The Sweetest Burn

Page 23

And the minion cop hadn’t arrived here by gateway, so that meant there was a car here that I could steal.

“Get going,” I told Costa, formulating my plan. “I’ll meet you on the way.”


ALL THE TOURISTS’ cars had been pulled into the realm along with their owners, but as it turned out, the cop’s car wasn’t the only one in the parking lot. A gleaming black Ferrari was parked right outside the entrance to Scotty’s Castle.

“Demetrius,” I muttered. It had to be his. Only he and Oblivion had come through the gateway, and Oblivion turned everything he touched to ice, so he couldn’t have driven this or any other vehicle.

Out of curiosity, I tried the door. It was unlocked, with the keys resting on the passenger seat, no less. My lips curled into a nasty smile. Demetrius’s arrogance knew no bounds, but in this case, that was a good thing.

I smashed the side mirrors and the rearview mirror, then turned to the father, who waited at the doorway with Adrian stretched out on a sheet behind him.

“Change of plans,” I announced. “You’re not coming with me. You and your family are taking the cop’s car instead. Head for the nearest city, and then ditch the car once you get there.”

“B-but—” he stammered.

“You’re safer alone. Demons are coming for us,” I snapped. “Plus, Adrian told you not to call the police, yet you did, and that nearly got him killed. You’re going to make it up to him by doing exactly what I say. Now, help me get him in the car.”

The two parents grabbed one end of the sheet and I took the other. Together, we used it like a stretcher to carry Adrian over to the car. It helped that Demetrius had been rude enough to park in a handicap spot right by the entrance. It also helped that he’d chosen to ride with the Ferrari’s convertible top down. Because of that, we were able to get him in the passenger seat much easier than if we’d been maneuvering around a roof.

Still, I winced at every bump and jostle. I didn’t need to be a doctor to know that moving someone with a bullet wound was very dangerous, but staying here was even more so. Once Adrian was situated, I turned to the family.

“Take your kids and leave now, and don’t tell anyone what happened here, ever. They have cops in every city, and they don’t like loose ends.”

“We won’t say anything,” the wife said, with a nervous glance at her husband.

I gave a pointed look at her two small children. “For their sakes, I hope you mean it. Now, go.”

After that, I followed my own advice and put the Ferrari in Reverse. Even with normal pressure on the gas pedal, the car shot backward with unbelievable speed, causing me to almost hit a light pole. I gave a worried glance at Adrian. I’d put a seat belt on him, which had probably saved him from hitting the dashboard from the car’s momentum, but had the sudden jerk damaged things in him that I couldn’t see?

If it had, then it was all the more reason to get to the manna as quickly as possible. With far less pressure on the gas pedal, I straightened the car out and got onto the road. 267 was a long, lonely stretch of highway, but in this case, that was a good thing. I had a fast car and no traffic to worry about, and I intended to make the most of both.

“Hang in there,” I whispered to Adrian. “It won’t be long.”

His only reply was a soft moan. I held tight to the steering wheel and gave the car more gas. It responded at once, bulleting down the road. I went as fast as I dared over the hilly terrain, cursing the curves and the lack of flatness in this section of the desert. This car was so powerful, one little error on my part could cause a crash, and I couldn’t risk that. Besides, if memory served, the topography would level out soon. Then I could open the throttle up and—

A yelp escaped me as pain shot through my right arm. I glanced at it with dread and saw that the tattoo was starting to shimmer with gold. Even though I knew what that meant, I couldn’t stop myself from looking behind me. Through my wildly whipping hair, I saw a wall of darkness rushing toward me, and in the middle of that darkness was a pale, grinning face.

Demetrius hadn’t waited minutes to call Adrian’s bluff. With the time conversion from that realm to this one, he must have only waited seconds.

Despite a turn coming up, I gunned the gas. The back end of the car swung with a terrifying lurch, but then all four wheels returned to the ground. As soon as they did, I hit the gas again. This was hazardous, but anything less was suicide. Demetrius’s shadows could rip the car apart around us. After all, he’d almost killed me in a car the first time he and I had met.

I risked another glance behind me. No more lethal shadows or leering face, but that didn’t make me feel any better. It only meant that the demon must be changing his tactics since he would never give up unless forced. I gripped the steering wheel with my left hand and began digging through my pockets with my right. When I felt several hard objects, I put them on my lap. Then, with a quick prayer that this wouldn’t be the last thing I ever did, I braced my knees against the steering wheel and took both my hands off it.

At this speed, even the slight change in pressure caused the car to drift to the side. My left elbow joined my knees on the steering wheel to level it out, then I yanked at the glowing, throbbing tattoo with all the panic I had in me.

Either my agonized scream woke Adrian, or it was the sling as it came out and a loop seared his skin. He jerked upright, his head swiveling around to seek out the danger. When he saw me knee-driving at ninety miles an hour, he grabbed the wheel even though it meant more contact with the glowing, hallowed rope.

“Demetrius is here,” I gasped out, fear superseding the awful pain the ancient weapon caused. “He’s right behind us!”

As soon as I said it, razors sliced over my head, so fast that I was blinded by blood running into my eyes before I had a chance to feel the pain. Adrian shouted, swerving the car, and another slice took me in the shoulder instead of my head. That’s when I realized what was happening.

Demetrius was no longer behind us. He was on top of us.

Amid my fear, agony and panic, another emotion grew. Rage. Demetrius had ordered my parents’ murder, imprisoned my sister, branded me as a killer and fugitive in the human world and tried to kill me more times than I could count. Starting now, I wouldn’t let him take anything else from me.

“Hold the wheel!” I shouted, wiping the blood from my eyes.

Then, with one foot still on the gas, I put a hard object in the loop of the sling and twisted around, snapping the weapon at the shadows poised above me for another strike. The projectile sailed right through them, but an unearthly screech let me know that I’d scored a hit. The shadows recoiled, and for an instant, I saw the demon within them. Demetrius’s mouth was open in a howl, and something like black blood poured from it.

With a blind grab, I notched another object in the sling and let it fly. This time, the shadows pulled back before I could hit them. They whipped around the car, aiming for the tires. Adrian’s swerve kept them from reaching their goal, but it slammed me against the door and knocked my foot from the pedal.

The car slowed at once. I reached in my lap, but the projectiles were now gone, scattered somewhere on the floor. Adrian was half on top of me, keeping the car on the road but also keeping me from getting more projectiles from my pockets. Above us, Demetrius drew his shadows inward, winding up for a final, fatal strike, all the while smiling at me with his mouth still stained from his blood.

With nothing else to use, I ripped the necklace from my throat. As those deadly shadows descended, I balled the large diamond into the notch on the sling and hurled it at the demon.

Demetrius yanked his shadows around him like a shield. The diamond necklace disappeared inside that darkness, and for a heart-stopping second, nothing happened. Then the shadows exploded into wisps of smoke and an agonized roar reverberated through the night, so loud that it shook the ground beneath us.

Adrian shoved his leg past mine to hit the gas pedal. The car shot forward, flinging me against the seat. Once more, blood clouded my vision from my freely running head wounds, but I saw a body drop out of the sky behind us, and when it landed on the road, it didn’t move.

Tip: You can use left and right keyboard keys to browse between pages.