The Beautiful Ashes

Page 32

“They sure won’t,” Costa croaked, his lip curling in a way that said Zach had taken my admonition seriously by beating my new appearance with an ugly stick.

I gave a mental shrug. I was shallow enough to care if Adrian saw me that way, but he didn’t.

Speaking of Adrian, his door opened as we passed. He’d been in the process of pulling on a shirt, which gave me a glimpse of his muscled chest and ripped abs before the loose material covered them. I swallowed, glancing away. With a mind-reading angel in the house, now really wasn’t the time to dwell on how much Adrian affected me.

“Zach.” Adrian’s voice was brisk. “We need more manna, plus a new appearance for me, too.”

Costa said something in Greek that had Adrian whipping around to stare at me. Then he let out a snort of amusement.

“Nice,” he told Zach, the edginess gone from his tone.

Had Zach given me Halloween-style warts, too? I lifted my nose and started making coffee. Some of us were too mature to worry about things like unattractive fake appearances.

“Where are we going this time?” I asked.

Zach remained standing, but Adrian and Costa sat at the kitchen table. I pulled three cups out from the cabinet. None of us were trying to cut back on our coffee habit.

“Roanoke, North Carolina,” Adrian replied.

Not another desert, at least. “There’s a vortex there?”

“No.” The edge was back in Adrian’s tone. “No more vortexes.”

I turned around, still holding my empty coffee cup. “Why?”

“Demetrius now knows the weapon is hidden in a demon realm,” Zach answered for him. “He’ll expect you to try vortexes, since they are the most efficient means of entry into their realms.”

Adrian’s shrug conveyed, What he said. Costa still seemed to be reconciling my new appearance with who I was, but I was focused on the information no one had told me before.

“You mean the demons didn’t know the weapon had been hidden in one of their realms before they caught us looking for it?”

“That’s right,” Adrian said, with a sidelong glance at Zach. “It’ll be a race to see who finds it first, and you can bet they’ll be searching their worlds from top to bottom.”

“Do you know where it is?” I asked Zach bluntly, remembering Adrian’s accusation about the Archon.

As if he knew the source of my question, Zach gave Adrian a measured look before he responded. “No.”

Archons don’t lie, I reminded myself. Then again, I only had an Archon’s word on that, so it wasn’t exactly unbiased.

“But your boss knows,” I prodded. “Right?”

The faintest smile curled Zach’s mouth. “He would not be much of a ‘boss’ otherwise.”

“How about we save a lot of lives by having him tell us where it is, then?” I asked, barely holding back my sarcasm.

Zach gave an infuriating shrug. “If that were His will, you would already know its location.”

The coffee cup in my hand shattered. I yelped, both at the pain and the clattering sound as pieces hit the floor. I hadn’t been aware of tightening my grip, but in my anger, I must have. Adrian started forward, but I waved him back with a frustrated swipe of my hand.

“Sorry,” I muttered to Costa, bending to pick up the pieces. To Zach I said, “Then your boss sucks. It’s to his benefit that I find the weapon before the demons do, but instead of helping, he’s grabbing popcorn to sit back and watch.”

“Get used to it,” Adrian said dryly.

“Isn’t that what you would rather do?” Zach replied, his gaze flashing as it swept over me. “If your sister’s life wasn’t tied to this weapon, would you risk yourself searching for it?” Before I could respond, he started in on Adrian. “And if it wasn’t the key to your vengeance, would you risk your fate to help her? No,” he answered for both of us. “Therefore, sit judgment on your own sins before you presume to judge others’.”

Now I was glad I’d broken the thick glass cup. Otherwise, I might have thrown it at him. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to save my sister’s life,” I almost snarled.

“Untold thousands are trapped in the dark realms. If hers is the only life you care about, something is very wrong,” Zach responded at once.

“That’s out of my control and you know it. If I could save all of them, I would!” I snapped back.

Absolute silence fell. For a second, it seemed like the traffic noise outside Costa’s house vanished, too. Adrian closed his eyes, anger and resignation skipping over his features. Light briefly gleamed in Zach’s gaze, and he stared at me with such intensity that a wave of foreboding swept over me.

Something significant had just happened, and as usual, I was the only one who didn’t know what it was. Also per usual, none of them were going to tell me about it.

Whatever. I’d get it out of them eventually. I threw the last of the shattered cup into the trash and then ran my hand under the tap, washing the cut one of the shards had made.

“When do we leave for Roanoke?” Costa asked, breaking the loaded silence. “And before you argue, Adrian, I am going with you. Tomas died fighting for Ivy’s chance to find that weapon. I’m seeing this through until she does. Then my best friend can finally rest in peace.”

I’d started this to rescue my sister, but in a short amount of time, the stakes had grown much larger. Now more than Jasmine’s life hung in the balance. So did Adrian’s revenge, Tomas’s justice and Costa’s tribute to his friend, all hinging on my ability to find and successfully use a supernatural weapon, if the demons hunting us didn’t kill us first.

No pressure, right?

Adrian’s gaze moved to Zach, and the two men exchanged a look I couldn’t read. Whatever it was, it wasn’t happy.

“Did you bring my car?” Adrian finally asked.

An oblique nod. “Of course.”

Adrian went over to the now-full coffee pot, downed a steaming mug like it was a single shot and then flashed the rest of us a grimly expectant smile.

“We leave in an hour.”

Chapter twenty

A glimpse inside Adrian’s trunk explained why we were driving to North Carolina instead of flying. It looked like an NRA gold-member kit, with row upon row of handguns, regular rifles and assault rifles. We barely had room for luggage, not that I had much to bring. Aside from the clothes and basic hygiene items Zach had gotten me, all I owned was a lipstick, gum and face cream, all stuffed inside a tiny, clear travel bag.

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