Stone Cold Touch (The Dark Elements 2) - Page 13

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“Too bad.” I swallowed a crazy sounding giggle. “Your fries are next if you don’t remove your ass from my presence.”

“Daaammmn,” Stacey murmured, her body shaking with now-silent laughter.

We were locked in an epic stare-down for a couple of moments and then his lips twitched as if he was trying not to laugh. And, well, that just caused my anger to ratchet up several degrees. Then he picked up his bag of fries. “I think we need to talk.”

“No, we don’t.”

His jaw clenched. “Yes, we do.”

I shook my head.

Roth stared at me, and something...something about the way he looked at me shifted. Some of the hardness faded from his expression. “Layla.”

“Fine,” I replied, snatching up my bag as a really stupid idea formed. Maybe he wanted to apologize for being an ass. Unlikely. I turned to a greatly amused Stacey and Sam. “Text me the place we’re meeting after school.”

“Will do.” She paused. “Don’t hurt the fries. That would be sacrilegious.”

“No promises.” I started walking, not waiting on Roth, and I felt ridiculously proud of myself. The Layla from two months ago wouldn’t have dared to make a scene, but I was a different person these days.

I was beginning to see that now.

As I passed the bathrooms outside of the cafeteria, the boys’ door swung open and Gareth stumbled out, followed by a pack of giggling football players. Giggling. They reeked of pot smoke as they headed into the cafeteria.

“I’d kill for a bag of Cheetos right now,” said Gareth.

One of his buds laughed. “I’d throw a baby in front of a bus for cinnamon buns.”

Wow. That was some hard-core munchies. All of the guys with Gareth partied, but they weren’t stoners. Their behavior was definitely off. Could they be...infected, too?

Roth caught up with me. No book bag. Just him and his stupid fries. “I’m surprised. I’ll admit it. You surprised me.”

“Really?” I let out a harsh laugh, irritated that he was shocked. “Did you think after what you said to me that I’d be happy to see you? Seriously?”

He popped a fry in his mouth and chewed thoughtfully, as if he really had to think about it. “Yes. I know so.”

I stopped midstep at the end of the hallway, and stared at him. “You’re delusional.”

“Wouldn’t go that far.” In went another fry.

“You have an overinflated sense of self-worth.”

He grinned. “I am very valuable, actually. Being the Crown—”

I yanked the bag out of his hand, spun around and tossed the remaining fries in the garbage. Turning back to him, I smiled widely. “That’s what I think about your valuable Crown Prince shit.”

Roth heaved a huge sigh. “I’m a growing boy and need my sustenance. I’m going to starve now and it’ll be all your fault.”

“Whatever.” I folded my arms.

He stared at me and then tipped back his head and laughed. I shivered, unprepared for the sound. I’d forgotten how deep and rich his laughter was—how contagious. The laugh quickly faded, replaced by a surprisingly morose look. “Oh, shortie, you’re already making this hard.”

“Making what hard? And don’t call me shortie.”

He shook his head. “Come on, we need to talk for real. Where we won’t be interrupted.” He started toward the faded double doors and I knew where he was heading—our stairwell. The place where we students weren’t supposed to be, where no one ever went. It led to the old gymnasium and smelled like mold, but it had been our place before.

And that’s why it was the last place I wanted to be, but Roth was already stalking down the stairs. I squared my shoulders and followed him. Nothing had changed about the ten-by-ten landing. Gray paint was still peeling off the cement blocks. Rust covered the handrails. Dust floated in the light from the tiny window at the top of the steps. Time had forgotten this place.

Roth turned to me and leaned back against the wall. He raised his arms above his head and stretched. His long-sleeve shirt rose up, exposing a tantalizing glimpse of his lower stomach and the dragon tattoo—Thumper. Its blue-and-green scales were as vibrant as before. Roth had said once before that the dragon only came off if things went bad fast. I couldn’t imagine what Roth’s idea of bad was when he hadn’t used the dragon the night with Paimon. The dragon was resting now, wings tugged close to its belly and its tail disappearing under the band on Roth’s dark jeans. Considering how low his jeans hung, the length of Thumper’s tail I could see caused heat to flood across my cheeks.


I dragged my gaze up and sucked in a tiny breath when I saw how bright his ocher eyes were.

“Like what you see?”

My hands curled into fists. “No. Not at all.”

“You lie.” A smirk appeared on his lips. “And you’re still a terrible liar.”

Striving for patience, I dropped my bag on the floor. “Why are you here, Roth?”

He didn’t answer immediately. “You want the truth?”

I rolled my eyes. “No. I want the lie. What do you think?”

A soft laugh followed. “I kind of like school. We don’t have places like this down below.” He shrugged a shoulder. “It’s normal.”

Something squeezed in my chest. It was the same reason I liked school—it was normal and I could be normal here, but I refused to relate to him on any level. “You shouldn’t be here.”

One brow arched. “Because of you?”

I wanted to scream yes—dear God, yes! “Because you being here is pointless.”

“Not really.” He finally lowered his arms, and I silently thanked God, because his stomach was no longer a major distraction. “You can’t tell me that the death match in the hallway this morning wasn’t weird.”

I didn’t say anything.

“And I doubt this is the first strange incident recently, right?” His eyes were hooded as he watched me.

Part of me wanted to tell him no, because I didn’t want to see that smug look of his grow, but that would be stupid. I couldn’t forget the very real, very huge problem we were facing. “There have been a few things. Dean—a kid who’s never done anything—hit another boy so hard it actually killed him for a few seconds. And then I’ve seen couples really making out—”

“Nothing wrong with that,” he replied, grinning.

I narrowed my eyes. “Except we have a strict no PDA policy and a teacher walked right past them, even as they went into the girls’ bathroom.” I tucked my hair back and then dropped my hand to where the ring dangled off the necklace. “So you think the Lilin has been here?”

He nodded. “It makes sense—after all, it was created here. Which is why we need to talk. You should be able to pick out the Lilin, or at least any strange demons around here.”

“Uh...” I looked away, twisting the chain around my neck. I didn’t want to tell him, but he was a demon and maybe he knew what was up with it. “Well, you see, not really.”

Pushing off the wall, he stood straight, all attention focused now. “What do you mean?”

“I can’t see auras anymore. Nothing. Happened a few days ago.”

His head tilted to the side. “Details.”

I sighed. “The auras were kind of wonky at first, blinking in and out at lunch, and then I got this sharp pain behind my eyes, and I can’t see them anymore. So I’m virtually in the dark. I don’t sense other demons Wardens do—you know, not as strongly. I’ve never had to work that muscle.”

“This is too much of a coincidence.”

“That’s what I feared,” I said, dropping the ring. “I was hoping it didn’t have anything to do with the Lilin.”

Roth didn’t respond. His gaze flickered over me, brows lowered in deep thought. The study was so intense it made me want to squirm. “So how do you think it’s interfering with my ability?” I asked when the silence became too much.

“I don’t know.” Roth finally looked away, scratching his hand through his hair. “But we’re going to have to find the Lilin the old-fashioned way.”


His lashes lowered and the demure look was almost laughable, except it was incredibly sexy, which I kind of hated him for. “Yes. We. You and I. Us. Two peas in a—”

“No.” I held up a hand. “We are not working together on anything.”

“Haven’t we had this conversation before?” He took a step forward, and I backed up. “And remember how that ended up. We made the perfect team.”

I kept retreating, until my back hit the cool wall. “That was before you said I eased your boredom.”

The tip of his tongue moved over his upper teeth, showing off the ball holding the bolt piercing in place. Supposedly it wasn’t his only piercing—I stopped that thought. I so did not need to think about that.

“That was a jackass thing to say. I admit it. I tend to...say stupid things. I’m an ass.”

“I have to agree.”

His lashes rose and he moved so fast I didn’t track it until he was right in front of me, totally up in my personal space. “I didn’t mean what I said about Eva either.”

Something inside me—something stupid that needed to be stabbed to death—opened up like a blossom seeing the sun for the first time. I tried to quash it. “I don’t care.”

“Yes. You do.” He lowered his head, his lips dangerously close to mine. I locked up, the air freezing in my lungs. His head tilted, and my heart pounded in my chest. “It hurt you.”

“Why do you even care if it did?”

Roth said nothing, and my lips tingled from how hard he was staring at them. He placed his hands just above my hips; the touch light and barely there. I wrapped my fingers around his wrists and started to remove his hands. “Don’t,” he said, voice low.

“Then why?” I whispered, caving to the tiny spark of hope. “Why did you say all of that? If you didn’t mean—”

“It doesn’t change anything.” He pulled back, moving several feet in a blink of an eye. “We need to be friends. Or at least get along to the point where you aren’t destroying perfectly good fast food when I open my mouth.”

Just like that, he was a different Roth. Not the guy who’d held me weeks ago or done all those wonderful things to me. The question burst out of me before I could stop myself. “Did I mean anything to you?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Roth said, voice flat as he turned to the steps. He stopped with his hand on the rusted-out railing. “It never did, Layla.”


It took a lot to push past what Roth had said and finish out the day. I didn’t get him, and it would be a long time before I could stop trying. Throughout my afternoon classes, I was torn between wanting to find Roth and do to his face what I’d done to his hamburger, and just wanting to stare at him.

Being a girl sucked sometimes.

I dragged myself out of school and to the street corner. The site of the old Impala brought a tired smile to my face. I’d almost forgotten about Zayne joining us for food, and while I’d been dealing with Roth, I hadn’t had a chance to give much thought to the fact that Zayne had agreed to hang out with us.

Which was so rare.

Deciding to forget about a certain fickle demon for the next couple of hours, I opened the door and slid into the passenger seat. I smiled as I dropped my bag in the back. “Hey,” I said.

Zayne grinned. He was wearing a ball cap and it was pulled low, shielding the upper part of his face. Some guys couldn’t pull off a baseball cap, but Zayne did and he did it well. “Where we heading to?”

“Little Italy—the one two blocks down.”

“Cool.” He checked the side mirror and then after a few seconds, he eased out.

“Thank you for coming,” I said, resting my head back on the seat. “I was surprised that you said yes.”

“You shouldn’t have been. I wanted to come.” He reached over, tugging gently on a strand of loose hair. “How was school?”

I turned my head toward him, studying his strong profile. “Nothing I want to talk about now.” Because if I told him about the Lilin suspicions, I would inevitably have to tell him about Roth and I wanted to enjoy this little outing. “After we eat?”

He glanced at me and was quiet for a moment. “Should I be worried?”

“No.” I liked the way the ends of his hair curled out from under the cap. “What did you do today?”

“Slept.” He laughed as he drove past the eatery, looking for a parking garage. “Last night was boring. Streets were dead. For some reason that makes me more tired the next day.”

“Is it odd that it was so dead?” I thought about the Lilin.

“Depends. If it continues, then yes.” After finding a spot on the ground level—he had mad luck—he killed the engine and turned to me as he pulled the keys out. “Hold still,” he said, and I obeyed mostly out of curiosity. He reached over, smoothing his thumb along my lower lip. “You had a tiny piece of lint there and I think...”

His words trailed off, ending in a ragged inhale. At first I didn’t realize why—what I’d done, and then things began to register—the gut-wrenching sensation that caused my insides to coil into tight springs, the dilated look to his pupils, the sudden vibrancy of his blue eyes, the way his chest rose sharply and the salty taste of his skin as my tongue glided over the slightly rough pad of his thumb.

Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy