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|The Beautiful Ashes(Broken Destiny #1) by Jeaniene Frost|
For the past three nights, I’d fallen asleep listening to Adrian pace. He spent his days in the outdoor carport, claiming that he needed to work on his car. Bullshit. The Challenger was in mint condition, and he could only wax and detail it so many times before it was obvious that he was just avoiding me.
Tonight, I was finding out why.
I got out of bed, hearing his pacing come to an abrupt halt when I opened my door. Too bad. I was done playing the avoidance game. He wasn’t, though. By the time I came downstairs, he was nowhere to be seen and his bedroom door was shut.
Quietly, I went to his door and tried the knob. Locked. My mouth curled. He was the one who’d taught me not to give up that easily when something needed to be done.
I grabbed the car keys he’d left on the counter and went out the front door. I’d barely slid them into the Challenger’s ignition when Adrian came flying out of the house after me.
“Where do you think you’re going?” he demanded, yanking open the passenger door after he tried mine and couldn’t get in. I waited until he’d shut it, then I hit the lock button.
The sound was like a gun going off in the sudden quiet. Adrian stared at me, knowing better than anyone that he was now trapped. He was the one who’d rigged the Challenger so that the only exit was through the driver’s side when the doors were locked.
“I’m not going anywhere,” I said evenly, “and neither are you until we have a little talk.”
“What are you doing, Ivy?” he asked, his voice very low.
“Ending our stalemate,” I responded, leaning back into the leather seat. “For the first few days, I thought you were avoiding me because I’d done something wrong. Then I realized it wasn’t my fault, so now I want to know why.”
He looked away. “I haven’t been avoiding—”
“Ooh, lies, looks like we’ll be here awhile,” I mocked. “Seriously, Adrian, Costa’s house is on hallowed ground and it doesn’t contain a single mirror, so I’m totally safe. Yet aside from getting groceries the first day, you haven’t left once. If you can’t stand to be in the same room with me, why is it that you can’t stand to leave me alone here, either?”
His hands slowly closed into fists. “Let me out, Ivy. Now.”
“Not until you give me a straight answer,” I countered.
He looked at me, anger sharpening the gorgeous lines and hollows of his face. “I’m warning you, don’t push me.”
“Or what?” I flared. “You have nothing to threaten me with! The only reason I can stand to keep going is because I don’t have anything to lose, so pushing you doesn’t scare me—”
I didn’t see his hands flash out, but suddenly, they were in my hair as he yanked me to him, his mouth scorching mine. I gasped in shock, and his tongue slid past my lips, claiming mine with a passionate desperation that sent heat rocketing through me.
My shock vanished. So did my questions. Desire hijacked my emotions, leaving nothing except a surge of blistering need. I kissed Adrian back, opening my mouth in a silent demand for more. Hints of alcohol flavored his kiss, but beneath that was his taste, infinitely more intoxicating, and I responded as if it was my drug of choice. I moaned as my head tilted back from the force of his kiss. Then he pulled me across the seats until I was on top of him, his strong grip molding me against every muscled inch of his body.
“This is why I stayed away,” he growled against my mouth as his hands started to rove over me with knowing, ruthless passion. “Can’t be near you without wanting you. Can’t stop myself anymore—”
His words cut off as his kiss deepened, until I could hardly breathe from the erotic thrusts and delves of his tongue. I’d been kissed before, but never like this. He wasn’t exploring my mouth. He was claiming it.
And I couldn’t get enough. All the feelings I’d had to fake with other boyfriends came roaring through my senses, shocking me with their intensity. My heart pounded while my body felt hypersensitive, making each brush of his skin, lips and tongue dangerously erotic. I needed more of his kiss despite barely being able to breathe. More of his hands moving over me with sensual urgency, and more of the hard, muscled body I could feel but not touch because of how tightly Adrian held me against him.
I moaned when his lips slid down to a spot on my neck that made every nerve ending jump with exquisite anticipation. They jumped again when he pushed up the back of my pajama top, his hands now roaming over flesh instead of fabric. Everywhere he touched seemed to burn with a need so intense, it left me aching, and when he sucked on my neck, a blast of pleasure reverberated straight down to the throb between my legs.
“All I think about is you. Every day, every minute...you,” he muttered hotly.
I was so lost in sensation, the words barely penetrated, especially when his mouth slanted over mine with carnal hunger. Before, my hands had been trapped against his chest, but I forced them free, gripping his head while I kissed him back. His mouth was addictive, and the sinuous flicks of his tongue had me arching against him in wordless, primal need. Desperate to feel him the way I’d secretly fantasized, my hands left his head to slide down his body. Our cramped space limited my exploration to his shoulders, arms and sides, but I wanted to touch him so badly, I didn’t care. Muscles bunched and flexed as he reacted to the feel of my hands on him. His body was so hard, but his skin was sleek and smooth, as if someone had stretched heavy silk over stone. Touching him while he kissed me made my mind reel from desire, and when my hand grazed his taut, flat stomach, a tremor went through his whole body.
He broke our kiss to pull my pajama top over my head, groaning as he flung it aside.
“You’re so beautiful, Ivy.”
His hands on my bare breasts ripped a cry from me. My skin felt too tight, too sensitive, and when his mouth closed over a nipple, the pleasure was so intense, it was almost painful. I gripped his head without thinking, my gasps turning into groans that caused him to hold me tighter. His mouth was a brand that seared those unbelievable sensations all through me, making my whole body feel fevered. Every part of me ached for him, but when his hand slipped inside my pajama pants, I couldn’t stop myself from tensing even as I cried out at the jolt of pleasure.
His mouth immediately left my breast and his large hand slid up to thread through my hair instead.
Adrian’s eyes were darker with passion, making their silver rims more startling, but it was the barely leashed wildness they contained that caused the words to stick in my throat.
“I, ahem... Before we... Ah, I need to tell you something.”
I could actually see the moment he guessed what I was having trouble articulating. His eyes widened, and his hands ceased the sensual way they’d been running through my hair.
“You’ve never had sex before.”
A statement, not a question. I still had on my pajama pants, but suddenly, I’d never felt more exposed. My arms crossed over my chest, and for the first time, I was glad I didn’t have D-cups because they covered everything.
“Yeah,” I mumbled. “Sorry.”
“Don’t.” Adrian’s sigh was ragged. “Don’t ever apologize for being who you are. You’re perfect, and I’m the one who’s sorry. Touching you made me forget all the reasons why I have to stay away from you.”
That was the last thing I wanted to hear. Frustration rose, covering my previous embarrassment. Was I supposed to go back to pretending that he didn’t consume my thoughts as much as I apparently consumed his? Damn my momentary hesitancy that had ruined this!
“I don’t want you to stay away,” I said. To prove it, I dropped my arms.
His eyes closed while he shuddered as though absorbing a punishing blow.
“Don’t,” he said roughly. “After you find and use that weapon, I have to walk away from you, and I can’t do that if we’re lovers. I can barely do it now, and I need to, Ivy. It’s the only way I can protect you from my fate.”
Before I could say anything else, he flipped us until he was on top of me. Then he punched the window so hard that it shattered. His body shielded mine from the instant rainfall of glass, then he opened his door from the outside and left.
For a few dazed moments, I stayed in the passenger seat, clutching the top Adrian had handed me right before he walked away. He loved this car like it was his baby, yet he’d smashed his own window to get away before he lost control and finished what he’d started.
I didn’t know whether it was the most romantic thing he’d ever done, or the most insulting.
The next day, Zach showed up with his usual style of no warning. I looked up from my book to see him seated in the chair opposite mine, a book in his hands as if he’d been reading, too.
“Adrian!” I called out, not bothering to say hello. “Zach’s finally here!”
“Why do you seem angry with me?” Zach asked, to the accompanying sound of the front door slamming.
“I shouldn’t be upset that you took your time getting back to us when we’re not able to search for the only weapon that can save my sister?”
Frustration over more than that scalded my tone. Zach didn’t get a chance to respond before Adrian came into the room. No surprise, he’d been outside all day. At least he’d given himself a reason to work on his car instead of just pretending to. As for me, I’d been pretending to read so it wasn’t obvious that I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about what we’d almost done in that shiny black Challenger.
“What the fuck, man?” Adrian asked, summing up his feelings more succinctly than I had.
Zach stood. “I am not a man,” he stated crisply. “Nor am I yours to command or to reprimand.”
Adrian replied with a burst of the exquisite form of Demonish, the sound caressing my ears like a symphony. Instead of being mollified, Zach was more upset.
“How dare you use the tongue of my brethren, mortal!”
“That’s angel-speak?” I asked in surprise.
Adrian threw me a brief glance. “Yes, and I know it because it’s what demons originally derived their language from.” To Zach, he said, “We didn’t have a week to waste waiting for you. You of all people know we’re on a countdown.”
“What countdown?” I piped up, but both men ignored me.
“I needed time to procure your solution,” Zach said, his dark gaze blazing with pinpoints of light. “Did your impatience prevent that from occurring to you, endante?”
At the foreign word, Adrian looked more pissed than Zach.
“How about texting a cloud version of ‘brb’ then?” Acidly.
I got up, the anger between them starting to concern me. We were dead in the water without Zach, so I had to shove my own feelings aside—again—to smooth this over.
“Zach, you’ve been around forever, but we are mortal. Five days might be nothing to you, but with no word and only unbeatable obstacles to dwell on, it’s been tough on us.”
The Archon glanced my way, his gaze stating that I hadn’t smoothed anything over. Okay, time for rough honesty, then.
“For starters, I barely sleep because I keep wondering if this is all for nothing.” My voice caught. “No matter what Adrian said about the demons not wanting to lose their leverage, Jasmine might already be dead. Sometimes, I even wish she was. Then she wouldn’t be suffering, and I wouldn’t have to enter another realm. Then I hate myself for thinking that, so guilt torments me.”
I paused to draw in a shuddering breath. “Worse, after last night, I know that I want Adrian so bad, I don’t care what happens afterward. Another night alone together and I won’t be able to stop myself from going to him, and no matter how much he thinks he has to, I know he won’t have the strength to turn me away again.”
I made sure to keep staring at Zach as I spoke. If I so much as glanced at Adrian, I wouldn’t have been able to admit such raw, personal truths. Guilt over my sister wore me down on a daily basis, so last night with Adrian had used up the last of my willpower. Since he’d resorted to damaging his beloved Challenger rather than wait for me to open the driver’s side door, his willpower was on empty, too. Another night alone and it would all be over.
A large part of me wished the Archon would have waited one more day to show up.
Zach stared back at me, his expression turning thoughtful. I still didn’t look at Adrian, but I could feel his gaze moving over me, flaring everything it touched. I’d never been so hyperaware of anyone before, and when he let out a low, harsh sigh, I found myself inhaling so I could absorb his breath inside me.
Zach’s hand on my head whipped my attention back to him. The Archon closed his eyes as if concentrating, and this time, I actually felt a tingle run through me. Or maybe it was still my body responding to Adrian’s unrelenting stare.
After a moment, Zach removed his hand. “This new disguise will see you past the demon’s Hounds,” he stated.
“How?” Adrian and I asked in unison, but then a car pulled up in the driveway. Adrian let out a sigh of relief this time.
Costa parked behind the Challenger. When he got out, I waved at him through the window—and then was slammed to the floor, Adrian’s large frame almost crushing me from the impact.
“Don’t shoot,” I heard Zach say over Adrian’s urgent, “Are you okay? Did he hit you?”
I couldn’t answer because I couldn’t breathe. My hands smacking at his shoulders must’ve conveyed that, because Adrian leaped off me with the same speed, though he remained crouched in front of me. I took in a deep breath, wincing as my ribs and the back of my head throbbed with pain.