To squeeze a forever into a few short hours.
To experience everything we hadn’t yet explored before we lost the chance.
“Can I have tonight?” I asked.
Cayman eyed me and then nodded. “Meet me in the lobby in the morning. Make the most of today. Anything is possible tomorrow.”
THAT EVENING, I stood in the bathroom of Roth’s loft and stared at my reflection. My face was flushed, eyes way too big, as usual, and nothing really looked that different about me. But I felt different. Older somehow, and I wasn’t sure what had sparked that.
Outside of the bathroom, I could hear Roth moving around and the soft hum of the TV was comforting. I glanced at the door, and my heart turned into a sledgehammer. It wasn’t until the moment Cayman told me that Grim was back in Hell that it really slammed into me that I was going to go traipsing into Hell to talk to the Grim Reaper. Cayman didn’t need to warn me that it would be dangerous. I knew it would be. Anything could go wrong, and tonight could be my last night with Roth.
I wanted—no, needed—to be close to him tonight.
If something went wrong tomorrow, I wanted to experience as much as I could before then. I wanted to experience Roth. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly. I’d been obsessing over it all day while we roamed the streets, coming up empty-handed. What I wanted from tonight was a big deal. While Roth and I had done things, we hadn’t done that one thing, and I assumed the nervousness I felt was normal. Roth had way more experience than me when it came to this, but as my gaze shifted back to the mirror, I knew I was ready. I just hoped I... I didn’t embarrass myself. That he didn’t think I was naive or had no idea what I was doing¸ because I seriously had no idea what I was doing in this arena.
My gaze dipped to the straps on my camisole and my skin heated in a flash. When I entered the bathroom, I’d been fully clothed. Of course. But now my jeans and the sweater I wore were folded on the rim of the bathtub, and shoved in between them was my bra. The material of the cami was thin, so much so that I didn’t need to look down to know exactly what could and could not be seen. And I didn’t need the tiny chill bumps racing up and down my legs to remind me that while my undies weren’t exactly skimpy, they sure as heck didn’t cover all that much. I’d never roamed undressed like this, and I had no idea what my butt looked like in these undies and I really didn’t want to know.
I wiggled my toes on the cool tile floor.
“I can do this,” I whispered at my reflection. “I am a badass hybrid...not a donkey...creature. With feathered wings. That are pretty and weird. I can do this.”
My pep talk wasn’t helping.
I just needed to open the door and walk my confident booty out into the bedroom, grab Roth by the shoulders, toss him onto the bed total She-Ra style, and get down to business.
Well, none of that sounded exactly romantic, and really, I just needed to walk out of this room without looking like a total idiot. Forget everything else. Tugging my hair over my shoulders, I took a deep breath, threw up a little in my mouth, and then turned to the door, yanking it nearly off its hinges as I hauled it open.
I took two steps and then stopped.
Roth was standing in front of the bed, staring at the TV with his arm extended, remote in his hand. He glanced in my direction and froze.
My heart was lodged in my throat, and I couldn’t get a single word out as he turned to me, the remote slipping out of his fingers, falling to the floor. It cracked like thunder, but neither of us reacted to the sound.
His gaze started at the top of my head and glided all the way down to the tips of my curled toes, and then slowly made the trek back up to my eyes. The intensity in his gaze created a flutter low in my belly. When he spoke, his voice was rough, sending a series of chills up and down my spine. “I don’t know what made you change your sleeping attire, but I just want to let you know that I am a hundred and fifty-five percent behind it.”
All I could think was that he liked what he saw and that was a good sign.
“Actually, if you want to dress like that whenever we’re alone—to eat dinner, watch the TV, read a book or whatever, I also support that.”
Another great sign.
His heated gaze dipped once more and he made this sound in the back of his throat, eliciting another round of shivers. “Damn, Layla, I...”
He seemed to run out of words, and that made me feel a little better standing there, my hands trembling. He was obviously affected, and that affected me, causing weight to settle in certain areas of my body.
My legs carried me toward him and they felt strangely weak. The closer I got to him, the more tension poured off him. He stiffened, his pupils dilating slightly, and I could barely get air into my lungs as I placed my hands on his chest. The heat of his skin burned through his shirt, and I felt his chest rise with a deep breath. I stretched up, pressing the length of my body against his.
I didn’t have to ask.
Roth met me halfway, lowering his mouth to mine, and although I was the one to initiate the kiss, he was the one who startled me with the passion behind it. I’d set out to seduce him, which was laughable if I really thought about it, but I wasn’t really thinking. The moment his lips touched mine, I was consumed with how he tasted and felt, how my heart was jackhammering when he circled an arm around my waist and lifted me up so that my feet were atop his bare ones. His other hand closed around the nape of my neck, and we were kissing, really kissing, and I could feel the bolt in his tongue. There wasn’t an inch of space between our bodies. I folded my arms around his neck, my fingers sliding through the soft locks of hair.
He suddenly lifted his mouth from mine. Each breath he took as he stared down at me was ragged, and I felt it in every part of me. “I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but we...we need to slow it down.”
My lips felt swollen and my skin was buzzing, but my heart was about to come out of my chest. “I... I don’t want to slow down.”
His eyes flared a bright, tawny color as his arm tightened around me. “Layla—”
“I don’t want to stop.” My skin felt way too tight as I rushed on. “I don’t want to slow down. I want to go fast.” The moment those words were out of my mouth, I wanted to smack myself. “I mean, I want—”
“I get what you’re saying,” he said thickly. “Damn, do I ever.”
Swallowing hard, I started for his mouth again, but the hand at the back of my neck stilled me. Confused, I felt the tendrils of embarrassment start to build. “I don’t...understand. You don’t want this?”
“Is that a serious question?”
With his arm, he lifted me up just a few more inches, until our bodies were pieced together in all the ways that counted. “What do you think the answer to that question is?”
Heat burst through my veins, not out of embarrassment, but because I could feel every part of him. “I... I think you do.”
“There’s nothing else I want more than that in this moment. Layla, I want you. I want you so badly that every time I’m alone with you—Hell, whenever I’m in the near vicinity of you—it takes every ounce of restraint I have not to have you. Make no mistake, the very thought of being with you undoes me,” he said, his voice gruff, and I shivered at the intensity behind his words. “But I only want to go there if you’re ready. There’s no middle ground. There’re no maybes, and I’ll wait for however long that takes.”