The Beautiful Ashes Page 14

On the nearby highway, a tractor-trailer was on its side, multiple cars piled up around it. Each passing second brought a new screech of tires and, more faintly, screams. Then the back of the trailer opened, and people stumbled out, some disappearing into the tall grass that lined the road, others limping a few feet before collapsing onto the road.

The black-haired woman hurried back to her car, but as she began to strap her baby in the car seat, she paused. Then she turned around and stared. Sunlight broke through the clouds, streaming down to the side of the road about fifty yards from the accident. The woman began to shake.

’’No. No, I can\ leave her,’’ she whispered.

The light grew brighter, and another sunbeam appeared, illuminating the same spot. Tears streamed down her face, but after a minute, she picked up her child and walked toward it.

’’Promise me she\ll be safe,’’ she choked out, setting the baby in the grass. Then she kissed the child, whispering, ’’Mommy loves you. Always,’’ before running to her car and driving away

’’What is that?’’

Adrian\s voice startled me. For a second, I was disoriented, the dream clinging to me as it always did. Yes, I was in a car, but I wasn\ the unknown woman driving away from her baby. That wasn\ real. The glare Adrian leveled at my chest was, though.

’’Is that a mirror?’’ He sounded horrified.

I looked down. My locket was open, the mirrored side facing me. At some point while I was sleeping, I must\ve opened it. Adrian\s hand shot out, but this time, I was too fast for him.

’’Don\ you dare,’’ I snapped, holding it out of his reach. ’’It\s the only picture I have of my sister after you left everything I own back at that hotel in Bennington!’’

He lunged again, actually letting go of the steering wheel to reach the side of the car where I held it. With a sharp yank, he wrested the locket from my hands. I tried to snatch it back, but he shoved me into my seat with one hand, finally grabbing the steering wheel with the other.

’’Are you crazy?’’ I shrieked. ’’You could\ve gotten us killed!’’ If this hadn\ been a lonely stretch of desert road, our careening into the next lane might\ve had permanent consequences.

’’You\ e going to get yourself killed,’’ was his chilling response. Then, still pinning me to my chair with that single hand, he held my locket up.

I gasped. Something dark poked out of the small mirror, like a snake made of blackest smoke. It disappeared when Adrian smashed the mirror against the steering wheel, but an eerie wind whistled through the car, ruffling my hair and stinging my nostrils with its acrid scent.

Adrian muttered a word in that unknown language, and I didn\ need a translator to tell me it was a curse.

’’What was that?’’ My voice was hoarse.

He threw me a pitying glance, which frightened me even more. If he wasn\ angry, we must really be screwed.

His next words proved that. ’’Brace yourself, Ivy. You\ e about to meet a demon.’’

Chapter eight

I didn\ consider myself religious. My parents used to take Jasmine and me to church on Christmas, but it was more a social event than a pious one. Hearing we were about to be attacked by a demon, however, made me pray like I\d never done before. I just wished I knew if anyone was listening.

Adrian wasn\ praying. He was cursing up a storm, if I correctly translated the spate of words coming from his mouth. He\d also lost that pitying expression, because the looks he shot me now were distinctly grim. It wasn\ the right time, but I couldn\ stop myself from asking the obvious.

’’How did it find us?’’

Adrian stomped on the accelerator, and the muscle car shot forward like it had rockets in the engine.

’’Through the mirror,’’ he said shortly. ’’For stronger demons, mirrors act as portals, and you\ve been number one on their Most Wanted list since you escaped them in Bennington.’’

I gaped at him. ’’Maybe you should have told me that?’’

’’You think I smash every mirror near you because I don\ want you to get conceited?’’ Then his tone softened. ’’You\ e barely holding it together with what you do know, Ivy. I\m not about to tell you what you can\ handle yet.’’

Anger flared, which felt better than the fear that made my blood seem like it had been replaced by ice water.

’’No, I wasn\ ready to know that demons used mirrors as portals. I also wasn\ ready to know demons existed, or had kidnapped my sister, or that my parents were dead, or any of the horrible things I\ve dealt with in the past two weeks. But that didn\ stop them from happening, so quit protecting me from the truth, Adrian! It doesn\ help a damn bit!’’

Adrian glanced at me, a gauntlet of emotions flitting across his features.

’’You\ e right. If we survive, I\ll apologize.’’

My laughter was bleak. ’’You? Say you\ e sorry? Now I really want to live.’’

To my surprise, he laughed as well, though it was colored with dark expectancy.

’’Hold that thought. You\ll need it.’’

Before I could respond, something filled the road in front of us. I would\ve said it was storm clouds, except clouds don\ sweep along the ground like a heavy fog rolling in.

’’Shut your vents,’’ Adrian said, flipping the tiny levers on his side. I did the same, more apprehension filling me as he turned the entire air-conditioning system off. No, those weren\ low-hanging clouds. They were something far more ominous.


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