White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements 1) - Page 39

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A muscle spasmed along Roth’s jaw and his eyes flared a tawny color, but his touch remained so soft that it didn’t seem like it was him holding my chin. “Did he say why?”

“He said I should’ve been killed when the Wardens first found me. Petr’s always hated me, but this...this was more.” I told Roth everything that had happened, stopping every few moments to rest my aching jaw. “I didn’t have a choice.”

“A choice about what?” he asked. “You didn’t kill him. I did. And I’d like to do it again.”

I shook my head and it hurt. “I took his soul, Roth. I don’t understand what happened. He didn’t waste away like a human would. He turned and his eyes were red.”

He stilled, looking me straight in the eye. “You took his soul?”

Tears pricked my eyes.

“Layla,” he said gently. “Did you take his soul completely?”

“I think so.” My voice cracked. “Yes. Yes, I did.”

The hue of his eyes darkened. “You did what you had to do. There is no guilt in what happened. Do you understand me? He was...hurting you. The bastard deserved to die.”

I said nothing to that, and Roth smoothed the cloth over my brow. He was quiet and meticulous as he worked. I watched the muscle in his jaw tick away, his pupils slowly but surely going back to normal by the time he left and returned with a fresh towel.

“How bad is it?” I asked when I couldn’t take the silence any longer.

Roth smiled for the first time since he’d found me. “It’s not as bad as it could be. Your lip is split, and there’s going to be one Hell of a bruise on your jaw—” he skimmed his fingers over my brow “—and here. You’re more durable than you look.”

I should’ve felt relief, but I couldn’t. All I could feel were Petr’s hands on me and the way he’d looked after I took his soul. Roth gently started to part the edge of the blanket and my grip tightened. “What are you doing?”

“I’m making sure you’re okay.”

“No.” I leaned away from him, feeling the walls start to close in around me. “I’m fine.”

“I’m not going to hurt you.” Roth placed his hand on my shoulder carefully, but I still winced at the ache traveling down my arm. His eyes hardened. “You’re letting me check you over. I’m not going to hurt you, okay? I promise.”

I stared at him for what seemed like eternity, then I nodded and let go of the blanket. Roth didn’t wait for me to change my mind. He slipped the blanket off my shoulders and when I heard his sharp inhalation, I wanted to grab it again. I felt him move the cloth under my neck, dip between the shredded halves of my camisole.

“He scratched you,” Roth explained after a few moments. “Was he in his true form when he did this?”

“No.” I opened my eyes. “He started to shift when I got ahold of his soul and then he turned completely afterward.”

Before Roth could respond, I felt something soft and warm brush against my ankle. I looked down in surprise. A tiny white kitten stared up at me, eyes as blue as the sky. “Kitten?”

“Yes. It’s a kitten.”

Stunned that Roth would have something so cute, I ignored the wave of dizziness and bent around him, reaching for the tiny ball of fur. Its soft purr was like a miniature engine. Another one popped out from underneath the bed. Black, fluffy and the same size as the other kitten, it shimmied out and pounced on the back of the white one. They rolled, hissing and swatting at one another. I glanced at Roth. “Two?”

He shook his head, pointing back to the head of the bed. “Three.”

A third peeked around the corner of a pillow, a mixture of black and white. It trotted up to me, sweeping at my fingers with surprisingly sharp claws. “I...can’t believe you have kittens.” I wiggled my fingers and the little guy strained to reach them. “What’re their names?”

Roth snorted. “That one is Fury. The white one is Nitro and the black one is named Thor.”

“What? You called these cuties something like that, but named a giant snake Bambi?”

He bent forward, placing a kiss on my shoulder. It was so fast I wasn’t sure he’d actually done it. “There’s sweetness in evil,” he said. “And remember, looks can be deceiving.”

I lowered my fingers, running them over the kitten’s little head.

“I wouldn’t do that if I—”

Fury sank its claws and teeth into my hand. I yelped, jerking my hand back. It remained latched on, a squirming ball of vamp kitty.

Roth grabbed the fluff of fur, gently removing it from my hand. “Bad kitty,” he said, dropping it next to its siblings.

I stared at the demonic furball as it licked its bloody claws, and then shifted my gaze to Roth. “I don’t understand.”

“Let’s just say that they weren’t always this cute and cuddly-looking. They can get pretty big when provoked, but even in this form, Hellhounds are afraid of them,” Roth said.

The white one jumped on the bed, stretched out little legs and yawned. It eyed me as if it wasn’t sure what I was doing there.

Roth caught my hand, bringing the finger the kitten had injured to his lips. He pressed a kiss to the blemished skin, surprising me once more. “You’re going to be fine.”

I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes again. “What...what am I going to do? I took a soul—a pure soul.”

Roth sat beside me. “It will be okay.”

A strangled laugh escaped me. “You don’t understand. I’m not allowed...to take souls. Not in any situation.”

“It’s not something to worry about right now,” he said firmly. “I’ll take care of it.”

I wanted to believe him so badly, but I couldn’t see how he could take care of anything. What had been done couldn’t be reversed.

Roth reached out, cupping the side of my jaw that didn’t feel like it was on fire. “This will all work out. It will.” There was a pause. “Look. You have a little visitor.”

I glanced down. The white kitten rubbed against my side, staring up at me with slanted blue eyes. I itched to pick it up and hold it close, but I valued my fingers. It went back to rubbing my hip, as if it dared me to pet it.

Emotion clogged my throat as I realized I hadn’t thanked him properly. “Why are you helping me? I mean, thank you—I can never thank you enough for coming when you did. I just...” I just didn’t understand how a demon could be the one to save me from a Warden.

He shrugged, dropping his hand. “I’m a lot of things, Layla. But even I have my limits.”

Silence fell between us, and Roth went back to cleaning up the rest of my wounds. He was good at this—taking care of someone. I doubted it was something he learned in Hell.

When he finished, he gave me a pair of his sweats and a shirt to wear. On the walk to his bathroom, I ached and felt awkward. In his bright bathroom, I stared at my reflection. My eyes seemed larger than normal, a brighter gray that bordered on looking wild. The right side of my jaw was already turning a deep purple. It matched the bruise forming just below my hairline. The skin had split there, but it didn’t look like I needed stitches. My lip looked like a Botox injection gone horribly wrong.

Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy
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