White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements 1) - Page 4

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The Seeker growled. “I mean no offense, but I don’t care how nice you are. You’re interrupting my job, you tool.”

I stumbled over the insult. Besides the fact that the Seeker was speaking to an Upper Level demon like that, it was such a...human thing to say.

“You know what they say,” the other demon countered. “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but I’m going to demolish you.”

Screw this. If I got back on the main street, I could lose both of them. They couldn’t attack in front of the humans—rules and all. Well, if these two were going to play by the rules, which seemed doubtful. I whipped around, dashing toward the opening of the alley.

I didn’t make it very far.

The Seeker hit me like a freaking NFL linebacker, knocking me against a Dumpster. Black spots darkened my vision. Something squeaky and furry dropped on my head. Shrieking like a banshee, I reached up and grabbed hold of the squirming body. Little claws tangled in my hair. Two seconds from stroking out, I yanked the rat out of my hair and tossed it onto the garbage bags. It squeaked as it bounced, then darted into a crack in the wall.

With a low snarl, the Upper Level demon appeared behind the Seeker, grabbing him by the throat. A second later, he had the Seeker dangling several feet off the ground. “Now, that wasn’t very nice,” he said in a low, ominous voice.

Spinning around, he tossed the Seeker like a beanbag. The Seeker slammed into the opposite wall, hitting the ground on his knees. The Upper Level demon raised his arm...and the snake tattoo lifted off his skin, breaking apart into a million black dots. They floated into the air between him and the Seeker, hung for a second, then dropped to the ground. The dots oozed together, forming a thick black mass.

No—not a mass, but a huge freaking snake at least ten feet long and as wide as I was. I sprang to my feet, ignoring the wave of dizziness.

The thing spun toward me, rising halfway up. Its eyes burned an unholy red.

A scream caught in my throat.

“Don’t be scared of Bambi,” the demon said. “She’s only curious and maybe a little bit hungry.”

The thing was named Bambi?

Oh, my God, the thing stared at me like it wanted to eat me.

The...the giant snake didn’t try to make me his snack pack. When it swung back toward the Seeker, I nearly fell over from relief. But then it shot across the small space, rising until its monstrous head hovered over the petrified lesser demon. The snake opened its mouth, revealing two fangs the size of my hand and, past them, a yawning black hole.

“Okay,” the demon murmured, smirking. “Maybe she’s a lot hungry.”

I took that as my cue to book it out of the alley.

“Wait!” yelled the demon, and when I didn’t stop but ran faster than I ever had before, his curse echoed in my head.

I crossed the avenues bordering Dupont Circle, passing the shop I’d planned on joining Stacey and Sam at. Only when I reached the spot where Morris, our chauffeur and about a dozen other things, would pick me up did I stop to breathe.

The gently hued souls thrummed around me, but I didn’t pay attention to them. Numb to my core, I sat on a bench by the curb. I felt wrong, off. What the Hell had just happened? All I’d wanted to do was outline All Quiet on the Western Front tonight. Not almost devour a soul, nearly get killed, meet my very first Upper Level demon or watch a tattoo turn into an anaconda for chrissake.

I glanced down at my empty hand.

Or lose my phone.

Crap.

CHAPTER TWO

Morris didn’t talk on the way to the house on Dunmore Lane. No big surprise there. Morris never spoke. Maybe it was the stuff he saw going on inside our house that left him speechless. I really didn’t know.

Fidgety to the tenth degree from sitting on the bench for about an hour waiting on Morris, I bounced my foot on the dashboard the whole way home. It was only four miles, but four miles in D.C. equaled a billion miles elsewhere. The only part of the trip that went fast was the private stretch of road leading up to Abbot’s monster of a home.

With four stories, countless guest rooms and even an indoor pool, it was more like a hotel than a home. It really was a compound—a place where the unmarried male Wardens in the clan lived and operated like command central. As we drew closer, I blinked and let out a muttered curse that earned me a disapproving look from Morris.

Six stone gargoyles that hadn’t been there this morning were perched on the edge of our rooftop. Visitors. Great.

I pulled my feet down from the dashboard and grabbed my bag off the floor. Even with their wings folded in and faces turned down, the hunched shapes were a formidable sight against the starry night.

In their resting form, Wardens were nearly indestructible. Fire couldn’t harm them. Chisels and hammers couldn’t breach their shell. People had tried every form of weapon since the Wardens went public. So had the demons since, well, forever, but Wardens were only weak when they looked human.

The moment the car drifted to a stop in front of the sprawling porch, I jumped out and tore up the steps, skidding to a halt in front of the door. In the upper-left corner of the porch, a small camera shifted to where I stood. The light blinked red. Somewhere in the massive rooms and tunnels under the mansion, Geoff was in the control room and behind the camera. No doubt getting a kick out of making me wait.

I stuck out my tongue.

The light turned green a second later.

Rolling my eyes when I heard the door unlocking, I opened it and dropped my bag in the foyer. Immediately, I started toward the stairs. After a second thought, I swiveled around and raced toward the kitchen. Finding the room blissfully empty, I dug out a roll of sugar-cookie dough from the fridge. I broke off a chunk and then headed upstairs. The house was cemetery quiet. At this time of the day, most would be in the training facility underground or had already left to hunt.

All except Zayne. For as long as I could remember, Zayne had never left to hunt without seeing me first.

I took the steps three at a time, munching on the dough. Wiping my sticky fingers across my denim skirt, I nudged his door open with my hip and froze. I seriously needed to learn how to knock.

I saw his pearly-white, luminous glow first—a pure soul. Different from a human soul, a Warden’s essence was pure, a product of what they were. Very few humans retained a pure soul once they started exercising the whole thing called free will. Due to the taint of the demonic blood I carried, I knew I didn’t have a pure soul. I wasn’t sure I had a soul at all. I could never see mine.

Sometimes...sometimes I didn’t think I belonged with them—with Zayne.

A sense of shame curled low in my stomach, but before it could spread like noxious fumes, Zayne’s soul faded, and I wasn’t really thinking about anything.

Fresh out of the shower, Zayne tugged a plain black T-shirt on over his head. Not quick enough that I missed a tantalizing glimpse of abs. Rigorous training kept his body chiseled and rock hard. I dragged my gaze up when the stretch of skin disappeared. Damp sandy hair clung to his neck and sculpted cheeks. His features would be too perfect if it weren’t for those watered-down blue eyes all Wardens had.

I shuffled to the edge of his bed and sat. I shouldn’t think of Zayne the way I did. He was the closest thing I had to a brother. His father, Abbot, had raised us together and Zayne looked at me like the little sister he somehow ended up saddled with.


Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy
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