“I know,” Abbot snapped.
I tried to hide my smile and failed. Jasmine’s eyes narrowed on me. Any satisfaction was short-lived.
“She cannot go back to that school or go anywhere without a Warden accompanying her until we get to the bottom of this.” Abbot faced me, rubbing his beard. “And don’t even think to argue with me over this.”
I withered under his stare. “But what will you tell the school?”
“That you have mono or some other human disease. Really, it doesn’t matter. Your schoolwork will be sent here in the meantime.” He turned to where Geoff stood. “Have you heard anything from the police commissioner?”
Geoff nodded. “No one knows what truly happened at the school. They are filing a report that it was a prank gone wrong—a smoke bomb. But this was a close call. If the demon had gotten her out—”
“Or if my friend hadn’t shown up,” I threw in just for kicks.
Abbot’s gaze slammed into me. “Even if by some bizarre chance this demon isn’t out to raise the Lilin, he is not and never will be your friend.”
“Anyway,” Geoff said drily. “The exposure would’ve been beyond damaging.”
Jasmine brushed my hair back and continued to dab at my temple as she glanced at the doorway. Danika came in, carrying Izzy, whose little head was resting on her shoulder.
“Drake?” Jasmine inquired.
“Still asleep.” Danika hefted Izzy a little higher. “This one won’t sleep unless she’s being held, and I don’t want to miss this conversation.”
It took everything for me not to roll my eyes.
She moved to stand beside Zayne, and I couldn’t help but think that they already looked like a family, especially with Izzy in Danika’s arms. I kind of wished there was black demon smoke in my eyes again. “What I don’t understand is how we’ve been unable to capture any Upper Level demons,” she said, smoothing a hand over the child’s curls.
“Demons know when to hide,” Abbot grumbled.
“It makes sense.” Zayne looked at me and then glanced away quickly. “All the Upper Level movement around the city, I mean. A demon trying to raise the Lilin is bound to bring others by the masses.”
“True, but foolish of them. They’re safer down below, where Wardens can’t get them.” Geoff sat down in one of the chairs and stretched out his long legs.
Hearing them discuss this seriously was odd to me, but I jumped in. “They want to start the apocalypse.”
Abbot muttered under his breath. “Child, the apocalypse—”
“Isn’t supposed to happen now, or only God knows when it will be. Yeah, I know. But here’s the deal. No one benefits from the Lilin being reborn, right?” With all the eyes on me now, I felt exposed sitting there having Jasmine fussing over my head like I was an invalid.
Ducking out of her grasp, I stood and moved behind the wicker chair I’d been sitting in. “When a Lilin takes a soul, the human turns into a wraith. Neither Heaven nor Hell gets the human. And that’s why even Hell doesn’t want the Lilin to be reborn.” I’d tried explaining this before, but everyone had been so angry with me I was sure none of them had listened. “But some of the demons want out of Hell. They want to be able to come topside and not have to follow the rules or worry about the Wardens. They know that if the Lilin are reborn, the Alphas will step in and go after every demon. They aren’t going to go down without a fight. Mankind is going to find out about demons. There will be a war, which will most likely move the apocalypse ahead of schedule.”
No one spoke for a few moments. Then Geoff broke the silence. “It’s risky, but demons have never been worried about that gamble before.”
Danika handed off the sleeping tot to Jasmine. “Kind of like the crazy boyfriend, right? If I can’t have Earth, then no one can.”
I almost grinned at that comparison.
“When can the incantation be complete?” Zayne asked.
“There is no set time.” Abbot picked at a leafy blossom from one of the nearby plants. “It can only occur after Layla turns seventeen. Or at least that is how the text has been translated.”
“I can’t stay holed up forever. I’ll go crazy.”
“You have no other choice,” Abbot replied.
Irritation coated my skin and I snapped, “Now you believe me?”
“I’m not sure what to believe at this point.” He broke off a dead leaf and closed his fist around it. “All of this is just theories. None of it is backed by evidence or truth.”
I threw my hands up. “It is the truth. It’s what I’ve been telling you since the beginning.”
“There is another way,” Zayne said before his father could unleash what was no doubt a verbal lashing the likes of which I’d never seen before. “We find the demon responsible and send it back to Hell.”
“I like that idea.” I folded my arms to keep from hitting something.
“That’s a good idea, but the problem is there are hordes of demons out there.” Geoff pinched the bridge of his nose. “We could start summoning them from the Lesser Key, but that would take us years.”
“The demon...” Zayne took a deep breath. “Your friend doesn’t know who the demon is?”
I knew how much it must’ve cost Zayne to call Roth my friend, and I appreciated it. “No. That’s something he was trying to find out, but no one is talking. Either there’re a lot of demons supporting this, or they’re scared of whoever is behind it.”
“That’s not reassuring,” Danika said.
Zayne’s brows arched in agreement. “We could see if he’s made any progress since—”
“Absolutely not!” his father thundered. “We are not working with a demon.”
“No, Zayne.” Abbot prowled to the door and stopped. Anger mottled his cheeks. “That is a path I am not willing to go down for any reason. History has proved that doing so ends in treachery.”
I knew then that no matter what Roth could do, or any demon, for that matter, Abbot’s views would never change. They were too deeply rooted in him, to the point of blind bigotry. Nothing short of a miracle would change his beliefs. Most Wardens were like that, especially the older ones.
My gaze fell to Zayne. He wasn’t ready to let it go. “Layla’s life is in danger. So are the lives of thousands, if not millions, of humans.”
“As if I don’t know that?” Abbot crossed the room in a flash, stopping in front of his son. “Is it desperate times call for desperate measures? We’ve been here before, on the brink of the world falling apart. This is nothing new. And trusting a demon will only aid in that destruction.”
“It’s not going to happen.” Geoff stood, placing his hands on his hips. “We’ve seen firsthand what trusting a demon will do.”
“That we have.” Abbot looked at me over his shoulder, his expression unreadable. “After all, Elijah foolishly trusted a demon once before.”
“What?” I laughed. “Elijah would kill himself before he trusted a demon.”