Cayman grinned. “I think the better question is—when is he not in trouble?”
Narrowing my eyes, I had to admit that was a good point. “Okay. Is he in more trouble than he normally is?”
“Ah...” His gaze shifted toward Roth, and then his grin spread into a devilish smile. He was thoroughly enjoying himself. “Let’s just say that the Boss is not pleased with what just went down here. Actually, the Boss is ticked off about a lot of things, and if Roth goes down below anytime soon, he probably won’t be leaving for a while. Like for a couple of decades.”
I gasped. “That’s not good.” So much for the Boss being on Roth’s side.
“Could be worse,” Roth said, smirking.
Cayman nodded. “If you want the truth, I think the Boss secretly was pleased with what Thumper did, but you know...politics.” He sighed while I raised my brows. “Ruins everything fun.”
My temples were starting to ache. “Today has been...”
“Unbelievable?” offered Stacey. Dropping the pillow, she pressed the palms of her hands under her eyes. Her expression was pale and strained. Her hands shook as she wiped beneath her eyes.
I nodded slowly as I turned around. My gaze met Roth’s and then Zayne’s. Both of them stared at me, waiting. I wanted to pretend that I didn’t know what they were waiting for, but that would be a lie.
And that would also make me a coward.
Weight landed on my shoulders as I rubbed my fingers along my temples. There was so much we needed to figure out. “We need to take care of this.” I gestured at the ruined room. The scent of sulfur lingered, and part of me was grateful to have something immediate to focus on. “So Stacey doesn’t get in trouble.”
“Much appreciated,” she said, and when I glanced at her, I saw her dragging her hands through her hair.
Roth stepped up. “Why don’t you guys head down to the Cakes and Things bakery while I take care of this. You can do that?” The question was directed at Zayne, who nodded.
“I will keep them safe,” Zayne replied in a level tone.
Roth hesitated, and then he took a deep breath. “If other Wardens show—”
“I will protect both of them from whatever or whoever may come at them,” Zayne assured him. He drew in a deep breath. “Even...even if it is my clan.”
“And I can also protect myself,” I threw in, earning an amused glance from Roth. “What? Trust me. Any of my...my old clan comes in my direction, I’m not going to open my arms to hug them.” I ignored the wave of dread that surfaced with the thought of coming face-to-face with them again. “Well, except Nicolai and Dez. I think they kind of—”
“Shortie,” Roth said.
I sighed. “Whatever. Let’s go.” Turning to Stacey, I walked over to gently pry the pillow she’d picked up again loose from her white-knuckle grip. “You okay to go out there?”
She blinked once and then twice. “What are my options? I stay in here while Roth torches the place? No, thank you.”
Good to see that even after the day we’d had, Stacey could still be a smart-ass.
Roth strode up to Cayman, placing his hand on the other demon’s shoulder. “I want you to keep an eye out, okay?”
The list of things that Cayman would be keeping an eye out for was astronomical.
“Word.” Cayman disappeared. Poof. Gone.
Shaking my head, I refocused on Stacey. Tears filled her eyes as she peered up at me through damp lashes. “Sam’s... He’s dead, isn’t he?”
I placed the pillow on the couch beside her and knelt down. A burning knot of emotion formed in the back of my throat. “Yeah. He is.”
She squeezed her eyes shut as a tremor rolled through her. “I remember you all talking about the...the Lilin and what it does to people. If Sam’s dead, then his soul...”
His soul was in Hell. I knew that. Stacey already knew that. Everyone in this room knew that, and there could be nothing more horrific than being trapped in Hell. He didn’t deserve all the horrifying things that happened to souls there.
Wrapping my hands around Stacey’s, I squeezed them tight. “I promise we will get Sam’s soul out of Hell. I promise.”
“YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE made that promise,” Zayne said quietly the moment Stacey hit the girls’ bathroom at the bakery several blocks from her house. I’d tried to go with her, but she stated quite firmly that she needed a few moments alone.
I sat in the booth closest to the window, watching the people rushing outside, their auras a dizzying wash of colors. It was so weird to see the auras again. A part of me had gotten used to not seeing them while Bambi had been on me, and I’d forgotten how distracting they could be. “Why not?”
Zayne slid in across from me. Concern pinched his features. “How are you going to get Sam’s soul out of Hell, Layla? Roth may be the Crown Prince, but I seriously doubt that is something that he can ask for, even if he was on good terms with them. Hell isn’t just going to hand Sam’s soul right over.”
“I hadn’t gotten that far in my plan.” Actually, I’d been hoping that it was something that Roth could help us out with. After all, being the Crown Prince meant he could just go around letting Thumper fry and eat Alphas. “But it’s something we have to do. Zayne, he’s my best friend.” My voice cracked, and I felt my tenuous control over my emotions start to slip. “Even if he wasn’t, I couldn’t leave him there. He didn’t deserve this. God, Zayne, Sam did not deserve this.”
“I know.” Zayne dipped his chin, his gaze never leaving mine. “I’m not suggesting that we forget about him.”
“We have to do something,” I reiterated, drawing in a deep breath as I leaned back against the booth, resting my hands on the smooth table. I glanced back toward where Stacey had disappeared. She’d asked for time, but it was so hard to give it to her. Considering everything that had happened, I was surprised that we could sit here and talk normally. “And then we need to figure out what to do about the Lilin, and then we—”
“Hey, slow down for a second.” Zayne reached across the table, folding his hand over mine. I studied him as my heart turned over heavily. Anytime I looked at him now, I saw the smudges under his eyes, and I saw the dulled aura around him. I couldn’t un-see that. “I know a lot of crazy stuff just went down, but you’ve been through a lot. We need to talk about it.”
I really did not want to talk about any of that, because there was a good chance I couldn’t handle it.
Zayne had other ideas. “Do you know how hard it is for me to sit on the other side of this booth and not reach across and pull you against me? Just to make sure you really are alive?” he asked, and my breath caught at the raw honesty in his words. “What happened wasn’t your fault. You need to know that. My clan—our clan—and my father never should have done what they did.”
I dropped my gaze to his hand, the one that held mine and had held mine for so many years. I closed my eyes and immediately saw Zayne lying on the floor of my bedroom, pale and still. I remembered the way Abbot, the Warden that had raised me, had looked at me when he found his son, stared at me like I was a monster he had helped create. Pressure clamped down on my chest as I recalled the panicked flight through the compound, my desperate attempt to escape and the failure.