Every Last Breath (The Dark Elements 3) - Page 8

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“That’s kind of concerning,” he replied wryly.

My lips twitched, and when I looked up, our gazes met, and then held. He leaned in, placing his elbows onto the table. “Layla, I—”

A shadow fell over our table, and when I looked up, I saw Stacey’s aura first. It was a faint, mossy green. A common color. Pure souls were rare, and the darker the shade of the aura, the more likely it was they had sinned. Stacey’s blotchy face broke my heart. I slid over, sending Zayne a glance. The look he wore promised that we weren’t done with the conversation.

“How are you doing?” I asked, knowing it was a stupid question.

“I’m okay.” She didn’t sound okay. “I just needed a moment or five.” It was more like ten, but she could have as many moments as she needed. She paused, smoothing the back of her hands over her cheeks. “I’m okay, right?”

My smile was weak as tears burned the back of my eyes. “Yes.” I reached over, slipping my arm over her shoulders. “But if you’re not, that’s okay, too.”

A tremor coursed through her as she leaned in, resting her head on my shoulder. Usually it was hard if someone got this close, but again, the urge that existed deep within wasn’t gnawing at my insides. “He’s dead,” she whispered.

I squeezed my eyes shut and forced myself to take deep, even breaths to loosen the messy knot in my throat. All I wanted to do was hold on to Stacey and break down, because Sam... God, Sam was gone, and it was like a thousand razor blades were churning in my stomach, but I had to pull it together for Stacey. She’d known Sam a lot longer than me, since grade school, and she had fallen in love with him. Her pain was a priority over mine.

Keeping my arm around her, I didn’t say anything, because I didn’t know what to say in situations like this. Even when I’d thought Roth was gone, I had hope that he was still alive. This was different. There would be no surprises. Sam would not reappear one day. No one close to me had ever died before, and I knew my mind hadn’t fully processed the reality of him being gone. So I just held her as I stared at the door, blindly watching the people streaming in and out. At some point Zayne got up and returned with two cups of hot chocolate. I barely tasted the sweetness.

I don’t know how much time passed before I felt the tingle of awareness alerting me to a demon’s presence. Across from us, Zayne stiffened, but when the door closed, it was Roth. He strolled to our table, and Zayne scooted over. Normally, I would’ve burst out laughing seeing them sitting side by side.

Neither of them looked exactly comfortable.

There was a woodsy scent that clung to Roth’s clothes, as if he’d been near a bonfire. “Took care of it,” he told Stacey. “Your downstairs is pretty much shot. The fire department is already on the way. Just remember you didn’t go home after school. You came here to meet Layla and Zayne.”

Swallowing hard, she nodded as she circled her hands around the cup of hot chocolate. “Got it.”

Roth tilted his head to the side, his brows furrowed as he studied her. “You’re going to do fine with this.”

When Stacey nodded again, he reached across the table, his hand veering to the left. He snatched up my cup of hot chocolate. Taking a sip, he didn’t even look in my direction.

“Help yourself,” I muttered under my breath.

His lips twitched. “So what’s the game plan, Stony?”

A muscle twitched along Zayne’s jaw. He hated that nickname. “Game plan in regards to what exactly?”

“The Lilin,” Roth replied, as if the answer should be obvious.

I stiffened. “I don’t think now is the time to discuss this.”

Golden eyes drifted from me to Stacey. There was a pause. “Good point.”

“No,” Stacey said, twisting toward me. “This is the perfect time.”

“But—”

“That thing in my house wasn’t Sam. It wasn’t him,” she said, her voice rising. A couple by the door glanced over at us with frowns on their faces. “So when you talk about it, the Lilin, you aren’t talking about Sam.” Her voice caught. “That thing is not Sam.”

Zayne shifted forward in the booth. “Are you sure, Stacey?”

“Positive,” she whispered.

Chest aching, I glanced at the boys, and then nodded. “Okay.”

Roth placed my cup back down in front of me and then leaned back against the cushioned seat, turning his head toward Zayne. “Sounded like the Alphas might’ve already spoken to the Wardens, and if that’s the case, I find it a wee bit interesting you haven’t said anything.”

“When would I have had the time to say something even if that was the case?” Zayne retorted, voice clipped. “Between seeing Layla and when the Alphas actually showed up?”

Roth lifted his brows. “Are you getting snappy with me?”

“What does it sound like?” Zayne returned.

“I don’t know.” A slight smile formed on his lips as he threw his arm along the back of the cushion. I sighed, because I knew that look. “But you catching a tone with me is about as interesting as reading up on the benefits of a water purification system.”

I stared at him. Only a handful of hours ago, Zayne had thanked Roth for saving me. They had actually been polite to each other. I guessed I shouldn’t be surprised that hadn’t lasted very long. “Roth.”

“Hmm?”

My eyes narrowed. “Knock it off.”

The smile spread until there was a flash of white teeth. “Anything for you, Shortie.”

Oh Lord.

Zayne moved his gaze to me, and I couldn’t decipher what I saw in his stare. “I don’t know if the Alphas have spoken to my father yet. I haven’t really been...talking to him recently, and they haven’t showed at the compound while I’ve been there.”

“What I don’t understand is why the Alphas would think that your kind would be the ones to stop the Lilin. You have souls, therefore you have a major vulnerability.” Roth was eyeing what was left of my hot chocolate. “My kind doesn’t.”

“Not something to gloat about.” Zayne exhaled loudly, and I resisted the urge to bang my head against the table. “Look, I’ll check in and see if I can find anything out.”

“Fine, but we have a bigger problem,” Roth warned.

Stacey looked up from her cup. “We do?”

I wanted to echo that statement, because I wasn’t sure exactly what could be bigger than taking down a creature that could inflict so much pain and destruction.

“What are the Wardens going to do once they realize Layla is alive and well?” There was a low rasp to Roth’s voice that resembled a growl. “That’s what I’m concerned about.”

Zayne’s lips thinned. “They will do nothing. They know she’s not the cause of what happened—”

“That doesn’t undo anything they’ve done,” Roth cut in.

“I didn’t say that it did.” The hand Zayne rested on the table started to deepen to a granite color. “I’m not going to allow them to touch her.”

I opened my mouth to point out again that I wasn’t going to allow them to touch me, but Roth got right up in Zayne’s face. “And I’m not going to forget a single thing that was done to her,” he warned. “I haven’t forgotten how she came back to me with claw marks on her face.”


Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy
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