The Beautiful Ashes Page 16

’’Adrian!’’ I screamed, tightening my arms around him.

He didn\ look back, though his grip on me turned bruising. ’’Tell me where to go, Ivy!’’

I forced myself to look away from the appalling sight, but I couldn\ look ahead. Sand-filled wind stung my eyes from how fast Adrian ran. I couldn\ see, but maybe I didn\ have to.

I closed my eyes like I had back in the car. Concentrated on my need to be as far away from the formless death monster as I could. My concentration broke when something sharp lashed my legs before digging in as though trying to claw its way up my body. I screamed again, and Adrian snarled, somehow increasing his incredible speed. With a final slice, the claws left my body, but something hot and wet ran down my legs.

I choked back my next scream, my heart pounding as fast as the booming beneath my cheek. Then I concentrated again, pain and panic finding the switch in my mind that I hadn\ realized was there.

’’That way,’’ I said, pointing without opening my eyes.

Adrian changed direction, the hard pumping of his legs shooting pain into me from the endless impacts, but I didn\ care. Another roar sounded behind us, growing closer, until I could almost feel its icy breath on my cheek. My legs throbbed, anticipating more claws slicing through my skin, and though I knew I shouldn\ , I opened my eyes.

It was right there, faceless except for those grotesquely large teeth that snapped mere inches from my head. I stared, too horrified to scream again. It stretched, growing even bigger, until I couldn\ see anything except the wall of evil that was about to come crashing down on us

It split through the middle, breaking around us like water parted by rocks. An unearthly howl shook me, blasting my ears and blowing my hair back. Just as abruptly, Adrian slowed down, coming to a complete stop a couple dozen feet away from the thing, which surged and recoiled as though trying to break past an invisible barrier.

I didn\ understand for the first few breathless seconds. Then I saw the faint shimmers coming up from the earth and heard the faraway echo of long-dead voices chanting prayers. We\d made it to the hallowed ground, and the demon might rage along its perimeter, but it couldn\ cross it to get to us.

Chapter nine

Now I knew why people who\d escaped certain death broke into laughter. It had always looked strange in the movies, but I hadn\ realized how quickly adrenaline turned to relief, the change hitting your bloodstream like a dozen tequila shots. For a few seconds, I didn\ even feel any pain as I laughed from the wild, wondrous exhilaration of still being alive. I wanted to hug Adrian. I wanted to spin in circles. I wanted to scream, ’’Take that!’’ at the swirls of dark clouds that stormed along the edge of our supernaturally impregnable walls.

Adrian didn\ laugh, but his wide smile conveyed both victory and savage satisfaction. He stared at the living darkness a short distance from us and said something in that strange, harshly melodic language.

To my surprise, the clouds began to shrink, dissipating as quickly as a fog machine in reverse. Soon, nothing remained except an inky pool on the ground, like the shadows had been transformed into liquid.

’’What did you say to make it disappear?’’ I asked, my brain adding numbly, and why didn\ you say it sooner?

’’He\s not gone,’’ Adrian said, his tone edged with an emotion I couldn\ name. ’’He\s just shedding his disguise.’’

Those fluid shadows suddenly began to rise, forming into a pillar. Then they changed, coiling and swirling until a slender girl with long blond hair broke through them as though she\d been expelled out.

Jasmine hunched in fear as she looked around. When she saw me, she collapsed on the ground in relief.

’’Ivy,’’ she said, her hands trembling as she reached out. ’’Please, help me!’’

I didn\ need Adrian to keep holding me to stop me from going to her. This wasn\ my sister. It was a thing wearing her image like a coat, and it infuriated me.

’’F*k you,’’ I replied, all my fear and hatred rolled into those two words.

Jasmine\s form blurred, turning into slithering shadows again. Out of those, a man emerged. He was almost as tall as Adrian, though not as thickly muscled, and he moved with snakelike grace as he prowled along the edge of the barrier. Long black hair hid most of his face as the wind tossed it around, but I caught a glimpse of pale skin, burning black eyes and a dark pink mouth that opened as he said

’’I can see why you like her, my son.’’

I barely noticed Adrian stiffen. I was too busy being shocked by the thing\s identical, exotic accent and how he\d addressed the man holding me. My son. Was this the secret Adrian refused to talk about? It would explain his superhuman speed

’’Don\ call me that.’’ Adrian\s voice lashed the air with palpable hatred. ’’I was never your son.’’

The demon sighed in the way my father used to do when I was a child and he was explaining why some things, like dental visits, were unavoidable.

’’Not by blood, but you\ e mine nonetheless. Now, Adrian, your little rebellion, while amusing, has gone on long enough. Carry her out to me. It will save us all from a lengthy, boring fight before the inevitable occurs.’’

Adrian\s smile reminded me of a tiger baring his teeth. ’’I live to fight you, Demetrius, so it\s never boring for me.’’

Demetrius. Wasn\ that the demon who\d sent Detective Kroger after me? I started to squirm, wanting out of Adrian\s arms while I processed this, but his grip only tightened.


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