Outside the library the air was cool; the sky was dim, soft cornflower and deep powder blue, not quite dark but not quite light. Traffic lights stood out against the evening. Around this time every day came a shift in power: the sun abdicated its throne and the moon reigned in its stead, high and huge, forging nightly treaties with the clamoring neon power of the city. Rowan felt it in his jaw, felt the pressure of it in his ears as he went into the night.
Asher laughed. He was closer now than he had been a moment ago; Rowan could feel, faintly, the heat of him, of his breath. “You did, though,” he said. His eyes were electric against the dimming light of the evening. Beautiful. Awful. Rowan’s throat was dry. “You asked for me. You wrote my name in your blood and your heart called out for me. I’m only here because you wanted me to be.”
Careful, careful: Rowan pressed the rose petal onto Asher’s tongue. He did not look at Asher’s eyes; he looked at Asher’s mouth, soft and plush despite the sharp things that came out of it, colored like a dusky sunset seen through the soft filter of evening smog. He thought, quietly, that it was beautiful, and then he stopped thinking about that, too.
He said, “I think you killed me.” The words hung there between them like a ghost. They floated in the space between mouth and ears, pale and shimmering, like a curling wisp of steam or thin little dust motes.<i> I think you killed me</i>, he’d said, and there it was, a truth that Rowan hadn’t realized until he’d spoken it out into the slow-moving air of the room. He looked at them, the soft, disillusioned ghastliness of them, and Asher looked at them—and then he was looking through them, at Rowan, copper through lace, and Rowan was looking back.