Home > The Sweetest Burn (Broken Destiny #2)(5)

The Sweetest Burn (Broken Destiny #2)(5)
Author: Jeaniene Frost

The necklace was so beautiful, a shallow part of me wanted nothing more than to put it on and run to the nearest mirror. I couldn’t, of course. For starters, I hadn’t looked into a mirror since the night I found out the hard way that some demons use mirrors as portals into our world. Plus...

“This feels like a bribe,” I said, holding the necklace out to him. “And you can’t make up for everything that’s happened with a shiny, expensive gift. Things aren’t good between us, Adrian. Not even close, and if I accepted this, I’d be implying that they were.”

He crossed his arms, his posture taking on a very familiar stubbornness. “I’m not trying to bribe you, I’m giving you a birthday gift. Throw it into the surf if you want, but it’s yours, so I am not taking it back.”

My jaw clenched. He might have been raised in an environment where money was no object, but I could no more toss this diamond into the ocean than I could burn a stack of hundred-dollar bills for warmth, and from the challenging curl to his mouth, he knew that. Still, that didn’t mean he was getting his way.

I folded the necklace into my hand and resumed walking. It didn’t take my enhanced peripheral vision to see Adrian’s smirk as he followed. He thought he’d won this round. Think again, I silently told him.

“So, if you’re rich, why did we only stay in crappy motels when we first met?” I asked as I kept walking toward Costa’s house.

He let out a laugh that managed to combine the lure of ecstasy along with the dangers of addiction.

“Because I was doing everything I could to kill the mood, not that it worked. Even in the ugliest surroundings, I wanted you so much that it almost killed me not to take you in every dingy room those crappy motels had to offer.”

“Stop it,” I muttered. Thankfully, Brutus picked that moment to fly past us and land in the tallest section of beach shrubs. I ran after the gargoyle, trying to soothe him as he attempted to cover himself with beach brush to avoid the sun.

“It’s okay,” I was saying when Adrian said, “Carparata!” loud enough to snap Brutus’s head up.

The Demonish word turned Brutus from a cringing creature into his usual, formidable self. The gargoyle might be my pet now, but to the bone, he still belonged to Adrian. After all, Adrian was the one who’d given Brutus to me as my protector. The fact that he’d done so when Adrian had thought he was sacrificing his life to save mine was yet another reason why he was so hard to evict from my heart.

Still, I wasn’t about to give up trying. “Here you go, my good Brutus,” I said, pulling out the necklace and latching it around his leathery wrist. Because of his size, it fit like a bracelet. “Something shiny for you.”

The gargoyle held up his arm, looking at the diamond next to his grayish-blue skin. Then he chuffed as if in approval.

“See?” I said, with a wide grin at Adrian. “He loves it.”

The glare Adrian gave me was priceless. Then, with a smile that was far too confident for my liking, he waved in the direction of Costa’s house.

“You can give my gift to Brutus and you can keep stomping off to Costa’s, but no matter what, I’m coming with you. Realm cracks are appearing and demons and minions are on the move again. You might have killed Demetrius, giving me the vengeance I’d wanted for years, but that didn’t take me out of the fight. I still live to kick demon ass, so I wouldn’t sit this out for the world, and if you know anything about me, you should know that. Besides, Zach’s probably aware of all this and waiting back at Costa’s for us. As you might recall, Archons may be nearly immortal, but they’re not very patient.”


COSTA’S HOUSE WAS a former church, hence the hallowed ground it rested on that demons were unable to cross. The sight of its tall, slanted roof with the cross that Costa hadn’t bothered to take down filled me with a mixture of relief and sadness. I couldn’t say that I’d been happy here, but I’d felt safe, and that counted for a lot in this world. Now, it was time to leave, and I didn’t know if I’d ever see this place again.

Adrian was right; more people were at the house than when I’d left it an hour ago. My sister, Jasmine, seemed startled to see Adrian, but it didn’t escape my notice that Costa didn’t look surprised. I stifled my snort as we came into the kitchen. Had Adrian been in contact with Costa this whole time, too? Was I literally the only person he’d avoided these past couple months?

As I approached the table, Adrian pulled a chair out for me, but I ignored that. “I’ll stand.”

“Are you two fighting again?” Costa cast a knowing glance between us. “Situation normal, then.”

The other person I hadn’t seen in the past two months was Zach, but as Adrian had predicated, the Archon now sat at the kitchen table as casually as if he’d dropped by for breakfast. As with minions and demons, at first glance, you wouldn’t know there was anything unusual about Zach. His jeans and faded-blue hoodie matched his college-age appearance, and his dark brows, closely cropped hair and mocha-colored skin were a great frame for his deep, walnut-brown eyes.

One look into those eyes, however, and I couldn’t imagine anyone not realizing that there was something otherworldly about Zach. His gaze seemed to reach right into your soul, and if he chose to reveal his true nature, the room would be filled with exploding light and deafeningly beautiful voices. The one time Zach had dropped his human disguise to show me that, I’d unwittingly fallen to my knees with tears streaming down my face. You never realized how insignificant you were until confronted with a creature filled with the power and glories of eternity.

Archons—angels—were such creatures, so you’d think I’d be glad to see Zach. Instead, I felt a mildly growing sense of dread. Unlike their Hallmark Channel representations, Archons weren’t cuddly beings who spent their time sprinkling happy dust onto humanity. Instead, they were fearsome warriors who’d been relegated to the sidelines during the most important battle of the ages, so they were ready to fight no matter how that turned out for mankind. They were also our only allies against demons, so that made them indispensable to us regardless of their seeming indifference toward the fate of my race.

“I’m out of time, aren’t I?” I said in lieu of a hello.

Zach didn’t take offense. He’d probably invented the custom of not saying hello. “Yes. As the realm walls continue to weaken, new fissures are formed, allowing greater access between the dark worlds and this one. It is only a matter of time until those fissures rupture and parts of the demon world spills out into your realm.”

“I found that out the hard way,” I said with a sigh. “Three minions and a demon tried to nab me on the beach.”

Jasmine’s face paled and she ran over to me. “Are you okay? How did you get away? Did they know who you were?”

I gave my younger sister a reassuring squeeze, a pang hitting me as I looked at her. She’d always had my adoptive mother’s blond hair, but sometime during her hellish captivity, she’d grown a long white streak down the center of her head. Her pale blue eyes were the same color as my adoptive father’s, and seeing them reminded me of him so much, I had to blink back a sudden surge of tears.

Oh, how I missed my parents! They hadn’t deserved to die at the hands of minions and demons just because they’d been investigating Jasmine’s disappearance. Then again, no one deserved to die at the hands of demons and minions for any reason.

“I’m fine,” I reassured Jaz. “I got the first one, Adrian and Brutus took care of the rest. And they didn’t know who I was, at first. They were just looking for new slaves.”

Zach inclined his head in agreement. “The demons grow bolder as they gain more access to this world.”

Maybe it was the fresh wave of grief I’d felt over my parents’ death, maybe it was my fear over what I knew I had to do. Either way, I couldn’t hold back my brusque reply.

“Remind me again why Archons would allow terrible things to happen to innocent people when they have the power to stop it?”

The gaze Zach turned on me was hard. “A better reason than why your race would rather assign blame to others than work on looking for solutions yourselves.”

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