The Beautiful Ashes Page 17

Demetrius noticed, and the look he flashed Adrian was both knowing and cruel.

’’Every moment you spend with her will strengthen the bond between you. Break it now, before it destroys you when you fulfill your destiny.’’

A noise escaped Adrian, too visceral to be called a snarl. ’’My \destiny\ won\ happen if you\ e dead. How much did the Archon grenade hurt? Not nearly as much as David\s slingshot will, I hope.’’

Demetrius laughed, sending shivers of revulsion over me. If evil came in audible form, it would sound like that.

’’Now that I\ve seen the last of David\s seed, I\m even more confident of my people\s success. You must be, too. That\s why she has no idea what we\ e talking about.’’ Another mocking, repellent laugh, then the demon\s face turned serious. ’’Come home, my son. I miss you. Obsidiana misses you. You don\ belong with them. You never did.’’

Adrian\s grip hardened until it felt like I was encased in steel. ’’I\d rather die where I don\ belong than live another day with you,’’ he gritted out.

Demetrius shook his head. ’’So slow to learn,’’ he said sadly. Then he looked at me, a smile playing about his lips.

’’I make your sister scream in pain every day,’’ he said in an offhand way. ’’If you want to save her, say my name in a mirror. I\ll trade her life for yours.’’

My reply contained every filthy word I knew, plus a few I made up. Demetrius only laughed again. Then, with a swirl of shadows, he disappeared. Or did he?

’’Is he really gone?’’ I asked hoarsely.

’’He\s gone. I told you, demons can\ tolerate our realm for long. Even strong ones like Demetrius would be dead after an hour here.’’

As he spoke, he let me down, which was good, since I didn\ want him touching me. The words my son kept resounding in my mind. Biologically related or not, the demon imprisoning my sister had close ties to Adrian a fact he\d deliberately kept from me. Worse, Demetrius seemed very confident that their ties would be restored soon.

’’So Demetrius is your stepdad?’’

He sighed at the acid in my tone. ’’The simplest explanation is that Demetrius was...my foster parent.’’

The slight hesitation before those words told me he was hiding large chunks of the truth. Again.

’’And Daddy Dearest misses you. How sweet.’’

Adrian\s expression darkened so much, I half expected to see shadows appear beneath his skin.

’’I get that you\ e pissed, but don\ ever call him my father again. I was a child when he took me. Not all of us were lucky enough to end up with kind, human foster parents.’’

His raw tone melted away some of my anger. He might still be hiding something, but I couldn\ imagine the horrors of growing up at the mercy of a demon.

’’Why did Demetrius take you?’’ I asked with less rancor. ’’Does it have to do with your mysterious bloodline?’’

As I watched his lips tighten in that familiar way, I knew I was right and that he still wasn\ going to tell me what he was. Not part-demon, evidently, and I doubted he was part-Archon. If he was, Demetrius would\ve killed him, not raised him as his ’’son.’’

’’Your legs are injured,’’ Adrian stated, changing the subject. ’’Sit. I\ve got medicine in my coat.’’

If they hadn\ been throbbing with pain for the past several minutes, I would have refused until Adrian told me the rest of what he was hiding. Since our car was busted and we probably had a long walk ahead of us, I sat, wincing when he pulled at the tears in my jeans. The wounds had already started to stick to the fabric.

After a few moments, Adrian let out a soft hiss. ’’Lots of gouges, and deep. Take your pants off.’’

’’Geez, buy a girl a drink first,’’ I said to cover my dread over how much that would hurt.

His lips curled as he retrieved a flask from his coat. ’’Ask and you shall receive.’’

’’You\ve had liquor on you this whole time?’’ I didn\ know whether to laugh or cry. ’’I could\ve really used some, oh, every day for the last few days!’’

I snatched the flask and took a gulp, welcoming the burn that made my eyes water, and forced a sputter after I swallowed.

’’Not a bourbon girl?’’ Adrian asked dryly.

’’That\s bourbon?’’ I let out a choking cough. ’’I thought it might be prison brew!’’ Still, I took another throat-scorching gulp. Beggars can\ be choosers.

His snort was soft. ’’No, but let\s just say the recipe doesn\ come from a normal brew company.’’

’’I\ll bet,’’ I muttered, then coughed out a protest when he took it from me. ’’Wait, I\m not done!’’

’’That\s much stronger than regular bourbon,’’ he said, putting it back in his coat. ’’Trust me, you\ve had enough.’’

When he started tugging my jeans down, the pain shooting through me made me want to argue, but I didn\ . I hadn\ eaten in hours, and I didn\ want to add puking to all the other reasons why this night had been awful. Once my jeans were off, I stayed silent for a different reason.

Savage swipes had ripped open my flesh in at least a dozen places. I saw white in some of the gaping spaces, making my fear of vomiting a real possibility. If I\d been thrown into an angry bear\s den, I probably would\ve fared better. How had I managed to even stand with injuries like this?

I must\ve said that last part out loud, because Adrian answered me.


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