Stone Cold Touch (The Dark Elements 2) - Page 23

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He shook his head slowly. “I forgot you could fight. And I forgot how incredibly hot that is.”

My eyes met his for a moment and then I glanced at the lockers, then over to where Gerald had plastered himself against a wall. A look of abject horror filled his expression. “You said almost all of these lockers are full of those things?”

Gerald nodded.

Stomach tumbling, I swiped the fine sheen of sweat off my forehead. “That’s problematic.”

“I could clean them out,” Roth suggested.

“What if there are more about to wake up? There’s no way you can take on more than one of these things at a time.”

He frowned at me.

I sighed. “Don’t be an idiot. It has nothing to do with your skills. We barely took one of them out together.” I flicked my gaze to Gerald. Some of the color was returning to his face. “Sorry, but we need to bring the Wardens in on this. I won’t tell them about you, but I’d make sure you stay hidden while they’re here.”

Gerald nodded again.

Roth slipped his now-broken blade back into his boot and then stalked across the room. Without saying a word he held his hand out, and I forked over the other blade.

“Why would so many be down here? It has to do with the Lilin, right?”

“Has to be.” A troubled look pinched his features. “Unless the cocoon isn’t actually from a Lilin.”

A dull ache picked up in my temples as I stared up at him. “I thought you were confident it was from a Lilin.”

“I was, but...” He looked at the lockers for a moment and then his brows furrowed. Turning back to me, he frowned as he leaned in. Too close.

I stepped back, putting a space between us.

Roth followed, his lashes lowering for a moment. When he looked up again, his eyes were crystal bright. “Are you hurt?”

“No. Yes.” I glanced down at myself, seeing the tears in my chunky sweater. My stomach didn’t hurt though. “I’m not sure.”

His intense regard strengthened. “Shortie...”

As he reached for me, I stepped back. “I’m fine. Remember? I just killed a Nightcrawler.”

I felt as if he should be more focused on that. I kind of felt like a ninja.

“You need to let me check you over.” He got all grabby hands again, this time managing to wrap his fingers around the hem of my sweater. The material was pulled taut, revealing the three jagged tears.

He let out a harsh curse. “Did it claw you?”

“Hey!” I smacked at his hands, but no more than a second later, he revealed the off-white tank top I’d worn underneath the sweater. It was dotted with red just above my belly button.

“Layla,” he whispered, going for that piece of material next.

“Stop!” I snapped free. “I’ve had enough of you, Gropey McGropers! I’m fine. My stomach doesn’t even hurt. It’s just a scratch.”

Gerald was still plastered against the wall.

Roth’s jaw tightened as he glared at me. “You need to stop acting like a fool. A Nightcrawler’s—”

“None of its venom got on me.”

“But it clawed you.” He spoke as if I was a five-year-old that didn’t understand logic. “I need to get you back to my place where I can—”

My obnoxiously harsh laugh cut him off. “Of all the nerve! You really think I’m going to fall for that?”


“Shut up, Roth. Seriously.” I stormed around him and headed for the stairs, stopping long enough to address a petrified-looking Gerald. “I’ll get the Wardens down here as soon as possible.”

Swallowing hard, he exhaled harshly. “I’ll make sure no one else comes down here.”

Praying that I could actually rouse all the Wardens and they could get down here pronto without causing a stir, I hurried up the steps. By the time I reached the last one, my skin felt clammy and I was out of breath. Had to be the adrenaline from the fighting. It couldn’t be my stomach because it didn’t even hurt.

I pushed open the doors and walked across the dank, smelly gymnasium when Bambi started slithering up my leg.

“Layla! Stop right now!”

The authority in his voice, the audacity to issue me an order spun me right around, but when I stopped...the room kept spinning, a kaleidoscope of grays and blacks. “That’s not right.”

“What?” Roth’s face blurred.

The edges of my vision darkened. “Oh crap.”

I was vaguely aware of Roth shooting forward as my legs just stopped working. They folded underneath me and then there was nothing.


When I opened my eyes, I was staring at the stony profile of Roth, and he was focused straight ahead, hands white-knuckling the steering wheel. I was curled in the front seat of his Porsche.

I dragged in a breath. My thoughts were murky. “What...?”

He glanced at me and something like concern radiated from his golden gaze. “We’re almost there, shortie.”

“How...?” I swallowed, but my throat felt parched. I remembered what happened but had no idea how I’d ended up in his car. “How get me out of school?”

One side of his lips curved up as he returned his attention to the road. “I’ve got skills.”

There was a good chance the school would call home since I was missing my afternoon classes, and my heart pounded sluggishly. More so because of wherever he could be taking me. I tried to sit up, but all I managed to do was slide further into a ball.

“You’ve got to take me back to school,” I gasped out. “I can’t go to your apartment.”

“Don’t be illogical,” Roth replied evenly. “A Nightcrawler’s claws are infectious, and I really can’t treat you in the middle of the hallway, can I? It’s bad enough that I have to drive. Too risky to take flight during the day.”

“I can call Zayne,” I reasoned, squeezing my eyes shut as my stomach muscles cramped.

He didn’t respond, and I groaned. “I think I’m going to vomit.”

Instead of Roth telling me not to do that in his pretty little Porsche, I heard the engine rev and felt the car push forward.

“We’re almost there,” he said, voice tight.

I didn’t want to go to his apartment, but other than diving out of the car, I wasn’t in the condition to put up much of a fight.

Things were a blur for a little while. Concentrating on not hurling all over myself, I kept my eyes closed. I felt the car stopping and registered the change in light behind my closed lids. I didn’t really follow the whole process of Roth getting me into his apartment building, which was a good thing, because I was sure it involved him carrying me.

“This is familiar,” announced a smooth, cultured voice as a door swung shut behind us and the faint scent of apples teased my nose.

“Shut up, Cayman.”

A deep chuckle irritated me, and I tried not to think about the first time I’d been here, sort of in the same position. “Look, I’m just pointing out that this is becoming a habitual behavior and we should—”

The slamming door jarred me and cut off whatever else Cayman was saying. A second later, I was laid down on a bed—Roth’s bed. I peeled open my eyes and immediately wished I hadn’t.

Seeing the familiar white walls lined with the DVDs and books that had been there before...the piano in the corner...even the macabre paintings that bordered on the was a punch to the chest and didn’t help with the sensitivity of my stomach. My feet dangled an inch off the floor, and I thought of the little vamp kitties who’d been both tattoos and pets. I wondered whether they were back now, hiding under his bed, prepared to sink their little fangs into any exposed skin.

I couldn’t be here.

As Roth backed off, I started to sit up. He shot me a look of warning. “Sit still. The more you move, the more the infection will spread and this won’t be an easy fix.”

My chest rose and fell heavily as I watched him go to the black fridge in his small kitchen. Opening the door, he reached in and pulled out a water bottle that had been stripped of its label. I watched him warily as he approached the bed.

“Holy water.” He shook the bottle slightly. “The demonic equivalent of peroxide.”

“You normally keep holy water in your fridge?”

He stopped in front of me. “You never know when you’ll need it.”

I couldn’t foresee a lot of situations when a demon would be in need of holy water. “Am I supposed to drink it?”

His face contorted in disgust. “You’re part demon, Layla. You drink this and you’ll be spewing vomit like a possessed chick. Since it’s normally used against demons, it can heal an injury inflicted by another demon, depending on the wound and all that good stuff.”

“Then what am I supposed to do with it?”

A small grin appeared. “Take your shirt off.”

I stared at him.

His brows rose. “I’m being serious. I need to put this—” he shook the bottle again “—on the scratches.”

It took me a second to respond. “I’m not taking my shirt off.”

“Yes, you are.”

Rising onto my elbows, I met his determined gaze with my own. “You’re on crack if you think I’m removing a single stitch of clothing.”

“Like I said before, crack is whack.” He grinned while I glared at him. “Your shirt needs to come off, shortie. The reason your stomach doesn’t hurt is because you’ve got some venom or blood soaking through your sweater. It’s numbing your skin and having venom all up on you isn’t really going to be conducive to healing. The top needs to go.”

I glanced down. With the darkness of my sweater, it was impossible to see if there was demon blood on it.

Roth came closer, crouching by the bed. “No need to be shy.”

“It’s not that,” I sputtered, forcing myself into an upright position. The room tilted a little and I closed my eyes.

“It’s not like I haven’t seen you before.”

“Oh my God,” I moaned. “That is not the point.”

Roth sighed. “Look, we’re wasting time. You’re going to get sicker and this holy water won’t work. It’s as simple as that, so stop being a girl and take off your sweater.”

Prying my eyes open, I struggled with my erratic pulse. I saw it in his steady gaze then. If I didn’t take off the sweater, he was going to and that would be worse. I could do this. He felt nothing for me. Fine. I felt nothing for him now. Great. I was a big girl.

I muttered a curse under my breath and reached down, carefully taking off the sweater and tank top in one pull. As I dropped the oh-so offending material onto the floor, I cast my gaze to my stomach.

It really didn’t look that...bad.

The claws had just grazed me, but the three marks were a dark, angry red and tiny little lines were branching out from the cuts like veins.

After a few tense seconds, I realized Roth hadn’t moved. Where in the Hell was the whole “time is of the essence” crap? I lifted my gaze and saw that he seriously hadn’t moved at all.

Still crouched by the bed, the bottle of holy water dangled from his long fingertips. He was staring at me with the same kind of intensity he had in the locker rooms, but there was a heat behind his golden eyes and his stare was fixed on my chest. At least Bambi wasn’t using my boob as a pillow this time. Her diamond-shaped head was resting against my lower stomach now.

As he continued to stare, heat curled low in my belly, especially when his tongue slipped out and glided over his upper lip. Light reflected off the bolt and I felt my skin flush. I didn’t like what was starting to go on inside my body. And I didn’t like that he was staring at me, that he even felt as though he was allowed to at this point.

And I sure as Hell didn’t like the breathlessness invading my chest either.

“Stop staring at me,” I ordered.

He shocked the demon out of me by dragging his gaze up, the concentrated power behind his irises searing my skin as he rose. A moment passed and then he spoke. “Lie back.”

I wanted to resist his brisk tone, but the sooner I got this over with, the better. Easing back, I stared at the ceiling as I felt him come closer.

Roth hovered over me, and I fisted my hands in the soft blanket to keep myself still. “This might sting a bit.”

I gritted my teeth. “Can’t be worse than being stitched up, right?”

His gaze flicked to mine and he murmured, “Right.”

Holding my breath, I prepared myself for whatever brain-cell destroying pain was about to be unleashed as he unscrewed the bottle and lowered it to my stomach. The first drop fizzled on my skin and then the liquid sloshed out, covering the claw marks and running down my belly, spilling onto the bed beneath me.

Bambi jerked back, her head disappearing under the band of my jeans, avoiding the steady stream of holy water. My skin burned at the contact, turning a ruddy pink, and I bit down on my lip. It wasn’t as bad as the stitches, but it wasn’t exactly pleasant either.

“Sorry,” he muttered, tipping the bottle once more. He did so carefully, avoiding direct contact with it himself. I imagined his reaction, given that he was full-blooded, would be worse than mine.

The cuts frothed white as the sting brought a glaze of tears to my eyes. Finally, the water was all gone, and Roth was backing away. “Stay still for a little while.”

Breathing in and out slowly, I remained where I was until Roth returned with a towel. He was silent as he swiped up the excess liquid along the sides of my stomach. It was then I noticed the tips of his fingers were a deep pink.

Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy