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Flushing with embarrassment, I scrambled to my feet and stole a quick glance at Aiden. His expression may have appeared blank, but I knew he’d already compiled a mental list of all the things I’d done wrong and filed it away. Instructor Romvi stalked across the mats, stopping in front of Jackson and me. You move away or dispose of the opponent.” To drive his point home, he threw his arm out, hitting me square across the chest. Every cell in my body demanded that I do the same in return.

Let me know how that works out for you.” Jackson flushed, but didn’t respond. “Off the mats now—not you, Miss Andros!” I stopped, eyeing Caleb and Olivia hopelessly. They stared back, their expressions mirroring mine. Resigned to what I knew was going to happen next, because it’d happened every class with Romvi, I turned to the Instructor and waited for the epic smackdown. “Many of you aren’t ready for graduation.” Romvi prowled the edge of the mat. “Many of you will die the first week on the job, but you, Miss Andros?

You’re an embarrassment to the Covenant.” Romvi was an embarrassment to the male race, but he didn’t hear me bitching. “I am shocked that you faced down daimons and still stand before me. I have yet to see it.” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Aiden. He also knew what was coming, and there was nothing he could do, even if he wanted to. “Prove to me that you have gained reentry to the Covenant based on merit and not familial ties.” Instructor Romvi was a bigger jerk than most Instructors. He was one of the pure-bloods who’d chosen to become a Sentinel instead of coasting through life living off old money. Like Aiden, pures who chose this kind of life were a rare breed, but that was where the commonalities between the two ended. Romvi had hated me from the first day of class, and I liked to believe Aiden felt quite the opposite. I backed across the mats, trying to remember everything Aiden had taught me over the summer. Romvi swung around, his booted heel aiming for my midsection. I swiped his leg away and threw a punch I really, really meant. He was landing more on me, continuously edging me toward the edge of the mat. With each swing and each kick, Romvi’s blows became more brutal. It was like fighting a daimon, because I seriously believed Romvi wanted to do me real harm. I was holding my own until my sneaker slipped off the edge of the mat. Reaching out and grabbing a fistful of my ponytail, he yanked me forward. “You should be less worried about your vanity,” he said, twisting me so my back faced the doors. “And cut your hair.” I struck out, catching Romvi in the stomach, but it didn’t faze him. Using my own momentum—and my hair—he slammed me onto the mat. I rolled into the fall, half grateful that it was over. I didn’t even care that he’d kicked my ass in front of the entire class. Just as long as this— Romvi grabbed my arm and pulled it high above me, yanking me to my knees. Dying in battle is not your worst nightmare anymore.” My eyes popped wide. He wouldn’t dare… He pushed the sleeve of the Under Armour shirt back until my skin was exposed to the elbow.

Take a good, long look at what happens when you fail. They will turn you into a monster.” Fire coursed across my cheeks and my brain sort of emptied. I tried, really tried, to keep the scars hidden from my classmates. I focused on anything other than the faces of the students as he continued to show the world my tags. My gaze fell over his rough, aged hand, then up his own battle-scarred arm. The sleeve of his shirt had fallen back, revealing a tattoo of a torch turned downward. Instructor Romvi hadn’t struck me as the type to be into tattoos. Romvi dropped my arm then, allowing me to pull my sleeve down.

I might look like a scarred-up freak, but I hadn’t failed a damn thing. I’d killed the daimon ultimately responsible for leaving me this way—my mother. “None of you are ready to become Sentinels, to face a daimon half-blood trained just like you.” Romvi’s voice carried through the room.

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