A feather-light caress skated down my arm and over my hip. A moment passed as I stirred from the depths of sleep. Hard warmth pressed against my back, sending a series of shivers down my spine. Only half-awake, I smiled as I blinked open my eyes. The room was dimly lit, telling me that it was way too early to be awake. Lips brushed against the sensitive spot on my neck, just below my pulse, and another set of fine tremors danced over my skin. Muscles tightened low in my stomach. The kiss came again, this time over my pulse, and my toes curled. It was way too early, but who would complain about waking up this way? Not me. If I spent the rest of my life waking up like this, I’d be a happy girl. So happy. Rolling onto my back, my sleepy grin froze as my gaze connected with pitch-black, obsidian irises. What the .
? Confusion quickly gave way to icy terror that dug deep into every cell and latched onto bone and tissue. Oh no. My heart kicked in my chest, pounding so fast I thought it would climb out of my chest and run out of the room. A Titan loomed over me, his cruel lips curling into a bitter, vengeful smile. “I will find you when you least expect it,” he said in a voice as suffocating as heavy smoke. “I’m always going to be right behind you. There is no—” Jackknifing upward, I threw out my hand, prepared to deliver what was probably going to be a notso-effective throat punch. I opened my mouth to shout, but no sound came out, and suddenly, there was nothing in front of me. Nothing. No Titan. I was sitting up and staring at the empty space in front of me, my heart racing. Scanning the shadowy dorm room, I found no sign of the dangerous and sickening god.
Everything was as it had been before I’d fallen asleep Sunday night. TV across from the bed, turned off. The blinds covering the small window near the bathroom were slightly open and I could see the pale blue light of dawn creeping over the Black Hills, the protected portion of the forest deep within the Northern Hills of South Dakota. My new home. Which was sort of like my old home, Radford University. Except this University looked like something straight out of Greece during the time people actively worshipped the gods. And I was surrounded by mythical beings instead of by twenty-somethings whose greatest powers were the ability to perform tasks hungover and with minimal sleep. Correction. I was a mythical being, actually, and the students at the Covenant University weren’t very different from mortal students. With the exception of being descendants of gods, and the whole trying-to-kill-each-other thing they had going on right now.
But there was no psychotic Titan lurking in the shadows of my room, preparing to feed on me until I was nothing but a dried-out husk, then do other spiteful, repulsive things that I— I wasn’t going to think about. Exhaling, I closed my eyes as I rubbed my palm over my forehead. Just a dream—a stupid dream. Titans couldn’t get inside the University. Wards prevented that. The shades could, but I’d rather face a hundred souls that had escaped Tartarus than see Hyperion’s or another Titan’s face again. I had no idea who the man was that I’d dreamed about, except that I knew deep in my core that he was a Titan. “Josie?” came a rough, sleep-heavy and slightly accented voice. “What are you doing?” My pulse kicked up again, but this time for a very different reason as I twisted around and got an eyeful of possibly the sexiest being alive. Seth Dio—however you spelled or pronounced his last name—was lying on his side.
The thin comforter was tangled low around his hips, revealing a whole lot of golden-colored skin—taut and ripped skin. Seth had a legit six-pack. Like, not painted on, or only visible when he was flexing or doing strenuous activities. I half-suspected he was born that way, a baby with a six-pack and rock-hard pecs, doing bicep curls with milk-filled bottles. Speaking of biceps, they were extremely nice too. So were his broad shoulders and tapered waist. And his face? God. He was beautiful. Almost too much. Like his features had been carefully pieced together, a collection of perfection—which they had been.
Angular, high cheekbones and full, sensual lips you could get lost staring at. Dreaming about. Well, fantasizing about. A straight, flawless nose, and his eyes . They were the most stunning ocher color, framed by dark, thick lashes. His arched brows were slightly darker than his blond hair—hair that he’d cut recently. I was still getting used to the shorter locks. The soft strands were buzzed close to the skull on the sides and longer on the top, sometimes straight, sometimes a mess of waves. I liked running my palms against the sides, feeling the shorter hair tickle my palms. I just liked touching Seth in general.
Sometimes I had no idea how he had ended up in my bed. I mean, of course, he was there because I invited him in and wanted him there, but I don’t think I was the type of girl anyone pictured with someone like him. I wasn’t knocking myself. I was just being realistic. I was five feet and nine inches of uncoordinated mess most of the time. My hips would’ve been popular back in the fifteen-hundreds or something, when “child-bearing hips” were all the rage, and I’m pretty sure my thighs were never in style or going to be. Apparently no amount of training—kickboxing, grappling, running, defensive or offensive training—was going to tighten my stomach or trim my waistline. I wasn’t thin or willowy, or graceful and demure. I was loud, could be fairly obnoxious, and I rambled. But Seth liked me.
He’d said I was his salvation. And I liked him. A lot. I was also a demigod, Apollo’s daughter, so there was that. And Seth was the Apollyon, the product of a half-blood and pure-blood, created by the recently deceased Ares, and I was already as powerful as I could be, once I got the knack of controlling my newly discovered abilities. His amber-colored eyes, shining like precious stones, narrowed. “Are you awake? Or is this some kind of creepy sleepwalking thing?” My lips twitched into a small grin. “I’m awake.” “So . ” He rolled onto his back, sliding an arm behind his head, and I sort of got hung up on watching the way his biceps flexed and rolled.
“You’re just sitting up and staring at me while I sleep?” I rolled my eyes. “No.” “That’s not what it looks like.” “I was actually sitting up and staring at the wall until you interrupted me.” He lowered his other hand, resting it low on his flat stomach. From my vantage point, he almost looked nude under the blanket, but unfortunately he wasn’t. “That’s not weird or anything.” “Whatever,” I said, fixing the strap on the tank top I was wearing. “You’re weird.” Those lips tipped further up on the corner.
“You’re hot.” I rolled my eyes again, but I was totally flattered. His head tilted to the side. “A dream?” The warm and fuzzy feeling of flattery faded away, and I nodded. “You okay?” “Yeah. I’m fine.” I cleared my throat as I pushed my hair back over my shoulder. “Just a weird dream.” His stare was intent as he studied me quietly. This wasn’t the first nightmare I’d had after the showdown with the Titan.
And not just any Titan. Hyperion. The godly being my father had entombed thousands of years ago, and who was now loose, hell-bent on revenge. I’d somehow sent him packing when my demigod abilities had been unlocked, but he’d be back. I knew that. He and the other Titans that had escaped would keep coming back until we located the other five demigods, unlocked their abilities, and managed to join our abilities in order to entomb the Titans back in Tartarus. Of course, we had no idea where the other demigods were or how we could find them. Or how we were seriously going to entomb them again. Apollo hadn’t let us in on that information yet. Though I wanted it to be the last nightmare, so badly, I knew better.
Those hours with the Titan had felt like an eternity, and I tried, really tried not to dwell on them. I probably could use some therapy. Wait. Could demigods get therapy? Like was there a specialist around these parts focusing on the mental health of mystical beings? Seth’s fingers brushed over my arm, drawing my attention. Our eyes met. His hand wrapped around my wrist and he dragged me down so that I was half on top of him. Oh, I liked where this was heading. His chest was warm under my arms and his hand was steady as he reached up, catching a few strands of my hair. He tucked it back behind my ear and his hand lingered, cradling my cheek. I lowered my mouth to his and kissed him softly.
When I lifted my head, his eyes were iridescent. “I liked that,” he murmured. “So did I.” Then I remembered something super important. I hadn’t really forgotten. It had just slipped my mind in the wake of the nightmare. A big goofy smile tugged at my lips. “I think you get more today.” He slid his hand around to the nape of my neck. “I think I should get more every day.
” “Of course you do, but today is different.” Understanding rippled across his features, a slight widening of his eyes and nostrils. A moment of surprise, and seeing that caused pain to flicker through my chest, because he hadn’t expected me to remember. Seth expected so very little sometimes. Pushing away the welling sadness that realization always brought with it, I kissed him again. And then once more, because I wanted to show him, I needed him to know that he had every right to expect the world. “Happy birthday.” “Josie . ” The way he whispered my name, so tender and potent, made my breath catch. “So, what’s it feel like to be twenty-two?” Threading his fingers through my hair, he didn’t answer immediately.
“Feels like twenty-one.” “That’s not exciting.” He grinned again. “That’s because you’re still twenty and have what? About six months to go before you’re twenty-one.” “You’re a cradle-robber.” Seth chuckled and then lifted his head, kissing the corner of my lips. “I think that’s the first time I’ve been called that.” “Good.” I smoothed my hand over his chest, enjoying the way he sucked in a sharp breath. I loved that my touch affected him so.
“I wanted to get you something, but Amazon doesn’t really deliver out here, so . ” I really did want to get him something, but since it wasn’t particularly safe for me to leave, the only option was the campus store, but I doubted Seth wanted a Covenant University mug or hoodie. I couldn’t even make him dinner since I had no access to a kitchen, so I was a lame girlfriend. Girlfriend. I shivered. That word still felt incredibly new. Shiny. Unfathomable. I think both of us were still discovering each other, and we were taking this slow. Like three-legged-turtle slow.
Our relationship was far from perfect. There were obstacles in our path that most couples would never face, like, say, the fact we both had immortal beings gunning for us. Then there was Seth’s oftentimes disturbing past. There was also the possibility of his future getting cut short. I refused to allow that to happen, but wasn’t yet sure what I could do to stop it. And I was also pretty sure that my father kind of wanted to murder him. I really needed to stop thinking about all of that. “You know what?” he said. “Hmm?” Folding his other arm around my waist, he rolled me onto my back and slid on top of me. His weight did crazy things to my senses—amazing, crazy things.
“You’ve already given me enough.” My brows rose. “I haven’t—” “You have.” He lowered his mouth to mine, and when he kissed me there was nothing soft or slow about it. Seth kissed like a man coming out of an extreme drought. He sipped and he savored, drawing each kiss out of me. He was a man who thoroughly enjoyed kissing, took the scenic route and was absolutely in no hurry to get to the destination. But Ireally wanted that destination. You know, him and me, naked, bodies twisting together and me tossing virginity to the wind. Seth nipped at my lower lip, eliciting a sharp gasp from me.
“Mmm,” he murmured, dragging his hand down my arm, catching the strap from my top. “You give me that sound.” My breaths came out in short bursts as he shifted his weight onto his left arm and rose just far enough that there was the smallest space between us. Those agile fingers worked at the straps of my top until they circled my wrists. Cold air spread tiny bumps across my bare chest. I watched, in a daze, as he lowered his head and kissed the odd scar that remained after Apollo had unbound my powers. Seth lifted his lashes, and I saw the smug, daring grin a second before he lowered his head again. The tip of his tongue traced the straight, five-inch line from the bottom to the top. He didn’t stop there. Oh no, those tiny licks followed the two lines looping around it.
He even got what reminded me of wings on either side of the strange scar. Heat zinged through my veins as he kissed his way from the scar, discovering very, very sensitive areas. Moaning, I skimmed my hand over the shorter strands of his hair, finding the longer ones to curl my fingers around. My back arched, and he settled his hips between my legs. “You gave me these,” he said. “And they’re the gift that keeps on giving.” I giggled. “You’re a perv.” “I’m just speaking the truth.” His mouth closed over a tip and his tongue did wicked, delightful things.
“Best damn birthday gift I’ve ever gotten.” “Seth—” He moved up, swiftly and with startling precision. His mouth closed over mine, cutting off my words. Wasn’t complaining, not when his tongue moved along mine. Not when my chest was suddenly flattened against his. And definitely not when he did this thing with his hips, rolling them into the perfect spot that really, really made me want to bypass the scenic route and get right to the promised land. I lifted my leg, draping it over his as I lifted my hips, following his lead. Seth moaned into my mouth, a hot masculine sound that sent a rush of sensations pounding through my body. His hips moved again, and I thought maybe this morning, because it was his birthday, we’d— The alarm on the nightstand went off, shrill and jarring. It screamed that it was time to get up and get to training.
Seth lifted his mouth and groaned. “Damn.” My grip in his hair tightened. “We can ignore it.” “That would make me a very bad trainer if we did,” he replied, his lips brushing over mine. “And I’m trying to be a very good trainer.” “It’s your birthday,” I reasoned. “We can get a late start.” His palm brushed over the tip of my breast. “Not a good enough reason.
” “It’s Monday.” He chuckled. “Josie.” “What? That’s a damn good enough reason.” Seth kissed me as he pulled the straps of my top up. I was officially shut down. “You’ve improved in the last couple of weeks, but you still have a lot of work to do.” I started to frown. “Gee. Thanks.
” Laughing, he rolled off and swung his legs over the bed, standing. He did this with such little effort and with so much grace that I wanted to throat punch him. “Get that sweet ass up and ready. Time to get to work.” I lurched out of the bed, moving like a slightly high Godzilla. “Just because you’re a Pollyanna, Sethie, doesn’t mean you can boss me around.” He shot me a bland look. “Apollyon, Joe. Repeat after me. Apollyon.
” I grinned. His eyes narrowed. “You drive me crazy.” Sidestepping him, I looked over my shoulder as I headed to the small adjoining bathroom. “In a good way?” “Undecided.” “Ass.” Seth’s lips curved up on one corner, making him look downright wicked. He was lucky it was his birthday, so I was going to let the whole “Joe” thing slide. I opened the bathroom door. “Josie?” “What?” I turned, startled to find him standing right in front of me.
I still couldn’t get over how quickly and quietly he could move. “I . ” He trailed off and then lifted his hands, gently clasping my cheeks. He kissed me, and it was sweet and tender, and so powerful. “Thank you for remembering my birthday.” And then he was gone. Out of the room and next door, probably already in the shower, while I was still standing there, staring at the spot where he’d stood, wondering if no one had ever remembered his birthday before. Or cared enough to. This year, this birthday would be different, though.