Stone Cold Touch (The Dark Elements 2) - Page 9

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“I don’t want to know.” Roth thrust his fingers through his hair in a quick, jerky manner. “This is why we needed to talk. I’m back. I’m going to be around because of the Lilin, but that’s the only reason I’m here. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

A part of my brain totally got what he was saying, but my heart was another story. His words didn’t make sense to the stupid muscle. Things didn’t add up. “No. I don’t.”

His lashes lowered as he muttered a curse. “Look, when I was topside before, with you? It was...” He gave a little shake of his head and then seemed to force out the rest. “It was fun, shortie.”

“Fun?” I repeated dumbly.

He nodded stiffly. “And that was all. It was just fun while it was happening.”

I jerked back as if I’d been slapped in the face. “It wasn’t just fun to me.”

“Of course it wasn’t.” Roth turned away, appearing to inspect a tree trunk as though it held the answers to life. “You had no experience in any of that. You’d never even kissed anyone before. It was only natural for you to catch feelings.”

A lick of pain lit up my chest. “But not natural for you?”

“No. Not at all. For several reasons. Many of them boring, but logical. I’m the Crown Prince of Hell, not like your Stony.”

“You’re not just the next Crown Prince! You’re more than that. So let’s not start that crap again.” Roth had never seen himself as anything but another prince out of the hundreds of princes that had come before him. He was even a little insecure about it, and I wanted to be more careful with those feelings, but I was losing control, anger and hurt giving way to a level of needy desperation that was embarrassing. I held out the ring. “This proves it was more than just fun to you. You fixed the necklace and you left it there for me to find.”

“And that proves something?” he queried softly.

“Yes!” The cool metal bit into my palm. “Why would you do that if you didn’t care?”

His shoulders stiffened. “I didn’t say I didn’t care, shortie.”

“Then what the Hell are you saying?”

“I’m saying that what we did isn’t going to happen again. That’s what I’m saying.”

I sucked in a breath, but it got stuck. “But the necklace—”

He twisted around so quickly I stumbled back. There was something dark about his face, the way his skin thinned over his bones. “Does it matter why, Layla? It’s just a stupid necklace.”

“That’s bullshit! You knew how much this necklace meant to me.” It was the only thing that linked me to my mother—to who I really was, and he knew that.

“It doesn’t matter.” He stalked forward, and I had to force myself not to move away. His pupils started to dilate. “I’m not interested in rekindling a pointless infatuation. Does that break it down enough for you? Do you understand now? I’m a demon, Layla. A full-blooded one who isn’t ashamed of what my kind does. And you are only half demon. You want to be like your precious Wardens and Stony. Being in my presence should fill you with disgust. Why would you want to be standing here, let alone be with me?”

The pain spread from my chest, settling in my bones. “So this has been, what—a game to you? I don’t believe that!” I held my ground, hand shaking around the ring. “You want me to believe that you’re nothing more than a demon, but the way you kissed me, what you said to me before you were taken in that trap, proves otherwise.”

“You’re so naive. A kiss? A few sentimental words uttered before I thought I’d spend eternity being tortured? You can’t judge me for a couple of momentary lapses, Layla. It’s who I am that matters.” He was an inch from me, his hands curling into fists at his sides. “I am the Crown Prince, whether you want to hear it or not.”

“That means nothing,” I cried, squeezing the ring—the proof that there was something in him. Evidence he had a conscience...and a heart. “You’re lying and there has to be a reason.”

He turned his head, dragging both his hands through his hair this time. “You know what I am. I told you. I covet pretty things. I like to take things that aren’t mine to have.” Then he looked at me and smiled. The chill of it sent shivers dancing over my skin. “You really thought I cared for you, didn’t you? I wanted you, Layla. You eased my boredom. That’s all.”

I staggered back, wanting to stop his words from meaning anything to me, from hurting, but there was no stopping it. In an instant, I realized I should’ve known better. This whole time, I should’ve known better. After all, he was right. I had no experience with these things—with guys and relationships. If I...if I had meant something to him, he would’ve come to me before tonight: because if it was the other way around, his would’ve been the first place I went.

And that was just sad.

“I really don’t know what I was thinking. I usually don’t go for virgins. They are so very messy. Someone like your classmate Eva is far more entertaining and skilled in that department. Is she still around?” He sighed, shrugging casually, but a muscle ticked along his jaw. “Like I said, I should’ve realized you’d catch feelings, shortie. My bad.”

I felt the blood drain from my face. His endearment seemed unnecessarily cruel, paired with what he was saying. “Don’t call me that.”

“Whatever you say.” Roth spun away. The line of his spine was unnaturally stiff. “Bambi will remain with you.”

I blinked back the tears, refusing to let them fall. “I don’t—”

“I don’t care if that’s not what you want. She stays with you.”

I stared at his back, feeling choked from the inside out. “You’re a bastard.”

He glanced over his shoulder at me, expression stark in the moonlight. “Goodbye, Layla.”

And then he was gone.

CHAPTER SEVEN

I didn’t remember much of the short walk back to the house. There was an ache in my chest that rivaled what I’d felt when I’d seen Roth in the devil’s trap. It was cold and hot at the same time, burning and icing over my insides. A knot had formed in the back of my throat and the dampness behind my eyes increased with every step.

What Roth had said did more than just sting, and the horrible weight of the pressure settling between my br**sts warned that something might have been broken in there, even if I hadn’t acknowledged how deep my feelings for him had run.

I usually don’t go for virgins.

God, had I been that foolish, that wrong about him? My cheeks felt scalded as his words replayed themselves. Each one had been barb-tipped, spoken with the intent to maim, and they had. My hands trembled as I folded my arms across my chest, ignoring the pain of my stitches pulling. But that hug...the way he’d held me close? It had meant nothing to him? I couldn’t easily accept that. Or the fact that those tortured words he’d cast at me before the trap had taken him—words I’d held on to—had been spoken so carelessly. But maybe I was just that naive. Catch feelings? He’d been right. I’d caught them and I had hugged them close. And now look.

Under the pain, a different kind of anguish formed in the back of my throat—a scorching thirst took root. I could feel it in every cell, even in the ends of my teeth. The need to feed rose swiftly and without hesitation. My emotions were all over the place, fueling the illicit desire.

I wiped at my cheeks angrily as I reached the driveway. Wardens were milling around the entrance, in their true forms with their wings tucked close to their backs, but none paid me any attention as I hurried past them. I couldn’t see their souls, but I could taste their pureness on the tip of my tongue. For a moment, I let myself imagine what it would be like to feel that warmth slipping down my throat, easing the coldness and ache Roth had left behind. It wouldn’t be hard either. They didn’t trust me, but they didn’t expect me to outright attack one of them. And once I had a hold of a soul, there would be no stopping—

I cut the thought off, horrified to find that I’d stopped walking. I was just standing there, staring at Zayne’s bowed, golden head, and my mouth was watering. The voracious need to follow through with the fantasy caused my stomach to cramp.

Elbows propped on his knees, he lifted his chin, and in a second, he was standing, hands open at his sides. “Layla?”

“I’m tired.” My voice didn’t sound right to me. It was too strained, too tight. I couldn’t be near him, near anyone right now. “I’m going...going to bed.”

The brilliance to his skin tone faded as he turned. He followed me through the door, closing it quietly behind us. The overhead foyer light was off and the small wall sconces cast a soft glow across the floor. Jasmine’s voice floated out from the sitting room, and I picked up my pace. Each step up the staircase sucked the energy right out of me. By the time I reached the landing on the second floor, I wanted to turn and latch myself to Zayne in the worst possible way.

Zayne edged around me, blocking the bedroom door. “Talk to me.”

Slowly, I lifted my gaze, and I didn’t know what he saw in my expression, but he reached out a hand. I stepped back, avoiding his touch, too close to breaking down and doing something I could never forgive myself for. Heart pounding, I shook my head. “I don’t want to talk.”

He cocked his head to the side. “You’re not okay.”

I held my breath.

His jaw locked down. “He hurt you?”

“No,” I forced out, exhaling through my nose.

“I don’t mean physically. He’s hurt—”

“I can’t do this right now. Please,” I whispered, and his eyes widened in understanding. “I need to be alone.”

Zayne’s nostrils flared as he stepped aside. His chest rose sharply. “Do you need anything?”

My stomach was sick from how fast my pulse was pounding. “Orange juice?”

He nodded and quickly slipped down the hall. I went into my bedroom, leaving the light off. Not that I needed it. I spent so much time in here that I could navigate it blind. I walked to the large windows, wishing I could open them to let the cool night air in, but they’d been nailed shut during my “grounded for life” phase. I guess Abbot thought I’d sprout wings and fly off to rendezvous with my demon horde.

Squeezing my eyes shut, I realized that was what I wanted to do. Not the hanging out with a demon horde part, but Hell yeah to the flying-off part. I’d almost shifted earlier tonight. Maybe I could do it again. A rush of tingles spread across my flesh. The skin along my back tightened. I opened my eyes, letting out a slow, low breath. I could almost feel the night air caressing my skin. I wondered how high I could go and if it would feel as good as taking a soul did.

Abbot would freak if I left the compound tonight, and it wouldn’t be safe for me to do so. Not because there was any danger posed to me, but because of the danger I posed to other people right now—innocent people.

Zayne’s presence filled the room. I turned and for the first time since I’d lost the ability to see auras, I was glad I couldn’t see his right now. He placed a large glass of OJ on my desk, between the notebooks and printer paper. He glanced over at me, concern etched into his handsome face. “If you need anything, call or text me.”

I nodded.

“Promise me.” He didn’t come closer, but his stare never left mine.

“I promise,” I swore, swallowing the even bigger lump in my throat. Sometimes—no, all the times—I didn’t think I deserved him. “Thank you.”

His lashes fluttered shut briefly. “Don’t thank me, Layla-bug. Not for this.” His eyes were a deep shade of blue as they locked on to mine again. “You know...you know I’d do anything for you.”

Tears raced to my eyes as I nodded blindly. His lips curved up at the corners, into a tiny smile, and then he left the room. I headed straight for the OJ, downing the contents as I held the cool glass. The acidic burn eased the cravings and when I set the glass down, movement out of the corners of my eyes snagged my attention. I turned, wiping my damp hands along the thighs of my denim skirt.

The white curtains billowed out from the closed window, trailing softly in the empty air.

My brows rose.

There was no wind in the room. The central air hadn’t kicked on. I’d have heard that mammoth beast cranking up, and besides, it was too cold outside for air-conditioning.

As I started toward the window, the curtains drifted back down, settling slowly against the wall. Okay. That was strange. An odd chill raced down my spine. All right. It was actually kind of creepy, but Bambi stirred to life, distracting me as she wound her way up my left leg. Her movement was still a painful reminder, but it served a different purpose now.

You eased my boredom.

I sucked in a sharp breath as the blow hit me below the knees. Turning away from the window, I unzipped my hoodie and carefully slid it off. I let it drop to the floor. Glancing down at my arm, I winced when I saw the dark splotch on the white bandage. What a terrible night.

Biting my lip, I stripped off my clothes and changed into a pair of sleep shorts. Before I could pull on a long-sleeve shirt, Bambi drifted off my skin. In the darkness, she was nothing more than a shadow as she pieced herself together. Instead of leaving to hunt or running back to Roth like a forgotten pet, she slithered up to the dollhouse Abbot had built for me when I was a child.

I’d gone all badass on the poor thing while I’d been grounded and Roth had disappeared. About a week ago, it had reappeared in my bedroom, the roof and sides reassembled. I assumed it had been Zayne, and I didn’t know why he did it or why I’d been relieved to see it. Obviously, I had problems with letting go of things.



Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy
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