The Sweetest Burn

Page 44

The next room was cozier, but no less opulent. The couch to my left looked like it was upholstered in red velvet, and the red-and-gold-striped love seat across from it appeared to be silk. Thick drapes only let part of the cityscape peek in from the floor-to-ceiling windows, and there was a second sitting area by another fireplace.

Everything was so luxurious that it actually took Adrian’s abrupt question of “What are you doing here?” for me to notice that the chair across from those couches wasn’t empty.

Zach set down the travel magazine he’d been reading, putting it back with the others that were decoratively displayed on the table in front of him.

“For all the many times I’ve been to this city, I have never seen a Broadway play,” he remarked, replying to a question that neither one of us had asked.

“What are you doing here?” I repeated, coming toward him. “Where’s Jasmine?”

He gave me a look as if the answer were obvious. “The same place you left her.”

“With Costa?” I burst out. “He could hurt her!”

“He would never do that,” Adrian said before Zach had a chance to reply.

That reignited my irritation with him over his incorrect assumption about Jasmine. “My sister isn’t the one who told Demetrius where we were.”

“That’s the only explanation that makes sense,” Adrian shot back. Then his tone softened. “Costa could’ve gotten me killed a thousand times over these past few years. He didn’t. Our location only started being reported back to our enemies when your sister started traveling with us.”

I turned away, and he caught me by the shoulders. “I know it’s hard, Ivy, but look at the facts. Demetrius didn’t find us here or in France, yet it only took him hours to drop realms on us before, when Jasmine wasn’t locked up in a light realm where she can’t communicate with him or any other demon. Do you really think that’s a coincidence?”

My jaw tightened. “I don’t think it’s coincidence, but I also know it’s not Jasmine who’s been selling us out.”

Zach let out a sigh as he stood up. “I did not come here to listen to the two of you fight. Ivy, your sister is safe—you have my word. Adrian, you wanted me to perform a service for you. If that is still the case, I can do so now.”

Adrian dropped his hands from my shoulders and turned to give Zach an amazed look. “You know I still want you to, but with everything that’s going on, maybe now isn’t the time.”

“Now is the only time I will do it,” Zach replied in a mild tone. “As I have often reminded you, I am not yours to command, and soon, I will have far more urgent matters to attend to.”

Adrian’s muscled tensed, as if he were fighting an inner battle. “Then now works for me,” he said in a tight voice.

“Very well,” Zach replied, still in that unruffled way. “If Ivy agrees to it. If she does not, then I will do nothing, and I know that you haven’t told her what this request entails.”

I was still upset over Adrian believing that Jasmine was the traitor, but I was also wildly curious. Zach had assured me that Jasmine was safe, so I wasn’t worried about her, and no one was trying to kill us, which made this as good of a time as any to find out what Adrian’s mysterious request was. Not that it was necessary anymore, though.

I touched his hands, which remained clenched at his sides. “After everything that’s happened, you have nothing to prove to me or to anyone else. I know you won’t betray me again, so whatever you thought you needed Zach to do, you don’t.”

He unclenched his fists and his hands rose to caress my neck and then my face, making me shiver under his touch.

“What I should have told you before was that I want to do this. You are everything to me, and this way I can show you that as well as be closer to you.”

I leaned into him, letting my hands drift over his shoulders. “I know another way that we can be closer, but it requires Zach leaving.”

Adrian laughed, low, knowing and oh-so enticing. “We’ll do that afterward, I promise.”

In my peripheral vision, I saw Zach roll his eyes with barely contained irritation, and it was all I could do not to laugh. If double entendres irritated Zach, I’d make it a point to talk sexy to Adrian every time the Archon was near. Payback for all of Zach’s infuriating evasiveness in the past.

“Okay,” I said, smiling. “So, what do you want Zach to do?”

His gaze never wavered as he stared at me. “In simplest terms, a soul tethering. Zach ties mine to yours, and after that, I couldn’t betray you even if I wanted to because doing so would subject me to the same consequences. We’d be linked in a way that nothing on earth, under it or over it could alter.”

My mouth opened, but for a few moments, I couldn’t form words. I don’t know what I’d thought it would be. Whatever my musings, nothing had come close to this.

“You’re serious?” I finally got out.

His fingers tightened around my face, yet his touch remained achingly gentle. “I’ve never been more serious about anything in my life.”

“But that’s so, so—”

“Permanent?” Zach supplied drily.

I barely glanced at him. “Yes, permanent,” I breathed. “Eternally permanent.”

A smile flittered over Adrian’s lips. “That’s my favorite part. I love you, Ivy, and that more than anything else is why I want this. But my destiny has also been hanging over me my entire life, and since I’m breaking that destiny, I want the proof of it to be written all over my soul.”

“Adrian...” I was so overwhelmed, I didn’t know what to say.

He dropped his hands and stepped back, concern washing over his features. “This is a one-way tethering, if that’s what you’re worried about. You wouldn’t be linking your soul to mine. Everything about you would still stay the same—”

“Why would you think I’d want a one-way-only tethering?” I interrupted.

His expression cleared, becoming completely blank, and he took another step back. “If you don’t want me to do it, that’s fine,” he said in a very controlled tone.

“Adrian!” I grabbed him, almost shaking him for how badly he’d misunderstood me. “I meant, why would you think that I wouldn’t want to do the same thing with you?”

He started to smile, and seeing it caused something bright and beautiful to bubble up inside me, making my answering grin wide and almost witless with joy.

“You do?” he asked, the question coming out almost breathy.

I tangled my arms around his neck, feeling a tear start to slip from the corner of my eye. “Of course I do.”

He kissed me, and I didn’t care about the Archon watching us. All I cared about was how his arms molded me to him, the searing passion that built as his mouth moved over mine and the happiness I felt, which rivaled everything else.

A cough sounded, and then Adrian and I were wrenched apart by invisible arms. Zach approached us, a regally haughty expression on his face.

“I agreed to perform a soul-tethering ceremony, not to oversee its celebratory consummation, so if you’re still interested in the former, you need to stop the latter. Now.”

“Sorry,” Adrian said, but his grin made it clear that he wasn’t sorry in the least.

Neither was I. “I’m sure it’s nothing you haven’t seen a billion times before,” I teased Zach.

His glare was priceless. “That assumes that I have never had anything better to do, which is patently untrue.”

Adrian went over and clapped him on the back. “Whatever you say, secret voyeur. Now, you said you had to do this right away or not at all, but exactly how long do we have?”

Zach thought for a moment. “Two hours.”

“All right,” Adrian said, giving Zach another back slap and ignoring the scowl he got in response. “Ivy, you have to hurry and get ready. I know the perfect place to do the ritual in.”

I cast a disbelieving look around at our lavish surroundings. “This isn’t nice enough for you?”

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