The Beautiful Ashes Page 35

’’Who are you?’’ the demon almost whispered.

Zach\s stare didn\ waver. ’’This is your final warning.’’

Demetrius disappeared, taking the wispy remains of his ruined shadows with him. I would\ve let out a triumphant whoop if I wasn\ so upset by the senseless loss.

’’Everyone else is dead,’’ I said, my tone as flat as Adrian\s. ’’Why didn\ you show up before, Zach?’’

’’I wasn\ sent,’’ he replied, the answer making me want to scream. ’’Besides, not all are dead. Some are asleep.’’

With that, he walked over to the rubble and grasped a dirty, limp hand. Costa came up from the rocks with a gasp, his gaze darting around as if expecting an attack.

’’Don\ be afraid,’’ Zach stated. ’’You are safe.’’

And uninjured, judging from how easily Costa moved once he was free from the rocks. I stared, disbelief turning to amazement. No way had he only been ’’asleep.’’ He still had bullet holes in his shirt, not to mention he\d been buried under a stone building;yet now, he looked in better shape than me.

One glance at Adrian\s face confirmed it. He stared at Zach while his expression changed from shock to expectancy.

’’Wake the rest of them up,’’ he said with barely contained vehemence.

Zach didn\ reply, but he did go over to another motionless body part and then pulled up a perfectly healthy Tucco.

’’What happened to the minions?’’ Tucco asked, shaking the dust and debris out of his hair.

’’Ashes,’’ Adrian responded in a terse tone.

’’Bueno,’’ was Tucco\s reply, followed by, ’’Where\s Tomas?’’

’’In the sanctuary,’’ I said, my voice catching on the next word. ’’Asleep.’’

’’Not asleep. Tomas is dead,’’ Zach corrected, no emotion in his tone.

Adrian strode over, gripping Zach by the collar of his pullover sweater. ’’Wake. Him. Up,’’ he said through gritted teeth.

Zach\s handsome features stayed in that serene mask. ’’He is dead,’’ he replied, spacing out the words like Adrian had. ’’Neither your demands nor your anger can change that.’’

’’But you can save him,’’ I burst out, rushing over to grip the Archon\s sleeve. ’’Please, save him.’’

Zach looked at Adrian and me before brushing our hands aside. ’’His time had come, as with the other two. It is done.’’

Then he walked away, adding, ’’There are others you can still save, if you haven\ given up. Tickets are waiting at the Durango airport. Whatever you decide, don\ remain here. Demetrius will soon find his courage and return.’’

As Zach disappeared, one of the formerly silent cars revved to life. The four of us stared at it for a moment, and then, by unspoken agreement, climbed inside.

I didn\ know if the rest of them were motivated by survival instinct, but I knew why I got into the car, and it wasn\ just because I wanted away from the sanctuary of death behind us. I might be angry, confused and in desperate need of a shower, but I still wasn\ ready to give up.

Chapter eighteen

Adrian used the last of the manna he\d stuffed in his pocket to heal our injuries on our way to the airport. Tucco got off on our first layover in Mexico City. Costa, Adrian and I continued to our plane\s final destination of Miami, Florida. I\d learned on the flight there that Costa and Tomas lived in Miami, and they\d journeyed to Durango to help Adrian after he called them. Now only Costa had survived to make the trip home.

Their house was a former church located only two blocks from the beach. It even had a steeple with a cross on top. When Costa showed me around, I realized that he and Tomas had closed in that soaring, pointed ceiling, turning it into the house\s second floor. That was where I stayed, in Tomas\s old room, and for the first day, all I did was sleep.

The second day, I went to the beach. I wasn\ trying to work on my tan, but the sun, heat and tropical scenery made it the exact opposite of the demon realm, and I gratefully soaked up the differences. Already, I couldn\ stand the cold or dark. I\d kept the lights on when I slept, something I hadn\ done since I was child, and if the air conditioning dipped too low, a feeling of dread washed over me.

Costa said that no one left the realms the same way they entered them. Adrian had warned me, too. They were both right.

I stayed at the beach the whole afternoon, moving under the shade of the pavilion when my skin began to redden. Late October in Miami felt like June in Virginia, but the beach wasn\ crowded, probably because it was a Thursday. Back at WMU, Delia and the rest of my friends would be making their weekend plans. They knew which bars had a strict ID policy and which didn\ , plus there were always parties on or around campus. I\d joined them on the classes-parties seesaw for the past two years, but it almost seemed strange to realize I\d be doing that again if I went back home. I\d often had to fake my enthusiasm for going out, and that was before I knew the freaky things I saw were real. Now? I couldn\ pretend to be impressed by some drunken guy pulling off a keg stand. Kick a demon\s ass, that\ll impress me.

Speaking of guys, a few hit on me throughout the day, which would\ve been flattering under regular circumstances. These were anything but. For starters, they were hitting on my blond disguise, not me. More importantly, when I wasn\ thinking about Tomas\s death, my sister\s imprisonment or the awfulness of the realms, I thought about Adrian. Flirting with cute strangers was the last thing on my mind.


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