BONUS: Unedited – ROTH POV 2

March 16, 2020

Having Layla in my place—the only structure with four walls—that I claimed as a home knocked off kilter. Every cell in my body was hyperaware of each little breath she took, each time she shifted, even in the slightest. Her being here had my skin tingling to change forms.  

And man, there were probably all kinds of things wrong with that.  

Layla sat on the edge of the bed as I shoved the boxes of leftover rice in the fridge. I toed off my boots, watching her from the corner of my eyes. She fidgeted with the sleeves of her shirt and then her hands went to the edges of her hair, toying with the pale blonde strands. 

I angled my body toward her without really realizing it, my head cocking to the side. The predator that I was inhaled deeply, tasting the citrusy scent of nervousness. Part of me wanted to pounce, but the other part—the stranger that seemed to have crawled inside me—held back.  

Her gaze flickered to me and then away, skittish as a newborn colt. Demons like me thrived off of human emotion, especially the kind derived from one weakness or another. It was in my nature to exploit it—exploit her 

 Not a single part of me was human and my true nature wasn’t tamed, but being around her, it was… different.  

I leaned against the wall, smiling slightly as she stiffened. “You’re nervous.” 

Her little round chin rose. “No, I’m not.” 

The dragon on my stomach shifted in respond to her denial and I laughed. “I can smell your nervousness, Layla. You can’t lie about that.” 

Her nose wrinkled as she brought her knees up to her chest, looping her arms around them. “Aren’t you at all nervous? What if the Key isn’t there? What if it is and it’s guarded? I doubt we’re just going to be able walk in and grab it.” 

As if I was worried about that.  

“I wasn’t talking about that.” I pushed off the wall, heading toward her. The orangey scent increased and I slow my paced. Sitting beside her, I placed my hands next to her bare feet. Tiny feet and tiny toes. Painted pink. Hell, everything about her was small. All except her personality and her courage.  “But to answer your question, no, I’m not nervous. No matter what’s thrown at us, I’ll be able to handle it.” 

Her lips twitched. “Well, aren’t you special. Cocky much?” 

“I’m all kinds of special, but you know that.” Getting closer, because I couldn’t help myself, and not that I was even trying, I placed my chin on her knees. The citrus flared and then ebbed over. Interesting. “You’re nervous because you’re here with me.” 

Faint rosy lips parted, and Hell, I remembered how those lips tasted and felt. I’d spent a disturbing amount of time thinking about those lips.  

“You make me nervous,” she said.  

My mouth curved into smile as I straightened, lining right up with the object of my obsession. “You should be nervous.” 

“That’s reassuring.” She held herself in place.  

I chuckled and then turned. Heading to the packed shelves, I ran my fingers over the spines until I settled on what I was looking for. Looking over my shoulder, I watched the flush spread further across her cheeks.  “Movie?” 

She nodded.   

Once I had the movie in, I stretched out on the bed and waited. Didn’t take a minute.  

“‘Devil’s Advocate’?” she said. 

I smirked. 

“Nice choice.” She shook her head and her own perfume washed over me. A cross between vanilla and peaches. I liked. I liked a lot. ‘Cuz down in Hell, everything smell of sulfur and blood.  

Home sweet freaking home.  

 “Just watch it and enjoy,” I said.  

Layla focused on the TV, but I knew she wasn’t paying attention. Not by a long shot. She was twitchy to the point I waited for her to crawl out of her skin, but after awhile her anxiety settled down and turned into something… else.  

 I inhaled and my heart kicked against my ribs. A sweet and tangy scent enveloped my senses.  


My heart kicked around some more, joined by my pulse. My gaze slid to her, traveling over her slightly flushed cheeks. I practically knew what she was thinking. Holy shit, I totally knew where her mind was going.  

Every muscle in my body stiffened as she drew in a deep breath and then lay down beside me. My chest stopped moving. Breathing was overrated.  Was she—? 

She wiggled closer, pressing her thigh against mine and placed one small hand on my chest, and for the love of all things unholy, my body’s response whipped through like the wind chased by Hell’s fire.  

Layla didn’t move. I still wasn’t breathing, and I knew—I knew—that she was wholly innocent and had no idea what she was really starting, what she was opening the door to.  


Startled, she pulled her hand back, but moving as fast as a snake striking, I caught her wrist. “What are you doing?” I asked. 

Her chest rose sharply and she didn’t answer. She didn’t need to. The heavy, rich scent told me everything. I rolled, pressing her onto her back, my arms caging her in underneath me. 

Our gazes collided together. Her eyes were so wide, and everything that she was curious about was blast through those pale gray eyes. A shudder rocked me as I held back. A whole lot of me wanted to eat her up.  

In more ways than one.  

“I’m a demon, Layla. What I see in your eyes and what I sense from your body is something I will take. Make no mistake. I’ll give you one chance. Close your eyes, and I’ll let this go.” 

She didn’t close her eyes.  

A series of sharp tingles curled down my spine. I don’t know what it was, but there was a tiny voice in the back of my head that warned to proceed slowly, to stamp down the more primal urges. Strange. In my entire life I never once gave two craps about anyone’s concerns, fears, trepidations, or lack of experience. Not even once.  

But Layla? 

Too much thinking.  

I lowered my mouth to hers and I kissed her. None of that bullshit from the first time we kissed. I took her mouth and when she moaned, I nearly lost it. Her emotions scattered all over the place when she felt the bolt in my tongue.   

Her hands came up, digging in my hair. When she tugged, the tiny spark of pain brought a growl deep from within my throat. I slid my hand down her shoulder, along her waist to leg, hooking her thigh around my waist. She gasped into the kiss as we pressed together and there could be no doubt in her mind that I was feeling this. Really feeling this.  

But I wanted more. Hell, I always wanted more.  

My hand made its way under the hem of her shirt. At the first touch of her bare skin against my hand I felt like I’d never touched a girl before. Pathetic. Slightly disturbing. But all I could think about was how soft her skin was.  

And then she turned the tables right on me. Bam. Just like that. 

Her body shifted under mine, dragging me into her, and as her hands trailed over my lower stomach, all the air I’d been holding in expelled in a harsh groan. Her touch was tentative and unsure at first and somehow that undid me more than the most skilled caress could.  

I broke away, tugging my shirt off over my head and tossing it aside, giving her more access. Her eyes traveled over me slowly, touching every mark on my skin, linger in some areas, especially where the dragon rested.  

When her gaze flicked up to mine, something lurched inside my chest. I didn’t understand it. Didn’t want to really think about it. Bringing our mouths back together, I eased her down and then lifted up, dropping a kiss against her cheeks and every square inch as I cradled her beautiful face.  

I got lost in the feel of her lips for a little white and then my hands were shaking as I tugged off her sweater, tossing it wherever my shirt landed. She was on board, trailing the tips of her fingers to the button of my jeans.  Oh yeah, my body stood up and took of notice of where she was heading.  

But then I did the strangest damn thing ever.  

Capturing her hands, I pulled them away and then it was my fingertips doing a bit of exploring. But the sounds, the way she moved, it spun me out. Damn, I could feel my skin tighten, and every so many seconds, a shockwave rippled through me.  

My body snapped and I knew I was crushing her against me, but I couldn’t stop. Our bodies were pressed together in all the right places. My hips rocked against hers, mirroring exactly where I wanted to take this. The feel of her skin against mine left me trembling. No one… no one had that kind of powerful over me, but when I kissed her again, when our lips melded, and the kiss heated up and deepened, it was the first time I tasted heaven.  

Her fingers dug into my arms as I slipped my hand down, below her chest, around her belly button, and then lower… and lower still.  I watched, riveted, unable to look away as she tensed and her pupils dilated.  

 “Roth, I… I don’t know…” 

“It’s okay,” I said, my lips brushing hers, and holy Hell, it was okay. I didn’t understand it. My body was so not okay with, but I was—I really was. “This is about you. Yeah, this is totally about you.” The truth to that was like a punch to the chest. “You undo me. You have no idea how you undo me.” 

Layla sucked in a ragged breath and then I proved my words. It was all about her, and I gloried in it. Touching her like this? Holding her as her body over? Hearing the soft sounds she made? Yeah, it was all about her and it was so freaking worth it.  

But then she cried out and I also—holy Hell—I knew what heaven must sound like. I was blown. Shattered. Completely wrecked. I didn’t even know who or what I was anymore. All I could do was hold her and this part inside me, this oddly new aspect, cherished the moments that felt like eternity but wasn’t long enough. Finally I lifted up, separating our bodies by mere inches. 

Our eyes met and her bow shaped lips curved up just the littlest bit at the corners, and something big broke inside me. Or maybe it wasn’t so much a breaking. Maybe a building of sorts, like I was being remodeled into something new. Something I had no experience with.  

I smoothed my fingers over her warm cheek.  “What I would give…”  

There was no way for me to finish that thought. Not out loud. I didn’t know a lot of crap at that point, but I did know I’d give my life for her.  

And that was freaking epic.  

Demons gave up nothing for someone else.  

I pressed a kiss to her forehead and then shifted onto my back, gathering her so close to my side that there was no telling of what she ended and I beginning. 

Holding up my hand when she started to get even closer, I took several deep breaths. “I need a minute.” 

Layla started to pull away. 

I tightened my hold on her, keeping her secured to myself. “Okay. Maybe I need more than a minute.” 

 As I waited for my breathing to slow down, I thought about this. This attraction. This need. This something stronger. Oh, it was probably a bad, bad thing. Demons didn’t love. We obsessed. We fixated. I was already beginning to feel that. The need to keep her near, to swallow up all her time, but something about this was different than I imagined. For starters, I didn’t want to suffocate her. I didn’t want to take over her life. Once again, that went against my nature.  

“Why… why did you stop?” she asked.  

“I don’t know.” I laughed. “I really don’t know, but it’s all right. Yeah, it’ll be all right.” 

And for the first time I wished I could pray. That I could pray for everything to be all right. For her. For us. But even if I could pray, I knew something most mortals and Wardens dared to accept.  

Prayers… they went unanswered a lot of times.  

Or the answer was one we never sought.  



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#1 New York Times and #1 International Bestselling author Jennifer lives in West Virginia. All the rumors you’ve heard about her state aren’t true. When she’s not hard at work writing. she spends her time reading, watching really bad zombie movies, pretending to write, hanging out with her husband and her Border Jack Apollo.

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