Pure, p.42
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       Pure, p.42

         Part #2 of Covenant series by Jennifer L. Armentrout
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Page 42

 

  “Advice taken. ”

  Lucian drifted out of the throng of pures and grasped my free hand. His eyes drifted over me in a mixture of shock and appraisal. “Laadan, you have outdone yourself. She looks just like Rachelle did when she attended this very ball. ”

  It was official. I felt creeped out on a whole new level.

  “And you can’t even see her scars,” Lucian continued. There was a weird sheen to his eyes, and I wondered if he was drunk. “Utterly amazing job, Laadan. ”

  Straining back, I tried to maintain a polite smile. “Uh… thanks. ”

  Laadan looked as put off as I felt. Smoothly, she engaged Lucian’s interest. I scanned the room for friendly faces as my fingers clutched the fragile stem of the glass.

  Everyone—all the pures—looked magnificent in their finery. Most of the females wore the kind of risqué dresses I’d love to, showing off expanses of perfectly smooth skin and long, graceful necks.

  I didn’t belong here. No matter what Laadan said, I didn’t belong here.

  Taking a deep breath, my gaze skittered over the crowd. Out of them, I recognized Minister Diana Elders. She wore a white diaphanous gown that reminded me of something a goddess would wear. Beside her, my uncle looked extremely interested in whatever she was saying. In awe, I watched as he actually smiled and when they turned toward us, those emerald eyes shone like jewels.

  That is, until he saw me.

  Marcus stepped back, blinking. Shock splashed across his face. He reacted like he’d seen a ghost. Recovering slowly, he and Minister Elders approached us. He nodded at Lucian and Laadan. “Alexandria, you decided to join us after all. ”

  Uncomfortable, I nodded and sipped my champagne.

  Diana smiled warmly enough, but she looked nervous when she addressed me. “Miss Andros, it is a pleasure to meet you. ”

  “Same here,” I murmured dumbly. I was never good at exchanging pleasantries, but the good thing was that the pures surrounding me gravitated toward each other and I was able to drift off to the side. I continued searching the crowd… well, for Aiden if I was being honest with myself. I knew he wouldn’t speak to me, but I wanted him… to see me. Lame, yes, but I wanted that.

  Go figure it was Seth I saw first.

  Or he saw me first. I’m not sure. Either way, I was surprised to find both Aiden and Seth standing with another pure-blood male I didn’t recognize. Several pretty pures had crowded them, possibly fascinated by the fact that an Apollyon half-blood was in the mix—or they’d just been drawn to the general hotness of the group.

  Dawn Samos was one of those pretty pures. Her dress was a white sheath that ended above her knees. She stood the closest to Aiden, her slender tan arm brushing his as she spoke. I hadn’t seen her since the first day of sessions and I’d forgotten about her, but there she was.

  Seth stood facing Aiden and the entrance. He wore a tux like the rest of the pures,

  except he’d managed to find an all-white one and still look good in it. A grin pulled at my lips.

  Like Seth needed any extra help sticking out.

  His gaze moved around the edge of the ballroom and landed on me. The expression on his face was almost comical. His brows inched up his forehead, eyes widened with surprise. Apparently, I looked like a doofus most of the time. Me being in a dress must be a sight to behold. A smug quirk to his lips was quick to replace the startled expression. He nodded at me approvingly.

  I tipped my glass at Seth.

  He must’ve said something, because Aiden’s muscles stiffened under his black tux. Then slowly, almost reluctantly, Aiden looked over his shoulder. The moment our eyes met, I felt like Cinderella.

  Aiden’s lips parted as his gaze drifted over me in a way that made the glass tremble between my fingers. When his eyes made their slow journey back to mine, all the air fled my lungs. The silver burned so fiercely, so hot, that a warm blush swept over my skin. My hand fell to the side, the barely touched glass of champagne forgotten as it hung from my fingertips.

  Aiden turned around fully, his chest rising and falling sharply. He didn’t smile. He seemed only capable of staring. Just like me, because he looked truly magnificent in the sharp cut of the black tux, the wild waves of hair tumbling over his forehead, and those soft lips still parted in surprise, eyes still full of hunger.

  As if in a daze, Aiden crossed the ballroom floor, his piercing eyes fastened on me. I knew I looked good, but not that good. Not so good that everyone else seemed to fade and disappear to Aiden. I thought of what he’d said outside the sitting room, how he’d been wrong about a lot of things.

  I think I knew one of those things he’d been wrong about.

  So caught up in Aiden, I hadn’t realized Seth had moved, but I felt him before he placed his hand on me, his fingers curving over my bare shoulder. Anger flashed over Aiden’s face. He stalled, silver eyes dropping to my shoulder. I could almost feel it in the air—the primal jealousy, his raw urge to physically remove Seth’s hand.

  Seth leaned close, his warm breath stirring the hair at the nape of my neck. “People are starting to stare. ”

  Were they? I couldn’t say I really cared, which was wrong, but Aiden was staring at me—staring at me with so much passion, so much want—it was the only thing I could think about.

  And then Aiden pulled it together. Halting mid-step, he clamped his jaw shut. Those eyes were still like quicksilver, smoldering in the soft light. His gaze drifted over me once more. Shivering under its intensity, I imagined that he was filing the image of me away.

  Seth’s hand slid down my arm, fingers tightening around mine. “You know he’s not for you. ”

  “I know,” I whispered. And I did know that, and maybe that was why I felt so hollow inside.

  Aiden turned away then, smiling at something Dawn said. But it was a fake smile. I knew Aiden’s smiles. After all, I lived for them.

  “Do you want to dance?” Seth suggested.

  Coming to the ball had been a bad idea. The emptiness I felt spread, leaving a gaping hole. I didn’t belong here, but Aiden did. Aiden belonged here with pures like Dawn. Not with me, not a half-blood.

  I tore my gaze from Aiden and looked up at Seth. “I don’t want to dance. ”

  Seth’s amber gaze drifted over me. “Do you want to stay here?”

  “I don’t know. ”

  He smiled and leaned forward. When he spoke, his lips brushed my ear. “We don’t belong here, Alex. Not with them. ”

  I wanted to ask exactly where it was we belonged, but I knew what Seth’s answer would be. He’d say that we belonged together. Not in the way I wanted to belong to Aiden, but in a different way. A way I hadn’t figured out yet.

  “Let’s go,” he coaxed softly.

  I could stay here and continue pretending that I belonged, or I could leave with Seth. And then what? My fingers trembled as I set the glass down on the nearest table.

  I let Seth lead me away from the ball. A sudden heaviness settled over me. I felt like I’d made some sort of irrevocable choice.

  And maybe I had.

  CHAPTER 21

  “LET’S DO SOMETHING STUPID. ”

  I turned to Seth, oddly nervous. “You want to do something stupid right now?”

  “Can you think of a better time to do something stupid?”

  I considered that. He kind of had a good point. “Okay. I’m down with stupid. ”

  “Good. ” He started off, pulling me through the labyrinth. We rounded the Council chambers and headed into the campus. Seth cut toward the dark and silent building I’d spent the majority of my waking time in.

  “You want to train?”

  He shook his head, jaw clenched. “No. I don’t want to train. ”

  Seth picked up his pace. I had no idea what he was up to, but I’d learned a while ago to just go with it. The door to the arena was unlocked. A wide grin broke out across his face when he spotted the double doors inside
the dark corridor.

  “You want to go swimming?” I asked.

  “Sure. ”

  “It’s like forty degrees outside. ”

  Seth pushed open the door. The smell of chlorine was everywhere. “So? It’s not forty degrees in here, is it? More like sixty. ”

  I pulled away from him and stepped to the edge of the pool. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw Seth kick off his shoes. He caught my eye and winked.

  “You’re ridiculous,” I said, fighting a grin.

  “So are you. ” He slipped off the dress jacket, dropping it on the cement. “We are a lot alike, Alex. ”

  I started to deny it, but I stopped and actually thought about it instead of dismissing it. There was something about Seth that called to my wilder and yes, stupider side. We were both reckless, a little wild, and aggressive, and neither of us knew when to ever be quiet. I guess there were two types of people in the world, those who sat around a fire, staring into the flames, and those who started the fire.

  Seth and I started the fire, and then we danced around it.

  “Was it so obvious back there?” I asked quietly.

  Seth had been yanking his white shirt out of his pants, but he stopped and looked up. He appeared to be choosing his words. “I don’t know what goes on in your head, Alex. I can’t read your thoughts. I just picked up on your emotions. ”

  “Good to know. ”

  “I second that. ” He started unbuttoning his shirt. “Anyway, I don’t even need to be able to sense your emotions to know. I don’t think you want to know what it looked like. ”

  “No. I do. ” I shifted my weight to my other foot. These heels were killing me.

  Shaking his head, Seth sighed. “You were staring at him like an ugly chick stares at the last cute guy at the bar when they make the last call. ”

  I choked on my laugh. “Oh. Wow. Thanks. ”

  He raised his hands in a helpless gesture, which looked so strange for him. “I told you. ”

  “Yeah. ” I pushed strands of hair off my neck. “So I looked like an idiot to everyone?”

  “No, everyone saw a beautiful half-blood. That’s all anyone saw. ” Seth glanced away, a wry smile on his face. “Can I tell you something?”

  I turned back to the pool. “Sure. ”

  “I prefer you without gloves. ” His breath stirred the tendrils of hair against my neck. I had no idea how he moved so quietly.

  “Oh. ” I said, watching Seth as he moved to my side. Quietly, he peeled off one glove, and then the other, tossing them both away from the water. His fingers slid around the scars before he dropped my arm, stepping back. My tags never seemed to bother him. I looked at him through my lashes. “Better?”

  “Much. ”

  I glanced down at the beautiful gown. Laadan would be so upset if I ruined her dress. I turned slightly, catching my reflection in the windows of the pool room. It didn’t look like me. I looked like a doll, a carbon copy of my mom. So much so that even Lucian had looked at me in a way that made me puke a little in my mouth. Had that been what Laadan wanted? To fashion me like her long-lost friend?

  “Can you get silk wet?” I asked.

  Seth made a funny noise behind me. “I’d say probably not. ”

 
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