White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements 1) - Page 55

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“Cayman seems an odd name for a demon.”

He laughed deeply. “Cayman is an infernal ruler who remains topside. He, like most infernal rulers, is a demon manager. He keeps them in check and reports back with weekly and monthly updates. He’s also like an assistant to me.”

So middle management existed even in Hell.

I shook my head as we rounded the second level and, as if by unspoken agreement, both of us came to a complete stop. A bone-deep dread settled in my stomach like stones. My feet felt rooted to the cement. Roth dropped my hand and stepped forward, his eyes narrowed.

Before I could ask what was happening, the overhead lights began to flicker. Then, in rapid succession, they blew out one after another, showering sparks like raindrops. Each explosion was like a gunshot. Only one light remained, wavering rapidly.

Thick shadows seeped from between the cars, shooting up the walls. A clicking noise filled the air as the shadows crawled up, swallowing the red EXIT sign and covering half the ceiling. The shadows rippled and pulsed, and for a stuttered heartbeat, they swelled like an overripe berry and then stilled.

Roth cursed.

As though a string had been cut, the shadows dropped, blanketing the floor before us in a thick, boiling oil slick. Out of the mess, columns shot into the air, over a dozen of them taking form in a nanosecond. Their bodies hunched over, lumps protruding from their skin and bony backs. Fingers bent and sharpened into claws. Pointy ears flattened and horns broke through hairless scalps. Their skin was a pasty gray and wrinkled in heavy layers, nearly overcoming the red, beady eyes. Thick, ratlike tails slapped off the ground.

Rack demons were from the inner bowels of Hell—the kind that spent an eternity torturing souls. And we were completely surrounded.


There was a reason why these kinds of demons were never topside, and it wasn’t their good looks. Racks fed off the pain of others, and if they didn’t have souls to torture, they didn’t sit around and wait.

Roth groaned. “Okay. Which one of you was fed after midnight? Because you’re worse than a mogwai.”

“Mogwais are cute,” I couldn’t help but protest. “These things are not.”

“But mogwais turn into mohawked gremlins, so...”

I shot him a look as I took a step back, nearly gagging on the rank smell of sulfur. “Uh, do you think they want to capture me or kill me?”

“You know, at this point, I’m not sure it matters.” Roth’s voice was grim.

One of the Racks opened its mouth, revealing a mouthful of serrated, sharklike teeth. It made a series of cringing clicks, and whatever language it spoke was completely lost on me, but Roth’s brows shot up.

“I think they want to take you somewhere. Perhaps on a honeymoon retreat?” He shook out his hands. “Yeah, I don’t think so. Let’s do this.”

And that was like ringing the dinner bell for some really hungry salvage-yard dogs. As one, the demons launched themselves at Roth.

I started forward, but Roth’s harsh voice rang out. “Stay out of this, Layla!”

Then he dropped low and kicked out, catching the first demon and knocking its bent legs right out from underneath it. Moving lightning quick, he sprung up as the demon staggered to its feet. Roth reached out, avoiding the thing’s snapping jaws, and placed his hand on its forehead.

A flash of red light came from Roth’s palm, dousing the Rack’s head. Whatever was in Roth’s touch or the light, it was like gasoline. Fire lit up the demon, glowing from its eye sockets and open mouth. Half a second later, the Rack was a pile of ash.

“Jeez,” I whispered.

Throwing a wink over his shoulder at me, Roth shot forward, taking out three Rack demons with a swipe of his arm. Fire swarmed them, incinerating their bodies. Three more came forward, dropping low and hissing.

They advanced on Roth. He stood there, head cocked to the side, and then he lifted his right arm. From the sleeve of his sweater, a twisty, dark entity spilled into the space before him.

The shadow broke into a thousand marble-sized dots and then they hit the floor, shooting together faster than the eye could track.

“Bambi,” I whispered.

In a heartbeat, the huge snake was coiled between the Rack demons and Roth, raising its diamond-shaped head high, until it was poised directly above the Rack demons.

The approaching Racks fell back a step.

“It’s dinnertime, baby,” Roth said. “And Papa brought you to an all-you-can-eat buffet.”

Bambi shot forward, striking the closest Rack demon. The thing screamed as Bambi’s fangs tore through skin and meat. I swallowed hard, wanting to look away from the disturbing sight, but unable to. My stomach roiled as an inky-black substance flew through the air, splattering off the pavement.

Stalking the remaining demons, Roth let out a low laugh that brought chills to my skin. He toyed with them, drawing two of the Racks out and then striking, clearly enjoying himself.

Bambi’s huge body was slithering across the scuffed pavement as she tracked another Rack that dared to advance. But Roth—oh, God—he was surrounded now. There was no way he could take out six Racks on his own, no matter how awesome his fiery touch of death was.

Sucking in a breath, I ignored Roth’s order and pushed down the fear. There was no way I could stand here and do nothing.

“Hey,” I called out. “What about me?”

Three of the Racks swung toward me, their mouths dropping open in a silent scream.

“No!” Roth yelled out.

They rushed me.

“Crap,” I muttered, heart tumbling over itself.

Muscles tightened in my stomach and legs as I tried to remember all of Zayne’s boring self-defense lessons. He used to preach about getting in the zone or something lame like that, anticipating the enemy’s next move. Which I was pretty sure involved one or more Rack demons eating my leg.

The first one reached me and instinct finally took over. I jumped back, twisting halfway as I kicked out, catching the Rack in the stomach. It went down on one knee. No time to celebrate that small victory.

Spinning around, I threw out my arm in a clean sweep, catching the next Rack demon in the throat. The frail bone crunched as it staggered back a step and then shot toward me. Throwing back my arm, I closed my hand and coldcocked the ugly bastard in its jaw.

The Rack demon went down, out cold like a mofo.

I looked up, meeting Roth’s stunned gaze. “What? I can throw a punch.”

Pride and something else filled his eyes—something like attraction churned in the tawny depths. As if seeing me punch a demon was tantamount to seeing me in a string bikini, and that was kind of weird. But then that look vanished and fear seeped in, expanding his pupils.


Hot, wretched breath hissed along the side of my cheek.

Jerking around, I came face-to-face with a Rack demon. Making the ear-bleeding clicking noise, it shot toward me, reaching out with one clawed hand.

Oh, Hell to the no.

Spinning around, I started to dip like Zayne had taught me. I felt the Rack grab the open air above me. Darting under its arm, I started to bring my knee up, but the demon changed sides. Before the words “oh, crap” could form, pins and needles of pain exploded along my spine.

Fire sliced through my palms and my jeans tore along my knees as I hit the cold cement. A cry punched out a second before weight hit me once more. Throwing my head back, I ended up a second away from eating pavement.

Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy
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