“Proceed very carefully with what you’re about to say,” Roth advised softly. “That’s my girl you’re about to insult, and I’m not going to be happy about that. At all.”
“Whatever.” I forced a shrug. Yeah, what Elijah had said stung, but I was so over my daddy issues. “Same stuff. Different day. Try something new next time.”
The dark-haired Warden behind Elijah bared his fangs, but Elijah cut him off.
“I cannot say I’m surprised to find you with a demon.”
Roth stepped forward, positioning himself between Elijah and me. “I cannot say I’m surprised to find you’re just as ugly as your son. Oh, wait. Dead son. My bad.”
Elijah’s chilled gaze swung in his direction. “Do not speak of my son.”
“I won’t speak of him, only because he’s worse than the scum that lines the streets below,” Roth said, his voice eerily calm. “But do you want to know what I did with his spine after I tore it from his body?”
That did it.
Mostly because after I’d taken Petr’s soul in self-defense, Roth had removed Petr’s spine from his body, and I was guessing Elijah had figured that out.
The Wardens shifted. Clothing ripped as bodies expanded and skin hardened. Wings spread and claws appeared. The trench Elijah wore shredded up the back. He was impressive in his true form. Horns parted his dark hair.
“I’m going to end both of you,” he promised.
“Please,” laughed Roth.
Then Roth went all kinds of badass. He didn’t shift. He didn’t need to at this point, because he didn’t feel that they were a big enough threat to warrant it.
The dark-haired Warden rushed forward and Roth dropped low, kicking out and catching the Warden at the kneecaps, knocking his legs right out from under him. His heavy weight shook the roof, but he was only down for half a second. Back on his feet, he swung at Roth, but he was fast as lightning. Roth ducked under the Warden’s outstretched arm and popped up behind him. He planted his booted foot into the back of the Warden, bringing him to his knees.
Over the Warden’s head, Roth looked up and winked at me.
Winked at me in the middle of a fight.
The other two Wardens charged Roth, and my heart seized as one nearly reached him. He spun. Red light pulsed from his palm. Like his fingers were made of gasoline, fire licked over his hand and then shot out like a missile, narrowly missing the Warden.
Elijah started toward me.
“Bambi!” I summoned the familiar. “Help Roth.”
There was a tickle above my belly button and then from under the hem of my sweater, a twisty, dark shadow floated out and spilled into the space in front of me. The shadow broke into a million marble-size balls, bouncing silently off the rooftop. They shot toward one another, piecing together rapidly.
Bambi raised her diamond-shaped head, her red eyes glimmering in the sunlight. Her mouth opened, revealing fangs the size of my hand. She looked hungry.
Then again, Bambi always looked hungry.
The snake shot across the rooftop, heading right for a lighter-haired Warden. Roth whirled out of the way as Bambi struck, nailing the Warden in the throat. There was a high-pitched yelping sound.
Roth’s low laugh sent chills over my skin as he moved toward the third Warden, toying with him, clearly enjoying himself. He was sort of beautiful to watch, the grace in the way he moved, almost like a dancer performing on stage.
“You defile your body with familiars now?” Elijah’s voice was laden with disgust.
“Really? Do I need to repeat myself? You hooked up with Lilith!”
Elijah snarled. “And I regret giving you creation with every single breath I take. Just as I’m sure Abbot has regretted saving your life.”
Ouch. That— Okay, that cut deeper than I thought, and I flinched, because the wound was so raw. But that pain gave way to something red-hot in me. Muscles in my stomach and legs tightened, and I let the shift come over me.
It was on like Donkey Kong.
Cool air hit my back as my shirt tore at the collar. My wings unfurled, arcing behind me as I felt my skin harden as if it was icing over.
Elijah immediately drew up short, his mouth dropping open. “What the...?”
“Yeah. My wings are feathered now. It’s weird. I know.”
He shook his head as he took a step back from me— literally backed away. Instead of gawking over that, I used it to my advantage. Relying on all the offensive techniques that Zayne had showed me over the years, I harnessed the power in my legs and my core. I spun around, faster than I had ever moved before, and kicked out and up, catching Elijah in the chest.
The blow staggered him, but that was a small victory. Throwing a punch that would make a boxer proud, I coldcocked Elijah in the jaw, snapping his head back. Pain burst across my hand, but I ignored it as I looked up, meeting Roth’s gaze.
“Damn,” he said, not taking his eyes off me as his hand snapped out, catching the Warden by the throat. Pride and something far deeper churned in those tawny depths. “Still hot as Hell.”
I flashed a quick grin in his direction before I turned back to Elijah just in time to miss the clawed hand that was aiming for my face.
“You cannot be,” he grunted, pupils dilated.
I jumped back as he reached for me again, but he caught my wing in his grip. He twisted his hand. I heard an almost delicate crack, and startling pain arced across my wing, slamming into my shoulder and powering down my spine.
Unable to stop it, a cry punched out of me, but that spark of pain ignited a fire in me. I started to bring my knee up, but before I could utter “jerk face,” Elijah slammed his palm into my chest.
The blow knocked me off my feet and through the air as if he’d tossed me. I flew back, over the edge of the roof overlooking the alley.
“Layla!” Fear filled Roth’s shout.
As I started to topple into nothing but air, instinct came out of cruise control. The pain in my left wing knocked the air out of my lungs, but I pushed through it, grinding my teeth as I caught myself. The movement was like taking a lighted match to my wing, but I darted up several feet above the rooftop.
He’d broken my wing!
Startled, Elijah shouted as he reached into the torn coat and pulled out a dagger, and I knew without even getting close that it was iron—and if you had even the tiniest amount of demon blood, iron could be deadly.
He crouched, and then shot into the air, and that fire in me burned into an inferno. I shot across the rooftop as Elijah raised his hand, swinging the dagger toward me. I dropped to the concrete, and the dagger swung over my head. I grabbed hold of his legs, my claws digging in as I yanked down with all my strength.
Elijah hadn’t expected that move, and he went down as I made a pass at him, the tips of my claws missing him by an inch. Spinning around, I swung out my clawed hand. I didn’t graze him this time. My claws hit him across the chest, digging in deep, tearing open the hardened skin. Blood spurted and then sprayed. Shock splashed across Elijah’s face as he stumbled back, toward the roof’s edge, his hands pressing against his chest. It wasn’t a fatal blow, but as he stared at me, I saw my opening. His throat was vulnerable and exposed. If I caught him there, he wouldn’t recover.
I took a step toward him, my wings twitching as I raised my hand again. My muscles were strung tight with anticipation. I wanted to bring him to his knees, end him. He was my father and he’d tried to have me killed more times than I probably even knew of. Killing him would be understandable, justified even, because if I didn’t, he was surely going to come after me again and again.