White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements 1) - Page 37

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I pried my eyes open and they stung unnaturally. Something inside of me snapped. Maybe it was the demon finally. It didn’t matter what it was. I reared off the ground, clenching the sides of his face. My movement stunned him, giving me enough time to latch my mouth on to his. I inhaled deeply, feeling the first wisp of his soul.

I breathed in again, and he went wild, beating my arms, my chest. I held on, dragging his soul bit by bit inside me as he moaned. He didn’t taste like I thought a pure soul would. It felt thick, heavy with blood and hatred.

Petr was shifting, his fingers clawing at my neck, wrapping around the silver chain. The last of his soul struggled against me, but I coaxed it out and into me. Petr jerked away, and the moment his mouth left mine, a ragged sob escaped me.

Back bowed and arms thrown out to the side, Petr’s skin turned sallow. Veins bulged along his throat and then darkened, like ink had been injected into his blood. Darkened vessels traveled up his cheeks and down the bare skin of his arm. He shuddered once, and then he rose onto the tips of his toes as if he was nothing more than a puppet.

Feeling too warm and more than a little off balance, I tried to stand, but my legs wouldn’t cooperate even though dull instincts were flaring to life. Get away. Get away. Whatever was happening with Petr wasn’t normal, but the soul—ah—tasting a soul was like taking a hit of the purest drug out there. Warmth buzzed through my veins, dulling the numerous aches and erasing the fear. I’d tasted a soul before, but never taken one completely.

Humans would waste away within minutes of losing their souls, turning into wraiths. Apparently Wardens did something completely different.

I willed my muscles to work, managing to sit up. Light-headed, I struggled to focus through the rushing tide of heat. Muscles relaxed and loosened. The world above spun, but Petr...

His body contorted and he threw his head back, mouth gaping open in a silent howl. Fangs punched out between his pale gray lips. Clothing stretched and tore. Petr was shifting. Maybe I hadn’t taken his soul. Maybe I was hallucinating.

Bones popped and skin ripped. Petr’s wings unfurled from his back, spanning six feet on either side of him. His body jerked into the final stages of transformation. He stilled for a moment and then his chin snapped down.

Petr’s eyes were bloodred.

And that...well, that wasn’t right.

My palms slid across the soil and I ended up flat on my back. A tiny giggle escaped my slack lips. Blood pounding, I tried to sit up again. Deep down I knew I should’ve been afraid, but nothing could hurt me now. I could kiss the sky if I wanted to.

The ground trembled as Petr stepped forward, a low growl rumbling up through him. He extended a heavily muscled arm, and his hands formed deadly claws. Lips pulled back in a snarl, he dropped into a crouch.

Something bigger and faster pulled away from the shadows, heading straight for us. In my mixed-up head, I wondered if it was another Warden coming to help Petr finish what he’d started.

Petr straightened, whipping toward the fast-approaching shadow, but he was too late.

The blur solidified in an instant. The facial features were familiar but sharper, as if the skin had thinned over bone. Pupils stretched vertically and irises glowed yellow.

Petr’s body spasmed and he let out a hoarse cry. Hot, wet warmth sprayed into the air, dotting my jeans and my stomach. A metallic scent flooded the air.

“That’s for being a bastard,” Roth said, and then he yanked his arm back. A long spiny structure dangled from his hand—a spine. “And that is for throwing Bambi.”


Too stunned and out of it to say much of anything, I watched Roth drop the spine on the ground. His lip was curled in disgust as he stepped over Petr’s body and knelt before me.

“Are you okay?” he asked, and when I didn’t answer, he reached forward with a bloodied hand. His gaze dropped to it and he muttered something under his breath. Pulling his hand back, he wiped it on his jeans. “Layla?”

His face didn’t seem so sharp now, but those eyes still glowed yellow. The high had peaked and was starting to drift away like an idle breeze. Sharp bursts of pain were popping up all over my body. I opened my mouth, but only air came out.

My gaze drifted toward the body.

“Don’t look,” he said, placing a hand on my leg.

I jerked away, my breathing starting to pick up again.

“Okay,” Roth said, glancing over to where Bambi was stirring to life. He turned his gaze back to me, whistling low, and the snake rose up and traveled halfway to Roth before turning into a dark cloud. The smoke traveled up his arm and settled against his skin, the tail of the tattoo wrapping around his elbow. Roth kept his eyes fixed on me. “Layla, say something.”

I blinked slowly. “Thank...you.”

A muscle popped in his jaw as his gaze held mine a moment longer, and then he turned back to the body. “I need to take care of this and then I’ll...I’ll take care of you.”

Roth picked up the body and the other parts, quickly disappearing into the thick brush of the woods. Rolling onto my side, I managed to pull myself up so I leaned against the base of a tree. Disjointed thoughts trailed endlessly through my head.

I’d taken a soul—a pure soul.

My stomach cramped. The soft glow that had surrounded me disappeared and I shivered uncontrollably.

I’d taken a soul.

Roth materialized out of nowhere, the front of his jeans damp and his hands clear of blood. He must’ve washed them in the nearby stream. Without saying a word, he approached me slowly, as if worried about frightening me. He slipped an arm under my knees and lifted me, and it occurred to me that I should probably ask where he was taking me. But I just wanted to be away from here, as far away as possible.

His body changed against mine, hardened much like a Warden’s would. Heat radiated from his skin and there was the familiar sound of skin separating. Wings so dark they almost blended into the night spread out from his body, arcing gracefully. At the tips were horns, curved and sharpened into fine points. The wings had to be at least ten feet wide. The biggest I’d ever seen.

I pulled back a little and sucked in a sharp breath. His skin was the color of polished onyx, more skeletal than skin. Unlike the Wardens, there were no cranial horns. Just smooth black skin. A cold stab of fear pierced my heart. Seeing Roth in his true form was a sharp reminder of what he really was—a demon.

But I was part demon and Petr...Petr had been a Warden, and he’d wanted to kill me. Things were no longer so black-and-white to me.

I lifted my gaze to Roth’s face.

Golden eyes met mine, and it was as if he knew what I was thinking. “Funny how much demons and Wardens look alike, huh?”

I didn’t respond, but one side of his lips tipped up in total Roth fashion. “Close your eyes, Layla. This is going to be fast.”

He didn’t give me much of a chance to protest. With his free hand, he tucked my head into the space between his throat and shoulder. He dropped into a crouch and a powerful tremble rocked his body a moment before he launched into the sky.

Pulse pounding, I squeezed my eyes shut and burrowed in. Only Zayne had ever done this—taken me into the sky. It required a lot of trust on my end. If Roth decided to drop me, it wasn’t like I was going to sprout wings and save myself from going splat. And even though I doubted that was part of his master plan, my anxiety level skyrocketed and pushed my already-thumping heart into overdrive.

Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy
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