White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements 1) - Page 13

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I shrugged. “It happens. Not a big deal.”

His gaze sharpened. “Who said that to you?”

“It doesn’t matter....” I stopped as he took my glass and watched the muscles of his throat work. He drained half the glass before he handed it back to me. “It’s just something stupid they say.”

“You’re right. It doesn’t matter as long as you don’t let it bother you.”

I shivered, hopelessly drawn into his pale eyes. “I know.”

“Cold?” he murmured. “Somebody turned the air on while we slept.”

“It’s September. It’s not hot enough to run the air.”

Zayne chuckled as he brushed my hair back over my shoulder. “Layla, our body temperatures run differently than yours. Seventy degrees is steamy to us.”

“Mmm. That’s why I like you. You’re warm.”

He took my glass again, but this time he placed it on the counter. Then he grabbed my hand, pulling me toward him. “That’s why you like me? Because I’m warm?”

“I guess so.”

“I thought for sure there were other reasons,” he teased.

My earlier irritation faded. I found myself smiling at him. Zayne always had that effect on me. “Well, you do help me with my homework.”

His brows shot up. “Is that all?”

“Hmm.” I pretended to think about it. “You’re pretty to look at. Does that make you feel better?”

Zayne gaped. “I’m pretty to look at?”

I giggled. “Yeah. Stacey also said you’re the awesome sauce with an extra side of sauce.”

“Really?” He pulled me into his side and draped his arm over my shoulder. It was like being in a headlock, except my body tingled all over. “Do you think I’m the awesome sauce?”

“Sure,” I gasped.

“How about with extra sauce?”

My cheeks flushed. So did other parts of my body. “I...guess so.”

“You guess so?” He leaned back, putting maybe two inches between us. “I think you do.”

To my relief, my face didn’t feel like it was on fire.

He laughed softly, pulling my hand off my face. “You’re done tagging already?”

I blinked slowly. What was he talking about?

The door to the kitchen opened behind us. Zayne dropped my hand as he looked over his shoulder, but his arm remained. He grinned. “Hey, old man.”

I twisted around. Abbot stood in the doorway, eyeing his son blandly. He always reminded me of a lion. His hair was lighter than Zayne’s, but just as long. I imagined he shared a lot of the same features as his son, but half his face was always covered by a thick beard.

If I looked up the definition of intimidating, it would show a picture of Abbot. As the clan leader, he had to be fierce, stern and, at times, deadly. He represented the clan, was the one who met with human officials, and if any of the Wardens messed up, it was Abbot who took the fall. A lot of weight rested on his shoulders, but his back never bowed under the pressure.

Abbot’s gaze slid to me. His normally warm eyes were like chips of pale blue ice. “Layla, the school called here this afternoon.”

I pursed my lips. “Uh...”

“I was able to get in touch with a Mrs. Cleo before she left for the evening.” He folded thick arms across his chest. “She claimed that you ran out of class during an exam. Care to explain why?”

My brain emptied.

Zayne’s head jerked up, and without looking, I knew he was frowning. “Why did you run out of class?” he asked.

“I...wasn’t feeling well.” I gripped the edge of the island. “I didn’t eat this morning and I got sick.”

“Are you feeling okay now?” he pressed.

I glanced at him. Concern touched his expression. “Yeah, I’m all better.”

He glanced over at my forgotten glass of orange juice. A strange look flickered over his face. Without saying a word, he dropped his arm and headed around the island.

“I told this Mrs. Cleo that I was sure you had a good reason for leaving class,” Abbot continued. “She agreed such behavior was out of character and has decided to let you make up your exam after school on Friday.”

Typically I would have whined about having to spend extra time in school, but I wisely kept my mouth shut. “I’m really sorry.”

Abbot’s eyes softened. “Next time make sure you let the teacher know you’re sick. And call Morris so that you can come home and rest.”

Now I really felt bad. I shifted my weight back and forth. “Okay.”

Zayne returned to my side, OJ in hand. There was a drawn, brooding pull to his features. He handed me the glass, watching until I finished it off. I felt even worse.

Abbot rested his arms against the counter. “Have you been spending time with Danika, Zayne?”

“Hmm?” Zayne’s eyes were still on me.

“You know,” I said, setting the glass down, “the girl who was almost standing on top of you in the library.”

Zayne’s full lips thinned.

Abbot chuckled. “Good to see you two getting along. You know she’s of mating age, Zayne, and it’s time you think about settling down.”

I tried to keep my expression blank as I stared at the empty glass. Zayne settling down? I wanted to hurl.

Zayne groaned. “Father, I just turned twenty-one. Give it a rest.”

Abbot arched a brow. “I mated with your mother when I was your age. It’s hardly out of the question.”

I made a face. “Can’t we say ‘marry’? Saying ‘mate’ out loud just sounds gross.”

“This isn’t your world, Layla. I wouldn’t expect you to understand.”

Ouch. I flinched back.

Zayne exhaled roughly. “Father, this is her world. She’s a Warden, too.”

Abbot moved from the counter, brushing his hair back. “If she did understand, the use of the word mating would not disturb her. The bonds of marriage are breakable. Mating is for life. Something you—” he looked at Zayne pointedly “—need to start taking seriously. Our clan is dwindling.”

Zayne tipped his head back and sighed. “What are you suggesting? That I should go out there right now and devote my life to Danika? Does she have a say in this?”

“I doubt Danika would be displeased.” Abbot smiled knowingly. “And yes, I’m suggesting you mate very soon. You aren’t getting any younger, and neither am I. You may not love her now, but you’ll grow to.”

“What?” Zayne laughed.

“I felt...a fondness for your mother when I first mated with her.” He rubbed his beard-covered chin thoughtfully. “I did grow to love her. If only we’d had more time together...”

Zayne seemed unaffected by the whole exchange, but I felt close to tears. I murmured something about homework before leaving the kitchen. I didn’t need to wait around to see how the conversation wrapped up. Whatever Zayne thought or wanted didn’t matter. It hadn’t mattered for Abbot or Zayne’s mother.

And it sure as Hell didn’t matter what I wanted.

* * *

The application to Columbia University stared at me from the floor. Scattered beside it were more college applications. Money wasn’t an issue. Neither were my grades. Since I couldn’t serve the clan by producing more Wardens, my future was my own. Those applications should’ve filled me with excitement and joy. But the idea of moving away, of becoming someone new and different, was as frightening as it was enthralling.


Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy
Source: www.freenovel24.com