The Beautiful Ashes

Page 51

I understood then, more than I ever had before, the absolute assurance that Demetrius, Zach and even Adrian had that he couldn’t avoid his destiny. How could a few weeks of being attracted to me compare with thirteen decades of being groomed to betray the last Davidian? It’s not like Adrian was trying to kick a recent bad habit—he’d literally spent a couple of lifetimes training so he could bring about my doom!

And I’d pretty much done everything I could to help him, I realized with a scald of self-recrimination. Even now, I was insisting that Adrian take me to a realm where his demonic foster father and a few hundred of his closest evil friends waited. A realm Adrian had admitted he’d once ruled over, and where he could now return as the conquering betrayer.

All I needed to do was slap a bow on my ass to make myself the perfect, too-stupid-to-live sacrifice.

“Having second thoughts, Ivy?”

Adrian’s voice broke through my crushing musings. His accent was as darkly alluring as ever, but it was a demon accent. When I met his gaze, those gemstone-colored eyes held their usual mixture of brooding danger, but who was his veiled violence aimed at? The girl he was destined to destroy, or the demons he’d told me he intended to take down?

After all, they wanted the weapon, too. I’d bet Demetrius and the rest of them would consider the minions Adrian had killed as acceptable losses if he delivered the slingshot—and me—to them in the end. What if all the times Adrian had saved me were just so I’d willingly lead him to the powerful weapon that his demonic brethren needed? What if all his claims to care about me were only so I’d run headlong into my own betrayal? In short—what if the only time Adrian had been telling me the truth was when he told me not to trust him?

“Yes, I’m having second thoughts,” I said hoarsely.

“Tell me she said yes,” Costa muttered. “Because this—”

“Is a bad idea,” I finished, though only Adrian understood me. “Costa’s right. Let’s stop off somewhere. I, ah, don’t feel so hot all of a sudden.”

Adrian shot a suspicious look my way, but my stomach gurgled as if in agreement. Either he heard it or decided not to push me, because he turned off the highway at the next exit.

I drew in a deep breath, trying to force back the clenching in my gut that came from fear, anger, and a very real sense of betrayal. Despite all his warnings, I had trusted him. Hell, I’d done more than that. The rest of my ancestors might have been drawn to Judians out of compassion or the belief that darkness could be overcome by light, but I’d allowed myself to fall for Adrian, making me the stupidest Davidian to ever walk the earth.

My teeth ground together. Fine. I might have been the most gullible person in my ancient, illustrious ancestry, but that ended right now. I’d make sure my sister was alive and if so, I would find that weapon. I’d just do it without Adrian.

But first, I had to find a way to get away from him.

Chapter thirty-one

Adrian rented only one room at the Motel 6. We had enough money and Archon-blessed oil for more, so I guessed he intended us to just grab a few hours’ sleep before we hit the road again.

The single room worked for me, but for different reasons. I’d come up with a plan. Not a great one, but I couldn’t think of anything else in the short time I had. Adrian parked around the back of the hotel to hide my monstrous disguise from other guests, and once I’d been hustled inside the room, he followed his usual protocol. That meant drawing the drapes and then sprinkling the interior with holy oil to render the room temporarily hallowed.

I waited until Adrian took his turn in the bathroom before I wrote on the little pad of paper every hotel room seemed to have. Then I handed it to Costa, hoping my Hound disguise didn’t somehow screw up the words he saw on the page.

Need to talk to Adrian alone. Give us a couple of hours?

Relief washed over me when Costa nodded, then crumpled up the page, tossing it into the trash.

“Gonna go clear my head, bro,” Costa called out, grabbing some money from the duffel bag. “I’ll be at the bar next door.”

He left before Adrian could argue. Or maybe he wouldn’t have. When Adrian emerged from the bathroom, his expression was serious and water clung to his hairline, as though he’d splashed some on his face while he was in there.

I sat on one of the double beds, suddenly finding it hard to look him in the eye. Knowing what I had to do didn’t make doing it any easier.

“I know you’re not really sick,” Adrian stated, his gaze searching mine as he came nearer. “Just upset. Is it from finding out my real age, or because I used to rule the Bennington realm?”

“Both,” I admitted. A surge of anger made me able to look at him fully. “After the new section was swallowed, was it your idea to restore the bed-and-breakfast on this side so minions could use it like a Venus flytrap?”

That must have been how Jasmine had been taken. None of the other Bennington hotel employees had recognized her picture. How simple it would’ve been for Mrs. Paulson to make all records of Jasmine’s stay at the B and B disappear. Add in more minions on the police force to take care of any snooping family, and it was the perfect setup for funneling humans into the demon realm.

“No, that was Demetrius’s idea,” Adrian replied, sitting on the bed opposite mine. “But he’s not alone. Demons have rackets like that all over the world. Hotels, guided tours, boat rentals, chauffeur services...any business that gets people alone and vulnerable, there’s a chance a minion’s planted in it.”

“And nobody cares.” My snort was bitter. “People like Jasmine disappear every day, and the world shrugs because she’s not their sister.” Pain sharpened my voice as I added, “Or daughter. Minions killed my parents, too, didn’t they?”

Adrian sighed before running his hand through his hair. “Probably. They’d be considered too old to be decent slaves, and if they were making waves over her disappearance, their having an ‘accident’ would be the simplest solution.”

I stared at him, silently daring him to look away. “Then I showed up making more waves, but I’m young, so they tried to make me a slave instead.”

“Yes,” he said, his gaze boring into mine while varying emotions flitted across his features. Disgust, anger and the most telling of all. Guilt.

“You did that to people, too.” My accusation filled the space between us, creating an invisible barrier that seemed to grow with every second.

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