For a moment he looked like he regretted saying it, but the expression was lost as he rubbed his hand over his face. He opened the door. “By the way, Father spoke to the Alphas last night.”
My heart faltered in my chest. “The Alphas?”
He gave me a curt nod. “They’re coming here tomorrow.”
Everything else was forgotten in an instant—the whole thing with Lilith, even the sharp ache his words left behind. “Are you meeting with them?”
“No. They only want to speak with Father.”
I nodded slowly. “So I shouldn’t be here?”
“No. You shouldn’t be here.”
The Alphas really were like the boogeyman to anything with a trace of demonic blood in its body. Even the Wardens weren’t entirely comfortable around them. I kept an eye on the clock, knowing they’d come before nightfall. I should’ve already left the house, but I really had no place to go and...and I wanted to see them again.
I puttered around the kitchen while Jasmine tried to get a snack in the twins before she settled them down for the night. Izzy and Drake were at the table, in full gargoyle mode. Their little black horns bobbed up and down as they giggled.
Jasmine stood between them, suddenly stiffening.
Her reaction caused a nervous flutter in my chest. I set my glass of juice down. “Are they here?”
“Not yet.” She smoothed her hands over the front of her cap-sleeved blouse. “But the men are preparing for their arrival.”
It was weird how they all were connected. Seconds later, I heard them moving around upstairs. I hadn’t seen Zayne all day. It was official. He was avoiding me. I needed to see him, because after staring at the ceiling all night, I knew I should apologize. I was putting too much on him, expecting things I shouldn’t be. He did care, but the warping was on my side, because what I felt for him was more than I should.
“Where are you going to go?” Jasmine asked, quickly cleaning away the boxes of apple juice and animal crackers.
I tucked my hair back. “I don’t know. I’m hoping I can find Zayne before they get here. If not, I guess I’ll hang out in the tree house.” Like a loser...
A tight look pinched her features. “How will you know when they’re gone?”
“I don’t know. If I can’t get ahold of Zayne, I guess someone will call me.” At least that was what I hoped. “How long do you—”
A loud rumble cut off my words. Glasses shook in the cabinet. Stainless-steel pots clanged off one another. I backed away from the counter, clasping my hands together. In an instant, all the air sucked straight out of the house. Static permeated the room. I didn’t dare move. Even the twins seemed to sense their arrival, staring wide-eyed at their mother.
Alphas sure loved their fancy entrances.
A burst of energy raised the tiny hairs on my body. The rumbling stopped and the air smelled of something musky and sweet. It wouldn’t smell like that to everyone. Heaven smelled however you wanted—like what you desired. Roses? Pancakes with maple syrup? Burnt rubber. Whatever. The last time they’d been here, it had smelled like winter mint to me.
Jasmine glanced at me, but I was already moving around the counter. Instinct told me they were in the library. I crept down the hall, stopping several feet away. Soft, luminous light seeped underneath the door, slipping across the maple floors, climbing the buttercream walls. The light pulsated, becoming more of a living entity as tendrils crossed the ceiling, dripping bits of bright light into shiny puddles on the throw rug.
It was the light people saw moments before they died. And it was beautiful. Heavenly. For some, there was nothing to fear in death. Not when this waited for them.
This was as far as I could go. They already knew I was here, somewhere in the house, but I couldn’t pull myself away. My throat started to burn, and my skin tingled. It was sheer torture to be near something so pure and not want to...well, devour its essence.
I knew I needed to leave, but I reached out, running the tips of my fingers through the light. Gasping, I jerked my hand back. It was hot—burning. My fingertips were pink and they throbbed. Thin wisps of smoke drifted from my hand.
Stepping back, I held my injured hand to my chest and, well, my chest ached for a whole different reason. I stared at the light as it continued to spread throughout the house, basking everything in its warmth.
I couldn’t go into the light. Not now and probably, not ever.
Harsh tears stung my eyes. I turned away then, grabbing my book bag from the now-empty kitchen, and left the house before the Alphas grew tired of my presence and took the choice of leaving from me.
* * *
Sitting on the stupid observation deck, I stared down at the screen on my cell phone and let out a juicy curse that would’ve burned the ears right off the Alphas. Dusk had fallen and tiny stars were starting to peek through.
Zayne hadn’t answered the first two times I’d called a half an hour ago.
Glancing down at my hand, I frowned at the bright pink skin on my fingers. Only I’d be dumb enough to try to touch heavenly light.
I reached around my neck and tugged on the chain so that the odd stone dangled just below my fingers. Smoothing my thumb over the jewel, I wasn’t able to stop the shudder of repulsion. I wanted to rip the ring off the chain and toss it into the bushes. I almost did, but when my fingers curled around it, I...I just couldn’t do it. Even if my mother was the Lilith, even if she hadn’t wanted me, I couldn’t throw the only thing I had of hers away.
Pushing my backpack aside, I wiggled through the opening and climbed down the boards nailed into the trunk of the tree.
After calling Stacey and getting no answer, I got a quick text back from her saying she was at the movies. Envious, I kicked a thick root breaking through the ground and I did it again—called Zayne.
The phone continued to ring several times and Zayne still didn’t answer. I cut the call off when his voice mail picked up. My heart rate kicked up, like it did every time he didn’t answer. Maybe it was a bit psycho stalker-ish, but even as mad as he was at me, he had to know that I was basically camped out in the damn tree house until someone remembered to call me.
Five minutes went by and I tried him again, hating myself for it. Because seriously, I was slipping into that desperate land again, the one inhabited by girls who made fools out of themselves over boys—boys who didn’t want them or couldn’t have them. My stomach was flopping all over the place, like it had last night, right before I said all those stupid, stupid things.
After the second ring, the call went straight to his voice mail.
My stomach stilled—I stilled.
Everything around me seemed to go quiet as I listened to the automatic voice mail picking up. Numb, I pressed the end-call button and slowly lowered my hand. He’d sent me to voice mail. He’d actually sent my call to voice mail.
Who knows how long I stood there. It probably would’ve been much longer if I hadn’t heard the twig snap behind me.
Whipping around, I felt my heart drop to my sneakers. Petr stood in front of me, his hands shoved into the pockets of his jeans. The air had turned chilly, but he wore only a thin shirt. I couldn’t make out the design in the encroaching darkness.
Petr laughed—snickered really. “This is really too easy.”