Hi again! As I said before, to celebrate the upcoming release of The Sweetest Burn, book two in the Broken Destiny series, I’m going to post a chapter a week from now until its release on June 27th. The first chapter is HERE and the second one is HERE, if you missed them.
STANDARD SPOILER WARNING: While The Sweetest Burn can be read as a stand-alone, if you prefer to read in series order and/or you hate spoilers, you might not want to read these new chapters unless you’ve read book one, The Beautiful Ashes, which is on sale in ebook for only $1.99 from now until June 30th!
However, if you’re okay with spoilers/reading out of series order or you’ve already read The Beautiful Ashes, then no worries and happy reading! 🙂
Since Adrian wasn’t going away, I decided to make him pull his weight. When we reached the spot on the beach where I’d grappled with the minion, I gestured in the general vicinity of where I’d spotted the demon realm. I didn’t see anything now, but that wasn’t a huge surprise. My lineage meant that I was most attuned to hallowed objects, so at best, I only caught random glimpses of dark ones even when I was right on top of them. Adrian’s lineage meant that he was most attuned to dark objects, and a demon realm gateway was about as dark as something could get.
“The realm gateway was over there. Do you see it?”
He walked to the spot I’d indicated. Then he held out his hands as if feeling for a doorway, which, in essence, he was.
“It’s strange,” he said after a pause. “I see the realm and I do feel something, but it’s not as strong as a normal gateway would be. Instead of a door, it feels more like…a crack.”
“That’s what I’m worried about,” I said with a fresh sense of dismay. “With the walls between demon realms and our world weakening, cracks are probably turning up all over the place. If it gets worse, those cracks will turn into gaping holes and realms will spill out into this world. And then…”
I stopped speaking because I didn’t want to say what would happen next. The only thing worse than knowing was being the only person who could do something to stop it. That’s why I’d spent the past two months splitting my time between training and trying to get my sister, Jasmine, through the post-traumatic stress of being a former demon captive. You’d think with all that, I wouldn’t have had the energy to focus on Adrian, yet I had. A broken heart was the slowest wound to heal, it appeared.
“I think we’re safe for the moment,” Adrian said, not addressing my unfinished sentence. “The crack doesn’t feel strong enough to let anyone else through. Maybe the sunlight is weakening it.”
For now. I rubbed my right hand where the outline of a braided rope ran from my finger all the way up to my elbow. The remains of the ancient, hallowed slingshot no longer burned in that odd way, but touching it was a tangible reminder that Adrian and I had destinies to fulfill: me to possibly save those trapped in the demon realms, and him to probably betray me.
“All right, well, minions are dead, the demon’s gone, Brutus should be back any second and I’m almost home, so you can leave. Now,” I added.
A scoff preceded his response and the silver rings around his dark blue eyes seemed to gleam.
“I’m not going anywhere, Ivy. Ready or not, I’m back in your life and I’m here to stay.”
“But I don’t want you to,” I said, fighting the urge to thump him over the head so the words would sink in.
He only smiled, dazzling and so arrogant that I spun around so I didn’t have to look at him anymore. “Yes, I heard you, but while you might not want me—yet—you do need me.”
Then, with his lightning quickness, he appeared in front of me, shoving a small box into my hands. “Speaking of things I didn’t get to do before, happy birthday, although one day late.”
Shock made me stand still and stare at the box. Twenty-one was a milestone, but no one else had remembered. Not my sister, who was also my best friend, or Costa, my roommate who’d become as close as a brother to me, or Zach, the Archon who sorta mentored me and had supernatural knowledge of just about everything. Only Adrian, and I’d never told him when it was.
I couldn’t stop myself from opening the unexpected gift. Then I let out a little gasp when I saw the round stone suspended at the end of a long gold chain. The jewel reflected the first rays of sunlight back at me in a rainbow of colors that were so bright, I had to squint while looking at it. Unless it was the most sparkly piece of glass ever, Adrian had just given me a diamond the size of a large marble.
“There’s no way I can accept this,” I almost stuttered, adding, “Did you steal it?” because how else could he have gotten something that cost as much as several high-end cars?
Hints of darkness colored his laughter. “Former demon prince, remember? I might have left all that behind me, but I didn’t leave empty-handed.”
“You’re not a demon, you were just raised by them,” I muttered.
He shrugged. “Honorary demon prince, then. Either way, I can afford it. Besides, you lost your other necklace because of me, so don’t say you can’t accept this one to replace it.”
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 the and waiting back at Costa’s for us. As you might recall, Archons may be nearly immortal, but they’re not very patient.”
Hope you enjoyed the third chapter! The fourth and final chapter will be posted on my website blog next week. As a reminder, you can pre-order your copy of The Sweetest Burn here or at your favorite retailer.