The Return

Page 1

Chapter 1

THE MANSION was as silent as I wished the inside of my head could be. No noise—not even a ragged inhale of breath or a whispered word. Truly blissful.

Peaceful.

The scenery was a whole different story.

From my vantage point at the top of the grand staircase, the opulent, open-floor design of the first level looked like a truck had backed up to the bronze double doors and dumped a load of SpaghettiOs all over the floor. Everything was splattered with red and gunk, like a fleet of cannons had shot an endless stream of beef ravioli against the walls and ceilings—lots of chunks of lots of different types of matter that usually belonged inside a body.

I’d never look at a can of Chef Boyardee the same way again.

However, there wasn’t a drop of blood on me. My black boots were shiny; the black tactical pants and Under Armour shirt, the standard uniform of a Sentinel, were free of the gore. I had skillz— major skillz.

My gaze flickered over the room below. This had to be, by far, one of my best Remediations—as in, search out hideouts and destroy the traitors who over a year ago had supported Ares when he’d attempted to take over the mortal world.

Their sorry asses didn’t have a chance in Hades.

Good old, average mortals who’d gotten mixed up in the wrong thing lay dead among the offspring of the Olympians. But most of those who littered the floor below were pure-bloods. Their official name was Hematoi. I rolled my eyes. They were as pompous as their name suggested. They were the products of two demigods getting it on. Their blood was considered pure compared to their counterparts, the half-bloods, which was what happened when a pure and a mortal got together. By simple genetics, halfs were weaker than the pures. They had less aether in them, the substance that surrounded Olympus and was also the very life force that flowed in the blood of the gods and all their creations. The aether was what enabled us to sense each other. The pures had more aether in them than halfs, which was why pures could wield control over the elements, just like the gods, but the halfs couldn’t. Our society had been stratified for thousands of years, because the pures always held themselves higher than the halfs, virtually enslaving them up until a year ago, all because they genetically carried more aether.

But in death, they were all the same, which was stinky, messy, and dead.

My gaze shifted back to the gaping double doors. Sentinels were here. I could feel their wariness to enter the building, taste their anxiety on the tip of my tongue. A slight smile lifted the corners of my lips. They knew I was here. They could feel me, too, but I was something far different than them.

I was a half-blood, but I was also the Apollyon, a child of a pure and a half, a union that had been forbidden for thousands of years because an Apollyon was more powerful than any pure or half could ever hope to be.

And I always got to the traitors’ hideouts before they did, so the Sentinels were usually left with the cleanup, which I was sure absolutely thrilled them.

The first to enter was a female half-blood dressed just as I was. Her black hair was pulled back in a neat little knot at the top of her head. She was older, probably in her mid-thirties. It was pretty rare for a Sentinel to live that long. Her dark skin paled as she stopped just inside the entrance. She clenched titanium daggers in her hands like she expected something vicious to pop out from under the bloody mess.

The female Sentinel tipped her chin up, and the overhead light sliced across her broad cheekbones. She bore a jagged scar under her right eye, the skin lighter in tone. She saw me and froze.

My smile widened.

Behind her, another Sentinel rushed in, almost mowing her over. He saw me and whispered, “Seth.”

He’d said my name like I was the monster under his bed, and I sort of liked that. Then another Sentinel and another rolled in. The fifth took one look at my interior design work and keeled over. Slamming his hands on his knees, he hurled up his dinner.

Nice.

Our society existed completely unknown to the average mortal and had operated under what was known as the Breed Order for thousands of years. The Order had been dismantled, which meant halfs were no longer forced to choose between becoming Sentinels—hunting down violent creatures, protecting pures, enforcing laws, and otherwise usually dying pretty damn quickly on the job—or servants, which was a job that really wasn’t a job, but more like slavery. Since then, many pampered pures had signed on to be Sentinels, making up for the loss of the halfs who’d pretty much said “screw this shit, I’m out.”

This wasn’t necessarily a good thing.

For example, the dumbass puking all over my blood-covered floor was a pure. When he straightened, his face a greenish hue, he backed away, shaking his head. “I can’t,” he gasped out. “I can’t do this.”

Then he turned and hauled ass out the doors.

I sighed. This was why we couldn’t have nice things.

The female Sentinel had more balls than any of the males with her. She moved closer, stepping over a leg that used to belong to the guy by the—no, his leg was by the stairs. I didn’t know where that first one had come from. Her mouth opened as if she was going to speak, and I couldn’t wait to hear what she had to say, but then the air in the room shifted, filling with electricity and a ripple of power. Ancient glyphs bled out on my skin, swirling and forming wards of protection all along my flesh.

A column of shimmery blue light pierced the cathedral ceiling, shooting down to the floor a few feet from the female Sentinel. As the light faded, a god was revealed.

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