My eyes narrowed. “Why would I let him do something that I know is going to get someone hurt?”
“How do you know someone is going to get hurt?” Roth cocked his head to the side, sending waves of raven-black hair across his smooth forehead. “You’ve never actually waited to see what one is going to do, have you?”
I started to lie, but I turned away, focusing on the Fiend. The demon with spiky green hair scrubbed a hand along his jaw as he watched a construction worker hop down and head over to another section blocked off by orange mesh rope. The man picked up some sort of saw, waving it around as he laughed at something his buddy said.
“Just wait and see what happens before you judge him.” Roth shrugged. “It won’t hurt.”
I sent him a sidelong glare. “I’m not judging him.”
Roth tipped his head to the side. “Do you want me to pretend I have no idea what dastardly things you do after school?”
“Dastardly?” I rolled my eyes. “I’m just tagging—”
“Which lights them up for the Wardens to take out later,” he finished. “So I have no idea how you can think that’s not playing judge and jury.”
“This is stupid. You want me to let him do something evil? I don’t think so.”
He seemed to consider that. “You know what I think your problem is?”
“No, but I bet you’re going to enlighten me.”
“Why, yes, I am. You don’t want to see what the Fiend does because you’re afraid that it isn’t going to be something nefarious, and then you’ll have to deal with the fact that your Wardens are murderers and not saviors.”
My mouth dropped open, but my stomach also lurched at his words. If what he said was true, it would turn my world upside down. But it couldn’t be true. Demons were evil.
“Fine,” I snapped. “I’ll wait.”
Roth flashed a cheeky grin. “Good.”
Muttering under my breath, I focused on the Fiend again. I was going to have some ’splainin’ to do when it took out an entire sidewalk of commuters. Considering any other option was impossible. My whole life was built around one simple belief: demons deserved to be punished without question.
The Fiend pushed off the marbleized stone and reached out, casually brushing his fingers along the bottom part of the scaffolding, then kept on walking. A second later, a loud groan pierced the noise from the traffic and the scaffolding began to shudder. The workers’ heads whipped around. The man dropped his saw and yelled out. Several other workers rushed out from the side of the building, gripping their yellow helmets as the whole scaffolding came down, collapsing like an accordion behind the orange rope.
As the plume of dust settled and curses exploded like gunshots, pedestrians stopped on the sidewalks, some taking pictures with their phones of the mess. And, God, it was a mess. Who knew how long it took to put the scaffolding up, and tools had been attached to it, but they were most likely destroyed when the scaffolding collapsed.
I just stared.
“Hmm,” Roth drawled slowly. “That was definitely a setback in the project and some wasted money, but pure, scary-bad evil? Nah, I don’t think so.”
“It... He probably meant for it to fall onto the sidewalk.”
“Keep telling yourself that.”
No one had been hurt. Almost like the Fiend had waited for the last man to come down from the scaffolding before he’d touched it. I couldn’t process what I’d seen.
Roth draped his arm over my shoulders. “Come on. Let’s find another.”
I shrugged his arm off as we started down the sidewalk. Roth was humming that damn song again.
“What is that?”
He stopped. “What is what?”
“The song you keep humming.”
“Oh.” He grinned. “‘Paradise City.’”
It took me a few seconds to put it together. “Guns N’ Roses?”
“Good stuff,” he replied.
We found another Fiend messing with the poles connected to the streetlights. All four sides of the intersection went green at once. Epic fender benders ensued, but again, no one was hurt. The Fiend could’ve messed with the pedestrian signal, which would have been really bad, but she hadn’t.
The whole thing was more mischievous than sinister.
“Want to go for third time’s the charm?”
“No,” I whispered, unnerved and confused. It was just two demons. It couldn’t mean anything.
Roth arched a dark brow. “You want to tag? No? I didn’t think so. How about we do something else?”
Stopping at a crosswalk, I shot him a look. “Is that why you ordered me to stop tagging? Because you think the Fiends are harmless?”
“I know the Fiends are harmless. Not all demons are. Some of us are really bad, but the ones you’re sentencing to death? Nope.” He paused as my stomach sank. “But no. My request really doesn’t have anything to do with that.”
He didn’t answer until we crossed the street, stepping up on the curb. “Are you hungry?”
My stomach grumbled in response. I was always hungry. “Roth...”
“I’ll sweeten the deal for you. You eat with me and I’ll tell you about the other one who was like you. You’d love to know, wouldn’t you?” He flashed a winning smile. “Hang out with me and I’ll tell you what I know—at the end of our little adventure. Not before.”
I stepped around a cluster of tourists. My curiosity was burning a hole through me, and it was easier to focus on that instead of the possibility of damning relatively harmless Fiends to death. But a deal with a demon was literally making a deal with the devil. “What’s the catch?”
Roth looked terribly innocent. “You let me hang out with you. I promise. That’s all.”
“You’ve already lied to me.” I folded my arms. “How do I know you aren’t lying now?”
“I guess that’s a risk you have to take.”
An elderly couple passed by, smiling at us. Roth gave them one of his most charming smiles while I debated what to do. I doubted Abbot expected any tags tonight since I wasn’t even sure I was still allowed to be doing it. Drawing in a shallow breath, I nodded stiffly. “Okay.”
His smile slipped into a grin. “Great. I know just the place.”
“That worries me,” I replied blandly.
“You excite me.”
I flushed, busying myself with adjusting the strap on my book bag. Then he reached down, prying my fingers off the strap. I felt my heart skip a beat and my face blaze hotter.
“Are you always like this?” Roth asked, turning my hand over in his.
“Easily flustered, forever blushing and looking away.” He ran the tips of his fingers over my palm. The caress sent a jolt through me, following the pathway of nerves all the way to the tips of my toes. “Like now. You’re blushing again.”
I slipped my hand free of his. “And you’re always annoying and creepy.”
He chuckled. Not a fake laugh. Roth was genuinely amused by my insults. Twisted. “There’s this little diner by the Verizon Center that has the best muffins in the world.”