Every Last Breath (The Dark Elements 3) - Page 32

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Before I changed forms, I tried what Roth had done with the kittens. I skimmed my fingers over the area Bambi rested on and low and behold, she came right off my skin. Neat.

Bambi made her way to Roth first, nudging his thigh with her nose. He reached down, patting her head. Appeased by that, she slithered over to the low-backed chair near the piano. Curling up, she rested her head on the arm and appeared to stare out the window.

Shifting wasn’t hard anymore. I really didn’t even have to concentrate or even stand up. I wanted it to happen and it did. My back tingled and then my wings started coming out, the left wing aching, and when I glanced back at it, it drooped slightly, like baby Izzy’s wings did.

“I think it’s broken,” I told him.

Roth walked over to the bed and sat down, twisting toward me. He checked out the wing. “Does it hurt?”

“It aches,” I admitted. “Not too bad.”

His gaze moved to my face and then back to my wing. “It could’ve been broken, but it looks like it’s already healing.” His fingers brushed along the edge of the feathers, not near the aching part. While his touch was gentle, it still sent a shudder through me. He immediately pulled his hand back. “Did I hurt you?”

“No. They’re just supersensitive.”

He arched a brow as he opened his mouth and then closed it. I grinned and said, “I think your mind just went into the gutter.”

“Shortie, my mind exists there.” He winked at my laugh, and then studied my wing for a few more moments. “I think if you can give it a rest for a couple hours, a day tops, you’ll be completely fine.”

I glanced back at the sad, gimpy wing. “Do you think the feathers will fall off?”


My cheeks burned. “Maybe I’m going through some kind of metamorphosis and I’m going to shed these feathers.”

He looked like he wanted to laugh, but wisely kissed my bare shoulder instead. Standing from the bed, he walked over to where he’d left his water. “You really hate those things, don’t you?”

“I don’t hate them. Not exactly.” I moved my right wing closer to me and gingerly ran my fingers over the feathers. “I just don’t understand them. So some Upper Level demons have them. I get them, but I’m not an Upper Level demon.”

Roth took a drink, and then placed the bottle down. “You know you feel like an Upper Level demon now, to other Wardens and demons, which could be because you’re maturing. Maybe the feathers are another sign of that maturity. You’re not like the rest of us—or any demon really. You’re a blend, and that makes your growth patterns tough to predict.” He shrugged a shoulder. “That’s the best guess I can come up with, anyway, but I’m a little out of my element here. Most of us were created almost fully formed and the growth that takes others decades to achieve, we finish in a day.”

“Aren’t you just special,” I muttered under my breath.

He grinned. “The feathers and the way you look now when you shift? Yeah, I don’t understand that myself. I get that my response isn’t helpful, but you’re the first who carries both Warden and demon blood—and not just any demon’s blood, but Lilith’s. This could just be a stage of you finally coming into who you truly are.”

At that moment I remembered I hadn’t told him about the other demon in the coffee shop. “When I went to talk to Zayne about...well, you know what, there was an Upper Level demon who came into the shop after he left. You know how demons don’t normally sense me, right? This one did.”

“Upper Level demons are different, Shortie. Some of them probably could sense what you are.”


I lifted my gaze to his. “But this demon...it ran from me, Roth.”

Both brows lifted.

“It legit ran from me and it looked scared,” I continued, unsettled by the memory. “I’ve never known an Upper Level demon to run from anything, not even the Wardens.”

“They don’t.” His features tensed. “The only thing an Upper Level would run from would be the Boss, me, or...”

My heart turned over heavily. “Or what?”

Roth’s frown did nothing to deter from his beauty, but it made my stomach drop nonetheless. “They’d run from one of the originals.”


He leaned against the wall, eyeing me with lowered lashes. “The originals, Shortie, the ones that are like the Boss. The ones that fell.”

“That fell...?” I whispered to myself, and then it hit me. “You mean, the angels that fell when they were first sent here to help mankind?” When he nodded, my eyes widened. “They have black raven wings?”

His lips did that twitching thing again. “Yeah. So does the Boss.”

Pressure settled on my shoulders. “But that...”

“That doesn’t make sense, I know. That’s why I didn’t bring it up. You’re not one of the original ones to fall. Obviously,” he said, dragging the palm of his hand over his chest. “That’s why I think it’s some kind of stage. You just started shifting, Shortie. You don’t know all that you’re fully capable of.”

I sighed. If this truly was just a phase, then what would be next? Horns along my spine, like some kind of dinosaur. Or maybe scales like Thumper’s. “So why do you think the demon ran?”

“You smell like me.”

“Uh... Come again?”

The crooked grin reappeared. “My scent is all over you. Other demons would be able to pick it up.”

I resisted the urge to smell myself.

“It’s unique to demons,” he explained. “Our scents, that is. Sort of like a fingerprint. Most demons with a working brain cell would pick up on my scent and head in the opposite direction.”

I was still trying not to smell myself when I remembered that Zayne had once said he could smell Roth on me. Suddenly, what I always smelled around him made sense. “You smell like something sweet and...musky.”

The grin faded and a long moment passed as he eyed me intensely. “You smell like sunlight.”

My breath halted in my throat. I had no idea what sunlight smelled like, but I imagined it was something good and I also thought that was sweet of him to say.

Unexpectedly self-conscious, I reached over, toying with the edge of my right wing. “I feel like a...peacock.”

“Back to birds again, I see.” His expression softened. “Many believe peacocks are beautiful.”

“How about a cockatoo?”

Roth’s eyes lightened. “I’m sure there are some that find them beautiful, also.”

“A pigeon?”

He chuckled. “Layla, nothing about you reminds me of a pigeon.”

“That’s good to know.”

There was a pause. “Have you really looked at yourself since this...this change, while you’re shifted? Except the first time?”

Lowering my gaze, I shook my head.

“You should do that sometime soon. Maybe you’ll see what I see. Maybe you’ll see what everyone else sees,” he said quietly. “Because you’re beautiful, Layla, and while I may say that one word to you a lot, I don’t simply toss it around. And I’ve seen many, many beautiful things. People as beautiful as demons are atrocious. You, by far, shine brighter than any of them. It’s more than what is on the outside. It comes from within you. I’ve seen a lot of things and nothing, nothing comes close to you.”

Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy
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