Layla actually ran from me.
I stared at the door, clamping down on the instinctual urge to give chase. That baseline desire was there, inherent because it was what Wardens did whenever something ran from us, but there was a far stronger reason for the need that had nothing to do with what I was.
Or with what Layla was.
And I really didn't care about what she was doing in my father's study at this moment.
She hadn't really run from me, but she had left me, and I didn't like it, couldn't remember a time when she ever did it. Not before him—before Roth came into the picture.
Yeah, I didn't like any of that crap.
Pushing my hair back from my face, I exhaled roughly in the silent room. The image of Layla in her bra formed in my thoughts with little to no effort. Just like ever other freaking second of the day since I'd seen her.
God, she had been... she was beautiful. Not like it took me seeing her like that to realize it, I had for a long time now.
My gaze flipped to the ceiling.
It took me less the five seconds to make it from the study to her bedroom. I didn't knock, just pushed the door right open, and there she was. Perfect timing.
Minus the cardigan and socks, she wore nothing but shorts and a thin tank that should've been outlawed. Heat kindled beneath my skin as I eyed her, not like it did right before I shifted. Ah no, this was a different kind of burn—a hotter, deeper one.
I stepped through the door, folding my arms across my chest.
Her arms twitched as if she wanted to move them. "What do you want now?"
The fire in her tone lacked real reprimand. If anything, she sounded more...confused. Bewilderment lingered in the air around her, and that confounded me. "Nothing," I said, and before I could stop myself. I strode to the bed and dropped down. Stretching out, I patted the space next to me while my heart pounded in my chest. "Come here."
"Zayne...?" The confusion increased as she stared at me, rosy lips parted. "You're being annoying tonight."
Totally knew it, but I couldn't... I couldn't stay away and I was so damn tired of trying to. "You're annoying every night." I smacked the bed again. "Stop acting so weird, Layla." When she didn't move, I raised my brows at her. "You coming?"
Five seconds. If she didn't move within five seconds, I would leave.
Exhaling softly, she climbed into the bed beside me, and swallowing suddenly became difficult. We'd down this a million times, but tonight felt different. Everything was different.
I needed to clear my head. "Nice shorts," I told her.
"Can you not talk?"
A soft laugh rolled out of me. "You're in such a mood tonight. Was it the sugar-cookie dough?"
She rolled onto her side, and our mouths were lined up. Rarely did she ever allow herself to get this close and I wondered if she even realized it. I looked up at her and our gazes met and held.
Without warning, I thought about the first time I realized what I felt for Layla ran deeper than what my father attended—what the entire clan wanted. It happened on March twenty-third, in the evening while we practiced evasive techniques in the rooms under the compound. She hadn't been paying attention that whole evening. I knew she hadn't been, because she had kept focusing on my... well, on my mouth while I was instructing her. For a while, I knew she was looking at me differently, and I had been doing everything to not think about it, acknowledge or deal with it, because I had believed it was wrong. Not because of her being half demon or what she was or was not capable of, but because I had always been in charge of keeping her safe. What her not-so sly lingering looks and the way she'd flush sometimes was not safe.