The Beautiful Ashes Page 23

Adrian flashed me a challenging look. ’’You can sense hallowed ground. I can sense gateways to the dark worlds.’’

I jumped down, too. ’’How can you do that?’’

His smile was dangerous and beautiful, like the caress of sunshine right before it became a burn. ’’A gift of my lineage, same as your abilities.’’

Wasn\ that a not-so-subtle warning? If sensing demon realm gateways was one of his ’’gifts,’’ he was letting me know that he wasn\ the last descendant of Mother Teresa\s line. Still, why should his family tree weigh so heavily on him? Our previous conversation replayed in my mind. Did my ancestor do something terrible to your ancestor?...No, Ivy, it was the other way around...

Did Adrian keep pushing me away because he felt guilty for what his ancestor had done? If so, could his big, awful secret actually not be about him, but about his long-dead relative?

’’I don\ know who my biological parents were,’’ I said in an even tone. ’’Or who their parents were, and so on. I do know it has no bearing on who I am, beyond genetic leftovers like hair color, eye color, and apparently, an ability to sense hallowed objects and see through supernatural glamour. Same goes for you. Regardless of who your ancestor was, your decisions make you who you are, and aside from being a kon*** sometimes, you can also be pretty great. Maybe, if you dropped whatever your ancient relative\s baggage is, you\d like who you were, too.’’

Adrian\s expression was as hard as the grayish rock behind him, but Tomas gave me a thumbs-up, and Costa started to smile. Guess I wasn\ the only person to think that Adrian\s biggest issue might be Crap Family syndrome.

’’I wish I believed you, Ivy,’’ he said roughly. ’’But believing you is part of the fate that I can\ allow to happen, for both our sakes.’’

Without waiting for me to respond, he opened the duffel bag and tossed a ski jacket, thermal pants and gloves at me.

’’Put these on.’’

I gestured at the scorched landscape, as if he hadn\ realized we were in the middle of a desert with high noon approaching. ’’Are you serious?’’

’’These, too,’’ he said, adding a pair of fleece-lined boots to my pile.

I gave him a level look. ’’Either you\ e trying to kill me, or the realm we\ e about to enter is really cold.’’

’’They\ e all cold,’’ Tomas said, accompanied by a grim snort of agreement from Costa.

I was shocked. ’’You two have been in one?’’

’’We were trapped and Adrian pulled us out,’’ Tomas said, only to be cut off by Adrian\s, ’’Now\s not the time.’’

I marched over to Adrian and jabbed my finger in his chest.

’’You told me there was no way to get Jasmine back without this mysterious weapon, but you got them out of a demon realm?’’

’’Ivy,’’ he began.

’’Don\ ! You said the only thing I could trust about you was your hatred of demons. If you want me to find that demon-killing weapon, you\ e going to tell me right now why you could rescue Tomas and Costa, but you can\ help me save my sister yet!’’

I planted my feet, my glare promising that I wasn\ moving until I had an answer. Tomas and Costa looked uncomfortable, and Adrian looked angry enough to deck both of them, but all he did was let out a sharp sigh.

’’I wasn\ lying when I said we needed the weapon to save your sister. The only reason I was able to save them without it was because I took them with me when I left.’’

My scoff was instant. ’’A bunch of demons just let you waltz out of their realm with two of the humans they\d captured?’’

’’Yes,’’ he said, his tone now flatter than a polished mirror. ’’I grew up in that realm, so they were used to me doing whatever I wanted in it.’’

I don\ know why the words hit me like a punch. Adrian had told me that Demetrius took him when he was a child. I guess I\d just assumed minions had raised him in this world, and Demetrius had...checked in on him frequently.

’’You were raised in a demon realm,’’ I said, my anger changing into something else. ’’And they trusted you, so you must\ve, um ’’

’’Lived just like they did,’’ he supplied, an icy bleakness filling his tone. ’’Still think I\m pretty great?’’

I didn\ know what to think. Part of me was appalled and the other part was weeping. How old had Adrian been when Demetrius yanked him out of this world and raised him in a demon one? If he\d been very young, would he even have known that everything he saw or did was evil if it was all he\d ever seen of ’’normal?’’ Maybe finding out was what had made him switch sides and work with Zach. Maybe that was why he hated demons with such pathological single-mindedness now.

And maybe his twisted upbringing, combined with whatever his ancestor had done, made Adrian feel like fate had doomed him. In some ways, I couldn\ blame him.

’’I still think you are what your decisions make you to be,’’ I said at last. ’’I also think if these guys made it out of a demon realm, then my sister can, too, so let\s do this.’’

With that, I pulled the ski jacket over my tank top, slipped the thermal pants over my shorts, replaced my sandals with the knee-high fuzzy boots and put on the gloves. Finally, I released my long brown hair from its ponytail. If it was cold enough to warrant ski wear, my ears would need the covering.

All Adrian did was toss the now-empty duffel bag into the back of the Jeep.

’’You\ e wearing that?’’ I said, gesturing to his long-sleeved T-shirt and regular jeans.


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