The Beautiful Ashes Page 12

I fell on the food like a starving animal. A candy bar and a small bag of peanuts had been all I\d eaten over the past two days. Getting yelled at by multiple gas station attendants after Adrian broke their mirrors hadn\ made me want to browse for more substantial fare. After I finished, I quickly put on new clothes, not wanting Adrian to come out while I was half-naked. Things were strange enough between us already.

My necklace snagged on my sweater as I yanked it over my head, reminding me there was one mirror Adrian hadn\ smashed yet. Since the shower was still running, I opened the locket, a pang hitting me when I saw my sister\s picture on one side and a small mirror on the other.

This way, we\ll always be together, Jasmine had said when she\d given it to me the night before I left for college. She\d cried a little then, and I never admitted it, but when I was alone in my room that night, I did, too. Sure, we fought like mad sometimes, but no one was closer to me than Jasmine. With everyone else, I had to keep faking so they\d believe everything was fine. For my parents, it was so they wouldn\ worry about me. For my psychologist, it was to avoid more tests or inpatient stays. For my friends and the occasional boyfriend, it was so I wouldn\ have to explain things they probably didn\ want to understand. With Jaz, I could be myself because whoever that was, she was okay with it.

’’Nuts, normal, doesn\ matter,’’ she\d said years ago when I was upset after my psychologist told me I might never be cured. ’’You\ e my sister, Ives, so no matter what, we\ e stuck with each other.’’

As I stared at her picture next to my own reflection, her loss hit me all over again. It took everything I had to hold the tears back. After several hard blinks, her image became less blurry. As I looked at her, I silently made her a promise. No matter what, I will find you. She\d never given up on me. I sure as hell wouldn\ give up on her.

Vow made, I could look at her picture without tearing up again. We didn\ resemble each other, of course. Jasmine was a blue-eyed blonde like my adoptive parents, and I had hazel eyes and brown hair. My greenish-brown eyes, light skin tone and other markers had caused my pediatrician to speculate that one of my parents had been Caucasian. We guessed the other was Hispanic because that was the nationality of the immigrants who\d been unable to flee the tractor-trailer accident, but who knew?

Thinking about my biological parents made Zach\s words steal through my mind, though I\d done my best to forget them. Your real mother didn\ leave you because she was running from the police...she did it to save you, just as your dreams revealed...

’’Good, you\ e up.’’

Adrian\s curt voice made me jump. I snapped the locket shut, glad my back was to him so he couldn\ see what I tucked under my sweater. He was not smashing the last gift my sister gave to me, mirror phobia or not. With the locket safely hidden, I turned around.

’’Thanks for...breakfast.’’

I couldn\ help my pause. Some things should come with a warning label, and seeing Adrian stalk through the room wearing only a towel was definitely one of them. I hadn\ known ab definition like that existed without airbrushing, and the network of muscles on his arms, back and chest rippled as though dancing to a song that reverberated beneath his flesh.

Michelangelo had it wrong, I thought, tearing my gaze away. With that body, Adrian was the one who needed a marble statue made in his image. Good thing he was so fixated on shoving his things into his duffel bag, he didn\ notice my admiration.

’’We\ e leaving in ten minutes,’’ he stated, still in that brusque tone.

After he\d stormed out last night, I told myself it didn\ matter if Adrian was still attracted to me. I needed to rescue my sister, not start something with a guy who\d warned me he wasn\ trustworthy, let alone all the other reasons why Adrian was off-limits. No matter the dazzling packaging, he was six feet six inches of undetermined supernatural bad news, so his coldness now suited my purposes.

His barked orders, however, didn\ . We needed to get a few things straight before we went any further.

’’Just because you\ e pissed about our little road trip doesn\ mean you get to keep taking it out on me,’’ I said. ’’For whatever reason, you chose to come, and we don\ need to be friends, but you do need to quit acting like my boss. So we\ e not leaving in ten minutes, Adrian. We\ e leaving in twenty because I\m taking a shower, too.’’

He swung around, arms crossing over that muscled chest in obvious annoyance. I continued on as if I didn\ notice.

’’It\s not my fault if you\ve never had a serious girlfriend, but believe me when I tell you that it\s impossible for a girl to get ready in less than twenty minutes.’’

’’Fine,’’ he said, his tone only slightly less rude.

’’You may want to wait until I\m in the bathroom to get dressed, too,’’ I said airily. ’’If you drop that towel now, I\ll think it\s your way of telling me you still want that date.’’

I didn\ wait for his response before disappearing into the bathroom. All jokes aside, if he did drop that towel, I might forget all the many reasons why I should stay away from him.

Chapter seven

Twenty minutes later okay, twenty-five, but close enough we climbed into his car. I wasn\ much for old muscle cars, but I had to admit that his Challenger was in great shape. Still, I\d kill for a satellite radio. This only had AM and FM.

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