His hand spasmed, and he forced out the words in a harsh whisper. “I’m terrified.”
My heart turned over and then doubled up. Hearing him admit that was a shock to my system. I pulled back, meeting his gaze once more. “You’re never scared.”
“I’m not scared. I’m terrified,” he repeated, threading his fingers through my hair. “I’m terrified of losing you and that there will be nothing that I can do to stop it.”
There was a part of me that wanted to simply reassure him, but in this moment, all my defenses came crumbling down. The panic that rested in the pit of my belly expanded. Roth must’ve seen the fear in my eyes because he tugged me back to his chest.
“I won’t let this happen,” he said. “I’m the Prince. There has to be something I can do. I can go to the Boss.”
But if there was something the Boss could’ve done, wouldn’t it have already been done by now? Or could the Boss even step in at this point? It didn’t matter. As I clung to Roth, I knew, deep down, we really didn’t have tomorrow. If I delayed what I needed to do, I would not only lose Sam and the other souls the Lilin had already taken, but I ran the risk of millions of lives being lost if the apocalypse was in fact set in motion.
I ran the risk of Roth doing something even more stupid than what I planned, and if I couldn’t save myself, then at least I could save Sam. I could save the other souls. I could save the innocent people who would die because the end was coming. I could save Roth.
When Roth lifted my head, he opened his mouth to say something, but I didn’t want there to be any more words between us. I closed the distance, kissing him. He tried to turn his head, but I grasped his cheeks, refusing to allow whatever words he wanted to speak to form on his lips.
And when the kiss wasn’t enough, when he tried to speak again, I lifted up, planting my knees on either side of his hips. I pressed our bodies together, and when his mouth finally parted, my heart ached in the worst way, but he was kissing me back and it was scorching. His hands fell down my back, and his desperation amplified what I felt.
His muscles suddenly tensed, and then he was standing. I wrapped my legs around his hips. Our mouths were fused together and we stepped out under the snow. Wind picked up, tossing my hair around us.
I didn’t think we’d make it back to the stairwell.
We barely did.
Once inside the narrow hallway, the door slammed shut behind us, and Roth turned, pressing my back against the wall. We were tangled in each other, our breaths coming in short pants as the hardest part of him was pressed against the softest part of me. The snow that had fallen on us had melted, dampening our skin and hair.
We kissed. We clung to each other, and the outside world went on hold once more. Right now, these stolen moments were just about us. Nothing else mattered then except how he felt and our love for one another.
“Hold on,” he told me, and I wasn’t planning to let go.
Roth captured my breaths with his lips as he turned, starting down the stairs again. He kicked the door shut behind us, sealing out the cold, and when he turned, he knocked into the piano bench, toppling it over.
We almost didn’t hear it.
He carried me right to the foot of the bed, the whole time kissing me, drinking me in, and it wasn’t enough. Not even when he nipped at the sensitive skin below my ear, dragging a heated sound out of me.
We parted long enough to get rid of everything between us, and that took longer than necessary, because we kept stopping...and we kept getting distracted each time a shirt came off or a button came undone. Our hands. Our fingers. Our mouths. Everything about us was greedy.
When my back hit the bed and I stared up at him, thinking was completely impossible. He consumed me, but I knew it went both ways, because his hand trembled as he touched me and his voice shook when he told me that I was beautiful; when he said that he loved me, over and over. His voice quaked each time.
What came next was simply him worshipping me and me repaying the honor. There wasn’t a part of me he didn’t explore, from the arch of my foot to the many valleys on the way to my lips. Our eyes and hands were locked as we started moving together. And when it was over, we lay together, his hand trailing over my ribs, to my hips, and then we started all over again. We exhausted ourselves in all the love we felt and we held off the shadows by sheer willpower until there was nothing left.
Sleep did not come for me afterward, even though I wanted nothing more than to snuggle into Roth and ignore everything, I couldn’t. If I did, everyone I cared about would be lost, and countless, nameless innocent people would be caught in the cross fire. Knowing that I was the only thing that could truly stop this, walking away wasn’t something I could live with. Besides, turning my back would only give us a few days, maybe only hours, because once the Lilin pushed too far, exposed too much, the Alphas would wipe us all out, and they’d been waiting oh-so patiently for a good reason to do so.
I had to do this. I knew that there was no other option, but as I watched Roth while he slept, what I was about to do cut deep into me. It hurt. A knot had formed in the back of my throat, a heaviness pressed into my chest and my eyes stung as tears filled them.
My fingers itched to touch him, just one last time, but I’d risk waking him by doing so. I settled for memorizing every beautiful angle of his face, from the sharpness of his cheekbones to the hard line of his jaw, only slightly softened by sleep. I committed to memory the thickness of his lashes and the natural arch of his brows. I looked my fill when it came to his full lips and I wished I’d get to see those dimples once more, or the way the tawny amber of his eyes would brighten when he looked at me. I yearned to thread my hand through his hair just once more, feeling the silky smoothness as the strands sifted through my fingers.
I ached to hear him say I love you one more time.
None of that was going to happen.
Squeezing my eyes shut against the rush of tears, I carefully rolled out of the bed and tiptoed to where my clothes were piled on the floor. In the quiet darkness, I dressed, grabbed the iron dagger off the piano, and then crept over to where Roth lay on his side, facing the space I’d rested on.
“I love you,” I whispered, my voice choked. “I love you so much.”
And then I did the one thing I never planned to do, but the only thing I could. I left Roth.
AS I SORT of expected, it didn’t take me long to find the Lilin. I’d left Roth’s loft through the rooftop exit and had taken flight, letting the cold wind ruffle my wings one last time.
It was almost ironic—this whole thing.
Roth had sacrificed for me. Zayne had. Even Abbot, in the end. All of them had given something up to keep me alive. Due to what the witches had given me, I’d gained immortality and for a sweet, short time, I’d had a taste of forever with Roth. And once I fully understood what I was, I’d been given unbelievable strength. My mere presence struck fear into the hearts of demons and Wardens alike. I’d become a force to be reckoned with, a total badass of a hybrid mess.
And ultimately, all those sacrifices and everything everyone had ever done had led up to this moment—when I would take all of that away. I wanted to laugh, but I had a feeling that it would be the crazy kind of laugh and I would break down, because I didn’t want to die.