Hi everyone! As I mentioned in my blog last week, 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, if you missed it, and the second chapter is below.
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. Otherwise, you will be spoiled for some events in that book. 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! 🙂
Brutus soared over me, and Adrian almost grazed my back from how close he came. Seconds later, I heard multiple thumps and a scream. I rolled over in time to see the minions fall to the ground. Only bloody holes remained where their heads had been, and when Brutus whirled back around, his leathery wings were spattered with red.
Then Adrian jumped off Brutus and torpedoed himself onto the snake-armed demon. Two-hundred-plus pounds of pissed-off male slamming into the demon caused him to plow back into the sand. Adrian’s bulk pinned him down, but those coiling serpents surged toward him, gleaming fangs extended to strike.
“Watch out!” I screamed.
Before the first syllable left my lips, Adrian had already grabbed the serpents below their snapping jaws. With a brutal jerk, he ripped their heads off. The demon let out an ear-splitting howl and black blood spurted from where the snakes’ headless bodies still protruded from his wrists.
“Adrian,” the demon spat. “Don’t do this! Your father—”
“Is dead,” Adrian cut him off, then ripped the demon’s throat out. I caught a glimpse of something pulpy before I turned away, my stomach clenching with disgusted relief. Demon physiology was different, so what Adrian had just torn out was the equivalent of the demon’s heart.
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t kill him. Only three weapons in the world could kill demons, and one of them had melded into a tattoo on my arm that now hurt as though it had caught fire.
Adrian climbed off the demon. I stared at the snake heads, which, like the demon, weren’t turning to ash because the demon wasn’t really dead. He was just unconscious, so he wouldn’t disintegrate and neither would his severed serpentine arms, apparently.
“Were they poisonous?” I asked, still trying to recover from everything that had just happened.
Adrian glanced at the heads. “Oh yeah,” he said, sounding oddly amused. “Demon poison is the deadliest there is.”
“Then why did you grab the snakes with your bare hands?”
Fear for him sharpened my voice. It took all the self-control I had not to run over and check to make sure that he hadn’t been nicked by one of those lethal fangs. I wasn’t about to do that, of course. I might be thrilled that he hadn’t been killed, but I was still furious with him over other things.
Adrian let out a contemptuous snort. “I know that demon. Vritra is used to everyone running from his snakes, so he never expected me to go right for them. Sometimes, a person’s most powerful weapon is also their greatest weakness.”
My mind flashed to how close those snakes had come to biting Adrian. “How’s that?” I muttered, trying to ignore the roughly lyrical cadence of his accent that was as unusual as he was.
Adrian’s gaze raked over me as he came closer. “People count on their most powerful weapon too much, so when it’s gone, they don’t know what to do. The moments before they figure that out is your best chance to kill them.”
A cold-blooded assessment, but his ruthlessness didn’t surprise me. It was to be expected since Adrian had been raised by demons, hence the snake-armed demon’s comment about Adrian’s “father.” Foster father would be a more accurate way to describe Demetrius, the demon who’d snatched Adrian up when he was only a child. Demetrius wouldn’t be snatching up any more children. I’d seen to that when I killed him.
“What’s that?” he asked, suddenly lunging toward me. I jumped back, but Adrian had already grabbed me. His large hands slid along the cardigan covering my arms, and I yanked back, refusing to let him touch me. “There’s blood on your clothes,” he said, sounding concerned. “Did one of them hurt you?”
“Nope,” I lied. Yes, I was still hurt, and that counted for more than my physical injuries. “It’s from the other guy, who’s probably blown away by now.”
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.
But when I looked at my phone, I let out a groan. The front of it was smashed so badly, I could see the plastic casing behind it. Memories of the minion’s fists explained how that had happened. My ribs hadn’t been the only thing he’d bashed as he’d tried to kill me.
“Do you have a phone?” I asked, breaking my new silence.
His mouth tightened. “No.”
“Who goes anywhere without a cell phone?” I muttered.
Adrian’s features closed off, as if this was somehow a sore subject. “I’ve been having issues with mine.”
We walked in silence for several moments. The sun was almost fully up, and I felt bad for Brutus flying in those rays while taking the demon far out over the ocean, even though I was ticked at Brutus for sneaking behind my back to see Adrian.
“Do you know the worst part of staying away from you these past months?” Adrian asked. “I thought it would be remembering everything that had happened between us, but instead, it was thinking of everything we didn’t do.”
I still said nothing. If he’d missed me so much, ignoring me for months was a real unique way of showing it.
He moved closer, until his big body blocked the wind. I still didn’t look up at him, but kept staring straight ahead as if I could will myself back at Costa’s with sheer mind power.
“I showed you terrible places when I should have shown you beautiful ones,” he went on, his voice deepening. “Told you horrible details about my past instead of letting you get to know the person I’d become, and I taught you how to wield that slingshot instead of teaching you a thousand different things that we would’ve enjoyed much, much more.”
The way his voice caressed that last part made his meaning explicitly clear. Surprise combined with a rush of heat as a treacherous part of myself started imagining what those things might have been. My lack of experience meant I didn’t have a lot to go on, but my mind seemed up to improvising. Then, with a mental slap, I forced those thoughts back.
“Too late now,” I said in a crisp tone.
Adrian caught me to him, his hands closing like warm steel bands around my arms.
“Ivy, listen. When we met, I didn’t think I could beat my fate. That’s why I kept pushing you away, why I didn’t tell you who I was at first and why I didn’t tell you what I felt until, yes, it was almost too late. But it’s not too late.” He stared at me until his gaze felt almost palpable with his intensity. “I know what I feel for you, and it’s stronger than any destiny. I told you the last time I saw you that I’d make you believe in us again. I meant that, and regardless of how mad you are at me, if you had a hard time resisting me when I was fighting my feelings for you…you won’t stand a chance now that I’m not.”
My jaw dropped as pride chased away the dangerous warmth that had caused me to sway the tiniest bit closer to him. I’d practically thrown myself at him the last time circumstances had forced us to spend time together, and what had that gotten me? Betrayed and dumped. Damned if I’d let history repeat itself.
“Don’t be so cocky,” I said, pulling away and starting to walk again. “I’m not the same person, either, so save your efforts. My panties aren’t going to fall off just because you’ve finally decided that you want them to.”
His laughter chased after me, sensual and challenging. “Oh, Ivy, they don’t need to fall off. I’m happy to tear them.”
I let out a frustrated sigh. Adrian wasn’t leaving and he wasn’t listening to me; I may as well be reliving the first time we met. Back then, he’d saved me from a minion kidnapping while opening my eyes to my “hallucinations” being real. Whether I liked it or not, if history was repeating itself, then his presence meant my life was about to irrevocably change.
Hope you enjoyed the second chapter! As a reminder, you can pre-order your copy of The Sweetest Burn here or at your favorite retailer.