I hit him.
Cocked back my arm and punched him in the stomach like I was a heavyweight boxer.
He grunted out a choked laugh. “Ouch. That kind of hurt.”
“Don’t ever do that again!”
Even after I hit him, he still looked pleased with himself. “You know what they say about first kisses.”
“You regret them?”
His smile faded. “No. I was going to go with ‘you never forget them.’”
Struggling not to hit him again—or laugh—I took a deep breath. “Tell me about the one who was like me, or I am walking away from here.”
“You’re so dramatic.” He shoved his hands into his pockets. “Are you sure you want to know about her?”
I was sure of three things: I was never going to forget that kiss, I needed to know about this demon and I was really getting sick of his know-it-all attitude. “Yes. I’m sure.”
“The one who could do what you could was a bit more...invested in her ability,” he said, leaning against the back of a bench.
I pursed my lips. No further explanation needed. The one like me enjoyed taking souls.
“She was also very good at what she did, so good that she was one of the most powerful demons to ever walk topside. There were other things she could do besides taking souls.”
A bundle of nerves formed in my stomach. “What else could she do?”
Roth shrugged, his gaze fixed over my head. “Things you probably don’t want to know about.”
My breath caught as unease spread through me like a choking weed. “Who was she, Roth?”
His eyes met mine, and part of me already suspected what the answer was going to be.
“The demon was your mother,” he said, his gaze never leaving mine.
“Okay.” I swallowed. Hard. And I took a step back. “So that explains what I can do. Makes sense, right? Most people get their mom’s eyes. I just got her demonic soul-sucking ability. And her ring. What was her name, anyway?”
I wasn’t sure I even needed to know her name, because it would make her all the more real to me, but I couldn’t take back the question.
Roth let out a low breath. “Your mother was known by many names, but most knew her as Lilith. And because of that, you’re on Hell’s Most Wanted List.”
* * *
Sitting on the bench, waiting for Morris, I stared straight ahead, not really seeing or hearing anything. Okay, so my mother was a demon who sucked souls. That didn’t take a huge leap of intelligence to figure out, but I hadn’t expected who she was. Lilith? Like the freaking Lilith? The mommy of all things that go bump in the night? There was no way. There had to be another Lilith because that demon hadn’t walked topside for a millennium.
Folklore claimed that Lilith was Adam’s first wife and had been created like him, but she refused to become subservient to Adam. This caused many epic battles between them, eventually leading to God banishing her from Eden and then creating Eve. Needless to say, Lilith wasn’t a happy camper. To get back at Adam and God, she ran off and seduced the archangel Samael. Things went downhill after that.
That much was true, but the rest was mostly bunk from what I’d picked up in the old, crusty religious texts Abbot had in his office. The whole eating-babies myth was utter bull. Lilith never slept with Satan. She never slept with any demons. She slept only with one angel, and the rest were all human consorts. But the Alphas weren’t too pleased with her in the first place, and after she hooked up with Samael, they punished her.
Every child Lilith spawned from that point on was a monster—succubi, incubi and just about every other demonic creature you could think of. Worst of all, she’d birthed the Lilin, a race of demons who could steal souls with a single touch. They were her first and most powerful children. Around that time was when the first generation of Wardens appeared, created by the Alphas to battle the Lilin. They managed to wipe out the Lilin and capture Lilith. Texts claimed that Lilith had been bound to Hell by one of the Wardens, chained down there together with him for all eternity.
Like most things that Alphas did, that just didn’t make sense to me. Through the birthing of so many demons, Lilith turned into one herself—and because the Alphas had punished her, they accidentally created the Lilin, a legion of demons so feared and powerful that they could ensure no human ever made it past the pearly gates.
Humans who died without souls, no matter how good they were in life, existed between Heaven and Hell, stuck in the in-between for all eternity. Plagued with endless thirst and hunger, they turned into violent, vengeful wraiths that even demons were wary of. Wraiths could interact with the living world, and when they did, it usually ended in a gory mess.
Tucking my hair back, I watched a shimmery blue soul trail behind a man in ragged jeans. My mother couldn’t be that Lilith. Because if she was, what did that really say about me? How could I ever overcome a bloodline like that? And if Lilith was really my mother then Abbot would have to know and there was no way that anyone would let a child of Lilith walk around. Besides, there was the whole problem of her being chained to Hell. It wasn’t like someone let her out to get knocked up and birth a kid.
Hell’s Most Wanted List? I shuddered. Was that why the Seeker and a zombie— I cut that thought off. Nothing Roth had told me could be true. What was I even doing considering any of it? Trusting him would be like smacking the Wardens in the face. Demons lied. Even I lied. Well, my lying really didn’t have much to do with being a demon, but still.
Roth was just messing with me, trying to get me to stop tagging. And if Hell was after me, then that could be the only true reason.
Squeezing my fingers around the ring, I stopped a groan from escaping. I’d kissed a demon. Or he’d kissed me. The semantics probably didn’t matter. Either way, my lips had been all up in a demon’s. My first kiss. Dear Lord...
I almost squealed when I spotted the black Yukon, seriously needing a distraction from my troublesome thoughts. I stood and shouldered my bag. A strange shiver wiggled its way down my neck, raising the tiny hairs on my body. It wasn’t like the time before while I waited for Morris. This was different.
I turned, scanning the pedestrians on the sidewalk. Blurs of faint pink and blue and a few darker auras, but no one was missing a soul. Craning my neck, I stretched onto the tips of my toes and tried to see around the corner, past the fleet of cabs lining up. There didn’t seem to be anything demonic, but still, the feeling was familiar.
Morris honked the horn, drawing my attention. Shaking my head, I darted between two cabs and yanked the passenger door open. The feeling hit me again, like a cold hand traveling around my neck.
Shivering, I climbed into the front seat and pulled the door shut, my eyes on the line of taxis. Something...something wasn’t right.
“Do you feel that?” I asked, twisting toward Morris.
He raised his brows and, as usual, said nothing. Sometimes I pretended we had a conversation. I’d even acted it out once or twice for Morris. I liked to think it amused him.
“Well, I feel something weird.” I leaned forward as he eased the SUV out into the congested streets. Three cabs pulled out, too, blocking most of the storefronts and sidewalk. “It’s like there’s a demon nearby, but I don’t see any.”