Roth tightened his hold and he murmured something that was lost in the wind. The flight to wherever Roth was taking me was a blur, but it did kill the remaining buzz. When he finally landed, my entire body thrummed with pain. I was shaking so badly I didn’t even realize that he’d shifted back into human form until he leaned back and I could see his face.
“You hanging in there?” he asked. The pupils of his honey-colored eyes were still stretched vertically.
I nodded or at least I think I did. Over his shoulder, I could see nothing but apartment buildings, lit up like a chessboard. “Where are...we?” I winced as pain shot through my jaw.
His place? Roth didn’t elaborate as he started forward. It took me a few seconds to realize that we were in a narrow alley behind a rather large building. The door before us swung open, and a man appeared in the darkness.
He looked like he was in his mid-twenties. Icy blond hair was pulled back in a low ponytail, but the finely arched brows were dark. His eyes were like Roth’s, the color of rich honey. He was most definitely a demon, but he held the door open. “This is a surprise,” he said.
“Shut up, Cayman.”
Cayman’s steps matched Roth’s. We were in a stairwell, heading up. “Should I be concerned? Because if that’s who I think it is and she looks like that because of something you did, I really need to know before I have a fleet of Wardens tearing up my building.”
I wondered how bad I looked and how this guy knew who I was. “He didn’t do this.”
“That’s somewhat of a relief, but...”
Roth rounded a level. “The Wardens are of no concern at this moment.”
The other demon arched a brow. “That would be your opinion—and an invalid one. The Wardens—”
“Didn’t I already tell you to shut up?”
Cayman grinned as he slid around us, opening the door to the fifteenth floor. “And since when do I ever listen to you?”
Roth grunted. “Good point.”
He stepped aside, hand on the door. “Can I get you guys anything?”
“Not at the moment.” But Roth stopped and faced the other demon. “I’ll be down to see you later. Don’t worry. I’ll fill you in.”
Humor glimmered in the demon’s eyes. “Great. I’m in need of some good gossip.”
And then he was gone, like he’d poofed out of the hallway. Roth started down the hallway. “I...I can...walk.”
“I’d prefer that you didn’t right now, and besides, we’re here.”
Here was a door painted black. It opened on its own, and as soon as we stepped through, an overhead light flicked on and bright light spilled across the room. I blinked until my eyes adjusted.
His home away from Hell was pretty nice. A large loft fit for a king, to be exact. The walls were painted white, and they were bare with the exception of a few macabre, abstract paintings. There was a bed in the middle, covered with black and red sheets. A TV was mounted on the wall, and below it were several stacks of DVDs and books. There was a piano in the corner beside a closed door.
Any other time I would’ve made a beeline for the books and DVDs, but when he gently sat me down on the bed, I stayed there, feeling numb and empty.
“Why did he do this?” Roth’s voice was eerily calm.
“Is...is Bambi okay?” I asked instead.
Roth frowned. “Bambi is fine.”
It was strange to feel relief over a demon snake. “She helped me twice.” I lifted my gaze. “You helped me twice.”
“Like I said, Bambi seems to like you. She keeps an eye on you...”
When I can’t seemed like the unspoken part of the sentence. I lowered my gaze, so very confused about freaking everything. Were all demons really evil? How could they be when one rescued me from the one thing meant to protect everyone?
“Answer my question, Layla.”
I hesitated. Because...because I wasn’t sure I could say why Petr did what he did. I wasn’t ready to speak those words, because it made everything painfully real. And at that moment, I didn’t think I could handle them.
He stared at me a moment and then stalked over to a low sitting chair. He pulled a thick blanket off the back. “Here.” He carefully dropped it over my shoulders. “You look cold.”
I slowly let go of my torn clothes, sinking my fingers into the rich softness, pulling it around me. I didn’t know what kind of material it was. Maybe cashmere? It was black, though, which fit him.
Roth lingered again, not saying anything, and then he spun around. I watched the intricate play of his muscles as he reached down and tugged his dirty shirt up over his head. Muscles in his arms flexed as he tossed it to the floor. There was a large tattoo along the side of his body: four lines of eloquently written scripture in a language I’d never seen before.
Even in the state of mind I was in, I couldn’t help but appreciate all that Roth had going on. When he turned to grab a shirt out of a pile of neatly stacked clothes, I got an eyeful of his front. He was all muscle, chiseled and lean. Graceful. His pants hung low, and it looked as if someone had pressed their fingers into the skin next to his hips, leaving behind indentations. The dips and planes of his stomach looked unreal.
Bambi was wrapped around his biceps, and there was an odd, circular tat over his right pec. Yet another tattoo was carved over his stomach. It appeared to be a dragon, with its head reared back and jaws open. Wings were tucked against its scaly back and the tail disappeared below the waistband of his pants.
I needed to look away, but my eyes were glued to where that tail must’ve been.
Roth pulled a clean shirt on, and I let out a breath. He moved to a small kitchen area and opened up a cabinet. He returned to my side, unscrewing a bottle. “You should drink some of this. It will help.”
I accepted it, taking a long swallow. The liquor burned my lips and the inside of my mouth as he disappeared into what I assumed was a bathroom, but it warmed my insides wonderfully. I heard the water turn on a few moments later. When he reappeared, I stared at the towel in his hand. “What are you doing?”
“Cleaning up your face.” Roth crouched, his eyes roaming over me. “Does it hurt to talk?”
It hurt not to talk. “A little.” I took another drink, gasping as the liquid dribbled over my torn skin. Roth took the bottle from me, setting it out of my reach. I sighed.
“How do you normally heal?” he asked.
“Faster than a human, but not like the Wardens or...like you,” I answered. Hopefully most of the bruises would be gone by midweek. Not that my injuries were even a problem. I had bigger things to worry about.
He dabbed the towel under my lip with surprising gentleness. “I want to know why he did this, Layla. I need to know.”
Looking away, I squeezed my eyes shut. Raw pain tore through my chest like a real wound. I knew—God, I knew—that it wasn’t just Petr who wanted me dead. The whole thing seemed like a big setup—the Alphas, the clansmen being nowhere nearby, and even Zayne not answering his phone. Betrayal cut so deep, it splintered my very core.
Gentle fingers pressed under my chin, turning my head to the side. “Talk to me, Layla.”
I opened my eyes and blinked back tears. “He wanted...he wanted to kill me. He said the world would be better off without me.”