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The Struggle

The Struggle

Page 16

Anger snapped alive at the mere thought of her being with someone. I’d kill the son of a bitch that touched her, and yeah, that was wrong. The whole “I can’t be with you, but you can’t be with anyone else” was another way I was leveling up in the whole stalker biz, but I couldn’t change how I felt.

Exhaling, I straightened and was about to head back inside when a door farther down opened and Karina stepped out.

“Good morning, Kýrios.” She stopped, clasping her hands together. “You appear well rested.”

“I am.” I rested my hip against the railing. “But I have a feeling you expected that.”

Her chin inclined as her dark eyes glimmered in the faint morning light. “I did.” She glided forward, and I wondered if her feet even touched the ground. “I sense that you have questions, and I find that knowledge is more easily accepted when the sun has just begun its journey.”

I arched an eyebrow at that, but she was right. I had questions. Lots of them, and while there was still a part of me that just wanted to give zero fucks, something inside me, something new and strong, refused to allow me to walk away from this—from what I was.

“I do have questions,” I answered finally, folding my arms across my chest.

Her smile was oddly relieved. “Ask away.”

“What are you, exactly?”

The smile slipped. “What do you mean?”

“You’re a pure-blood who is a priestess. I get that, but you’re no normal pure. The aether in you is stronger, almost like what I’d feel in an Apollyon,” I explained, easily recalling what it had felt like to be around Alex before and after she’d awakened. “But I was unaware that priestesses still served the gods and I have no idea why the aether is stronger in you than an ordinary pure.”

“We have been around since the dawn of time serving the gods. Just because they have retreated to Olympus does not mean we stop our service. We are just more . . . quiet in our service now.”

“You mean, you just don’t sacrifice virgin mortals anymore?”

Her lip quirked up on one side. “There is that, but those who serve the gods are chosen at birth. The gods we serve mark us all with their icons, and since we are chosen, we are simply more pure. We are more godly, which is how we have more aether in our blood. It has been that way since the beginning and will be that way to the end.”

I didn’t miss the fact she hadn’t really denied the whole sacrificial virgin question. I probably should check out the temple soon and make sure they weren’t hoarding virgins. Adding that to the to-do list.

“And you bear the icon of what god exactly?” I asked.

She tilted her head to the side, and it was pretty impressive that the elaborately coiled hair didn’t topple her right over. “You already know the answer to that.”

Maybe I did, but I waited.

Unclasping her hand, she reached up, curling her fingers along the folds of her dress. She pulled it aside, and for a moment, I thought she would expose her breasts, and well, that was going to end this conversation real quick, but she didn’t, thank the worthless gods.

She exposed only the upper swell of her right breast, and there it was, a rosy-colored birthmark in the shape of the invincibility rune, the same as above the temple.

A muscle worked in my jaw.

“It is the mark of the God of Life and Death. The one who is absolute,” she explained, smoothing the sleeve of her dress. “The Appointed God.”

“That’s a lot of names for one god,” I said dryly. For some reason, a weird memory poked free. It was when Alex had been hauled before the Council under the false pretenses of discussing the daimon attacks her mother had been a part of. The reasoning had been a ruse and Minister Telly, who had been part of a secret group of dickheads hell bent on taking down the Apollyon, had used the stage to try to get her cast into servitude. During the questioning he’d called her something that suddenly raised the hairs on the back of my neck.

He’d called her the Harbinger of Death.

Except it had never been Alex any of them had to worry about. It had been me.

“A god we’ve waited a long, long time for.” She folded her hands together once more. “The prophecy speaking of the Appointed One was written into the void many centuries ago, and for hundreds of years, those born to serve the Appointed One have waited eagerly for their god. Twenty-two years ago, that god was finally born. The prophecy was finally set into motion, and we answered the call to come to Andros. You are the Appointed One, the God of Life and Death.”

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