proportions. A different kind of hurting opened up in my chest.

  His gaze drifted across my face. “I’m… so, so sorry about Caleb. I know how much he meant to you. ”

  I couldn’t look away, couldn’t say a word.

  He glanced over his shoulder and when he turned back to me, his eyes shone bright silver in the dim light. “Don’t… don’t ever do anything like that again. Please. Promise me. ”

  I wanted to ask why he’d care if I threw myself in front of a daimon, but those words didn’t come out. Something else did. “I promise. ”

  Aiden watched me a moment longer, and then broke away. After that, we climbed into the Hummer. I took a seat in the back while Aiden slid into the one in front of me. Leon drove and the other Guard took the seat next to me.

  Leaning my head back against the seat, I closed my eyes and wondered how I’d ended up in the car while Seth got the private jet with Lucian, Marcus, and the Council members. They’d flown out this morning. Half-bloods—even Sentinels—usually didn’t get seats on the planes, but an exception had been made for Seth.

  Car rides typically turned me into a bratty five-year-old, especially astronomically long ones, but I was too tired to really think about it. With all the sleeping I’d been doing, I probably should’ve been wide awake for days, but I drifted off quickly.

  I woke up about two hours in when we stopped to get gas in Middle-Of-Nowhere, Virginia. Leon and the Guard went into the shack of a gas station, and I climbed out to stretch my legs. It was so dark out here, surrounded by woods and farms. The only sounds were the cows lowing in the distance. I strolled around the rear of the Hummer and found Aiden leaning against the bumper. He looked up when I stopped beside him. His eyes were nearly the same color as the moonlight.

  “If you want to get something to eat, Leon or the Guard will get it for you. ” Aiden rolled a bottle of water between his hands.

  “I’m not hungry. ” I moved past him, keeping my back to him.

  “We don’t want to stop unless we have to. ”

  “I’m fine. ” I hopped up on the curb and proceeded to place one foot in front of another.

  Mid-step, I glanced over at the convenience store—if you’d consider that place a convenience store. It looked like an old pizza shop and the blinking red sign out front read “OPE. ” Leon stood at the counter. “So… has Marcus confirmed that the Sentinel was responsible for the first attack?”

  “There’s no way to really confirm that, Alex. We believe so. Another round of searches is being conducted—” He paused when I stiffened, “—to make sure she was the one. ”

  I reached the end of the curb. “I guess now I understand why the searches were so

  important. They missed her and… look what happened. The Guards at the bridge, they probably didn’t expect anything when she showed up. ”

  “No. And the daimons are obviously getting smarter. She was on and off the campus a lot, making her a prime candidate. And her tags weren’t visible. ”

  I bent over backward, sprung off my hands, and landed perfectly on the narrow curb. I could have been a gymnast in a different life. Turning to face him, I found Aiden staring at me.

  He glanced away as a strange, almost sad look crept across his face. Pushing off the bumper of the car, he shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “You and Seth seem to be getting along a lot better. ”

  I frowned at the change in subject. “Yeah, I guess so. ”

  Aiden stopped in front of me. “That’s a vast improvement from wanting to stab him in the eye. ”

  Even though I stood on the curb, Aiden was still taller than me. I tipped my head back, meeting his pale gaze. “Why do you even care?”

  His brows rose slightly. “It’s just a statement, Alex. Has nothing to do with me caring or not. ”

  I felt my cheeks burn as I nodded stiffly. “Yeah, I think I grasped the whole caring and not caring topic. ” I hopped off the curb and inched around the gas pumps.

  Aiden followed behind me. “I saw you two at the funeral. He was there for you. I think that’s good. Not just for you, but for him. I think you’re the only person Seth cares about besides himself. ”

  I stopped, wanting to laugh, but I felt… embarrassed. Like I’d been caught doing something wrong, but I hadn’t. Confused by what Aiden was getting at, I started walking again. “Seth cares about himself. That’s about it. ”

  “No. ” Aiden followed my movements, meeting up with me at the edge of the pumps. “He rarely left your side. Seth wouldn’t allow anyone—not even me—near you. ”

  I whipped around, surprised. “You stopped by to see me?”

  Aiden nodded. “Several times, actually, but Seth was determined that you needed time to come to grips with everything. That doesn’t sound like someone who cares only about himself. ”

  “Why would you come see me?” I stepped toward him, hope and excitement building inside me. “You told me you didn’t care about me. ”

  He fell back a step, clenching his jaw. “I never said I didn’t care about you, Alex. I said I couldn’t love you. ”

  I flinched, cursing myself for the stupid window of hope I’d allowed to open. Smiling tightly, I headed back to the Hummer and slammed the door shut behind me. Unfortunately, Aiden followed me.

  He got in the seat in front of me and turned around. “I’m not trying to fight with you, Alex. ”

  My temper and hurt feelings took over. “Then maybe you should try not talking to me. Especially when you sound like you’re trying to pawn me off on another guy. ”

  Aiden’s eyes snapped alive, flaring in the darkness. “I’m not trying to pawn you off on someone. You were never mine to do so. ”

  I leaned forward, my fingers digging into my thighs as I spoke in a whisper thick with pain. “I was never yours? You should’ve thought about that before you stripped me naked in your room!”

  He sucked in air sharply, then his eyes shuttered to a dull gray. “It was a temporary loss of sanity. ”

  “Oh. ” I gave a harsh laugh. “Did your temporary loss of sanity last several months? Did it make you say all those things to me at the zoo? Did it—”

  “What do you want me to say, Alex? That I’m sorry… for leading you on?” He paused, visibly trying to rein in his anger and frustration. “I am. Okay? I’m sorry. ”

  “I didn’t want you to say that,” I whispered, stomach tumbling over.

  Aiden closed his eyes and shook his head. “Look, you don’t need this right now. Not after everything with Caleb and with us going to the Council. So, just stop. ”

  “But—”

  “I’m not going to do this with you, Alex. Not now. Not ever. ”

  Before I could respond, Leon and the Guard returned, putting an end to this. I flung myself against the seat and glared at the back of Aiden’s head. I knew he could feel me staring holes into him, because he sat stiffly with his eyes forced front.

  Eventually I got bored with that and climbed over the back of my seat to dig out my music player. I tried going back to sleep, but my mind was too busy thinking about Caleb, the argument with Aiden, and whether or not Seth was as self-centered as I’d always thought he was.

  After nine more hours of hell, we turned onto a winding road lined with towering pines and spruce trees so thick it reminded me of a Christmas tree farm. We were deep in the Catskills—no man’s land. About a mile in, a nondescript fence poked out, surrounding what I assumed was the perimeter of the New York Covenant.

  I snorted.
“Nice security. ”

  Aiden turned halfway around. “You haven’t seen anything yet. ”

  I ignored him and leaned forward, seeing nothing more than a wire fence and trees. Maybe it was one of those fences that electrocuted people, because I’d really expected more than this.

  Then I saw the Guards standing in front of the pitiful-looking fence, armed with what looked like semiautomatic weapons. My eyes widened as they leveled the guns at our vehicle. Leon slowed down as the four Guards approached us cautiously.

  “Alex, take your hair down,” Aiden said quietly.

  I didn’t understand why, but the seriousness in his tone told me not to fool around. I unraveled the messy bun, letting it fall around my face. Leon rolled down all the windows, and at once, the Guards peered inside the vehicle, searching each of us… for visible tags.

  I shrank back, but met the dark-skinned Guard’s intense gaze as he looked me over once, then twice. The tags felt like they were burning under the mass of heavy hair. I wasn’t sure what they would’ve done if they’d seen the scars. Shoot me?

  Not quickly enough, they gestured at the one Guard who remained back. The tall gate shuddered and creaked opened. I let out the breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding. “Am I supposed to keep my hair down the entire time I’m here?”

  Aiden glanced back at me, his lips forming a hard, tight line. “No. But I’d rather you not provoke a trigger-happy Guard. ”

  I could understand that, I guessed.

  We rolled through the gate and went another half a mile down the road before the trees started thinning out. I leaned on the back of Aiden’s seat as the New York Covenant finally came into view.

  Well, the twenty-plus-foot wall made out of white marble came into view.

  After passing another set of gun-toting Guards, we finally entered the grounds. It didn’t look much different than our Carolina branch. There were statues of gods everywhere, except where ours stood among the sand, theirs rose up from the greenest grass I’d ever seen.

  The first building I got to see was a mansion—the kind I didn’t expect to see in the middle of the Catskills. I’d once heard the Rockefellers had a house around these parts, but nothing compared to this monstrous thing. I counted six stories, several all-glass rooms, and possibly a ballroom with a skylight dome by the time the car stopped in front of the sandstone manor. I started to follow them, but Aiden stopped me.

  “Alex, hold on a second. ”

  My fingers froze on the handle. “What?”

  Aiden had turned around completely and those eyes… gods, those eyes always drew me in, always filled me with such warmth that I could almost taste his lips on mine. Too bad his words kind of ruined the moment.

  “Don’t do anything here to draw unwanted attention. ”

  My fingers tightened on the door handle. “I don’t plan on it. ”

  “I’m being serious, Alex. ” His eyes bored into mine. “No one here will be as forgiving as your uncle or stepfather. I can imagine that they won’t go easy on you when you have your session. Some of the Council… well, they’re not fans of yours. ”

 
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