Stone Cold Touch (The Dark Elements 2) - Page 17

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I stared at her, confused. “Why not?”

“Because he doesn’t want me. He’s not in love with me and it’s obvious to everyone but you,” she said, and her gaze lowered. Thick lashes hid her eyes. “Zayne wants you. And he’s in love with you.”


I was starting to regret ever letting Danika near my arm with a needle—clearly there was a good chance she was on crack.

Zayne wanted me? He loved me? Sure, I knew that Zayne cared deeply for me, but in love with me? That was a whole different ballpark.

I couldn’t believe that, not when there were so many reasons why he wouldn’t be in love with me—couldn’t be. Besides the fact that everyone in his clan expected Zayne to mate with Danika or another suitable Warden to produce little gargoyle babies, he couldn’t even kiss me. Yeah, that didn’t mean he couldn’t get close to me and we...couldn’t do other things, but it was too dangerous.

Thinking about those things that didn’t involve our lips touching kept me up most of Saturday night. Even with my limited experience when it came to those other things, my vast imagination was giving me lots of ideas. Ideas that involved hands and fingers and other body parts...

Oh dear.

I flopped onto my stomach and groaned into my pillow. I hadn’t seen much of Zayne throughout the day and it might’ve been because I’d been avoiding him, but after what Danika said—and even though I really didn’t believe her—there was a good chance I’d start giggling like a hyena if left alone with him.

And that was ridiculous.

I was ridiculous.

But the idea of experiencing any of those things with Zayne left my head spinning and caused my pulse to pound throughout my body. Trying to get comfortable, I curled my leg up, but it didn’t help. I pushed off the blankets, kicking them down to the foot of the bed, but my skin still felt too tight, as if there was no room between my bones and my flesh.

I rolled onto my back. Placing my hand against my stomach, I wasn’t surprised to find that the skin felt warm, and then a little knot formed, leaving me frustrated...and confused. My thoughts were all tangled together, because when I felt this low burn sloshing through my veins, I also thought of Roth and everything we’d shared. And when I thought about Zayne that way, I felt as though I was doing something wrong, which was stupid, because as Roth had made abundantly clear, there was nothing between us.

Too hot and too wound up to sleep, I slipped out of bed around three in the morning. Pulling on a pair of fuzzy knee-high socks that actually reached my thighs, I grabbed a heavy sweater and pulled it on over my tank top and sleep shorts.

Hair a mess and a walking fashion disaster, I crept out of my bedroom and headed downstairs. At this time of night, most of the house would be dead. Jasmine and Danika would either be asleep or off somewhere with the twins. Only Geoff would be around, monitoring cameras, and outside there’d be guards just in case something crazy happened. For the most part, I’d have the house to myself.

The cool air soothed some of the heat as I hurried down the stairs, the edges of my unbuttoned sweater flapping out behind me like fluttering wings.

My sock-covered feet were silent as I padded into the kitchen and grabbed a small bottle of OJ. I started to close the fridge door when I reached back in and grabbed what was left of the sugar-cookie dough.

Taking my goodies and holding them close, I started toward the living areas but veered off in the direction of the library. Using my hip, I nudged the heavy wooden door open. I dropped the dough and OJ on the desk and then turned on the old-fashioned lamp. A soft glow filled the large room.

I breathed in deeply, inhaling the musky scent of old books. I’d spent many nights and days in this library when I was younger and as I scanned the numerous rows of books, I found that I’d read almost all of them. There’d been a lot of lonely days and nights. Still were.

Breaking off a chunk of dough, I shuffled around the desk and started perusing the spines, not looking for anything in particular, but as I was somewhere between bored-enough-to-read and I’d-rather-lie-in-bed-frustrated, something snagged my attention.

Methods and Practices of Herbs and Their Impact on Demons and Wardens.

Not exactly light bedtime reading or the kind of book you’d find in a human library, but I thought about the vial I’d seen Abbot carrying and my curiosity got the best of me. Tugging it out, I turned and placed it on the desk as I munched on my raw dough. Most of the book was handwritten, herbs listed in alphabetical order and accompanied with drawings.

Not even ten minutes later, the space behind my eyes started to ache. There were way too many herbs in the world and too many that were ingredients in milky-white potions.

I lifted my gaze as I grabbed my OJ and took a drink, loving the way it tingled down my throat. An idea took form. Not a smart one, but an intriguing one.

Abbot was out for the night as were most of the Wardens. Geoff was somewhere, so that was a risk, but...I was bored and curious.

The study that Abbot occupied was right down the hall. I could access it through the door in the library. It opened up into a small sitting room no one ever used and through that room I could get into his office without using the hall, which would likely be monitored. But the sitting room? Probably not.

Setting the OJ down, I hurried around the desk, my feet slipping along the hardwood floors. I burst through the door to the sitting room, relieved to find it empty and dark, and before I gave myself time to chicken out, I tried the knob on Abbot’s door.

It was unlocked.

I held my breath as I turned the knob. The door creaked like old bones as I pushed it open. There was a lamp on his desk with a green ceramic shade, which cast a small swath of light over the desk and the floor.

The room smelled like Abbot—of soap, the outdoors and a faint trace of the cigars he toyed with. A ball formed in my throat as I crept toward his large oak desk. I could count on one hand how many times the Warden had hugged me, but when he had, his hugs were always warm and wonderful.

I missed them.

Swallowing down the lump, I decided to attack the desk first. There were a lot of places where he could’ve stashed what I was looking for—the shelves along the back walls, the cases that were surely locked and a dozen little cubbies here and there.

The first couple of drawers had nothing in them that interested me—papers and correspondences from the police and government, emails from other clan leaders. The second drawer was filled with pens, the kind that made me all grabby hands, and the third had more sticky notes than God needed.

Fourth drawer—the bottom drawer—was where I hit the jackpot. Literally.

Cushioned in a thick, dark towel, dozens of small vials rolled around harmlessly as I pulled the drawer out as far as I could. Kneeling down, I picked up one that looked like it had grapefruit juice in it and then placed it back down, carefully poking around until I found the one that looked familiar. I lifted the vial gingerly, watching the milky liquid slosh around as I stood.

Turning the vial over, I frowned as I read the scribble along the bottom. “Bloodroot?”

“What are you doing?”

I squeaked and almost dropped the vial. Spinning around, I clutched it to my chest as I breathed out a sigh of relief. “Zayne.”

He stood in the doorway I’d snuck through, dressed in dark pants and a black shirt. Even though it was quite chilly outside, a full-blooded Warden’s body temperature ran higher than humans’ or even mine. He folded his arms and arched a brow.

“You scared the crap out of me.” Heart pounding, all I could think about was the vial in my hand. Zayne wouldn’t understand why I was sneaking around in Abbot’s office, no matter how harmless it was. When he only stared at me, I tried a diversion as I lowered my hands. “What are you doing back so early?”

“What are you doing in my father’s study?”

I wrinkled my nose. “Nothing.”


Hands now hidden behind the desk, I slid the vial down my palm. I’d either have to drop it and pray to the Dalai Lama that it didn’t break, or pretend to faint and put it back. Neither of those options filled me with any confidence. “Nope.”


My cheeks started to heat, and I was glad for the room’s dim lighting. “You didn’t tell me why you’re back so early.”

“And you haven’t told me what you’re really doing in here.”

I shifted my weight, preparing to drop the vial back into the drawer I’d found it in. All I needed was the name and I’d gotten that. “I couldn’t sleep so I was— Ack!”

Zayne moved incredibly fast, seeming to disappear from just inside the door only to reappear right in front of me. Before I could drop the vial, he wrapped his hand around my wrist.

“What is this?” he asked as he lifted my arm.

My fingers tightened around the vial. “Uh...”

He cocked his head to the side and sighed. “Layla.”

I tried to pull free, but when that didn’t work, I equaled and then topped his sigh with my own. “Fine. I saw Abbot with this vial a few days ago, and I wanted to know what it was. So that’s what I was looking for.”

“At three in the morning?”

“I couldn’t sleep and I was down in the library when the idea occurred to me.” I tugged on my arm again. “I wasn’t in here photocopying Warden secrets or killing babies. Look.” I wiggled my fingers until he could see the vial’s handwritten label. “I’m not lying.”

His gaze flicked down and he frowned. “Bloodroot?”

“You know what it is?” If so, happy me, because it would be so much better having him just explain it than going through that dusty book again.

“Yes.” He let go of my arm and snatched it out of my fingers quickly, like a cat. “You shouldn’t be messing with that stuff.”


Very carefully, he placed the vial back in the drawer and eased it shut. Standing, he cast me a long look. “Come on.”

Stubbornly, my feet sank into the floor. “Tell me what you know.”

Zayne rounded the desk and kept going. “Layla, come on before someone else comes back, sees you in here and freaks out.”

He had a point, and while I was feeling this childish urge to argue, I ignored it and followed him back into the library. Slipping past him, I made a beeline for the desk while he closed the door behind him.

My eyes widened as I spotted the OJ, the book and the...the empty cookie dough wrapper. I whirled on Zayne. “You ate my cookie dough!”

A small grin tipped his lips up. “Maybe.”

I heaved out a sigh as I grabbed the bottle of OJ. “That’s so wrong.”

He sauntered over to the desk and placed his palms on the edge, leaning in so that we were at eye level. “I’ll get a new pack for you in the morning.”

“You should,” I said, sounding grumpy and peevish. And I was feeling those things because he was close, and all I could think about was what Danika had said and all those dirty things I’d been thinking about that drove me from my bed. I pushed away from the desk.

A brow went up as he watched me cross the room. “You’re in a lovely mood.”

I shrugged as I eyed him over the bottle. Plopping down on the couch partially hidden by the shadows, I set my OJ on the end table. “You going to tell me about the bloodroot?”

“It’s a herb.”

I picked up a pillow and placed it in my lap. “That much I figured.”

“It’s actually pretty dangerous.” He followed me over to the couch, sat and kicked off his boots and socks. Leaning back against the other arm, he stretched out the best he could, which meant he left me the tiny space I was occupying. “It doesn’t have much of an effect on demons, other than making them sleepy. But it can kill a human and knock out and paralyze a Warden for a while.”

My heart skipped a beat. “Why would Abbot have something like that?”

“I don’t know. The bottle looked ancient. So did a lot of those bottles in there. He might have saved it for a Warden who gets out of hand. Like with Elijah back...” He trailed off, lowering his gaze.

I stiffened a little as my fingers tightened around the throw pillow. It was the first time Zayne has used my father’s name—my absentee father. The Warden who’d slept with Lilith, and who, after discovering he’d fathered a child, had tried to have said child killed. Multiple times. That would be me. Abbot had stopped him when I was young and I could see how bloodroot might’ve come in handy then.

“Anyway,” Zayne said, watching me. “I came home early because there wasn’t much going on. And I ran into Roth.”

A twisty motion seized my stomach. “You did?”

He nodded. “He was doing his nightly stalking duties, I guess. Found me down by Foggy Bottom and wanted to know how Abbot took the whole Church of God’s Children crap.”

I schooled my features into blankness. Roth could’ve easily texted or called me to find that out. Then again, I’m not sure why I’d expect that from him. “Good to see that you two didn’t physically harm one another.”

“I wouldn’t say it was the most pleasant conversation.” Zayne shifted on the couch beside me, nudging my thigh with his foot. I looked at him, brows raised. “What’s your deal?” he asked, brushing the flop of blond hair off his forehead.

Holding my pillow closer, I shook my head. “Nothing.”

He leaned against the arm of the couch, lazily clasping the back of his neck with his hand. The muscles under his thin shirt bunched with the movement. “Something’s bothering you.”

Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy