White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements 1) - Page 77

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His smile was a little more real. “You ready to get out of here?”

Sniffling, I nodded. We gathered up our trash, and once outside, Zayne draped his arm over my shoulders as we walked to where he was parked. It was good to be like this with him, having that connection again. It did wonders, warming that chilled spot in my chest.

Zayne made sure I was tucked safely in the passenger side before he slipped around the front of the car and got in. It made me smile.

Listening to music on the way home, I laughed as Zayne sang along to a pop song on the radio. He was a lot of things, but a singer was not one of them. As we reached the private stretch of road leading to the compound, he glanced over at me. Something foreign was reflected in those eyes—a quality I’d seen before, but I’d never understood what it meant until...until Roth had come along. There was a swelling feeling in my stomach as he turned his gaze back to the road.

“Jesus!” he shouted, slamming on the brakes.

Something landed on the hood of Zayne’s Impala, shattering the windshield.

At first I thought an overgrown gorilla had escaped the zoo and dropped out of one of the many nearby trees. Then I saw the serrated teeth and smelled the sulfur. I screamed—really screamed.

It was a Hellion.

A big, hairy, stinky Hellion that had just done some major damage to Zayne’s precious Impala. Matted, coarse hair covered its massive body. The enormous ram horns were what had shattered the windshield. But I had to be seeing things. Hellions weren’t allowed topside for obvious reasons.

Zayne threw his arm out, pressing me back against the seat as the Hellion tried to reach inside the car. Its horns were getting caught on the metal and it seemed too stupid to figure out that it only needed to lower its head to fit through.

The Hellion roared. It was like having a T. rex scream in your face.

“Zayne!” I screeched as its thick front claws swiped inches from my face. “Zayne!”

“Layla, I need you to listen to me.” He unbuckled his seat belt with one hand. “I need you to be calm.”

The Hellion’s claws shredded Zayne’s forearm, drawing blood. Zayne didn’t even flinch.

“Oh, my God,” I whispered, watching the rivulets of blood drip from his arm onto my lap. “Zayne, your arm.”

“Layla, you’re going to have to make a run for it when I tell you to. Okay?” he said urgently. He reached for the button on my seat belt, releasing it. “When I tell you to run, you run and you don’t look back and you don’t try to fight. You cannot fight this thing.”

I didn’t want to leave him, not with that thing on the attack. Hellions were notorious killers. They could rip Wardens limb from limb using their brute strength. “But I can hel—”

Another wide sweep of clawed fingers almost got me. Zayne pulled me toward him and down, pressing my cheek against his thigh. “Keep down,” he ordered. “Just listen for my command. You know these woods. Get home and get my father. Don’t stop. That’s how you can help me.”

My heart pounded in my chest. I nodded as best I could.

Zayne’s hand slipped over my cheek and through my hair. I squeezed my eyes shut as the Hellion howled once more. Then Zayne was opening the door and I was falling into his seat. The car shook as the Hellion switched gears, spotting Zayne outside of the car.

It laughed, a guttural sound.

I knew I should have stayed fixed to the seat, but I sat up as the Hellion jumped from the car. I thought Zayne would hesitate, knowing that I was nearby. But he didn’t.

Zayne shifted.

The wings were the first to sprout, arcing high in the sky behind him and unfolding around his body. I could only see the side of his face, but that alone was dramatic enough. His skin turned a dark gray and his jaw widened as his nose flattened. Two horns grew, much like the Hellion’s horns, but Zayne’s were black as night and beautiful in an odd way. They curled back from his head, a fierce sight. As if to remind me that he was still Zayne, a breeze played with his blond hair, blowing it around the horns.

I sucked in air, a gasp that shouldn’t have been heard, but Zayne turned a fraction of an inch toward me. Pain streaked across his face as our eyes locked for only a second. Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw the Hellion move.

“Zayne!” I screamed, clutching the dashboard.

He whipped back to the Hellion, catching the beefy hand before it could get a grip on him. Still holding the beast, Zayne leaned back and planted his foot in the Hellion’s midsection. The Hellion flew back several feet, grunting. It picked itself back up and rushed Zayne. They collided with enough force to shake ground and car.

Bending at the knees, Zayne pushed himself into the air, bringing the Hellion with him. From the heights of the massive oaks, Zayne arced in the sky and shot back down to the ground. They slammed into the soil, their impact eating away several feet of road. Zayne stood, wrapping a muscled arm around the beast’s neck.

“Go,” he yelled in a voice that was his, but wasn’t. “Run! Go!”

I threw open the door, half falling out of it. Spinning around, I took Zayne in. There was something dark—blood?—leaking from his nose, a patchy area of skin on his cheek that seemed a darker gray. The Hellion struggled against his hold, jaws snapping.

“Go,” Zayne ordered. “Please.”

The Hellion latched on to Zayne’s arm. The last thing I saw was Zayne hurling through the air. With a scream stuck in my throat, I whirled around and ran. I tried to tell myself that I wasn’t running away and that I was going to get help, but each step that took me farther from Zayne felt like a punch in the chest. What if he got seriously hurt?

What if he died?

I couldn’t let myself think of that. I ran on, knowing the best thing I could do was warn the clan. Branches snapped at my face, pulled at my clothing. Several times I tripped over a rock or an upturned root, catching myself with my hands and then pushing back up. It was like a cheesy horror movie, except what was behind me wasn’t some dead dude in a hockey mask. I’d actually prefer that guy over the Hellion, machete, high body count and all.

I kept going, throat seizing and muscles burning. Part of me realized I should have taken Zayne up on his offer to run with him. I was hideously out of shape.

Hot wind kicked up, scattering fallen leaves in the air. They rained down, a chorus of dark reds and browns. A snapping sound cracked through the night, followed by another and another.

I felt something whip through the air a second before it wrapped around my leg, dragging me down. I hit the hard soil elbows first. Wincing, I rolled onto my back. Thick tree roots climbed both my legs, squeezing until I was sure it would snap the bones in half. Frantic, I grabbed the end of a coarse root and started unwinding it with shaking hands. It yanked me forward, knocking me flat. Small rocks dug into my back as I was dragged over the ground. Arms flailing, I tried to grab ahold of the small bushes. When I finally came to a halt, the smell of sulfur was suffocating.

He stood above me a second later, occupying a space that had been empty. There was no soul—nothing around him—and I knew he was an Upper Level demon. His dark hair was buzzed into a Mohawk, the tips colored bloodred. He looked only to be in his mid-twenties and he wore a pin-striped suit, which, besides the fact that it looked ridiculous in the dark woods, was something straight out of old mobster movies. He even had a red satiny tie and matching hankie. A short, hysterical laugh escaped me.


Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy
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