The Beautiful Ashes Page 50

I started to laugh. Not the exhilarated, yay-I\m-alive kind, like when I\d survived Demetrius\s first attack, but wild cackles that hovered between derangement and despair.

’’A problem? You don\ say,’’ I gasped out. ’’I thought huge demonic dogs would only be a minor nuisance.’’

Adrian smoothed the hair out of my face, his hand lingering to cup my chin.

’’\Hound\ is a nickname. They\ e not dogs. They\ e ancient reptiles the demons selectively bred until they made the most vicious thing on four legs. Can\ see, taste or smell for shit, though, which is why you\ e safe if you don\ move. If you do, they\ e trained to tear you to pieces.’’

I stopped laughing, but that didn\ mean I felt more stable. ’’I vote we skip this realm and only search ones without demonic, man-eating reptiles.’’

’’It\s not that simple,’’ he said, still in that infuriatingly calm tone. ’’They weren\ supposed to be there, so the demons must be amping up their security. They know you\ve searched two realms for the weapon, Ivy. Looks like they\ e trying to stop you from searching a third.’’

The suck never seemed to end. ’’But now that we know they\ e there, can\ we just bring bigger weapons and kill them?’’

’’Hounds are almost as difficult to kill as demons,’’ Adrian responded, a hint of grimness making me wonder if he spoke from experience. ’’Plus, they\ e cold-blooded, so they have to keep returning to their handlers to warm up, which means it wouldn\ take long for one of them to be missed.’’

Crawling into the world\s largest ketchup bottle and not coming out was starting to sound like a great idea. ’’Now what?’’

He gave me a level look. ’’Now we talk to Zach.’’

Chapter twenty-five

We used most of our remaining Archon-glamoured sticky notes for gas money to return to Costa\s house in Miami. Once there, we waited. And waited.

By the fourth day, Zach was still a no-show despite Adrian repeatedly trying to reach him. I tried, too, mostly by folding my hands, glaring upward and thinking multiple variations of Where are you, Zach? I know you can hear us!

Costa wasn\ around, either. At least he\d called, saying he was staying a few more days with Hoyt at Tomas\s family\s house. With no one actively trying to kill me and our realm-searching put on hold, I had nothing to do except brood. I couldn\ even enjoy the sunny warmth of South Florida. If I wasn\ feeling guilty over Jasmine languishing in her captivity, I was being tormented in another way.

For the past three nights, I\d fallen asleep listening to Adrian pace. He spent his days in the outdoor carport, claiming that he needed to work on his car. Bullshit. The Challenger was in mint condition, and he could only wax and detail it so many times before it was obvious that he was just avoiding me.

Tonight, I was finding out why.

I got out of bed, hearing his pacing come to an abrupt halt when I opened my door. Too bad. I was done playing the avoidance game. He wasn\ , though. By the time I came downstairs, he was nowhere to be seen and his bedroom door was shut.

Quietly, I went to his door and tried the knob. Locked. My mouth curled. He was the one who\d taught me not to give up that easily when something needed to be done.

I grabbed the car keys he\d left on the counter and went out the front door. I\d barely slid them into the Challenger\s ignition when Adrian came flying out of the house after me.

’’Where do you think you\ e going?’’ he demanded, yanking open the passenger door after he tried mine and couldn\ get in. I waited until he\d shut it, then I hit the lock button.

The sound was like a gun going off in the sudden quiet. Adrian stared at me, knowing better than anyone that he was now trapped. He was the one who\d rigged the Challenger so that the only exit was through the driver\s side when the doors were locked.

’’I\m not going anywhere,’’ I said evenly, ’’and neither are you until we have a little talk.’’

’’What are you doing, Ivy?’’ he asked, his voice very low.

’’Ending our stalemate,’’ I responded, leaning back into the leather seat. ’’For the first few days, I thought you were avoiding me because I\d done something wrong. Then I realized it wasn\ my fault, so now I want to know why.’’

He looked away. ’’I haven\ been avoiding ’’

’’Ooh, lies, looks like we\ll be here awhile,’’ I mocked. ’’Seriously, Adrian, Costa\s house is on hallowed ground and it doesn\ contain a single mirror, so I\m totally safe. Yet aside from getting groceries the first day, you haven\ left once. If you can\ stand to be in the same room with me, why is it that you can\ stand to leave me alone here, either?’’

His hands slowly closed into fists. ’’Let me out, Ivy. Now.’’

’’Not until you give me a straight answer,’’ I countered.

He looked at me, anger sharpening the gorgeous lines and hollows of his face. ’’I\m warning you, don\ push me.’’

’’Or what?’’ I flared. ’’You have nothing to threaten me with! The only reason I can stand to keep going is because I don\ have anything to lose, so pushing you doesn\ scare me ’’

I didn\ see his hands flash out, but suddenly, they were in my hair as he yanked me to him, his mouth scorching mine. I gasped in shock, and his tongue slid past my lips, claiming mine with a passionate desperation that sent heat rocketing through me.


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