I almost choked on my slice, flushing. “It tastes good!”
He laughed. “I can tell.”
Grinning, I watched him under my lashes. For someone so large, he had such delicate eating habits. He cut each slice into bite-size pieces while I shoved half the thing in my mouth and probably ended up with sauce all over my chin. Of course, I finished before him since I inhaled the pizza. As he savored each bite, I took the time to people watch.
Around humans I tended to feel as if I lacked worldly knowledge, especially in a place like this where there were so many people, all of them so very different looking. I hadn’t even had a human friend; the closest I came was the lady who worked at the ice-cream parlor. I wanted one, probably much like humans wanted a puppy, but my father was wary of growing too close to them.
After we’d left to investigate Times Square and Broadway, I was reminded of why my father was so cautious. On the storefront of a cute Italian eatery was a sign that boldly read WARDENS ARE NOT WELCOME. Underneath that was scrawled WE SERVE ONLY GOD’S CHILDREN.
I sucked in a shrill breath, unsettled. These were the kind of people that thought we were the Devil incarnate; the kind who believed we were monsters, no matter how much good we did. As sheltered as the other females and I were, we’d only heard of such bigotry but never actually seen it in real life.
“Hey,” Dez said, reaching down between us and clasping my hand in his. “You okay?”
I hadn’t realized I’d stopped until then. “I just don’t understand.”
His gaze followed mine. “Honestly? In a city like this, I’m kind of surprised, but it’s just one place out of thousands. And there’s no point in even trying to figure it out. They’re the ones who don’t understand. They don’t know what’s really out there.” He tugged on my hand. “Come on, there’s a lot to see.”
I let him pull me away. “It’s just—”
I stopped again as a cold, sharp series of tingles exploded between my shoulder blades. I turned before Dez said anything, sensing a nearby demon. My gaze sought it out among the crowds of humans hurrying up and down the packed sidewalk.
The demon had walked out of the eatery—the very one that supposedly only served “God’s children.” A laugh bubbled up my throat but got stuck. He didn’t look much older than me, and to human eyes, he no doubt appeared rather harmless as he stopped beside a red-and-white fire hydrant. His dark hair was cropped close and his profile revealed angular features. A stud in his right nostril glinted in the sunlight.
“A Fiend,” Dez said, his hand tightening around mine.
Although Fiends were the most common class of demons topside, I’d never seen one. Curiosity rose swiftly as I watched the demon. “He’s so... bold.”
“Of course. He knows we can’t do anything among humans. If I made a move, it would look as if I attacked one of their own.”
And that wouldn’t be good.
The demon looked as though he was about to catch a cab, except he glanced over his shoulder and his dark eyes met mine. An odd light glinted off them. I sucked in a breath, muscles tensing in preparation for an all-out attack.
Dez raised his free hand, flipping the demon off.
An impish sort of grin crossed the demon’s face in response and he reached down, brushing his fingers along the top of the fire hydrant. With a wink, he turned his back on us and pushed off the sidewalk, darting between taxis and work vans.
“Oh, no,” Dez murmured, stepping back as he shoved me behind him.
My heart jumped. “What?”
Before Dez could respond, the top of the hydrant blew with a bang. Water erupted, streaming high in the air. Another loud pop cracked farther down the street, and then another and another. Water jetted into the air as far as I could see.
I squealed as cold liquid rained down on us, the sound lost in the surprised shouts of pedestrians. Within seconds, I was drenched, as was almost everyone nearby. Traffic ground to a halt as water poured into the streets. Metal crunched. A taxi smacked into the back of another, resulting in a chain reaction of epic proportion.
A cabbie jumped out, fist in the air. “What the hell? You hit my car!”
“You stopped!” the other cabbie screamed. “You stupid mother—”
His words were cut off by blaring horns. Absolute pandemonium broke out, and the whole time, the Fiend was across the street, loitering on the curb, unaffected by the downpour. He was laughing.
Soaking wet, Dez pulled on my arm. “Let’s go!”
We ran, dodging people as we were pelted by water. Several blocks down, we finally reached a somewhat dry area. Stopping, I looked over my shoulder. Times Square was flooded.
“Dear God,” I murmured. No one appeared to be injured. If anything, what the demon had done was merely create a huge inconvenience, and for some really messed-up reason, I was smiling as I turned back to Dez.
He placed his warm hands on my cheeks, smoothing the wet hair out of my face. “Are you okay?” he asked, his expression taut.
I laughed, and he cocked his head to the side. “I’m fine. I can’t help it,” I said, grasping his wrists. “That was funny.”
“Only you would find that mess funny.”
“Whatever.” I rose, using his arms to brace myself. Adrenaline was kicking through my veins. Maybe that was why I did what I did next. Or maybe it was because I’d been wanting him to kiss me again since the last time our lips touched. Closing my eyes, I pressed my lips against his. On contact, he sucked in a deep breath. His lips were wet and firm and absolutely wonderful. I settled back on my feet, sliding my hands to where his tangled in my hair.
We stood there as a crowd gathered behind us, taking in the spectacle of the river that had taken over Times Square. People passed us by, and either we were invisible to them or they were oblivious to us in that moment. And there was no past between us in that second or future, there was just now—right now.
Dez’s eyes glowed with want. “I think I really like that demon.”
I laughed, thinking that must be a first. We reached for each other at the same time, so I don’t know who was holding whose hand, but the smile remained plastered on my face right up until it was late and we called it a night.
All the excitement exhausted me, but a different kind of weariness sprung alive when we stepped into the hotel room and my gaze fell to the bed. My heart rate tripped. We were going to be sleeping in that bed. Together. Just him and me. Us. Why I needed to run through the different ways of saying we were sleeping together was beyond me, but it still didn’t seem real.
Sleeping together in a room that was not in a houseful of others of our kind made everything seem so different, much more adult and intimate. As though we’d been playing at being grown-ups but not anymore.
I gathered up my sleep clothes and changed quickly. Part of me wanted to linger in the bathroom, but if I did, there was a good chance I’d crawl into the big tub and go to sleep.
When I returned to the main room, Dez was already in bed. A flash of heat shot through me as I stopped at the foot of the bed, twisting my fingers together.
Dez’s gaze slid my way. He’d changed while I’d been in the bathroom, wearing a white cotton shirt and hopefully bottoms to sleep in. His thick lashes shielded his eyes.