The Beautiful Ashes Page 4

Then I gasped when his hand covered mine. At some point, he\d taken off his gloves, and the feel of his warm, bare skin sent a shock wave through me. The touch seemed to affect Adrian, too. His lips parted and he edged over the back of the seats

He yanked on the steering wheel, narrowly avoiding another car. A horn blared, and when the driver passed us, an extended middle finger shook angrily in our direction. I leaned back, my heart pounding from the near collision. At least, that\s what I told myself it was from.

’’Dyate,’’ Adrian muttered.

I didn\ recognize the word, and I was at a loss to place his accent. It had a musical cadence like Italian, but beneath that was a harsher, darker edge.

’’What\s that language?’’ I asked, trying to mask the sudden shakiness in my voice.

This time, he didn\ take his eyes off the road. ’’Nothing you\ve heard of.’’

’’I picked truth, remember?’’ I said, holding up my bound hands for emphasis.

That earned me a quick glance. ’’That is the truth, but you don\ get more until you meet Zach. Then we can skip all the \ his isn\ possible\ arguments.’’

I let out a short laugh. ’’After what I saw on Detective Kroger\s face, my definition of \impossible\ has changed.’’

Adrian swerved again, but this time, no other car was near.

’’What did you see?’’

I tensed. How did I explain without sounding insane? No way to, so I chose to go on the attack instead.

’’Why were you in my hotel room? And how did you heal me? There isn\ even a mark ’’

’’What did you see on his face, Ivy?’’

Despite his hard tone, when my name crossed his lips, something thrummed inside me, like he\d yanked on a tie I hadn\ known was there. Feeling it was as disturbing as my inexplicable reaction to his clasping my hands.

’’Shadows,’’ I said quickly, to distract from that. ’’He had snakelike shadows all over his face.’’

I expected Adrian to tell me I\d imagined it, a response I was used to hearing. Instead, he pulled over, putting the car in park but keeping the engine running. Then he turned to stare at me.

’’Was that the only strange thing you saw?’’

I swallowed. I knew better than to talk about these things. Still, I\d demanded the truth from Adrian. It didn\ seem fair to lie in return.

’’I saw two versions of the same B and B earlier. One was pretty, but the other was old and rotted, and my sister was trapped inside it.’’

Adrian said nothing, though he continued to pin me with that hard stare. When he finally spoke, his question was so bizarre I thought I\d misheard him.

’’What do I look like to you?’’


’’My appearance.’’ He drew out the words like I was slow. ’’Describe me.’’

All of a sudden, he wanted compliments? I might have finally met someone crazier than me.

’’This is ridiculous,’’ I muttered, but started with the obvious. ’’Six-six, early twenties, built like Thor, golden brown hair with blond highlights, silvery blue want me to go on?’’

He began to laugh, a deep, rich baritone that would\ve been sensual except for how angry it made me.

’’Now I know why they came after you,’’ he said, still chuckling. ’’They must\ve realized you were different, but if they\d known what you could see, you never would\ve made it out of that B and B.’’

’’You can stop laughing,’’ I said sharply. ’’I get that it\s crazy to see the things I do.’’

Lots of kids had imaginary friends growing up. I had imaginary places, though at first, I hadn\ known I was the only one who could see them. Once my parents had realized that what I kept describing went far beyond childhood fancy, the endless doctor visits and tests began. One by one, diseases and psychoses had been crossed off until I was diagnosed with a non-monoamine-cholinergic imbalance in my temporal cortex.

In other words, I saw shit that wasn\ there for reasons no one could figure out. The pills I took helped a little, though I lied and said they got rid of all my hallucinations. I was sick of doctors poking at me. So whenever I saw something that no one else did, I forced myself to ignore it until Mrs. Paulson and Detective Kroger had tried to kill me, of course.

Adrian did stop laughing, and that unblinking intensity was back in his gaze.

’’Well, Ivy, I\ve got good news and bad news. The good news is, you\ e not crazy. The bad news is, everything you\ve seen is real, and now, it\ll be coming for you.’’

Chapter three

Even on a good day, I hated when guys were cryptic. Those of the Testosterone Persuasion already came with a mountain of senseless tendencies did they really think they needed to add purposefully vague statements on top of that?

The fact that Adrian refused to elaborate on his enigmatic warning while I was tied up in his backseat made it unbearable. As the time ticked on, I consoled myself by imagining hitting him in the head with something heavy. Or leaning over the seat and choking him with the band of duct tape around my wrists. If the back of this vehicle had had a cigarette lighter, I might\ve gotten creative with fantasies about that, too.

Guess being kidnapped turned me into a violent person.

’’Are you a se* slaver?’’ I asked abruptly.

’’Someone\s watched Taken too many times,’’ Adrian said, and the amusement in his tone grated on my last nerve.

’’Why wouldn\ I think that?’’ I shot back. ’’You saved my life, but you\ e taking me somewhere against my will, and you refuse to untie me.’’

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