“Does that matter?” he queried.
“I guess not, but I’m...well, I’m nosy.” I shrugged. “It’s not something that I imagine people, even witches, just have lying around in abundance.”
“It’s not. And I can tell you it was not easy to obtain nor did we part with it without great consideration,” Paul explained.
Boredom pulled at Roth’s expression as he leaned back against the stage. “That’s...interesting.”
Paul’s smile was tight. “All of us have heard of the Prince’s arrogance. How reassuring to see that this rumor is correct.”
I stiffened as Roth’s lips tipped up on one corner, and when he spoke, his voice was as thick as molasses. “Did you also hear the rumor of how I strung a witch up by his teeth once? Because that was also true.”
Paul paled, and then his cheeks flushed red while my eyes widened.
“This is going to go downhill quick,” Serifina said, her voice soft as her gaze darted between Roth and me. “We do not want that. We’ve come for what we were promised and that is all.”
“And what were you promised?” Roth demanded. “Let’s get this over with.”
Paul glanced back at Cayman with abject horror etched into his aging features. “You did not tell him?”
Oh no. This did not sound good.
“I haven’t asked. It hasn’t been a priority of mine,” Roth replied, and dismissiveness dripped from his tone.
Paul exhaled roughly. “You will honor the promise.”
“Did I say that I would not?”
Serifina was aghast, shaken. “But you don’t even know what was asked for in return.” She looked at Cayman and seemed to pale even further, to the point I feared she might pass out and topple from the chair.
“My patience is wearing thin,” Roth warned.
Paul cleared his throat and appeared to man up. Part of me wanted to stop him from speaking, because the feeling that whatever he was going to say was going to be disastrous was all consuming. “In exchange for saving her life,” he said, “we asked for your familiar in return.”
I sucked in a sharp, stinging breath as his words bounced around in my head. No. They couldn’t have meant what I thought they did.
Roth slowly unfolded his arms. “Excuse me?”
“In exchange for saving h-her, we asked for your familiar,” Paul answered, his nervousness seeping into the room. “That was the d-deal we made.”
Dumbfounded, I turned to Cayman and he was staring at Roth’s back. “I told you that you would not like what they wanted in return, but you said give—”
“I told you to give them anything,” Roth cut in, voice harsh. “I know what I said.”
Cayman flinched, and then lowered his gaze.
“Wait,” I said, shaking my head. “You guys can’t be serious. Why would you want one of his familiars?”
Serifina carefully slipped off her chair and stood by the table, obviously having more courage than Paul. “Familiars are very powerful beings, especially when they bond with a person. They are like a siphon, or a conduit. When the Prince’s familiars bond with someone else, after a period of time, the new—”
“The new person they bond with would develop some of those abilities of the original host,” Roth interrupted. “You want my talents.”
She swallowed thickly. “That’s not the main reason.”
“That’s enough for me to hear.” He stepped forward, and the girl shrank back, but he didn’t move any closer. I knew Roth was furious, but I also knew that he would not harm her. “You’re demanding a lot.”
“A deal is a deal,” Paul said quietly. “And I have the distinct feeling there is no price you wouldn’t pay for the life we saved. Which is why we do not want just any familiar. We were quite specific in our deal.”
Cayman closed his eyes. “They were. Very specific.”
Roth sneered in the direction of the witches as my thoughts raced to discover a way out of this. “Which one?”
Neither witch looked like they wanted to speak the name, but Paul finally manned up and stepped forward. “We made the deal for the snake.”
“No!” The word burst out of my mouth before I could stop myself. I turned wild eyes on Roth. “Not Bambi. No way.”
Roth didn’t say anything as he stared at the witches, his shoulders impossibly tensed.
“Why can’t it be a different one?” I demanded. Giving up Thumper or the kittens would be hard, but letting go of Bambi would be the worst. “Why her?”
“Because she is the most powerful,” Paul replied simply. “She has bonded not only with the Prince but with you. No other familiar has proven that. She has more of a chance of bonding with one of our own.”
I spun toward Roth. “No. You don’t have to do this. Screw it. They can’t hurt me or you.” Well, I assumed that they couldn’t, but whatever. “We do not have to do this.”
Paul turned an incredulous stare on me. “You’d have him break his word?”
“I’d have you shut the Hell up,” I snapped, my hands closing into fists. Guilt churned in the pit of my stomach. This was happening because of me. I hadn’t purposely gotten myself stabbed, but getting involved with Zayne without truly questioning why I’d been able to kiss him had led to the incident of him kissing me. Which led to everything else that had happened afterward.
“She’s right.” Cayman rubbed the heel of his hand along his bruised jaw. “Roth, she’s right. You know there’s a way out of this. I would not...hold it against you. I know how much Bambi means to you, and I knew that when I brokered the deal.”
Roth wheeled around to face Cayman. “You brokered the deal believing that I would not honor it?”
Disbelief flickered across Roth’s face. “You know what will happen if I do not honor this deal.”
Cayman nodded once more.
Roth cursed as he reached up and thrust his fingers through his hair before stalking toward the other demon. I braced myself for a brawl of epic proportions, but Roth clamped his hand around the back of Cayman’s head. “You stupid son of a bitch,” he said, but it wasn’t out of anger. My heart wrenched in my chest. Pain filled Roth’s tone. “You would die? You know that’s what would happen. If you broker a deal and it’s not upheld, you die.”
“You would do anything to save her,” Cayman whispered, meeting Roth’s gaze. “And I would do anything to serve your best interests, even if that means my death. I never expected you to give up Bambi, but that’s what it took for them to save Layla. So that’s what I promised.”
My heart might’ve stopped as the words sank in. Cayman had made the deal knowing that Roth might not surrender Bambi. He made it to save me, because that was what Roth wanted.
The loyalty Cayman felt for Roth was heartbreaking.
I turned to the witches. “You guys can call off the deal, can’t you?”
Serifina shook her head. “The crone wants the female familiar.”
“And the crone gets what she wants,” Paul finished.