Cronus stood on a sidewalk, his shoulders broad now and muscles straining the pale blue shirt he wore, covering what had been a sunken chest. His skin had smoothed and filled out. That wizened beard was trimmed into a neat goatee and his white hair was cut shorter, slicked back from sharp cheekbones.
And the eeriest thing was how he was standing. “Is it just me, or is he staring directly out at the camera?”
“Hell.” Aiden inched closer, his head tilting. “It does look like that.”
“Hit play, Alex,” Marcus commanded.
I missed it the first time, because it had been a shock when I saw him, and the camera had quickly moved away from him, but there was no missing it now once the image start playing again.
“Gods,” Marcus growled, stepping back. “They’re responsible for this.”
Alex hit rewind, stopping it back on the image of Cronus. His eyes were almost normal, but the irises were so black they were almost obsidian.
Seth turned to Banks. “What else was said to you by the community outside of Chicago?”
Banks swallowed hard. “Only what you see on the television and that they’re unable to reach any of our kind within the city.”
“If the Titans are in Chicago and the community can’t get hold of the pures in the city, it’s because the Titans already have them,” I said, remembering the…the bodies of the pure-bloods scattered outside that house. “They’ll feed off them. I’ve seen it.” I spun toward Marcus. “You need to get those pures out of there. Now.”
Seth cursed under his voice. “Where is this community?”
“It’s near Lincoln Park, in a gated neighborhood,” Banks answered. “It’s pretty much a town within the city.”
“So we could get them out without drawing too much attention?” Seth asked.
“I would think so.” Banks looked to Marcus. “We could call ahead and let them know we’re coming.”
“We’d have to send in buses to get them out. With what is happening in the city, that’s going to be a problem,” Marcus said, his green eyes brilliant.
“They’ll be expecting that,” I spoke up, and Marcus focused on me. “I know I haven’t been in this world long, but I’ve seen what they’ve done to pures. They could burn through them like they’re nothing more than snacks. If the community can’t get hold of the pures in the city, they’re already lost. I’m sorry to say that, but they’re already gone.”
“Josie is right. We need to check it out first before we send more in. This could be a trap, and we’d basically be sending lambs to slaughter,” Seth said. “I can go in and scope out the community. Make sure it’s safe to bring in buses. You just need to figure out how to get the buses there.”
My heart skipped a beat. Seth being in the same location as the Titans? I knew that what Zeus had showed him in Long Beach had shaken him up, but it was a risk.
A possible world-ending risk.
“It will be a strategic nightmare, but I can get it done,” Marcus said.
“I want to go with you,” Aiden announced.
Seth looked over his shoulder at him. “Are you trying to be my best friend?”
Aiden smirked. “I thought we already were best friends.”
“I think that is a good idea,” I suggested tentatively, earning a narrowed look from Seth. I squared my shoulders. “You have no idea what you could be going into, Seth. It could be nothing or it could be…” Pressing my lips together, I shook my head. “It could be horrific.”
Seth didn’t respond for a long moment and then he nodded. “For you,” he said, his eyes holding mine. “Okay.” He looked over his shoulder at Aiden. “You can come with me.”
“If you take him, I should go.” Alex squeezed past the chair and Aiden. “I am not—”
“I’m only taking Aiden.” Seth’s gaze hardened. “And before you even say it, it has nothing to do with you being a girl.”
Her eyes flared to a burning whiskey. “I wasn’t going to say that. I was going to say you’re not taking me because you’re being an ass.”
My eyes widened.
Seth, on the other hand, showed little emotion. Apparently, he was used to Alex saying things like that. “It’s too much of a risk.”
“But going to Pluckley wouldn’t be?” she shot back. “You had no problem with the idea of me or the guys going there.”
Aiden turned to her. “Alex—”
“Don’t Alex me,” she snapped.
Keeping my mouth shut, I glanced over at Marcus, and we had a moment. Both of us were just going to stay quiet.
He tried again. “We have no reason to suspect that the Titans are anywhere near Pluckley yet. We know that Cronus is in Chicago.”
“I can handle myself.” Her cheeks flushed with anger.
“We know that.” Aiden angled his body toward her. “No one would ever question that.”
“And I’m not questioning your abilities. The Titans are going to sense me and they’re going to sense Aiden. We don’t need another demigod there,” Seth explained. “It’s going to be hard enough for two of us to stay under the radar there.”
For a moment I thought Alex was still going to argue, but she finally relented. Not happily. When she and Aiden walked out of Marcus’s office to retrieve Aiden’s weapons, I was sure he was going to catch an earful.
Plans to leave for Pluckley were delayed until we knew what to do with Chicago, and I agreed to break the news to Luke and Deacon. Once we were back in our room, I scooted around Seth and stopped directly in front of him.
“I’m worried,” I admitted.
“Babe.” Reaching between us, he captured my hands. “You know I’ll be fine.”
That wasn’t exactly true. “Cronus can kill you.”
“He won’t get near me.” He dipped his chin so we were at eye level.
“You can kill Cronus,” I reminded him.
Understanding flickered across his face. “I am not going to go after him. I know better. Now.”
A huge part of me believed him, but Seth knew Cronus had fed off me and Seth was…well, Seth was Seth. “Promise me.” I searched his gaze. “Promise me that you will get out of there before it comes down to a fight.”
Seth rested his forehead against mine as he let go of my hands and cradled my cheeks. “I promise.”
Josie’s fear ate away at me as I met back up with Aiden and then took both of us to Chicago. I didn’t blame her for one second for worrying that I would lose my shit and kill Cronus.
Gods, to be completely honest, I wanted nothing more than to watch the fucking life seep out of his eyes. He’d fed on Josie, just like Hyperion had. So, yeah, I wanted to kill that bastard slowly.
But I wouldn’t.
It would be like going against my nature, but I would keep my promise to Josie.
Aiden and I arrived just inside the gates of the community, and immediately, a cold chill powered down my spine that had nothing to do with the wind whipping the leaves on the tree-lined streets into a frenzy.
Something wasn’t right.
Beyond the ten-foot stone fencing, I could hear blaring horns and the screech of sirens, along with the distant hum of conversation. But inside these walls?
“It’s quiet,” Aiden said, noting the same thing I did as he scanned the empty park we stood in front of. “It’s way too quiet.”
Not only that, but the wind carried the scent of burnt plastic and metal, and there was a faint smell of something else under it. A heavy metallic scent.
“Banks got the call from here,” I said, walking toward the end of the park, past the empty playground. “Couldn’t have been more than twenty, thirty minutes ago.”
Aiden didn’t respond as he kept a sharp eye out for any movement. We made our way to the Main Street.
“I have a bad feeling about this,” Aiden murmured, eyes narrowing on a silent, dark-windowed coffee shop.