White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements 1) - Page 28

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“We aren’t talking about me,” he countered smoothly. “And what do you mean they don’t want you tagging anymore? I think these Wardens and I have something in common.”

I clutched the strap around my shoulder, mentally spin-kicking myself in the face. “It’s nothing. I’m tired of talking about me.”

We stopped in front of the café Roth had spoken of earlier. The fresh cookies and muffins in the window sang to me.

“Hungry?” Roth whispered in my ear.

His closeness was making it difficult to breathe. I could see the edge of the snake’s tail poking out of his collar. I lifted my head, swallowing. “Your tattoo moves.”

“Bambi gets bored.” His breath stirred the hair around my ear.

“Oh,” I whispered. “So...does she live on you or something?”

“Or something. Hungry or not?”

That was when I noticed the We Don’t Serve Wardens Here sign. Disgust filled me. “I guess I know why you like this place.”

His laugh confirmed my suspicions.

“This is just rich.” I faced him. “They won’t serve Wardens, but they’ll serve your kind.”

“I know. It’s called irony. I love it.”

Shaking my head, I headed into the café. Those cookies looked too good to pass up. It was slightly warmer inside the busy eatery. The smell of freshly baked bread filled the air as did the soft chatter of people sitting at bistro-style tables. I ordered a cold-cut sub and two sugar cookies. Roth got a coffee and a blueberry muffin—the muffin still surprised me. We found a table near the back, and I tried not to be weirded out by the fact that I was eating dinner with a demon.

I searched for a normal question to ask as I munched on my sandwich. “How old are you?”

Roth’s gaze flicked up from where he was strategically breaking his muffin into several bite-sized pieces. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

“Probably not.” I grinned. “But try me.”

He popped a chunk of muffin in his mouth, chewing slowly. “Eighteen.”

“Eighteen...what?” I finished off my sandwich while he stared back, brows raised. “Wait. Are you trying to tell me you’re only eighteen years old?”

“Yes.”

My mouth gaped. “You mean eighteen in dog years, right?”

Roth laughed. “No. I mean eighteen as in I was born eighteen years ago. I’m a baby demon, basically.”

“A baby demon,” I repeated slowly. When I thought about babies, the image of something soft and cuddly came to mind. Nothing about Roth was babyish. “You’re being serious.”

He nodded, brushing the crumbs off his hands. “You look so shocked.”

“I don’t understand.” I picked up one of the cookies.

“Well, technically, we’re not really alive. I don’t have a soul.”

I frowned. “Were you hatched from brimstone or something?”

Roth threw his head back, laughing. “No. I was conceived just like you, but our growth is vastly different.”

I shouldn’t be curious, but I couldn’t help it. “How is it different?”

He leaned forward, grinning as his eyes glimmered. “Well, we are born as babies but within a couple of hours we mature. This—” he gestured at himself “—is just a human form I chose to wear. We all pretty much look alike, to be honest.”

“Just like the Wardens, then. You’re wearing a human skin. So what do you really look like?”

“As gorgeous as I do now, but a very different shade of skin.”

I sighed. “What color?”

Roth picked up his cup as he dipped his chin. He stared at me through thick lashes. “A boy must have some secrets. It keeps the mystery alive.”

I rolled my eyes. “Whatever.”

“Maybe one day I’ll show you.”

“I won’t be interested then. Sorry.” I moved on to my second cookie. “So back to the eighteen thing again. You seem a lot more mature than normal guys. Is that a demon thing?”

“We’re omniscient.”

I laughed. “Such crap. You’re saying you’re born all-knowing?”

Roth grinned impishly. “Pretty much. I went from this big—” he held his hands about three feet apart “—to what I am now in about twenty-four hours. Brain grew right along with it.”

“That’s just weird.”

He picked up his coffee, taking a sip. “So what do you know about your other half?”

And he was back to me again. I sighed. “Not that much. They told me my mom was a demon, and that’s pretty much it.”

“What?” Roth sat back. “You really are that innocent of your heritage. It’s cute, but oddly infuriating.”

I nibbled on my cookie. “They think it’s better that way.”

“And you think it’s okay for them to keep you completely in the dark when it comes to the other part of you?”

I took another bite, shrugging. “It’s not like I claim the other half.”

He rolled his eyes. “You know, it kind of reminds me of a dictatorship. The way the Wardens treat you, that is.”

“How so?”

“Keep the people in the darkness, away from the truth. Makes them easier to control.” He sipped his coffee, watching me over the lid. “It’s the same with you.” He shrugged. “Not that you seem to care.”

“They don’t control me.” I broke off the cookie roughly, briefly considered throwing it in his face. But that would be a waste of a perfectly good cookie. “And I guess you’re on speaking terms with some of the world’s most infamous dictators.”

“I wouldn’t say I talk to them.” His lips pursed thoughtfully. “More like shove hot pokers through them when I get bored.”

I cringed. “For real?”

“Hell ain’t pretty for those who’ve earned their way.”

I thought about that for a moment. “Well, they kind of deserve an eternity of torture.” I glanced around the café, over the shimmering souls and framed portraits on the walls. They were pictures of former owners, each old and silver-haired. And then I saw her.

Or I saw her soul first.

Sinner alert. The essence around her was tainted, a kaleidoscope of dark shades. I wondered what she had done. Once her soul faded, I saw that she looked like a normal thirtysomething woman. She was dressed nicely, wore really cute heels and carried a to-die-for purse. Her blond hair was a bit brassy, but cut in a trendy bob. She looked normal. Nothing to be afraid of or to run from, but I knew differently. Evil simmered under the normal facade.

“What is it?” Roth sounded far away.

I swallowed. “Her soul—it’s bad.”

He seemed to understand. I wondered what he saw: a woman in nice clothes, or the woman that had sinned so badly her soul was now tainted?

“What do you see?” he asked, as if he was sharing the same thought.

“It’s dark. Brown. Like someone took a brush, dipped it in red paint and flicked it around her.” I leaned forward, breathless with want. “It’s beautiful. Wrong, but beautiful.”


Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy
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