The Beautiful Ashes Page 13

’’You don\ need to drive the whole way. We can take turns,’’ I offered.

’’No,’’ he replied at once.

’’So you\ e one of those,’’ I muttered.

His brow went up. ’’One of what?’’

’’Guys who think a girl can\ handle their precious metal babies,’’ I said, rolling my eyes.

At that, he laughed. ’’I rebuilt this car from the axle up, so yeah, you can call it my baby. But no one, male or female, drives it except me.’’

’’So you\ e an equal-opportunity control freak?’’ I replied without missing a beat.

’’You have no idea,’’ he said, voice lowering while his blue eyes slid over me in a phantom caress.

My breath caught. Until that moment, I hadn\ realized he\d avoided looking at me since he stormed out last night. Now, his gaze moved over me as if he already knew which parts to touch first and which parts to leave until I was breathless and begging. My heart began to beat faster. How could he affect me so much when we barely knew each other?

Then, like a switch had been flipped, he looked away as though the sight of me had burned his eyes. His whole demeanor changed, too, as if he were angry for revealing something that was supposed to remain hidden.

’’When should we arrive in Oregon?’’ I asked, needing something, anything, to break up the tense moment.

He revved up the car and glanced at the clock. ’’Three a.m., if we don\ get caught in traffic.’’

Nineteen hours until I crossed into one of the places that countless doctors had sworn were merely figments of my imbalanced mind. Once again, I had so many questions, I hardly knew where to begin.

’’Have you been to this particular \ ealm door\ before?’’

’’Yes.’’

One tightly spoken word that warned me to drop the subject, if I didn\ want another round of the silent treatment. I stifled a frustrated sigh. I needed more information, and he was moodier than a tween girl with her first PMS attack.

’’How did you know minions were trying to kidnap me the other night?’’ There. Total change of subject, and something I\d been wondering about, anyway.

Adrian didn\ look at me as he pulled out onto the road. ’’Zach told me. He\s the one who sent me to retrieve you.’’

I\d have to drag everything out of him, wouldn\ I? ’’Okay, how did Zach know?’’

He grunted. ’’Archons get information about future events. Every so often, they interfere to change the outcome.’’

’’Every so often?’’ I repeated with angry disbelief, thinking of Jasmine\s kidnapping and my parents\ deaths. ’’Why not every time? Or do Archons have days where they\ e just not in the mood to save people from harm and death?’’

Nothing changed in his expression, but his tone hardened with what I thought might be remembered pain. ’’That\s the million-dollar question, isn\ it? I don\ have an answer, and when I asked Zach the same thing, all he said was something about \orders.\’’

’’That\s such bullshit,’’ I muttered.

’’I couldn\ agree more,’’ Adrian said dryly.

Neither of us spoke for a few minutes. Not strained silence like before, but silent, shared reflection while both of us thought of things that we wished had turned out different.

’’So that\s what you do?’’ I finally said. ’’Rescue people for Zach after he tells you that minions are after them?’’

He shrugged. ’’Gives me a chance to piss off demons.’’

’’Most people would avoid doing that,’’ I pointed out, suppressing a shudder. If not for Jasmine, you wouldn\ catch me near a demon, minion, realm or anything freakily supernatural. Why did Adrian run toward the danger instead?

’’You and I aren\ most people, Ivy,’’ he said softly. ’’Because of what we see, we don\ get to pretend the world is a beautiful place where monsters don\ exist.’’

I was the one who looked away that time, unable to handle the truth of his statement or the intensity in his stare. Until a few days ago, I had been doing that. Even as a child, as soon as I\d realized no one else saw the things I did, I\d wanted it to stop. I hated feeling like something was wrong with me, so after I\d jumped through almost a decade of medical hoops looking for a cure, I started pretending that I\d found one.

I told my parents, the doctors and even eventually Jasmine that I no longer saw the strange, dark worlds hanging like nightmares over regular places. I certainly never told Delia or my other friends about them. I said the pills I took were for a hormonal imbalance, and all my doctor appointments were for that, too.

Lies, lies, lies, all because I wanted to pretend I was normal. According to the gorgeous stranger across from me, I wasn\ then and never would be.

’’What happened with you?’’ I asked, my voice low as if we were sharing secrets. ’’I hid from what I saw, but you started hunting down the things everyone told me couldn\ exist. You must\ve had proof that they were real, so what was it?’’

He closed off so fast I was surprised I didn\ hear a sonic boom. I shut my eyes, letting out a sigh as I tried to settle myself more comfortably into my seat. Looked like the question-and-answer segment of our time was over.

Eventually, as afternoon slid into evening during the long drive, the late hour and boredom lulled me into drifting off.

A thunderous boom woke the black-haired woman. Her baby began to wail at the multiple crashing noises. She left the baby in the backseat, walking through the brush that hid her car.


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