Title: The Beautiful Ashes
Author: Jeaniene Frost
Expected Publication: August 26th, 2014
About The Beautiful Ashes
In a world of shadows, anything is possible. Except escaping your fate. Ever since she was a child, Ivy has been gripped by visions of strange realms just beyond her own. But when her sister goes missing, Ivy discovers the truth is far worse—her hallucinations are real, and her sister is trapped in a parallel realm. And the one person who believes her is the dangerously attractive guy who's bound by an ancient legacy to betray her. Adrian might have turned his back on those who raised him, but that doesn't mean he can change his fate…no matter how strong a pull he feels toward Ivy. Together they search for the powerful relic that can save her sister, but Adrian knows what Ivy doesn't: that every step brings Ivy closer to the truth about her own destiny, and a war that could doom the world. Sooner or later, it will be Ivy on one side and Adrian on the other. And nothing but ashes in between…
About Jeaniene Frost:
Jeaniene Frost is the New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of the Night Huntress series, the Night Prince series, and the upcoming Broken Destiny series.
To date, foreign rights for her novels have sold to twenty different countries. Jeaniene lives in North Carolina with her husband Matthew, who long ago accepted that she rarely cooks and always sleeps in on the weekends.
Aside from writing, Jeaniene enjoys reading, poetry, watching movies with her husband, exploring old cemeteries, spelunking and traveling – by car. Airplanes, children, and cook books frighten her.
For information on Jeaniene's books, reading the first 20% of each book free, book trailers, deleted scenes, creature mythology, and more, please visit: www.jeanienefrost.com
“What is that?”
“Is that a mirror?” He sounded horrified.
I looked down. My locket was open, the mirrored side facing me. At some point while I was sleeping, I must’ve opened it. Adrian’s hand shot out, but this time, I was too fast for him.
“Don’t you dare,” I snapped, holding it out of his reach. “It’s the only picture I have of my sister after you left everything I own back at that hotel in Bennington!”
He lunged again, actually letting go of the steering wheel to reach the side of the car where I held it. With a sharp yank, he wrested the locket from my hands. I tried to snatch it back, but he shoved me into my seat with one hand, finally grabbing the steering wheel with the other.
“Are you crazy?” I shrieked. “You could’ve gotten us killed!” If this hadn’t been a lonely stretch of desert road, our careening into the next lane might’ve had permanent consequences.
“You’re going to get yourself killed,” was his chilling response. Then, still pinning me to my chair with that single hand, he held my locket up.
I gasped. Something dark poked out of the small mirror, like a snake made of blackest smoke. It disappeared when Adrian smashed the mirror against the steering wheel, but an eerie wind whistled through the car, ruffling my hair and stinging my nostrils with its acrid scent.
Adrian muttered a word in that unknown language, and I didn’t need a translator to tell me it was a curse.
“What was that?” My voice was hoarse.
He threw me a pitying glance, which frightened me even more. If he wasn’t angry, we must really be screwed.
His next words proved that. “Brace yourself, Ivy. You’re about to meet a demon.”
I didn’t consider myself religious. My parents used to take Jasmine and me to church on Christmas, but it was more a social event than a pious one. Hearing we were about to be attacked by a demon, however, made me pray like I’d never done before. I just wished I knew if anyone was listening.
Adrian wasn’t praying. He was cursing up a storm, if I correctly translated the spate of words coming from his mouth. He’d also lost that pitying expression, because the looks he shot me now were distinctly grim. It wasn’t the right time, but I couldn’t stop myself from asking the obvious.
“How did it find us?”
Adrian stomped on the accelerator, and the muscle car shot forward like it had rockets in the engine.
“Through the mirror,” he said shortly. “For stronger demons, mirrors act as portals, and you’ve been number one on their Most Wanted list since you escaped them in Bennington.”
I gaped at him. “Maybe you should have told me that?”
“You think I smash every mirror near you because I don’t want you to get conceited?” Then his tone softened. “You’re barely holding it together with what you do know, Ivy. I’m not about to tell you what you can’t handle yet.”
Anger flared, which felt better than the fear that made my blood seem like it had been replaced by ice water.
“No, I wasn’t ready to know that demons used mirrors as portals. I also wasn’t ready to know demons existed, or had kidnapped my sister, or that my parents were dead, or any of the horrible things I’ve dealt with in the past two weeks. But that didn’t stop them from happening, so quit protecting me from the truth, Adrian! It doesn’t help a damn bit!”
Adrian glanced at me, a gauntlet of emotions flitting across his features.
“You’re right. If we survive, I’ll apologize.”
My laughter was bleak. “You, say you’re sorry? Now I really want to live.”
To my surprise, he laughed as well, though it was colored with dark expectancy.
“Hold that thought. You’ll need it.”
Before I could respond, something filled the road in front of us. I would’ve said it was storm clouds, except clouds don’t sweep along the ground like a heavy fog rolling in.
“Shut your vents,” Adrian said, flipping the tiny levers on his side. I did the same, more apprehension filling me as he turned the entire air conditioning system off. No, those weren’t low-hanging clouds. They were something far more ominous.
“Turn around,” I said, my voice suddenly breathy.
“It wouldn’t matter” was Adrian’s chilling reply. “He’d only follow us. I need you to find hallowed ground, Ivy.”
I couldn’t take my eyes away from the billowing clouds in front of us. They were so dark, they seemed to devour the beams that came from Adrian’s headlights.
“All right,” I mumbled. “Give me your phone, I’ll look up the nearest church or cemetery.”
“It’s too late for that,” he said, stunning me. “You need to find it yourself.”
“How?” I burst out. We were almost at the line of black clouds. The temperature in the car plummeted, making my skin feel like it had turned to ice.
“It’s in your bloodline,” Adrian said, swinging off the road so sharply that the back end began to fishtail. “You can sense hallowed ground, so find some, Ivy. Now.”
“I don’t know how,” I shouted.
The car shuddered over the uneven terrain, bouncing so much I almost hit my head on the roof, but I didn’t tell Adrian to slow down. That wall of darkness filled up the rear window of the Challenger until I couldn’t see the glow of our tail lights anymore.
“Yes, you do.” A growl that sounded comforting compared to the horrible hissing noises coming from outside the car.
“I don’t!” What was that flash of white on my side of the car? Or that new, ripping sound? Oh God, were those teeth scraping away at the metal on my door?
“It’s getting in, it’s getting in!”
“He can’t get in the car.”
Adrian’s strong voice broke through my panic. I stared at him, my eyes starting to burn from the acrid stench that crept in through parts of the car we hadn’t been able to seal.
“I warded it against demons a long time ago,” he went on.
I felt better about that for three seconds, which was how long it took before the car lifted up on one side like a gargantuan hand had swatted it. For a paralyzing moment, I wasn’t sure if we were going to flip completely over. Then we crashed down hard enough to make the windows shatter, and I tasted blood from my jaw snapping shut on my tongue.
“’Course, that doesn’t mean he can’t tear the car apart around us,” Adrian said, stomping on the gas as soon as all four wheels were on the ground. “We’re running out of time. Where’s the hallowed ground?”
“I. Don’t. Know,” I screamed. My heart was pounding out of my chest from terror. If I knew a way out of this, I’d take it.
“Yes, you do,” he insisted, those sapphire eyes searing me when he glanced over. “Tell me which direction you want to run. That’s the right way, I promise.”
Which way did I want to run? In whatever direction this living nightmare wasn’t! The car lifted again, and everything in me braced for another impact. That awful hissing noise grew into a roar, and Adrian’s gaze met mine. In those darkly beautiful depths, I realized these would be the last moments of our lives, if I didn’t use an ability I’d never heard of before.
In the seconds before the car came crashing down, I closed my eyes.
Concentrated on which direction I wanted to flee to, and tried to ignore the pain as flying glass pelted me from all sides. My instincts were screaming at me to run from the horrible thing outside these crumbling metal walls, and I let those instincts consume me, filling me until I couldn’t focus on anything else. I needed to get out of here. I needed to leave right now and go…there.
“That way,” I said hoarsely, opening my eyes and pointing.
Adrian’s hand closed over mine, his grip strong and sure. Then the car crashed down hard enough to make my vision go black and my whole body ache, but he didn’t hesitate. As soon as the worst of the impact was over, he grabbed his coat, yanked me into his arms, and then flung us out of the car.
His body took the brunt of the impact, but it still felt like I hit the ground with almost the same force as the car crashing down. My yelp was swallowed up by a tremendous boom! as Adrian threw something at the fog that rushed us. White flashed, more bright and brilliant than a lightning bolt. Those hideous clouds recoiled with a scream as though they were in pain.
Adrian leaped up, still holding me in his arms. Then he began to run in the direction I’d pointed, leaving that ugly, writhing darkness behind us.
Even without the nightmarish clouds surrounding us, I could barely see.
Nothing but desert stretched out in front of us, and the headlights from Adrian’s car were now too far away to do any good. That strange flash of light was gone, too. Even the moon seemed to hide, but Adrian’s incredible strides never wavered. It was as if his eyes had night-vision technology built into them.
His speed had startled me when I was only an observer of it. Now that I was locked in his arms, hurtling through the night like I’d been strapped to the front of a bullet train, it filled me with terrified awe. His heart pounded next to my cheek, but he couldn’t be human. No mere mortal could move this way.
Hell, some hybrid cars couldn’t go this fast.
“Where is it, Ivy?” he yelled, the wind snatching away his words almost before I could hear them.
I wasn’t sure anymore. All the darkness had disoriented me, and it’s not like there was a neon sign that said “Hallowed Ground This Way.” I didn’t say that, though. What I saw when I glanced over his shoulder froze the words in my throat.
That roiling mass of evil was right behind us. I shouldn’t have been able to see it against the midnight-soaked desert, but I could. The shadows forming it were filled with such seething malevolence that their darkness gleamed. Then something like a huge mouth gaped open, teeth long and razor sharp.
“Adrian!” I screamed, tightening my arms around him.
He didn’t look back, though his grip on me turned bruising. “Tell me where to go, Ivy!”
I forced myself to look away from the appalling sight, but I couldn’t look ahead. Sand-filled wind stung my eyes from how fast Adrian ran. I couldn’t see, but maybe I didn’t have to.
I closed my eyes like I had back in the car. Concentrated on my need to be as far away from the formless death monster as I could. My concentration broke when something sharp lashed my legs before digging in as though trying to claw its way up my body. I screamed again, and Adrian snarled, somehow increasing his incredible speed. With a final slice, the claws left my body, but something hot and wet ran down my legs.
I choked back my next scream, my heart pounding as fast as the booming beneath my cheek. Then I concentrated again, pain and panic finding the switch in my mind that I hadn’t realized was there.
“That way,” I said, pointing without opening my eyes.
Adrian changed direction, the hard pumping of his legs shooting pain into me from the endless impacts, but I didn’t care. Another roar sounded behind us, growing closer, until I could almost feel its icy breath on my cheek. My legs throbbed, anticipating more claws slicing through my skin, and though I knew I shouldn’t, I opened my eyes.