Stone Cold Touch (The Dark Elements 2) - Page 38

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“Whoa,” he said, dragging me back so that I was right in front of him. He dropped his arm. “You don’t want to go anymore?”

“Well, I guess...I figured that after Thursday night and stuff, you wouldn’t want to go.” I stumbled over my words as though I’d just learned to speak yesterday. “And I completely understand that and—”

“Did I ever say to you that I’d changed my mind about tomorrow?” he asked, frowning.

“No, but—”

“But I never said that and as far as I knew we were still going.” He flipped the towel over his shoulder, watching me. “You didn’t change your mind. So we’re on.”

I gaped at him, wondering if I’d stared at his abs so hard that I’d given myself a stroke. “But why?”

“Why?” he repeated softly.

“Yeah. I...I screwed up. Big-time.” It seemed unnecessary to explain this. “Why would you want to go to the movies with me? Stacey and Sam are going to think that means something.”

His hand snapped out, catching my wrist and stopping me from fiddling with the hem of my shirt. “Do you think us going together means something?”

My tongue felt tied.

He lowered his head, his steady gaze searching mine. “Do you want it to mean something?”

“Yes,” I whispered, and there was a whole lot of truth in that one word.

His hand slipped up my sleeve, curling around my elbow. “Then we’re going to the movies tomorrow.”

It sounded so simple, but I truly didn’t understand why he’d still want to. A small smile crossed Zayne’s face, as if he seemed to know what I was thinking, and the words sort of fell out of my mouth. “I don’t deserve you.”

“See, that’s where you’re wrong.” He reached up with his other hand and tucked a pale escapee from my ponytail back behind my ear. “That’s where you’ve always been wrong. You deserve everything.”

* * *

Perhaps my priorities were all kinds of jacked up, but as I applied the finishing touch in the form of lip gloss, the Lilin, the wraiths and the difference I felt inside me were the furthest thing from my thoughts.

As I leaned back from the mirror in my bathroom, I took in my outfit with a critical eye. Stacey would say I needed to show more boob. The dark jeans were tight, paired with a loose white blouse cinched at the waist with a dark blue braided belt and the black heels that made me feel taller than the Lollipop Guild.

My hair was down, falling into loose waves and the pink sweeping across my cheeks told me there’d be no need for blush. My pulse was a steady thrum as I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror. Was I really going out on a date with Zayne? Was this really happening? Excitement hummed through my blood, making Bambi all kinds of antsy, but there was a part of me that felt as if I was dreaming.

Never once had I thought this day would ever, ever happen.

I picked up the tube of mascara, wondering if another coat would make it look as though spiders had mated with my eyelashes.

“You look great. So stop messing around. We’re going to be late.”

I jumped at the sound of Zayne’s voice and dropped the mascara. The plastic tube clanged off the sink basin. He stood just inside my bedroom and the smile he wore made me feel as if I’d spotted a rainbow.

He was wearing a dark gray V-neck sweater that stretched across his broad shoulders and he made light-colored denim jeans look damn good.

“Thank you.” I plucked up the mascara and placed it in its basket. “You look very...very nice, too.”

Zayne chuckled as I came out of the bathroom. “Your face is so red.”


“It’s cute.”

The fact I probably resembled a chili pepper wasn’t cute. My gaze wandered everywhere but his face. “Do you mind picking up Stacey and Sam at her place? I think it would be easier instead of taking two cars.”

“That’s fine with me.”

“Good.” I turned, frowning at the mess that was my room. “I just need to find my purse.”

Zayne had moved closer, as silent as a shade. “You don’t need it. I’m paying. That’s what guys do on a date.”

My heart kicked at my chest. This was a date. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Scanning the scattered books and clothing, I gave up on finding the purse I rarely used and faced Zayne.

He was closer than before, so close that I could feel the warmth from his body. Slowly, I lifted my eyes and I was left unsteady. His gaze tracked over my face and the smile he wore slipped a little.

“You really do look beautiful,” he said, voice gruff. “But you always look beautiful, like something that’s not quite real.”

Hearing Zayne say something like that never failed to knock me into la-la land. All I could do was grin up at him like a fool.

The smile returned in full force and he laughed again. “Come on. We’ve gotta go.”

I nodded and as we turned, we realized that we weren’t alone. Out in the hallway, Danika stood with Maddox. Heat infused my body but was quickly chased away by a trail of icy fingers over my skin.

Danika was staring down the hall, her expression completely devoid of any emotion, and oddly enough, I felt a lick of pain in my chest for her. It was so weird, but I knew she liked Zayne—more than just liked him—and I felt bad. I felt as if I should put some space between Zayne and me.

But Maddox...? It was the first time I’d seen him up and walking around since the fall down the stairs. Not that he’d been out of commission this entire time, but I’d made sure to avoid him. Well, avoid pretty much all of them.

Maddox stared at Zayne with wide eyes. His jaw worked overtime, as if he was doing everything to keep his mouth shut as he looked at me.

I really felt as though I should put more space between Zayne and me.

Zayne reached down between us, threading his fingers through my mine, surprising all the sugar I’d consumed earlier right out of me. “What’s up, guys?”

With a small smile, Danika shook her head. “Nothing. We were just heading down to the training rooms. Right?” She looked at Maddox.

He wasn’t paying attention to her, his gaze fixed on our joined hands as though we were holding a grenade. Anger infused me, straightening my spine and replacing the awkwardness I felt.

“Something you want to say?” asked Zayne, his narrowed gaze on Maddox.

The Warden shook his head as he curled his lip. “Nope. Not a damn thing.” Then he turned, stalking down the hall, toward the stairs.

Danika sent us a sympathetic look that didn’t seem right on her. “Sorry. Have...” She smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “Have fun.”

Once the hall was empty, I glanced up at Zayne. “Maddox didn’t look happy.”

“Do I look like I care?” Zayne’s grip on my hand tightened. “Now, come on. We have a movie to get to.”

* * *

Twisted around in the front seat of Zayne’s Impala, I stared at Sam and wondered if an alien had abducted him. Nothing about the guy sitting in the backseat next to Stacey was anything like the awkward, somewhat nerdy boy I’d known since I started school.

His usually unbrushed hair was actually styled. I figured he could tell all of us the year in which hair gel was created, but I’d had no idea he even knew how to use it. His curls were swept back from his forehead, artfully messy. The new look changed the whole landscape of his face. His jaw was stronger, a cut line. His cheekbones appeared higher, sharper, and without his glasses, his lashes seemed ridiculously long.

The way he sat was different. Body relaxed and legs spread apart as he stared out the window. His typical slouch was gone. He was dressed nice—a sweater like Zayne wore with a white dress shirt underneath it.

Sam looked really good. It was like seeing your son growing up or something.

And Stacey couldn’t keep her eyes off him...or her hand. Right now, her fingers were curled around his forearm and his hand...whoa. His hand was resting on her thigh, like her inner thigh.

I whipped back around, feeling like a peeper. My gaze shifted to Zayne. His right hand rested on his leg while his left held the steering wheel. I wanted to reach over and place my hand over his, but years of being nothing more than a friend to him prevented me from taking that action.

The worst thing ever entered my brain at that chosen moment. Would it be this hard with Roth to forget who I used to be versus who I was now? I quickly looked away, blowing out a low breath as I watched a cab stop to pick up a couple.

I will not think of him. I will not think of him. He had no place in this, in any of this.

Traffic was a beast and it took a lifetime to get to the theater in the historic district. The place wasn’t a Cineplex. More like an old-school theater with only a couple of movies showing, but it was quaint and cute and once we all decided on a film, we were ready to do this.

The lobby was mostly empty by the time we got our tickets, but the smell of buttery popcorn made the fact that we’d missed the previews okeydoke.

As we walked to the concession stand, Sam moved to Stacey’s other side, wrapping his arm around her waist, and I was guessing I hadn’t been around for the day that their relationship went from finally acknowledging each other into touchy-feely land.

Considering how far Zayne and I had gone without really going anywhere, I wondered just exactly what Sam and Stacey had shared, and made a mental note to demand the lowdown on their current state of affairs.

But right now, I was more concerned with my own current affairs.

Still surprised that I was here with Zayne after what had happened, I looked up at him. He was watching me as I nibbled on my thumbnail.

“You doing okay?” he asked, tugging my hand away from my mouth.

I nodded.

He dipped his head so that his mouth was near my ear. “So relax.”

It wasn’t until then that I realized how locked up my muscles were. I forced a couple of deep breaths, willing the tension out of my body.

“That’s better.” He placed a hand on my lower back and whispered, “I want to be here, Layla-bug. No matter what has happened in the past, I want to be here.”

Those words made the breath catch in my throat and spun my heart around like a ballerina. “I want to be here, too,” I whispered back.

His lips brushed my temple. “That’s what I want to hear.”

When he pulled back, my smile was so wide there was a good chance it would crack my face open in a good way. If there was such a thing.

The jiggle from the door behind us announced we weren’t the only ones running late. The sound drawing my attention, I looked over my shoulder and almost fell right over. Face-first into a trash can.

Walking through the door was the man I’d slapped in the face with the Bible—the member of Church of God’s Children that had gotten away. He was dressed the same way he’d been that horrible day—white shirt and pressed pants, hair cropped close to the skull. He carried a bottle of water with him. It couldn’t be a coincidence, but had he known we’d be here? Had he been following Zayne and me? Or my friends?

My mouth dropped open as I whipped around, grabbing the back of Zayne’s shirt. He turned, gaze questioning. “Look who just walked in,” I whispered.

He glanced back and he swore under his breath. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“What are you guys chatting about?” Stacey asked, twisting toward us. As she did so, she leaned into Sam’s arm in a way that would’ve been supercute if I wasn’t seconds away from flipping out.

“Nothing.” Zayne sent her a sure smile as he slipped his arm over my shoulders, effectively moving me so I was standing in front of him. “You guys getting popcorn or something?”

“I have a need for Skittles,” Sam replied, eyeing the counter as he rested his hands on the glass countertop. The cashier, a young girl with more freckles than there were stars in the sky, was leaning toward him.

“Skittles?” Stacey wrinkled her nose. “You hate Skittles.”

Zayne curled his hand around my upper arm. “We’re going to go ahead and—”

The man stepped right in front of us and he looked directly at Stacey and Sam. “You shouldn’t be here with them.”

Stacey looked over at him, blinking slowly as Sam pushed away from the counter. A curious expression marked his face. “Excuse me?” she said.

“You shouldn’t be here with them,” the man repeated, voice low and shaky. “They are the devil’s minions.”

There was a pause and Stacey choked out a laugh. “Oh God, you’re one of those freaks that hates Wardens?” She tugged on Sam’s hand. “Hey, you finally get to meet one in person.”

Sam eyed the man. “Not impressed.”

“You don’t understand,” he said. “It’s not because of him as much—”

“Oh, yeah, we aren’t doing this,” Zayne cut in, his grip tightening on my arm. “Let’s go.”

“I’ll get popcorn later.” Stacey wrapped her hand around Sam’s. “And I’ll come back for your Skittles.”

We were walking away. Not fast enough for me, but we were walking away. My heart started to slow down. We’d made it into the hall leading to the closed doors to the theater Then three words stopped us dead in our tracks.

“She’s a demon.”

Air flew out of my lungs.

“She’s a demon,” he repeated with the kind of conviction only zealots could muster. “And I can prove it.”

Stacey faced him, shaking her head. “Are you nuts?”

Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy