I made my way to the ledge and stared at the glistening lights of DC. A misty cloud formed every time I exhaled, but it was pleasant out here, above the noise of the city and the noxious fumes. Calm even. We were a handful of days away from Christmas, and we were running out of time.
We were out of time actually.
Although Zayne and Dez had planned to continue scouring the books for a way to end the Lilin or somehow incapacitate it, I doubted they would find anything. Besides, even if we could disable the Lilin, that did nothing for the souls it had consumed, nothing for Sam.
I took a deep breath, but it got stuck in my throat as a razor-edged panic rose like a ghost in the night, threatening to drag me under. Before I could give in to it, I felt Roth’s presence. Swallowing hard, I pushed the fear down, all the way down, and faced him.
He stood just outside the door, the breeze ruffling his dark hair as snow peppered the strands and his eyes glittering like tawny jewels. “What are you doing up here?”
I shrugged a shoulder. “I don’t know. It’s kind of pretty, with the snow.”
“And it’s freezing,” he commented.
“Neither of us is affected by that.”
“I know.” One side of his lips curved up. “I just felt like pointing that out.” He paused. “You’re not hungry, are you?”
An eyebrow rose as he walked across the roof. “Want to stay out here for a while?”
“Yeah. Yes. I do.”
The half smile remained as Roth sat down on the chaise. The cushion he patted was protected from the snow, but only if the wind didn’t really start picking up. I walked over to him, and when he extended his arm, I placed my hand in his.
Roth tugged me down between his legs, positioning me so that my back was pressed against his chest. His arms folded around me, and I closed my eyes, smacking any thought out of my head just so I could take the moment to enjoy the warmth of his body and the comfort of his embrace.
I don’t know how long we sat there watching the snow fall silently before Roth spoke again, but the snow on the floor of the roof seemed to have thickened. “I’ve been thinking,” he began. “About you in one of those really skimpy bikinis. The kind where the backside of the bottoms are really just dental floss.”
“Oh my God.” I laughed as I trailed my fingers over his hands. “Why am I not surprised by this?”
“Now. Now. Hear me out,” he replied, resting his chin on my shoulder. I turned my cheek to him, waiting. “You wouldn’t be the only one who would be wearing less clothing than what we’ve got on right now.”
I really had no idea where this conversation was heading, but I was thrilled that he was talking and I was also willing to just—to just let it all go for right now, for these precious moments, to humor whatever was coming out of his mouth.
“Would you also be in a barely there bikini?” I asked.
I felt his lips curve into a smile. “You would not be able to control yourself if you saw something so amazing.” He tugged me back into the V of his legs when I had started to twist toward him. “You’d treat me like a piece of meat.”
“Oh really?” I laughed.
Roth leaned back against the cushion, bringing me along with him so that we were stretched out as the snow continued to fall. “Uh-huh. So I would just be wearing swim trunks.”
“Even I wouldn’t wear a Speedo,” he replied.
“How is a Speedo any different than me wearing what is basically dental floss?”
“It is. Just trust me on this.” He tilted his head to the side so I could see his expression. “Anyway, the swim trunks and itsy, bitsy bikini would also involve a sandy white beach. You’ve never been to a beach, right?”
“Right.” I bit my lip when he shifted so that his lips brushed the lobe of my ear, sending a shiver down my spine. “So what about this beach?”
“The beach would exist in a tropical area, where it’s always warm and almost always sunny,” he went on, one hand toying with the hem of my sweater, the other lazily roaming up and down my leg, from thigh to hip. “The beach would be a place far away from here.”
“How far?” I whispered.
“As far as we want.” One hand traveled up to my chin and his fingers guided my head back. “I was thinking along the lines of Turks and Caicos.” He kissed my forehead. “I haven’t been there.” His lips coasted over my brows. “But I’ve heard of this place called Grace Bay.” He dropped a kiss on each of my eyelids. “White sands. Water the color of turquoise.” Then he kissed the tip of my nose. “Paradise, or so I’m told. We should go.”
I smiled faintly. “We should.”
His gaze met mine as he drew back. “I’m being serious. We can leave in the morning.”
My smile started to fade. “What?”
“It will take nothing for me to get us a private jet. Just a few words spoken to the right person, and then we’re on our way. It’s a little too far to fly ourselves.” His eyes searched mine intently, and I stiffened, because he really wasn’t joking around. “We could be there by tomorrow night.”
“We can leave all of this,” he pushed on, his hand cupping my cheek. “Let the pieces fall where they may, but you and I will be far from this—”
“There’s nowhere we can go to truly escape this. The Alphas will intervene. The Lilin wants that, and even Grim has called it. They will bring about the end of the world. Hiding out at a beach isn’t going to save us.”
“We could try, dammit. We could try to survive,” he insisted, his eyes flashing bright in the darkness. “Leaving here promises us at least a tomorrow—maybe even a week or a month, but staying here—what do we have?”
I sucked in a sharp breath. “What do you mean?”
“You think I don’t know what’s been going on in your head since you realized your life was tied to the Lilin’s?” His hand curled around the nape of my neck as he leaned in, pressing his forehead to mine. “Dammit, Layla, I know...”
My eyes squeezed shut against the sudden burn.
“You’re too good. You don’t see that, but I do. You’re too good, but I’m not.” His voice hoarsened. “Let me be selfish enough for the both of us.”
“What about Sam, Roth?”
“I don’t know. I don’t have an answer for that you want to hear,” he admitted. “I’m sorry. You’re my priority. Forget the rest.”
I wrapped one arm around his neck, saying nothing as I tucked my head under his chin. His hand remained at the back of my neck. “I know you think there is only one way out of this. You give up your life to stop the Lilin,” he said, his voice thicker than before. “But I can’t let you do that.”
“I don’t want to do that.”
His other arm circled my waist as he shifted his head, his lips brushing my cheek as he spoke. “Then don’t.”
Roth made it sound so simple. The thing was, even he knew it wasn’t that easy. If we left this place tomorrow, there was a good chance we’d have days, maybe even weeks or months before the Alphas stepped in and attempted to wipe us all out. But how could I seriously enjoy those days or weeks knowing that I turned my back on Sam... God, on mankind? What was happening was so much bigger than us, so much more important than what we wanted or desired.