Stone Cold Touch (The Dark Elements 2) - Page 48

Listen Audio

Maddox knelt by my legs, which were curled in an awkward way. “Tell me what happened to him and I will tell you about Zayne.”

It was crazy and would only serve to make everything worse for me, but I had no other option. “Tomas...isn’t here.”

His jaw hardened. “He’s dead?”

I swallowed, eyes squeezing shut in concentration. “The all came...he cornered me in an...alley. I tried to tell him...I wasn’t a threat, but he wouldn’t...listen.”

“What happened?” His voice was hard.

My chest rose in a ragged breath. “He stabbed me...and Bambi—the tattoo—attacked him.”

He drew in a sharp breath. “The familiar is not on you now?”

“No.” My eyes opened into thin slits. “Bambi ate him...she was protecting me.”

“Ate him?” The disgust in his voice was like muddied water on my skin. “That’s how he died?”

Feeling a little more stable, I nodded. “What...about Zayne?”

Maddox didn’t answer for a long moment, and I lowered my chin. He met my gaze. “You’ll never see him again.”

My world shattered. I dragged in a breath, but it didn’t go anywhere. “No.”

He didn’t say anything as he rose at the sound of a door opening. Fresh tears swelled in my eyes and fell. Never seeing him again could only mean one thing. I hadn’t just taken part of Zayne’s soul.

I had killed him.

The pain that lanced through me was greater than anything I’d ever felt.


At the sound of Abbot’s voice, I wanted to curl further into myself. “I’m so...sorry. I never wanted happen to him.”

There was silence and I felt him draw closer. Through the haze of tears I realized he wasn’t alone. Almost the entire clan was with him. My eyesight was feeling wonky again, but it seemed as though Nicolai stared at me in horror, pale and shaken.

“Abbot,” Nicolai said, shaking his head as he backed away. “This is wrong.”

He looked over his shoulder at them as Maddox moved to my other side. “You know that this must be done. What we suspected is true. There is no Lilin. There is only Layla.”

I didn’t say anything because it was the truth. There was no Lilin. It had been me. How? I wasn’t quite sure yet, but the evidence pointed to me. Even Roth knew it. The only one who hadn’t known was Zayne, and look at where that got him. My body shook as another sob rocked through me. I needed to pull it together.

“We should have stepped in before she attacked my son,” Abbot continued, turning back to me. “It is a miracle that he lives.”

I stopped breathing.

“We have no concrete evidence,” Nicolai argued while Donn frowned. “Just suspicions. She is—”

“She is not a child,” said Donn, his blue eyes snapping.

I didn’t care about any of this. If Zayne was alive, why was I here? “He’s...okay?”

Abbot turned to me. With his hair loose around his face, he looked so much like Zayne it hurt to see him. “My son lives.”

“And...h-how is he?”

Sympathy crossed Nicolai’s face as he moved forward this time. “He’s himself. And he’s been lo—”

“Enough,” snapped Abbot.

My heart pounded in my chest. Zayne was really okay? I wanted to see him, to see it for myself. “Can I...can I go home now?”

A keen emotion flashed in Abbot’s eyes and then he looked away, shaking his head slightly. “This can no longer continue. Because of me, too much has already happened. Too many lives are now in my hands and some have slipped through.”

“Abbot, I must protest this,” Nicolai argued, and those words spurred an argument I wasn’t even following.

Zayne was alive and by most accounts, he sounded okay. That was all that mattered. Everything would have to work itself out now. He was alive and—

Pain exploded in my stomach, deep and wrenching fiery pain that rose up, captured my breath and caused my body to go rigid. My senses fired in every direction. I didn’t understand what had happened or why Nicolai and Dez were shouting. Or even why Abbot looked horrified as he stared upon me.

“There,” Maddox said, and pulled his arm back. My body moved with him, in a way that wasn’t normal. “It’s done and over. All of it.”

A fire swept through my body as I looked down. Why was there oil on my stomach? No, that wasn’t oil. That was blood. A lot of blood. As Maddox walked away, the sharp end of his dagger was covered in it.

Holy crap.

The bastard had stabbed me!

I tried to pull my arms forward to cover the wound, forgetting they were secured. This was badder than bad. It was an iron blade, deadly to demons. Even though I was only part demon, this wasn’t...

I opened my mouth and all I could taste was blood. “Why?” The question leaked out, and I wasn’t even sure why I’d asked. I knew the answer. Maddox had only done what he was supposed to do—what Roth had also been ordered to do: stop whatever was taking the souls of innocent people, thereby ensuring that the Alphas wouldn’t intervene. But the question came again. “Wh-why?”

Then chaos reigned.

A window shattered and there was Roth standing just inside the room, the silvery rays of moonlight at his back forming an aura of their own. He let out a howl of rage.

And then another.

The wall of the warehouse shuttered and a second window blew. Shards of glass splintered in every direction. And then Roth wasn’t alone. Cayman landed in a crouch, looking surprisingly human with the exception of his eyes. They glowed like topaz jewels and the pupils were stretched vertically.

And Dez stood beside Cayman. What was he doing with them?

The Wardens immediately shifted, shedding their human facades as their wings unfurled and the skin turned a deep granite.

Abbot snarled as he whirled on Dez. “What have you done?”

“I couldn’t let this happen,” he said, shifting in turn. Horns jutted out from his auburn waves. “This is wrong.”

Maddox gripped the knife. “You’re too late.”

I glanced down to where wet warmth was rapidly spreading. Aw, Hell, this was so, so crappy.

“I’m going to enjoy killing all of you.” A blast of hot wind shot from Roth and blew through the warehouse, pinning Abbot against the wall.

Several of the Wardens moved in, protecting their clan leader. Using the distraction, I summoned every ounce of energy I had in me and forced the muscles in my legs to work. I pushed to my feet.

Donn grabbed for me, but I dipped under his arm, ignoring the pain that lanced through my stomach and zapped between my temples. Taking a deep breath that hurt, I prepared for what would most likely turn out to be an ass-whipping of epic proportions, but everything had seemed to freeze. Even Abbot appeared rooted to the spot he stood in.

Roth stood in his true form now, legs spread wide and shoulders back. I’d forgotten how he looked when he shifted. Fierce. Scary as Hell. His skin was shiny like obsidian and his wings reached farther than any Warden’s, arcing gracefully in the air. His smooth head was thrust back, fingers lengthened into claws.

Again, I was struck by the similarities between demons and Wardens. The only difference was their coloring and the lack of horns on a demon’s head.

Roth smiled in a way I’d never seen him smile. Malice and righteous anger rolled off him in waves. An avenging angel came to mind, one that was ready to do some major ass kicking.

He took a step forward, his eyes starting to glow orange. “Get ready, I’m about to rain down some brimstone and fire on your asses.”

And he did.

A smell of sulfur poured into the warehouse, and then the balls of orange light surrounding Roth’s hands shot up, slamming into the Warden closest to him. The Warden went up in flames, screaming as he tried to stop the fire. Within seconds, it engulfed him. He staggered back against the warehouse. The fire spread.

Cayman intercepted two Wardens as Roth shot forward, slamming his fist straight through the chest of another Warden, pulling out what looked a lot like a heart. Cringing, I saw him toss the organ and whirl on the next, catching a Warden with a brutal jab to the throat.

Roth was a badass, a...scary badass.

A fierce wind kicked up, spreading the flames as a loud crack shook the warehouse. The roof groaned and shuddered, then peeled off as if someone had opened a can of sardines. Clumps of charred rock mowed down two of the Wardens, taking them out of the game.

Good God, was this all Roth?

Roth was cutting a clear path toward me. Intent on that, he didn’t see the Warden coming up behind him. I shot forward, my legs shaking. “Roth!”

He turned as Donn spun toward me. He threw out his arm, catching me around the neck before he tossed me back several feet. I hit the floor with a grunt and lifted my head. The fire was climbing the walls inches from my face. I jerked back, pushing against the floor with my bare feet.

Hands suddenly gripped my shoulders, hauling me to my feet. “I got you,” Dez said. As he turned me around, I saw Donn lying facedown. Dez snapped the chains, releasing the collar around my neck and wrists.

A Warden let out an ear-piercing scream as I met Dez’s gaze. “Th-thank you.”

He nodded. “You cannot go back to the compound. Do you understand?”

I thought that was pretty evident. “You’ll b-be in so much trouble. Jasmine and the twins—”

“Don’t worry about us.” Dez’s eyes narrowed and he launched into the air, landing beside Nicolai. Together they forced the other Wardens back.

Roth was heading straight for me, but there was one Warden between us.

Abbot dropped down in a crouch, and Roth shot up, his wings spreading out. I didn’t know what provoked me, what pushed me forward, but the last bit of energy burst through me.

I threw myself in front of Abbot, coming between him and Roth. Chest heaving and face covered in ash, I raised a shaking hand. “No.”

Roth landed no more than a few inches in front of me, the edge of his razor-sharp wing narrowly missing me.

Air stirred behind me. Abbot was rising, his expression mirroring that of Roth. My eyes met his for an instant, and even surrounded in heat and fire, my insides went cold. I knew why I had intervened, most likely saving Abbot’s life. In his rage, Roth would’ve taken him out, but Abbot had raised me and that...that meant something to me.

Even if it meant nothing to Abbot.

Ignoring the pain in my chest, I staggered back a step, colliding with Roth. His arm circled my waist, steadying me.

“You’ve been touched by the hand of God,” Roth spat at Abbot as his arm tightened around me. “It won’t happen again.”

Powerful muscles in his legs pushed us both into the air. We flew up high, so high that when my gaze dipped down, nothing remained of the warehouse but a shower of sparks and flame.


Things really stopped tracking once we were in the air, leaving the warehouse behind. I was flickering in and out like a bad lightbulb.

Roth landed at some point on a rooftop, quickly followed by Cayman.

“We can’t go to the Palisades,” the infernal ruler said. Over his shoulders, the city twinkled like a thousand stars. “They obviously know where you live.”

“Yeah, I’m going to have to agree with that.” Amber eyes locked on to mine like a lifeline. “I need you to hang in there for me. Okay, shortie? I’m going to get you fixed up.”

“I see...souls again,” I announced, because for some reason it seemed important to point that out.

Roth’s smile was weak and all wrong. “You do? That’s real good to hear, baby. Real good. We’re going to get you comfortable in a few. Just hold on.”

I was vaguely aware of wind rushing over me once more. This time it didn’t feel like seconds to get wherever we were going. It was an eternity and then two more years before we landed and then were inside a toasty warm home. I wanted to ask where we were, but my tongue was lazy.

Roth’s heart was pounding as he strode across a dimly lit room and then he laid me down on a bed that smelled of lilacs. As soon as he straightened, a shadow moved off his arm and onto the bed, dots forming together.

Bambi slithered up the bed until she reached my hip. She raised her head, resting it on my thigh. Something tender pulled at my heart when her forked tongue whizzed out, her way of saying hello.

“Open your eyes, Layla.”

I thought they had been. I blinked them open.

“How are you feeling?” Roth asked, smoothing a hand over my damp forehead.

I took stock of how I felt. “I don’t...hurt so much.”

His features tensed as if he’d been delivered a blow. “That’s good.” Pulling back, he looked over his shoulder. “Cayman?”

The other demon stepped forward, easing my arms to my sides. The humor that usually danced in his eyes was absent. “Bloodroot,” he said, running his fingers over my hands. “It’s still in her system and it’s why she’s stuck. She won’t be able to shift either way until it’s completely out.”

How had he known?

Cayman must’ve read the question in my stare. “I’ve been around a long time, sugar, and I’ve seen just about everything.”

I was going to have to take his word for it.

Roth’s fingers brushed over my cheekbones. “These are claw marks. Cayman, these are claw marks.”

“I know, bud, but not the most important thing going on right now.” He peeled the hem of my shirt up. “This...this is problematic.”

Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy