The Beautiful Ashes

Page 41

“So gateways are like the hose that runs from the sweeper to the lint bag,” I mused, adding, “Why do you always grab me when we go through them? Couldn’t I make it through myself?”

A smile ghosted across his lips. “Try it,” he said, gesturing to an empty space to his right.

I gave it a doubtful look. “Nothing’s there. All the other realm gateways had markers.”

“All the others?” He snorted. “You’ve only seen two. More than half the gateways aren’t marked, Ivy. That’s why they’re so hard to find unless you can feel them.”

I didn’t feel anything, and all I saw next to Adrian was air and grass. “You’re sure it’s there?”

Another snort. “Even if I hadn’t been through this one before, I’d still be sure. Think you could not notice jamming your finger into a light socket? That’s what gateways feel like to me.”

Wow, my abilities must be weak. I had to concentrate like a fiend to sense a hint of something hallowed, and Adrian felt dark objects like they were electric shocks. Then again, he’d had years to hone his abilities. I’d just found out about mine less than a month ago.

I squared my shoulders. Time to exercise some supernatural muscle! I focused on the space Adrian indicated, and then flung myself forward like I was diving into a pool.

Face-plant. Ow, ow, ow!

Adrian’s chuckle penetrated the part of me that wasn’t seeing cartoon birdies fly over me in circles. My body vibrated from the impact, and I now knew that dry grass tasted like uncooked spaghetti with dirt sauce.

“Not funny,” I groaned.

He knelt next to me, still chuckling as he offered me a hand up. “If you saw the air you caught before you hit the ground, you’d disagree.”

I flipped over, glaring as I swatted his hand away. “Payback’s a bitch. Remember that.”

“I’m trembling.”

He pulled me to my feet. Even as I swore revenge, part of me savored his unfettered amusement. Adrian rarely laughed unless it was in derision, bitterness or challenge. Seeing him do it with only mischief tingeing his features was like seeing a diamond in the sunlight versus glimpsing it in shadows.

I shouldn’t, but I stared anyway. No wonder Obsidiana had wanted him back enough to risk coming after him alone. I hated the hell-bitch, but I couldn’t fault her for her taste.

Adrian’s laughter died away, and he glanced at our hands, as if just realizing that he still held mine. Our eyes locked, and his words from before replayed in my mind.

I’ve wanted you since the first time you touched me.... Nothing but dark magic had ever felt so powerful, and when I touch you, it’s a thousand times worse....

My grip started to tighten, but he pulled away, a familiar hardness turning his expression into an impenetrable mask. His gaze flared, though, and his hands clenched into fists as he drew in a harsh breath. His expression might be statue-like, but in those seething sapphire eyes, I caught a glimpse of the wildness he held back, and it made me shiver.

If Adrian ever freed the part of him that wanted me, would I be able to stand it? Or would I love every second of being overcome? Only concern for my sister kept me from testing both of us by throwing myself into his arms and forcing him to feel what he kept telling himself he couldn’t have.

His muscles bunched, as if on a primal level he sensed the reckless passion growing in me. Maybe he did. Maybe it was more than our bond that made me throb in places he’d never touched, as though demanding to feel his hands, his mouth, on me there.

Adrian spun around, his coat unable to hide how his whole body had suddenly tensed, as if he’d been zapped with the electric shock he’d alluded to before.

“Let’s go,” he said hoarsely. “Places to be, minions to kill.”

My hands trembled as I drew on my thick winter parka and gloves. I already had on the insulated pants and boots.

“First, tell me why I can’t get through the gateways on my own,” I asked, stalling so I’d get a second to compose myself.

He half turned to show a smile like uncut crystal—beautiful, yet jagged around the edges. “Same reason as everything else— bloodlines. You need minion, demon or Judian blood to cross through the barriers that lead to the dark worlds. You don’t have that, so by wrapping myself around you, I’m essentially covering you with my blood to get you through.”

That explained so much. No wonder demons didn’t bother to station guards at every gateway. Even if the humans they captured managed to navigate the pitch-blackness to find them, they couldn’t cross through them to get back to their world. Once in a realm, they were hopelessly trapped.

My jaw tightened. Not Jasmine. As soon as I found that weapon, I was coming for her, and with Adrian’s help, she would see the sun again.

“I’m ready,” I said, my tone now only slightly breathy.

He didn’t look at me when he pulled me to him and then dropped us into the gateway I hadn’t been able to see, let alone penetrate. As soon as we finished tumbling through the invisible membrane linking our realms, he let me go. I blinked, my eyes adjusting to the darkness that seemed to seep inside my soul, chasing away my desire while hardening me with purpose. If the weapon was here, Jasmine’s awful captivity would be over. All I had to do was stay strong, focus and find it.

Light from the town reflected off the icy ground, adding an eerie, faint luminescence that kept me from being totally blind. Still, it was dark enough that I couldn’t see Adrian’s face. Only the bulk of his large body next to me. The tall silhouettes around us must have been trees, frozen into place from the cold. I couldn’t see more than the widest part of their outlines; their branches, if they had any, were invisible against the darkness that hovered above us like a malevolent spirit.

Adrian leaned down, his warm breath in stark contrast to our frozen surroundings as he spoke near my ear.

“Anyone stops us, let me do the talking.”

Since I didn’t speak Demonish, I’d already planned on that. I was about to tell him the same when his whole body froze with such suddenness, it was as if he’d been transformed into stone.

“Ivy, don’t move,” he whispered in a low, vehement voice.

I tried to will every part of me to similar stillness, but I couldn’t stop my eyes from darting around or my chest from rising as my heart sped up and my lungs responded with a demand for more oxygen. What was out here that was so dangerous, Adrian was playing statue instead of reaching for his gun?

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