The Beautiful Ashes Page 52

I didn\ know whether it was the most romantic thing he\d ever done, or the most insulting.

Chapter twenty-six

The next day, Zach showed up with his usual style of no warning. I looked up from my book to see him seated in the chair opposite mine, a book in his hands as if he\d been reading, too.

’’Adrian!’’ I called out, not bothering to say hello. ’’Zach\s finally here!’’

’’Why do you seem angry with me?’’ Zach asked, to the accompanying sound of the front door slamming.

’’I shouldn\ be upset that you took your time getting back to us when we\ e not able to search for the only weapon that can save my sister?’’

Frustration over more than that scalded my tone. Zach didn\ get a chance to respond before Adrian came into the room. No surprise, he\d been outside all day. At least he\d given himself a reason to work on his car instead of just pretending to. As for me, I\d been pretending to read so it wasn\ obvious that I hadn\ been able to stop thinking about what we\d almost done in that shiny black Challenger.

’’What the f**k, man?’’ Adrian asked, summing up his feelings more succinctly than I had.

Zach stood. ’’I am not a man,’’ he stated crisply. ’’Nor am I yours to command or to reprimand.’’

Adrian replied with a burst of the exquisite form of Demonish, the sound caressing my ears like a symphony. Instead of being mollified, Zach was more upset.

’’How dare you use the tongue of my brethren, mortal!’’

’’That\s angel-speak?’’ I asked in surprise.

Adrian threw me a brief glance. ’’Yes, and I know it because it\s what demons originally derived their language from.’’ To Zach, he said, ’’We didn\ have a week to waste waiting for you. You of all people know we\ e on a countdown.’’

’’What countdown?’’ I piped up, but both men ignored me.

’’I needed time to procure your solution,’’ Zach said, his dark gaze blazing with pinpoints of light. ’’Did your impatience prevent that from occurring to you, endante?’’

At the foreign word, Adrian looked more pissed than Zach.

’’How about texting a cloud version of \rb\ then?’’ Acidly.

I got up, the anger between them starting to concern me. We were dead in the water without Zach, so I had to shove my own feelings aside again to smooth this over.

’’Zach, you\ve been around forever, but we are mortal. Five days might be nothing to you, but with no word and only unbeatable obstacles to dwell on, it\s been tough on us.’’

The Archon glanced my way, his gaze stating that I hadn\ smoothed anything over. Okay, time for rough honesty, then.

’’For starters, I barely sleep because I keep wondering if this is all for nothing.’’ My voice caught. ’’No matter what Adrian said about the demons not wanting to lose their leverage, Jasmine might already be dead. Sometimes, I even wish she was. Then she wouldn\ be suffering, and I wouldn\ have to enter another realm. Then I hate myself for thinking that, so guilt torments me.’’

I paused to draw in a shuddering breath. ’’Worse, after last night, I know that I want Adrian so bad, I don\ care what happens afterward. Another night alone together and I won\ be able to stop myself from going to him, and no matter how much he thinks he has to, I know he won\ have the strength to turn me away again.’’

I made sure to keep staring at Zach as I spoke. If I so much as glanced at Adrian, I wouldn\ have been able to admit such raw, personal truths. Guilt over my sister wore me down on a daily basis, so last night with Adrian had used up the last of my willpower. Since he\d resorted to damaging his beloved Challenger rather than wait for me to open the driver\s side door, his willpower was on empty, too. Another night alone and it would all be over.

A large part of me wished the Archon would have waited one more day to show up.

Zach stared back at me, his expression turning thoughtful. I still didn\ look at Adrian, but I could feel his gaze moving over me, flaring everything it touched. I\d never been so hyperaware of anyone before, and when he let out a low, harsh sigh, I found myself inhaling so I could absorb his breath inside me.

Zach\s hand on my head whipped my attention back to him. The Archon closed his eyes as if concentrating, and this time, I actually felt a tingle run through me. Or maybe it was still my body responding to Adrian\s unrelenting stare.

After a moment, Zach removed his hand. ’’This new disguise will see you past the demon\s Hounds,’’ he stated.

’’How?’’ Adrian and I asked in unison, but then a car pulled up in the driveway. Adrian let out a sigh of relief this time.

’’Costa\s back.’’

Costa parked behind the Challenger. When he got out, I waved at him through the window and then was slammed to the floor, Adrian\s large frame almost crushing me from the impact.

’’Don\ shoot,’’ I heard Zach say over Adrian\s urgent, ’’Are you okay? Did he hit you?’’

I couldn\ answer because I couldn\ breathe. My hands smacking at his shoulders must\ve conveyed that, because Adrian leaped off me with the same speed, though he remained crouched in front of me. I took in a deep breath, wincing as my ribs and the back of my head throbbed with pain.

’’Why\d you...squish me?’’ I managed.

Over his shoulder, I saw Costa burst into the room, his gun drawn and his tanned face pale. ’’Is it dead?’’ he snarled.


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