The Beautiful Ashes Page 61
’’No, that was Demetrius\s idea,’’ Adrian replied, sitting on the bed opposite mine. ’’But he\s not alone. Demons have rackets like that all over the world. Hotels, guided tours, boat rentals, chauffeur services...any business that gets people alone and vulnerable, there\s a chance a minion\s planted in it.’’
’’And nobody cares.’’ My snort was bitter. ’’People like Jasmine disappear every day, and the world shrugs because she\s not their sister.’’ Pain sharpened my voice as I added, ’’Or daughter. Minions killed my parents, too, didn\ they?’’
Adrian sighed before running his hand through his hair. ’’Probably. They\d be considered too old to be decent slaves, and if they were making waves over her disappearance, their having an \accident\ would be the simplest solution.’’
I stared at him, silently daring him to look away. ’’Then I showed up making more waves, but I\m young, so they tried to make me a slave instead.’’
’’Yes,’’ he said, his gaze boring into mine while varying emotions flitted across his features. Disgust, anger and the most telling of all. Guilt.
’’You did that to people, too.’’ My accusation filled the space between us, creating an invisible barrier that seemed to grow with every second.
’’Yes, I did.’’ Something too bitter to be a smile twisted his mouth. ’’I told you, for a while, the demons had convinced me that humans were no better than they were. Just more hypocritical, because on this side, human slavers, murderers and oppressors were called dictators, kings and presidents, if they did it to enough people. Only the humans who did it to just a few were called criminals.’’
’’Our race has issues,’’ I acknowledged, still holding his stare. ’’Doesn\ excuse what you or the rest of them did.’’
’’No, Ivy, it doesn\ ,’’ he replied, his voice very soft. ’’And I see the faces of everyone I harmed whenever I close my eyes. That\s why I started working for Zach. Every person I save feels like washing a drop of blood from my hands, but deep down, I know I\ll never even the score. Some things can\ be atoned for, and all the lives I\ve saved will never restore the ones I\ve taken or ruined.’’
I wanted to believe the regret resonating in his tone. Wanted to trust the pain etched on his features, or the look in his eyes that seemed to urge me to revile him for all the things he reviled himself for. But Jasmine\s life and mine hung in the balance, so I couldn\ trust him. He\d told me that enough times, and this time, I\d believe him.
I looked away and forced out a shaky laugh. ’’I don\ know about you, but I could really use a beer. Aren\ there still some that didn\ get used for target practice in the trunk?’’
He didn\ say anything. I sneaked a glance at him. Adrian still sat exactly as he had been, his elbows braced on his legs while he leaned forward. The only thing new was his frown.
’’After everything I just said, your response is to start drinking?’’
More than a hint of disbelief tinged his tone. I scrambled for a convincing reply and found myself answering with the truth. Part of it, anyway.
’’You might want to keep stewing over all the horrible things in your past, but I want to move forward. Right now, that involves getting a drink.’’
A slight snort escaped him. ’’Guess there are worse ways to move on with our lives.’’
He went to the door, but as he opened it, I couldn\ stop from asking a question that had nagged at me. This was the last chance I\d get, even if his answer was just another lie.
’’Forget our roles, fates, whatever for a minute. When it\s all said and done, who do you think is going to win this war? Archons or demons?’’
He half turned. Though his face was only in profile, I could see that his expression matched the absolute certainty in his tone when he spoke.
I let out a short laugh. ’’Is it me, or do they seem outnumbered? I\ve seen several demons, but only one of them.’’
’’You\ e right, they\ e outnumbered.’’ Something else lurked in his voice now. A pained sort of wistfulness. ’’When it\s light versus dark, that doesn\ matter. One shadow in a brightly lit room goes unnoticed, but shine a ray of light into even the darkest corner...and everything changes.’’
Then he left, splitting my emotions right down the middle. If he believed Archons would win, how could he betray me to the losing side? Was he that brainwashed by what he\d been told was his fate, or was he just saying that to play me?
Jasmine\s face flashed in my mind, reminding me that I didn\ have time for second-guessing. I ran over to Adrian\s duffel bag, quickly rifling through it. Once I had what I needed, I dragged a chair over to the hotel room door and stood on it. Despite my preparations, two sides of myself remained locked in battle.
Believe him! my hopeful half screamed. Just because he thinks his awful past has doomed him doesn\ mean it has!
It\s too late! my cynical half roared. You can\ trust him, he\s already admitted that he\s too far gone!
Somewhere in the parking lot, a trunk slammed closed, then footsteps approached the door. I sucked in a breath, my vision blurring as I raised my hands. I didn\ want to do this. I didn\ .
But I had to.
The door opened and I slammed the same large rock we kept to smash mirrors down onto Adrian\s head before he even cleared the threshold. His fist shot out with his lightning-fast reflexes, but in the instant before it landed, his eyes met mine. His sapphire ones widened, then his hand buried into the wall instead of my face.