As tall as Roth was, the height and breadth of his shoulders was striking enough, but throw in the work of art that was his face and eyes that shone like topaz jewels, he stole breath and hearts everywhere he went.
He was wearing a long-sleeved dark blue thermal and even with the studded belt, his black jeans hung distractingly low. As he reached up to scrub his fingers through his hair, pushing the choppy lengths off his forehead, the thermal rose and I was greeted with quite the glimpse of golden skin and those two little indents on either side of his hips.
Roth was grinning when I finally dragged my gaze to his. “You keep looking at me like that, Shortie, and you’re not going to be leaving this house anytime soon.”
Heat flooded my cheeks as I toyed with the loop I’d made in my scarf. “I wasn’t looking at you in any particular way.”
“How many times do I have to tell you what a terrible liar you are?”
I wrinkled my nose at him. “Whatever.”
He crossed the distance between us. Catching my hands, he pulled them away from the scarf, and then he started readjusting it himself. “You’re leaving to go talk to Zayne now?”
“Yeppers.” I eyed him cautiously. I knew he wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea of my heading off to meet up with Zayne, but he knew how much it meant to me, so he was basically—surprisingly—keeping his mouth shut about it.
“Robin’s with you?” Fixing the scarf to his apparent satisfaction, which looked no different than how I’d done it, he then dropped his hands to my shoulders.
I nodded just as the fox’s tail switched along the base of my spine. “On my back.”
He frowned. “I still don’t like that idea of you going out there. I can—”
“Roth,” I said, stretching up and placing my hands on his chest. “I’m going to be okay. You know that. I’m officially pretty badass.”
“I’m not questioning your badassery, but just because the Lilin is gone and the Wardens are playing nice right now, that doesn’t mean everyone is puking rainbows out there.”
Yuck. I could’ve done without the imaginary. “I know.”
He studied me for a moment, and then sighed. “I’m being overprotective.”
His hands slid up my neck, eliciting a shiver from me. He cupped my cheeks. “It’s hard not to be, at least for a little while.”
“Text me when you’re done. I’ll meet you.” Guiding my chin down, he kissed my forehead, and I think he also kissed the top of my bun, which was really cute. “Okay?”
“Okeydokey.” I was evidently in a rhyming kind of mood as I started to slip away, but he caught my hand and tugged me back. Badassery went right out the window, because I ended up pressed against his chest. “Roth—”
Circling an arm around my waist, he bent me backward as he lowered his head. Roth kissed me, and he...wow, he kissed me like we’d never done it before, like it was his first time learning the curve of my lips, and he took his time doing so. The kiss was thorough. My pulse raced as I melted into him, wrapping one arm around his neck as I clutched his arm with my other hand.
“Oh for the love of my innocent, virtuous eyes, could you guys not do that where I have to see it?” Cayman’s voice carried from the kitchen doorway.
Roth lifted his head, and as he straightened, I watched in a daze as he grinned slyly at me. “Just want to make sure you don’t forget me.”
Cayman snorted. “I don’t think she’s going to forget that anytime soon.”
Roth appeared rather pleased with himself. “Say hi to Stony for me.”
I shot him a look, and he appeared completely unrepentant as he winked and then swooped down, kissing me once more before he let go. But there was a part of me that thought Roth wasn’t being a jerk when it came to his request, and that alone was kind of amazing.
* * *
Cold grass crunched under my boots as I crossed the lawn, heading for the bench. The temps had jumped over the past couple of days, melting the snow, and the sun was out, and even though it was still chilly, people were out everywhere on the National Mall.
Sitting down, I immediately winced as the iciness from the wood seeped through my jeans and chilled my bum. I hunkered down in my sweater, squinting at the bright winter sun.
Humans milled about, heading for the museums, some sitting on benches playing chess, others out jogging and being all healthy. Did any of them know how close they’d come to the legit end of the world, like the trumpets blaring and rivers running with blood kind of end of the world?
I really didn’t even have to ask myself that question, because I already knew the answer. Even with the gargoyles awakening and wreaking havoc and even with all those poor people who’d seemingly dropped dead on the streets, mankind seriously had no idea what a near miss they’d had with the apocalypse.
We’d saved the day. I’d saved the day, and they would never know.
Man, it was kind of like being Batman, but without the cool cape.
But if I were Batman would that make Roth, Robin, the Boy Wonder? Ah, no. I couldn’t see him being down for that, but the thought made me grin from ear to ear.
The sound of footsteps drew my attention, and I looked up. Zayne was a few feet away from me, one of his hands shoved deep in the pockets of his jeans and the other holding a square black bag. His shoulders were hunched, his chin dipped low. My stomach did a weird wiggle, not entirely pleasant. My familiar didn’t affect my ability to see auras like Bambi had, but now I almost wished it did. That would be better than having to see how...how dull the glow around Zayne had become. The antique white of his aura was a constant reminder of what I’d done to him.
And it hadn’t been the only thing.
My grin weakened a bit, but I didn’t let it fade away, because despite everything, I was happy to see him.
“Hey,” he said, and he smiled, but it didn’t reach those vibrant eyes. God, I missed that smile, how he did it with his face—his whole being. “You came.”
I gave a little shake of my head. “Of course I came. I told you I would.”
“Yeah, you did.” He sat beside me, placing the bag on the other side, and then shoved both hands in his pockets as he stared straight ahead. Several moments passed. “I just thought maybe you would’ve changed your mind...or something.”
Understanding seeped in. “I wouldn’t change my mind, and Roth would never ask that of me.”
Zayne’s head swung in my direction. He opened his mouth, closed it, and then tried again. “I... I like your hair like that.”
“Oh.” I reached up, gingerly poking at my bun. “I honestly didn’t feel like doing anything with it.”
“It’s different.” He glanced at me and then quickly averted his gaze. “Anyway, I wanted to see you, to tell you that I’m glad that you’re okay. I didn’t get the chance to tell you that when you showed up at the house. All of us were pretty shocked to see you.” The longer he spoke, the more some of the awkwardness fell by the wayside. “When we’d heard that the Lilin was dead, well...we knew what that meant. I knew what that meant.”