The Beautiful Ashes

Page 50

“Ivy,” he began.

“I so don’t want to hear it.” The words came out as a sigh despite my screaming on the inside. “You want me to embrace the suck? Fine, but I’m also finished with guessing if I’m weapon-hunting for Jasmine, or for you.”

He dropped the burger and stalked over. “What do you mean?”

I met his gaze without flinching. “You don’t want me entering the Bennington realm without the weapon, but is that because you’re worried about extra demon security? Or because you’re afraid that if I find out my sister’s already dead, I’ll stop looking for it and you’ll lose your chance at killing Demetrius?”

Anger suffused his face, flushing his cheeks and turning his eyes into burning gems. “Is that what you think?”

Costa glanced between us. “You two fighting?”

“What’s the only thing you told me I could trust about you, Adrian?” My voice was flat from the weight of my desolate future bearing down on me. “Your hatred of demons. So I’m supposed to believe you wouldn’t string me along about my sister’s survival to keep me looking for the one weapon that can kill them?”

Adrian’s hands closed into fists while he stared at me. The last time he’d done that, he’d grabbed me and kissed me, but something darker than passion seethed in him now.

“Get your stuff,” he said in a voice that vibrated from barely controlled rage. “We’re leaving for Bennington tonight.”

Chapter thirty

“This is a bad idea,” Costa said for the eleventh time.

Adrian and I responded the same way we had to his other ten warnings—with stony silence. We were too busy playing our high-stakes version of “chicken” to let Costa deter us. Adrian was counting on me changing my mind about entering the world’s most dangerous demon realm, and I was betting he’d refuse to pull me through the gateway when the time came.

We’d see who swerved first.

“Obsidiana’s seen your ride, so you can’t drive this into town without every minion knowing who you are,” Costa went on, not giving up his attempt to talk sense into us. “This is a mint-condition, ’68 Challenger, so it’s gonna draw some eyes.”

“We’ll leave it outside Bennington,” Adrian replied, the tightness in his tone saying he was still steaming mad.

“And do what with the hulking demon lizard in the backseat?” Costa shot back, adding, “Sorry, Ivy,” as an afterthought.

Adrian didn’t even glance my way. “We’ll hide her in something else.”

Costa cast a dubious look over his shoulder. “It’ll need to be something big.”

My lips tightened. “Enough with the fat-lizard cracks,” I snapped, hoping the hiss Costa heard sounded as pissy as I felt.

“This is a bad idea,” Costa muttered once again. Apparently he was going for an even dozen.

“The gateway’s inside the B and B, but your sister won’t be there anymore,” Adrian stated, not glancing away from the road even though he was now talking to me. “The spot where it’s located was swallowed recently, after Demetrius took over the realm. She’ll be in old Bennington. That and parts of New York got swallowed a long time ago, so that’s where his palace is.”

“I don’t remember glimpsing a palace when I went through Bennington.” Then again, I’d been focused on showing Jasmine’s picture to hotel and motel employees, not on paying attention to what I thought were hallucinations.

Adrian grunted. “It’s there.”

Every realm I’d entered had had a grand structure, and Adrian hadn’t been wrong about his realm blueprints yet, but something about his tone made his surety sound more...personal.

“You lived there before, didn’t you?” I guessed.

His eyes briefly met mine before he returned his militant attention to the road. “For a long time, I ruled it.”

Anger shot through me. Of course, he’d failed to mention that before.

“You’re only a few years older than me, so it couldn’t have been that long, Adrian. Unless you were a toddler king.”

“If I’m guessing right about where this conversation’s going, it’s time she knew anyway,” Costa muttered, giving Adrian a sympathetic look.

“Knew what?” I asked curtly.

Adrian’s hands tightened on the steering wheel. “I told you time moves differently in the realms. Once I was old enough to fight, Demetrius made sure I lived in realms where time almost froze to a stop so he’d have plenty of it to perfect my training. I might only look a few years older than you, Ivy, but I was born in 1873.”

My mind froze while doing the math. Adrian couldn’t—just could not!—be over a hundred and forty.

“No,” I croaked.

Costa reached around to pat my head. “I know it’s hard to take in. When Adrian got me out and I realized fifty years had passed over here, I had trouble adjusting—”

“How old are you?” I burst out before remembering he couldn’t understand me.

“Costa’s seventy-three, or seventy-four, I guess.” Adrian gave his friend a humorless smile. “Forgot your birthday.”

Denial still had me in a fierce grip. “But Tomas’s family is still alive! We sent Hoyt to them so he could recover!”

“Those were his grandkids, Ivy,” Adrian said, sparing another glance my way. “Didn’t you notice the old clothing his parents wore in the photographs in Tomas’s room?”

I had, but I’d thought his family had just liked to wear more, um, quaint apparel.

“You’re really a hundred and forty?” Call me slow, but I needed to hear him confirm it one more time.


I angled my head so I could see him more fully, as if he’d look different now that I knew his true age. He didn’t, of course. Same piercing sapphire eyes, curving brows, high cheekbones, sensually full mouth and strong jaw, all making up a face that left gorgeous behind in the dust. Considering that face was on top of a body so built that it could make a superhero jealous, Adrian’s looks were unforgettable.

So was this revelation. He hadn’t just spent his childhood and teen years living with demons. He’d spent nearly a century and a half with them. No wonder Demetrius had referred to Adrian’s working for Zach as a “little rebellion.” It barely registered next to the staggering length of time he’d lived in the realms as the demons’ prophesied savior.

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