I tried to ignore the red-hot jolt of possessiveness darting through my veins. “Zayne’s not my brother.”
“Thank God for that. Otherwise you’d be plagued with incestuous feelings all the time and that’s just gross.”
“I don’t think of Zayne that way!”
She laughed. “What man-parts-loving female in this world doesn’t think of Zayne that way? I can barely keep myself breathing when I see him. All the guys in school have squishy waists. I can tell Zayne doesn’t. He’s the awesome sauce with extra sauce.”
That he was, and he so didn’t have a squishy waist, but I tuned Stacey out at that point. I really did need to cram for this test and I also didn’t want my fantasies involving Zayne to occupy my mind right now. Especially after I’d woken up this morning, carefully tucked under the covers. The bed had smelled like him: sandalwood and crisp linen.
“Oh, sweet baby Jesus in a manger,” Stacey murmured.
I clenched my jaw, cupping my hands over my ears.
She jabbed me in the side with her elbow. At this rate I’d be covered in bruises before lunchtime. “Our bio class just got a billion times more interesting. And hotter, lots and lots hotter. Holy mother, I want to have his babies. Not now of course, but definitely later. But I’d like to start practicing soon.”
The cell wall is a thick and rigid layer covering the plasma something, something plant cells...
Stacey stiffened all of a sudden. “Oh, my God, he’s coming—”
Composed of fat and sugar—
Something slender and shiny fell from who knew where, landing in the middle of Sam’s notes. Blinking tightly, it took me a couple of seconds to recognize the faded and half-peeled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sticker covering the back of the silver cell phone.
My heart slammed against my ribs. Gripping the edges of the notebook, I slowly lifted my gaze. Unnaturally beautiful golden eyes met mine.
“You forgot this last night.”
He couldn’t be here.
But he was, and I couldn’t look away. Suddenly I wished I could sketch, because my fingers itched to draw the lines of his face, to try to capture the exact slant of the bottom lip that was fuller than the top. Not exactly a helpful line of thinking.
The demon smiled. “You ran off so fast I didn’t get a chance to give it to you.”
My heart stopped beating. This wasn’t happening. An Upper Level demon didn’t return missing cell phones and he sure as Hell didn’t go to school. I had to be hallucinating.
“You little secret-keeping elf,” Stacey whispered in my ear. “This is why you didn’t show up for our study group last night?”
His gaze had a hypnotic, paralyzing effect. Or I was just that stupid. I could feel Stacey practically coming out of her skin beside me.
He leaned down, placing his palms on my desk, smelling of something sweet and musky. “I’ve been thinking about you all night.”
Stacey sounded like she’d choked.
The door to our classroom swung open and Mrs. Cleo shuffled in, her plump arms filled with papers. “All right, everyone in their seats.”
Still smiling, the demon straightened and turned. He sat down in the desk directly in front of us. Not even a second passed before he rocked the chair back on two legs, hovering there and completely at ease.
“What the frick, Layla?” Stacey gripped my arm. “Where did you pick him up last night, somewhere between the Big Mac and fries? And why didn’t I get an order of him?”
Stacey’s fingers continued to dig into my arm, but I was utterly dumbstruck.
Mrs. Cleo cradled the exams to her chest like they were a newborn infant. “It’s quiet time. Everyone face the front of— Oh, we have a new student.” She picked up a small pink sheet, frowning as she looked up at demon boy. “Well, the exam won’t count toward your grade, but it should give me an idea of where you’re at.”
“Layla,” Stacey whispered. “The look on your face is starting to freak me out. Are you okay?”
Mrs. Cleo dropped the exams on our desks, snapping her fingers. “No talking. Test time, Ms. Shaw and Ms. Boyd.”
The questions on the paper blurred. I couldn’t do this—sit here and take an exam with a freaking demon sitting in front of me.
“I don’t feel good,” I whispered to Stacey.
“I can tell.”
Without another word, I gathered up my stuff. My legs shook as I stood and hurried to the front of the class. Mrs. Cleo glanced up as I flew past her, my cell slippery in my hand.
“Ms. Shaw, where do you think you’re going?” she called out, rising to her feet. “You can’t just leave class in the middle of an exam! Ms. Shaw—”
The door slammed shut, silencing whatever else she said. I didn’t know where I was going, but I knew I had to call Zayne—maybe even Abbot. The gray lockers lining the halls blurred. I pushed open the door to the girls’ bathroom, and the lingering scent of cigarettes and disinfectant washed over me. The graffiti on the walls looked completely unintelligible.
Flipping open the phone, I caught a glimpse of my eyes in the mirror. They were bigger than normal, taking up my whole face. My stomach tumbled as I thumbed through my contacts.
The door to the bathroom creaked open.
I swung around, but no one stood there. Slowly, the door inched closed with a soft clink. A shiver danced over my skin. My finger trembled as I pressed down on Zayne’s name. There was a chance he’d still be awake and not completely encased in stone at the moment. A small, unlikely—
Demon boy was suddenly standing in front of me. He folded his hand over mine, snapping the phone shut. A startled shriek escaped me.
His lips pursed. “Now who are you calling?”
My pulse raced at breakneck speed. “How...how did you do that?”
“Do what? Leave class so easily?” He leaned down as if he was about to share a secret. “I can be very persuasive. It’s a gift of mine.”
I knew Upper Level demons held powers of persuasion. Some could just whisper two or three words to a person, and whatever the demon wanted, the human would do. But that was also against the rules—free will and all.
“I don’t care about the class thing. You were freaking invisible!”
“I know. Pretty cool, huh?” He pried the cell out of my hands. Didn’t take much since my fingers felt boneless. He looked around the bathroom, dark brows raised. “It’s only one of many talents.” Casting a look over his shoulder at me, he winked. “And I do have many talents.”
I inched around the sink, toward the door. “And I really don’t care about your many talents.”
“Stay still.” He kicked open a stall with the toe of his black boot as he kept an eye on me. “We need to chat, you and I. And that door isn’t opening for anyone but me.”
“Wait! What are you doing? Don’t—”
My cell flew through the air, landing in the toilet. He faced me, shrugging. “Sorry. I was hoping the phone could be a white flag of friendship, but I can’t have you calling those creatures of yours.”
“That’s my cell phone, you son of a—”
“It’s not your cell phone anymore.” He grinned playfully. “Now it belongs to the sewer department.”