The Beautiful Ashes Page 19

My sigh whooshed out, as if the part of me that had been holding its breath for days finally relaxed enough to release it. Even as relief seemed to blend with the liquor in me, creating a lethargic sort of high, a new question arose.

’’Thanks for telling me, but...why did you?’’ He\d made it clear that he\d rather not be here, and keeping me scared about my sister\s treatment was motivation for me to find the weapon as quickly as possible.

Adrian looked away, his jaw tightening. ’’Demetrius said it to hurt you, and I don\ like to see you hurt.’’

The simple statement made me wonder all the more about him. Who was the real Adrian? The oddly charming man who\d asked me for a date right after he kidnapped me? The heroic one who\d saved my life two times in four days? Or the surly one who acted like I was a venereal disease he couldn\ wait to be cured of? I didn\ think the night was long enough to find out, but it might be too long for other things.

’’What if Demetrius sends his minions after us?’’ I shivered as I looked around. ’’It\s so dark, we wouldn\ even see them coming.’’

’’I would.’’

Two quiet, steely words that reminded me how different Adrian was from a normal person. To prevent myself from wondering for the umpteenth time what he was, I kept talking.

’’What kind of hallowed ground do you suppose this is?’’ The ethereal shimmers coming up from the sand marked an area roughly the size of a football field.

Adrian shrugged. ’’This part of the Oregon desert? Indian burial ground maybe.’’

’’That would explain the chanting,’’ I said, cocking my head and listening. ’’I don\ hear it anymore. Do you?’’

His features tightened, but his tone was light. ’’I never heard it, Ivy.’’

I stared at him, understanding slowly dawning. ’’You don\ see the shimmers coming up from the ground, either, do you?’’

’’No. Only you can sense hallowed objects.’’ The smile he flashed held an edge of darkness. ’’My talents lie elsewhere.’’

I let out a short laugh as more pieces fell into place. ’’That\s why you came with me even though you didn\ want to. The demon-killing weapon is hallowed, isn\ it? So you can\ sense it, but with my abilities, I can, if you get me near enough.’’

That hint of menace didn\ leave his smile. ’’I\ve wanted to kill Demetrius for years, but I\ve never had the means to. With you and that weapon, I finally will. Like I said, Ivy, when it comes to my hatred of demons, you can trust me completely.’’

’’But once you kill Demetrius, all bets are off?’’ I filled in, a touch of anger coloring my tone. Adrian wasn\ just some guy I was way too attracted to. He was also the only person who knew what it was like to see things that made everyone else believe you were crazy, until you believed it yourself.

Adrian stared at me, his smile wiping away. ’’I said I don\ want to hurt you, and I meant it. So if we live through this, Ivy, I\m getting away from you as fast as I can.’’

I tried not to show how much that stung. What had I done that he relished the thought of never seeing me again? I\d think it was my hiding a mirror that almost got us killed, but Adrian had acted that way since Zach told him I was the last descendant of King David\s line. I\d never forget the look he gave me when he found that out.

I paused. Maybe it wasn\ what I\d done, but what someone else had done. After all, I hadn\ misread some of the other looks Adrian had given me. Not every part of him wanted to run away from me as fast as he could.

’’Did my ancestor do something terrible to your ancestor?’’ I guessed.

He looked shocked. Then he let out a laugh that was so bitter, I thought I\d finally stumbled on the truth. That was why his reply stunned me.

’’No, Ivy. It was the other way around.’’

Despite my many attempts to get him to elaborate, he refused to say anything else.

* * *

Once dawn broke, I found out that manna could heal more than human injuries. Adrian spread a thin layer over his busted-up Challenger, and the vintage vehicle knit itself back together like I was watching an episode of Counting Cars on fast-forward. After that, we just had to brush the shattered glass out of the interior, and we were on our way.

When we made our first pit stop, I insisted on going into the ladies\ room alone. Adrian kept getting caught destroying mirrors because it drew attention when a man entered a women-only area. He made me swear not to even peek at the mirror until after I\d shattered it. Demetrius might not be able to enter our realm during the day, but we didn\ want him spying on us so he could ambush us once night fell.

That was how I found myself looking fixedly at the dirty tile floor as I approached the mirror in the Gas-N-Go restroom. Adrian had also given me a rock and a pair of oversize work gloves, so I didn\ worry about cutting myself when I hit the glass with a hard bang, glancing at it only after I saw shards hit the floor. Take that, Demetrius, I thought, seeing only splinters of my reflection in its remains.

A flush sounded, and then the nearest stall door opened, revealing a fiftyish woman who looked back and forth between the ruined mirror and the rock in my hand.

’’Why\d you do a thing like that?’’ she demanded.

Nothing I said would make it appear less crazy, so I might as well live up to her expectations.

’’Ever have one of those days when you just hate your hair?’’ I asked, widening my eyes for maximum disturbed effect.


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