His entire body trembled as I wrapped my arms around him, holding him just as fiercely as he held me. We were so close I could feel his heart pounding and the rapid rise and fall of his chest. Tears ran down my cheeks unchecked, and I had no idea how long we sat like that, clinging to one another as Roth rocked back and forth ever so slightly. I couldn’t get close enough. I wanted to burrow my way in, because this—this—I never thought I’d feel any of it again—his arms around me or his warmth or his unique scent. Only a tiny part of me had hoped that somehow, someone would let him see me after I passed on, but I hadn’t been counting on it. I’d left to face the Lilin never expecting to experience this again.
Raw emotion expanded inside me, and it was almost too much, but in an odd way, not enough.
Roth jerked back, lifting his head. There was a sheen in his amber eyes, a glassy quality that tore at my heart. I’d never seen a demon cry, didn’t even know it was possible, but I’d been wrong. Then my cheek was pressed against his shoulder again, and he was holding me so tight there was a good chance I’d turn into a squeak toy, but it would be worth it. There were no words between us. None needed to be spoken. Every action was drenched in what we felt for one another.
One of his hands traveled up the line of my spine, fisting around my hair at the nape of my neck. He dragged my mouth to his, and he kissed me. There was nothing soft about it. The kiss tasted of desperation and joy, of pain and relief, and of the bright rediscovery of tomorrow that had once been stolen away.
The kiss was the act of someone who never thought he’d have the chance to experience it again. I tasted blood and I wasn’t sure if it was from him or me, but it didn’t matter. Our tears mingled and our hands clutched at one another. He was so very much warm and alive under the clothes, and I was so very much here, with him.
Roth pressed his forehead against mine, and my hands trembled as I pressed them against his damp cheeks. He hadn’t shaved and the rough bristle tickled my palms. “I love you,” he said, and then spoke in a language I didn’t understand before switching back. “I love you. I love you. I love you.”
HOURS LATER, WE lay in bed, our arms and legs tangled as night fell and snow continued to blanket the ground.
The trip back to the McMansion had been a blur. The Wardens had left us almost immediately, which was shocking. Things had most definitely changed if they were now willing to leave a demon and, well, whatever I was alone in their sanctuary, even if they were standing guard outside the sitting room.
No one stopped us when we left, and I hadn’t seen Zayne. Only Nicolai and Dez had been visible when we exited the room. I was in no shape to fly the friendly skies, so we ended up having Cayman pick us up.
He’d been overly excited at the idea of playing chauffeur.
I lay on my side, the front of my body pressed against Roth’s. I was curled around him and his hand slid up and down my spine in a continuous, smooth caress. Since the moment he’d walked into the sitting room at the compound, there hadn’t been one second where we weren’t touching one another.
And only a handful of seconds had passed between the moment we’d stepped into the bedroom and when our clothing ended up in a forgotten pile on the floor. Again, there had been little said between us, but what we felt for one another was expressed in each brush of our fingertips, sweep of our lips and in the way we moved against one another.
I wasn’t sure how much time had passed after our hearts slowed and the fine sheen of sweat cooled on our skin.
The tips of his fingers followed the line of my spine. “I went to Hell looking for you.”
I lifted my chin, peering up at him from when I was snuggled up against his chest. “You did? Roth, that was so dangerous. They could’ve kept you.”
He looked down at me, dark eyebrow raised. “I thought you were dead. The last thing I was worried about was the Boss throwing my ass in the pit. And as it turns out, I was in such a pathetic way, the Boss took pity on me, and just tossed my ass out of Hell after telling me you weren’t there.”
Resting my hand above his heart, I felt it beat strongly before I spoke. “Still, it was dangerous.”
“I was... I was desperate.” His hand made another trip up my back. “I’ve never felt that before. I mean, when that asshole Warden stabbed you, I felt fear, tasted it for the very first time when you were in my arms and I thought you might die, but this was so much stronger. It was different. When I woke up that night and you were gone, I knew... I just knew what you’d done, and I wasn’t even mad at you for it. I was too damn afraid to feel anger at first.” He tipped his chin back, staring at the ceiling as he swallowed hard. “Some kind of missive went out from Hell. Like a freaking text message, saying that the Lilin was dead—actually, it was a text message. A group text message to every demon topside. I saw it on my phone when I got out of bed.”
For some horrible reason, I had the urge to laugh. Hell sent texts messages—group ones at that? It kind of fit, since there was nothing worse than being on the receiving end of a group message—sort of like being held hostage. But nothing was fun about any of what Roth was telling me.
“The moment I read that text, I swear my heart stopped. I left the room and found Cayman downstairs. The look on his face confirmed it. You were gone and I... I couldn’t deal with that. That’s when I went to Hell, but you weren’t there, and I thought...you’d gone up there. And that made sense. That no matter what ran in your blood, you would end up there.” His hand stilled midway down my back. “But up there, you were totally out of my reach. Forever.”
My heart broke when his voice cracked. “I’m a demon, Layla. I’m a selfish prick. Even though I thought you’d ascended to a place like that, I couldn’t ever get to you. Never again. I wanted to be happy for that, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t deal. These six days you’ve been gone, I...” He cleared his throat as he lowered his chin. His eyes were open and there was that painful glossiness heightening the amber color. “There was nothing but anger and pain. It wasn’t fair. Not for us. It wasn’t fair, and when the anger finally faded away, I was dead inside, Layla. That’s the damn truth. I was dead inside.”
Tears blinded me. “I’m sorry. I did that to you and I’m so sorry—”
Roth shifted and suddenly we were both on our sides, facing one another and at eye level. The hand on my back ended up along the nape of my neck. “There is a huge part of me that wants to throttle you—old-school strangle you, but with love.”
My brows climbed up my forehead.
“There’s a huge part of me that wants to rage at you for making the choice that you made. There’s a ginormous part of me that wants to shake you until you understand that you made a decision that broke me.” His hand tightened at the back of my head. “You broke me, Layla.”
Emotion clogged my throat. “I... I didn’t have another choice.”
Bright eyes fixed on mine. “And you know what? That’s the part that killed me the most. You didn’t have a choice. I get that. I got that then, and you know, there was a part of me that understood it the moment we spoke to the seer, but I didn’t want to accept it. Maybe if I did then we could’ve faced this together. So you...you wouldn’t have done it alone.”