Sentinel, p.49
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       Sentinel, p.49
 

         Part #5 of Covenant series by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Page 49

 

  “No,” I whispered, my chest aching as if someone had split me wide open. Tears welled up and spilled down my cheeks. I wiped at them hastily. “That didn’t make me feel better at all. ”

  “I didn’t think it would, but you insisted. ” He headed around the front of the cottage—the cottage I wasn’t sure I could even look at now. “People loved you—still love you. Mourning is never easy. But they will heal, and they will continue to live. ”

  And I wanted that—I wanted them to move on. Even as badly as I wanted to see them again, I didn’t want them here. They deserved to live.

  “The Elixir is no more,” Apollo said. “I thought you’d like to know that. ”

  I looked up at Apollo as we crossed the beach, the sand warm under my bare feet. Since I’d died, I’d boycotted shoes. “Thank you. ”

  “Some of the servants will have lasting effects from being on the Elixir for so long, but many are functioning well. Many are presented with options they’ve never had before. ” He stopped, several feet from the edge of the lapping waves. “After Ares’ defeat, an emergency Council meeting was called. Solos was given a spot on the Council. ”

  My mouth dropped open. “Are you serious? A half-blood on the Council? Oh my gods, that’s…wow, that’s awesome. How did it happen?”

  A small grin appeared on his lips. “Only a few days have passed, but a lot has happened. Aiden took his spot on the Council as well. ”

  I sucked in a shallow breath as pride swelled through me. “He did? His parents…”

  “He did. With his vote, among others, they officially revoked the Breed Order and gave those rights I promised you back to the halfs. ”

  Oh, my gods galore, I felt like I needed to sit down. This was major.

  “He also gave up his seat afterward. He gave his seat to Solos. ”

  My eyes widened. “He did what? I mean, that’s great about Solos, but why would he do that?” Then fear poured into my chest like ice. “Oh gods, he’s going to be okay, right? He’s not going to do anything stupid—”

  “He’s not going to do anything stupid. He will be okay,” Apollo responded. “Change is coming for our society, Alexandria. It will take some time, but it will happen. Just like you will come to accept your new path. ”

  Thrown off by that last statement, I took a step back, away from Apollo. “My new path?”

  “Yes, it’s time that you start to move on. ”

  I gaped at him. “I just died!”

  “And apparently enough time has passed for you to get ticked off about me not coming to visit you immediately. ” Apollo smiled widely at my death glare. “Remember what you did with Caleb to honor your mother and those who died last summer?”

  “What?” The change of subject left me spinning.

  “You used spirit boats as a way of moving on, didn’t you?”

  I frowned. “Were you peeping on me then, Apollo?”

  He ignored that. “I think you need to do the same thing for yourself. ”

  “What the what?” I stared at him, stunned into stupidity. “You want me to set a spirit boat into the ocean that’s meant for me?”

  Apollo nodded once more. “I think it’s the perfect idea. It will be symbolic and hopefully a new start for yourself. ”

  Several seconds passed while I waited for him to yell “just kidding” and slap me on the shoulder, but he didn’t. “You’re serious. ”

  “Do I look like I’m joking?”

  Actually, he looked like he wanted to hit me. “But that is so…weird. ”

  “It is not weird. ” His gaze dropped over me. “But you should be dressed nicer than this, like you were when you did it before. ”

  My mouth opened, but before I could utter a word, Apollo snapped his fingers, and my clothes changed. They changed while on my body. Jeans and tank top, my choice of afterlife attire, turned into the black tube dress I’d worn the day Caleb and I had set the little spirit boats free.

  Smoothing my hands over the soft material, I lifted my gaze. “That’s…that’s creepy, because there had to be a split second when I was naked, so don’t do that again. ”

  He shrugged and then held out his once-empty palm. Not so empty now. A spirit boat rested in his hand, candle and all.

  I hesitated. “You’re really going to make me do this. ”

  “Yes. ”

  Fighting the urge to roll my eyes, I recognized that Apollo wasn’t going to be swayed on this matter. And it was strange. Ever since Apollo had killed me, I’d imagined letting loose on him hundreds of times, but now that he was here, holding a damn spirit boat in hands, I didn’t have it in me.

  Maybe because I had agreed to become the God Killer, knowing how it would probably end.

  Shaking my head, I took it from Apollo. The moment my fingers wrapped around it, a tiny flame encased the wick of the white candle. I held the fragile spirit boat in my hands. “You know this is twisted and morbid, right?”

  “You need to let go of your old life, Alexandria. ”

  “My only life,” I muttered.

  Apollo didn’t respond to that.

  Exhaling harshly, I turned toward the ocean. Sun glinted off the waves, and I knew the water would be warm and foamy, because that was how I liked it. But walking out to those waves with a spirit boat meant for myself wasn’t as easy as anyone would think.

  I stood there for several moments, so many thoughts racing through my head as a soft breeze rolled off the ocean and stirred my hair. Could I really do this without laughing or crying? Because I wasn’t sure if it was funny or just really sad. And was I ready for this? Contrary to Apollo’s annoying opinion, I did just die. Was I ready to move on? Did I want to?

  That was a tough question.

  The pain, the longing, and the yearning had become familiar to me. Letting go seemed like I was giving up, but that wasn’t right. Even in my darkest moments, I knew that wasn’t true. The truth was, I didn’t want to be like this forever. I didn’t want to be like this for another week. And I sure as hell didn’t want to end up in the Vale.

  I wasn’t sure that a spirit boat would be the answer, but it wouldn’t hurt to try. And who cared if I felt a little stupid for doing it? I was dead. Not like anyone was going to judge me here.

  Taking a deep breath, I forced my legs forward. The sand gave way under my feet, and water tickled my toes. I kept going until the water foamed just below my knees. I stopped, staring down at my boat. I’d done this before. Hadn’t I said that Mom was in a better place? She was—I saw her yesterday. We pulled weeds in the garden together. So wasn’t I in a better place now? No more looming threats of death or dismemberment. No more messed-up Fate or duty. No more loss.

  There was just the loss I’d already suffered.

  But maybe that too would fade one day. And I’d see my friends and family again. I knew that. And maybe when it was time for Aiden, Hades would take pity on us. After all, the rotten S. O. B. owed us. He most definitely owed me.

  Letting out a sigh, I bent down and placed the spirit boat in the ocean. My fingers lingered for a second, and I said the only thing I could think of saying. “Goodbye. ”

  And so I let the boat go.

  Straightening, I watched the waves carry it off, further and further out until I couldn’t see the boat anymore. I wasn’t sure I felt any better, but I thought it was a step in the right direction. It was something, which according to my own personal motto was better than nothing.

  I turned around, about to yell back at Apollo and ask him if he was happy now, but as my gaze flickered over the god, something else caught my attention.

  My heart stopped.

  Dead or not, it was possible.

  Air froze in my lungs. I couldn’t blink, because I was terrified that if I did, what I was seeing would vanish, because it couldn’t be real.

  He couldn’t be real.

  Aiden stood at the shoreline, the water curling around his ankle
s, dampening the hems of the jeans he wore. The breeze caught the edges of his white shirt, lifting them slightly, and played with his locks of dark, wavy hair. Rays of sun kissed his broad cheeks, and from that distance, I could see that his eyes were a breathtaking, fierce silver. He was smiling.

  He was smiling at me.

  “Hey,” he said, and oh my gods, it was his voice. A voice I’d thought I wouldn’t hear again for a very long time—or maybe never again.

  I placed my hand against my chest as my throat worked. “Is this… is this real?”

  His smile spread, revealing those deep dimples in his cheeks. “This is real, agapi mou. ”

  I couldn’t move.

  “Alex,” he called, laughing softly.

  “How are you here? Oh my gods…” My gaze darted to Apollo. “Is he dead? You said he would be okay! That he wouldn’t do anything—”

  “I’m not dead,” Aiden interrupted, stepping forward. Waves lapped up his calves. “Come out of the water and we’ll explain. Come on, agapi mou. ”

  I was held immobile for another second or two, and then it seemed to sink in. Aiden was here. A cry parted my lips as I sprang into action. Holding my hair back from my face, I half-stumbled and half-ran toward the beach. He came forward, meeting me halfway.

  Throwing myself at him, I nearly knocked him down, but he regained his footing, wrapping his arms around my waist as he pulled me against his chest. The feel of him, warm and real, against my chest was wonderful and sent a thrill through me. His scent, the mixture of sea and soap, filled me.

  It also ripped me right open.

  Tears fell from my eyes as I burrowed against his chest, squeezing him so tightly I was surprised I wasn’t hurting him. Though he held me the same way, whispering in my ear words I couldn’t understand above my sobs. And I was speaking, but the words didn’t make much sense.

  But finally, his hand slid up to my cheek, leaving a trail of fire in its wake, and he made this deep sound in his chest a second before his lips brushed across mine. Another cry came from the depths of my soul, and the kiss deepened. The kiss reached into me, wrapped its way around my heart, and jump-started it in a way that it never had when I was alive. And I kissed him back, tasting the salt of my tears and of the sea on his lips.

  Apollo cleared his throat.

  Slowly, as if we had all the time in the world and didn’t have an audience, Aiden slowed the kiss down at his own pace, nipping at my lower lip as he lifted my head. I was breathless as I opened my eyes.

  He kissed my forehead and then eased me down onto my feet. Keeping an arm around my waist and tucking me close to his body, he turned us toward Apollo and we waded back to the sand.

  The god was smiling. Not the creepy smile that he usually graced the world with, but a real one.

  “How?” I asked, clutching the front of Aiden’s shirt as if I planned to hold him there. “How is this possible? Is he visiting me? Is he—?”

  Aiden chuckled as he smoothed his free hand under my chin. “I’m not visiting. ”

  My heart almost imploded at that, but I didn’t understand.

 
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