“Will this harm her in any way?” Concern colored Marcus’ voice.
“No.” She started to shimmer out, but her voice still carried with its cold indifference. “But I would not give her more than six doses. The effects may become permanent at that point.”
And then she was gone, leaving all of us open-mouthed. Marcus exhaled loudly. “Nice of her to throw that in.”
“It could become permanent?” I raised a brow, daring Apollo to look away. “Did you know this?”
His eyes narrowed. “I know the same amount as you do. At least we know not to exceed six doses. If it lasts at least four days, then that gives us nearly a month.”
“If it lasts four days each time,” I pointed out.
Apollo glanced down at the pitcher. “Well, we’re about to find out.”
I went down the stairs, detached as I could be. Knowing what I was about to take part in darkened my soul. Something like that might sound dramatic, and before, I really didn’t think it was possible, but now I understood.
“It’s for the best,” Apollo said.
Glaring at him, I slid past him and stopped in front of the cell. Alex was sitting on the mattress, back against the wall and knees tucked close to her chest. She stared behind me, to where I knew Apollo waited in the shadows. For some reason, Alex reacted like a crazed hydra when Apollo went near her.
“Did you finally come to your senses and decide to let me out?” A smirk twisted her once beautiful lips. They were now chapped from lack of water. The bottle sat untouched by the wall.
I unlocked the door. “You know the answer to that.”
Alex rose to her feet, swaying as she stepped off the mattress. Her face was as pale as the walls surrounding her. “I should’ve known none of you would be smart enough.”
We slipped into the cell, locking it behind us. I watched Alex wearily. She was growing weaker by the day, but the girl was a fighter to her core. Marcus moved back, letting me deal with her as we’d planned.
It seemed fitting that I’d be the one who did this.
Her eerie amber gaze slid past me to what Marcus held in his hands. The liquid inside the glass was deep blue and thick. Recognition flared, and she took a step back. I moved to her side, holding my breath.
As expected, she went wild.
Shooting forward, I wrapped my arms around her, clamping her arms to her sides. Using my weight, I brought her to the floor as carefully as I could, but she thrashed and struggled. From behind her, I got my legs around her waist and locked them down over hers.
Alex was trapped.
“No! No!” she screamed over and over, each word a punch straight to my heart. “No! No!”
Pressing my cheek against hers, I forced her head back. “I’m sorry, Alex, I’m so sorry.”
“You can’t do this to me!” She tried to wiggle her head down but failed. Her voice was laced with hatred and power, an edge that didn’t belong to her. “You’ll regret this. All of you, it will be the last thing you do. I promise you.”
“Do it,” I urged, wanting this over with. Over Marcus’ shoulder, my eyes met Apollo’s. He stood just outside the cell now. Even the god looked disgusted with what we were doing.
With a pained expression, Marcus crouched in front of us and grabbed Alex’s chin. His hand shook as he lifted the glass of Elixir, and he squared his shoulders. “Sorry, Alexandria. It’ll be over in seconds.”
Like a switch being thrown, the voice that came out of the trembling girl was one I recognized and feared. “Please don’t do this,” she begged. Seconds later, my cheeks were wet from her tears. “Please, Marcus, please don’t do this to me.”
Marcus hesitated. “Alex?”
Her body shuddered against mine. “I’ll behave. I promise. I’ll do whatever you ask, but please don’t give me the Elixir.”
I drew in a shallow breath. “What color are her eyes?”
“Gold,” he grunted.
Moving both of her slender wrists to one hand, I knocked Marcus’ hand away and grasped her chin. “It’s not her, not really. Do it. Gods dammit, just do it!”
Alex wailed, and a part of me turned cold—forever. I forced her mouth open, bruising her jaw as her struggles renewed. Energy hummed through me, shocking me every couple of seconds. Marcus tipped the glass to her lips, and the sickeningly sweet aroma of the Elixir filled the cell.
Even after the contents of the glass were gone, Alex still fought. Screaming, rolling her hips, throwing her head back and forth until I felt her breaths turning deeper, slower.
Marcus moved back, setting the glass aside. He wiped his hands along his pants as if he could somehow wipe away what he’d just done to his niece, but it had left a mark on my soul.
I’d never be able to wipe it away, no matter how hard I tried.
I watched Marcus and Apollo as her muscles loosened and her body relaxed against mine. Her head fell back against my shoulder and to the side as she drew in a deep, long breath that sounded like a sigh.
Gazing down at her, I saw the marks again. Intricate designs bled through her skin, swirling over her cheeks and down her neck. Inked in blue, they brightened until the whole room was awash in sapphire, and then they faded out. Alex stilled.
“You have to finish this,” Apollo said.
One of these days I was going to hit Apollo again. I probably wouldn’t survive, but it was going to happen. Turning Alex in my arms, I cradled her against my chest and cupped her cheek. “Alexandria, open your eyes.”
Her lashes fluttered against her pale cheeks, and then finally, they lifted. I sucked in a sharp breath. Her eyes were shattered—dull brown with gold shredded through them. The connection had been broken, but it wasn’t Alex staring back at me blankly. It wasn’t Seth either.
She was a stranger—a young, scared girl who didn’t recognize me, an empty slate perfect for compulsion.
I clamped down on the anger rising in my throat and kept my eyes locked with hers. “To óνομά σας είναι Alexandria.”
Your name is Alexandria.
She blinked slowly.
Pain sliced through my chest. “To óνομά μου εέναι Aiden…” I choked as the back of my throat burned. Wetness gathered in my eyes, clouding Alex’s face. I can’t do this. I have to do this. The words burst out of me. “To óνομά μου είναι Aiden και είμαι ο Δάσκαλóς σας.”
My name is Aiden, and I am your Master.
“Θα υπακούσει μου κάθε επιθυμία, την επιθυμία,. και την εντολή σε θάνατο.”
You will obey my every wish, desire, and command to death.
Or until the Elixir wore off.
She breathed in the words, relaxed a little more, and became them. And I watched the shattered eyes dull even more. I let go of her hands and they fell to her lap.
“What is your name?” I asked, voice hoarse.
“Alexandria,” she repeated in a soft voice I’d never heard Alex use in real life.
“And who am I?”
“Aiden.” She smiled, and I flinched. “You are my Master.”
THE FIRST THING WE DID WAS TO GET HER TO EAT, BUT it wasn’t a simple process. I took Alex upstairs and sat her at the table. The entire time she kept her eyes glued to her hands, which were folded in her lap.
Alex didn’t speak unless she was directly spoken to, and even then, she didn’t raise her eyes. I set a plate of cold cuts and a bowl of fruit in front of her, along with a can of grape soda—her favorite.
She didn’t move.
I glanced at Marcus, who remained by the door, making sure no one entered. Apollo had disappeared the instant I’d brought her out of the cell. Bastard. “You have to be hungry, Alex. You haven’t eaten a thing in days.”
“My name is Alexandria,” came the soft whisper.
I blinked several times and then pushed the plate toward her. “Aren’t you hungry, Alexandria?”
It clicked then. Like most indentured half-bloods, they had to be ordered—ordered to do everything. Sitting back, I dragged my fingers through my hair. “Please eat, Alexandria.”
Her lashes lifted. Those strange eyes met mine for a brief second, and then went to the plate of food. She was slow to eat at first, but once she grew comfortable—or confident in what she was doing—she finished the plate and most of the bowl. Two cans of soda later, she tugged at a limp lock of hair.
Marcus shook his head and turned, leaving us. Did he regret all those times that he’d wished Alex was more amenable? Funny thing was, even when I’d demanded that she not do something in the past, I’d secretly loved that she rarely listened.
I stood, surprised when she automatically came to her feet. “I’ll show you to your room and you can shower if you want.” I bit the inside of my cheek as her lashes swept down. Try this again. “You will clean up and then rest.”
“Okay.” She looked up, her eyes drifting over my face. “I…”
“What?” I stepped forward.
Alex moved back behind the chair as if it were some kind of shield. She shook her head. I gave her a few moments to speak again, but she’d gone mute. I wanted to reach out and touch her, comfort her, but I had a feeling it would upset her.
I led her to the bedroom I’d been staying in. A smaller room was linked with mine through a shared bathroom. Placing her in that room would enable me to keep an eye on her.
At least that’s what I told myself as I showed her the shower and placed two towels and a robe on the bathroom sink. It had nothing to do with the fact I just wanted her close to me.
Yeah, I wasn’t kidding anyone.
At first I thought I was going to have to undress her, and dear gods, there was no way I could do that and not, well, think and feel the things I would. Then she grabbed the hem of her sweater and started to lift. I had to force myself from the bathroom. Saint Delphi my ass.
Shutting the door behind me, I leaned against it and closed my eyes. The water turned on, and I pushed off, crossing the room and sitting down on the edge of the bed. Weariness seeped into my bones. Maybe I could sleep now, at least longer than a few hours.
A very small, minuscule amount of relief pinged through me. Alex was moving around, not trying to kill anyone, and no longer connected to Seth. Something to celebrate, right? No. What was walking around wasn’t really Alex. She couldn’t be that meek if she tried.
Fifteen minutes passed and the door slowly cracked open. A much cleaner Alex peeked out, clutching the robe’s collar, eyes downcast. She stepped into the bedroom, shifting from one foot to the next.