Stone Cold Touch (The Dark Elements 2) - Page 15

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He shrugged. “I just think it’s interesting that you’d keep your best little stone friend in the world in the dark.”

Zayne tapped his fingers along the table. “Get to the point, Roth.”

Leaning back in the seat, he was the picture of lazy arrogance. “There’s a reason why I’m here, other than the delicious lasagna. It’s also the reason why I’m back at the school. Although I do find it amusingly normal, there’s more.” His gaze slid to me. “We think a Lilin was or is at the school.”

“Details.”

Roth explained what had happened today and then I went over the fight from earlier in the week. “I really didn’t think about it until today. I was planning to tell you—”

“After dinner?” Zayne asked. “And that’s when you were going to tell me about that?” He nodded in Roth’s direction.

Roth snorted.

“Yes,” I said. “I didn’t want it to, you know...”

“Ruin the dinner?” He smiled at Roth. “That’s understandable.”

Roth rolled his eyes. “Anyway, the strange occurrences at school aren’t the only reason. I think the Lilin will try to make contact with Layla,” he continued, surprising the Hell out of me.

“What?” I demanded. “You didn’t say that earlier.”

He smiled at me. “You really weren’t in that talkative of a mood.”

That was true, but whatever. “Why do you think that?”

“The Lilin would be drawn to you,” he explained quietly. “After all, you share the same blood.”

I shuddered. My family tree was seriously screwed up. My father was a Warden who wanted me dead. My mother was a superdemon no one messed with and now there was a Lilin who could claim me as some sort of half sibling. Yay.

“Would the Lilin be dangerous to Layla?” Zayne asked, shoulders rising like he was about to scoop me up and take flight.

Roth shook his head. “I really don’t know.”

“That’s not our biggest issue,” I said, leaning forward. “If the Lilin has been messing with people at school, then that’s already four people that we know of. What’s going to happen to them?”

“I don’t know if there’s a way to stop them from losing their souls and turning into wraiths. There could be more than the four we know of. Hundreds that are...infected by it.” Roth raised his brows. Infected was really a good way to look at it. “Really, there’s no telling if the ones that are infected are the ones the Lilin is trying to take.”

“Take where?” I asked.

Roth shrugged. “Remember, when Lilins create a wraith, they can control it. They are the only things that can. Think about the chaos. Not only is there a Lilin running around, but it’s creating nasty, demented spirits that really do not like the living.”

I had forgotten about that. Somehow. “The only way we’d know the Lilin’s endgame is if...” I swallowed, unsettled. “Is if the ones at school die.”

He nodded as his gaze shifted to Zayne. “So that’s why I’m there and that’s why I’m going to stay there. And I also think we need to do a little investigation.”

I arched a brow and when he didn’t continue, I sighed. “Details?”

“I think we can safely assume that Dean has been infected. We need to talk to him.”

“He’s been suspended for God knows how long,” I pointed out.

Roth smiled slyly. “I’m pretty sure I can get his home address easily.”

Not doubting that, I glanced at Zayne. He nodded slowly. “Maybe he can tell us something that points us in the direction we need to go.”

“See?” Roth’s eyes gleamed. “I’m necessary.”

“I wouldn’t go that far.” Zayne met Roth’s coolly amused stare. “But I’m promising you this, if you do anything that hurts Layla or even causes her to look at you strangely, I will personally destroy you.”

My eyes popped out of my head. “Okay. Well, I think this little meet and greet is over.” I nudged Zayne with my arm. “Let’s go.”

He held Roth’s gaze for a moment longer and then rose. Turning to me, he offered his hand and I took it, letting him pull me up. There was no denying the fierce protective vibe he was giving off, but protector had always been Zayne’s role.

“I never meant to hurt her in the first place.”

We both turned to Roth, who was standing. I sucked in a soft gasp, but Zayne’s lip curled up. “Whatever, man.” He leaned over. While he was broader than Roth, he was not as tall, but he still got all up in his face. “You can play your little games with anyone else, but you’re not going to pull that shit with her.”

I squeezed Zayne’s hand before an epic death match occurred. “Let’s go.”

A muscle flickered in Roth’s jaw as we turned. I knew he was behind us and when I looked over my shoulder, I wasn’t surprised to see him. But I was surprised to see the two Khaki Guys standing up. I frowned.

Roth’s eyes narrowed and then he followed my gaze. His attention swung back to me, lips pressed in a tight line. It was as if he got what I was thinking—something was up with those dudes.

Outside, the streetlamps were coming on, casting light across the rapidly darkening streets. Zayne’s hand tightened around mine as we stepped around a cluster of people waiting for public transit. He sighed when he realized Roth was still with us. “Seriously? You gonna walk us to our car?”

“Actually, I think I am.” Roth slowed his step, walking behind me. “We’re being followed.”

Under the brim of his cap, Zayne’s eyes dilated as he looked over his shoulder. He turned back around, picking up pace. “Two human males?”

“Yep,” Roth replied, popping his lips.

I wanted to look behind me so badly, but I figured that would be a bit too obvious. “Any idea who they are?”

“Nope. Maybe they want to get your phone number,” Roth replied. “Be a part of your fan club.”

He’d once said he’d be the president of my fan club, which was really stupid, but my heart twisted a little at the statement, because it meant nothing. I inhaled the crisp air. “What do we do?”

“Your car’s in the parking garage, right?” he said to Zayne. When I cast him a questioning look over my shoulder, he winked. “I was following you two.”

“Great.” Zayne’s hand slipped free of mine and landed on the small of my back. “So you’re a demon and a stalker. Awesome.”

“That’s clever, Stony.” Roth chuckled at the low growl emanating from Zayne. “Let’s see if they follow us. What’s the worst they could do? They’re humans.”

I didn’t want to dwell on the fact that humans were capable of some pretty horrific things. I couldn’t help it. I thought of the last time Roth and I were in a parking garage with those Rack demons that had wanted to play ball with our heads. Like with alleys, I didn’t have a lot of positive experiences with parking structures.

We rounded the corner and my breath was forming little misty clouds. My nose was cold as I finally looked back, past Roth. Several people behind us, the two young men were there, the tails of their shirts flapping. A glint of something metal reflected off one of their waists, partly concealed by his shirt. My heart turned. “I think one of them has a gun.”

“Christ,” Zayne muttered.

Roth snickered. “If they try to mug us, I’m seriously going to laugh.”

“Only you would laugh at that,” I replied, wrinkling my nose. Mugging was not something I wanted to add to my list of messed-up things that happened this week.

“What?” he said as we reached the walk-in entrance of the parking garage. “They picked the wrong people if that’s the case.”

The garage was quiet and the overhead lights cast dull yellow beams over the hoods of the cars and spotted, stained cement. Not a damn thing about the place gave me that welcoming “nothing bad is about to go down in here” feeling.

At the first aisle of cars, footsteps echoed behind us. Roth drew up short as Zayne turned, moving to stand in front of me. He took off his cap and handed it over. I wondered what he expected me to do with his hat. Not get dirt on it?

One of the young men moved forward—not the one I’d seen with what I thought was a gun. Under the low light, his features looked swallowed, sunken in, as if he hadn’t eaten a good meal in a while.

Roth crossed his arms, causing his shirt to stretch tight along the back of his shoulders. “What’s up, home skillets?”

I rolled my eyes.

Khaki Guy in the front reached behind him, and my heart stopped. Roth’s arms unfolded and Zayne started to drop into a crouch. The guy pulled out something black and rectangular—definitely not a gun. He lifted it in front of him like a shield, holding it in a white-knuckled grasp.

Roth laughed loudly and deeply. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Khaki Guy held a Bible in his right hand. “We know what the three of you are,” he said, voice steady as his gaze moved over Zayne to Roth, and then to where I was peering around Zayne. “God’s mistake, a demon from Hell and something far worse.”

CHAPTER TWELVE

My brows inched up my forehead. How in the Hell was I the worst thing out of the three of us? Not that I should be paying attention to that. It was a big deal that this human knew about Zayne, and even more shocking was he knew that Roth was a demon, considering the whole humans must be kept in the dark when it came to demons thing.

“I’m offended,” I grumbled.

“The Whore should not speak in the presence of such holy text,” the guy spat out.

“Excuse me?” I screeched, darting out from behind Zayne, who caught me around the waist. “Did you just call me a whore?”

The man held the Bible in my direction. “You are the daughter of one. Does that not make you the same?”

“Whoa.” Roth stepped forward, hands closing into fists at his sides. “That’s really impolite and kind of ironic, you know, using words like whore while holding a Bible.”

“And that comes from a demon?” spat the other man. “You are the scourge of the Earth—a pestilence upon the people.”

“I’d have to agree,” Zayne muttered under his breath.

Bible Guy’s wild gaze swung back to him. “And you—you’re no better. Masquerading as our protectors while consorting with our enemies. False prophets!”

“Church of God’s Children,” I said as realization sank in. Anger tasted like hot pepper on my tongue. Images of all those damn anti-Warden flyers that plastered electric poles danced in front of me. “You’re the fanatics that have absolutely no idea about anything.”

“We know more than you realize,” Bible Guy announced proudly. He sneered as he looked at Roth. “We’ve always known of your existence, and it’s our goal to reveal the Wardens for what they truly are.”

“Curious,” Roth murmured, shifting a foot closer. Bible Guy backed up as a little bit of his arrogance cracked like ice. “How do you know about us?”

“We have our ways,” the other man answered. At his sides, his fingers twitched.

Zayne took a deep breath. “We’re not demons. That’s the furthest—”

“You’re with a demon—two of them,” he responded as he blinked several times. “Lies slip from your forked tongue.”

Although I’d never been up close and personal with Zayne’s tongue, I so knew it wasn’t forked. “You don’t know anything about the Wardens,” I said, hoping to bring a dose of reality in their world. “If you did, you’d know they’re helping mankind. That there is nothing to fear—”

“Shut up, whore of Satan.”

My mouth dropped open and my head was about to spin Exorcist-style. I stepped forward as Roth cracked his neck, signaling he was ready to end this little conversation. “Call me that one more time and I’ll give you something to fear.” I had no idea where those words came from because, even with Zayne’s training, I wasn’t really a fighter, and I wasn’t a badass, but my lips curved into a cold, tight smile. “That’s a promise.”

I felt Zayne’s stare—the shock and uncertainty, because I doubted he’d ever heard me sound so threatening before, but rationalizing with fanatics was as fruitful as having a lobotomy. Twice. The simmering anger, the outrage brewing deep inside me fueled courage. Probably not the greatest combination, but I latched on to it. My skin tingled and the back of my throat burned. Bambi shifted on my skin, her tail flicking along my lower back. I bet their souls tasted like watered-down strawberry juice—tainted. “Is there a reason you followed us, other than to preach hypocritical nonsense?”

Bible Guy’s cheeks flushed.

“I doubt it,” I continued before he could speak. “I doubt there is a single intelligent thing either of you two have to say.”

“Layla,” Zayne warned softly, reaching my side.

“You should’ve been put down the moment you were birthed from the womb,” Bible Guy said, and the sincerity in his voice was startling. “You’re an atrocity.”

Whatever control I had was stretched too taut and snapped like a rubber band pulled to its limits. I moved faster than I probably ever had. Shooting forward, I snatched the thick Bible out of the man’s hands. Whipping my arm back, I swung it around and the sound of what had to be the most epic biblical bitch smack on Earth echoed through the garage.


Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy
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