The Struggle

The Struggle

Page 47

“I’m kind of surprised you know what Christmas smells like,” Alex muttered. She sighed as she looked down at herself. “I smell like a coffee shop now.”

Seth touched my arm. It was a gentle brush of his fingers, but it sent a tight shiver dancing over my skin. “How are you feeling?”

“Fine.” Since he’d almost given me a heart attack, I wasn’t really paying attention to my head any longer. “I’m glad you decided to pop yourself into the room. We need to talk.”

Seth glanced at Alex. She smiled broadly back. His eyes narrowed.

“You’re not letting Aiden go by himself to check out the shades,” I told him, and when he opened his mouth, I kept going. “It takes you how long to pop people back and forth? Seconds? I’ll be fine for a few seconds.” Even though I believed that, a icy trickle of fear climbed down my spine. I hated the feeling. “You’re going to take Alex.”

He stared at me a moment and then looked over at Alex again. “Did you talk her into this?”

She rolled her eyes. “Yes. Because she doesn’t have a mind of her own.”

I glared at him. “It was my call. And it’s the right call.”

Seth leaned back, popping a booted foot on the edge of the coffee table. “I’ll think about it, but I need to tell you—”

“Don’t try to distract me.” I twisted toward him. “Alex needs—”

“I just saw Apollo,” Seth cut in.

“What?” He’d officially distracted me.

Alex lurched forward in her chair. “Where?”

Seth’s eyes roamed over my face and then met and held my gaze. “I summoned him in the temple. Apparently, if you shed your blood over flame, you can’t hurt another god in a temple. So he showed up this time.”

I didn’t say anything, because I didn’t know what to say. My father had been here, on this island, and he hadn’t come to see me?

“I asked him about those bands,” Seth said, reaching over and picking up my hand. “He said only Hades can remove them.”

“That’s good news.” Alex clasped her knees. “We just need to get Hades here.”

“He’s not going to come here, not even if the temple is safe. Obviously the Olympians are lacking in the courage department.”

I was still snagged on the fact that my father had been here and I hadn’t seen him.

“Because of you?” Alex asked.

Seth didn’t even try to hide his little smirk. “Apollo is going down there to talk with Hades. He has to come through.”

Alex said something, and I could feel myself nodding, but my entire being felt like it had been stung. All I could think was that he was here and—Wait. Maybe Seth hadn’t let him see me. “Did he . . . did he try to see me?”

He didn’t immediately respond, and I knew the answer right then. I started to pull my hand away, but Seth’s grip tightened. He pulled me toward him, and I wanted to resist, but the moment his arm circled my waist, I gave in. I planted my cheek on Seth’s shoulder and squeezed my eyes shut against the stupid, pointless burn in them.

Why was I surprised?

“We didn’t have a very good conversation,” Seth said after a moment. His free hand smoothed over my cheek. “And I think he knew the moment he left that temple, we wouldn’t be talking.”

I smiled weakly and pretended I didn’t know that Seth was actually making excuses for Apollo. Because it wasn’t for him. It was for me, and I did appreciate it, but it didn’t erase the hurt.

My father had been on the absentee list nearly my entire life. He let my mom sink into mental illness that may or may not have been caused by him. He wasn’t there for me through so much, with the exception of one long, lonely summer. He . . . lied to me about my mother dying, and if he’d wanted to see me he would’ve. Seth wouldn’t have stopped him, and even if he had, Apollo could’ve found a way around him.

The ache in my chest spread, and I didn’t even know why it hurt so much, but as I snuggled into Seth and slowly opened my eyes, I realized that Apollo was my father by blood.

And blood . . . blood meant nothing.

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