Sentinel, p.47
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       Sentinel, p.47

         Part #5 of Covenant series by Jennifer L. Armentrout
 
Page 47

 

  In that moment, I briefly considered trying to take out Zeus, but it had drained everything in me and Seth to kill Ares. It wouldn’t work. Maybe I would lay some bruises on Zeus, but in the end, I couldn’t defeat another Olympian. All I had was Apollo in my corner. He could walk away from this, refuse Zeus’ bidding, because he was the only one who could kill me—besides a Titan, and our Titan had vanished.

  But Apollo didn’t look like he was going to disobey his father.

  Oh, my gods…

  Another shiver rocked my body as it really seeped in. This was it. I wanted to run. I wanted to fight, but as I stared back at the gods, I saw that it would all be so very pointless. If I fought, Seth would get hurt in the process. Badly. And who’s to say that Zeus wouldn’t turn to finding Aiden and my father to make this easier? I couldn’t risk them. I couldn’t risk anyone else like I’d done with Caleb, Lea, Olivia, and so many more.

  It…it was now my turn.

  Seth’s head snapped back as if he’d been slapped. “No. You can’t do this. We helped you! She did everything you wanted her to do!” He dropped my hand, forming his into fists. “You can’t do this to her!”

  Having not seen Seth this upset in a long time, I sucked in a sharp breath. My heart was trying to come out of my chest again. “Seth…”

  “No!” He took a step toward Zeus, but I shot forward, grabbing his arm. His wide eyes met mine. “Alex, you can’t—”

  “There’s nothing either of you can do,” Zeus said, taking a step back to stand next to Hera.

  She inclined her head to the side, and several strands of russet-colored hair slipped from her elegant coif. “It is for the best of everyone. ”

  An angry flush flooded Seth’s cheeks. “Are you serious?”

  “Seth!” I tugged on his arm.

  “What?” he snapped, turning on me. He gripped my shoulders. “You can’t be okay with this. And you’re not giving up!”

  Was I giving up? I glanced back at Apollo and read the sadness in his expression. “I’m not giving up, Seth, but they won’t allow the God Killer to live. ”

  Seth didn’t respond immediately, but when he did, he cursed harshly and blanched. “You knew! You knew that this would happen. ”

  I shook my head and whispered, “Could happen. I knew this could happen. ”

  “Could versus would? Are you shitting me? You knew this could happen, and you let me allow you to put yourself in this situation?” He shook me as more blood drained from his face. “How could you, Alex?”

  Blinking back tears, I shook my head again. How could I say that he couldn’t have handled the power of the God Killer and not make him feel worse?

  “This is sweet,” Hera said, stepping back so she joined the other Olympians. “He cares for her so deeply, and yet she loves another. Tragic. ”

  Really? My gaze slid to her, but then Apollo stepped forward, breaking ranks. Each step was slow, purposeful. A lump formed in my throat. There wasn’t enough time. I realized that then. The same crack I’d thrown in Ares’ face had now turned back on me.

  Karma was a bitch and a half.

  And so was Fate, because this was Fate, wasn’t it? Either way, I wanted to see Marcus one more time and share an awkward hug with him. I wanted to see my father once more, maybe have dinner with him. I wanted to watch Deacon and Luke laugh, and see Solos’ smile.

  And, oh gods, I wanted to kiss Aiden, just once more.

  But there was no time. This was happening. All those moments, from the second my mother had taken me out of the Covenant, had been leading up to this. She had tried to prevent this—even as a daimon, she had tried to prevent this.

  Grandma Piperi had said I’d kill the ones I love.

  She had forgotten to tell me that I would also die in the end.

  Gods, she sucked at the whole foretelling thing. But Solaris had known, hadn’t she? She had sounded like she’d been seeing me again soon, and she would be.

  This was so not fair.

  “Alexandria,” Apollo said gently. “It is time. ”

  I turned to Seth, my heart racing. “Please—”

  “No!” he yelled, still fighting the inevitable. “This isn’t right. They can’t do this. You don’t deserve this. I do. They—”

  “They’re not going to take you,” I said, tears welling in my eyes. “Listen to me, Seth. They’re not. They can’t kill you. Ares is gone, and I’m the God Killer. There’s nothing we can do. ”

  The full horror of the situation dawned in Seth’s expressive face, and he placed his hands on my cheeks. He pressed his forehead to mine. “Oh gods, Alex, I don’t want this to happen. Alex…”

  I gripped his arms, forcing myself to breathe. “Please take care of Aiden. I know you two don’t get along, but please. He’s going to need someone. So please watch out for him. Promise me, Seth. Promise me. ”

  There was a long pause, and I thought I felt his tears mix with mine. “I promise. ”

  Those two words, well, they helped a little, but God Killer or not, I was scared and I didn’t want to be alone. “Don’t let go,” I whispered, closing my eyes.

  “I won’t,” he swore, his lips brushing my cheek. “I will never let go. ”

  I started to shake. I didn’t want to be scared. Where was that strength and courage I’d felt earlier? I wanted to be the one who faced Fate with her head high, but I was scared. I knew there was no coming back from this. I would never see my father, my friends, or Aiden again. My breath caught again, and each time I took a breath, I feared it would be the last one. “Don’t leave me. Please? I don’t want to be by myself. ”

  “You’re not. ” Seth slipped his arms around me, holding me close. “You’re not alone. ” His tears were mingled with mine. “You’re not alone. You’ll never be alone, Angel. I promise you. You’ll never—”

  I took a breath and never heard his next words. There was a harsh expletive from Seth, and then the world ended for me on the heels of a burst of beautiful bright sunlight.

  CHAPTER 26

  Dying the second time was nothing like the first time. When I opened my eyes, I knew I was in the Underworld, and I knew I was dead. Not like when I was stabbed by Linard. Nope. I was as dead as everyone else around me.

  I also didn’t end up on the banks of Styx waiting for Charon with all the other dead folks; there would’ve been a lot of them there after all the fighting.

  My death was just all kinds of special.

  When I opened my eyes, I was standing in the middle of Hades’ palace. There had been no pain, no feeling of suffocation—a blink of an eye and my life was over and I was staring at the translucent, shimmery dress of Persephone.

  The first things I saw upon dying were Persephone’s breasts and nipples. Or at least one nipple, but there was definitely a nipple.

  Something seemed wrong about that being the first thing I saw in the afterlife.

  I was too dumbstruck by the whole dying thing to do or say much of anything. Hades was already back, and when Persephone dropped her arm over my shoulders, I was too out of it to be freaked out about her being so close to me.

  “Where’s Apollo?” I asked, because I wanted to see him, needed to see him.

  The arrogance that was typically present on Hades’ face was gone as he shook his head. “He will come when he can. ”

  I didn’t like that answer. Apollo should be here, not Hades. Apollo had promised to take care of me, but I had ended up dead in Hades’ palace, staring at Persephone’s nipples. This was not what I’d expected when he’d sworn to make sure I was okay.

  Hades strolled up to me and clasped my cheeks. I flinched out of habit. “You did an amazing thing today. We will forever be in your debt. ”

  I jumped on that. “Then bring me back to life. ”

  He shook his head and smiled sadly. “I cannot grant such things. ”

  So I jumped on it again. “Then release Aiden from his promise. ”
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  And he shook his head once more. “I cannot grant that either, Love. ”

  “You can’t do anything?” I demanded. “You’re a god and you’re—”

  “It all is done, Alexandria. It is over. ” Looking at his wife, he nodded. “Take her to her final resting place. ”

  Her final resting place?

  I shuddered.

  Yep, that sounded just as disturbing as one would think.

  Persephone ushered me out the back of the palace, and at first I was absolutely stunned by what I saw. It wasn’t like any part of the Underworld I’d seen before.

  “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Persephone asked. “This is the beginning of Elysian Fields, and it goes as far as the eyes can see. Like Tartarus, it is ever-changing, fitting to each person’s version of paradise. ”

  Elysian Fields was…it was striking, and it looked so real, so normal, that my heart ached at the sight. The sky was beautiful—cloudless blue and bright. The air was warm, and the light scent of jasmine reminded me of…

  I didn’t let myself finish that thought.

  “Your paradise will be what you decide, Alexandria, and you can share it with others,” Persephone explained as I stared over the lush rolling hills and, beyond, the rooftops of many homes. In the valley below, the tips of exotic-looking trees swayed, playing peekaboo with crystal clear waters below them. “It will be your choice. ”

  My choice?

  My choice had been not to die.

  Persephone took my hand, and the ground seemed to swallow us up. A second later, we were standing in an empty field cluttered with white and yellow daisies.

  “This will be your paradise,” she said, and vanished.

  And that was…that. She’d left me in an empty field.

  I stood there for an ungodly amount of time, until the sky overhead started to darken and tiny, brilliant stars appeared to blanket the deep blue of night. I learned a couple of things about being dead during that time.

  My lungs worked like they had when I was alive, because I kept feeling the air catch in my throat. I could still cry, because quiet tears tracked my cheeks. I’d always though the sobbing, body-shaking tears were the worst, but I was wrong. Quiet tears fell in a way that scarred my soul and seemed to never end.

  I’d also learned that, in death, I could still feel lonely.

  But finally, after what already felt like an eternity, I found my paradise. I closed my eyes, willing the tears to stop, and for some reason, I thought about Deity Island, of the rolling waves and the clean, warm sand. In my head, I heard the seagulls and felt the wet spray of the ocean against my cheeks. And I thought of the small but perfect cottage that had sat at the edge of the marsh.

  Opening my eyes, I let out a little yelp of surprise.

  I was back in North Carolina. I had to be, because the ocean rolled calmly before me, its waves a deep, dark blue in the night, and sand was under my feet. I could smell the marsh and feel the dampness on my cheeks. I spun around and cried out when I saw the cottage—a light was on in the window, glowing a soft yellow. I took off, slipping over the sand at breakneck speed. The door was unlocked, and the wood was warm and real, so real, in my hand. I threw the door open and realized that, even dead, my heart beat in my chest like I’d downed a gallon of energy drinks.

 
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