Pure, p.28
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       Pure, p.28

         Part #2 of Covenant series by Jennifer L. Armentrout
 
Page 28

 

  An ache throbbed in my chest in response to his clipped, professional tone. I had no idea where the tender Aiden had gone, the one who’d sworn to always be there for me, the one who’d gently brought me back from the brink when I’d freaked out in training. Gods, there were so many more moments, but all of them were gone.

  Aiden was gone. Like Caleb, but in a different way. I’d lost both of them. A lot of the anger leaked out of me then. I faced the window, sighing. “I didn’t expect them to. I’ll behave. You don’t have to worry about me. ” I started to open the door again.

  “Alex?”

  Slowly, I turned to him. Aiden wasn’t so guarded in that instant, and a deep, unsettling pain reflected in his gaze. There was more—almost like an uncertainty. But he pulled it together, like slipping on a well-worn mask of indifference, shuttering any and all emotions.

  “Just be careful. ” His voice was strangely hollow.

  I wanted to say something, anything, but a flurry of activity outside of the car made that impossible. Servants—droves of half-blood servants—descended on the Hummer, opening doors and retrieving luggage. My mouth dropped open as one, a fair-haired boy about my age, meekly opened my car door. A black circle with a slash through it had been tattooed onto his forehead. I glanced at Aiden and saw his gaze still fastened on me. He gave me a strained smile before climbing out. I couldn’t help but wonder if the doubt I’d seen in his face had anything to do with me.

  I was given a room on the fifth floor, one that connected to Marcus’s room. Or at least, that was what the half-blood doorman inside the mansion said before stepping back into the shadows. I really had no clue, so I just followed the blond boy. I didn’t see where Aiden and Leon were carted off to, but I bet they got rooms on the bottom floors—big, awesome rooms.

  We crossed the grandiose lobby and entered a glass-enclosed breezeway. To our left was the entrance to what appeared to be the ballroom, but the twinkling lights didn’t hold my attention. Right in the middle of the breezeway was the very same statue that stood in the Covenant lobby in North Carolina.

  Furies.

  Sucking in a sharp gasp, I hurried around the statues to catch up with the half servant. Their heavy presence remained after I left the breezeway, nagging at the back of my thoughts. We went up several flights of steps, and I couldn’t deal with the silence any longer.

  “So… um, how do you like it here?” I asked as we stepped into a narrow hallway adorned with oil paintings.

  The boy kept his eyes fastened on the oriental carpet.

  Okay… was there some sort of “no talking” rule? I glanced at the paintings, mentally listing the gods as we passed them: Zeus, Hera, Artemis, Hades, Apollo, Demeter, Thanatos, Ares—wait. Thanatos? I stopped to get a closer look at his painting.

  He had wings and a sword. Thanatos looked like a pretty rocking angel, actually. But he shared the same woeful look the cemetery Thanatos had had on his face as he gazed upward. His left hand held a flaming torch turned downward. Why would Thanatos, who wasn’t one of the major Olympian gods, have his picture here among them?

  An opening door drew my attention from the painting. I glanced over my shoulder. The half servant held the door open, eyes downcast.

  I pursed my lips, scanning the four dull-white walls within. A closet would have been too nice of a description for this… this thing considered a room. I walked in as the servant placed my luggage inside the door.

  There was a bed—a twin size bed covered with an itchy-looking brown blanket and one flat pillow. A tiny bedside table offered a rusty lamp that’d seen better days. It took me two seconds to cross the room and peek inside the bathroom.

  It was the size of a coffin.

  My eyes fell over the scuffed-up tile, dirty mirror, and rust stains surrounding the drain in the shower stall. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I muttered.

  “They expect you to sleep in this room—on that bed?”

  Jumping at the unexpected sound of Seth’s voice, my hip slammed into the washbasin. “Ouch!” I rubbed my hip as I turned around.

  Seth stood at the foot of the bed, his ever-present smug expression tainted with

  disdain. It’d only been a day since I’d seen him, but strangely, it felt longer than that. His hair was down, curving around his chin. And he wore jeans and a plain black sweater—a rarity.

  I was kind of glad to see him.

  “Yeah, this room sucks. ” I left the bathroom.

  Seth strolled to a door on the other side of the bed. He reached down, throwing the lock.

  “I guess that’s not the closet?”

  “Nope, that’s the door to Marcus’s room. ”

  He arched a brow. “They gave you a servant’s room?”

  “Nice. ” I looked around, discovering there wasn’t even a closet in the room—or a dresser. I’d be living out of a suitcase for my whole stay. Yippee. “Why’d you lock it?”

  Seth threw me a mischievous grin. “I can’t have Marcus just walking in on us. What if I want to snuggle on these cold New York nights?”

  My frown increased. “We don’t snuggle. ”

  He dropped his arm over my shoulder, and the scent of mint and something wild tickled my nose. “How about we cuddle?”

  “We don’t do that either. ”

  “But you’re my cuddle bunny. My little Apollyon cuddle—”

  I punched him in the side.

  Laughing, Seth steered me toward the door. “Come on, I want to show you something. ”

  “What?”

  He removed his arm and captured my hand. “The Council is starting their first session at one today. I think we should go watch it. ”

  “That sounds boring. ” I let him drag me out of the room, though. It wasn’t like I had anything else to do.

  “We could always practice?” Seth pulled me into the stairwell, taking several steps at a time. “I’m feeling froggy—haven’t thrown fireballs at anyone’s head lately. ”

  “That sounds more interesting than watching a bunch of pures postulate how great they and their laws are. ”

  “Postulate?” Seth glanced over his shoulder, grinning. “I can’t believe you used the word ‘postulate. ’”

  “What?” I scowled. “It’s a real word. ”

  Seth raised a brow at me and then continued down the steps. In the stairwell we passed several servants in drab clothing. Each of them looked down. I watched them lift their heads once they’d passed us.

  Seth tugged on my hand. “Come on. We’re going to miss it. ”

  Outside, the biting wind cut through my sweater and sent shivers through me. For once, I was grateful for Seth’s hand. It felt incredibly warm in mine.

  “Anyway, the Council session should be interesting. It’s a hearing. ”

  “I thought mine was the only hearing?”

  “No. ” Seth led me around the west wing of the mansion. “There are several hearings. You are one of many. ”

  I started to respond, but we stepped around back and my lips clamped shut. A labyrinth of waist-high marble walls separated us from the Greek style coliseum. Bright flowers, all in full bloom, sprung from the vines that covered them. Thick cords of a creeping plant climbed the statues and benches, covering everything in front of us in a mass of vibrant red and green. “Wow. ”

  Seth chuckled. “If you stay on this pathway it leads straight to the Council. ”

  I glanced down several of the walkways that branched off the main one. “Is it a real labyrinth?”

  “Yes. But I haven’t checked it out. ”

  “Looks kind of fun, don’t you think?” I looked up at him. “I’ve never been in a labyrinth before. ”

  A real smile replaced the smug one. “Maybe if you’re good—and I mean, really good—we can come play in the labyrinth. ”

  I rolled my eyes. “Gee, really?”

  He nodded. “You have to eat your dinner, too. ”

 
I didn’t even bother responding to that. I got kind of lost in the scenery for a while. How in the world did the pures manage to keep these fragile flowers alive all year round? It had to be magic—old magic. The deeper we moved down the pathway, the thicker the vines grew and when we neared the end, Seth slowed.

  “We have to sneak in,” he said. “We aren’t really supposed to be listening to the Councils. ”

  “And if we get caught?”

  “We won’t. ”

  Trusting Seth felt strange, mainly because I did… trust him. Not in the same way I would have placed my life in Aiden’s hands, but almost there—almost.

  Behind several thick columns made of stone, Themis, the Goddess of Divine Justice, stood at the entrance to the coliseum. She was quite formidable with that sword in one bronzed hand and balanced scales held high in the other, but her presence seemed kind of ironic to me—the pures knew nothing of balanced justice.

  The building was something straight out of ancient Greece. Hidden as the New York Covenant was, they could get away with designs not normally found in neighborhoods boasting Wal-Marts and fast food joints. The closest thing we had was the amphitheater where the Carolina Covenant held sessions.

  I followed Seth and we slipped through the side entrance used by the servants. Most of the halfs we passed cast their eyes to the ground as they carried goblets and plates of tiny appetizers. I had a hard time looking at them, harder than I’d realized I would. Back home, we rarely saw so many. They were kept separate from us, as if the Carolina Covenant didn’t want us to see what the other side was truly like.

  What did the servants think when they saw me—or any half who wasn’t in servitude? Were they even capable of thinking? If I were one of them and I had some critical thinking skills left, I’d be outright hostile toward the “free” halfs.

  The icky feeling in the pit of my stomach was hard to acknowledge, so I started jabbering as Seth led me past several small doors. “Stairs—more stairs? Would it kill them to put a damn elevator in one of the buildings?”

  Seth started up them. “Maybe they think the gods would be unhappy with elevators. ”

  “That’s stupid. ” The long car ride had made my legs feel like jelly.

  “We only have to go up eight flights. I promise. ”

  “Eight?” I eyed two more servants heading down the stairs, hands empty. One was a middle-aged female in a plain gray dress. She wore thin-soled shoes and no socks. The skin around her ankles looked bruised and red, as if it had been rubbed raw. Cringing, I glanced at the male servant behind her.

  A sudden cold shiver crawled over my skin.

  The older male half had dark brown hair that curled around a strong chin and cheeks weathered by the sun. Fine lines jutted out from the corners of gentle brown eyes… that were looking straight at me.

  His eyes weren’t the glassed-over eyes of a servant. They were keen, intelligent—seeing. There was something familiar about him, something I should know.

  CHAPTER 15

  “COME ON,” SETH URGED, TUGGING ON MY HAND.

 
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