And: I wonder if they still do it sometimes. Maybe they sneak off every night and. She stood in the kitchen doorway with a fist planted on her slim, boyish hip. As Helen stood up from the table, Lucas caught her eyes and gave her the tiniest of smiles, encouraging her. Smiling back ever so slightly, Helen followed Cassandra down to the Delos library feeling calmer, more self-assured. Cassandra shut the door, and the two girls continued their search for some bit of knowledge that might help Helen in her quest.
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Yeah, right, Zach thought, as he walked out his front door. He jogged for a few blocks, just to put some distance between himself and his dad. Zach went down to India Street to look at the ruined Atheneum steps along with dozens of other gawkers. Everyone was saying that an electrical wire had shorted out in the middle of the street the night before and that it had gotten so hot it melted the pavement.
Why was everyone so stupid? It was so obvious to Zach. She was like the whole island was about them, just like his dad was, too. Zach was walking through town, glowering at all the fools milling around, oohing and aahing over the melted asphalt, when Matt saw him and waved him over.
Pretty incredible, huh? A hole. Zach smiled cautiously. Matt was smarter than most people gave him credit for. He was handsome, he wore all the right clothes, he captained the all-state golf team, and he was from an old and respected family. On top of that, he knew how to play it cool around people who mattered and talk about interesting things, like sports.
In fact, Zach always suspected that Matt could have been one of the most popular kids in school if he wanted, but for some reason, Matt had given up his spot on the popular team and chosen to be the Geek King instead. It had to have something to do with Helen. Her decision to be the wallflower was another part of her mystery, and her attraction.
She was the kind of woman that men did things for. Things like sacrifice their social standing, or steal for, or even fight for. Like they thought they could get away with it. Smashed the library, ripped down a ten-thousand-volt power line with their bare hands, and then melted a four-foot hole in the street.
He narrowed his eyes and gave Zach a small, closed-lipped smile. Then a thought occurred to him. Had the Delos kids told him what was going on while they left Zach out of it? Zach studied Matt for a moment and decided he was probably just sticking up for the Delos family like everyone else did whenever Zach mentioned how odd they were.
Have you? That would sound crazy. Feigning disinterest, Zach looked out across the street to the demolished steps of the Atheneum and shrugged. Only this guy was different. There was something inhuman about him. When this guy moved he sort of looked like an insect.
He wanted to see where that freak was going, and maybe figure out what they were all hiding from him. He followed the stranger down to the docks, and spotted a beautiful yacht. It was something right out of a storybook. Tall masts, teak deck, fiberglass hull, and red sails.
Zach walked toward it with his mouth open. Her face. Zach felt someone tap him on the back of his shoulder and, as he turned around, the world went dark. Despite the pain, she gripped the ledge more tightly with her left hand so she could try to slide her right hand forward. There was grit and blood under her fingers, making her slip, and her hands were cramping so badly that the center of her palm was starting to spasm.
Helen slid back with a gasp until she was dangling from her rigid fingertips. Six stories beneath her kicking feet was a dead flowerbed, littered with moldy bricks and slates that had slid off the roof of the dilapidated mansion and broken into bits. She tried again to swing a leg up and catch it on the windowsill, but the more she kicked the less secure her grip became.
A sob escaped from between her bitten lips. She had been hanging from this ledge since she descended into the Underworld that night. It felt to her like hours, maybe days had passed, and her endurance was flagging. Helen cried out in frustration. She had to get off this ledge and go find the Furies. She was the Descender—this was her task. She was supposed to be ending the cycle of vengeance that compelled Scions to kill each other off, but instead here she was, hanging from a ledge.
And in the Underworld, every night lasted forever. She knew she needed to end this night and start the next anew, in some other, hopefully more productive, infinity. She tried to tell herself not to fight it, that it would be better to fall because at least it would be over. But still she clung to the ledge with every bit of strength remaining in her right hand. Helen was too afraid to let herself go. She bit down on her bloody lip in concentration, but the fingers of her right hand slid across the grit and finally came away from the edge.
When she hit the ground she heard her left leg snap. Helen slapped a hand over her mouth to keep the scream from erupting across her quiet Nantucket bedroom. She could taste the flinty grit of the Underworld on her cramped fingers. In the pewter-blue light of predawn, she listened intently to the sound down the hall of her father getting ready for the day. Lying in bed, trembling with the pain of her broken leg and her pulled muscles, Helen waited for her body to heal itself.
Tears slid down either side of her face, leaving hot tracks across her chilled skin. It was icy cold in her bedroom. She told herself to stay calm and wait. In time, her body would be strong enough to move, then stand, and then walk. Then, with a little food in her, she would heal the rest of the way. She would feel better soon, she told herself, crying as quietly as she could. She just had to hold on. She turned to look at Matt, who was signaling her back to earth.
Helen straightened her slumped shoulders and looked around at the rest of the room to find that everyone was staring at her. Everyone except Lucas. He was studying his hands in his lap, his mouth tight. Helen, Lucas, Ariadne, and Jason were sitting around the Delos kitchen table after school, trying to catch Matt and Claire up on all things demigod. Seven days, Helen thought, counting on her fingers to make sure. All that time in the Underworld makes it feel like seven weeks. Maybe it has been seven weeks for me.
We kill one from theirs in retaliation, and on it goes for three and a half thousand years. And if a Scion kills someone from his own House, he becomes an Outcast. Matt only risked it now for the sake of being clear. Jason was the first to calm himself. It was hard for him to accept the Furies, but he could see that no one at the table was any happier about their existence than he was.
Claire still seemed like she needed to clarify a few things. But Rogues like Lennie are Scions who have parents from two different Houses, but only one House can claim them, right? Or by her House, rather. She looked between Helen and Lucas who refused to meet her eyes. Until you. Helen wanted to dig a hole straight down through the tiled floor of the Delos kitchen and disappear.
They were all wondering: How far did Helen and Lucas go with each other before they found out they were first cousins?
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Yeah, right, Zach thought, as he walked out his front door. He jogged for a few blocks, just to put some distance between himself and his dad. Zach went down to India Street to look at the ruined Atheneum steps along with dozens of other gawkers. Everyone was saying that an electrical wire had shorted out in the middle of the street the night before and that it had gotten so hot it melted the pavement. Why was everyone so stupid? It was so obvious to Zach. She was like the whole island was about them, just like his dad was, too.