Bitter Sweet Love (The Dark Elements 0.5) - Page 22

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“Abbot is letting me attend public school next year,” she told us. Excitement sparkled in her odd eyes and shone in her wide smile. “I’m so—”

“I think it’s a terrible idea,” Zayne cut in, eyeing her. “You’re going to be at school during the day, when most of us are resting. If something happens, it will be damn hard for any of us to respond.”

“Nothing is going to happen.” Layla rolled her eyes. “And besides, you can’t keep playing at being my teacher. There’re better things you could be doing.”

Dez frowned. “Has Zayne been teaching you?”

She nodded as she twirled her spoon around. “Yeah, he set me up with this homeschool stuff on the computer and checks my work, but come on. No offense, but I’d like a real education.”

Zayne was quiet, gaze fixed on the old portraits of the ice-cream parlor’s previous owners adorning the walls. It was obvious, at least to me, that he was not a fan of this conversation. I didn’t know what to be more shocked over: that Layla would be attending a public school or that Zayne had been tutoring her.

I knew Zayne had said the other clansmen didn’t want her in their home with their families, but there had to be a female overseeing her education. Someone who’d looked past what she was. “One of the older females isn’t teaching you?”

Zayne scratched his cheek, answering for her. “The main house is outside the city, near Charles Town, where the females and the young ones are. Most of the females don’t travel here anyway, as I said.”

Which was normal. It was the same for us. Our clan had houses in New York City, though the main compound where the mated Wardens and children lived was several hours north.

“Not to sound rude, but why isn’t Layla with them?” Dez asked, and I winced.

Layla laughed. “I think they’d throw themselves headfirst out of a window before they shared the same roof as me.” She shrugged as she took the last bite of her ice cream. “Obviously none of them are willing to teach me, and Zayne can’t keep doing it, so Abbot relented and is letting me go to public school. All in all, it’s a good thing.”

I smiled at her. “I’m a bit envious. I would’ve loved to attend public school.”

“It’s dangerous, though.” Zayne shifted in the booth. “You know how the demons like to come after—”

“Not me,” Layla cut in. The smile faded from her face as she looked over at us. “Abbot doesn’t think it will be dangerous for me, and honestly, I’m not a huge asset to the clan or anything. I’m kind of defective.”

My mouth dropped open, but Zayne’s reaction was a whole lot more explosive. He turned on her, eyes flashing a teal blue. His fingers wrapped around her chin, forcing her gaze to him, and he leaned down, his head inches from hers. Knowing what Layla could do, I stiffened—as did Dez, who must’ve known more about her ability than I did when I met her earlier. Zayne was too close.

And he didn’t appear to be worried at all.

“You are not defective. There is not a single thing wrong with you.” His voice was low, but there was no mistaking what he said. “Do you understand me?”

Two pink spots bloomed on her cheeks as she held his gaze. “Yes, but—”

“No. That’s it.” He dropped his hand, but didn’t move back. “I swear to God, I want to strangle you every time you say something like that.”

The pink spread across her face as her gaze drifted over to us again. “I don’t have low self-worth or anything,” she said quietly. “I really don’t, but I can’t...” She took a deep breath. “I can’t phase.”

Desperately, I tried to keep my face blank and I hoped Dez was doing the same. If Layla couldn’t phase, everyone had to suspect that any offspring of hers could share the potential... defect. None of the males would want her. Not that they could really have her even if she wanted any of them.

I squeezed my hands together, until I felt my nails biting into my flesh. Sometimes I hated our world, and it became too hard to justify the reasons why things were the way they were. All of us, by our very existence, had our duties for the greater good, but...

But it was total shit.

“So...” Zayne drew the word out, clearing his throat. “How’s Danika?”

The change of subject caught me off guard. “She’s doing well. She wanted me to tell you she said hi.”

Dez snorted. No doubt he was remembering Danika’s real request, which involved a picture and Zayne naked.

Kicking him under the table, I glanced at Layla, who was currently studying her empty bowl as if it contained the answers to life. This might be a better conversation for Zayne, but it wasn’t for her. The pink had completely drained from her complexion.

As much as I wanted my sister to be happy—and the good Lord knew that she’d be happy with Zayne—my heart ached for the girl sitting across from me. She couldn’t be with a Warden. And she couldn’t be with a human either without putting them in danger. That left only demons, which was completely out of the question.

Layla only had a future of loneliness ahead of her.

“She still training to fight?” Zayne asked, completely oblivious the way all guys were.

I wanted to kick him now because with each question he asked, Layla grew quieter and quieter. By the time Dez suggested that he and I check out the city, the young girl practically had her face in her bowl. We said our goodbyes and headed past the line stretching nearly to the door.

We stepped out in the late-evening air and the warm breeze lifted the hair off the sides of my face. The wind carried an odd scent—a musky-sweet smell that reminded me of dark chocolate and sinfully wicked things that were done at night, between soft sheets.

Whoa.

That thought came out of nowhere.

My cheeks heated as Dez stopped at the curb and glanced down at me. His brows knitted. “Are you okay?”

I dodged the foot traffic and stood beside a late-blooming cherry tree. “Yeah.”

“You sure?” His fingers brushed my cheek. “You look flushed. We can go back if you need to rest—”

“I don’t need to rest.” I moved closer to him, tipping my head back. “I’m fine.”

He stared at me a moment and then he dipped his chin, bringing his face close to mine. “I know our seven days are up, but I’m glad to help you fulfill your conditions anyway. We can do whatever you want, but I can’t support the whole demon-hunting thing.”

I opened my mouth, but he rushed on.

“I’m sorry. I know it’s what you asked for, but whether you believe it or not, you’re not completely okay. And after seeing how hurt you were from a tiny bite, I can’t stand by and let you put yourself in danger just so you can prove something.”

“I know. I don’t have anything to prove.” The moment those words came out of my mouth, I knew they were the truth. What would hunting demons do for me? I’d held my own against the Terriers and had a near-fatal encounter with a pukwudgie. I’d say that ran the gamut of demon experiences. And honestly, I didn’t care about the stupid conditions right now or even seeing the city. “I think we need to...”


Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy
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