Every Last Breath (The Dark Elements 3) - Page 28

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His hand flattened along my stomach, just above my navel as he lifted his chin. Bambi moved on my skin, stretching out and shifting closer to him. “You get what?” he asked quietly.

“Why the Alphas demand that the humans don’t know the truth,” I explained, resting my head back against his chest. “I used to think that it was so stupid. How did knowing the truth really hurt anything? They’d know there really was a Heaven and Hell and everything in between. Maybe people would act right then.”

“Maybe,” he murmured, his arm tightening as he shifted us slightly.

“But that’s the thing. People probably would act right, but only because they wouldn’t live, not in the moment.” The wind picked up, and I smiled a little when I realized that Roth had moved to block it. “They would be petrified. That’s why they can’t know. Or at least part of the reason.”

“Makes sense, I guess. It’s hard for me to understand, being that I came into creation knowing, well, everything.” He chuckled when I rolled my eyes even though there was no way he could’ve seen that. “So, what? You want to protect them now?”

I frowned slightly as I stared down at the city. “I’ve always wanted to protect them.”

His chest rose against my back. “You’re more than that, Layla. Don’t you want a life outside of tagging demons?”

“I don’t know about that anymore. You know that.” I twisted around and tilted my head back, facing him. He was staring down, his head cocked in the way he did whenever he was trying to understand some kind of human emotion he just couldn’t grasp. “And I do want more.”

“Like what?” he challenged. “What do you want to do when this is over?”

When what was over? The fight with the Lilin? Reclaiming Sam’s soul? The war between the Wardens and demons? I had no idea if or when any of this would be over, but I had to hang on to hope that it would be. That both of us would still be standing, as would all those I cherished. I couldn’t allow myself to even briefly consider the idea that there wouldn’t be an after.

“I think... I think I’d like to go to college,” I told him. “Well, that means I have to finish high school first. That makes sense.”

His lips twitched. “That’s your big plan?”

I thought back to all those applications I had lining my old bedroom floor back at the compound and I nodded. “Yeah, and I... I want to travel first. I want to see places outside of this city.”

“Like where?” he asked, raising his hand and tracing the line of my jaw with his fingers. “I’m still banking on Hawaii.”

I grinned. “That would be nice. So, yeah, put that on the list.”

“Need other places to make a list, Shortie.”

“Okay. I want to see New York City—Dez says it’s amazing. And Miami. I want to walk on a beach.” Getting into it, I started ticking off places. “I want to stroll the French Quarter in New Orleans, and I want to visit Galveston—”

“Galveston...Texas? Why?”

“Read a book once that took place there. It doesn’t matter. I want to see Dallas, like real cowboys and stuff.”

He laughed as he tucked a strand of my hair back. “Real cowboys are kind of hard to find.”

“We’ll find them. I’m positive. And then I want to see the Hollywood sign and maybe even Portland. It rains there a lot, right? Not sure I’d want to stay there long, but I think I’d actually like to see Mount Rushmore— Oh, and Canada. I can keep going,” I said. “But I think that’s a good start.”

His eyes had that hooded quality that brought a flush to my cheeks. “That’s a great list.”

“What about you?” I asked. “What do you want to do when this is all over?”

“For real?” When I nodded, he lowered his head, dropping a quick kiss on the tip of my nose. “I can’t believe you even have to ask that. I plan to be wherever you are.”

My lips immediately curved into one of those big, funny-looking smiles as my heart swelled in my chest like an old-school cartoon character’s. I was waiting for my eyes to turn into exaggerated hearts that popped out. “That is...that is the perfect answer.”

“That’s because I am perfect.”

“Well, that wasn’t the perfect answer,” I said drily.

Cayman’s warning cut off Roth’s answering laugh. “They’re coming.”

We turned to where he gestured. Off in the distance, they looked like great birds parting the clouds. My stomach dropped as they dipped low, coming in for a landing. Zayne was definitely there; he was in the middle of the bunch, and even in his true form, I knew that it was him.

Three other Wardens were with him, and as they neared the rooftop, I recognized them as Nicolai and Dez. A bit of the unease, not all of it, lessened. Dez was from the New York clan and he’d first visited DC with his mate, Jasmine. While he’d been unsure of me at first, he’d quickly seemed to like me. I suppose it was because we were both outsiders, in our way. Nicolai had always had a soft spot for me, and I for him. He wasn’t that much older than Zayne when he’d lost his mate and child. Nicolai rarely smiled, but when he did, he could take your breath away.

The fourth member of their crew shocked me.

It had to be Danika.

“Interesting,” Roth said, unfolding his arm from around me. He didn’t move away, though.

Interesting didn’t really sum it up. Wardens didn’t allow their females out much, preferring to keep them in gilded cages. It was one of the many things I’d hated about our kind. Granted, I understood that the Warden population was dwindling and females were prime targets for Upper Level demons, but still, the idea of being kept sequestered made me want to punch something.

Just like I knew it drove Danika nuts.

Danika was a lot wilder and crazier than her older sister, Jasmine, and I’d spent the better part of my formative years hating on her for no other reason than the fact that she liked Zayne and would be able to monopolize all his time with a flick of her glossy black hair.

Cayman and Edward didn’t move from their perches with the exception of facing the direction the Wardens were coming from. The crew of four landed on the rooftop, their impact cracking like thunder. Then Cayman glanced at Roth, who nodded. Both Cayman and Edward disappeared, as if they were never there, but I could still feel them. They were nearby, monitoring the situation, and if I could feel them, so could the Wardens.

Zayne strode forward, his chin bent low and his wings tucked back. My stomach flopped unsteadily as my gaze swerved to Nicolai and then to Danika. They were blocking her, keeping her behind them.

Something she clearly wasn’t too thrilled about.

Charging forward, she brushed past Zayne, who cast his gaze to the sky, a muscle throbbing along his jaw. She shifted into human form as she headed straight for where Roth and I stood, her gray skin giving way to flawless alabaster. Dez muttered something under his breath while Nicolai followed after her, a look of concern pulling at the corners of his lips.

Without looking back at the males, she threw her hand up in their direction and all she said was, “Don’t even try to stop me.”


Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy
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