The Beautiful Ashes Page 77

Whoa. I pushed him away, a foreboding chill sweeping through me at his stricken expression, not to mention his words.

’’What don\ I know?’’ I asked, starting to tremble.

’’Your destiny, Davidian, was not merely to find the slingshot,’’ the blond Archon stated. ’’You must acquire the remaining two hallowed weapons before the demons get them, or the world you know will cease to exist.’’

’’Wait, what other weapons?’’ I blurted before memory seared me with pitiless clarity.

To take down demons, you need one of three weapons, Adrian had said the day we met, and the second and third ones will probably kill you. Then when he\d taken me into the first realm, he\d said, That\s why I still hide things from you, Ivy. If you can\ accept the way the board\s set up, you\ e not nearly ready to learn the endgame yet....

’’You knew,’’ I breathed, staring into his tormented jeweled gaze. ’’You knew all along that finding the slingshot was only the beginning, but you let me believe that if I did, this would all be over. You lied to me, Adrian!’’

He flinched as if my words had struck him like a physical blow. Amidst my anger, disbelief and blistering hurt, I also felt a fresh wave of exhaustion. I\d thought if I got the slingshot and saved Jasmine, I\d be done with demons and their horrible realms. I didn\ have it in me to take on one more fight against them, let alone two. Right now, I didn\ even know if I had it in me to keep standing.

Zach came over to me, his brown eyes filled with a knowing sort of pity.

’’Judas was guilty of three betrayals. The first was trust when he robbed the money set aside for the poor. The second was greed when he accepted thirty pieces of silver, and the third ’’

’’Was death,’’ I finished, my heart breaking all over again. ’’You did betray me, Adrian, just like everyone said you would. You just haven\ killed me yet.’’

’’Ivy, I\m sorry,’’ he said, catching my hands and holding on when I tried to yank away. ’’I didn\ believe I could beat my fate before, but I do now. You made me believe, and ’’

My laughter cut him off. It was dark, ugly and filled with all the anguish of love lost, found and lost again.

’’How ironic. Now you believe, and I don\ .’’ He opened his mouth, and I let out a harsh scoff. It was that or I\d start to cry, and it was taking all the fading strength I had not to do that already. ’’Just leave. I can\ listen to you right now. It hurts too much to even look at you.’’

He released my hands but gripped my shoulders, his sapphire gaze blazing into mine. ’’I\ll leave, but not for long. I\ll make you believe again, Ivy, if it\s the last thing I do.’’

Then he was gone, using his blinding speed to disappear into the trees. I waited until I was sure he wasn\ coming back before I finally allowed myself to sink to my knees, tears leaking past my clenched eyelids. Everyone had warned me, but not only had I trusted Adrian, I\d fallen in love with him. Worse, even after all this, I still loved him. Was that because I had the world\s worst case of stupidity? Or was it another example of the curse of my fate?

’’What\s this second weapon and what\s it supposed to do?’’ I asked, not really wanting to know but needing something to distract me from my urge to call out for Adrian.

Zach knelt until he was eye level with me. ’’The staff of Moses. It parted the Red Sea, sent ten plagues upon Egypt and caused water to pour from rocks in the desert. In short, it controls nature, so it can repair the walls between the realms.’’

My head dropped into my hands while a gasping laugh escaped me. ’’No wonder the thing\s supposed to kill me if I use it.’’

’’It might,’’ Zach said steadily. ’’But the slingshot didn\ , and it could have, too. You\ e strong, Ivy. Now you need to be stronger, so you can stave off the destruction of your world.’’

Another gasping laugh. ’’Oh, is that all?’’ We were all doomed. Doomed.

’’If you succeed, you will save Adrian, too,’’ the blond Archon said almost casually.

My head snapped up. ’’How? He\s destined to betray me, remember?’’

’’And so he has,’’ Zach said in a mild tone. ’’Yet now there is a chance that he won\ do it again. Adrian\s hatred of demons was the first thing that made him struggle against his fate, but hate was never going to be enough for him to overcome it. Only light can defeat darkness. Loving you is his light, Ivy. Without it, he was doomed to fail, but with it, his fate is truly in his own hands.’’

I stared at him, thunderstruck, as different details started falling into place.

If Zach hadn\ abandoned him all those years ago, Adrian wouldn\ have learned how to be the insanely strong fighter that he was. He also wouldn\ have hated demons for their countless deceptions, giving him a reason to fight them in the first place. Then later, his hate ensured that he went with me when I was looking for the only weapon that could kill them. As I\d accused Adrian before, he wouldn\ have gone with me otherwise, no matter how Zach tried to persuade him...

Hope began to spiral through my wildly swinging emotions. That\s right, Zach had wanted Adrian to go with me, so maybe the Archon was using the supernatural tie between us to help Adrian, not to doom him. After all, if Adrian hadn\ gone with me to search for the slingshot, we wouldn\ have fallen in love. Yes, Adrian had horribly betrayed my trust, but I\d betrayed his, too, and he\d forgiven me. Could I really refuse to forgive him, if there might be a future for us after all?

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