The Beautiful Ashes Page 32

’’How do you know?’’ I couldn\ see anything except headlights.

’’Because they just texted me, \Don\ shoot, we\ e here.\’’

Okay, then. Tomas went to tell Adrian and Costa, and I stayed in the sanctuary, watching through windows that hadn\ seen a pane of glass in decades. A worn Chevy pulled into the monastery, two people in front and one in the back. They got out, speaking Spanish so rapidly I only caught the names Tucco, Danny and Jorge. They\d brought a bunch of weapons, though, and that made them a welcome sight.

Adrian was in the middle of checking the scope on a rifle when he paused, staring into the distance. ’’Are there more of you coming, Tucco?’’

’’No, por qué?’’ the shorter man replied.

Adrian cocked the rifle. ’’Take positions on top of the church,’’ he said curtly. ’’We\ve got company.’’

I didn\ see anything, but I believed him. So did the others. They scrambled to unload the rest of the guns, then at Adrian\s command, parked the truck in front of the sanctuary. Now the vehicle blocked the largest entrance to where I was, although the windows were big enough for someone to get through.

Adrian proved that when he vaulted through one, angling his big body sideways to fit.

’’Here,’’ he said, pressing a small caliber gun into my hand. ’’This\ll be easier for you to use. It\s cocked and ready. All you have to do is pull the trigger.’’

’’And not get it yanked away,’’ I said grimly.

Adrian flashed me a smile. ’’Second time\s the charm.’’

I hoped so. ’’Adrian, before you go ’’

’’No matter what happens, stay here,’’ he said, cutting me off. ’’They can\ cross hallowed ground. The gun\s for emergencies, but Tomas\ll be with you. Stay down so the minions don\ see you. We\ll be on the roof, keeping them from getting too close.’’

’’No,’’ I protested, but he was already gone. Tomas jumped through the window Adrian had just vacated, his dark gaze flicking to me as he accepted a bundle of automatic weapons from Costa.

’’You want to help, sí?’’ At my vigorous nod, Tomas gestured to the weapons. ’’I\ll show you how to change the magazines. When I run out, you replace them.’’

In the short time it took me to learn, three cars began bouncing across the desert terrain toward the monastery, their headlights the only illumination for miles.

’’Any chance they\ e lost tourists?’’ I asked with a fake chuckle.

Tomas shrugged. ’’Could be members of a local drug cartel.’’

’’Oh, let\s hope.’’

When they were close enough to notice the truck blocking the entrance, the vehicles screeched to a stop. A barrage of gunfire from the roof cut off the instant chatter of Demonish, dashing any chance that these were drug runners looking to hide their stash.

As instructed, I stayed low while the minions returned fire. Then again, these ocher-colored walls were already in bad shape;I doubted they\d stop bullets for long. Maybe we should\ve tried to hide. As soon as I thought it, I rejected the idea. Would minions sent on a murder mission by demons really be content to shine a flashlight around and then call it a night?

’’This one\s out,’’ Tomas said, dropping one rifle and snatching up another. Quickly, I replaced the magazine, trying not to flash back to the last firefight when I\d been almost killed. Easier said than done with the rat-a-tat-tat-tat! of gunfire going off. If I lived through this, I\d never be able to watch a war movie without risking a PTSD attack.

Right now, I channeled my anxiety into replacing Tomas\s ammunition as fast as he needed it. The pile of magazines seemed to be shrinking at an alarming rate, and the sanctuary walls were beginning to look like Swiss cheese from the hits they were taking. Every time a bullet penetrated, a small cloud of stone dust puffed out. There had been so many, the air was starting to get chalky.

Worse, it sounded like fewer guns were firing back from the roof. I tried not to think about what that meant, or drive myself crazy wondering if Adrian was okay. Every so often, a shout would rise above the other noises, but I couldn\ tell who made it. The roof had stone arches, carvings and a bell tower to hide behind, but if they were sustaining as much damage as the sanctuary walls, things were getting dire.

And we were down to only two clips of ammo.

’’How many minions are still out there?’’ I asked Tomas, needing to shout to be heard above the gunfire.

’’Four more carfuls just pulled up,’’ he yelled back.

Four! An irrational urge to start screaming built, but I choked it back with forced optimism. We\d survived a minion attack before. If we hung in there, we\d survive again

Tomas spun around, clutching his chest. Horrified, I saw a new hole in the wall right where he\d been standing. I barely managed to catch him before he crumpled, crimson leaking out between his fingers.

I set him down and rushed across the room to retrieve the manna Adrian had left. Something burned in my leg, but I ignored it, zigzagging to avoid more bullets on my way back.

’’No,’’ Tomas groaned, coughing up blood with the word.

I tore open the bag and, pulling his hands away, clapped a large glob of manna onto his chest. He coughed up more blood, then his lips stretched into a grisly imitation of a smile.

’’Doesn\ work...mortal wounds.’’

My eyes welled, causing his features to blur. ’’You\ e not dying,’’ I insisted, pressing another handful to his chest.

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