The Beautiful Ashes Page 8

I couldn\ believe Adrian kept jabbing Zach like he was a roast that needed tenderizing. Didn\ he sense the blasting power beneath Zach\s average-guy disguise?

’’She\s not a descendent of your line,’’ Zach said, his hand closing over Adrian\s with enough strength to hold it immobile. ’’You are the last of that, but she sees past the disguises of this world because she is the last descendant of David\s.’’

’’Last of whose?’’ I began, then stopped, stunned into silence as Adrian turned toward me.

Horror didn\ begin to describe the look on his face. Adrian stared at me like I\d crushed his world, ground it up and then forced it down his throat until he died choking on its remains. If my skin had suddenly been replaced by scales oozing poison, I still wouldn\ have thought I deserved such a look.

’’Last of a line of rulers dating back to ancient times, when King David sat on the throne of Jerusalem,’’ Zach replied.

History was my major in college, but I\d also been a fan of the arts since I was a little girl.

’’King David as in the guy from Michelangelo\s famous marble statue?’’ The naked one? I mentally added.

’’The same,’’ Zach agreed, a slight arch of his brow making me wonder if he\d guessed what I hadn\ said out loud.

’’Nice story,’’ I said flippantly, ’’but all anyone knows about my biological parents is that my mother was an illegal immigrant who left me on the side of the road after the tractor trailer she was hiding in jackknifed.’’

In some ways, I couldn\ blame her. All the illegals who\d survived the accident had run, and disappearing in a new country would have been harder with a newborn. The Jenkinses, who\d also been caught in the multicar pileup, had found me, and after a series of court battles, officially adopted me.

Zach shrugged. ’’Your disbelief doesn\ change the truth.’’

Adrian was suddenly at the back of the church, his silhouette a dark outline against the stained glass panels.

’’If you knew she was the last Davidian, how could you send me to get her?’’ His voice lashed the air like a whip. ’’How could you let me anywhere near her, Zacchaeus?’’

Now I knew what Zach was short for, but that wasn\ why my mouth dropped. ’’What is your problem?’’ I sputtered.

Adrian turned away as if he couldn\ stand the sight of me. Amidst my disbelief, I felt a sliver of hurt. Why was he acting like I was viler than the cop he\d killed with his bare hands?

’’You have to be near her,’’ Zach replied in an implacable voice. ’’You cannot escape your fate.’’

At that, Adrian whirled, fists clenched, shoulders rigid and anger roiling from him in palpable waves.

’’F*k my fate,’’ he snarled.

I didn\ see him pass me. He moved too fast again. I only knew that he\d left when the chapel door slammed behind me.

Chapter five

The sun was up by the time Zach returned. He\d gone after Adrian, but since he came back without him, that must not have gone well. My mood was pretty foul, too. I\d only waited in the church because I still didn\ have the answers I needed. All I knew was that Adrian now hated me, demons existed, and Zach was...well, with the light show he\d given off, I could guess what sort of creature Zach was, but it was too unbelievable to say out loud.

’’We\ e also known as Archons,’’ Zach said, throwing me a sardonic look. ’’Is that word easier for you to handle?’’

Once again, he\d guessed my thoughts, and I was starting to believe it was more than luck. No, I was in the presence of a creature with untold supernatural abilities, and unless I wanted to spend more time crying on my knees, I had to deal with that.

I\d start with the challenge he\d just thrown down.

’’It\s not my fault that you don\ match up with the brochure,’’ I replied flippantly. ’’You could\ve paired that hoodie with a harp and a halo, at least.’’

He smiled, reminding me that every species except humans showed their teeth to convey a threat.

’’This mortal shell conceals my true nature. Because you and Adrian are the last of your lines, you see beneath it, but the rest of humanity does not.’’

I shrugged as though my already-careening world hadn\ been turned upside down within the past several hours.

’’Or I\m hallucinating again. I missed taking a couple doses of my meds ’’

’’Makes no difference, they\ e placebos,’’ Zach informed me.

I stared at him, my lips parted, but my brain processing too many thoughts to speak.

’’That\s why your adoptive parents always filled your prescriptions for you,’’ Zach went on, as if each word wasn\ blasting apart what was left of my life. ’’Your psychologist provided the placebos as part of your therapy, but there is nothing medically wrong with you. Your adoptive parents were going to tell you the truth when you turned twenty-one ’’

’’Liar,’’ I whispered.

A thick brow arched. ’’Demons lie. My kind does not. If you require proof, take one of your pills to a pharmacist for analysis.’’

My knees wobbled, but I didn\ sit down. If I did, I might not be able to get back up. Zach might be a mind reader, but he couldn\ have known that my parents always filled my prescriptions because I hadn\ been thinking of that. He also couldn\ know something that I didn\ if the pills were really placebos instead of actual meds.

Adrian was right. Despite everything I\d seen, I still hadn\ accepted that it could actually be real. Now Zach was destroying my denial one revelation at a time.


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