The Beautiful Ashes Page 22

Adrian gazed at me in disbelief. Tomas choked back a laugh, and the guy I hadn\ been introduced to yet let out a low chuckle.

’’Looks like you have more on your plate than just demons, Adrian,’’ he drawled, his accent sounding Mediterranean.

Adrian\s hands flexed on my back, as though he was having trouble deciding whether to push me away or mold me closer. His gaze had changed, too. Disbelief turned to something darker and infinitely more enticing in those silvery sapphire depths.

’’You have no idea what you\ e toying with,’’ he said, the growled words barely audible.

’’What if I want to know?’’ I replied, and shivered as his grip on me began to tighten.

I\d started this as a game, but it felt very serious now. His stare burned into my eyes with more than the lust I\d called his bluff on. Secrets, promises and lies seemed to swirl together, drawing me in and warning me away at the same time. When he pulled me closer, those warnings collapsed under the explosion of sensation as he pressed against me, and when his hand coiled through my hair, pulling my head back with a strong, possessive grip, I didn\ just shiver. I shuddered.

’’Do you and your friend want to postpone our trip until tomorrow?’’ an amused voice asked.

Adrian released me as suddenly as if I\d become scalding. Maybe I had. My whole body felt feverish, and if my heart beat any faster, I might be in danger of a coronary.

’’We\ e leaving now,’’ he said in a strained voice. ’’Get in the black Jeep, Ivy. I\ll be right there.’’

I would\ve argued if I didn\ feel like I needed a moment to compose myself. I walked toward the black, open-topped Wrangler that had four machine guns in the back. No seats, though, and the front ones must be for Tomas and our as-yet-unnamed companion. Looked like Adrian and I would be standing.

Adrian. The thought of how close he\d come to kissing me made that feverishness sweep through me again. Why did he keep pulling away at the last minute? Was it the secret he thought was too terrible to reveal? He wasn\ a demon or a minion, and he worked with an angel, so how bad could it be?

Adrian\s arrival with the two men cut my musings short. He jumped into the back of the Wrangler, grasping the bar that the machine guns were strapped to.

’’This is Costa,’’ Adrian said, indicating the handsome young man with the wavy black hair and dark brown eyes. ’’Get in, Ivy.’’

I climbed into the back, accepting Adrian\s hand up. He held mine a second too long, as if reluctant to let me go. I felt the same way, though I grasped the metal railing between the seats when Adrian did. Was it me, or did something happen when we touched? Something more than lust, although I had that bad, too. Could this be the supernatural bond Demetrius had spoken of? If so, he was right. It was getting stronger.

’’Hi, Costa,’’ I said, trying to refocus my attention. ’’You mentioned demons, so I take it you know what we\ll be doing?’’

Costa snorted. ’’Yes, though I wish you didn\ have to. No one leaves the dark realms the same way they entered them.’’

Tomas gunned the Jeep, and bracing to stay upright made me almost miss the look on Adrian\s face. From the way his features tightened, Costa wasn\ referring to different exits. Adrian had told me the demon world was awful, as if I couldn\ figure that out for myself. From his expression and Costa\s words, maybe I hadn\ prepared enough. I drew in a deep breath. Think about Jasmine, I reminded myself. If she could survive being trapped in one, I could survive searching however many I needed to in order to save her.

’’I\m tougher than I look’’ was what I said.

Adrian\s hand brushed my back, the brief caress wordlessly promising that I wasn\ doing this alone. Then he nodded at Costa, supporting my statement. I held on to that as tightly as I did the metal bar that kept me from being vaulted out of the car from Tomas\s crazy driving. Jasmine needed me, and Adrian believed in me. I wouldn\ fail either of them.

I couldn\ .

Chapter twelve

The vortex we were headed to was located in a section of desert called La Zona del Silencio, or the Zone of Silence. I found out why they called it that after Tomas turned off the highway and started driving on the barren terrain. After a hundred yards, the radio station he\d been blasting abruptly went silent. Costa held out his cell, showing me the screen going blank as though the phone had powered down on its own.

’’Technology doesn\ work here,’’ he stated. ’’Most people don\ know why, but it\s the vortex. It\s one of the bigger ones on the planet, so it drains everything around it.’’

Our surroundings reminded me of where Demetrius had attacked us. Like that sliver of Oregon desert, the endless landscape of sand was interrupted here and there by cacti and other scrub. It had more mountains, though, sometimes narrowing the path Tomas drove through. Every so often, Adrian would call out directions. He seemed to know exactly where he was despite the lack of roads or signs. I tried to pay attention to our route in case I needed to come back in the future, but after half an hour, I gave up. ’’Turn left at the rock’’ wouldn\ work because all the damn rocks looked the same, and once you\ve seen one cactus, you\ve seen them all.

Finally, after my muscles ached from hours of the Jeep\s rough jostling, Adrian told Tomas to stop. Then he jumped out of the back, unloading his bulky duffel bag with him.

’’We\ e here?’’ I looked around, squinting in the bright sunlight. ’’I don\ see any older, rotted versions of what\s around us.’’ Plus, the only landmark for miles seemed to be an oblong piece of rock sticking out of the ground.

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