Stone Cold Touch (The Dark Elements 2) - Page 25

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His fingers tapped the steering wheel. “I’m half-afraid to ask.”

“It’s something you can’t tell the others. I know that doesn’t sound good, but I trust you. You’re not crazy judgmental and you won’t—”

“Okay,” Zayne sighed. “Got it.”

Because I did trust him, I told him about Gerald, his coven, and the other coven of witches in Bethesda. He wasn’t exactly thrilled with the no-Wardens rule. “Layla, I don’t want you going.”

“Someone has to,” I said.

“Let him do it.”

“There is no way I trust Roth to go into any situation and not piss people off so bad that we don’t get any information.”

He was quiet as we circled the house, heading for the garage. “Do you know how hard it is for me to entertain the idea of you going off with him?”

Chewing on my lower lip, I didn’t say anything to that.

“I know he was goading me today and I took the bait.”

Well, I totally agreed with that. For whatever reason, Roth had wanted to get under Zayne’s skin and he had excelled at doing so.

“But he allowed you to get hurt in the process,” he continued as he eased the Impala into the garage, parking it near the fleet of SUVs. When he killed the engine, he turned to me. The conversation was back to him once more. “And you smell like him now. So, I want to hit him again.”

“You can’t hit him again.”

His brows rose in doubt.

“My getting hurt wasn’t his fault.”

“He coaxed you down there when he could’ve gone by himself, and the moment he saw that cocoon or those Nightcrawlers, he should’ve gotten you out of there. He didn’t. And not just because he wanted to get at me. He wanted you there, with him.”

I laughed at that. “I’m pretty sure he just wanted to mess with you because he knew I was going to tell you about everything.”

He shook his head as he pulled the keys out and opened the door. “That’s not the only reason, Layla.” He eyed me from the other side of the car after I climbed out, leaning his arm against the roof. “I see the way he looks at you.”

I closed the car door and stepped back, turning to the entrance that led to the kitchen. I’d seen that look on Roth’s face earlier, but agreeing to that would do no good. Zayne was likely to sprout his wings, fly back to Roth’s apartment and punt kick him this time. “You don’t know what you’re seeing.”

I’d taken one step when Zayne was suddenly in front of me. Gasping, I stumbled back as his hand curled around my upper arm in a gentle but firm grasp.

“I know what I saw.” The air whooshed out of my lungs as he pressed me against his chest. He dipped his chin so that our faces were only inches apart. The proximity froze me in place. “I know exactly how he looks at you and you do, too.”

Words left me as I stared into eyes the color of the endless sky, because...oh my God, our lips were so close and the need that swelled within me had nothing to do with feeding, but everything to do with wanting to taste his lips.

His other hand curved along my lower back and slid up, tangling in the edges of my hair. “I know the look. So do you. Because it’s the way I look at you.”

My heart tripped up as the words settled over me. I didn’t know what to say, and that swelling feeling inside me turned into something else, moved into my chest, and had my pulse pounding.

A deep sound rumbled from Zayne’s throat and then he lowered his head, claiming the scant inches between our lips. At the very last second, common sense smacked into me and I jerked out of his embrace.

Breathing erratically, I kept backing up until I knocked into the side of his Impala. My lips tingled and we hadn’t even kissed. But we almost did and that terrified me. Ice poured into my veins, turning my skin as cold as a February morning.

I placed my hand over my mouth as I stared at him. “What were you thinking?”

His chest rose and fell rapidly. “Layla...”

Fear seized me, panic more potent than facing down the Nightcrawler. If we’d kissed, I would’ve taken Zayne’s soul—I would’ve turned him into something horrific and evil. I would’ve killed what he was.

Just like a Lilin would.

I lurched away from the Impala and darted around Zayne, racing into the small hallway just inside the house. I skidded to a halt as I entered the brightly lit kitchen.

At the round table, Danika and Jasmine sat with the twins. Bowls of ice cream were on the table, but the babies were wearing more of the creamy goodness than they seemed to have eaten.

A tentative smile tracked across Danika’s face. Her right hand was covered with a rainbow of sprinkles. “You’re back.”

I willed my heart to slow down. “Yeah.”

The door back in the hall banged into the wall, announcing Zayne’s entrance. He roared into the kitchen, slowing like I had when he got that it was occupied. He took one look at the table and then turned a piercing stare on me.

Oh dear.

Jasmine’s gaze moved from him to me and then back to Zayne. Silence of the awkward kind descended as Danika shifted her attention to her bowl.

“Would you two like some ice cream?” Jasmine offered as she cleared her throat. “I’m sure there’s...some left.”

Izzy broke into a giggle, tossing back her red curls as she slammed her fists into her bowl. Ice cream splattered across her bib. “More!”

“Uh, thanks, but I’ll pass.” I turned as Geoff strode into the kitchen. His brows went up as he got an eyeful of the table.

“Any news from the men?” Jasmine asked, sitting up straight.

He nodded as he ran a hand over his shoulder-length brown hair. “Yes. Since school is shutting down for the day, they’re about to clean house. They’ve already taken out a few that were close to maturing.” He glanced at me, and surprisingly, he smiled. “And way to go, Layla. I hear you took one out.”

Finally someone recognized my awesomeness. “Thank you.”

Geoff nodded, and then he turned his attention to Zayne. “Got a second?”

I took that as my cue to make a hasty exit. I needed a moment to clear my head, and also to shower, because smelling like Roth wasn’t making me warm and fuzzy. I made it into the hallway when I felt a weird, cold air pass through me. Not around me, but literally through me, causing me to stop. And then I heard Zayne.

“It can wait.”

My heart jumped in my throat as I all but flung myself toward the stairs. I made it two steps and then, suddenly, I was off my feet and tossed over one strong shoulder. Too stunned to make a peep, I lifted my head and watched the foyer spin around me as Zayne stalked straight through the living room and into the library. He kicked the door shut, turning and locking it. My stomach tumbled as my imagination ran wild.

Just as suddenly as I was picked up and tossed over his shoulder like a sack of rice, I was deposited on my feet. I backed up and then shot forward, smacking him across the chest. Hard.

“What the Hell?” I demanded.

Zayne’s lips twitched as if he was trying hard not to laugh. “We need to talk.”

“You need to talk to Geoff.”

“Whatever he has to say can wait.” He followed me as I backed up, frowning. “Why did you take off like that?”

“I...I need to shower,” I said lamely.

His eyes narrowed. “Yeah, that would be nice, but you ran off like an entire army of Hellions was chasing after you.”

“Did not.”

He arched a brow.

“Okay. Maybe a little. What did you want to talk about? The witches and when we can go to the club?”


As we neared the couch, he sat down. I started to move away, but his hand snaked out, wrapping around my arm. “What are you—?”

He tugged me down, and there was nowhere to go but into his lap. I landed facing him, my mouth level with his throat. For a moment, I was frozen. With my legs straddling his, there was an uncharted feel to this that stretched my nerves tight. If I moved my h*ps forward... I couldn’t even finish the thought.

“I’m not running from you,” I mumbled.

“Yeah, you are. You’re also avoiding me again.” His hands spanned my waist as I started to climb off. “Nope. Not going anywhere.”

“What...what are you doing?” I breathed out.

“Keeping you from running from me.” He tugged me forward, causing me to clap my hands down on his shoulders to stop certain areas of our bodies from touching. “In case you haven’t figured this out yet, I’m not into the chasing thing.”

My brain emptied of all intelligent responses. Slowly, I lifted my gaze and found his. He was looking at me...yeah, like he’d said he looked at me. Stomach, meet butterflies.

I gave a little shake of my head. “Why would you chase me?”

The look that crossed his face was a mixture of fondness and disbelief—the “are you seriously that dumb” kind of look. “I don’t want to, but I have been. I am. And I’d think after Saturday night, it would be pretty obvious.”

Blood thickened inside my veins.

“Actually...” His eyes searched mine. “It should’ve been obvious for...for a long time. Or maybe it wasn’t, but you have to know.”

I’d have to be stupid to not know, especially after all of this, but... “I don’t get it.”

“Maybe it’s not right. What do I know? When Father brought you home all those years ago, he told me it was my job to watch over you, that I’d be the closest thing to family—to a brother—that you would ever have. And I took that seriously. Ever since I was twelve years old.” His dark blond lashes lowered, and I thought of Mr. Snotty. Emotion exploded in my chest and climbed up my throat. “I know I was never supposed to think of you any other way, but you got older and the past year or so?”

My hands curled around his shoulders, digging in through his shirt. Blood rushed in my ears.

“I’d find myself unable to stop staring at you, and it was hard not wanting to spend time with you. Why else did I always get up so early?” He laughed softly as the hollows of his cheeks flushed. “And when Father started bringing Danika around, I knew...”

“Knew what?” I whispered.

“I knew I couldn’t be with her. Not when you’re constantly in my head. Is it wrong?” His intense gaze swept up again, meeting mine. “No. Screw that—screw all of that. It’s right. It’s always been right.”

My throat hurt when I spoke. “You can’t—”

“Can’t what, Layla-bug? Can’t think about you? Can’t tell you that you have always been the most amazing girl I’ve ever known? Can’t stop living under the same roof with you and pretending that what I feel for you—what I want from you—is something brotherly?” As my breath caught, his hands slid up to my rib cage, leaving behind a wake of shivers. “That I can’t hold you? Touch you? Because the last time I checked, I could do all those things.”


“And I know it’s what you’ve wanted. I’ve known for a long time.” His thumbs moved in idle circles as he spoke. “Or has that changed because of him?”

This had nothing to do with him. To have waited years, to suffer through all my girlish fantasies involving Zayne and think it was utterly hopeless, to now hear these almost sacred words, I didn’t know what to do with them. My heart was expanding in my chest to the point I surely thought it would burst, but there was a rising anxiety that whispered of confusion and fear.

“Why now?” The question slipped out of me.

“Is ‘now is when I finally pulled my head out of my ass’ the wrong answer? I guess it probably isn’t good enough, huh?” He dipped his head to my shoulder, resting his forehead there as his fingers curled around the back of the borrowed shirt, and my breath caught again. “I almost lost you that night Paimon captured you. When I realized you could’ve died?” He shuddered. “That I could’ve died? I didn’t want to deny this any longer. I couldn’t.”

I stared at his bowed head as I slowly brought my hands up. Was that it? Or was it more? Was it because of Roth and the fact that Zayne just didn’t want me with him? Or was it because he now knew I could shift, which made me suitable in some way? Closing my eyes, I ignored the odd knot of unease. He wasn’t like that and had never believed something was faulty with me. I gingerly touched the ends of his hair, and a sigh rattled through him. Zayne wouldn’t lie to me.

The silky soft strands of his hair slipped through my fingers as I wondered if he could feel my heart cracking. Tears pricked at my eyes, wetting my lashes, and I squeezed my eyes shut. It was almost easier months ago, when the idea of Zayne harboring any feelings for me was nothing more than a fairy tale, than hearing this and not being able to act upon it.

“It doesn’t matter,” I said, voice thick. “It’s impossible.”

Zayne drew back, lifting his head. “How so?”

“We can’t... I mean, we couldn’t...” My cheeks flushed, and I ducked my chin.

“We can’t?” His deep, shockingly sexy chuckle rumbled through me. “I think Saturday night proved there’s a lot we can do.”

Heat flowed through me, a mixture of embarrassment and fire that had sparked to life at the reminder of what we’d done. “But it’s too dangerous.”

“I trust you.”

Those three words sounded so simple, but they were confounding. “You shouldn’t. Not like that—not with your life.”

Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy