The Beautiful Ashes Page 63

I slowed, torn between curiosity and caution. If I answered and heard Demetrius\s voice on the other line, it would confirm all my suspicions. But what if it was Zach? I could really use the Archon\s help, and for all I knew, Zach contacted Adrian by phone;not to mention unknown would be a damn good description of where his calls were routed from.

I hit Accept but didn\ say anything, hoping whoever was on the other line would speak first.

My gamble paid off.

’’Ivy.’’ Adrian\s voice was hoarse from anger or urgency. ’’Don\ go in there alone. Don\ ’’

I hit the End button so hard, it cracked the screen. Then I threw the phone down, as if that would further sever the connection between us. Still, the forest seemed to fill with Adrian\s presence, until I could swear that the breeze ruffling through the trees was whispering his name.

’’Leave me alone!’’ I yelled, sinking to the ground next to his phone. ’’You were going to betray me, so I had to do it.’’

Saying it didn\ make me feel any better. Believing it hurt almost as much as hoping I was wrong. If I was, I\d ruined any chance between us by doing the one thing Adrian had managed not to do, despite heaven and hell telling him he had no choice. He wouldn\ forgive me for that. No one would, myself included.

With a hard swipe at the tears filling my eyes, I grabbed the phone, got up and started to run again. Right or wrong, I\d made my choice. Whether Adrian intended to stop me or betray me, he knew where I was headed, so I didn\ have much time.

* * *

Last time I\d seen the Paulson bed-and-breakfast, autumn leaves had been swirling around the lovely white house. Now, all the trees were bare and a dark, decrepit shell hung over the B and B, like the negative of a double-exposed photo. It didn\ vanish after a couple blinks, either. It stayed, mute testament to how much my abilities had grown.

That\s also why I could now see words carved into the side of the house, like ’’LEAVE!’’ ’’HELP!’’ and ’’DEMONS.’’ Of course, no one else could see the warnings from people trapped in the other realm. Tourists who pulled up would only see a sign that said ’’Welcome, Friends!’’ on the portico over the front door.

I lurked at the far end of the yard, concealed by the trees that butted up against the foothills of the green mountains. Lights were on inside, giving off a warm amber glow, and two cars were in the gravel section where I\d parked the first time I came here. The B and B had guests.

And I was going to crash the party.

I started taking off my clothes, not stopping until I was down to only boots and the itchy leather bikini that doubled as Hound straps. I put the clothes in the blanket with my other supplies and hefted it over my shoulder again. Then I ran toward the house. When I reached the front door, I tried the knob. Just like before, it was unlocked. Silently, I entered the house, trying to focus on the here instead of the dark, double image that showed a place far different than this one.

No one was in the parlor where I\d first encountered Mrs. Paulson, but laughter came from farther down the hallway. I followed it, ending at the dining room. Two youngish-looking couples sat at the table, and for a frozen second as their heads swung toward me, no one moved.

Then screams coincided with the sound of chairs and other items crashing as they knocked things over in their panic to leave. I bared my teeth, hissing and waving my arms, hoping to scare them right into their cars. They needed to get out of here for more reasons than what Mrs. Paulson had probably been planning for them.

Not that the guests were grateful for my saving them. I had to dodge several plates one of the guys threw at me before he ran down the hallway. Finally, the woman I\d been waiting for appeared, looking flustered as she entered the dining room.

’’What is going on ’’ Mrs. Paulson began, only to stop dead at the sight of me.

’’Dyate,’’ she whispered.

Chapter thirty-three

My grin must\ve looked savage, because I felt every inch the fearsome creature she thought I was as I came toward her. The innkeeper looked like the same salt-and-ginger-haired old lady I\d first met. She even still had on an apron, as if I\d interrupted her while she was baking dessert, but out of the two of us, she was the real monster.

This bitch had delivered my sister to demons. She\d also sent Detective Kroger after me, and for all I knew, might\ve been the person who\d messed with the brakes on my parents\ car. I wanted her dead so badly, it burned. But first...

I dropped my sack when I was a few feet away. She still didn\ move, following protocol on how to avoid being mauled by a Hound, but her gaze flicked to the sack in surprise. Guess she hadn\ noticed it before, what with not expecting a hulking demon lizard to show up in her dining room. Then I pulled out the note I\d written earlier, shoving it in front of her.

Take me to the gateway.

Her face puckered into a frown as she stared at it. I knew she could read what I\d written;my note to Costa had proven that. My hope was that she\d think I was a stray who\d gotten separated from its handler, but that had a note telling whichever minion that found me to send me back home. As for the sack, well, dogs carried stuff sometimes. Maybe I should\ve held the sack in my teeth to look more Hound-like.

When her frown cleared and she looked at me with palpable hatred, I knew my plan had backfired.

’’Davidian,’’ she hissed, yanking something out of her apron.

I lunged to the left when I caught sight of a barrel. Her first shot missed me by inches and her second one went over my head as I ducked. Then I charged, steamrolling into her, fueled by hatred and strength from a legacy I still didn\ understand. She went down, the back of her head smacking against the tile floor. But she still didn\ let go of the gun.


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