White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements 1) - Page 68

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“You have no idea who you’re messing with,” the Warden growled.

Roth laughed coldly. “Aw, hate to break it to you, but you’re not a special snowflake.”

Only he could be a smart-ass in such a dire situation.

The two went at it. I had no idea how Roth held on to the Lesser Key as he went toe-to-toe with Nicolai. The fight was brutal. Punches flew. Claws tore through clothing and skin. Blood—the same tint and texture—flew from both of them.

I couldn’t let this happen.

“Stop! Please!” I shot forward, but out of nowhere, Abbot grabbed me from behind. He must have arrived when I wasn’t looking. “You need to stop. He’s not—”

“A demon?” Abbot rasped in my ear. “Have you forgotten what blood courses through you?”

I dug my fingers into Abbot’s arms, which did nothing. His skin was like stone. I stomped my foot down and he cursed loudly. His grip loosened and I broke free, rushing toward where the demon and Warden battled.

I didn’t make it.

Abbot was on me in a second. Catching me by the arm, he flung me back from the two. Unprepared for the power, I lost my footing and hit the sidewalk with a crack. Pain radiated over my knees and I let out a sharp gasp.

Roth whirled with a roar. His eyes glowed that iridescent yellow. The distraction cost him. Another Warden dropped beside him, wrenching the Lesser Key from his hands. Roth didn’t seem to care. Charging forward, he slammed into Abbot in his human form, taking the Warden down in a flurry of snapping jaws and wings.

I staggered to my feet, heart sinking. Roth was surrounded. Even as powerful as he was, there was no way he could take all the Wardens on. Not unless he unleashed Bambi or the dragon, but then I couldn’t bear to see any of my family hurt, either.

Air stirred around me and heat blew along my back. I knew without looking that Zayne had arrived.

“Get her out of here,” Abbot ordered, never taking his eyes off Roth.

Roth popped to his feet and backed off, breathing heavily as three Wardens circled him. Blood ran from his nose and mouth.

Go, I mouthed as Zayne threw an arm around my waist, and I begged silently for him to listen. Behind me, Zayne tensed and then he launched into the air. Right before the night swallowed everything below, I saw Roth flicker out of existence.

* * *

Zayne hadn’t spoken to me. Not once since we’d landed on the balcony outside my bedroom. Not even as he left me in my room and locked the bedroom door from the outside.

Hands shaking, I shoved them under my arms and paced the length of my bedroom. How had they known where we’d be? It was way too convenient that all of them appeared at once, especially Abbot. We couldn’t have been followed. I would’ve sensed them.

God, I was so screwed. The only relief I felt was that Roth had gotten away, but I’d seen the look in his eyes. He believed I’d betrayed him. Which wasn’t a hard conclusion to jump to.

Squeezing my eyes shut when a door slammed somewhere in the house, I knew he wasn’t what I needed to worry about right now. I could tell them how Roth had been there to help me—help us. I could convince them.

But me? Oh, dear, this wasn’t going to be good. I’d lied to them. I’d protected a demon. There would be no limits to their anger. And Zayne... My chest spasmed as I thought of him, of the stiff way he’d carried me here and set me down, the unnatural rigidness to his spine as he walked out of the room.

Sitting down on the edge of the bed, I dropped my head into my hands. I never wanted to hurt Zayne or for him to be disappointed in me. Even with the whole story, I knew it wouldn’t change much. I’d never kept secrets from him before.

But had he been keeping secrets from me?

My heart hurt to think that he knew all along who my mother was and what that meant. There were so many lies between all of us that the truth was covered in a web.

When a knock sounded on my door, my heart jumped. I stood on shaky legs and went to it. Nicolai waited on the other side in his human form. A faint red bruise shadowed his jaw. His left eye was swollen and painful-looking.

“Nicolai—”

He held up his hand. “There is nothing you can say right now, little one.”

I was struck silent, full of shame in spite of the fact that I hadn’t been conspiring against them. That what was going on was nothing like that.

Ushered into Abbot’s study in silence, I found that I hated how he watched me, like I was a stranger beside him. Worse yet, an enemy to be wary of. Abbot showed up a few minutes later, and he wasn’t alone. Zayne was with him, and by the pale, stricken look on his face, I knew that whatever Abbot suspected, he’d filled him in on it.

Zayne wouldn’t even look at me. Not once since Abbot slammed the door shut and crossed the room, stopping in front of me. Zayne didn’t even blink when I jumped. All he did was stand behind the desk, his gaze fixed to the wall somewhere behind me.

Out of everything that happened that night, I’m pretty sure that was the worst.

“All I can trust myself to say right now is that you are so very lucky we were able to retrieve The Lesser Key of Solomon.” Abbot loomed over me, his mere presence suffocating. He was bruised, too. Not as badly as Nicolai, but redness marred his brow. “If we hadn’t, there’d be no way of preventing the Alphas from becoming involved.”

My fingers still trembled as I tucked my hair back. “You don’t understand.”

“You’re right. I don’t. I cannot fathom what you were thinking by aiding a demon in retrieving The Lesser Key of Solomon.”

“He was helping me. He’s not like—”

“Don’t even finish that sentence.” Rage deepened his voice. “Because if you say he’s not like other demons, I may not be able to control myself.”

“But he’s not. You don’t understand. Let me explain—”

Abbot shot forward, grabbing the arms of the chair I sat on. I shrank back from the anger mottling his face. Over his shoulder, I saw both Nicolai and Zayne step forward and I wasn’t sure if they were coming to my aid or were about to help Abbot choke me.

“I am so disappointed, I am sickened by it,” he seethed. “How could you, Layla? I raised you better than this, as if you were a child of my own blood, and this is how you repay me?”

I flinched. “Please let me explain, Abbot. It’s not what you think.” My gaze darted to Zayne, but he looked away. “Please.”

Abbot stared at me for a moment and then pushed back, folding his arms. I took his silence as a reluctant yes. “I wasn’t working with a demon to conspire against you. I’m part demon, right? But I’m not like other demons.”

“That’s what I had always believed,” he replied coldly.

I sucked in a sharp breath. That hurt. “He helped me, saving me from the Seeker that I ran into.” Taking a deep breath, I told him almost everything, leaving out the more personal stuff that would surely send the Wardens through the roof. “He was sent from Hell to make sure a demon didn’t raise—”

“Raise the Lilin?” he said. “And he told you what you are? How important the incantation in the Lesser Key is? Did he tell you that’s why the Key was hidden all that time ago? To ensure that no one would ever be able to bring the Lilin back to this Earth?”


Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy
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