His heavy hand landed on my shoulder, forcing me around. Petr smiled. “You’re in so much trouble, you little half-demon bitch.”
Anger flooded me and I tried to shake off his hand. Dropping the ring, I prepared to break the no-fighting-a-Warden rule. “Are you threatening me?”
“No. Not at all.” He moved his hand to my throat, circling his fingers much tighter than Roth had. Ironic that a demon seemed to have gentler hands than a Warden. “You want to fight me, don’t you? Do it. It’ll make everything easier for us.”
My stomach tumbled over itself. Petr knew I’d get in trouble, and there was more than a hint of cruelty in his pale eyes. Worse yet, I knew that he saw nothing wrong with what he was doing. His actions would never taint his soul, because it was pure, no matter what he did. It was like a free pass to him. Petr pressed forward, his breath too warm against my cheek. “You’re going to wish Abbot had snuffed out your miserable little life when you were a baby.”
Screw the rules.
I brought my knee up, hitting him where it hurt. Petr let out a low growl and let go, cupping himself. Spinning around, I flew up the stairs without looking back. In the hallway, I came face-to-face with Petr’s father. I tried not to react, but the jagged scar that tore through his upper and lower lips was hard not to notice. Abbot had once told me a King demon had given Elijah that scar.
Elijah eyed me with a look of revulsion, but said nothing as I raced around him and into my bedroom, locking the door behind me. Not that it would stop any of them if they decided to come through that door.
Abbot sat behind the desk, his leg propped over his knee. “You didn’t eat very much at dinner. Are you still feeling unwell?”
I threw myself in the chair. I’d managed only a bite or two during the tense dinner. Petr eyeballed me the entire time. “I don’t want them here.”
Abbot rubbed his fingers across his bearded chin. His sandy hair was pulled back as usual. “Layla, I understand that you’re uncomfortable. Elijah has assured me that you will have no problems with Petr.”
“Really? That’s funny, because Petr cornered me earlier.”
His fingers stilled, the pale eyes sharpening. “Did he do anything?”
“It wasn’t like...the last time.” I shifted uncomfortably, feeling my face burn.
He let out a long, low breath. “Can you just stay away from him for the next week or so?”
I was floored. “I am staying away from him. He won’t stay away from me! If he comes near me again, I swear to God I’ll take his—”
Abbot slammed his hand down on the desk, causing me to jump in the chair. “You will do no such thing, Layla!”
My heart lurched. “I wasn’t being serious. I’m...I’m sorry.”
“That is nothing to joke about.” He shook his head, speaking as if I was an ill-behaved child. “I’m very disappointed that you’d even consider saying something like that. If any of our visitors overheard you—including Petr’s father—the damage would be irreversible.”
A messy, icky lump formed in my chest. I hated disappointing Abbot. I owed him so much—a home, safety, a life. I cast my eyes down, twisting the ring between my fingers. “I’m sorry—really I am.”
Abbot sighed, and I heard him lean back in his seat. I peeked up, not wanting to add to his long list of worries. He ran his fingers over his brow, eyes closed. “What did you want to talk to me about, Layla?”
Suddenly the whole thing with the zombie didn’t seem very important. Neither did Roth’s presence. I just wanted to go hide in my bedroom.
“Layla?” he questioned, pulling a fat cigar out of a wooden box on his desk. He never smoked them, but liked to fiddle with them anyway.
“It’s nothing,” I said finally. “Just something that happened today at school.”
His pale brows rose an inch. “You wanted to talk to me about school? I know Zayne has been occupied with Danika’s arrival and training, but I have a lot going on right now. Perhaps Jasmine would be interested in chatting with you?”
My face felt like I could fry eggs on it. “I don’t want to talk about boys or my grades.”
He rolled the cigar between his fingers. “How are your grades? I assume your teacher is allowing you to make up your test tomorrow?”
I dropped the ring, clutching the arms of my chair in frustration. “My grades are fine. And I have the make—”
“What are you two doing in here?”
I twisted around. Zayne stood in the doorway, his hair falling around his face like sheets of sand. “I’m trying to tell Abbot what happened today at school.”
His lazy look turned to surprise. He glanced at his father as a slow grin twisted his lips. “How’s that going?”
Abbot sighed heavily, placing the cigar back in the box. “Layla, I have to leave shortly to meet with the police commissioner and the mayor.”
“There was a zombie at my school today,” I blurted out.
“Huh?” Zayne stopped behind my chair, flicking the back of my ear. I swatted his hand away. “What are you talking about?” he asked.
I met Abbot’s suddenly alert gaze. “He was in the boiler room and—”
“How did you know he was there?” Abbot demanded, uncrossing his legs as he leaned forward.
I couldn’t tell them about Roth. No way was I opening that door. “I...I smelled him.”
Zayne dropped in the seat beside me. “Did anyone see him?”
I cringed. “Trust me, if they did, it would have been on the evening news. He was that bad off.”
“Is he still there?” Abbot stood, rolling down the sleeves of his shirt.
“Uh...yes, but I don’t think he’s going to be a problem. He’s nothing but a pile of clothes and goo.”
“Wait a minute,” Zayne said, frowning as he watched me. “You smelled a zombie, and knowing how dangerous they can be, you decided to go down to a boiler room and check it out?”
I looked at him. Where was he going with this? “Well, yeah, I did.”
“And you engaged the zombie? Killing it?”
He shot his father a meaningful look. “Father.”
“What?” My eyes bounced between the two.
Abbot walked around the desk, letting out another long sigh. “What are the rules, Layla?”
Unease cramped my stomach muscles. “I don’t mess with the dangerous stuff, but—”
“Zayne told me you followed a Poser into the alley the other night,” Abbot interrupted, in total father mode. Disappointed-father mode. “And it turned out to be a Seeker.”
“I...” I closed my mouth, glancing at Zayne. He avoided my eyes, watching his father. “It’s not a big deal.”
“Following a Poser or any demon into an alley is a big deal, Layla.” Abbot folded his arms, pinning me with a displeased stare. “You know better. No one can see your tags besides us. There is no reason you should be following one into an isolated area. And instead of seeking out the zombie today, you should have called Morris and he would have woken us up.”
Jeez. I sank down in my seat. “But—”