The Beautiful Ashes Page 29

They moved like Adrian did, and they were armed, too.

Adrian shoved me down at the first hail of bullets. The back of the Jeep shuddered, but the rounds didn\ penetrate. Now that I was eye level with it, I saw how thick the back door was, and that extra metal plating couldn\ have come standard.

’’Didn\ I tell you to stay down?’’ I heard Adrian snap, then another barrage of gunfire stole his voice. The Jeep bounced madly from Tomas\s speed, but Adrian and Costa held on to the rails as they fired and ducked in a frenetic display of violence and defense.

’’You gave me a gun, let me help!’’ I protested.

’’No,’’ Tomas yelled, whipping the Jeep around so fast that I hit my head on its side panel. ’’Stay down! You\ e who they most want to kill!’’

Me? Then I remembered Mayhemium\s look of loathing, and what he\d hissed right before Adrian hit him. The last Davidian. Did the demons want me dead because I was the only one who could locate a weapon that could kill them?

It didn\ take long to get my answer. Despite the hail of gunfire Adrian, Costa and even Tomas leveled at the minions, they kept trying to get to where I crouched. My little corner became dented from all the bullets fired at it, and every so often, minions would hurtle themselves into the Jeep kamikaze-style. Adrian threw them out with his incredible speed, but I was soon covered in blood, bruises and cuts. And they kept on coming, until I was convinced that the whole realm had emptied in their attempt to kill us.

Or kill me, specifically.

When Tomas had to slow down to get through the tight passage between the mountains, five minions managed to jump onto the Jeep. Adrian got clobbered by three of them, and Tomas and Costa sounded like they were in their own life-and-death struggles. Their bulky machine guns were a hindrance in a close-contact fight, but I still had mine. I got up, raising it with grim determination.

Out of nowhere, another minion grabbed the barrel and used it to yank the gun from my hands, delivering a brutal kick to my midsection at the same time. I fell back into the corner, and for a split second, our eyes met. His were cerulean blue, and he grinned as he raised his own gun. Unarmed and wedged between the door and the seat, there was nothing I could do to save myself.

A knife suddenly slammed into the top of his head, twisting with vicious force. My would-be killer abruptly went cross-eyed and dropped his gun. I snatched it up, clutching it but not firing. Adrian was now right in front of me, and I didn\ want to hit him, plus my would-be killer looked really, really dead.

Adrian yanked his knife out and the minion began to fall. As he did, his body transformed, turning dark as pitch and then dissipating altogether. What landed on the blood-spattered floor wasn\ a man. It was a pile of ashes that coated me when the Jeep bounced from Tomas\s wild acceleration as we finally cleared the mountain pass.

Adrian knelt, one hand roughly cupping my face while the other searched me for injuries.

’’Thank God you\ e okay,’’ he breathed.

For some reason, hearing Adrian thank a deity he mostly seemed to despise shocked me as much as seeing my would-be killer disintegrate before my eyes. I stared at Adrian, the ashes covering me and then the horizon. No more leaping, murderous minions appeared, and since Costa and Tomas had stopped firing, I assumed we were finally in the clear.

But with the sun hanging lower into the sky, we wouldn\ be clear for long. Night was coming, and with it, demons.

Chapter fifteen

We didn\ go back to our hotel in Ceballos. Tomas drove straight to an empty, ancient-looking monastery, and we passed through the gates right as the last rays of sunlight disappeared. I staggered into the abandoned sanctuary with relief so intense, it felt like a cheap high. Who knew that entering a church would be my new favorite thing?

’’Hide the Jeep,’’ Adrian ordered. ’’How\ e we on ammo?’’

’’Nearly out,’’ Tomas said, running a red-splattered hand through his hair. ’’I\ll make a call, try to get more.’’

’’Costa.’’ Adrian threw the bag of manna at him. ’’Here.’’

The curly-haired man winced as he reached up and caught it. ’’Thanks. Bastards got me.’’

When Costa lifted his shirt and I saw two oozing holes in his abdomen, I ran over to him. ’’You\ve been shot!’’

Mentally defective is right, I immediately chided myself. Talk about stating the obvious.

’’Let me help you,’’ I added, tucking my shoulder under Costa\s arm so he could use me as a crutch. Adrian shook his head, muttering something unintelligible as he left the gutted sanctuary. I led Costa to an alcove, seating him on the groove.

’’You know what you\ e doing with that?’’ Costa asked, sounding pained yet amused.

’’Scoop \ slap, right?’’ I replied, digging my fingers into the mushy substance. Out of everyone, my hands were the cleanest, but I still left bloody smudges in the bag.

Costa grunted. ’’That\s it.’’ Then he visibly braced as I held my manna-smeared hand over the first entry wound. ’’Do it.’’

I pressed it against the bullet hole, wincing in empathy as his whole body jerked. After a few minutes, his harsh breathing eased, so I pulled my hand away.

No more blood oozed from the hole, which was growing smaller before my eyes. After another minute, it disappeared entirely, leaving a smooth, shiny patch of skin in its place.

’’One to go,’’ I said, reaching for more manna.

’’Did your hands get shot, too, Costa?’’

The question startled me. I hadn\ noticed Adrian return, but there he was, standing where the doors would have been, if the sanctuary entrance still had them.

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