“The Hilltop to battle?” His lips twitched.
“I’m seriously going to hit you in like five seconds.”
“Sorry,” he replied demurely.
I drew in a deep, patient breath. “I mean, a part of me does want to still be that badass. I want to be out there, rounding up demigods, and I want to bitch slap the Titans back into their tombs.”
One eyebrow crept up. “Bitch slap them back into their tombs?”
“Yeah,” I said with a sigh. “But I also don’t want to do anything that jeopardizes this baby. I know we didn’t plan this and the whole idea of being pregnant is, frankly, terrifying, but I love it already.”
Those eyes of his turned a brilliant amber as he cupped my cheek. “So do I, babe. This wasn’t something either of us planned, but I love it with every part of my being.”
I drew in a deep, patient breath. “People are going to think I’m weak.”
He blinked once and then twice. “Josie, I don’t give a fuck what people think.”
I opened my mouth.
Seth wasn’t done. “And you shouldn’t give a fuck what people think. You’re not backing down from this fight. You’re being smart. You’re trying to come up with different options and you’re picking your battles. That’s not being weak. That’s being wise.”
Pressing my lips together, I closed my eyes as I head-butted his chest. I groaned.
Seth laughed as he slid his hand back to my arm. “What are you doing, Josie?”
“With your head on my chest?”
“Does that bother you?”
“Not really.” He folded an arm around my waist. “I kind of like it.”
He rested his chin on the top of my head. “Can I tell you the truth?”
“Sure,” I murmured.
“You’re incredibly strong, Josie, and you don’t give yourself enough credit.”
“Really?” I flopped my arms.
“Yes, psychi mou. Everything you thought you knew about the world changed in a matter of seconds and you adapted. You’ve lost your family and you’ve dealt with that.” He guided my face off his chest and my eyes to his. “You were captured by Hyperion, not once but twice, and you survived that. You found out you were pregnant and you’ve accepted it. And through all of that you never gave up on me. Even when I was an asshole. Even when I left you, you never gave up. You are the furthest thing from weak and I never—never, Josie, want you to think for one second that you’re weak.”
My breath caught. His words… I had no idea how badly I needed to hear them until he spoke them, and what he spoke was the truth. I wasn’t weak. Hell, I’d been through some hardcore, serious stuff, and I was still standing here, a fully functional semi-adult. I wasn’t cowering in the corner.
“Thank you,” I said, stretching up on the tips of my toes. Showing him how much his words meant, I kissed him and then I took his hand. Settling on my feet, I turned him around, pulling him toward the bedroom. “I think it’s time we have dessert, don’t you?”
Seth’s response was immediate, and it wasn’t with words. Somehow, he got his arms around me, picking me up and carrying me into the bedroom.
And then he had dessert.
The air was thick and stagnant like still, muddy waters as I crouched beside a toppled dumpster. The alley near the gloomy Hotel Cecil had split wide open, leaving a deep, jagged crevice. Embers sparked out of the gaping darkness, and there was a certain musky scent.
Off in the distance, sirens endlessly blared. A constant screeching whirl that had been nonstop since I arrived in Los Angeles to handle the latest “chain reaction” event.
The city was a freaking mess. Fires resulting from the not so normal earthquakes had taken out entire streets and neighborhoods, and what the fires hadn’t destroyed, the damn things climbing their way out of these holes were well on their way to finishing off.
Couldn’t say I regretted killing Hyperion. After what he’d done to Josie, there’d be no entombing the son of a bitch. He had to die, but this… Yeah, this was bad.
Unfortunately, killing any Titan was a big no-no. Their deaths triggered catastrophes like the one I was dealing with yet again.
A shadow moved, and my gaze lifted. Across from me, on the other side of the giant tear in the earth, was someone I used to hate with every fiber of my being and, hilariously, the person Josie thought I had a lot in common with.
Aiden “Saint” St. Delphi stepped out from the darkness of a heavily damaged building. In his hands, he held two Covenant-issued titanium daggers.
Once a pure-blood Sentinel, a highly skilled hunter that protected other pure-bloods and hunted monsters the mortal world knew nothing about, he was now something more. A demigod, courtesy of the deal I’d made with the gods Apollo and Hades.
A deal that no longer mattered, but him becoming a demigod, enabling him to spend eternity with…with Alex was one of my rare, finer moments.
There was a time when I couldn’t even think her name, let alone speak it out loud. Not because I had any leftover feelings for Alex. Sure, I cared about her. Always would. But thinking about her had always ended with me flipping through the mental album of what were my worst moments.
It was different now.
And I knew what had changed it. Made my past a bit more bearable. There were things I’d never forget and things I’d probably never forgive myself for, but it was, yeah, bearable. And it wasn’t just Alex saying she forgave me for working with Ares at one point. It wasn’t just that moment when I realized I had people in my corner, people who trusted me.
It was due to Josie.
From day one, she had my back and saw me for more than who I had been, but for who I was…and who I was becoming. Sounded cheesy as hell, but it was true. She was why I was able to start moving on, and she was why I was becoming a better man.
But I was still an asshole on most days.
All anyone had to do was ask Aiden.
I couldn’t say I still hated him. Hell, sometimes I wondered if I actually hated him back then. Sure, he annoyed me. He still annoyed the piss out of me, but hate? Yeah, not sure. Maybe I just loathed him.
Loathing someone was probably worse than hating them.
Either way, we were never friends. He’d been the hero. I’d been the villain. That was how I’d sum the both of us up. Now? I wasn’t sure what we were. Enemies? No. Friends? Maybe one day a week.
And we had very little in common.
He lifted his chin in my direction. We’d taken care of the charred daimons that had made their way out of the crack, but there was something else down there.
I could sense it.
So could Aiden.
That was why we were hanging around, waiting.
A rock tumbled into the crevice, drawing my attention. The sound of stone grinding against stone came next, and I knew whatever the hell was coming up out of this wasn’t some charred, dead-ass daimon. It was larger.
And I was tired of waiting.
Rising slowly, I stalked forward just as a diamond-shaped shadow crested the surface.
“What the…?” Aiden trailed off.
One large paw slammed down on the broken asphalt. Razor-sharp claws sunk in, digging up loose rock as it cut into the alley like a hot knife slipping through warm butter.
As the thing moved into the flickering street lamp, my mouth dropped open. Another diamond-shaped shadow rose, and then another and another until there were five total.
I stood there, stunned into a stupor. “A hydra?”
Five heads swerved in my direction, their movements distinctly serpent-like. Their skin was nothing like the charred and patchy skin the daimons were rocking. The silvery sheen glimmered in the pale light, the scales as black as midnight. A second paw came down, and then hind legs. Four heavy paws hit the ground, shaking the buildings.
“You have got to be kidding me,” I muttered.
The middle head opened its mouth, hissing and baring fangs—fangs that were about the size of my hand.
“Why don’t you tap into some of the special god power and get rid of this thing?” Aiden called out. “You know, before we find out if this thing is hungry or not.”