Cayman tweaked my nose as he walked past, heading out the office door. “I’ll send some greasy goodness up.”
My stomach grumbled, reminding me that I hadn’t eaten since that morning. We had to take the stairs since the elevators only went down, like down there, and by the time I’d hoofed it all the way to the top floor, I kind of wished I had climbed onto Roth’s back.
The little teacup hounds weren’t guarding the door. “Where are your friends?”
“It’s feeding time,” he said. “You don’t need to know more than that.”
When Roth opened his loft, warm air greeted us. He stepped in, flipping on the lights, and I walked into the middle of the room, looking around.
“Everything looks like it used to,” I said, eyeing the massive king-size bed. Black sheets were smoothed and tucked in, and as I looked toward the door that led up to the rooftop, I saw that not a single speck of dust tarnished the piano. The morbid paintings of fire and dark shadows were still precisely hung.
Roth moved over to the bookshelf full of ancient, boring-looking tomes and kicked off his shoes. “No one would change it.”
“Someone has been keeping it clean, though.”
That made sense, I supposed.
“Did you expect it to look different?” he asked, tugging his shirt off his head.
My mouth dried like it had the first time I stood in his loft and watched him do that. His body was a chiseled piece of art. “I... I guess I did.”
His lashes lowered and his smile was smug, as if he knew I’d been more than momentarily distracted by him. “We have been gone from here for what feels like forever. Hasn’t been that long, though.”
Roth was right.
But so much had changed since then. I had changed, so it was weird to see something untouched from...from before. He brushed his hand over his sternum, down to the belt on his jeans, near the colorful dragon tattoo, and something about the movement hollowed out my stomach. I drew in a stuttered breath. His lashes lifted and heated amber eyes met mine.
The heady tension was there, pulling and tugging us toward one another. It had always been there between us, and it wasn’t weakening.
Three shadows drifted off his body, slowly floating to the floor. They solidified into the form of the kittens. Two of them immediately darted under the bed. The third—Thor—trotted over to me, rubbed up against my leg, purring like a mini engine, and then also disappeared under the bed without drawing my blood, which was an improvement.
“I wonder what they do under there.”
Roth raised one broad shoulder. “I actually don’t want to know.”
“That’s probably a wise choice.” I moved to the bed and sat on the corner, tugging off my boots. “I’m glad we’re here. I’ve missed this place.”
He smiled slightly as I pulled my feet off the floor, not trusting those damn kittens even if they were playing nice with me right now. “It does have its charm.”
I started to respond, but Roth took a moment to stretch and there was just something about seeing all that muscle and skin working together fluidly that made me lose complete track of my thoughts.
“What something to drink?” he asked.
Mute, I shook my head.
As he lowered his arms, he prowled over to the black mini fridge and pulled out a bottle of water. Screwing off the cap, he took a healthy drink before placing the bottle down. Then he faced me.
Roth watched me, not like he expected me to break down at any given moment, but simply like he was concerned. He didn’t have to ask as he walked over to me.
“I... I keep thinking that was how...how Sam died,” I admitted. “I’ll think of something else and then he’s back in my mind.”
Roth knelt before me. “Layla—”
“You saw what the Lilin did. He took my... He took Elijah’s soul and then swallowed it. The soul was consumed and it looked like him afterward.” Lifting my gaze, I met Roth’s. “That was how Sam died and that’s why the Lilin was able to look like him. It had to have been so painful.” I squeezed my eyes shut briefly. “But quick, right? It looked like it happened so quick with Elijah.”
He placed his hands on my knees, rubbing gently. “It was quick.”
Shoulders dropping, I shook my head slightly. “I... I’m not really upset about Elijah and he was my father. What does that say about me?”
His expression hardened. “That says nothing about you. That asshole donated sperm. That’s the truth. That is all. He was not your father. You don’t owe him a single moment of sadness. You owe him nothing.”
What he said was true, but... “It’s still hard not to feel guilty.”
He didn’t respond while he studied me closely. “You...you are so human sometimes, Layla, and yet, there is not a drop of human blood in you.”
“Socialization?” I offered, and Roth laughed under his breath. “I’m serious, though. Stacey and...and Sam’s influence on me, I think. They kept me human, and I like that. I like that I feel human.”
“I love that about you.” His response was quick, surprising me.
He nodded solemnly, and I smiled a little. “You don’t owe Elijah anything,” he reinforced. “Please tell me you understand that.”
“I do.” But it was harder to accept it.
His gaze returned to searching. “You’re not planning anything, are you?”
I stilled. “Like what?”
“To get Sam’s soul?” he asked, his eyes latched onto mine. “Don’t try to deny it—I know that’s what you want. I will go and—”
“No. You cannot go down there. I know that if you do, they’ll keep you there,” I interrupted. “You can’t.”
His eyes narrowed. “Someone has been talking to Cayman.”
I didn’t deny that. “I don’t want you to put yourself at risk.”
“Not even for Sam?” he challenged.
Knowing what I planned to do made it hard to say the next word. “No.”
“And I don’t want you to risk it for him,” he replied. “I don’t care if that sounds cruel. You don’t want me to take the chance. I feel the same about you.”
Saying what I did next was even harder than that one word, because I was going to lie and I didn’t want any lies between us, but I had to do something for Sam. There was no way around it and I knew if I told Roth, he would find a way to stop me or he would go with me. Neither of those two things could happen.
“How could I get Sam’s soul?” I asked. “I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”
Roth didn’t reply as he stared at me, and I knew that he had the answers. If Cayman did, he had to, but if Cayman also knew Grim wasn’t in Hell right now, then there was a big chance that Roth was aware of that, too. And I also knew there was a possibility that Roth planned on going to Grim despite the risks.
I would have to get there before he did.
“Do you think you can shift real quick, before Cayman gets here with the food? I want to check out your wings.”
Denying Roth this was just going to delay the inevitable and I was thankful for the change in conversation. I shrugged out of my sweater. There were two small tears in the back from where my wings had ripped through the material earlier, but the tank top underneath felt intact.