I backed away from him, successfully cornering myself between the sink and the gray cement wall, where a heart had been carved under a small window. “Don’t come near me.”
“Or what? Remember how far you got fighting the Seeker last night? You won’t get even that far with me.”
I opened my mouth to—I don’t know—scream, but he shot forward, clamping his hand over my lips. Running on instinct, I slammed my balled fists into his stomach. He grabbed my wrist with his free hand and pressed against me, trapping my other arm between my softer stomach and his much, much harder one. I tried to wriggle away, but he held me in place.
“I’m not going to hurt you.” His breath stirred the hair around my temple. “I just want to talk.”
I bit his hand.
He let out a low hiss, wrapping his hand around my throat. He pressed his fingers in, forcing my head back. “Biting can be a lot of fun, but only when it’s appropriate. And that wasn’t appropriate.”
I wrestled an arm free and gripped his. “I’m going to do worse to you than biting if you don’t let go of me.”
The demon blinked and then laughed. “I might be interested in seeing what more you can do. Pleasure. Pain. Kind of the same thing, but we don’t have time for that right now.”
I drew in a deep breath, trying to calm my pounding heart. My gaze darted to the door. The reality of the situation sank in. I’d escaped the Seeker demon and this one last night, only to die in the bathroom of my high school. Life was freaking cruel.
There was no place for me to go. Any movement I made brought us closer together and we were already way too close. The word leaked out of my mouth. “Please...”
“Okay. Okay.” To my surprise, his voice dropped, became soothing as his grip relaxed. “I scared you. Maybe I should have picked a better way of showing up, but the look on your face was priceless. If you knew my name, would that make you feel better?”
He smirked. “You can call me Roth.”
Nope. Knowing his name didn’t make me feel better.
“And I’ll call you Layla.” His head shifted, sending several locks of black hair forward. “I know what you can do. So let’s cut the crap, Layla. You know what I am and I know what you are.”
“You have the wrong person.” I dug my nails into his arm. It had to hurt, but it didn’t even faze him.
Roth looked up to the ceiling, sighing. “You’re half-demon, Layla. You can see souls. That’s why you were in that alley last night.”
I opened my mouth to lie again, but what was the point? Taking a deep breath, I struggled to keep my voice even. “What do you want?”
He tipped his head to the side. “Right this moment? I want to understand how you’ve let the Wardens brainwash you into hunting your own kind. How you can work for them.”
“They haven’t brainwashed me!” I pushed against his stomach. He didn’t budge. And wow, his stomach was so not squishy, either. It was ridiculously hard and trim. And I was sort of feeling him up. I jerked my hands back. “I’m nothing like you. I am a Warden—”
“You are half Warden and half demon. What you’re doing is—is sacrilegious,” he announced with a look of disgust.
I scoffed. “Coming from you, a demon? That’s almost funny.”
“And what do you think you are? Just because you choose to ignore your demon blood doesn’t change its existence.” He leaned in so close his nose brushed mine as his hand cupped my chin, forcing me to maintain eye contact. “Don’t you ever wonder why the Wardens didn’t kill you? You’re part demon. So why did they keep you? Perhaps it’s because your ability to see souls is valuable to them? Or something else?”
My eyes narrowed as anger replaced the fear. “They don’t use me. They’re my family.”
“Family?” It was his turn to scoff. “You obviously can’t shift or you would’ve done so last night.”
Heat burned my face. Jeez, even a demon knew I was defective.
“Whatever Warden blood you have in you isn’t as strong as your demon side. We are your family—your kind.”
Hearing that was putting voice to my own personal version of Hell. I knocked his hand away. “No.”
“Really? I think you’re lying. Seeing souls isn’t the only thing you can do, is it? The last one who could?” he whispered, catching my chin again with the tips of his slender fingers. “She could do much more than that. Let’s just say she’d get a very unique hankering.”
I started to shake. “Who are you talking about?”
Roth smiled like the cat that ate an entire roomful of canaries and had moved on to the parrots. “I know what you wanted before you went into that alley.”
The floor seemed to roll under my feet. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“You don’t? I was following you.”
“Oh, so you’re a demon and a stalker?” I swallowed hard. “Because that’s not creepy or anything.”
He laughed softly. “Deflection doesn’t work on demons.”
“Then I guess I’ll just have to try biting again.”
Something flared in his golden eyes, brightening them. “You wanna try?” He leaned in again, his lips brushing the curve of my cheek. “Let me suggest more appropriate places. I have this piercing—”
“Stop!” I jerked my head to the side. “Now I can add pervert to stalker and demon.”
“I have no objection to any of those titles.” One side of his mouth curved up as he pulled back a little. “You wanted that man’s soul—the one you saw on the street? I’d be willing to bet a whole circle in Hell it’s all you ever want—ever think about sometimes.”
I did need it. Sometimes I shook just thinking about how a soul would feel slipping down my throat, and talking about it made it worse. Even now, when there were no souls near me, I could feel the pull—the need to cave to the urge. Like a junkie after a fix. My muscles cramped in warning. I pushed against his chest. “No. I don’t want that.”
“The one before you never denied what she was.” His voice then took on that soft, teasing quality again. “Do you know anything about her—about your heritage, Layla?” he said, and then his arm slipped around my waist, fitting my body against his. “Do you know anything about what you are?”
“Do you know anything about personal space?” I snapped.
“No.” He smirked, and then his eyes seemed to turn luminous. “But I do know that you really don’t mind me in your personal space.”
“Keep trying to convince yourself of that.” I sucked in a breath, forcing myself to meet his stare. “Being this close to you makes me want to shave off layers of my skin.”
Roth laughed softly. His head tipped down and suddenly our lips were inches apart. If he had a soul, he’d be entering dangerous territory. “I don’t need to do any convincing. I’m a demon.”
“Duh,” I murmured, my gaze now fixed on his mouth.
“Then you know that demons can smell human emotions.”
They could. I’d missed out on that ability, though. I could smell burnt food a mile away, as helpful as that was.