A teacher stood outside his class, waving his hand in front of his face. My eyes burned as I turned away from him, trailing behind Stacey. In the stairwell, the smell was stronger.
Stacey glanced at me on the landing. “See you at lunch?”
“Yeah,” I replied, stepping out of the way of several taller and bigger seniors. I looked like a freshman standing in their way.
She tugged on the hem of her skirt again with her free hand. “Hopefully the smell is gone by then. If not, I’m starting a protest.”
Before I could respond, she was bounding up the stairs. I headed down the steps to the first floor, trying not to gag.
“What the Hell is that smell?” asked a petite girl with a lilac-colored soul. Her hair was blond and pixie short.
“I don’t know,” I murmured absently. “Our lunch?”
The girl laughed. “Wouldn’t surprise me.” Then she frowned, squinting at me. “Hey. Aren’t you the girl who lives with the Wardens?”
I sighed, wishing the mass of bodies on the steps in front of me would move faster. “Yes.”
Her brown eyes widened. “Eva Hasher said you and the old black dude who’s always picking you up from school are their human servants.”
My mouth dropped open. “What?”
She nodded vigorously. “That’s what Eva told me in history class.”
“I’m not a servant and neither is Morris,” I exclaimed. “I’m adopted. And Morris is part of the family. Big difference.”
“Whatever,” she said, pushing around me.
A servant? As if. A darker pink soul with stripes of red crept into my vision—Gareth Richmond. The boy who maybe stared at my butt.
“This place reeks.” He held his notebook over his mouth. “You know the gym is going to smell even worse. Think they’ll cancel class, Layla?”
Huh, he did know my name.
He lowered his notebook, revealing a megawatt smile. The kind I imagined he used on many girls. “They can’t expect us to run laps breathing this crap. You’re a pretty good runner, by the way. Why didn’t you ever go out for track or something?”
“You...watch me run in class?” I wanted to smack myself after saying that. It sounded like I’d accused him of being a creeper. “I mean, I didn’t know you paid attention. Not that you’d pay attention. I just didn’t know you knew I could run.”
He glanced down the stairs, laughing.
I needed to shut up.
“Yeah, I’ve seen you run.” Gareth caught the door before it smacked into us, holding it open. “I’ve seen you walk, too.”
I couldn’t tell if he was teasing or flirting. Or if he just thought I was an idiot. Honestly, I didn’t care because all I could think of was Stacey suggesting I hook up with Gareth to start a war with Eva. Talk about awkward thoughts.
“So what are you doing after school?” he asked, falling into step beside me.
Tagging demons. “Um...I’ve got some errands I have to take care of.”
“Oh.” He tapped his notebook off his thigh. “I’ve got football practice after class. I’ve never seen you at any of the games.”
I looked at the empty trophy case by the double doors leading to the gym. “Football isn’t really my thing.”
“That’s a bust. I always throw a party at my parents’ house after the games. You’d know that if—”
Someone tall, wearing all black, materialized between us. “She’d know that if she cared, but I doubt she does.”
I stepped back quickly, startled by Roth’s sudden reappearance.
Gareth had the same response. He was a tall boy, big and brawny, but Roth exuded a kick-ass air. The human boy clamped his mouth shut. Without another word, he inched around us and hurried into the gym, the doors swinging shut behind him. I stood there, dumbfounded as the first warning bell rang. It sounded far away.
“Was it something I said?” Roth mused. “I was just pointing out the obvious.”
Slowly, I lifted my head and looked at him.
“What?” He grinned impishly. “Come on. You don’t look like the type of girl who watches football, hangs out with the cool crowd and ends up deflowered by the senior jock in the back of his daddy’s Beamer.”
“Yeah, you know. Losing that pesky thing called virginity.”
Fire swept over my skin. I pivoted around, heading toward the gym doors. Wasn’t like I didn’t know what deflowered meant. I just couldn’t believe he’d actually used that word in the twenty-first century.
Or that I was even having a conversation about virginity with him.
Roth caught my arm. “Hey. That’s a compliment. Trust me. He’s on the fast track to Hell anyway. Just like his daddy.”
“Good to know,” I managed to respond coolly, “but would you please let go of my arm? I have to get to class.”
“I’ve got a better idea.” Roth leaned in. Dark locks of hair fell into those golden eyes. “You and I are going to have some fun.”
My teeth hurt from how hard I was grinding them. “Not in this lifetime, buddy.”
He looked offended. “What do you think I’m suggesting? I wasn’t planning on getting you drunk and having my way with you in the back of a Beamer like Gareth is. Then again, I guess it could be worse. He could be planning it in the back of a Kia.”
I blinked. “What?”
Roth shrugged, dropping my arm. “Some girl named Eva has him convinced that you put out after one beer.”
“What?” My voice was as shrill as the ringing tardy bell.
“I personally don’t believe it,” he went on blithely, “and I have a Porsche. Not as much leg room as a Beamer, but so much hotter, I’m told.”
Porsches were hot, but that wasn’t the point. “That bitch told him I put out after one beer?”
“Meow.” Roth clawed the air, which looked as ridiculous as it sounded. “Anyway, this is not the fun I had in mind.”
I was still stuck on the whole “putting out” thing. “She told another girl I was a freaking servant. I guess I’m a servant who puts out. Oh! And I guess I’m a lightweight, too. I’m gonna kill—”
Roth snapped his fingers in my face. “Focus. Forget about Eva and one-minute boy. We have something we need to do.”
“Don’t snap your fingers at me,” I snarled. “I’m not a dog.”
“No.” He smiled a little. “You’re a half demon who lives with a bunch of stone freaks that kill demons.”
“You’re the freak, and I’m late for class.” I started to turn from him, but remembered last night. “Oh. And keep your stupid snake on a leash.”
“Bambi comes and goes as she pleases. I can’t help it if she likes hanging out in your tree house.”
My hands curled into fists. “Don’t come near my house again. The Wardens will kill you.”
Roth tipped his head back, laughing deeply. It was a nice laugh, dark and throaty—which made it all the more infuriating. “Oh, there’d be killing, but I wouldn’t be the one doing the dying.”