The Beautiful Ashes

Page 8

My mind still felt like it had been thrown into a blender, but at that, I stiffened.

“Don’t talk about me like I’m not even here.”

Adrian turned that darkly jeweled gaze my way. “Believe me, Ivy, I know you’re here.”

The flat way he spoke somehow gave his words more weight, but this time, Adrian no longer looked at me with horror. Instead, he stared at me like I was the most dangerous person he’d ever met, which, all things considered, was ridiculous.

“You want to save your sister?” he asked evenly. “You’ll need something strong enough to kill demons.”

This was too much, too fast. “Like holy water? Or crosses?” I asked numbly.

His look became pointed. “Those are for vampires, and they don’t exist. To take down demons, you need one of three weapons, and the second and third ones will probably kill you.”

“Okay, so we skip those,” I muttered, part of me wondering if I was really having a conversation about how to kill demons. Placebos or not, right now, I missed my meds.

“Right,” Adrian said, a glint appearing in his eyes. “Problem is, the first weapon is lost somewhere in one of the demon realms.”

“Of course it is. Shopping for it on eBay would be too easy.”

His lips curled, as if he knew my glibness masked a rising sense of disbelief. “You’ve already seen one demon realm. They appear as creepy, dark duplicates of the same place, just like that bed-and-breakfast you described.”

If that was true, I’d seen others over the years, but they all had the same problem.

“How do we enter one long enough to save Jasmine? After a few seconds, they seem to disappear.”

At that, Adrian shot Zach a frustrated look. “If her abilities are so weak that she only sees the other realms for a few seconds, she’s nowhere near ready to do this.”

I’d be offended if I didn’t agree. My athletic skills were limited to occasionally dancing all night, as if that was any advantage in a demon fight. Still, ready or not, I didn’t have a choice. Jasmine had no one else to come for her.

“I’ll do whatever it takes,” I said firmly.

The hardness in Adrian’s stare made me wonder if I’d regret those words. Then he smiled, wolfish and challenging.

“All right, Ivy. To answer your question, you get into a demon realm the same way you get in anywhere. Through a door.”

* * *

I wanted to start looking for the demon-killing weapon at once, but Zach insisted that we sleep. Due to my exhaustion, I didn’t argue until Adrian showed me my “bed.” Being in an underground mausoleum was bad enough, but sleeping in one of the tiny rooms that contained a body?

“Hell no,” I said.

Adrian rolled his eyes. “What’s dead can’t hurt you. Living demons can, and they can go anywhere except hallowed ground.”

“Then I’ll sleep in the church” was my instant response.

“Tourists visit the church,” he replied inexorably. “They don’t visit the catacombs, so we’re sleeping here.”

As he spoke, he gestured to another crypt that also had a sleeping bag in it. I looked back at my crypt. A small spider descended from the ceiling and landed right on my sleeping bag.

“I’ll just sit in the hallway,” I said grimly.

Adrian sighed. “Zach?”

I felt a tap on my shoulder. When I turned around, Zach was behind me. Before I could say anything, he touched my forehead, and like a switch had been flipped, everything went dark.

When I opened my eyes, I was in Adrian’s car, my head resting against the cool glass of the passenger window. Lights blurred by, and with mild shock, I saw that it was evening.

“W-what happened?” I mumbled, sitting up.

Adrian didn’t look away from the road, but his mouth twitched. “Zach compelled you to sleep.”

Memory returned with a vengeance. “In a spider-infested crypt?” I began slapping at my clothes. If I saw anything with eight legs, I was launching myself out of this car.

A stronger twitch of his mouth. “Nothing beats an Archon sedative.”

“You think this is funny?” I unlocked my seat belt, took off his coat, and threw it into the backseat. With luck, now I wouldn’t have things crawling all over me.

That earned me a slanted look. “You want to fight demons, and you’re freaking out over spiders. That’s damn funny.”

Put like that, he had a point. “Speaking of, uh, them—” would I ever say demons without feeling like I should be in a straitjacket? “—why do we need this special weapon to save my sister? You killed Detective Kroger just fine without it.”

“Kroger wasn’t a demon, he was a minion. Demons can’t tolerate our realm for long, so they take willing humans, mark them, and send them out to do their dirty work. They have their own signature marks, too. The shadows you saw on Kroger meant he belonged to Demetrius. Marks make minions a lot tougher than humans, but compared to their masters, they’re easy to kill.”

I hardly knew where to begin with my questions. “Our realm? You mean...this?” I asked, waving at the scenery we drove past.

“Yeah, this,” he said, the words heavy with emotion. Regret? Resolve? I didn’t know him well enough to be sure.

“And we can see demon marks and demon realms because we’re the last of King David’s line,” I said, trying to piece the impossible facts together.

Adrian stiffened, his mouth tightening until white edged his lips. “You are. I’m not.”

That’s right, Zach had said he was the last of another line. “What are you, then?” I asked softly.

The look Adrian pinned me with seemed to compress me, until every breath I drew felt like a hard-fought victory.

“I’m something else,” he bit out.

I was glad when he glanced back at the road. My heart was thumping as if I’d been jogging. Whatever Adrian was, he didn’t like it, and if a man who wasn’t afraid of demons didn’t like what he was, then I should be scared shitless of him.

So why did I have a strong urge to smooth away the hardness in his expression? I swear, my reactions to him made no sense. I never went for the tortured bad boy because I had enough issues of my own. On top of that, Adrian had made it clear that, given his choice, he’d be nowhere near me. Whatever strange pull I felt toward him, I had to get rid of it. Fast.

“Where are we headed?” I asked in a neutral tone.

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