“I know.” Seth kissed my tear-soaked lips and pulled back far enough that his breath warmed the space between them. “Close your eyes.”
I squeezed my eyes shut, but the tears still leaked through. My heart completely ripped open, beyond repair. Out of everything that I’d experienced, this was the one thing that would kill me. We would defeat the Titans and save millions of lives, but I’d never be the same. A huge part of me would die a slow death, because I no longer knew what life was without Seth.
But I wrapped my hands around his.
And his hands were wrapped around the dagger
“I love you,” he whispered hoarsely, pressing the sharp edge against his chest, above his heart. “I will always love you.”
A ragged sound escaped me, more animal than human as I opened my eyes. “I love you. Oh God, I love you so much.”
“I know. I know, Josie.”
“And I will tell our child all about you. Every day. Every second, I will tell our child how great you were and how much you loved them,” I said, taking short, broken breaths. “Our child will know you. I promise.”
“Thank you.” Seth shuddered. “I love you.”
Hands trembling around his, I felt him pull back, and at the last minute instinct took over. I tried to stop him, but it was…it was too late.
I screamed as he impaled the dagger deep into his chest, and the last thing I saw was his eyes, those beautiful amber-colored eyes. I thought I saw a flicker of surprise.
Then there was a flash of bright light that momentarily blinded me, followed by an intense blast of heat. I pitched forward as the dagger slipped from my lifeless fingers.
I was alone.
I curled into myself, a scream of vast agony and despair still pouring from me, tearing from my very soul.
Seth hadn’t even made a sound, ensuring that the last words I’d ever remember him saying were him saying that he loved me, and now…he was gone.
Seth was gone.
“Josie.” The soft voice came again, this time closer. “Josie, let me help you.”
Squeezing my hands into fists, I didn’t respond to Alex’s quiet pleading. She’d been checking in on me for several hours now, throughout the entire night. Each time she got a little bolder, going from knocking on the door to eventually getting a key and opening it and coming into the room. This time she’d bent down and touched my shoulders.
And I still didn’t respond.
Alex left the room, and I stayed where I had been since Seth had…since he left. I stayed curled on the spot he’d knelt on.
I guess Alex knew what had happened.
Or they’d heard me screaming earlier.
More likely that Apollo had gotten in contact with them. I didn’t know.
None of this felt real. None of it except the pain. That was too raw and too consuming for it not to be real. And there was no escaping it.
I couldn’t move. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t think about anything other than Seth—other than the first time I’d seen him and the first time I’d heard him speak and then the first time he’d kissed me.
Those moments played over and over, chronicling every minute I’d spent with him and how every second we’d been apart now seemed like such wasted time.
And I cried.
I cried so much I didn’t think it was possible for a person to produce that many tears, and just when I thought I’d cried myself out, I would think of his last words, how he thanked me and said he loved me, and then I’d start crying all over again. My eyes were swollen. My throat burned and my head felt like it was thick, but the tears were endless.
The pain was endless.
As I lay there, staring at the dagger, I thought about the dream I kept having. The one where I wore a white dress and I’d been…I’d been dying.
The dream hadn’t been about me.
It had gotten some things right. The white dress. I was wearing that. The tears. They would not stop falling. The numbness. Beyond the pain and grief, there was just a vast nothingness. But in my dream, it had been me dying, covered with blood. In reality, it had been Seth and there had been no blood.
My prophetic abilities sucked.
Uncurling one arm, I slid my hand down the front of my dress, to my stomach. I closed my eyes again. I don’t know how much time went by, but there was another knock on the door and then I heard a different voice call out this time.
“Josie?” Deacon was in the room, inching closer.
A few moments passed and then I felt his light touch on my shoulder, and I opened my eyes. I stared at the dagger.
Deacon sat behind me. He reached down, brushing aside the stands of hair that had come free from my braid.
I took a breath and it scorched my throat. “Seth’s…he’s gone.”
“I know.” Deacon’s voice was hoarse. He continued to smooth his hand over my hair.
“It wasn’t supposed to be this way.” The dagger began to blur. “None of this. It was supposed to be the demigods and me who defeated the Titans. That was the whole point of everything.” Anger burned low in my chest. “That was why…Seth was sent to get me. That was why we found Gable and Cora and Erik, but none of that matters.”
“It still matters,” he replied. “We may not be using them to entomb the Titans, but we saved them from the Titans. You saved them.” He paused. “Seth saved them.”
My heart squeezed. Deacon was right. Retrieving the demigods hadn’t been pointless. We’d made sure they didn’t face the same fate that the other demigods had faced.
Knowing that didn’t lessen any of the pain, though. A shudder rolled through me. “I can’t believe he’s gone.”
Deacon bent down, resting his forehead on the side of my head.
“This can’t be happening,” I said, shaking. “I keep thinking this is a nightmare. That I’m going to wake up and all of this will just be a nightmare.”
“I know,” he murmured, throwing an arm around my waist. “It doesn’t seem real. Seth was…” His voice cracked a little. “He deserved so much more than this.”
Another tremor rocked me. “He did—oh, God, he did, but I…” I hated saying the next words. “I don’t think he knew that. I don’t think he ever did.”
I squeezed my eyes shut against the rising tears. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to get over this.”
“You don’t.” Deacon lifted his head. “I never got over the death of my parents or Solos or Caleb, but it’s gotten easier. It’s gotten better.”
My chest ached like it had been ripped open. I couldn’t think of a day when this was going to feel better. When this wouldn’t hurt like a raw wound.
“I’m not going to ask if you’re okay,” Deacon said after a moment. “I know you’re not, but I’m here for you. We all are here for you, Josie.”
“I know,” I whispered.
Deacon folded his hand over mine. “You haven’t lost him. Not really. You’re always, always going to have your memories, and most importantly, you’re going to have this.” He gently pressed on my hand, flattening my palm against my stomach. “You’re going to have his child, Josie. You’re always going to have a part of him. Don’t lose sight of that.”
Deacon was right again, and in a way, that hurt more than anything, because I would have my memories of Seth. I would have a piece of him, but all our child would have would be what I had to share about Seth, and while that had to be enough, it wasn’t going to be.
Seth had deserved to know his child.
And our child deserved to know him.
The gods responded fifteen hours, forty-three minutes, and fifteen seconds from the exact moment I said goodbye to the only man I loved. It was only then that I rose from the floor and showered, taking my time to change into pants and a shirt—Seth’s shirt. It had been the one he’d worn the day before, and it still smelled like him. I pulled my hair into a ponytail.
Upon returning to the bedroom, I couldn’t look at the bed that was still disheveled from our lovemaking. The dagger was where it had fallen. I took a breath and then walked over to it. I picked it up as my gaze fell to the spot where Seth had knelt. Part of me kept expecting him to reappear, run to me and pull me into his arms.