White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements 1) - Page 14

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And now, when I finally had the chance to leave, I didn’t want to.

It didn’t make any sense. I tucked my hair back and stood. My schoolwork lay on the bed forgotten. If I was honest with myself for two seconds, I’d admit I knew why I didn’t want to leave. It was Zayne, and that was stupid. Abbot had been right earlier. It didn’t matter how much Warden blood I shared, this wasn’t my world. I was kind of like a guest who never left.

I looked around my room. It had everything a girl could want. My own desktop computer and laptop, TV and stereo system, more clothes than I’d ever wear and enough books to lose myself in.

But it was all just stuff...empty.

Unable to stay in my bedroom, I left with no real plan in mind. I just needed to get out of the room—out of the house. Downstairs, I could hear Jasmine and Danika in the kitchen making dinner. The scent of roasted potatoes and the sound of laughter filled the air. Was Zayne with them, cooking alongside Danika?

How sweet.

I passed Morris on the front porch. He glanced up from his newspaper with a questioning look, but that was all. I shoved my hands into the pockets of my jeans and inhaled the scent of decayed leaves and the faint trace of the city’s smog.

I cut across the manicured yard, past the stone wall that separated Abbot’s property from the woods surrounding the compound. Zayne and I had made this trip so many times as kids that a path had been carved through the grass and rocky soil. We’d escaped here together—me running from the loneliness and Zayne avoiding the rigorous trainings and all the expectations.

When we were younger, the fifteen-minute hike felt like we’d managed to disappear into a different world full of thick cherry trees and maples. It had been our place. Back then, I couldn’t imagine a life that didn’t include him.

I stopped under the tree house Abbot had built for Zayne long before I came along. There wasn’t anything special about it. Kind of like a hut in the trees, but it had this cool eight-by-eight observation deck. Climbing a tree was a Hell of a lot easier when I was a little kid. It took several tries to get into the main part. From there, I crawled through a door roughed into the treated wood. I inched across the platform gingerly, hoping it didn’t cave in.

Death by tree house didn’t sound like an exciting way to go.

Lying down, I wondered why I’d come here. Was it some twisted way of wanting to be close to Zayne, or did I just want to be a kid again? To go back to a time when I didn’t know that seeing colors shimmering around people meant that I wasn’t like other Wardens...before I learned that I had tainted blood. Things were easier then. I didn’t think about Zayne the way I did now or spend my evenings touching random strangers. I also didn’t have an Upper Level demon in my bio class.

A cool breeze picked up a few strands of my hair, tossing them across my face. I shivered and hunkered down in my sweater. For some reason, I remembered what Roth had said about Abbot using me for my ability.

It’s not true.

I pulled the necklace out from underneath my sweater. The chain was old and thick. It had a series of ropy loops I knew by heart. In the waning light, I couldn’t make out the etchings on the silver ring. Endless knots had been carved into the metal band by someone who obviously had too much time on their hands. I turned the ring over. I’d never seen anything like the gemstone set in the center. It was deep red, almost like a ruby, but the color was off in some areas, darker in others. Sometimes, depending on how I held the ring, it looked as if there was liquid inside the oval stone.

Supposedly the ring had belonged to my mother.

My memories prior to the night Abbot found me were nothing but a blank void. This ring was the only thing that tied me to my real family.

Family was such a strange word. I wasn’t even sure I’d had a family to start off with. Had I been with my father at some point, before the foster home? Who knew? And if Abbot did, he wasn’t telling. My life started when Abbot found me.

I closed my eyes, inhaling slowly and deeply. Now wasn’t the time for self-reflection or a pity party. I tucked the ring back under my sweater, figuring I needed to focus on what I was going to do about Roth.

I was on my own with this one. Ignore him? Sounded like a good idea, but I doubted it would work. Part of me hoped he’d just disappear after warning me not to tag.

I must’ve dozed off at some point during my plotting, because when I opened my eyes, the sky was dark, my nose was cold and someone was lying beside me.

My heart jumped into my throat, then skipped a beat when I turned my head and soft hair tickled my cheek. “Zayne?”

One eye opened. “What a strange place to nap when you have this great thing called a bed.”

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

“You didn’t come down for dinner.” He lifted his hand and removed a strand of my hair that had drifted across his face. “After a while, I decided to check on you. You weren’t in your room, and when I asked Morris if he’d seen you, he pointed toward the woods.”

I scrubbed my eyes, clearing away the remnants of my impromptu nap. “What time is it?”

“Almost nine-thirty.” He paused. “I was worried about you.”

My brows furrowed. “Why?”

Zayne tilted his head toward mine. “Why did you leave class today?”

I stared at him a moment, then I remembered the strange look on his face when he’d seen the glass of OJ. “I wasn’t about to suck out a soul, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

He frowned. “Whenever you’re craving something sweet—”

“I know.” I turned my gaze to the sky. The stars peeked out from behind the thick branches. “Nothing happened at school today, I swear.”

He was quiet for a moment. “Okay. That wasn’t the only reason I was worried.”

I sighed. “I’m not going to murder Danika in her sleep.”

Zayne let out a deep laugh. “I’d hope not. Dad would be pissed if you killed my mate.”

Hearing that, I decided there may be a good chance I would kill her. “So now you’re down with the whole mating thing? Going to start making little gargoyle babies soon? That should be fun.”

He laughed again, which pissed me off. “Layla-bug, what do you know about making babies?”

I punched him in the stomach as I sat up. His low chuckle turned into a grunt. “I’m not a freaking kid, you ass. I know what sex is.”

Zayne reached up and pinched my cheek. “You’re like this little—”

I slammed him in the stomach again.

He caught my arm, hauling me to his chest. “Stop being so violent,” he murmured lazily.

“Then stop being such an ass.” I bit my lower lip.

“I know you’re not a kid anymore.”

An incredible heat swept through me, odd for such a chilly night. “Whatever. You treat me like I’m ten.”

A moment passed and his hand tightened around my arm. “How am I supposed to treat you?”

I wished I had something sexy and flirty to say. Instead I mumbled, “I don’t know.”

A corner of his mouth turned up. “Danika’s not my mate, by the way. I was also joking about that.”

I tried to look totally unaffected. “It’s what your father wants.”


Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy
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