As I turned off the faucet, I looked up and saw my reflection in the mirror. But I didn’t see myself. Not really. When I closed my eyes, I saw the same thing—the same image.
I saw Sam.
I saw Sam smiling. I saw him laughing. I saw the skin around his eyes crinkling, and as I stepped back from the sink, I could hear him spouting off some random, obscure piece of knowledge like how a frozen banana could act as a hammer. I could see him fiddling with his glasses and gazing at Stacey, unable to pull his eyes off her even when she’d been completely oblivious to his attraction. I could see him so clearly, as if he really was standing in the bathroom with me.
“Oh God,” I whispered, and my face crumpled.
There was no one in there to see me, but I slapped my hands over my eyes as I pressed against the wall. A shudder rocked me as the tears I’d been fighting all afternoon and evening finally broke free.
Sam was gone.
The knowledge was like getting hit by a speeding snowplow, and then getting stuck under the wheels and dragged down a bumpy road. Tears poured out of me as my shoulders shook with the force of them.
I remembered the first time I’d met him. We shared a history class my freshman year, and I’d been such a big goober, too nervous about my first foray into public school to find the pens in my bag, so he’d given me one of his while explaining that an average of one hundred people a year choke on pens.
A strangled laugh escaped me. God, how did Sam know all of that stuff? Who knew that kind of stuff? Sam did, but I’d never know the answer to that question and that hurt.
Trying to pull it together and failing, I slid down the wall and tucked my knees against my chest. Pressing my face against my leg, I screamed it out, all the pain, the anger and the sadness. The sound was muffled, and it did very little to ease the storm of emotions swirling inside me. I wanted to scream again, to rage.
I didn’t hear the bathroom door open, but suddenly an arm circled my shoulders, and then Roth was sitting on the floor beside me. He didn’t say anything as he hauled me into his lap, and I was incapable of uttering a single word as I buried my face into his chest, inhaling the unique musky scent and soaking up his warmth. The tears fell faster and harder. There was no gaining control in any of this. Roth held on, one arm wrapped around me, the other hand buried in my hair, curving around the back of my head. He didn’t whisper words of comfort, because there was absolutely nothing that could be said. My heart had cracked wide-open and it was raw, painful. It was unfair.
I cried it all out in the bathroom of a house that didn’t belong to me, held in the protective arms of the Crown Prince of Hell. I mourned the loss of my best friend.
SITTING CROSS-LEGGED IN the center of the king-size bed, I keyed Zayne’s and Stacey’s numbers into the cell phone Cayman had deposited outside my room this morning.
I had terrible, horrific luck with cell phones. I’d left behind a graveyard of cell phones, piles of phones that simply had the misfortune of ending up in my hands, but like I had with every one before it, I really hoped this time was different.
Like the last phone Zayne had picked up for me, it was a nifty smartphone, but this one an even newer and fancier version. Oddly, no matter which way I positioned my finger over the little button, it wouldn’t read my fingerprint.
Dropping the phone on the bed in front of me, I blinked bleary eyes. I’d cried so much last night, my eyes now felt like sandpaper was taped to the back of my lids. I’d cried until I fell asleep on a bathroom floor, in Roth’s arms. He must’ve carried me to bed, but I didn’t remember that, though I did remember how good it felt to be held by him. He was gone when I woke up and I hadn’t seen him or Bambi at all today. I guessed she was on him.
I tried not to panic about their absence, but it was hard. The way things were going there was a good chance that Cayman and Roth had underestimated the extent of their Boss’s reaction to Roth’s actions yesterday with the Alphas and Thumper.
My thoughts roamed from Roth to Zayne and then back to Roth, forming an endless circle before Sam and Stacey broke the cycle. The loss of him was going to hurt something horrible for a long time to come, but as badly as I felt, it was nothing compared to Stacey’s pain.
If losing Sam had taught me anything, it was to seize life—seize everything it had to offer, including the tears, the anger and loss, but most of all, the laughter and the love.
To just seize life.
Because it was fleeting and it was fickle, and no one, not me or anyone I knew, had another day, let alone another second promised to them.
Scooting off the bed, I grabbed the phone and made my way downstairs. The closer I got to the kitchen, the stronger the scent of paradise grew. Bacon. I smelled bacon. My stomach grumbled, and I picked up my pace. I found Cayman in the kitchen, making eggs on the stove. Sure enough, bacon sizzled on a griddle beside them.
“Morning,” he said without turning around. His hair was pulled back in a hot pink clip with a bedazzled butterfly attached to it. A small smile crept onto my face. “You like your eggs scrambled or what?”
“Scrambled is fine.” I hopped up on the bar stool positioned at the large island.
“Good. My kind of girl.” He flipped the bacon, and then headed to the fridge, twirling the spatula as he walked. Opening the door, he reached inside and grabbed a small bottle of OJ. Turning, he tossed it in my direction, and I caught it before it smacked me in the face. “Picked some of these up, too.”
I glanced down at the bottle. “How did you know?”
He lifted his brows, and then shook his head, turning back to the stove. Bacon snapped and popped as I set the bottle down. Roth had to have told him that the OJ helped with the cravings, as did anything sweet. When I’d woken up, the familiar burning sensation in the pit of my stomach was there, even though it had been absent yesterday. Still, it was minor compared to what I was used to.
“So, what are you planning to do today?” Cayman asked, scooping up the eggs and dropping them on two plates.
“I don’t know.” Dragging my still-damp hair over one shoulder, I twisted it with my hands. “I was going to check in with Zayne later and see if he’d heard anything about the Alphas, and then call Stacey. I’m... I’m worried about her.”
“She’ll get through it. Seems like a strong girl.”
“She is,” I agreed. “But losing someone is...”
“I imagine it’s hard, but I really don’t know. I haven’t loved anything or anyone other than myself,” he replied, and I lifted a brow at that. At least he was honest. “Got to suck to lose that.”
“It does.” I screwed off the lid of the OJ, feeling the heaviness in my chest. I had no idea how long it would take for that to fade. I thought back to when Roth had sacrificed himself; there had been moments where the burden of pain eased, but it had always resurfaced with a bitter vengeance.
Cayman gathered up the slices of bacon, spreading them out on our plates before joining me at the island. If someone told me a year ago I’d be eating scrambled eggs and bacon made by a demon, I would’ve laughed in their face and told them that crack was whack.
Times had most definitely changed. I picked up a piece of bacon.
“What’s going on with you and Zayne?”