White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements 1) - Page 57

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Reaching the foot of the bed, I held out my hand. “Let me see.”

“Join me.”

I stared at him a moment, then rolled my eyes. Standing, I cautiously approached where he lay. “Okay?”

“Uh-uh.” He pulled the book back. “Sit with me.”

I scowled at him. “Why?”

“Because I’m lonely.”

“That’s ridiculous. I’m right here.”

His lashes lowered. “But that’s too far away, Layla.”

My hands curled into fists as a teasing grin appeared on his lips. He wasn’t going to budge. Muttering under my breath, I sat beside him.

“Thank you.”

“Whatever. Can I see the book now?”

Roth handed it over. The book was narrow and couldn’t be more than a hundred pages. A circle and star were drawn onto the front cover.

“The real deal has the symbol engraved and the cover looks like aged beef jerky,” he explained. “Bound in human skin.”

It was all I could do not to drop the replica in my hand. “Ew.”

“Yep. That’s how they rolled back in the day.”

I flipped open the book and let out a low whistle. “Nice.”

I was studying a hand-drawn picture of a half human, half blackbird. The caption beneath proclaimed its name to be Caym, the grand President of Hell, ruler of thirty legions. “‘Master of logic and pun,’” I read. “He looks like a freak.”

“You should see him in person.”

On the opposite page was a half-complete incantation to summon and banish the demon back to Hell. I fell quiet as Roth reached over and flipped through the pages, listening as he made a comment here and there.

I stopped on a demon called Paimon.

“‘Ranked first and principal King of Hell, he rules over the West. He commands two hundred legions.’ Wow,” I said.

“That he does, but he is—or was—high-ranking. Basically the Boss’s assistant. He was the most loyal to the Boss.”

“‘Was’?” I couldn’t stop staring at the drawing. It was a man with some kind of dark headdress, riding upon a camel. Or a horse with back problems. One or the other.

“He and the Boss had a falling-out centuries ago.”

My little old ears perked right up. “A big enough falling-out that he could be behind this?”

“Half of the demons have been on the outs with the Boss a time or two.” Roth sat up fluidly, his shoulder against mine. “See the wonky-doodle banishing spell on the opposite page that was no doubt stolen from an episode of Supernatural?”

I grinned.

“The real book has a real spell, which includes—can you guess?—a real demon trap. That’s why this book is so powerful. If the stone-cold crew—your Wardens—got ahold of this, they could really get rid of demons.”

The gasp came out of me before I could stop it. “What about—”

“Me?” Roth gave a lopsided shrug. “They could try.”

I tucked my hair back. “And you’re okay with that?”

He barked out a laugh. “I’m hard to catch.”

Watching him for a moment, I turned back to the book and changed the subject. Thinking about Roth being banished wigged me out more than it should. “It still surprises me that Hell even follows the rules, you know? It just seems counterintuitive.”

“Whatever agreement the Boss has with Him has stood for over two thousand years. We try to play by the rules, and the Alphas don’t wipe us off the planet.” He turned the page, settling on a list of lower demons that could be summoned for favors. “There has to be good and bad in the world. There has to be a choice. And you’re also half-demon. Believe it or not, the Boss doesn’t like us fighting among ourselves. Believes it’s a waste of time and purpose. But when one of his kind starts breaking the rules, he’s not a happy camper.”

I snickered. “Yeah, because you should be spending time corrupting human souls instead.”

“You’re right,” Roth answered, continuously flipping through the pages. “How are you feeling? Are you hurting from going kung-fu master on the demons?”

I shook my head. “No. Everything is healed up from...well, you know what from. And my hands feel okay.”

Roth nodded as he flipped to the next page, but I was no longer looking at the book. I was watching him, studying him really. “I owe you an apology.”

He glanced up, hand hovering over the book. “I’m in no real need of apologies. I find they’re given out far too often to mean anything.”

“I’m sorry,” I said anyway. “I shouldn’t have given you so much crap in the beginning.”

Roth fell quiet and I took over flipping through the pages. Demons and more demons, and then one caught my eye. “Hey!” I cried out as Roth made a grab for the thin book. “No! Don’t!” I planted my hands on the book.

Roth pulled on the edge. “Layla.”

“If you keep pulling it, you’re going to rip it apart.” I pressed down harder. “Let me see it.”

He stared at me for what seemed like an eternity, his eyes flaring. “Fine.” He let go of the book, sitting back on his haunches.

I made a face, flipping the book back around. The drawing was that of a young man wearing an unremarkable silver crown. He had wings that were nearly as long as his body. Wings just as dramatic as the ones I saw on Roth. On one arm, a black snake curled, and there was a Hellhound stationed by his feet.

He was also nude and anatomically drawn.

My cheeks flushed. “Astaroth, the Crown...Prince of Hell?”

Roth said nothing.

“‘Astaroth is a very powerful demon of the First Hierarchy, who seduces by means of laziness, vanity and rationalized philosophies.’” I snorted. “Sounds like you. ‘He also has the power to make mortals invisible and can give power over serpents to mortals.’”

Roth sighed. “Are you done?”

“No.” I laughed, reading over the partial incantation to summon. It involved getting naked and the blood of a virgin. No surprise there. There was no banishment spell. Though there was a seal that sort of looked like a messed-up compass. “How do I get rid of you?”

“All demons of the First Hierarchy have no known spells of banishment. You’d have to use a devil’s trap on a full moon, which is explained in the Lesser Key. But a devil’s trap doesn’t just banish a demon. It sends them to the fiery pits. That is like death to us.”

I looked at him, my amusement slowly fading. A muscle ticked along his jaw as he stared across the room, out the windows. “What?” I gave a short laugh. “This isn’t really you. It can’t be.”

He turned his head back to me, brows furrowed. “What do you think my full name is?”

“Whatever. You’re only eighteen and...” And I trailed off as I glanced back at the picture. The Roth sitting in front of me couldn’t be the Crown Prince of Hell. Then it struck me and I wanted to kung fu the book straight into his face. “You’ve been lying to me.”

“No. I was born eighteen years ago.” Roth shook his head. “You don’t understand.”


Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy
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