My nails dug into the tabletop. “Yeah?”
“Why don’t you tell me about the necklace?”
Roth’s voice tugged me back to reality. Tearing my gaze away from the woman, I sucked in a deep breath. I looked down at my cookie, my stomach filling with lava. “What...what do you want to know?”
He smiled. “You wear it all the time, don’t you?”
I felt around until my fingers touched the smooth metal of the band. “Yeah, I’m not big on jewelry.” As if compelled, I turned back to the woman. She was at the counter, ordering food. “But I wear this all the time.”
“Layla, look at me. You don’t want to go down that road.”
With effort, I focused on him. “I’m sorry. It’s just so hard.”
His brows furrowed. “You don’t need to apologize for something that is natural to you, but taking a human’s soul... You can’t go back from that.”
So many emotions shot through me. First was surprise. Why wouldn’t Roth, being what he was, want me to jump out of this chair and suck some soul? But then the bitter lash of sadness followed. “Why do you care?”
Roth said nothing.
I sighed. “It’s not natural—what I want from her, or from anybody, for that matter. I can’t even get close to a boy, Roth. This is my life.” I picked up a cookie, waving it in front of my face. “This is all I have. Sugar. I’m a walking ad for diabetes in the making.”
A deep frown pierced his striking face. “Your life is so much more than what you can’t do. What about all that you can do?”
I laughed, shaking my head. “You don’t even know me.”
“I know more than you realize.”
“Well, that’s creepy and you’re a demon preaching to me about life. There is something inherently wrong with that.”
“I wasn’t preaching.”
I glanced at the counter. She was gone. I sank down in my chair, the relief as sweet as the cookies. “Anyway, the necklace belonged to my mother. I’ve always had it. I don’t even know why. I mean, it’s stupid since she was a demon and didn’t even want me. And here I am, running around wearing her ring. Pathetic.”
“You’re not pathetic.”
I cracked a smile, not sure why I’d admitted that. It wasn’t even something I’d ever said to Zayne. I took another bite of the cookie and dropped it on the napkin.
Moving as fast as Bambi, Roth reached over the bistro table, caught my hand and brought my fingers to his mouth. Before I could even react, he licked off the tiny specks of sugar the cookie had left behind.
I gasped, but the air got stuck in my throat. Sharp tingles spread down my arm and across my chest, then lower, much lower. A heaviness settled just below my br**sts, different and intense, but not unpleasant. “That...that makes me uncomfortable.”
Roth peered up at me through thick lashes. “That’s because you like it.”
A huge part of me did, but I slipped my hand free, glancing around the small bakery. I felt unnaturally hot. “Don’t do that again.”
He grinned. “But you’re so tasty.”
I wiped my fingers clean on the napkin. “I think we’re done.”
He caught my hand again. “No. Don’t run off yet. We were just getting started.”
My eyes locked with his and I felt...I felt like I was falling. “Getting started with what?”
His fingers slid between mine. “Becoming friends.”
I blinked tightly. “We can’t be friends.”
“Why not?” Roth threaded his fingers through mine. “Is there a rule I’m unaware of?”
Suddenly, I wasn’t really sure anymore. He got up to take care of our tab while I tried to figure out what was going on between us. Could I be his friend? Did I even want to try? I probably should’ve made a run for it while he waited in line, but I didn’t.
A middle-aged waitress approached our table. Her soul was a faint pink—a complete contrast to the haggard look on her face and world-weary gleam in her eyes.
She picked up the napkins and empty plates as she glanced over her shoulder to where Roth stood. “That boy looks like he must be a handful.”
I flushed, at once very interested in the hem of my shirt. “You could say that.”
The waitress snorted and moved on to another table.
“Why are you so red in the face?”
“No reason.” I grabbed my bag, standing. “You promised to tell me about the one who could do what I can. I think now is the time.”
“It is, isn’t it?” He held the door open for me.
In the waning sunlight, all the buildings in the district looked old and unfriendly. We stopped near a small, neatly kept city park. I stared up at him, waiting.
“I know what you want to know, but I have a question to ask first.”
Fighting my impatience, I gave him a curt nod of assent.
He dipped his chin again, looking terribly innocent. “You’ve never been kissed before, have you?”
“That’s so not your business.” I folded my arms as Roth waited for an answer. “I think it’s obvious. I can’t kiss anyone. You know, the whole soul-sucking thing makes it difficult.”
“Not if you’re kissing someone who doesn’t have a soul.”
I made a face. “And why would I kiss someone who doesn’t—”
He moved unbelievably fast. I didn’t even have a chance to react. One second he was standing a good three feet away from me and the next his hands were gently clasping my cheeks. There was an instant when I wondered how something so strong and deadly could hold anything so carefully, but then he tilted my head back and lowered his own. My heart rate kicked into hyperdrive. He wasn’t going to kiss me. No way—
Roth kissed me.
The brush of his lips was tentative at first, an unhurried sweep of his mouth against mine. Every muscle in my body locked up, but I didn’t pull away like I should’ve, and Roth made a low sound deep in his throat that sent shivers down my spine. His lips caressed mine again, nibbling and clinging to them until they parted on a gasp. He deepened the kiss with a thrust of his tongue. My senses went into overload, firing in every direction. The kiss—it was everything I could’ve imagined a kiss to be and then some. Sublime. Explosive. My heart fluttered wildly, from a yearning so deep, darts of fear shot through my veins.
“See,” he murmured in a thick voice, and he let go, his fingers trailing over my cheeks. “Your life isn’t about all you can’t do. It’s about what you can do.”
“Your tongue is pierced,” I said dumbly.
A wicked gleam filled his gaze. “That’s not the only thing pierced.”
His words really didn’t sink in. Suddenly, I was so angry I thought my head was going to pull an Exorcist. He dared to kiss me. And I actually liked it? I didn’t know who to be more ticked off at—him, or my traitorous body, but wait—where else was he pierced? The last thought caused my brain to play happily in the gutter, and that ticked me off even more.
Roth cocked his head to the side. “Now you’ve been kissed. One thing off the bucket list.”