“Yes. I do.” His eyes flared a startling teal color. “The only thing I wish more is that you never had to experience what you did.”
Having no idea what the appropriate response to that was, I sat back and said nothing while wanting to say everything.
Silence stretched out and then he said, “I’m sorry about Saturday morning.”
“Zayne, you don’t—”
“No, let me finish. It was a terrible move on my part. I could’ve called you—I should’ve answered the phone when you called yesterday—and it wasn’t my place to suggest you stop tagging.”
“I’m not tagging anymore.” The possessed human pretty much sealed that deal.
“That doesn’t matter. I know how much tagging meant to you.”
I rolled onto my side, nudging him with my covered elbow. “Yeah, but I was being a total bitch. You were just worried I’d get myself killed or something.”
Zayne ran a hand through his hair, clasping the back of his neck. Muscles flexed and rolled under his shirt. Then he reached down, brushing strands of damp hair off my cheek. “You sure you don’t need anything? Juice or some fruit?”
“No.” It was too late for that. I snuggled down, chilled to my very bones. I couldn’t remember how long it had lasted the time before. Two days? More? I squeezed my eyes shut, praying it would only be a day or so. I wanted to talk to him about Hell and Lilith, but I couldn’t figure out a way to do so that wouldn’t be tantamount to throwing myself in front of a loaded bus.
“Do...do you have to leave?” I asked, even though I couldn’t tell him a thing.
He smiled for the first time since he’d walked into the room. “Scoot over.”
I wiggled around, giving him room. Zayne kept enough space between us, but I pulled the edge of the covers up, hiding my mouth. He gave me his lopsided grin and I recalled what Roth had said. That Zayne liked me. For a second, I didn’t feel like I was burning and freezing all at once. “So what did the Alphas want?”
Zayne stretched on his side, propping his head up with his arm. “Apparently there’s been an increase in Upper Level demon movement in D.C. and the surrounding cities.” He rubbed the bridge of his nose, scrunching up his face. “More than the Alphas have seen in centuries.”
I stopped fidgeting with the blankets. I may have stopped breathing for a few seconds.
“It’s nothing for you to really worry about,” he reassured me quickly, misjudging my reaction. “They’re our problem, one we will take care of.”
“But...why would they be coming topside? Why so many?” A different kind of coldness seeped through my veins.
Zayne rolled onto his side, facing me. “The Alphas think they’re planning something. Possibly another rebellion, but no one is sure. All of us are to be on the lookout for them. Like my father had ordered after the possessed human attacked you and Morris, we’ve been ordered to question them first before we send them back to Hell.”
My throat dried. What if they caught Roth? I pulled my hand out from under the blanket, running it over my forehead. Dampness clung to my skin. Abbot had told me about the last rebellion when I was a little kid. It occurred during the Spanish Influenza. No one really knew how many people had died from the flu or from demonic possession. Was this what some of the demons wanted? For the Lilin to be reborn and another rebellion to occur?
“Hey,” Zayne said, inching closer. “It’s okay. You don’t have anything to worry about.”
“You’re so pale, Layla.” He reached over, pulling the blankets around my shoulders.
“Oh. I told you I’m tired.” I rolled onto my back, stretching out the sudden cramping in my legs.
“Maybe you should stay home from school tomorrow,” he suggested.
Sounded like a plan. “Maybe.”
He didn’t respond for a while. “Layla?”
I turned my head, meeting his steady gaze. I tried to smile, but it came off more like a grimace. “Yeppers?”
“I know this is more than you being tired or what Petr did.”
The air fled my lungs.
Leaning on his elbow, he placed his hand on my cheek. “I know that what you probably did was done because you were defending yourself. Or maybe it was afterward because of what Petr did. And I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it is for you, but I know you’re stronger than this. And I know you don’t want to live like this. You’re not a demon, Layla. You’re a Warden. You’re better than this.”
I felt my lower lip begin to tremble. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. My voice came out broken and small. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to. I just wanted him to stop and—”
“Shh...” Zayne closed his eyes and a muscle popped in his jaw. “I know. It’s okay.”
Tears burned my eyes. “I won’t do it again. I promise. I’m just so sorry.”
Zayne pressed his lips against my forehead. “I know.” He pulled away, turning off the bedside lamp and settling back now. “Get some rest. I’ll stay here until I have to leave.”
I curled onto my side again, reaching for his hand blindly. He took it, threading his fingers through mine. “I’m sorry,” I whispered again. Sorry for yelling at him, sorry for taking Petr’s soul and, most of all, sorry for all the lies.
I stayed home Tuesday, spending most of the day in bed. By the time school started on Wednesday, the worst of the bruises on my face had faded and the hardest part of the sickness had passed.
Stacey was waiting for me at my locker. Her mouth dropped open when she saw me. “Okay. I know you said you were in a car accident on Friday, but you look like you need to see a doctor.”
Apparently I still looked like crap.
I kicked my locker door shut and followed her into bio. Roth was a no-show, and by the time lunch rolled around, he was still MIA. Between feeling like I was crawling out of my skin and wondering where Roth was, all I wanted to do was go back to hiding in my bed. The Wardens had been given orders to hunt down the Upper Level demons invading the city. Had they caught Roth? My breath stalled out every time I considered that.
I reasoned that my concern was only rooted in the fact that he was the only one who knew that Hell was after me and why. I needed Roth alive and whole. That was the only reason why I was concerned. Yeah. Right.
At lunch, Stacey’s thoughts mirrored my own. “I wonder where Roth has been. He hasn’t been to school since Friday, either.”
I said nothing.
“At first, I thought that maybe you caved to the wild lust between you two and ran off with him and eloped.”
I almost choked on my half-frozen pizza. “You are insane.”
Stacey shrugged. “What? You can’t tell me that if you were alone with him you wouldn’t jump his bones.”
“I was alone with him, and I didn’t.” My eyes popped wide a second after those words left my mouth. “Crap,” I muttered.
She clutched my arm. “Oh, my God, details—I need details right now.”
Nothing short of a zombie chewing on her head would distract Stacey now, and even then I wasn’t sure if she’d let it go. Coming up with a quick excuse, I played it off. “I ran into him over the weekend and we hung out.”