Stone Cold Touch (The Dark Elements 2) - Page 16

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Roth’s surprised laugh shook me to the core. “Damn. That’s getting served. In the biblical sense.”

Shock buzzed through me like a thousand confused honeybees. As the man stumbled back, blood seeped out of the split in the corner of his mouth. He turned wild eyes on me as he raised a trembling hand to his mouth. My gaze dropped to the Bible I held. The edge of the top was darker—stained. Zayne’s soft inhale rattled me and I dropped the Bible, expecting it to burn me.

It happened too fast.

The other guy lurched forward, his face a red mask of hate, contorted into something so ugly that it stole my breath. He reached under his shirt with his right hand, and I remembered seeing the glint of something metallic earlier. Roth cursed as the gun appeared in the man’s hand, but instead of taking aim at me, he pointed it at Zayne.

“No!” I shouted.

Zayne whipped around, and my heart jumped in my throat. I launched myself at him as a popping sound exploded. Before I could reach his side, Zayne shifted. His shirt split down the center and dark gray skin appeared. Something whizzed past my shoulder and the bullet found its mark, striking Zayne in the chest. He stumbled back.

There was a blur of movement to my left as the scream froze in my throat. The silence was broken by a high-pitched yelp, followed by bones cracking, then this fleshy sound of skin giving. Bible Guy spun on his heel, taking off as if the very Devil was chasing after him. I didn’t care. He could run.

I reached Zayne’s side, placing my hand over his chest. He was staring down at himself, quickly shifting back to his human form, skin becoming pink. “Oh my God...”

“I’m okay,” he said, but the words barely registered. Heart pumping, I ran my shaking hand over his chest, searching for the warmth and wetness of blood. I didn’t stop until he grasped my wrist, pulling my hand away. “Layla, I’m okay. Look.”

“How can you be okay?” My voice was thick with tears, edged with fear. “You were just shot in the chest.”

He smiled when I lifted my gaze to his face. “Look. The bullet bounced off. I shifted in time. There’s just a bruise. Nothing more.”

“Bounced off?” When he nodded, I glanced down and saw the bullet lying on the cement. The rounded edge was flattened, as though it had smacked into something impenetrable, which it had. My brain was slow to process it, and I should’ve known from the beginning. Zayne had shifted. A bullet wouldn’t breach a Warden’s skin.

I launched myself at him, wrapping my arms around his neck and clinging to him like plastic wrap. My heart still pounded in a sickening way because, for a few horrific seconds, I’d believed that the bullet had struck true, and in human form, a Warden wouldn’t survive a shot to the heart.

Zayne’s laugh was shaky as he gently detached my arms from around his neck. “You’re going to strangle me, Layla-bug.”

“Sorry.” I forced myself to step back. Trying to get control of myself, I turned around, drawing in a deep breath. It got stuck.

Roth was watching us, a distant look etched into his features, but it wasn’t him that caught my attention, that doused me with a bucket of ice water. On the ground, a few feet behind Roth, was the man who’d shot Zayne.

Or what was left of him.

The man’s right arm was twisted at an unnatural angle, like that of one of those creepy marionette puppets. Red stained the front of his white shirt and the gun...dear God, it was in the man’s stomach, the handle sticking out. I tried to draw in another breath, but my lungs were seizing up.

He was still alive. I didn’t know how, but his chest rose in quick, sharp and shallow breaths. His dark eyes were wide and darting from left to right. His fingers twitched on his good arm.

My feet moved of their own accord. I stopped short of the rapidly spreading pool of blood. He drew in another quick breath and when he opened his mouth, blood leaked out. “It’s all...over.... We know what’s happening....” His brown eyes lost their focus as the blood leaked from his mouth in a steady stream. “We know about the Lilin....”

The man shuddered once and then there was nothing—no final gurgle or deep breath. The ragged inhale just stopped as his life seeped out of him. Although he’d tried to shoot Zayne and most likely wanted to kill him—kill all of us—seeing a life extinguished—a human life—wasn’t something I was okay with or even knew how to process.

I pressed my palm to my mouth as I stumbled back. A hand steadied me, but I couldn’t look away from the young man. Within seconds, his skin paled, taking on the pallor of death. The life was gone so quickly. Over. Just like that. The man was dead and there was a good chance that it had been my fault. They might have walked away from this if I hadn’t antagonized them.

“Oh God,” I whispered.

Someone tugged me back and forced me around. Warm fingers pushed the hair off my cheeks as I strained to see the man on the floor. “Layla.”

My eyes met amber-colored ones. Roth and I were so close—too close. His hands held me in place, spanning my cheeks, and his h*ps pressed against my stomach. “It had to happen. He was turning that gun on you and you wouldn’t have shifted fast enough. And he would’ve killed you.”

“I know.” I did know that, but the guy was dead.

“And you need to stop looking at him. No good is going to come from that.” His lashes lifted, stare fixing over my shoulder. “You need to get her out of here. I’ll take care of the body.”

I didn’t want to know how he’d take care of it, and I wanted to not be such a wuss, so easily affected by a dead body, but my hands were shaking as his fingers slid off my cheeks. Roth’s eyes met mine for a second more and then Zayne was there, steering me away from the gruesome sight.

As he led me back to the Impala, I glanced over my shoulder. Not at the body. The shadows seemed to have spread through the parking garage, becoming thicker and nearly tangible. We were only a few car lengths away, but Roth had already disappeared into the shadows.

“I’m sorry,” I said, and I wasn’t sure who I was saying it to, but silence was the only response.

* * *

The ride home was silent and while Zayne left to brief his father on the altercation with the guys from the Church of God’s Children, I retreated to my room. I should’ve been present when he spoke to Abbot, but after last night, I doubted my being in the same room as him would help my current mood.

I was itchy in my own skin. Bambi kept moving around, trying to get comfortable. I wished she’d just go chill in the dollhouse, but she wasn’t going anywhere.

Tugging my hair up in a messy knot, I paced the length of my room. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw the man on the dirty floor of the garage and heard his words. They knew—the church knew about the Lilin. How was beyond me. It was the same with Roth. How had they known about demons in general?

I rubbed my hands together as I passed the front of my bed again. I still couldn’t believe I’d smacked the guy in the face with a Bible. That was terrible. Maybe not completely uncalled for, but my hand would’ve been a better choice. Then again, if I’d just kept my calm, maybe no one would’ve died. That was on my hands and I didn’t even know why I’d done it. Yes, I’d been rocking the full-on rage face, but I wasn’t typically the aggressor.

And I also didn’t normally lick people’s fingers.

It was something Roth would do—had done to me before. When he’d sucked off the crumbs from a sugar cookie.


The twisty motion filled my chest.


Groaning, I stopped and sat on the edge of my bed, my back to the door. I’d forgotten about the whole “licking Zayne’s finger” thing in light of watching someone die. It had been better that way. Flopping down, I stared up at the ceiling. Sometimes it felt as though some kind of foreign entity was invading my body. I scrubbed my hands down my face, feeling as if I needed a body cleanse.

A knock on my bedroom door forced me up. Twisting around, I cleared my throat. “Yeah?”

When the door opened and Danika appeared, my brows rose. She shifted her weight. “I was checking in—” pausing, she glanced over her shoulder “—on your arm?”

Damn. I’d forgotten about that, too. “It doesn’t even hurt now.”

“That’s what I wanted to hear.” She hesitated as she nibbled on her lower lip. “May I?” She gestured at the bed.

Okay. This was weird, but I’d had so much weird in my life recently, I was interested in seeing where this was heading. I crossed my legs. “Sure.”

Her smile was tentative as she closed the door and sailed across the room, sitting beside me. For someone as tall as she was, you’d think she’d be less graceful. Nope. The girl walked on water and the water probably liked it. “Do you mind if I take a look at your arm?”

“Nope.” I reached down and tugged off my sweater. Underneath I wore a tank, which gave her perfect access. The cut on my arm was nothing more than a pink mark. The skin was puckered and that would probably never change, but it was better than dying. “The stitches fell out this morning.”

“Looks perfect.” She raised her gaze as she tucked back a strand of dark hair. A moment passed while I expected her to get up, but she remained. “I heard what happened with those church members.”

I looked away, wondering if Zayne had told his father I’d sort of instigated the violence. “Yeah.”

“Abbot’s worried,” she said softly. “He doesn’t understand how they knew what that...Roth was or about the Lilin.” There was a pause as she hooked one incredibly long leg over the other. “That’s not a problem he really wants to worry about right now. But I guess when it rains, it pours, huh?”

More like when it rained there was a massive hurricane. “Yep.”

Danika fiddled with a silver bracelet around her wrist. “I’m not sure if you’ve heard or not, but we’re not going back to New York. Not with the Lilin issue. Abbot wants all the manpower he can get.”

Woo. I could barely contain my excitement.

“And with Tomas still missing, Dez and the guys are pretty confident something happened to him.”

I stiffened, absently rubbing the spot on my chest where Bambi’s head was resting.

Her eyes widened. “I promised you and Zayne that I wouldn’t say anything and I won’t,” she insisted, her eyes as blue and bright as Zayne’s. “No one even thinks you or...what is it called?”

“Bambi,” I said. “I didn’t name her that, by the way.”

Her brows knitted. “No one thinks you or Bambi had a thing to do with that.”

“That’s good to know.” My gaze fixed on the closed door. This was really...awkward. I was half-tempted to go find Jasmine and let her daughter chew on my toe. “Is Zayne still with Abbot?”

“Yeah. All the males are piled into the room together. No one really knows how to handle the church people without making it worse, but...I don’t think that’s what Zayne’s most concerned with.”

“No?” I asked.

She shook her head when I looked at her. “He’s not really happy about...Roth being at your school. Neither is Abbot.”

“Obviously.” I sighed, unfolding my legs. My feet didn’t even touch the floor. I was a troll sitting next to her. “He’s a demon, so of course they’re pissed.”

“I doubt that’s the only reason Zayne’s not happy about Roth being at school with you.”

I frowned. “What other reason could there be?”

Her brows rose as she stared at me. “You really don’t know?” When I shook my head, she chuckled softly. There was a sad tinge to the sound. “Sometimes, Layla, you are so unaware that I want to pull your hair out.”

I choked on a laugh. “What?”

Danika didn’t answer immediately and then took a deep breath. “Okay. Let’s be real with one another. You don’t like me.”

My mouth opened and I felt my cheeks heat. I was about to deny it, but the look she sent me said there was no reason to. “Well...this is really awkward.”

“Yep.” She nodded, slim shoulders rising. “Everyone in the clan—both our clans—expects Zayne and me to mate, and I wouldn’t turn down that offer. I think you know that Zayne.”

“I’d say like wasn’t a strong enough word.”

She smiled at that. “He’s...well, you know what he is. I also know that you like him and like probably isn’t a strong enough word for you either.”

I didn’t say anything, because this was a conversation I really wanted no part of.

“Anyway, since I’m going to be here for a while, I wanted to clear the air between us. I like you, Layla.” She shrugged. “I hope we can be friends, and I don’t want you to worry about me and Zayne.”

Part of me wanted to say that I wasn’t, but, apparently, I was as transparent as a window. Taking a deep breath, I decided I needed to woman up. “I know I haven’t always been...uh, welcoming to you and you’ve been nothing but nice to me. And I’m sorry for that.” Wow. That was probably the most mature string of words I’d ever said to Danika. I deserved a hand-size cookie. “I’ve accepted that you and Zayne will end up together.” And those words were a bitter pill, but one I needed to swallow. “You guys are perfect for one another. Both of you are gorgeous and you’re really nice and smart. And I know Zayne—”

“Stop,” she said, holding up a hand. “Zayne does like me and I agree. We’d be perfect together, but that’s not ever going to happen.”

Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy