Not to mention I was trying to keep myself from freaking out. Knowing there were demons out to either use me in some kind of bizarre incantation or kill me made me jumpy. What also didn’t help was the fact that Elijah was still out there. When it was quiet, my imagination got the best of me.
* * *
Thursday morning, I’d officially decided that the craziest thing to happen over the past couple of weeks had nothing to do with learning I was the child of the Lilith or that I could somehow raise a horde of soul-eating demons. Or that there was more than a crap ton of demons who wanted me dead. Nope. The craziest thing was Stacey.
She was acting weird and surprisingly subdued. She didn’t talk about sex or boys within the first five seconds of a conversation. In English on Wednesday, after the lunch fallout with Sam, she’d laughed at everything he said, which was awkward to watch. Sam kept sending me looks, and I tried to ignore them. I had a feeling it had to do with her newfound knowledge of his crush on her.
Not that she’d admit to it.
Grabbing her bio text, she kicked her locker door shut. “You still look sick. You should go see a doctor, Layla.”
I rolled my eyes. “Don’t change the subject. You’ve been acting like a weirdo since lunch yesterday.”
Stacey turned around, leaning against the locker as she looked at me with raised brows. “You’re weird every day. You disappear when you’re supposed to meet up with us. You hang out with the hottest guy on the planet and say ‘it’s not like that.’ Hello. You’re the weird friend here.”
I winced. All of that was true. “Whatever.”
She pushed off the locker, linking her arm through mine. “I just don’t want Sam to think I’m...one of those girls anymore.”
“But you are one of those girls,” I said slowly. The steady stream of shimmery souls demanded my attention, but I focused. “And Sam likes you for who you are.”
“Obviously he doesn’t.”
I hip-bumped her. “You’re being a spaz.”
She opened her mouth, but stopped as a tall body crossed our path. I knew before looking up that it was Roth. That sweet, musky scent could belong to no one else.
“Hey there,” Stacey said, recovering. “We thought you’d died or something.”
I lifted my head, feeling off-kilter when our eyes met. His gaze traveled over me. I looked pretty frumpy today, wearing loose jeans and a hoodie that had seen better days. A slight frown appeared on his full lips.
“You two missed my face that much?” Roth teased, his eyes fixed on me.
“Where have you been?” The words came out before I could stop them and, God, did I feel like a tool.
Roth shrugged. “I had some things to take care of. Speaking of which—” he turned to Stacey “—I’d like to steal her away from you if you don’t mind.”
“I try to tell my mom all the time I have stuff to do, but I still have to go to school.” Stacey slid her arm from mine, pursing her lips. “I wish I had your parents. Just let me come to school when I feel like it. But anyway, you’re not planning on showing for bio?”
“No.” He winked as he lowered his voice. “I’m going to be a rebel and skip class again.”
“Ooh,” Stacey cooed. “And you want to corrupt my wholesome, pure friend?”
Arms dangling at my sides, I sighed.
His golden gaze heated. “Corruption is my middle name.”
“Well, you can only steal and corrupt my friend if she wants to be stolen and corrupted.”
Enough was enough. “Hey, guys, I’m right here, remember? Shouldn’t I get a say in this decision?”
He arched a brow at me. “Do you want to be stolen and corrupted?”
I had a feeling I was already corrupted just by his mere presence. “Why not.”
“Great!” Stacey chirped, backing off and gesturing wildly behind Roth. She was doing something with her hand and mouth that I knew Roth would be oh so down for. I tried to ignore her. “But promise to return her, okay?”
“I don’t know.” Roth stepped around, dropping his arm over my shoulders. “I may steal her away from you permanently.”
I couldn’t stop the shiver that went through me. The way Roth’s hand tightened on my shoulders told me he hadn’t missed it, either.
“Whatever.” Stacey gave us a short wave and flounced off toward bio.
Roth’s hand slid off my shoulder, grasping my hand. “You look terrible.”
I couldn’t tell if my cheeks were burning. I already felt unnaturally hot for a whole slew of wrong reasons. “Thanks. Everyone keeps telling me that.”
He tugged on my messy ponytail with his free hand. “Did you even shower this morning?”
“Yes. Jeez. Where have you been, Roth?”
“Why are you sick?” he asked instead. “You look like you haven’t slept since I last saw you. You couldn’t have missed me that much.”
“Man, you’re self-centered. It has nothing to do with you. I get like this after...”
“After what?” He leaned in, waiting.
I looked away, lowering my voice. “If I taste a soul, it makes me sick afterward. Only for like a day or so, but taking a soul seems to last longer.”
Roth let go of my hand. “Why?”
“It’s like withdrawal or something,” I said. Roth was unnaturally quiet as he watched me, expression pensive. “What?”
He blinked. “Nothing. I’m really not planning on going to bio.”
“I figured as much.” Taking a breath, I decided to corrupt myself. “Where are you planning on going?”
He flashed a quick grin, which made me think he was about to say something perverted, but he surprised me. “Come find out. What I’ve been doing the last couple of days has to do with you.”
Roth took my hand, his skin pleasantly warm against mine, and I didn’t pitch a fit about the hand-holding thing. He led me into a nearby stairwell and then down a flight of steps, into the old part of the school where there were a couple of empty offices and a decrepit gymnasium that smelled like mold. Thankfully the boiler rooms were on the other side of the school. With all the cubbyholes in the bottom part of the school, it was a notorious hangout spot for the stoners.
It didn’t surprise me that Roth knew where to go in the school if you didn’t want to be found.
He stopped in the bottom stairwell. Torn orange safety tape hung from the gym’s double doors, hanging against the dull gray metal. One of the windows was covered with so much muck it looked tinted. The walls of the stairwell hadn’t fared much better. Entire sections were missing paint, exposing the cement walls.
Roth stopped and took both of my hands in his. “I’ve missed you.”
My heart did a weird little jump. Stupid heart. I needed to focus. With all the lying in bed I’d done the past three days, it gave me time to think about what he’d revealed. “Roth, we need to talk about what you told me.”
“We’re talking.” He dipped his head, brushing his cheek against mine.
“This is not talking.” Not that I didn’t enjoy it. “And I really do have questions.”