The Beautiful Ashes

Page 61

Well, the gargoyle probably wasn’t dangerous.

I drew Jasmine into Mrs. Paulson’s office, pain knifing my heart again when I pulled out one of the two beer bottles filled with Adrian’s blood. I’m coming back for you, I silently promised, hating myself for what I’d done. Then, because I had no choice, I smeared my hands with Adrian’s blood and started running them over Jasmine.

She let out a noise that was half whimper, half fearful sob. “W-what are you doing, Ivy?”

I wasn’t about to waste Adrian’s blood by using it to write out an explanation, so I held my finger to my lips in the universal gesture for silence. Once I estimated that she was covered enough, I used the rest of his blood on myself. Betrayer! those red smears seemed to scream at me.

My eyes blurred with tears. Yes, I was a betrayer and Adrian wasn’t. Now, to make sure he lived so I could apologize to him for the rest of my life.

I put the second bottle in the opposite corner of the office, then grabbed Jasmine around the waist and hurtled us both toward the gateway. That push-pull-stretch-puke sensation as we crossed through the realms seemed worse, but we tumbled out into the non-demon version of Mrs. Paulson’s office.

Unfortunately, we weren’t alone.

“What the hell?” the young, sandy-haired cop sputtered.

Right, the guests would’ve called the police after I’d scared them out of here with my rampaging monster act. I let go of Jasmine, but put myself in front of her. If the cop went for his gun, I had a better chance at stopping him since I was faster than Jaz.

Then something knocked me over from behind. I didn’t have time to register what had caused me to suddenly face-plant before the cop’s head was on the floor in front of me. The rest of him was still up where I couldn’t see.

I rolled over, stunned to see the gargoyle looming like a dark shadow over me and Jasmine. His one wing was still extended in that chopping formation, and a thump nearby had to be the guard’s body falling next to his severed head.

“Why’d you do that?” I snapped, only to feel a small “poof” by my face. When I looked again, the head had turned into ashes.

The cop was a minion. Of course. Detective Kroger wasn’t the only one at the Bennington police department, and who else would investigate stories of a monster at the same inn that doubled as a demonic Brimstone and Breakfast?

“Uh, good boy,” I told the gargoyle awkwardly.

“What is that doing here?” a familiar voice asked, his tone heavy with disapproval.

Zach! I bolted up, so excited to see the Archon in the doorway that I knocked Jasmine over in my haste to get to him.

“Get me out of this disguise, I need to talk to the gargoyle!” I said in a rush. It hadn’t understood me as a Hound, but maybe Adrian had taught it to speak English.

Zach touched the top of my head. I knew the instant my disguise disappeared because Jasmine choked, “Oh, Ivy!” and threw her arms around me again.

I wanted to hug her back. A big part of me even needed to after everything we’d been through, but I was too terrified for Adrian to do anything except gently shove her aside.

“Brutus, you have to go back and save Adrian,” I told the gargoyle, grabbing the edge of its wing in my urgency. “Please, go back now!”

The gargoyle cocked its head, the wing beneath my hand quivering. From his expression, he seemed to want to do what I asked, yet he made no move toward the gateway.

“Go, now!” I repeated, trying to shove him in the right direction, but the gargoyle was way too heavy for me.

“He doesn’t understand you,” Zach said, sounding bemused this time. “This must be Adrian’s pet. Why did he follow you here?”

“Adrian said something to him and he hasn’t left my side since, but that doesn’t matter.” I let go of the gargoyle’s wing to grasp the Archon’s trademark sweater. “Adrian’s fighting for his life, so I need all the weapons you have, now!”

“I don’t have any weapons,” Zach said, as if the idea was preposterous.

“Then glamour some up,” I all but snarled. “Didn’t you hear me? Adrian’s going to die!”

“I can’t. Glamour is illusion—it’s not creating something out of nothing.” Zach’s dark gaze narrowed as he looked at my pocket. “But you already have a weapon, don’t you?”

I don’t know why, but I backed away, my hand flying to cover my pocket. “It doesn’t work,” I said breathily.

Zach snorted with something like contempt. “Without faith, it wouldn’t.” Then his expression became deadly serious. “Give me the slingshot, Ivy.”

I edged away farther, glancing at the invisible gateway. “Why? You can’t cross into a dark realm, so you’re not going to use it to save Adrian.”

“Demetrius won’t allow him to be killed,” Zach replied, sounding almost careless now. “He may take out his anger on him, but Adrian should survive that.”

“And that’s okay with you?” I snapped, fury boiling over. “Wait, of course it is. This wouldn’t be the first time you left him at the mercy of demons, would it?”

Zach’s features hardened, and he held out his hand in silent, imperious command. Give me the weapon, his stare warned.

He really would just take the slingshot, give it to his boss and call it a day, regardless if it meant Adrian’s torture or death. We can only depend on each other. To Archons and demons, we’re just pawns that they move around for their own purposes, Adrian had said. From the unyielding expression on Zach’s face, he’d been right.

And I’d betrayed him just as awfully as Zach had all those years ago. I’d believed the worst of Adrian’s words when his actions should’ve shown me that he would never hand me over to Demetrius. In the end, it was our actions that defined us. Not words.

I glanced at Jasmine, who was looking out the window as if she couldn’t believe she was back in the real world. She was and so was I, all because of Adrian’s sacrifice. Now, it was my turn. I love you, Jaz, I thought, choking back a sob. But you’re not the only one I love.

Then I looked at Zach. “You might be willing to abandon Adrian again. I’m not.”

His shout was cut off as I ran into the gateway, leaving him, my sister and the rest of my world behind.

Chapter thirty-nine

I landed in the icy, decrepit version of the B and B on top of a dark-haired boy, who shoved me aside with a yelp.

Copyright © novelfull All Rights Reserved.