Sometimes I really hated that Zayne could read me so well. That when he looked at me, like he was now, I felt as though he could discover all my secrets with his stare alone. But that didn’t mean I was up for caring and sharing time.
Zayne sighed. “You avoided me all day today.”
“Did, too.” He closed his eyes, giving a lopsided shrug. “Something is up with you.”
Twirling a long strand of hair around my finger, I made a face at Zayne even though he couldn’t see it. “I wasn’t avoiding you.” Totally a lie. “That’s just your insecurity talking.”
One eye popped open. “Excuse me?”
“You heard me,” I said, trying to hide my smile. “I wasn’t ignoring you. I’ve been very busy today.”
The other eye opened as he lowered his arm, draping it on the back of the couch. I had his full attention now. “You didn’t do crap today but hang out in your room and stare at Izzy as she tried to bite your feet.”
My eyes narrowed.
“Why couldn’t you sleep?”
I continued to twist my hair into one giant rope. “I just couldn’t.”
A couple of moments of silence passed. “I’m actually glad you’re up. There’s something I want to talk to you about. It has to do with Roth.” He said the name as if it were some new STD.
“Do we really need to talk about him?”
“Yes.” He frowned. “Stop messing with your hair.”
My fingers stilled and I dropped my hand, returning his frown. “What about Roth?”
“I don’t trust him. Not just because he’s a demon, but because of what...well, what he may or may not mean to you.” His eyes still hadn’t left my face. “He’s... It doesn’t matter. I know you’re going to see him at school, but I don’t want you running off with him alone.”
My gaze sharpened on him. The frustration from earlier was back, prickling my skin and causing Bambi to get twitchy. “Yeah, because that’s exactly what I was planning to do.”
“Look, I’m not saying that you would, but I know you’re going to want to find out more about the Lilin and I don’t want you alone with him.”
I opened my mouth.
“Only because I don’t want to see you hurt more,” he added, and what could I really say to that. Could it be more than that, though? God knew what Roth and Zayne had said to each other, and now that Zayne knew the full extent of what had gone down with Roth, I could only guess what he was thinking.
From underneath my lashes, I watched him stretch fluidly, like a cat with a full belly. Zayne was super protective of me, but that didn’t mean he was jealous or that he was in love with me.
“Besides there’s another reason why I came home early,” he drawled lazily. “I was sure you missed me.”
“Not likely.” I tossed the small pillow at his head. He plucked it from the air a second before it smacked him in the face. “Not at all.”
He flipped the pillow behind his neck, eyeing me. “Terrible liar.” He couldn’t know how closely his words echoed Roth’s, and I wasn’t about to tell him.
“I’m not lying.”
His lips twitched as if he wished to smile. “Uh-huh.”
I leaned forward, knocking his legs off the couch. They thumped against the floor. He kicked them back up.
“Don’t be a brat, Layla-bug.”
Looking away, I dragged in a deep breath, uneasy with the restlessness I was feeling. “Don’t call me that. I’m not a little girl anymore.”
“Believe me, I know you aren’t.”
I twisted toward him, about to say something snarky, but the words were stolen from my tongue. He wasn’t joking. Holy crap, he was being serious. And that look—the way his eyes were hooded and lips parted—spoke of something I wasn’t used to, but had seen on him the day he’d walked into my bedroom when I was undressing.
We stared at each other in silence. Nothing and everything changed between us in an instant. Thick tension hung in the air, settling over me like a too-warm blanket. His eyes glittered like sapphire jewels in the dim light, eliciting a shiver even though I felt flushed again.
He pushed up a little, and again, I thought of what Danika had said.
I wanted to bail.
And that’s what I did. Coming quickly to my feet, I smoothed my hands over my hair, hoping he didn’t notice how they trembled. “All this talking has tired me out. I’m going to bed. Good night.”
Zayne cocked an eyebrow at me and remained on the couch.
I practically ran from the room and up the stairs. What in the Hell had just happened in there? I didn’t know, but I recognized the heavy, breathless feeling in my chest. It had to be the lack of sleep and my overactive imagination.
Once in my room, I stripped off the cardigan and socks, forcing my mind to go blank. It wasn’t easy. As I pulled back the covers, my bedroom door swung open, causing me to squeak.
Zayne walked through the door, still barefoot as he folded his arms across his chest. What if I’d been naked? My cheeks turned a deep crimson at the realization that the thin tank didn’t hide much.
Struggling not to fold my arms over my br**sts, I held myself still. “What do you want now?”
“Nothing.” He stalked over to my bed and dropped down, stretching out his long frame. He patted the spot next to him. “Come here.”
“Zayne...?” I shifted uncomfortably, wanting to both flee the room and jump in the bed beside him. “You’re being annoying tonight.”
“You’re annoying every night.” He patted the bed again, a lock of hair falling over his eyes. “Stop acting so weird, Layla.”
How was I the one acting weird? Okay. Maybe I was being a little antsy. Him taking up my bed like he owned it wasn’t anything new. Hell, he’d slept in it a few nights ago.
But everything seemed different after what Danika had said.
“You coming?” he murmured, watching me. Taking a deep breath, I climbed into bed. He eased down on his side, his leg brushing mine. “Nice shorts.”
Of course he’d notice my Hello Kitty shorts. “Can you not talk?”
He chuckled. “You’re in such a mood tonight. Was it the sugar-cookie dough?”
I rolled onto my side, facing him. There was little space between us and I closed my mouth, but the strangest thing happened when our eyes met. My breath caught as I stared at the face I knew like the back of my hand. I could close my eyes and still know every one of his expressions, except the one he wore right now. This one was something new, totally uncharted.
And it was scary—so incredibly terrifying, because I had never seriously considered Zayne returning any of my less than normal feelings for him. It was frightening because of what I wanted to do to him—what I could do to him. There was more—there was Roth and the stupid, irrational feeling that I was doing something wrong. He’d virtually sacrificed himself for me...and then told me that nothing he’d ever said or done mattered when it came to me.
Rolling onto my back, I stared up at the ceiling. My chest rose and fell in short, uneven breaths. The scent of him invaded my senses. My fingers rested against my stomach, opening and closing.
“What’s going on, Layla-bug?” he asked.
“Nothing,” I whispered.
“Bullshit.” Zayne shifted suddenly, levering up with one arm so quickly that the air left my lungs in a harsh rush. He stared down at me, lips parted as if he was about to speak, but he seemed to lose track of what he was going to say. That was okay. I had no idea what we were talking about either.
There was barely an inch or two separating our bodies. We were so close that the edges of his hair brushed my cheeks. His gaze dipped to the neckline of my tank top. It was pulled low, revealing more than I should’ve been comfortable with. Bambi’s head was resting on the swell of my right breast. Again.
“She really likes putting her head there, doesn’t she?” Zayne’s voice was rough.
“I guess it’s soft for her.” The moment those words came out of my mouth I wanted to kick myself in my soft boob. “God,” I groaned. “Sometimes I need to—”
Zayne placed a finger on my chin, silencing me. That slight touch packed a punch of sensations—hunger, need, a yearning so intense that it rattled me to the core. “That would make sense.” Pausing, he swallowed as his gaze traced the detail of the demonic tattoo. “I bet it is a...soft place.”
This conversation was...whoa. Really no words.
“Why do you keep this necklace?” he asked, lightly fingering the chain.
It was a struggle to speak. “I...I don’t know.”
His features tightened for a moment and then he seemed to let whatever he was feeling go. The truth about why I kept the necklace had nothing to do with my mother, but then his hand moved, trailing his finger down the center of my throat, over the rise of my collarbone and then straight to where Bambi rested, stopping a mere inch from her head.
Oh my God.
My heart fluttered so fast in my chest it was like a hummingbird about to take flight. A heaviness settled in my chest, the pressure demanding yet pleasant. Then his finger moved again, gliding across the edge of Bambi’s head.
She moved slightly, turning into the touch like a pet seeking more comfort. I dragged in a breath as I wet my bottom lip. Should I be more shocked that he was touching me so intimately or that he was touching Bambi? Or that Bambi wasn’t peeling off my skin and trying to eat him? It really didn’t matter because every nerve ending in my body was tingling.
He traced the delicate scales around Bambi’s nostrils, and when I shivered, his gaze lifted, snaring mine. There was so much heat and intensity in those cobalt eyes that there was no mistaking how he was looking at me.
Like he had the night he’d seen me in my bra.
One side of his lips tipped up, and my heart jumped in my chest. His gaze returned to where Bambi rested, to where his finger was idly tracing her scales in smooth strokes. “It doesn’t feel like I thought it would. The skin is just slightly raised, but it’s really like a tattoo.”
Mouth dry, I closed my eyes as his finger moved over her head, nearing the tiny lace that decorated the hem of my tank top. I wasn’t wearing anything under the tank and he was so, so close.
“Does she like it?” he asked, breath warm in the space between our lips.
I nodded, assuming she did, because she wasn’t trying to kill him.
The question whipped through me with the force of a destructive hurricane. My eyes snapped open and my breath came in short little pants. He was still so close, his hair tickling my cheeks and his finger trailing farther south, following the curve of Bambi, under the lace of my tank top.
His lashes swept up again and his gaze collided with mine. I had no idea how we’d ended up here. His hand stilled and he waited, and there was no denying the driving force behind the question. If I said no, he would move away. And if I said yes, then... I couldn’t even wrap my head around those possibilities.
If I said yes, everything would change—change in ways I couldn’t even fathom, ways I never truly believed could happen between us. My heart was beating too fast, and a strange kind of heat pooled deep in my body.
“Yes.” The word came out barely a whisper, but Zayne heard it.
He inhaled sharply as he moved his hand to the thin strap of my tank top. His eyes never left mine. “Can I see the rest of her?”
My heart rate kicked into cardiac territory. Was I dreaming? Did I fall down the stairs and crack my head open? Seemed more likely than this happening. Seeing the rest of Bambi meant seeing the rest of me. Or at least half of the rest of me.
I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. My gaze focused on the outline of his mouth, fixating on the way his lips parted, and I couldn’t help but wonder how they felt—how they tasted.
Only in the distant part of my mind did I realize that I wanted to taste him and not his soul.
Bambi flicked her tail along my waist, as if she was impatient with all of this and wanted to be shown off. Unable to find the courage to speak, I nodded again.
Zayne’s feverish gaze lowered as he slipped the strap down. The top was so loose and thin that it took the littlest effort to move. Within seconds, the straps ended up on my wrists, the material pooling where my hands were clasped together on my stomach.
I felt his stare as he drank in the detail of Bambi and everything else—every part of me that was exposed. It was like a caress as his gaze tracked over the long, elegant stretch of her neck between my br**sts, to the way she coiled just below my rib cage.
“Layla,” he rasped, and the sound curled my toes.
I stopped breathing as his hand followed Bambi’s path, and the yearning and hunger I was feeling rose until every part of my body felt like a live wire. Everything outside this room ceased to exist—every problem, concern or issue. It was all gone as his hand moved again and my back arched off the bed. A breathy sound escaped me, mingling with Zayne’s ragged breath.
His touch was light, reverent as he explored the layout of my body. He did so with such delicacy it was as though it was his first time, though I knew—at least I thought—that that couldn’t be the case. With his looks and his personality, there had to have been times when he was out hunting—there had to have been girls.
But it didn’t matter as he shifted down, his head lowering close to where Bambi’s head rested. There was a good chance this could go horribly wrong, but my hands fisted together and I bit down on my lip so hard a metallic taste filled my mouth at the first whispered touched of his lips against—