Pure, p.52
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       Pure, p.52

         Part #2 of Covenant series by Jennifer L. Armentrout
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Page 52


  still feeling a bit whacked. Part of me wanted to dive under the covers, another part wanted to strangle Aiden, and I still needed to find Seth.

  I also needed to deal with the fact that someone seriously didn’t want me to turn eighteen. I pushed down the ball of conflicting emotions to dwell on some other day—which I felt sure would be a day very soon—and opened the door. Aiden stood there, waiting. He was there because I obviously couldn’t be allowed to be anywhere by myself, but I still wanted to punch him in the face.

  Our walk downstairs was awkward.

  A few Guards who had been present during the Council session nodded respectfully as I passed them. That was an improvement from being ignored. Aiden left me when I stopped at the linen-covered tables. I guess he figured I was safe within eyesight.

  I stared at the plate of fresh croissants and bagels, swallowing thickly. I didn’t think I could ever eat again. I grabbed a bottle of water and shuffled to where Aiden sat beside Marcus. Marcus didn’t look up from his newspaper when I dropped into the seat beside him.

  I could feel Aiden’s eyes on me and I wanted to bang my head on the table. Instead of doing that, I twisted around and stared across the cafeteria. I pretended to be engrossed in the wall until I noticed the two servants standing by it.

  It was him—the clear-eyed one I’d seen the first day here and tried to talk to in the stairwell. He leaned toward the other half-blood, a boy. I couldn’t help but wonder how the pures—the Masters—couldn’t see how alert this Brown Eyes was.

  Brown Eyes must have sensed me watching, because he turned and looked me straight in the eye. Not quite a hostile look, maybe a little curious. He quickly turned back to the other servant. I don’t know why I watched them for so long. It may’ve been how tense their conversation seemed. Half-blood servants rarely argued, even among themselves. They were usually too medicated to even hold a decent conversation, but these two were different.

  “Where were you last night, Alexandria? This morning, you were not in your bed. ”

  Marcus’s question jerked me around. I said the one thing that I knew Marcus wouldn’t question and was sort of true. “I was with Seth. We were talking and I fell asleep. ”

  “Really?” He nodded at the double doors leading to the patio. Seth stood there, his back to us. “So are you the one who gave him that black eye?”

  “Uh…” I was already standing. “I’ll see you guys in a little bit. ”

  Marcus made a noise that sounded a lot like a chuckle and went back to his paper. I found it disturbing that he’d find the idea of domestic violence so humorous.

  Taking a deep breath, I cut between the empty tables and followed Seth outside, not daring a look back to see Aiden’s expression. Seth didn’t turn around, but I knew he felt me. His shoulders tensed as he leaned against the one of thick marble columns.

  I shivered in the chilly air, wondering why I hadn’t brought a jacket. I stopped next to him and stared across the grounds. The top of the mammoth wall surrounding the place peeked over the tree line. I hoped he’d say something first, but the minutes passed and Seth remained silent. He wasn’t going to make any of this easy.

  “Hey,” I said, immediately feeling stupid.

  “Hey. ”

  I rolled my eyes and stepped in front of him. Seth stared down at me coolly. Up close, the purple and blue ring around his left eye looked brutal. “Does that hurt?”

  “Don’t you think that’s a stupid question?”

  “Do you want another black eye?” I snapped.

  He arched an eyebrow. “I think I prefer the drunken version of you. She’s much nicer. ”

  I stepped back. “You know what? Forget it. ”

  Seth reached out and caught my arm. “What do you want to talk about? How disgusted you are with me?”

  “No,” I stared at him in surprise. “That’s not what I was going to say at all. ”

  Some of the coolness slipped from his expression, but he still regarded me warily. “Then why did you want to talk to me?”

  “I want to talk about… last night. ” I felt my cheeks burn. “It wasn’t your fault. ”

  His brows flew up. “Not my fault?”

  “No. ” I glanced over his shoulder, spotting the pure-blood Council Guard who had taken out Hector. He stood by the glass door leading out to the patio, trying to appear as if he wasn’t watching us. “Can we go somewhere private?”

  Seth looked over his shoulder. “Let’s go. ”

  We ended up a few rows into the labyrinth. Being in here left a bad taste in my mouth, but there was really no other place that was private. Seth leaned against the stone wall and folded his arms. “So talk. ”

  I swallowed uncomfortably. This would be so awkward. “I wanted to apologize for… well, for everything that happened last night. ”

  “You’re apologizing to me?” He sounded stunned.

  Shifting to my other foot, I nodded. “I know you tried to get me to sit down and not do what I was doing. You tried to—”

  “I didn’t try hard enough, Alex. ” He pushed off the wall. “Aiden’s right—gods, I can’t even believe I’m saying that, but he is. I knew you weren’t yourself. So I should’ve stopped it. ”

  My gaze followed him. He plucked a rose off a bush next to an armless gray statue of a woman in an ill-fitted toga. “You did stop, Seth. ”

  He shot me a bland look over his shoulder. “You and I both know why I stopped. It wasn’t out of chivalry. ”

  I didn’t believe that—not entirely. “Seth, you aren’t the bad guy in this. You were sort of drugged, too—through our connection. And you took care of me afterward. ”

  He shrugged. “What else was I supposed to do?”

  “You held my hair while I puked. You didn’t need to do that. You could have left me in the bathroom. That’s pretty hardcore. ”

  “It was also gross. Just so you know. ” Seth turned around, not looking at me, but at the rose in his palm.

  Irritation surged to the surface. “Why are you acting like this? I’m trying to tell you that you weren’t at fault for last night, and you’re being a jerk!”

  Blue fire sprung from his hand, folding over the rose. It smoked a wispy blue before disappearing into nothing.

  I dragged my eyes from his hand and struggled for patience. Was every conversation today going to end in argument?

  His eyes flicked up, meeting mine finally. “It appears you were well taken care of after I left. Were you thrilled that Aiden stayed with you? I’m sure you were. ”

  I felt stung and confused by Seth. “I don’t want to argue with you. ”

  The blue flames licked at the rose between his fingers much slower this time. Plumes of blue smoke puffed into the air. “Then you should probably stop talking to me. ”

  I stepped back, chafing my arms. “Why are you being so pisstastic with me?”

  Seth blinked and the blue fire evaporated, leaving the rose whole. “I don’t believe pisstastic is a real word, Alex. ”

  Hiding underneath the covers for the rest of the day started to look even better. “All right, well, this was fun. I’ll see you around. ”

  Seth moved then. He reached out and caught my arm again, the rose dangling from his other hand. “I’m sorry. ”

  I gawked at him. Seth never apologized. Ever.

  The impossible happened. The mask he wore slipped off his face. Suddenly, he looked very young and unsure. “I felt you this morning. You were embarrassed and upset, and then so angry. I’m sorry for putting you through that. I should have… restrained myself. ”

  It took me a few moments to realize what Seth referenced. “That had nothing to do with you, Seth. ”

  “Why are you trying to make me feel better?”

  “Seth, I’m embarrassed. I danced around your room and molested you. So yeah, I’m a bit embarrassed about that. But the other things you picked up on? That was because of Aiden. ”

/>   “Isn’t it always about Aiden?” He dropped my arm and turned away. “Did he finally profess his undying love for you?”

  I laughed brokenly. “Not quite. ”

  Seth glanced over his shoulder. “My eye socket has a hard time believing that. ”

  “He stayed with me because he fell asleep. ”

  His head dropped, and I wondered what he was doing. “And you believe that?”

  I blinked back sudden tears. I would’ve risked everything this morning if Aiden had said he loved me, but he hadn’t. “Does it matter?”

  He turned around, studying me like he was trying to figure something out. “Does it?”

  A breeze rolled through, rattling the leaves and kicking my hair into my face. I pushed the hair away, but it blew right back. “Seth, you asked me to make a choice the night before. And I did. ”

  Seth glanced down at the rose before peering up through thick lashes. “And that choice still matters today?”

  That was a good question. How could it, when an hour ago I would’ve given up everything for Aiden if he’d told me just once that he loved me. But he hadn’t. I looked away, once again wondering what exactly was I doing. Was this fair to Seth? Because Aiden had been right, I was kind of settling for him. But Seth hadn’t said he had any hardcore feelings for me. He hadn’t even asked me to be his girlfriend. What he had suggested was for us to see what happens—no labels and no expectations. And if I was honest with myself, I did care for Seth. A lot.

  I bit my lip. “I chose you. Does that still matter to you?”

  He laughed suddenly and then fell silent. I could see him trying to pull the shutters back up, but failing. I’d never seen him so vulnerable. Trying to give him space, I moved back to the wall and watched him.

  “Yes, it does matter to me. ”

  Something fluttered in my chest faintly. “Okay, so… um, where does that leave us?”

  Silently, he handed me the rose. A small jolt ran over my fingertips. The stem felt warm to the touch and a faint trace of blue still clung to the blossom, turning the dewy petals violet. Without warning, he lifted me onto the wall. He placed his hands on either side of my legs. “Alex. ”

  I looked around, dangling my legs. “Seth?”

  “Well, all of this is weird. ”

  “Yeah, especially right now. ”

  “It’s about to get weirder. Be prepared. ”

  “Great. ” I twirled the rose around with one hand and tapped my thigh with the other. “I can’t wait. ”

  Seth smiled. “I can tell you’re freaked out. ”

  My eyes narrowed. “You’re doing it now? Reading me, aren’t you? How in the world do you do that?”

  I was surprised when he answered the question. “I just open up my mind to you, tune into the connection. It’s like a two-way radio signal. Your feelings come through in waves, sometimes loudly. Other times, it’s just a twinge at the edge of my mind. You probably could pick up on them now, if you tried. ”

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