Sentinel, p.26
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       Sentinel, p.26

         Part #5 of Covenant series by Jennifer L. Armentrout
 
Page 26

 

  Or the exit.

  “No,” I said, and then louder, “Hell to the no, you cannot have his soul. ”

  Hades whipped toward me, and the tense pull to his lips told me he didn’t like my tone. Well, he wasn’t going to like my foot up his ass, either. “I would’ve asked for yours, but Apollo wouldn’t have allowed that. ”

  I so did not care. “You cannot have his soul. I don’t care what we need you for. ”

  Apollo heaved a heavy breath. “Alex. ”

  “No!” I spun on the god. “No way. ”

  Hades’ smirk infuriated me. “But you haven’t even heard the details. ”

  I stormed up to the god, already tasting his blood. “You can take your details and shove them up your fake British—”

  “Alex!”

  Clamping my mouth shut, I tensed my shoulders as I turned to the one person in this world who could get me to shut up. Aiden stood to my right, and the moment our gazes locked, I saw it. He wanted to hear Hades out. Knots spiraled tightly in my stomach.

  “No,” I said again, my voice a pitiful whisper. “I don’t want to even hear it. ”

  He held my gaze for a second longer and then turned to Hades. “What are the details?”

  The god oozed smugness. “I want your soul. ”

  “I think we’ve covered that,” I snapped.

  Hades ignored me. “Your soul would belong to me once you’ve died to use however I see fit. ”

  I took a breath, but it got stuck. However he saw fit? My hands itched to get around his thick neck.

  “I could always use a guard with your boldness and skill,” Hades continued.

  Images of the guards of Hell, in leather and astride giant warhorses, flashed through my mind. I couldn’t—wouldn’t picture Aiden as one of them.

  “And I wouldn’t take your life,” Hades went on while I started to picture myself lopping his head off with a giant sword. “When you die, not by my hand or through any trickery on my part, I will have your soul. I give my word. ”

  I thought of what Solos had told me. Snakes. “And we’re supposed to believe that?”

  “He’s not lying,” Apollo said, eyes narrowed. “He gave his word. It’s unbreakable. ”

  I laughed, and the sound was coarse. Trust a god’s word? Were they on meth? I twisted halfway and saw Deacon’s expression as he stared at his brother. Stark. Accepting. Oh gods, he knew. I whirled on Aiden. “No! We’ll find another way. ”

  “There is no other way. ” Aiden crossed the short distance between us and gently placed his big hands on my cheeks. “You know that. ”

  “No. ” I gripped his wrists. “There has to be something else. ”

  “Is there? Minutes ago, Perses was our only option,” Hades oh-so pleasantly reminded me.

  Outrage caused the akasha in my veins to start begging to be used. Loudly. “It’s your soul, Aiden. When you die, you will have to go to work for him or worse. You won’t go to the Elysian Fields. You…” I broke off, unable to say what was so selfish but true.

  We wouldn’t have eternity together.

  When I died, barring I didn’t kill Hades right now, I’d go to Elysia, and Aiden would not be there. He’d never be there, not until Hades allowed it. And he would never allow it.

  Tears filled my eyes as Aiden lowered his forehead to mine. “I don’t plan on dying for a long time, agapi mou. We have today, and we’ll have many tomorrows, but only if we get Hades’ help. We won’t have any of that if we don’t stop Ares. ”

  “But—”

  “This is bigger than both of us. ” His thumb caught a tear that had snuck out, wiping it away before anyone besides Seth noticed. And there was no hiding how I felt from the First. He was standing close to us, his expression devoid of its usual smirk. Aiden smiled, but it hurt. “We have to do anything and everything to stop this. ”

  “I don’t care,” I whispered.

  “Yes, you do. ”

  I shook my head. “Not if it means this, I don’t. I don’t care. ”

  It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair that we had to keep making sacrifices. We could possibly face losing a mortal life together, and now we wouldn’t even have an afterlife? Sorrow rose in me swiftly. “You wouldn’t want this for me. ”

  “I wouldn’t,” he admitted, “but that’s not the situation, and we need this. ”

  “You do,” Hades cajoled, and I wanted to claw his face into tiny, bloody pieces.

  Seth shifted closer. I didn’t see him, because I couldn’t look away from Aiden, but I felt him. “Aiden is right,” Seth said quietly, but it was still intrusive. “You know there’s no other choice. ”

  “I don’t want you to have to make this choice,” I insisted. Yes, I was being selfish, but it didn’t just affect me. It also affected his brother and his family. If Hades didn’t allow it, he’d never see his mother and father again. This was too much.

  Aiden’s striking face blurred through the haze of tears. “I know. ” His lips brushed the corner of my lips. “But we have to. ”

  I opened my mouth to protest more, but he took advantage of that moment. He deepened the kiss and kissed me like we were the only two people in the room, in the world. Tingles shot up and down my spine in a wave of electricity. I leaned into him, kissing him back with everything I felt. Aiden tasted of salt, of mint, and of love.

  Someone, maybe my uncle, cleared his throat.

  Aiden slowly lifted his head, and the room came back into focus. My cheeks burned. “By doing this, we are giving ourselves a future together. Okay? We have to do this. I have to do this, and there’s nothing that can be done to change that. ”

  “Oh, this conversation is so not over,” I promised, blinking back tears. “I’m going to spin-kick you in the head for this one later, but okay. Okay. ”

  Aiden chuckled, but he wisely stepped back and turned to Hades. “Okay. You have my soul when I die. ”

  “See?” Hades eyed me over Aiden’s shoulder. “Was that so hard?”

  “I hate you,” I hissed.

  “It’s nothing personal, Love. ”

  “Yeah, and the last time you said that to me you wanted to kill me. ” My hands curled into fists.

  The god of the Underworld shrugged. “Okay. ”

  “That’s it?” Seth asked, the hollows of his cheeks more pronounced. “You’re not going to even shake on it? He says ‘you can have my soul’ and you say okay?”

  I shot Seth a glare.

  Hades smiled again. “That’s all I need. ”

  Seth’s amber eyes rolled. “That’s anticlimactic. ”

  The god was unbothered by that as he settled his attention on Aiden and me. “You two will be responsible for Perses, meaning you will come with me and take him out of Tartarus. ”

  My spine stiffened. “We have to go to Tartarus?”

  Static crackled around Hades’ eyes. “I think showing you two what could possibly lie in store for your pure-blood may incline both of you to work extra-hard to ensure that Perses sticks to the plan. ”

  I gasped.

  “Wait. ” Seth stepped forward. “I’m going with them. ”

  Aiden opened his mouth, mostly like to passionately disagree, but Hades cut him off. “I think that is a great idea. Then the three of you will be responsible for Perses and what role Aiden takes on in the afterlife. ”

  My stomach dropped, and I felt like I was falling. Before I could protest, Hades was already making plans. We would leave for Tartarus within the hour. He would take us straight there, no need for finding a gate or facing any of the guards. It was all happening too fast. Aiden was talking to Deacon in low, hushed tones, and Solos was with Marcus, surrounded by Olivia and Luke.

  My unease about the deal settled in me like sour food. My heart pounded in my chest way too fast, and if I didn’t know any better, I would’ve sworn Phobos and Deimos were back, but they weren’t. Fear formed an icy knot under my breastbone.

>   Alex…

  I didn’t turn to Seth. What if Perses doesn’t do what we need him to? What if he runs off and slaughters an entire nation? Hades will put that on Aiden. He’ll have his soul and—

  We’ll make sure that won’t happen. The confidence in Seth’s words pushed through our bond. St. Delphi won’t end up in Tartarus, I promise you.

  The fact that Seth would promise something like that didn’t go unnoticed. Either way, he’ll own Aiden. No matter what happens. Aiden will be like a half-blood, nothing more than…

  Air leaked out of my lungs. Aiden would be like a slave, like every half-blood was now and would be, even after we took care of Ares. Aiden’s own words came back to me in that moment. This is bigger than us. Realization whirled, and an opportunity presented itself. Hell, the opportunity had always been there, but I’d been too self-absorbed to realize it, too caught up in my own problems to…

  To use the power I held in my hands to change things.

  “Wait!” I called out.

  “Alex,” Seth said in a quiet voice.

  I shook my head, breathing deeply. Apollo turned to me, inclining his head. I readied myself. “Wait. There’s something I want before we do this. ”

  Hades chuckled deeply. “What position are you in to bargain, Love?”

  If he called me “Love” one more time… I reeled in my temper and focused on Apollo. “You want us to go down into Tartarus and fetch Perses, watch over him while he helps us, and then you want me to become the God Killer and take out Ares, right?”

  Apollo shifted his weight. “That sounds about right. ”

  My heart turned over heavily. “I will only do this if you do something for me. ”

  Hades scuffed. “Again, Love, what position are you in to bargain with us?”

  I slid my gaze toward Mr. Tall, Dark, and About to be Missing an Eyeball. “Without me, you don’t have a God Killer. You can’t make me become it, and you can’t make me fight Ares. ”

  “We can be very persuasive,” Hades growled.

  “Yeah, and Ares tried to be persuasive, and I still didn’t give in. ” I looked at Apollo. “I know you guys can’t make Seth or me do it. We could leave you guys to this mess. You need us willing. ”

  Apollo’s lips twitched as if he wished to smile. “What do you want, Alex?”

  “I want you to free the half-bloods. I want you to get rid of the laws requiring them to either become Sentinels, or Guards, or servants. I want you to give them the same rights as pure-bloods. I want the Breed Order revoked. ”

  Silence.

  It was so quiet that you could hear a fly run into a wall. Everyone was staring at me like I’d just pulled up my shirt and asked for some beads.

  And then Seth chuckled deeply. “Clever, Angel. ”

  I ignored the nickname. I also ignored the way Aiden’s eyes went from the purest color of gray to silver in a nanosecond. “I know you can do it, Apollo. I know you can make the other gods agree. You do this for me, and I’ll be all about taking a tour of Tartarus. ”

 
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