Every Last Breath (The Dark Elements 3) - Page 63

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“Is there literally nothing that can be done?” Zayne asked, his hands resting on the back of my seat. “Or is it just that the seer doesn’t know what it will take?”

“I don’t think there is a way,” I replied, flicking my gaze back to Zayne. He didn’t look just angry or confused, but more like a combination of the two. “It makes sense in a way, the fact that it’s connected to me and both of us are connected to Lilith. Our blood created the Lilin.”

“Maybe it makes sense to you,” Stacey said, pulling one leg up and tucking it against her chest. “None of any of this crap really makes sense to me, but whatever. What are we going to do now? If we can’t kill the Lilin...”

“If we don’t kill the Lilin, we lose Sam. We lose all those souls that the Lilin has taken,” I reminded her.

Her face contorted as she looked away, staring out the window as the lawns and homes gave way to walls. “I haven’t forgotten that. I just...”

Zayne leaned back in his seat, rubbing his hands down his face. “There’s got to be something. There’s so many damn books in my...my father’s study. I’ll check them when I get back. I’ll get Dez on it, too.” Lowering his hands, he sighed heavily. “We’re not giving up.”

The fact that Zayne still cared enough about me to want to help eased a little of the burden I carried with me from hurting him so terribly. Then again, I shouldn’t be all that surprised. There was probably a part of him that hated me, understandably so, but under it all, he was a good guy—a great guy.

“Did you hear me?” Zayne asked, drawing my gaze back to him. “We’re not giving up.”

“I know, but...but we’re running out of time for Sam. And how much longer are the Alphas going to allow this violence to continue?” I was asking damn good questions. Ones that neither Zayne nor Roth could answer. “The Lilin took out an entire congregation of God’s Children. And yeah, I’m sure they weren’t on the big guy’s favorite list, but it’s only a matter of time before the Lilin does something that can no longer be overlooked. It almost exposed all of us when it woke those gargoyles. How much time do we really have to figure out a way around this?”

“What are you saying?” Roth, finally speaking, barked out the question.

Startled, I looked at him. His eyes were trained on the road. “I don’t know. Just that we...we don’t have any time.”

Roth lapsed back into silence, and then we were pulling up in front of the high school. Seeing it, after what felt like forever, triggered a mixed response inside me. Part nostalgia and part keen disappointment—I wasn’t able to forget how much I’d looked forward to getting up every morning and going to school. Within those walls, I used to be able to pretend that I was normal. Looking back now, I saw how foolish that was, that childish urge to hide from what I was.

It wasn’t something I could do anymore.

Stacey grabbed her backpack off the floor of the Mustang and climbed out. I followed, so that I could give her a quick hug. We couldn’t linger, though. If any of the school officials saw me outside, that would raise a slew of unwanted questions we didn’t have time for.

“You okay?” I asked when I pulled back from the hug.

Nodding, she brushed her overly long bangs out of her eyes. “Yes. No.” She hitched up the strap of the bag farther up her shoulder. “Why are you even asking if I’m okay? You’re the one who’s virtually a Siamese twin with a psychotic demon. Don’t worry about me right now.”

“It’s kind of hard not to.”

“Or is it just easier to worry about me instead of yourself?”

I opened my mouth, but what could I say to that? It was boldly on point. Glancing at the thick clouds, I sighed. “I don’t know what to think right now. I...” I trailed off, shaking my head.

Stacey reached out, grasping the sleeve of my sweater and tugging gently. “You know you’re the sister I never really asked for, right?”

I grinned. “Yeah.”

“And I love you, no matter what. You know that also. And you know how much it...it killed me to lose Sam.” Tears filled her eyes, but her gaze was steady. “I can’t lose you, too.”

Her statement unnerved me. “Why do you think that’s going to happen?”

“Because I know you,” she replied, her voice hoarse. “Promise me you’re not going to do anything stupid.”

“Me?” I forced a laugh that sounded like dry bones rattling. “Not do something stupid?”

The joke did nothing to ease her mind. “You know what I mean. Promise me, Layla. I want to hear you promise me.”

“I promise,” I whispered.

As I parted ways with Stacey, I knew that my promise had done very little to reassure her. Truth was, the promise was one I never should’ve made. Because I had a lot of stupid left in me, and I knew what I had to do.

twenty-six

ROTH AND I helped Zayne and Dez skim through the ancient tomes that filled the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in Abbot’s study well into the evening. We were even joined by Danika and Nicolai once night fell. As we went from one dusty page to the next, I could hear the high-pitched giggles from Izzy and the shrill cries from Drake on and off all evening—clearly Jasmine was having a tough time wearing them out enough to get them to bed. By the time we called it a night, I hadn’t actually seen the twins and we hadn’t found anything of use.

Except I did come across a small creature called a Pukwudgie in one of the tomes, a tiny troll-like creature I’d heard about only once before, when Dez had brought Jasmine to our compound all those years ago. She’d been bitten by one and had been very ill as a result.

I still sort of wanted to see one with my own eyes.

Snow was falling by the time Roth and I left. We headed to the Palisades since it was closer than the McMansion, parking in the garage and bypassing the club down below. As soon as I walked into the loft, he called off the kittens. I watched them scatter about the room. One headed to the piano while the other two darted under the bed.

“Want me to get some food?” he asked, dropping his keys atop the bookshelf.

I wasn’t really hungry, but I knew Roth hadn’t eaten all day. “Sure.”

“I’ll go grab us some stuff,” he said, instead of summoning Cayman like he normally would. “Anything in particular you want?”

Pressing my lips together, I shook my head and watched Roth start toward the door, stop as if he wanted to say something and then leave. Unease churned in my stomach. Asking about food was the most he’d said since we left the seer’s house. Suspicion blossomed. What was he up to?

What was I up to?

Restless, I looked around the room, and then called for Robin. He peeled off my arm, a fox-shaped shadow until he hit the floor. There, his reddish-orange fur was twitching as he looked back at me, head cocked to the side.

He knew.

Of course he did.

Chirping, he pranced over to the open closet door, to the clothing he’d dragged off hangers and had fashioned a bed out of. I watched him curl his bushy tail close to his body, and then I walked to the roof entrance.

Cold air greeted me as I opened the door and climbed the narrow staircase. A fine layer of snow coated the empty pots and the canopy above the chaise rolled silently. All the trees were bare, but not dead. Life would be renewed in the spring, if mankind made it to the spring.


Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy
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