He flipped a lock of hair out of his face. It wasn’t spiked today, and I kind of liked it like that. It made his face softer. Not that I liked his hair or his face or anything about him. “That’s no fun.”
Sam glanced at Roth, slipping his glasses back on. “You don’t know Stacey. The last time she plotted revenge, it included stealing a can of mace and a car.”
Roth’s eyes widened. “Wow. Hard-core.”
Stacey stretched in the chair, grinning from ear to ear. “What can I say? If I’m going to do bad, I’m going all out.”
This seemed to excite the demon, which was hardly surprising. I jumped in before he could say anything. “So...what’s everyone doing this weekend?”
Sam shrugged. “I was thinking about going to see a play at the old opera house. Since someone hasn’t scored me the interview of the century, I’m doing a piece on folk art instead. God help me.”
I rubbed my forehead wearily. “Sorry. I told you not to hold your breath. The Wardens are pretty camera shy, as you might recall.”
“Roth, did you know Layla was adopted by Wardens?” Stacey nudged me under the table. “Does that freak you out?”
I wanted to smack her.
“Freak me out?” Roth grinned. “No. I think it’s...epic.”
Slowly, I looked at him. “Do you?”
His grin turned into a damn near angelic smile. “Oh, yes. I admire the Wardens. Where would any of us be without them?”
I almost laughed. It sounded so ridiculous coming from a demon. But even though I managed to choke back the laughter, my smile appeared before I could do anything about it. His eyes met mine again, but this time the cafeteria faded away. I knew the world was continued on around us, and I could hear Stacey and Sam bickering again, but it felt like it was just the two of us. A strange fluttering started in my chest, spreading through my body.
He moved without me realizing, his warm breath dancing over my cheeks, my lips. The air hitched in my lungs. His lips parted, and I wondered what it would be like to run my fingers across them, to feel them.
“What are you thinking?” he murmured, his eyes fluttering down.
I snapped out of my haze, remembering who and what I was staring at. Thinking about him in a way I should never be considering. I was supposed to be angry with him about yesterday and the countless other things he’d done in the short time I’d known him.
Feeling dizzy, I bit my lip and focused on what my friends were arguing over. Something to do with pineapples and cherries, but a few seconds later, I sneaked another glance at Roth. His smile was smug, even a bit daring.
And I had a feeling I was in trouble.
* * *
After finishing my makeup bio exam, I dumped my books in my locker. Abbot probably didn’t want me tagging tonight, but that was what I had planned. Risking his wrath was far better than locking myself in my bedroom or being forced to be around Petr. As I shut the door, I felt an unnatural stirring of air around me. Glancing up, my heart stuttered to a halt.
Roth slouched against the locker beside mine, hands shoved into the pockets of his jeans. “What are you doing?”
“Jeez.” I stumbled backward. “You almost gave me a stroke.”
One side of his lips curved up. “Whoops.”
I shouldered my bag and edged past him, but he easily caught up with me. I pushed open the heavy metal doors, welcoming the cool evening air. “What do you want?”
“I thought you’d like to know that I cleaned up the mess yesterday.”
I figured as much, since Abbot and Zayne were supposed to check it out last night and hadn’t yanked me out of bed to yell at me about the corpse. “Good for you.”
“And you’re tagging, right? Even though I asked you nicely not to. I can’t let you do that alone.”
“I’ve already told you why. It’s not safe for you.”
I bit back the urge to scream. “And why is it not safe for me?”
He said nothing.
Beyond annoyed, I started forward. The streets were thick with commuters hurrying to the metro hubs. Maybe I could lose him in the crowd. A block later, Roth was still at my side. “You’re angry with me,” he said casually.
“I guess you can say that. I don’t really like you.”
He chuckled. “I like that you try to be honest.”
I glanced at him warily. “I’m not trying. I am being honest.”
Roth smiled broadly, flashing surprisingly sharp-looking teeth. “That’s a lie. A part of you likes me.”
I stepped off the curb, irritated. “I’m not the one lying right now.”
Unfazed, he reached out and caught my arm, pulling me back just as a taxi zoomed by so fast it whipped at my hair. The cabbie honked his horn, yelling something obscene at me. “Careful,” Roth murmured. “I doubt your insides are as pretty as the outside.”
I was instantly aware of how my chest felt pressed against him. Warmth inexplicably flooded me, like I was basking in the summer sun. Our eyes locked. As close as we were, I could see that his eyes weren’t pure gold, but there were flecks of deep amber in them. They churned crazily, drawing me in. That wild scent of his cloaked us.
My hand curled against his chest. When had my hand landed on his chest? I didn’t know, but my gaze had dropped to his mouth. Those lips...so close.
Roth’s one-sided smile tipped up higher.
Snapping out of it, I wiggled free. Roth’s chuckle raised my hackles. I managed to cross the street without getting hit. My body still tingled from the brief contact.
And that was wrong.
Luckily, I found something to distract me. Standing on the opposite corner was a Fiend.
He was loitering outside a hotel that was under construction, standing next to the red scaffolding that climbed the front of the building. The Fiend looked like any of the number of punk-rock kids that could be found on the streets of D.C.
“You know, you could have said thank-you for saving your life.” Roth was suddenly beside me.
I groaned, keeping an eye on the Fiend. “You didn’t save my life.”
“You almost got plowed by a cab. And if you want to get plowed, I will gladly volunteer my services. I promise you I’ll be a lot—”
“Don’t even finish that sentence.”
“It was just an offer.”
“Whatever.” I watched the Fiend eyeing a construction worker who was starting to climb down the scaffolding. “If I say thank-you, will you go away?”
“Thank you,” I said eagerly.
“What?” I looked up at him, frowning. “That’s messed up.”
Roth leaned down so that our faces were inches apart. God, he smelled wonderful. I closed my eyes briefly and I swore I could feel him smile.
“I’m a demon. I tend to lie from time to time.”
I felt my lips twitch into a smile. I quickly turned away to hide it. “I’ve got things to do, Roth. Go bother someone else.”
“You going to tag that Fiend over there?” he asked. We’d stopped outside a game shop a few stores down from the construction site.
I said nothing.
Roth leaned against the redbrick building. “Before you tag the kid and sentence it to death, why don’t you see what he’s actually going to do.”