The Beautiful Ashes Page 33

’’Can\’’ His breathing became labored, and blood continued to stream through my fingers, soaking the manna.

’’Don\ talk,’’ I said, desperately trying to stem the flow. ’’You need to save your strength.’’

Tomas stared at me, and for a second, the agonized haze left his vision and his eyes became clear.

’’You need to save Adrian,’’ he said distinctly. Then his eyes rolled back, and his body convulsed before he went limp.

’’Tomas!’’ I screamed.

No response. His chest didn\ rise for another breath, and the gush of blood between my fingers slowed to a trickle. I didn\ need to check for a pulse to know he was gone. Slowly, I lifted my hands from his chest and sent a single glare upward that wasn\ directed at the men on the roof.

Why? I thought furiously. He was fighting for Your side! Don\ You even care?

No response again, not that I expected any. Maybe Adrian was right and we were nothing more than collateral damage to both sides. Fine. If the Archon\s boss wouldn\ do anything to help, I would.

I picked up Tomas\s gun, barely noticing how hot the metal was from his repeated firing. Every part of me was consumed by guilt and rage. I\d stayed down like they told me to, and Tomas had died. No more. I\d fight and live, or I\d fight and die, but either way, I was fighting.

I braced the barrel against a hole in the wall like Tomas had done and started firing. For the first few rounds, my aim was terrible, and I hit the cars the minions hid behind instead of them. Stone exploded near my face as they returned fire. I ducked low until it stopped, then began firing again, aiming for the flashes of light I\d glimpsed from the minions\ guns.

I didn\ hear a yelp, but one of their weapons abruptly went silent. I felt nothing except grim satisfaction, which surprised the small part of me that hadn\ been irrevocably changed by the past two weeks. I kept firing, scooting over when the wall became too pocked with holes for sufficient protection. I\d just replaced the magazine clip with the last full one when a thunderous boom shook the sanctuary.

Sand rolled in like a fast-moving fog. Between that and the sudden glare of headlights, I was momentarily blinded, but the noise and the shuddering ground kept me moving. I ran toward the back, keeping low, which was a good thing. The sickening rushes of air over me had to be gunshots I barely avoided.

’’Ivy!’’ I heard someone scream before a frenzy of gunfire drowned out the sound. Then another, more ominous noise swelled. Metal screeched, stone groaned, and the ground shook like I was in the middle of an earthquake. Frantically, I blinked the sand out of my eyes, finally able to see enough to realize the sanctuary was crashing down around me.

Chapter seventeen

I ran for the window, pain exploding over me as I was pelted by chunks of the roof. Then I dove through it right as the walls folded, releasing a thick cloud of crushed stone from the tremendous impact. My knees and arms tore, but I forced myself to keep moving through the rubble. Through the chalklike fog, I saw something dark rush toward me. I raised my arms before realizing I no longer held a gun. Sometime during my mad dash to escape the collapsing sanctuary, I\d dropped it.

I tried to run and was grabbed before I made it a step. Then I recognized the large body I was pressed to. Felt rough, hot hands race over me, seeking out signs of injury. I hurt everywhere, but the pain faded at the knowledge that Adrian was still alive. I threw my arms around him and, for a blissful second, felt him hug me back with equal vehemence. Then Adrian thrust me behind him fast enough to make my teeth rattle.

’’Hondalte!’’ a voice rang out.

Stop, I mentally translated, recognizing the Demonish word from our time in the realm. The thick cloud dissipated, revealing the cause of the sanctuary\s demise. One of the minions had rammed their truck into the side of the building, taking down the gunfire-weakened walls. What I saw when I peeked around Adrian looked equally ominous.

Half a dozen minions were silhouetted against the vehicles\ headlights. Demetrius stood in the middle, his black hair merging into the shadows that trailed behind him like a cape.

’’Adrian, enough,’’ the demon said in an annoyed voice. ’’Move aside. I have no wish to hurt you.’’

’’Sure you don\ ,’’ Adrian mocked. ’’All those bullets aimed my way were just you trying to say hi.’’

Demetrius\s gaze raked over him. ’’Those were to limit the damage you inflicted on my people, but you, more than anyone, know why we want you alive. In fact, Mayhemium is being punished for not instructing his people to take care with you earlier.’’

I hadn\ thought a demon was capable of telling the truth, but right now, I believed Demetrius. For starters, six guns were trained on us, yet at the demon\s command, no one was firing. As for Adrian, blood dripped down him from multiple wounds, staining his clothes and turning his hair auburn, but when I\d held him, he had felt whole. Sad that I was learning to tell the difference between seriously injured and moderately hurt.

’’Ah, but if she\s dead, then you don\ need me anymore,’’ Adrian countered.

Good point, and a very frightening one. I glanced down. We were still on hallowed ground, from the faint luminescence drifting up, so Demetrius couldn\ get to us. Of course, with all the guns pointed our way, he didn\ need to.

’’You\ e still my son,’’ Demetrius said quietly. ’’Give us the Davidian, and I will gladly welcome you home.’’

Adrian\s whole body tensed. ’’Stop calling me that,’’ he said, each word vibrating with hatred. ’’And you\ e only getting Ivy over my dead body.’’

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