“What?” I whispered, my heart suddenly beating too fast. I understood what he was saying, but I wanted to be wrong. I needed to be wrong. My lower lip trembled. “Where is his soul?”
“The Lilin consumed it, girl. You know that. How else could it take on his form or any other? When the Lilin consumes a soul, it is not the same as stripping it. That is why any Lilin, even only one, is so incredibly dangerous.”
Horror swamped me. No. No. No. I didn’t know this. There wasn’t a Lilin-handling manual that explains these things. I’d assumed that there would still be some part of Sam’s essence that would’ve been sent to Hell. I had assumed that the Lilin’s ability was like mine. I hadn’t allowed the idea of anything else to cross my mind.
“Are you...?” I could barely get the words out from around the ball of bitter emotion forming. “Are you telling me there is nothing that you can do?”
“There is no soul for me to release,” he answered quietly.
“Oh God.” I closed my eyes, turning away as raw pain and disappointment took my breath away.
It wasn’t fair. Not at all. Sam had never hurt a single person and now he just... Ceased to exist? Some would argue that was better than an eternity of torment, but to me, it was worse. That everything Sam had ever been, all that he had ever done, simply did not matter. He was gone, nothing left of him in this world or any other, and that was so wrong.
And what in the world was I going to tell Stacey? This—this would destroy her, but how could I lie, knowing what I knew? But I’d rather shoulder that burden than have her carry that knowledge.
“I didn’t say there was nothing that could be done.”
My eyes shot open and I spun toward him. “What?”
“The Lilin consumed the soul, and that soul is in him, along with any other souls he’s consumed. All is not lost.”
For a second, I didn’t dare breathe, and then I lost it. “How about starting the conversation off with that instead of letting me think he was simply just gone!”
“How about you watch your tone,” he replied tartly.
Every ounce of my being wanted to rage against him, but I forced myself to calm down, because he held all the knowledge. “I’m sorry,” I pushed out. “It’s just that Sam is important to me.”
Grim arched a brow. “I can see that.” Folding his arms across his chest, he eyed me with stark intensity. “You and I want the same thing. You want to free Sam’s soul and I want the Lilin stopped. I believe this is what humans would term two birds, one stone. Kill the Lilin. Sam and every other soul he’s consumed will be freed.”
“Done.” Not a second of hesitation.
“Be warned that it will not be so easy. Souls don’t last indefinitely, trapped like that. I’ve never heard of one making it past a handful of months,” he said. “Time is of the essence.”
Sam had been gone for a while. “Is it too late for him?”
“No,” he answered, and I took his word for it, because he was who he was. “But you do not have long. For a variety of reasons.”
I nodded, not only grasping onto the hope that I could still help Sam find the peace he deserved but fully understanding that the moment I got topside, I needed to find the Lilin.
“Do not fail in this. It is not just your friend’s soul at risk,” he added, and a blast of icy wind beat back the oppressive heat. “If the Lilin continues unchecked, the Alphas will step in. They will eradicate all the demons and Wardens topside, and if that happens, Hell will have to retaliate. There is no way Hell could stand aside and allow it. The Boss will release the four horsemen.”
I swallowed hard. “I guess you’re not talking about the Kentucky Derby kind of horsemen?”
“No.” He didn’t sound amused. “They will ride, and they will bring about the apocalypse. Billions will die, Layla, and the earth will be laid to waste. Only Lilith and the Lilin could truly want that. Not I. Not the Boss or the Big One in the Sky. None of us want that, because all of us will go to war.”
“No pressure or anything,” I murmured, sighing. “I’m just stopping the apocalypse.”
His lips twitched into a grin, but it was gone so quickly I might’ve imagined it. “Unlike your mother, I have faith in you, Layla. But remember one thing. Everyone pays a price in blood in the end.”
BAMBI AND ROBIN were returned to me right before I stepped back into the significantly cooler hallway. The moment they’d appeared, they’d started bickering with one another. About what, I wasn’t sure, because I was consumed with everything Grim had told and showed me.
Overwhelmed, I didn’t feel the familiars resume their animal forms and attach themselves to me, or really remember much of the walk back to the elevator or the trip topside. My thoughts were still swirling around in a vicious circle when the elevator doors slid open once more.
Gleaming amber eyes met mine, and before I could say a word, or tell him how relieved I was to see him, Roth was in front of me. Barely restrained fury tightened the lines of his face as he stormed into the elevator.
“Have you been hurt?” he demanded.
“Injured in any way that I cannot see?”
When I shook my head, some of the tension, if only a teeny amount, faded from him. I started to raise my hands. “I—”
My words ended in a squeal as he lifted me off my feet. Within a second, I was swinging through the air. I grunted as my midsection hit his shoulder. Out of instinct, I grasped the leather belt around his hips. He pivoted around and the elevator whirled as he stepped out in the lobby.
“Don’t,” he growled.
My grip tightened as he stalked forward. “Put me down!”
“Not going to happen.”
He turned toward the hall leading to the stairwell and I lifted my head. The lobby was empty with the exception of Cayman. He was by the couches and chairs, and his usually handsome face was marred with a variety of purplish and red bruises.
I had no idea demons could even be bruised.
Cayman grinned, but it looked painful.
Smacking Roth’s lower back, I tried to get his attention. “Put me down. Now.” When he didn’t respond, I started to kick my legs, but his free arm clamped down around the back of my knees. “Roth!”
“Don’t,” he said again as the door to the stairwell flew open, banging off the cement walls. I winced as the sound echoed. “Just don’t say another word until we get upstairs.”
My mouth dropped open. “Don’t tell me not to talk!”
He chuckled darkly, without any humor. “That’s what I just did, Shortie.”
Telling myself I’d known he was going to be upset, that the anger had to be a result of him being so concerned over my well-being, I struggled to remain levelheaded. I really just wanted to kick him. “I know you’re angry—”
The arm around my legs tightened. “You have no idea how angry I am. None whatsoever.”
Squeezing my eyes shut, I counted to ten. I made it to five. “Okay. I understand. But you don’t need to carry me up the stairs.”
Instead of responding, he put a little bounce in his step, jarring me as he took the stairs two at a time. When we reached the fourth or fifth floor landing, I’d had it. I got that he was angry, but this was ridiculous.