I stared at him. He’d flown here? Carrying me? No wonder he looked as if he was about to fall over. “Dez, I... a thank-you isn’t enough.”
“You waking up and being okay is enough.” He squeezed my hand. “There were a couple of minutes I didn’t think you would. And I...” He swallowed hard as he closed his eyes. When they reopened, they shone the color of the sky before dusk as he brought my hand to his mouth and placed a kiss against my palm. “I was really worried.”
An ache pierced my chest at the agony in his voice. “I’m okay, though. Right?”
“Yes, but...” He lowered my hand back to the bed. “Jas, you’ve been asleep for a day and a half.”
“What?” I breathed. That couldn’t be true. I felt as though I hadn’t slept in days. “Oh, my God, I’m going to find Herbert and strangle him.”
Dez coughed out a laugh. “You need to get behind me in line for that.” His grin faded into a wince. “I had to tell your father.”
I cringed. “Oh, no.”
“He almost came down here, I think, to kill me. Abbot got on the phone and calmed him down, told him that you were going to be okay.” He smiled again, the twist of his lips tired. “Abbot said you’d feel better very soon, but he’s offered his house to us as long as we need to stay.”
“That’s really nice of him,” I murmured. My brain was stuck elsewhere, slowly turning everything over.
Dez let out a heavy breath. “Can I...?” He shook his head, starting again. “I’m exhausted and I need to lie down, but I’m not leaving you. Can I lie here with you? That’s all I want—to just lie here with you for a little while.”
My heart did a little dance in my chest at his request. Unable to speak because the words building in my throat were best left unsaid for the time being, I nodded.
“Thank you.” Dez dropped his head, and his large shoulders relaxed. Up until that moment, I hadn’t realized how tense he was sitting beside me.
Wordlessly, he made me finish off the rest of the water before climbing into the bed and stretching out next to me. I lay there for a moment, staring at him, and I forced my body to move. It took everything I had, but I rolled onto my side and wiggled closer, placing my head on his shoulder.
Dez was still for a moment and then he wrapped his arm around my waist, fitting me close to his side. For some reason, even though we’d shared the same bed in New York, there was something more special about this, a heaviness that had my overworked heart pounding. And as I relaxed into Dez’s embrace, I closed my eyes and could think of only one thing.
Our seven days were up.
By the following evening, I was ready to be out of bed. I was giddy over feeling like myself again. Well, I didn’t feel a hundred percent, but I also didn’t want to sleep for another ten years, and after a quick shower, I called and checked in with my father and Danika, and made my way downstairs. The house in DC was much like mine. More the size of a hotel than a home, but the key difference was that there was no sign of children or women here.
The house was tomb silent.
I’d eaten in the room, devouring the food Dez had brought me for lunch, but that had been hours ago and I hadn’t seen him or anyone else since. I knew others were here, unless I’d been delusional when I was sick, which was possible.
Standing in the hallway downstairs, I was seconds away from seriously believing that Dez had left my butt in an abandoned house, when a door opened behind me. I spun around.
An older gentleman stepped through the door, closing it quietly behind him. Gray peppered his black hair and his light brown skin was heavily creased. His soulful brown eyes met mine, and as he passed me in the hall, a warm smile crossed his face.
He disappeared out the front door, never saying a word.
“Okay,” I murmured.
Turning around, I headed through a wide archway and into a large sitting room. I moseyed around restlessly until, tired anew, I sat on one of the massive, supple-leather couches. My mind immediately went to what was going to happen next. Our seven days were up and I hadn’t given Dez an answer.
Dropping my head, I rubbed the back of my neck. The unease in the pit of my stomach was like the pukwudgie’s poison, spreading until a fine sheen of sweat covered my palms. I wished I could slip into my true skin and take flight. Things always seemed to make more sense in the air, but Dez, wherever he was, would flip out. DC, much like New York City, would be overflowing with various demons. And although dusk was still hours away, it would be risky...
Since when had I started worrying about what Dez would think again?
The answer was obvious. From the very moment he’d swaggered back into my life.
My head hung on my neck like a wet noodle. The words formed in my thoughts before I could stop them. I was still so in love with him. During the three years he was gone, that love had turned to heartbreak, but it had never diminished.
Movement out of the corner of my eye caught my attention. Lifting my head, I sucked in a sharp breath of surprise.
Standing in the doorway was a tiny girl, barely coming in at five feet. She couldn’t have been more than thirteen. Then again, she might’ve been younger. She was so small, and I’d never seen anything like her before.
Hair that was so blond it was nearly white cascaded over narrow shoulders. Her lips were too full for her round face and her eyes were large and wide, like one of those exotic porcelain dolls I’d seen in shops before, but it was the color that was most shocking. They were such a light gray they were almost void of color. The vivid, unnatural beauty of the girl gave her away.
She had to be the half Warden, half demon that Abbot had adopted, the girl rumored to be able to steal the souls of humans and Wardens alike simply by breathing. She was an urban legend among Wardens, her existence not something I ever truly believed in; but Hell, I’d been wrong, because there she was, peeking around a door at me.
My heart rate picked up as I stood. For humans and Wardens, dying without a soul ended the same way. One became a wraith, doomed for eternity, existing between Heaven and Hell, plagued with endless thirst and hunger that ultimately manifested in a vengeful and violent spirit. The possibility of death without your soul was not something to take lightly, and I wanted out of this room. To be near something so deadly and dangerous raised the tiny hairs all over my body and caused my human skin to stretch tight.
She inched into the room slowly, as if she was waiting for permission. In the silence, she eyed me with unabashed curiosity. “Hi.”
Her voice was soft and unsure. I said nothing as my gaze fell to the open doorway. I could easily get past her. She didn’t look as if she could lift a chair, but with demons, looks could be deceiving.
“You’re Jasmine?” she asked, reaching up and clasping the edges of her pale hair with tiny fingers.
Moving around the couch, I put more space between us. Seemed unreal to be backing away from such a delicate-looking thing, but I liked my soul where it was?in my body. “I am.”
A wide smile broke out across her face in a stunning display, and for a moment I wondered if all the rumors were untrue, if maybe she was half angel instead of half demon. But no. “I’m—”
“I know who you are.”