I shook off my clothes, wincing not just from the pain but from the sight of the blue and light violet splotches covering my shoulders and chest. Petr’s claw marks started under my throat, three deep slashes about four inches long. I quickly changed, unable to look at myself any longer.
Roth was at the window when I returned. He turned around and tried for a wolfish grin. “I always knew you’d look great in my pants.”
I hadn’t thought I’d laugh again, but I did then. It sounded weak. “That’s real original.”
He pushed off the wall and gestured at the closed door I’d noticed before. “I want to show you something. You think you’re up for it?”
Intrigued despite myself, I nodded. He opened the door and motioned me forward. I followed him up the narrow staircase. He stopped at a door and glanced over his shoulder. “Promise me you won’t walk off the ledge.”
I would’ve rolled my eyes if it wouldn’t have hurt. “I promise.”
He didn’t quite look like he believed me, but he opened the door. Cool air pulled me forward. I limped past him.
“Don’t walk off the rooftop. Please.” He followed behind me. “I wouldn’t want to scrape your remains off the pavement below.”
Soft, billowy white tents rolled in the perfumed breeze. Under them were several lounge chairs and small tables, but it was the neatly manicured flower garden that caught and held my attention. Vases of every size and shape lined the rooftop. I didn’t know most of the flowers, but I did see roses and lilies everywhere.
“Is this yours?” I asked.
“All of this is mine.”
I stopped by a large pot, running my fingers over the heavy petals. In the dark, I couldn’t tell if the flower was purple or red. But it smelled sweet and tangy. “You garden?”
“I get bored.” His breath danced off my cheek. “I find that it’s a viable way of passing time.”
I hadn’t heard him come up directly behind me. I turned around halfway, inclining my head. “A demon who gardens?”
One corner of his lips quirked. “I’ve seen crazier things.”
“Is that so?”
Roth tilted his head to the side. “You’d be surprised. I know a few of my kind who do taxes whenever they’re topside, some who teach gym. We demons do love a good game of dodgeball.”
I made a feeble attempt at a laugh. “I knew...there was something up with my gym teacher.”
“If I didn’t know better, I’d think Mrs. Cleo was a Hellhound in disguise.”
I drifted away from him, focusing on the dazzling display of lights from the hundreds of buildings surrounding us. Off in the distance, I could see the tower of the Nancy Hanks Center. I shivered as I turned back to Roth.
He was so close, but I hadn’t heard him move. “You should sit.”
He didn’t give me much of an option, guiding me over to one of the lounges. I ended up on my back within seconds, embraced by the thick pillows. The high was gone. The adrenaline had seeped away, and all that was left behind were bone-deep aches and too many questions.
Roth sat beside me, his hip pressing against my leg. “How are you feeling?”
What a broad question. “Everything is...so screwed up.”
Shifting my gaze to him, I almost laughed again. His brutal honesty was something else. Under the white canopy, the moonlight reflected off his striking face. Our gazes locked. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do from here.”
His stare was unwavering. “Have you ever known what you’re supposed to do?”
Good question. I broke eye contact. “You’re a strange demon.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
I smiled a little. “You’re actually nothing like any demon I know.”
“Is that so?” He ran the tips of his fingers up my arm, over the slant of my collarbone, stopping short of where the skin was torn. “I find that hard to image. We demons are all alike. We covet pretty things, corrupt what is pure and whole, take what we can never have. You should have a whole fan club made up of demons.”
His touch was lulling, comforting. I yawned. “You’d be a member of my demon-horde fan club?”
Roth laughed softly. “Oh, I think I’d be the president.” He eased down beside me, onto his side. “Would you like that?”
I knew what he was doing. Distracting me. It was working. “Can I be serious for a moment?”
His hand skipped to my other shoulder. “You can be whatever you like.”
“You really aren’t all that bad...for a demon, you know.”
“I wouldn’t go that far.” He stretched out beside me, propping himself up on his elbow. “They don’t come any badder than me.”
“Whatever,” I murmured. Several moments passed. “I—”
“I know. I do. There probably isn’t a question I don’t have an answer for. And we do need to talk. What you know now is nothing but a drop in the messed-up bucket. And what you’re going to learn is going to turn your world upside down.” He paused, and my heart skipped a beat. “But we don’t need to do this right now. You need to sleep. I’ll be here when you wake up.”
As I watched him through thinly slitted eyes, I realized I didn’t know jack. I had no idea if I was ever going to be able to go home. If I’d ever really had a home. I didn’t know how far the betrayal ran, if it included others who’d watched me grow up. I didn’t even know what tomorrow was going to bring. But I did know that as unlikely as it was, I was safe right now, and I trusted Roth—a demon.
So I nodded and closed my eyes. Roth started humming “Paradise City” again, and I found it oddly comforting. In the moments before I drifted off to sleep, I swore I felt his hand brush my cheek.
When I awoke, it was near dawn and the sky beyond the softly rolling canopies still clung to night. The events of the previous day rolled through my mind with startling clarity. My heart rate picked up, but I didn’t move. My body wasn’t the problem—the aches had dulled, and even the throbbing in my face was nothing compared to a few hours ago. It was just that I knew the Wardens would’ve realized I was missing by now. They would’ve started looking for me and for Petr. Zayne...I couldn’t even think of him right now.
Nothing would ever be the same.
The heat of the lean, hard body pressed against mine was a stark reminder of that fact. Roth’s chest rose and fell steadily against my side. Our legs were tangled together. His arm was thrown over my waist. The closeness, as crazy as it was, pushed away everything else that was important. I’d never woken up in the arms of a boy before. When Zayne and I were kids, we’d bunk together, but this...this was so different. Languid warmth started in my toes and traveled up my body at an alarming speed, flaring tightly at each point our bodies met.
I thought of the kiss we’d shared—my first kiss. I was as breathless as I’d be practicing evasive techniques. Considering everything that was happening and had happened already, it seemed like the last thing I should be thinking about.
But it was as automatic as breathing. My lips tingled from the memory. I doubted Roth even thought twice about it, but I had quite a few times since Friday.