The Beautiful Ashes

Page 26

Tomas exchanged another look with Costa, then he leaned back against the wall.

“You know what it was like for us in the realms?” he asked in a conversational tone. “We were beaten, forced into cannibalism, worked almost to death...and that was on a good day.”

Sympathy tempered my anger. “I am so sorry,” I said, meaning every word.

Tomas’s dark brown stare held mine. “Don’t be. We survived. Know how Adrian was treated before he started fighting demons? Like a prince.” He paused, letting that sink in. “Anything he wanted, he got. He didn’t even have to ask. They practically worshipped him, and when demons want to shower someone with adulation, crèeme, they make it rain. Beautiful women, more gold than Fort Knox, power to rule any realm he entered—”

“Why?” I whispered, stunned.

“Because of his lineage, they believe he’s going to do something that will make demons unbeatable in their war against Archons.”

It’s your destiny! Mayhemium had roared at Adrian. Demetrius had said something similar when he caught up with us. Even Zach had told Adrian he couldn’t escape his fate, but Zach was an Archon, so he couldn’t believe Adrian was destined to help demons win the war against them. If he did, why wouldn’t Zach kill Adrian as a preemptive strike? The demons sure wanted to kill me, and all I could do was find one ancient weapon....

I sucked in a breath, realization shattering me. “It’s the weapon, isn’t it? Adrian said if the demons knew where it was, they’d have already used it for their own purposes. I didn’t think it through at the time, but that means it must do a lot more than just kill demons.”

Tomas’s mouth thinned into a straight line. Costa got up, dropping a hand briefly on his friend’s shoulder.

“You’ve heard of David and Goliath?” Costa asked evenly. “Thousands of years ago, a shepherd boy killed a giant with nothing more than a slingshot and blind faith, thus David’s fame was born. You are the last Davidian, so in your hands, that ancient slingshot has the one-time power to overcome any and all odds. In short, whatever you point it at, it will defeat.”

That sounded too good to be true, so there had to be more. “What can the demons do with it?”

Costa’s smile was grim. “Goliath was no ordinary giant. He descended from demons, and some of his originating bloodline lives on. If one of those demons gets the slingshot, they get a one-time ability to overcome unbeatable odds, too. So with it, demons think they can win the war against Archons in a day.”

My head was starting to pound, probably from trying to process information that was too incredible—and horrible—to believe. If I hadn’t crossed through to a different realm today or seen multiple examples of supernatural phenomena all my life, I would have called Tomas and Costa crazy.

Unfortunately, I knew they weren’t.

“Is Adrian descended from Goliath’s line?” was what I asked. “Is that why the demons think he’s their savior? Because if he gets the weapon, he can use it against Archons?”

Tomas and Costa exchanged another look, then Tomas let out a deep sigh.

“No, Ivy. Adrian’s the last of another line.”

“Whose?” I asked in a steely voice, my glare daring them not to tell me.

“Get out, both of you.”

Adrian’s voice cut through the silence. Like before, he’d come in without anyone noticing. Tomas and Costa rose at once, leaving without another word. When I saw the expression on Adrian’s face, part of me wanted to follow them, but the rest wanted the truth so much, I didn’t care about the consequences.

“Whose line are you the last of?” I said, refusing to back down. “Tell me now, or I leave that weapon lost, and after what I just heard, ‘lost’ is probably where it should stay.”

He smiled, the seductive curve of his lips not taking away from the lethal hardness in his jeweled gaze. His jaw was shadowed from not having shaved recently, and that hint of darkness only made his high cheekbones look more pronounced, giving an edge to his already unforgettable features. Even in his bloody, torn clothes, I’d never seen him look more gorgeous, and for the first time, I was also afraid of him.

“Haven’t you guessed?” he asked, his voice caressing the words like silk draping across daggers. “Who in history committed such a heinous act that it made his name forever synonymous with betrayal?”

“I don’t know,” I said, backing up as he came toward me with slow, stalking steps.

“Yes, you do.”

A rough, throaty whisper, and then he was in front of me, his arms a cage that blocked me in while the wall behind me made retreat impossible. Despite my fear, I shivered as he leaned down, his mouth only inches from mine and his hands sliding to rest on my shoulders. The last time we’d been this close, he’d almost kissed me, and God help me, I still wanted him to. My feelings for him defied logic, sanity or safety, and judging from the intensity in his gaze as he wound one hand through my hair, it was possible he felt the same way.

Then his mouth lowered, but not to my lips, though they parted in reckless anticipation. Instead, he kissed my cheek, whispering his darkest secret at the same time.

“I’m the last descendant of Judas, and like my infamous forefather, my fate has been, and always will be, to betray the children of David.”

Chapter sixteen

I felt like I couldn’t breathe. His mouth was still pressed to my skin, caramel-colored hair like rough silk against my forehead, breaths teasing my ear with soft heat. Add that to his revelation, and the wall was the only thing holding me up.

“Adrian,” I began.

“Don’t.” His hand tightened in my hair. “Everything that’s happened since we met only proves how entangled in our fates we already are. Judians and Davidians have always been drawn to one another, but then Judians betray and destroy Davidians. Thousands of years and countless betrayals later, we’re the only ones left.”

His hand stroked from my shoulder to my face, moving over it in a caress that made my skin burn.

“Maybe being the last of our lines made what we feel for each other so much stronger. I’m not just drawn to you, Ivy. I’ve wanted you since the first time you touched me. It was as if you reached inside and claimed something that had always been yours.” He drew back to stare at me as if he was trying to memorize my features. “That’s why I thought you had to be a minion. Nothing but dark magic had ever felt so powerful, and when I touch you, it’s a thousand times worse. You’re the light I can never have...and I’m the darkness you’ll never succumb to.”

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