White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements 1) - Page 82

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Someone said something to me. Maybe Abbot or Nicolai. It didn’t matter. There was nothing they could say right now. Roth had sacrificed himself for me—for Zayne. A demon had chosen an eternity of suffering for someone else.

I couldn’t bear it.

Tears tracked down my cheeks, mixing with blood and soot. I lowered my head until my forehead rested against the floor and I did something I hadn’t done in forever.

I prayed.

I prayed for Roth. I prayed for the Alphas to step in. What he had done should’ve earned him a divine intervention. I prayed that the angels would descend into Hell and lift him up. I prayed until I wanted to scream again.

But prayers like this weren’t answered.

Something cool and slick nudged my hand, and I slowly lifted my head. Blinked once and then twice before I believed what I was seeing. “Bambi?”

The large snake coiled around my arm, raising her head until she rested it on my shoulder. A fresh wave of tears clouded my eyes, but not enough to prevent me from seeing a Warden coming toward us with a murderous look in his eyes as they landed on Bambi.

“Do it and it’ll be the last thing you do,” I warned in a voice I barely recognized.

The Warden stopped and then backed off. No one else came near us.

My gaze swiveled back to the circle. Near the stake on the right, a tiny hole had burned through the floor. Most likely a blowback from Hell and nothing like that charred spot in the center, on which Astaroth, the Crown Prince of Hell, had made a very un-demonlike stand.

I lost myself the moment I found you.

I stared at that spot.

Roth was gone.

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

Tucking the icy blond strands of hair back into a messy bun at the nape of my neck, I picked up my tank top. The material felt weightless in my fingers. Sometimes I felt weightless.

In a few days I’d be going back to school, making a miraculous recovery from mono, much to Stacey and Sam’s delight. Classes had been canceled for three days after a little piece of Hell had visited the school. Abbot and the police commissioner had convinced school officials that they’d thwarted some kind of domestic terrorist attempt.

The general populace remained unaware that demons walked among them and of the Wardens’ true purpose. The threat of the Lilin was over—sort of. At least as long as there weren’t any more demons who were in love with Lilith or wanted to kick-start the end of the world. Things were about to go back to normal. As if October and November never happened. So all was good, at least for the Alphas and the Wardens.

I hadn’t shifted since that night not too long ago.

Maybe I’d never do it again, and Abbot hadn’t pushed the issue. I wasn’t a mule anymore, but I wasn’t like other Wardens, either. If anything, now that I knew what I looked like, I felt more different than I had before.

I also tried not to think of Petr and my father, knowing that Elijah was still out there and most likely plotting my untimely demise. None of that really mattered right now. I’d deal with him when the day came.

But for the time being, there were more important things to deal with.

My eyes moved to the mirror, and like every day since the showdown in the old gymnasium, I was surprised. Years would probably pass before I got used to what I saw.

I twisted in front of the mirror, oddly relieved and comforted by what I saw in my reflection. My new and unexpected tattoo served as a bittersweet reminder.

Lowering my gaze, I let out an unsteady breath as tears pricked my eyes. Bambi had fused to the only demon left standing. Me. She was much too big for my body, but we were trying to make it work. Right now her lower body was wrapped around my torso; her thick, shiny onyx neck stretched between my br**sts and sloped over my neck. The diamond-shaped head rested on the back of my shoulder. Somehow the detail still amazed me. Each scale perfectly replicated; the darker line running down the center of her body and the softer underbelly.

I ran my hand over my tummy and her tail twitched. The movement startled me, even tickled a little.

“You’ve got to stop that,” I told her.

Bambi shifted her head and I shuddered, the feeling giving me the willies. The snake shared some of Roth’s personality. In the short time she’d been with me, I truly thought Bambi lived to find new ways to torment me. Like in the middle of the night when she wanted to come off and go hunt. What she was hunting I was afraid to even find out.

I just hoped it wasn’t small animals...or children.

Or when she shifted on my skin so she’d be visible when Zayne was around, just like I imagined Roth would’ve done if he...

Tugging my tank top on, I cut that thought off, but the back of my throat burned. I closed my eyes and took several deep breaths, refocusing back on Bambi.

Yesterday she had made her way to the side of my face when Zayne had been watching a movie with me, and she wouldn’t leave no matter what I did.

Zayne tried to ignore her, but all that did was provoke Bambi into coming off my skin and flopping her head right on his upper thigh.

So, yeah, the snake was like Roth.

There was a knock on my door, drawing my attention. “Yeah?”

Zayne came in, his hair pulled back in a low ponytail. I was expecting him today, and not just because he’d been spending a lot of time with me. We really didn’t talk about what had gone down or what Roth had done for him—for us. But I knew it bothered him that he didn’t know the right thing to say.

I didn’t, either.

So we’d just spent a lot of time together since then, and there weren’t enough words in this world that could show my gratitude. Zayne’s presence had done what Roth had known it would. It kept the rougher, darker edges of the pain at bay. Our bond since childhood was like a buffer, blocking out the harsh reality that I’d lost a part of me before I’d been given a chance to realize it.

“Are you sure you want to go with me?” I asked.

“Yes.” His gaze dipped along the hem of my tank top. “Man, I hate how that thing just moves all over your...”

“Body?”

A faint pink crept over the hollow of his cheeks. “Yeah, that.”

I laughed softly. “Hey, Bambi’s a girl.”

“Doesn’t make it any better,” he grumbled as he picked up my hoodie and handed it to me.

I took it from him. “I think she likes you.” I slipped it on and then zipped up the front. “I think that’s why she messes with you.”

“I think she hates me and that’s why.” He reached out and straightened the strings so they were even. “The snake’s a—”

Bambi’s tail suddenly slithered up my waist, and I jerked to the side, giggling.

Zayne lowered his hands. “What?”

“Bambi,” I gasped. “She’s moving—it tickles.”

His eyes narrowed as his lips turned down at the corners.

“That mean face doesn’t help. It provokes her.” I smiled when Zayne’s eyes rolled, but the smile quickly faded when I thought of what lay ahead. “You ready?”

“Are you?”

“No,” I whispered and then shook my head. “Yes.”

Zayne waited. “It’s okay. Take whatever time you need. I’m here with you.”

Just as Roth had known he’d be.

* * *


Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy
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