The Beautiful Ashes Page 48

’’And they realm-snatch from each other to get more.’’ I nodded as if it made perfect sense.

The look Adrian gave me made me wonder if I\d missed something important. ’’Not just from each other. Every chance they get, they absorb more of our world into theirs.’’

’’You never mentioned how,’’ I reminded him.

A shrug. ’’If you believe in M theory, they do it by manipulating gravity to force contact between two dimensional layers, creating a new interdimensional bubble.’’

He sounded like a physicist. ’’Laymen\s terms, please.’’

’’When a vacuum gets switched on, it sucks whatever\s closest into a lint bag, right? When they get enough power, demons use gravity like a vacuum\s On switch to activate an area\s natural geographic instability, crashing one multiverse into its reflective duplicate. Once the gravitational layer restabilizes in essence, the vacuum getting turned off everything in the new lint-bag realm is trapped.’’

’’So gateways are like the hose that runs from the sweeper to the lint bag,’’ I mused, adding, ’’Why do you always grab me when we go through them? Couldn\ I make it through myself?’’

A smile ghosted across his lips. ’’Try it,’’ he said, gesturing to an empty space to his right.

I gave it a doubtful look. ’’Nothing\s there. All the other realm gateways had markers.’’

’’All the others?’’ He snorted. ’’You\ve only seen two. More than half the gateways aren\ marked, Ivy. That\s why they\ e so hard to find unless you can feel them.’’

I didn\ feel anything, and all I saw next to Adrian was air and grass. ’’You\ e sure it\s there?’’

Another snort. ’’Even if I hadn\ been through this one before, I\d still be sure. Think you could not notice jamming your finger into a light socket? That\s what gateways feel like to me.’’

Wow, my abilities must be weak. I had to concentrate like a fiend to sense a hint of something hallowed, and Adrian felt dark objects like they were electric shocks. Then again, he\d had years to hone his abilities. I\d just found out about mine less than a month ago.

I squared my shoulders. Time to exercise some supernatural muscle! I focused on the space Adrian indicated, and then flung myself forward like I was diving into a pool.

Face-plant. Ow, ow, ow!

Adrian\s chuckle penetrated the part of me that wasn\ seeing cartoon birdies fly over me in circles. My body vibrated from the impact, and I now knew that dry grass tasted like uncooked spaghetti with dirt sauce.

’’Not funny,’’ I groaned.

He knelt next to me, still chuckling as he offered me a hand up. ’’If you saw the air you caught before you hit the ground, you\d disagree.’’

I flipped over, glaring as I swatted his hand away. ’’Payback\s a bitch. Remember that.’’

’’I\m trembling.’’

He pulled me to my feet. Even as I swore revenge, part of me savored his unfettered amusement. Adrian rarely laughed unless it was in derision, bitterness or challenge. Seeing him do it with only mischief tingeing his features was like seeing a diamond in the sunlight versus glimpsing it in shadows.

I shouldn\ , but I stared anyway. No wonder Obsidiana had wanted him back enough to risk coming after him alone. I hated the hell-bitch, but I couldn\ fault her for her taste.

Adrian\s laughter died away, and he glanced at our hands, as if just realizing that he still held mine. Our eyes locked, and his words from before replayed in my mind.

I\ve wanted you since the first time you touched me.... Nothing but dark magic had ever felt so powerful, and when I touch you, it\s a thousand times worse....

My grip started to tighten, but he pulled away, a familiar hardness turning his expression into an impenetrable mask. His gaze flared, though, and his hands clenched into fists as he drew in a harsh breath. His expression might be statue-like, but in those seething sapphire eyes, I caught a glimpse of the wildness he held back, and it made me shiver.

If Adrian ever freed the part of him that wanted me, would I be able to stand it? Or would I love every second of being overcome? Only concern for my sister kept me from testing both of us by throwing myself into his arms and forcing him to feel what he kept telling himself he couldn\ have.

His muscles bunched, as if on a primal level he sensed the reckless passion growing in me. Maybe he did. Maybe it was more than our bond that made me throb in places he\d never touched, as though demanding to feel his hands, his mouth, on me there.

Adrian spun around, his coat unable to hide how his whole body had suddenly tensed, as if he\d been zapped with the electric shock he\d alluded to before.

’’Let\s go,’’ he said hoarsely. ’’Places to be, minions to kill.’’

My hands trembled as I drew on my thick winter parka and gloves. I already had on the insulated pants and boots.

’’First, tell me why I can\ get through the gateways on my own,’’ I asked, stalling so I\d get a second to compose myself.

He half turned to show a smile like uncut crystal beautiful, yet jagged around the edges. ’’Same reason as everything else bloodlines. You need minion, demon or Judian blood to cross through the barriers that lead to the dark worlds. You don\ have that, so by wrapping myself around you, I\m essentially covering you with my blood to get you through.’’

That explained so much. No wonder demons didn\ bother to station guards at every gateway. Even if the humans they captured managed to navigate the pitch-blackness to find them, they couldn\ cross through them to get back to their world. Once in a realm, they were hopelessly trapped.


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