The Sweetest Burn

Page 3

His dark blue gaze narrowed. “Another minion attacked you?”

Brutus didn’t like that idea, either. He stalked over to the ashes of the other two minions, snarling as he clawed them, as if that would make them any more dead. I went over and patted his wing, grateful for the excuse to turn my attention away from Adrian.

“Don’t worry, boy,” I crooned. “You got them.”

His gorilla-like head dipped as he slimed the side of my face with a lick. I hid my wince. If Brutus saw it, his feelings would be hurt. The fearsome two-ton gargoyle could be as sensitive as a golden retriever at times.

“Where were you, anyway?” I asked, not expecting an answer. Brutus could grunt, chuff, snarl and roar, and while I was getting better at picking up his mood from those, he couldn’t speak a single intelligible word.

“With me,” Adrian replied. “Sorry, we ran late today.”

Today? I stared at him, piecing together the subtext. Adrian couldn’t be bothered to even send me a text message these past couple months, but he’d been hanging out with my gargoyle on a regular basis? I glared at Brutus. Just you wait until we get home, I silently promised the gargoyle. Somebody wasn’t getting any raw chuck roast for breakfast after this!

The snake-armed demon’s skin was starting to blacken and burn under the dawn’s brightening rays. After everything demons had taken from me, I’ll admit that the sight pleased me. If I was just a tad more vindictive, I would’ve videoed it so that my sister, Jasmine, could enjoy it, too.

“What are we going to do with him?” I said, nodding at the demon. “The beach is empty now, but it won’t be for long.”

Adrian’s reply was to say something to Brutus in what I referred to as Demonish. The harsh yet disturbingly beautiful language was where Adrian’s unusual accent came from. I only recognized the word for “go,” but Brutus understood all of it. As soon as Adrian finished speaking, the gargoyle grabbed the demon and flew off toward the ocean.

“What’s he doing?”

“Dropping him far enough away that the demon won’t be a threat to any beachgoers,” Adrian replied. “If we’re lucky, his prolonged exposure to daylight will turn him into a withered husk. Demons can’t stand our realm in the sun. I told you that.”

He had, which begged the question, why had the demon risked such exposure by entering this world right before dawn?

“Ivy.” The low, resonant way Adrian said my name made shivers roll over me, although I’d rather die than let him know that. “It’s good to see you.”

I didn’t want to be, but I was glad to see him, too, and for more reasons than him knowing exactly how to take out Snake Arms. I’d tried to talk myself out of feeling anything for Adrian during the two months since he’d admitted that he had betrayed me and then disappeared. Told myself that what I’d thought I felt for him had been due to the extreme circumstances we’d found ourselves in mixed with the temptation of forbidden fruit. Some days, when I only dwelled on the cold logic of the situation, I even believed it. The fact that Adrian had made no attempt to contact me seemed to support that theory. And now, after all this time, he thought that showing up, smiling and flashing me a smoldering look would make everything okay?

“Yeah?” I said, turning my back on him. “Well, now you’ve seen me.” And I walked away from him. “I wouldn’t stay here, if I were you,” I threw over my shoulder at Adrian. “There’s a gateway on the beach. I glimpsed the demon realm only seconds before Snake Arms and his friends came out of it.”

“Where?” he asked, catching up to me all too quickly.

“About four blocks this way,” I said, cursing myself because now, he had a good reason to keep walking with me.

He reached over, touching my arm. “Ivy, wait—”

“Now, that’s funny,” I interrupted, jerking away. “Is that what you thought? That I’d just wait for you until you felt like showing up again?”

“You asked me to go,” Adrian said, his voice roughening with frustration. “In fact, you insisted, remember?”

I began to walk faster. “Who wouldn’t need a little time after finding out that you’d lied to me about my real destiny? Then, you didn’t even try to make up for what you’d done. No, you disappeared for months without a single word. You knew when I started this that I thought everything would be fine if I used David’s hallowed, Goliath-slaying slingshot to save my sister. But after I almost died doing that, you dropped the bomb that it was only step one in a destiny I couldn’t avoid, remember?”

Don’t even get me started on step two and three of my supposedly unavoidable destiny, where fate said that Adrian would literally be the death of me.

He sighed, running his hand through his hair. The front was still longer than the back, and the ocean breeze tousled those thick, dark gold waves. His silver-ringed eyes were deep blue, and even when he scowled, it highlighted lips both full and completely masculine. Adrian was as gorgeous as he was dangerous; another sign of fate’s cruel sense of humor when it came to our opposing destinies.

I looked away, blaming my staring at him on post-battle temporary insanity. Once, I’d laughed after almost getting ripped apart by a demon who could turn shadows into weapons. Adrenaline was more sense-depriving than heroin at times.

“Yeah, I remember,” Adrian said shortly. “Saying I’m sorry is worthless, so I won’t. All I can do is promise that it will never happen again.”

I wished it wouldn’t, for a lot of reasons. But how could I believe this promise when he still wouldn’t even apologize for the last time he’d lied to me? And worse, fate predicted that he would betray me again. Twice, and the final one would end in my death, making me just another dead Davidian in a long line of ones killed by Judians.

Except that I was the last descendant of the Biblical King David’s line, and thus the only human capable of wielding the hallowed weapons that could bring down demons. Adrian was the last descendant of Judas, and in addition to his incredible, otherworldly powers, he had also inherited the fate to betray and kill Davidians. When we first met, I had believed that he could beat his fate, if he tried. In fact, I’d believed it so much that I’d fallen in love with him. Now, I wasn’t so sure, but I had other things to worry about. Like the demons who would surely be after me, my sister and Costa now that we’d killed more of their people.

Adrian grabbed my arm. “Would you stop for a second so we can talk?”

“No,” I replied, yanking away. “And if you touch me again, you’ll regret it.”

“What’s your hurry?” he challenged, switching tactics.

I gave him an irritated glance. “I’m worried about my sister and your best friend. Costa’s house is on hallowed ground, so it’s safe for now, but three minions and a demon going missing from that realm won’t go unnoticed, as you of all people should know. The rest of the demons will figure out what happened since no human could’ve taken them down. Soon, they’ll be tearing this place apart looking for us, so Jasmine, Costa and I need to be gone before they do.”

He arched a brow. “Well, then, I guess it’s a good idea that I stay close to make sure you’re safe.”

“I can take care of myself, as one very dead minion would tell you if he could,” I shot back.

The smile he flashed me was maddening in its cockiness. “Seems like you needed a little help with the rest of them.”

He was right, but admitting that would be tantamount to telling him that I wanted him to stay, and I didn’t. “Don’t flatter yourself. I had a plan. Two more blocks, and I’d have been on hallowed ground. The demon couldn’t cross that, and he couldn’t wait me out with the sun coming up. And as you once told me, minions are easy to kill.”

“Not two at a time when you’re still a novice,” he replied.

I spun around, and then clenched my teeth when I saw the triumphant look in his eyes. He’d wanted me to keep talking and I’d let him bait me into it.

I began to hike up my dress as I resumed walking. Adrian watched with interest until I reached the straps around my upper thighs. I gave him a censuring look as I pulled out my cell phone. No, I wasn’t flashing him. I had to give Costa and Jasmine a heads-up that they needed to start packing. Poor Costa. He’d taken me and my sister in because we couldn’t return to our old house—or our old lives—after I’d decimated a demon realm rescuing Jasmine. Now, Costa would be forced to leave his own home, and I had no idea where any of us would go.

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