Roth said my name so softly that I had to look at him, and when I did, our gazes locked. Part of me wondered at that very moment what he saw when he looked at me like that—like he wasn’t exactly sure what I was or what he was really even doing here. And this had to be confusing for him. He was a demon, after all. I also wondered why I even cared, but the last thing I wanted to be seen as was a girl on the verge of tears. Which I was.
Sucking in a shrill breath, I eased my fingers open, and the ring bounced around my loose fist. Because I had no other place to put it, I slipped it onto my right ring finger. Part of me expected the action to spark Armageddon, but nothing happened. Not even a weird sensation or a shiver.
Slowly but surely, my brain started to turn everything over. It probably took longer than necessary, but I was proud to know that my eyes were dry even though my throat felt raw. “We need to find that Key.”
“We do. Knowing what’s needed in the incantation gives us a fighting chance. I have some leads.” He paused, and I could feel his stare on me again. “You can’t tell the Wardens about any of this.”
I barked out a short laugh. “I don’t even know how I’m supposed to go home. Once they find out what I did to Petr—”
“They will never know.” Roth caught the edge of my chin, forcing me to look at him. His eyes were a furious shade of amber. “Because you will not tell them what really happened.”
“You will tell them part of the truth,” he said. “Petr attacked you. You defended yourself, but it was me who killed him. You will not mention taking his soul.”
Stunned, I stared at him. “But they’ll come after you.”
Roth chuckled deeply. “Let them try.”
I pulled away and stood, unable to sit any longer. Smoothing my hands over what I was sure was a tangled mess of hair, I started to pace between a potted apple tree and something that resembled a lilac bush that hadn’t bloomed. “I’m not telling the Wardens that you killed Petr.”
His lips slipped into a scowl. “I can take care of myself. I’m rather hard to find when I don’t want to be and even harder to kill.”
“I get that, but no. I’ll tell them it was a demon, but not you. I’m not giving them your name.” Once those words left my tongue, my conviction was cemented.
Roth stared at me, obviously bewildered. “I know I’m telling you to lie about the whole soul thing, but that makes sense. They’d kill you. But you’re willing to lie about me? You do realize what that means?”
“Of course,” I snapped, tucking my hair back. Not telling them about Roth was a betrayal. It could even be seen as me taking sides, and if the Wardens ever found out that I knew who killed Petr and hid the truth, I was as good as dead.
“I think you like me,” Roth said suddenly.
I stopped pacing and my heart did a funny little jump. “What? No.”
He tilted his head to the side, his lips spreading into a teasing grin. “The way you lie to yourself is sort of cute.”
“I’m not lying.”
“Hmm...” He sat up, eyes glimmering with mirth. “You wanted me to kiss you earlier.”
Heat flooded my cheeks. “No. I did not.”
“You’re right. You wanted me to do much, much more.”
Now that heat was spreading elsewhere. “You’re insane. I don’t want that—you.” The words sounded lame to my own ears. “You saved my life. Sending the Wardens after you isn’t a way to repay that.” There. That sounded better.
Roth chuckled. “Okay.”
“Don’t ‘okay’ me.” I took a deep breath.
I shot him a glare.
“What?” he said innocently. Then he got all serious-faced again. “What are you going to do?”
Glancing up at the overcast sky, I shook my head. Besides the obvious, which was finding out where the Key was and staying away from the demon who wanted to use me as part of a bizarre incantation, I assumed he meant with the home situation.
“I don’t know what to do,” I admitted, my voice a tiny whisper. “I can’t hide from them forever. And as long as they don’t know about the soul thing, I should be okay. Zayne—”
“Zayne?” Roth was frowning again. “The big, blond oaf?”
“I don’t think he can be categorized as an oaf,” I said drily. “How do you— Never mind. Watching me. Got it.”
“You can’t trust them. You may be close with Stony and crew, but they have to know what you are. You’re not safe there.” He ran the tips of his fingers along the cushion beside him, drawing my attention. Hadn’t he touched me like that last night? I shivered and looked away. “If you go home, Layla, you’re going to have to pretend you don’t know any different.”
“I can’t believe it,” I said, and when he sent me a look, I shook my head. “Zayne—he couldn’t have known. He...”
“He’s a Warden, Layla. His loyalty—”
“No. You don’t understand. I’m not naive or stupid, but I know Zayne wouldn’t have kept something like this from me.”
“Why? Because you care for him?”
I was about to ask how he knew that, but then I remembered Bambi had been chilling about the tree house. “Of course I care about Zayne. He’s the only one who’s ever really known me. I can be myself around him and...” I trailed off, because the falsity of what I was saying sank in. I really couldn’t be what I truly was with Zayne, either. “Anyway, he would’ve told me the truth.”
He cocked his head to the side. “Because he cares about you, too?”
“He does, but not in the way I’m sure you’re insinuating.”
“Actually, he does like you.” When I frowned, he laughed. “And I do mean like you, like you.”
I scoffed. “How would you know? You—”
“Don’t know Stony? You’re right, but you forget that I did watch you for some time. I’ve seen you around him, and I’ve seen the way he looks at you. Sure, a relationship between you two is as hopeless as the debt problem facing—”
“Jeez, okay. I know that.” I sighed.
“But it doesn’t stop someone from wanting another person they can never have.” His gaze turned acute. “Even if Stony doesn’t know the truth, and you trust him with your life and blah, blah, you can’t tell him anything.”
A big, heavy ball of dread settled in my stomach.
I nodded. “I’m not going to tell them.”
“Good,” he said, standing. He smiled, but I couldn’t bring myself to return the gesture. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d just sealed my fate.
Leaving Roth’s loft hadn’t been easy. For a second or two, I didn’t think he was going to let me go. He hadn’t voiced any direct opposition to me going home, but I could tell he wasn’t a big fan of the idea. But if I stayed with him it would only be a matter of time before the Wardens found me.