The Beautiful Ashes Page 10

Put like that, he had a point. ’’Speaking of, uh, them ’’ would I ever say demons without feeling like I should be in a straitjacket? ’’ why do we need this special weapon to save my sister? You killed Detective Kroger just fine without it.’’

’’Kroger wasn\ a demon, he was a minion. Demons can\ tolerate our realm for long, so they take willing humans, mark them, and send them out to do their dirty work. They have their own signature marks, too. The shadows you saw on Kroger meant he belonged to Demetrius. Marks make minions a lot tougher than humans, but compared to their masters, they\ e easy to kill.’’

I hardly knew where to begin with my questions. ’’Our realm? You mean...this?’’ I asked, waving at the scenery we drove past.

’’Yeah, this,’’ he said, the words heavy with emotion. Regret? Resolve? I didn\ know him well enough to be sure.

’’And we can see demon marks and demon realms because we\ e the last of King David\s line,’’ I said, trying to piece the impossible facts together.

Adrian stiffened, his mouth tightening until white edged his lips. ’’You are. I\m not.’’

That\s right, Zach had said he was the last of another line. ’’What are you, then?’’ I asked softly.

The look Adrian pinned me with seemed to compress me, until every breath I drew felt like a hard-fought victory.

’’I\m something else,’’ he bit out.

I was glad when he glanced back at the road. My heart was thumping as if I\d been jogging. Whatever Adrian was, he didn\ like it, and if a man who wasn\ afraid of demons didn\ like what he was, then I should be scared shitless of him.

So why did I have a strong urge to smooth away the hardness in his expression? I swear, my reactions to him made no sense. I never went for the tortured bad boy because I had enough issues of my own. On top of that, Adrian had made it clear that, given his choice, he\d be nowhere near me. Whatever strange pull I felt toward him, I had to get rid of it. Fast.

’’Where are we headed?’’ I asked in a neutral tone.

’’Gold Hill, Oregon,’’ he replied, his voice equally emotionless.

All the way across the country? ’’What\s in Oregon that makes it so special?’’

His grunt sounded grimly amused. ’’A door to multiple demon realms.’’

Chapter six

I learned a few things over the next twenty hours. Not about demons or the mysterious weapon Adrian refused to talk about those but about him. Like, for example, his pathological hatred of mirrors.

Every time we stopped to refuel, Adrian would smash the mirror in the ladies\ room before he let me inside to pee. I was convinced he\d be arrested, but I soon found out another fact: no one but me could see what Adrian really looked like.

’’He\s five-eight, skinny, with black hair,’’ the gas station attendant snapped into his phone, his Spanish accent thickening as he yelled, ’’Pendajo!’’ at Adrian for destroying his bathroom mirror. ’’And he\s driving...a mi Dios!’’

That last part was screamed when Adrian moved with his incredible speed, yanking away the shotgun the attendant had pulled out. Then he broke it over his knee and handed the two pieces back with a growled, ’’Have a nice day.’’

’’Diablo,’’ the attendant moaned, sinking behind his counter.

I didn\ think Adrian was a devil, but I still didn\ know what he was. The fastest way to get the silent treatment from him was to ask again what ’’line’’ he was from. He did explain that Archon glamour masked his appearance, so he wouldn\ be recognized by minions. Now I knew why Detective Kroger\s first punch had hit Adrian in the shoulder. He thought he\d been striking a much shorter opponent. That was also why Adrian had demanded that I describe him soon after we met.

’’You could see through demon glamour,’’ he\d explained, throwing me one of those hooded looks. ’’Minions can do that, too, but only humans from one of our lines can see through Archon glamour, so I needed to find out what you were.’’

’’What if I\d failed to describe you accurately?’’ I\d asked.

A shrug. ’’Then you\d have been a minion, and I\d have killed you.’’

Between that admission, the compulsive mirror smashing and his impenetrable secretiveness, I was well on my way to getting over my attraction. Adrian wasn\ just damaged goods, he was deranged goods, and coming from someone with a history of psychosis, that was saying something. By the time we pulled into a motel at the halfway point of Kearney, Nebraska, I would\ve been happy never to see him again.

I called shotgun on the bathroom as soon as we entered the hotel room. Adrian obliged after smashing the mirror he had to have ten thousand years of bad luck by now then finally, I was able to take a shower. Thank God the motel had complimentary bottles of shampoo and conditioner because I wasn\ about to ask Adrian for any. For all I knew, the bulky duffel bag he\d brought in was filled with severed minion heads.

After I showered, I washed my clothes, making a mental note to insist that we shop before hitting the road tomorrow. With everything I owned now hanging to dry, I donned Adrian\s coat over my towel before leaving the bathroom.

He stood in front of the motel door, flicking something from a glass vial onto it. He did the same with the window, all while muttering in that strange, harshly lyrical language.

He probably wouldn\ tell me, but I asked anyway. ’’What are you doing?’’

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