Bitter Sweet Love (The Dark Elements 0.5) - Page 24

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I had no idea what had just happened.

Swallowing hard, I glanced at Dez. His body was trembling from the amount of control it took to stay where he was. The small crowd that had started to gather around us thinned out as interest was lost, but a few humans, ones who were clearly observant, were starting to look at us closely.

“Dez?” I wrapped my hand around his forearm, feeling the tension in his muscles. “Are you going to go after him?”

“I should—I need to.”

The unspoken “but” was that all Wardens, no matter how ticked off they were or how big their egos could be, knew better than to try to take on an Upper Level demon alone, even one who had turned his back.

Dez let out a ripe curse as he finally looked at me. “I need to warn Zayne.”

“Okay.” I started to let go and then tightened my hold on his arm. “Wait.”

“What?”

I took a breath. “I don’t know, but it looked like he was watching them—watching Layla.”

Dez glanced through the window to where the two were sitting. “If so, that’s not good. Not good at all.”

Dez had pulled Zayne aside while I waited with Layla, and told him what had happened outside. The moment Dez had relayed my suspicion over what the Upper Level demon was doing, Zayne wanted to get Layla home.

Nothing was said to her about why we all were heading back to the compound and she didn’t seem to suspect anything when Dez disappeared with Zayne to speak with Abbot. I followed Layla upstairs to her bedroom.

The room was a mess. Books littered the floor. Mismatched socks peeked out from her dresser and under her desk, but the room was decked out in everything a girl could want—laptop, desktop, stereo, a huge TV and a closet overflowing with clothes. In the corner, a large handmade dollhouse was placed near the balcony doors and, at the head of the bed, nestled between a fleet of pillows, was a teddy bear that looked as if it had seen better days.

Layla plopped down on the bed and bounced once before she crossed her legs. Hovering at the door, I couldn’t help but wonder why the demon had been so interested in her and Zayne.

“It’s okay,” she said, planting her chin in her hands. “You don’t have to hang out with me.”

I blinked. “I’m sorry about the way I acted when I first saw you.”

She shrugged. “It’s no biggie.”

Biting down on my lip, I joined her on the bed. “You get that a lot?”

Layla laughed softly. “All the time. I can’t blame those who react that way. I am half demon.”

“But you’re so...” What was the right word?

“Awesome?” she answered, and then giggled. I smiled as she tugged her hair over her shoulder, twisting it. Danika did the same thing. “Can I ask you a question?”

I tucked my knees to my chest. “Sure.”

“Are you and Dez going to mate?” She paused. “Sorry. That’s probably none of my business. I just overheard some of the guys talking and I was curious. Abbot is always talking about mating and I hate the word. It’s so... I don’t know. Can’t he just say get married? He wants Zayne to ‘mate’ with Danika. He talks about it all—” She cut herself off and pink swept across her cheeks. “Anyway, is that what you guys are going to do?”

“I...” I sure hadn’t been expecting that question. My cheeks heated as I focused on a crowded bookshelf. “It’s complicated.”

“Complicated?” Her face screwed up thoughtfully. “Do you want to mate with him? Because if you don’t, you can say no, right? That’s how it works.”

“Yes, but I... I don’t know.”

She dropped her hair and the waves unfurled slowly. “Do you love him?”

A pang hit my chest and the answer was right there, on the tip of my tongue. Instead, something totally different came out. “I’ve been in love with him since I was a kid, but he... he left me and he just now came back.” I couldn’t believe I was telling a thirteen-year-old this, but my mouth wouldn’t stop flapping. “And for three years I accepted that I’d never see him again and mating became something I didn’t even think about. I wasn’t prepared when he popped back into my life. I don’t know if I’m ready for everything that comes along with that.”

“That had to be shocking, his coming back like that.” Layla scooted closer and lowered her voice. “But he cares about you—loves you.”

I looked at her sharply and found that I really couldn’t say anything.

“It’s the way he looks at you. He watched you the entire time we were out and on the way back. Even when he left with Zayne, he was watching you. It’s... romantic.”

I jerked back in surprise. “He’s never said the words.”

“Have you?”

“No.”

Layla laughed. “Then why should he be the first? I mean, let’s take out the whole mating crap. Is he someone you want? Do you still love him?” she asked, her tone urgent. “Do you?”

“Yes.” I whispered the word, afraid it would be overheard, but dammit, it was already out there. Once something was spoken, it was true. No takebacks.

“Then there’s your answer, because that seems to be the most important thing. I mean, if he loves you and you love him, he’ll wait and everything will work itself out.”

I glanced at her, exhaling slowly. I still couldn’t believe I was talking to her about this, but the girl, no matter how young she was, was saying some pretty wise stuff. “You really think that?”

“Yes.” Layla’s lips spread, and once more, I was transfixed by her smile. “Nothing in this world is stronger than love. It should always be enough, no matter what.”

Chapter Fifteen

Pressure clamped down on my chest and a ball formed in my throat. There were so many knots in my stomach, threatening to tie me up.

I’d been pacing the length of my room since I’d left Layla. My thoughts were all over the place, which had made it impossible for me to sit still. I couldn’t stop thinking about Layla and the fact that she would never know love—not really, not like I would one day, no matter what I decided. She could never truly get close to another person. She could never kiss. Love had been forbidden to her and that was so unfair. And I couldn’t stop thinking about what she had said.

Love would always be enough, no matter what.

And I did love Dez. I was in love with him.

I don’t know what exactly had made up my mind. There were a lot of things I wasn’t ready for, but there was one thing I was.

Footsteps in the hallway caught my attention. Heart leaping in my chest, I froze—and then I sprang forward, rushing to the door. Popping my head out in the hall, I saw Dez.

He stopped, surprised. “Hey.”

“I was... I was waiting for you.” God, I sounded like an idiot. I started backing up as he came into my room. “What did Abbot say about the demon?”

“He’s concerned. It’s abnormal for an Upper Level demon to do nothing but talk smack and then walk off. They’re going out tonight to hunt him down.” He closed the door and leaned against it, folding his arms. “Obviously, the punk is up to something. They want to find out what.”


Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy
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