The Brightest Embers, Page 1Jeaniene Frost
You can run from your destiny, but you can’t hide...
Ivy thought that she and Adrian had conquered their fates. Yet with thousands of innocents still trapped in the demon realms, she’s determined to locate the final hallowed weapon and harness its unparalleled power to free them. But the last relic nearly put Ivy in the grave—there’s probably no coming back from this one.
Adrian’s dark lineage has made him the most powerful of his kind, yet even his incredible abilities might not be enough now. Instead, the treacherous fate he has fought so hard to escape might be the only way he can save Ivy. Their undeniable bond has been tested before, but never with so much on the line. Now fate will come head-to-head against true love, and nothing they’ve endured can prepare Ivy and Adrian for the unthinkable choices they’ll face...
Don’t miss the earth-shattering conclusion to New York Times bestselling author Jeaniene Frost’s Broken Destiny series!
Praise for New York Times bestselling author Jeaniene Frost
“Jeaniene Frost is blessed with a creative soul.”
—Sherrilyn Kenyon, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“Jeaniene Frost brings her signature wit, sizzle and extraordinary imagination to this epic new series. I was addicted from page one.”
—Jennifer L. Armentrout, #1 New York Times bestselling author, on The Beautiful Ashes
“[A] pure stunner... Frost skillfully balances passion and peril in an attention-grabbing story that’s exciting from the first page.”
—Publishers Weekly on The Beautiful Ashes (starred review)
“Books don’t get much more fun or action-packed than this.”
—RT Book Reviews on The Beautiful Ashes
“If you prefer nail-biting, otherworldly suspense, and adventure with your love story, this one’s for you.”
—BookPage on The Beautiful Ashes
“I always open a Frost book with happy anticipation, and I’ve never been disappointed.”
—Charlaine Harris, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“Captivating romance and adventure all wrapped into one thrilling ride that will bind you until it drops you at the very last page.”
—The Book Whisperer on The Beautiful Ashes
Don’t miss a single book
in the Broken Destiny series
from Jeaniene Frost and HQN Books
The Beautiful Ashes
The Sweetest Burn
The Brightest Embers
To everyone who has faced long odds,
and kept fighting anyway.
I WALKED INTO the museum with a half demon holding my hand and a gargoyle waiting for me back at our car. As a history major, I’d often dreamed about going museum hopping throughout Europe, but not once had I pictured doing it like this.
“We’re here for the four p.m. tour,” Adrian, my new husband and the aforementioned half demon, told the museum attendant.
“The four p.m. tour group is over there,” she said, pointing toward a small cluster of people about a dozen feet away.
As we walked off, Adrian traced the braided rope tattoo on my right hand. My sleeve hid the rest of it, just like my high-necked blouse and long pants hid the remains of the other hallowed weapon that had supernaturally merged with my flesh. If the hallowed weapon we were looking for was here, I’d no doubt end up with a third supernatural tattoo.
Of course, that tattoo might one day end up decorating my cold dead corpse.
“Feel anything, Ivy?” Adrian asked in a low voice.
I directed my senses outward and felt the distinct vibes that meant this was hallowed ground, as well as extra brushes of power from the various religious relics in this museum. But I didn’t feel anything potent enough to punch a hole through every demon realm in existence, and that was the specific ancient relic we were after.
“No,” I said, frustration coloring my tone.
I hadn’t felt the power we were seeking when we were at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome last week, or the Hofburg Palace in Vienna earlier this week. Now we were at the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin complex in Vagharshapat, Armenia. This was the third place in the world claiming possession of the spearhead of Longinus, aka the Holy Lance, aka the final hallowed weapon that I was supposedly fated to wield. The third time was, unfortunately, not the charm according to my lineage-derived radar. I could sense hallowed objects, and the famed spearhead wasn’t here, unless wards were messing with my ability to feel it.
I wasn’t optimistic about our chances. “I suppose if the real spearhead was at one of the places it was supposed to be at, demons would’ve stolen it centuries ago,” I said.
Someone close enough to overhear that gave me a startled look. I just waved at her. I wasn’t worried about shocking her with the truth about demons, demons’ minions, Archons—better known as angels—or any of the other supernatural creatures I now knew were real. I could spend the next twenty minutes telling everyone here that all these things existed, and no one would believe me even if a bunch of demons were breathing down their necks while I spoke. I knew that from experience.
Adrian drew me closer, brushing back my dark brown hair. “We had to check out this museum to be sure the spearhead wasn’t hiding in plain sight. Besides,” he murmured, leaning down until his mouth nearly touched mine, “this might not be a successful relic hunt, but it’s turning into a great honeymoon.”
My cheeks weren’t the only parts of me to grow warm at his statement, yet instead of leaning into his lips, I pushed him back. The look in his eyes said he was about to kiss me in a way more suited to our bedroom than a museum located on the headquarters of the Armenian Apostolic Church
Still, Adrian was right. We might have struck out at finding the third hallowed weapon, but other than that, this had been the best month of my life. I’d used the second hallowed weapon to close the gateways between the demon realms and our world, effectively locking the demons out. That made it a thousand times safer for me, Adrian, my sister, our friend Costa and every other person in the world. Only demons’ minions were left on this side of the realms, and with their demon masters locked up, the minions seemed to be running scared instead of terrorizing anyone.
“Kiss me later. Let’s do the tour now,” I told Adrian. “I might not feel anything, but the last weapon’s power was blocked by wards. Maybe the spearhead is here, and I just can’t feel it yet.”
“Maybe,” Adrian said, his light tone belying the sudden darkening of his sapphire-colored gaze.
Then he straightened, and just like that, the teasing, passionate man I loved was replaced by a hardened fighter who’d been raised by demons to be the world’s most effective killer. I took in a deep breath, reminding myself that the demons’ efforts had backfired. Now Adrian used all of his amazing abilities to fight against them instead of for them.
Besides, he was only gearing up in case the spearhead was here. If so, its incredible power would compel me into attempting to use it on the spot, and I wasn’t ready to do that. Not yet. That was why Adrian would fight to the last ounce of his demonically fueled, destiny-enhanced strength to stop me.
Because if I did use the spearhead now, it would kill me.
* * *
AS IT TURNED OUT, neither one of us had anything to worry about. One glance at the relic should’ve been enough to prove that it wasn’t the real deal. Touching the glass around it to make sure it hadn’t been protected by wards had almost been redundant. A first-century Roman spearhead wasn’t a short, flat, ornamental object that looked better suited to be a necklace than an ancient tool of war. It was a nasty, two-foot iron shank crowned with a sharp, pyramid-shaped point designed to impale someone even through protective armor.
No, this was another replica, and now we had no idea where to look for the real spearhead. Adrian wasn’t nearly as upset about that as I was, and he wasn’t even trying to pretend otherwise.
“You could at least fake some disappointment,” I said as we left the museum and walked toward our rental van.
He gave me a sideways glance. “Then I’d be lying, and I thought we agreed there would be no more lies between us.”
We had, but he didn’t need to rub in how he’d much rather that I never found, let alone wielded, the spearhead. I could understand his reasons, but if I gave this up, then the demons would win and thousands of innocent people would die.
“And I thought you agreed to support me,” I said, the weight of all those lives making my tone sharper.
Adrian stopped and turned to face me. The sun was starting to set, casting artificial shades of red across his golden hair. His towering height, impressive physique and gorgeous features had turned countless heads as we walked, but he didn’t seem to notice anyone else. Adrian stared at me as if I was the only person on this massive complex.
“I do support you.” The smoothness in his tone didn’t fool me. Unbreakable ties could also be made of finest silk. “My every action is driven by my undying love for you, in fact. What more do you want?”
Put that way, what more could I want? Yet something still felt...off, as if what Adrian wasn’t saying was more important than his words.
Underneath my joy this past month, I’d also had a nagging feeling that I was missing something important. Of course, it could be that I just didn’t know how to truly be happy. I’d never had a real relationship before. Plus, until six months ago, I and everyone else who knew me had believed I was crazy.
“I know you’re not chomping at the bit to find the spearhead because using it is dangerous for me,” I said, exploring that nagging feeling. “But I’ve survived lots of risks before, remember? I’ll come out on top this time, too.”
Adrian opened his mouth as if to argue, then closed it. “I know you will,” he said, still in that smooth, easygoing tone. “You’re just not ready to wield it yet. That’s why I’m glad none of these relics have been real. Later, when you’ve had more time to train, you’ll be prepared to handle it.”
“Yeah, well, later better end up being sooner,” I muttered. All the people still trapped in the demon realms couldn’t wait years for me to bulk up on my supernatural fortitude.
“Don’t worry,” Adrian said, intensity deepening his voice this time. “I’ll keep you safe. I promise.”
I gave him a lopsided smile. Yes, between Adrian and our good friend Costa training me, my stamina, strength and skills had grown by leaps and bounds. Eventually, with more training, I was counting on it being enough to keep me alive when I attempted to wield the final hallowed weapon—assuming we ever found it.
I shook off that nagging feeling. It had to be me projecting my own paranoia onto Adrian. After all, aside from our fight when I’d decided to go after the spearhead, Adrian hadn’t argued with me about it. He’d arranged these trips, helped me train and been nothing but supportive. So, even though I felt like I’d grown an inner “trouble brewing” sensor in addition to my hallowed one, it had to be in my head.
“Fine,” I said, my tone brightening. “Since the spearhead is a bust, do you know any good restaurants around here?”
I stopped speaking when Adrian flung me forward. He’d shoved me so hard that I would have hit the pavement facefirst if not for all the training I’d undergone. Instead, I rolled, muscle memory taking over. Several loud pops sounded in quick succession above me, as rapid as fireworks, yet when they were followed by screams, I knew what they really were. Gunfire.
“Ivy, run!” Adrian shouted.
I darted toward the nearest car for coverage. I didn’t have to worry about Adrian—bullets weren’t lethal to him. He hadn’t joined me behind the car, but he’d run in the direction of the shots. That would be suicidal for anyone else, but his half-demon bloodline meant that only another demon could kill Adrian.
“I’m good!” I shouted so Adrian wouldn’t worry about me.
The car window above me shattered from another round of gunfire. Worse, the angle from that shot had been completely different. That meant we were being attacked by two shooters.
I hit the ground and began to crawl toward another car, shredding my knees on the concrete, but not caring about the pain. Another shot hit the ground only an inch away, and I lurched forward to avoid the next one.
“Larastra!” I shouted to Brutus, using the Demonish command Adrian had taught me. I hoped the gargoyle could hear me. Our rental van was on the other side of the parking lot.
A familiar roar responded to my shouted command, followed by a much louder crashing sound. I fervently hoped it was my pet who’d caused that noise instead of a third attacker joining the mix, but I didn’t dare pick my head up to look. I stayed as low as I could, hunkered behind a truck that should be wide enough to protect me.
New screams jerked my head around. A blonde girl knelt next to a nearby car. She was shaking all over, yet her gaze appeared almost blank when she looked at me. She also wasn’t crouched low enough to be safe.
“Get down,” I hissed.
Her eyes widened, but she didn’t move. Maybe she couldn’t. I’d seen shock freeze people before, but she needed to get down or—
“Dammit!” I shouted when blood bloomed on her shoulder after another burst of gunfire. She shook harder yet still didn’t drop down low enough to avoid another hit. I glanced in the direction where the shots were coming from. I was no expert, but from the angle, the shooter was probably on a roof. That would give him a great view of the parking lot and me, if I came out from behind the truck to help her.
I’d get shot if I
did that. That was probably the gunman’s plan: wing the blonde in order to lure me out. Well, I had news for him. I was staying right here.
“Help me,” the blonde girl whispered.
She had blue eyes like my sister. She looked to be about Jasmine’s age, too. And she was caught up in a war she didn’t even know existed.
Stay where you are! a dark sense of self-preservation urged me. If this girl can’t duck, that’s her problem, not yours!
Don’t you dare! my conscience snapped back. She doesn’t deserve this. These shooters are here for you, not her!
This might be reckless, but I couldn’t leave her out in the open. If the gunman had winged her once to get my attention, he’d do it again, and she might not survive the next one. I rose from my crouch to get better traction, then stared at her.
Here I come, I mouthed.
I LUNGED FORWARD with all the speed of my supernatural lineage. It still wasn’t enough. Pain erupted in my calf and I heard another loud crack, but I was still able to tackle the girl and get her all the way behind the car. Then I placed her hand over her gunshot wound.
“Stay down and keep pressure on this.”
She still looked like she was numb from shock, but her hand stayed where I’d put it, and she didn’t try to get up. I gave her a firm nod for encouragement.
“Don’t move. Help is on the way.”
Another explosion of glass followed my promise, then another one, and another. The shooter was trying to blast his way through the car to get to us. We were sheltered now, but the car could only take so much before one of those rounds made it through.
I looked at my calf. Blood flowed freely from a nasty hole that hurt as bad as it looked. When I tried to put weight on it, I had to bite back a cry. I could walk on it, maybe even run, but not fast enough to avoid getting shot again.
I was weighing my options when a massive winged beast landed on the car behind us. The hood crumpled like a tin can under his weight, and I had only a second to hear the car alarm go off before the gargoyle’s roar deafened me to everything else.