I stepped off the sidewalk and into the middle of the street. “Look at this.”
Aiden followed. Down at the intersection, there were cars stopped. Doors opened. “What in the hell?”
I started forward, passing several brick row homes that appeared to be devoid of life. Reaching the driver’s side of the last car, I walked around and peered inside. “It’s empty.”
“Like the damn Rapture took place.” Aiden stalked up to the other side, one hand on the dagger at his thigh. He went to the next car and bent at the waist. He stumbled back. “Shit.”
“What?” I looked up.
“Got a body.”
Joining him, I looked inside and sucked in a sharp breath. There was a pure-blood male slumped over in the passenger seat, throat torn open, exposing tissue and congealed blood.
Part of me had already suspected what had happened here from the moment we arrived. There was no doubt now.
The Titans had been here.
I straightened, looking over my shoulder. Up ahead, at the next intersection, I saw a dark shape on the sidewalk, half-hidden by empty tables and chairs. “What about the other cars?”
Aiden moved ahead. “Nothing. The rest are empty.”
Skirting around an abandoned SUV, I passed a toppled-over motorcycle. Unease formed in my gut as that heavy scent of blood increased.
The dark shape on the sidewalk was as I feared. A body. Another male, lying on his back, one arm outstretched like he was reaching for something or someone. This man’s stomach was ripped apart, as if a wild animal had gotten hold of him.
Pale and jaw tight, Aiden continued forward, rounding the corner. Aiden came to a complete standstill, his hands falling to his sides, closing into fists. “Gods.”
Instinct told me what I was going to see before I even laid eyes on the absolute destruction of life.
Aiden was struck silent as he stared at the bodies littering the street and sidewalks, his mouth moving as if he were trying to find the words.
I’d seen this before.
Bodies scattered and strewn about as if their lives had meant nothing and as if their bodies didn’t deserve the most basic level of respect.
Except the last time I’d seen something like this, I had been responsible for it. While I’d been carrying out the Remediations, I’d left those who’d sided with Ares in such a state. And what had Apollo asked me that night he sent me to find Josie?
Do you always have to be so messy?
I didn’t have to be. I shouldn’t have been.
Muscle flexing along my jaw, I lifted my gaze to a body of a young woman. She hung from the side of a townhouse, her arms outstretched. Spikes were driven through her palms. The entire front of her body was covered in blood. Written under her body, scrawled in what I assumed was her blood, was a message in Greek.
Η μετακ?νησ? σας στη συν?χεια
Your move then.
I doubted it was a coincidence that the woman’s long hair was blonde.
Red-hot rage burned through my veins as I dragged my eyes from the woman and turned back to the street. There was so much death.
The Titans hadn’t just come here to feed.
“They came here to kill,” I said. “That’s what they did. They came here to kill and send us a message.”
Aiden stared up at the body of the woman. “How…how can they do this to someone?”
Sickened, I stepped forward and lifted my arm. I couldn’t leave her up there like that. “We need to get her down.”
“Agreed,” he growled.
“I’ll get the stakes out. She’ll fall once it happens,” I warned.
Shoulders tense, Aiden nodded. “Ready when you are.”
I summoned the air element, pulling the stakes free. Her body immediately fell forward, but I slowed her descent. Aiden caught her limp body and then laid her carefully on the ground. I could see her face better.
Gods, she was young—younger than Josie.
Aiden folded her arms over her chest and then rose. “There’s at least fifty bodies out here, and these communities have several hundred residents, if not more.”
Scanning all the homes, I feared what lay beyond those closed doors was going to be just as bad as what is in the streets. “They probably took some when they—”
A musky, heavy, damp smell suddenly permeated the air. Aiden and I turned at the same time.
Two Sentinels stood in the center of the street, among the dead bodies.
Well, they used to be Sentinels.
Based on the inky blackness seeping into the whites of their eyes, whoever those Sentinels used to be, they were dead now.
“Shades,” Aiden growled, unleashing the titanium daggers at his thighs.
“Why do they smell so badly?” I asked.
Aiden smirked. “That’s a question I probably never want an answer to.”
“True.” A slow grin tugged at my lips.
One of the shades smiled. “Didn’t like our handiwork? I don’t think she liked it either.”
I tilted my head to the side. “Oh, you’re going to be a talkative one? Great.”
Aiden shot forward, slamming into the shade. He shoved his blades deep into its midsection. The shade roared, knocking Aiden to the side. He hit the wall of a bookstore with a grunt. Chunks of cement gave way under his impact.
I arched a brow as he slowly picked himself up. “That didn’t work out well, did it?”
Rising to his feet, Aiden flipped me off.
I grinned as I unhooked the daggers I hadn’t forgotten to bring. Needing to work out the violent anger whirling inside me, I started toward the chatty shade. Adrenaline kicked my senses alive as it whirled on me. It cocked its head to the side, sniffing the air. I saw the moment the shade recognized who and what I was.
“You aren’t going to throw me around, buddy,” I said.
Charging the shade, I came up short with a curse when it simply vanished and then reappeared behind me. I spun around. Blood bled through two puncture holes in the Sentinel’s shirt.
“What the hell?” I’d never seen a shade do that before. Then again, I knew the older the shade, the more powerful they were when it came to manipulating the body it possessed and the environment around it.
I swung on the shade. It popped out of existence, reappearing a few steps to my left. Dropping down, I went for the legs of the creature, but before my kick could connect, the shade vanished.
The sound of its deep, throaty chuckle alerted me to where the shade now stood. Jumping to my feet, I aimed the blade for the midsection again. Over his shoulder, I saw Aiden rushing toward us.
Moving disturbingly fast, it spun and caught Aiden’s blade, breaking it off. Then it had its hand around Aiden’s throat, lifting him off the ground. Its body vibrated as it eyed Aiden. “Do you know what we’d do to boys like you in the pits? Spread those—”
Gripping the meaty wrists, Aiden pulled his legs up and used the shade’s chest as a springboard. The action broke the creature’s hold, and Aiden rolled into the fall, springing back to his feet.
I shot forward, jumping over a bike rack. I hit the stunned shade in the back, knocking it down. We both hit the hard cement sidewalk and rolled, coming close to the edge of a drop-off and the small creek below.
I could have easily tapped into akasha and ended this, but I wanted—no, I needed to feel the brutal savagery of a fight. I needed to get my hands dirty after seeing what they’d done to this place, to these people.
Flipping the shade onto its back, I slammed my fist into the shade’s jaw, knocking its head to the side. I swung my other hand, the one holding the dagger, prepared to wedge the dagger deep in the fucker’s skull.
The shade popped out, and I hit the ground, catching myself at the last minute. “That is getting really annoying.”
Reappearing above me, the shade grabbed me by the scruff of the neck, lifting my heavy ass clear off the ground in a surprising display of strength.
This shade thought it was a badass.
Arching my back, I swung my legs back, locking them around the shade’s waist as I used both arms to break the shade’s hold. I swung down, planting both hands on the dirtied floor. Using momentum and the shade’s weight, I flipped the dumb son of a bitch head over heels.