The kitten stilled, staring up at me with bright blue eyes. I waited for it to bite my foot or sink its claw into my skin, but it seemed to grow bored with me. It curled up in a tiny ball at the foot of the bed, quickly joined by the other two kittens.
Several moments passed in silence as I tried to get my heart under control and make sense of the warring degrees of disappointment and relief. Then Roth started to talk about random, mundane things. Like the television shows he missed while down under. “We don’t get cable down there,” he said. “Only satellite, and as soon as someone sends up a ball of flames, which is all the freaking time, it goes out.”
He told me how he and Cayman ended up being friends. Cayman apparently oversaw the portal and the apartment building. He’d hit on Roth, and Roth ended up with a loft above the bar after explaining he liked girls. Not sure how that one worked out, but I didn’t even question it.
And then he told me about his mom.
“You have a mother?” I asked, laughing, because it struck me as funny. I still pictured him hatching from an egg fully grown.
“Yes, I have a mother and a father. You do know how babies are made?”
I kind of wanted to show him that I knew exactly how babies were made. “What’s her name?”
“Oh, she has many names, and she’s been around a long, long time.”
I frowned. Why did that sound familiar?
“But I call her Lucy,” he added.
“Hell to the no. If you ever met that woman—and believe me, you don’t ever want to meet her—you’d understand why. She’s very...old-school. And controlling.”
“Like Abbot?” I was too content to move and knock my hair out of my face. I tried blowing it off, but that didn’t work.
“Yeah, like Abbot.” He brushed my hair back, his fingers lingering on my cheek. “But I think Abbot actually cares about you.”
I frowned against his chest. “If he loved me, he wouldn’t have lied to me.”
“He lies to protect you.” A soft sigh shuddered through him. “That’s different.”
Part of me wanted to question why all of a sudden he was Team Abbot, but I let it slide. “What is she like?”
Roth tipped my head up, his thumb trailing over my lower lip. “She’s...something.”
We were quiet for a few minutes. “I have to head back soon.”
“Stony picking you up from school?”
“It’s not safe for Morris to pick me up anymore.” I don’t know why, but I felt like I needed to give a reason—a valid reason. “So, yeah, Zayne’s picking me up.”
His arm tightened around my waist. “Maybe I should introduce myself.”
“Yeah, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
He smirked. “I think it’s a brilliant idea.”
Disentangling myself, I sat up and straightened my shirt. A split second later, Roth’s hand was curved around my cheek. I hadn’t even seen him move. “You’re beautiful like this—your cheeks flushed and eyes wide.”
My heart did a dumb little dance. “Sweet-talking me into a meet and greet with Zayne isn’t going to work.”
He dropped his hand and pulled back. “Damn. I need a new plan.”
I pushed off the bed and backed up. “We really do need to head back.”
Roth gave a deep, heaving sigh and then stood, stretching his arms above his head. His pants hung low, revealing more of the dragon’s tail and the finger-width indentations beside his hips.
He caught me staring. “See something you like?”
I shot him a bland look, and then we, well, we stared at each other awkwardly. Everything had changed between us, even though I couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment when or be sure what it really meant. But later on, when I was pretending to come out of school and was heading toward Zayne’s Impala, I realized two things.
The weird spasming in my chest that happened whenever I thought of Roth was probably not going to go away anytime soon. And the whole reason for going to Roth’s loft had been lost to me the moment his lips had so carefully touched mine. If we continued this way, we were so screwed.
* * *
Things were sort of normal over the next week. If normal now meant having a demon in class and spending whatever free time I did have trying to figure out where a demonic book was kept. Both Roth and I were either overlooking the obvious or we weren’t the brightest stars in the sky, because we were coming up empty-handed.
Other than the whole demonic problem, it was a good thing Zayne was chauffeuring me back and forth to school. No one had found or heard from Elijah and his clan members. They hadn’t returned to their district, and Zayne believed they were still somewhere near the city. Deep down I knew we hadn’t seen the last of Elijah, but he wasn’t the biggest problem. With each passing day, I felt like we were running out of time. It wouldn’t be long before another demon showed up. I was constantly looking over my shoulder.
At lunch on Thursday, Sam flipped over a newspaper in front of me. The headline read “WARDENS? SHOULD THEY STAY OR SHOULD THEY GO? Church of God’s Children weighs in.”
I picked up the newspaper with a disgusted sigh and scanned the page. Every so often the Church of God’s Children held a rally against the Wardens and then made headlines. They’d been doing it ever since the public had found out about the Wardens’ existence.
Roth practically radiated glee as he peered over my shoulder. He’d been eating lunch with us when we didn’t skip to do some digging on what the seer had meant or who the demon was.
“They need to start doing interviews,” Sam said. “Or idiots like these are going to have them burned on the cross.”
“What’s wrong with a good bonfire?” Roth asked, nudging me with his knee under the table.
I punched him in the leg.
Reaching across the table, Sam grabbed a handful of my chips. “Did you read this crap?”
“I really didn’t pay that close attention.” I placed the paper on the table.
Stacey leaned in, glancing down at the paper between us. “What the Hell? It says, and I quote, ‘The Wardens resemble the very creatures that have been banished from Heaven and sent into Hell. They are sinners cloaking themselves as saints.’ Okay. What drugs are these people on, and where can I get some?”
“Look.” Roth pointed at the third paragraph as he slipped an arm around my waist. Because of all the touching, half the school thought Roth and I were together. I wasn’t sure what we were. No labels had been dealt out. “The Church says the Wardens are a sign of the apocalypse. Neat.”
Sam snorted. “I’m going to be pissed if there’s an apocalypse and there isn’t one single zombie.”
Roth opened his mouth as he removed his arm from around my waist, but I cut him off. “Fanatics are insane.”
Sam glanced at Stacey. “You going to eat those chips?”
“Since when do you ask before you take?” I grabbed Roth’s hand, which was sneaking up my leg. “You just help yourself to my plate.”
Pink crept across Sam’s cheeks. “Do you know that the average adult burns two hundred calories during thirty minutes of sex?” The pink increased to red as his eyes widened behind his glasses. “I don’t know why I just said that.”