I couldn’t have both of them.
And what I felt for them was different.
There was no hiding that. It had always been that way. Both made me happy. Both made me laugh. Both filled me with longing and made my girlie parts all kinds of happy. But only one really made me...
Well, there was only one that I knew I would always be happy with, one that I would always laugh with. One that I did more than long for, but yearned for, and each second that passed ignoring it was a second I wouldn’t get to spend with him—a second I wouldn’t live life with love in it, real love in it, the kind that did have lasting power.
Despite what Cayman said, I wasn’t sure that both of them were truly in love with me. I wasn’t in their heads, but the way they felt didn’t matter when it came down to it. It was how I felt, and I wouldn’t settle. I also didn’t expect them to settle.
My forehead was starting to stick to the granite.
For the first time in days, I let myself really think about Roth’s words, the ones I thought I’d hallucinated before I had passed out from my wounds and whatever the witches had given me.
I love you, Layla. I’ve loved you since the first moment I heard your voice and I will continue to love you. No matter what. I love you.
Roth had pretty much confirmed that I had in fact heard those words spoken with such sweet urgency, but there was this part of me that just couldn’t believe it. Or maybe I didn’t want to, because when I thought about what Roth said, I also remembered what Zayne had said when he’d seen me standing in Stacey’s living room.
I would know if a part of my heart was gone.
My entire being felt like it was squeezed to the point of pain. There were all the secrets that Zayne had told me, how he had waited...for me. Still, I had spent years wanting him and it never seemed possible that I would ever have him.
Maybe I was just scared out of my mind to finally—
Lost in my own thoughts, I didn’t recognize the awareness that seeped into my skin, alerting me to another presence in the house until a deep voice rumbled throughout the kitchen.
“What in the world are you doing, Shortie?”
Jerking back, I lifted my head as I pressed my palm against my chest. Heart pounding, I watched Roth walk toward the island and stop. He was dressed much like he had been last night, except he was wearing a white thermal today that really complemented the golden hue of his skin.
“I was... I was thinking,” I said, smoothing my hands over my hair. “Thinking about stuff.”
He propped a hip against the island. “Was the countertop helping you think about stuff?”
I pressed my lips together. “Maybe.”
Roth’s gaze dipped, and then slowly slid back up to my face. There was a pleased heat in his gaze that wrought a very different kind of shiver out of me. “That’s an odd way to do some thinking, Shortie.”
“Yeah, I know. Cayman...um, he made breakfast.” Toying with my hair, I wrapped the edges around my fingers as Roth started walking again. He was coming closer to me. “And got me a phone.”
“I told him to get the phone for you,” he replied, his tawny eyes aglow. “The breakfast, though, was nice of him. All his idea.”
“It was nice.” My heart had not slowed down, and it didn’t help when he got closer still. “Where have you been?”
He stopped in front of me. “Checked out Sam’s house. Thought it would be a good idea.” Reaching between us, he got his fingers in between mine and tugged them away from my hair. “It’s not good news.”
Roth shook his head as he held my hands in his. “His family was dead. In their beds.” His expression grew tight, somber. “And they’d been dead for at least a couple of days. Since I didn’t see any wraiths, it doesn’t look like their souls had been stripped. There was a...a mess left behind.”
Squeezing my eyes shut, I couldn’t suppress the shudder. I didn’t need to ask what constituted a mess. “Why would the Lilin kill without taking a soul?”
His thumbs smoothed over the insides of my hands. “Because it can. No other reason than that.”
“God.” The only silver lining was that Sam’s family would go where they belonged since they still had their souls.
“I kind of expected it, to be honest. I thought about it last night, but didn’t want to leave until I made sure you were okay.” His warm hands spread up to my wrists, and when I opened my eyes, he was staring down at me. “I hate to have to bring that news to you.”
I hated the fact that more innocent lives had been lost. I’d met Sam’s parents a few times. They were pretty cool, as random and adorable as Sam. “Wait. Sam has a sister. She’s younger and—”
A muscle flickered in his jaw as Roth dropped his gaze, and then it hit me. Roth hadn’t said his parents. He’d said his family. The eggs and bacon churned in my stomach, and I wished I hadn’t eaten anything.
“I made an anonymous call to the police. They’re probably already at the house. Even though what looks like Sam is up and walking around, with his family...deceased, that’s going to force the Lilin out of school and away from the students there. It’s going to have to be careful. Not that it would be easy to arrest, but I doubt it wants that extra hassle.”
My chest ached so badly as I murmured, “That was really smart.”
He stepped even closer. “I figured that for Stacey...and for you, it would be easier if either everyone assumed he was dead or, well, a murderer now rather than later. If the Lilin is allowed to roam around school as Sam, it means Stacey would have to go through that loss all over again.”
My gaze flew to his. “That was very considerate.”
Roth mouthed the word considerate like he’d never heard it before or didn’t really understand what it meant. “I’m going to be honest. Okay?”
“I like Stacey. Don’t get me wrong. That girl’s got a lot of bad in her, the fun kind, but I was really thinking about you.” His eyes held mine. “After seeing it tear you apart last night, knowing it’s still tearing you apart, I don’t want you to feel all of that again when you’ve just started to heal.”
“So don’t give me credit for something I am not,” he finished, dropping my hands.
As he stepped back, I leaned into the island, absolutely shaken. “I don’t think you give yourself enough credit, Roth.”
He looked over his shoulder as he turned away. “I know what I am.”
That was the thing. I didn’t think he had a clue about what he was, not what existed deep inside him, what really mattered.
Cayman’s words, the whispered ones, echoed among my thoughts again, and I looked away. There was so much going on right now and so much was a mess. I had to start somewhere to sort all of this out, though, and I knew where. “I need to do something.”
Roth went to the fridge and pulled out a bottle. He didn’t turn around, but there was a suspicious hissing sound as he popped off the cap.
I took a deep breath and forged on. “I need... I need to see Zayne.”
His shoulders tensed, and then hunched as he lifted the drink to his lips. “I figured as much,” he said, and I stared at the rigid line of his back.