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Stone Cold Touch by Jennifer L Armentrout Book Review

Updated: Jan 18, 2023

Stone Cold Touch

by Jennifer L Armentrout

Published by Harlequin Teen

Book 2 in the Dark Elements Series

Every touch has its price

Layla Shaw is trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life--no easy task for a seventeen-year-old who's pretty sure things can't get worse. Her impossibly gorgeous best friend, Zayne, is forever off-limits thanks to the mysterious powers of her soul-stealing kiss. The Warden clan that has always protected her is suddenly keeping dangerous secrets. And she can barely think about Roth, the wickedly hot demon prince who understood her in ways no one else could.

But sometimes rock bottom is only the beginning. Because suddenly Layla's powers begin to evolve, and she's offered a tantalizing taste of what has always been forbidden. Then, when she least expects it, Roth returns, bringing news that could change her world forever. She's finally getting what she always wanted, but with hell literally breaking loose and the body count adding up, the price may be higher than Layla is willing to pay....


Foul language #YoungAdult Exciting

Steamy moments #Supernatural Emotional

Violence #Romance


Stone Cold Touch by Jennifer L Armentrout is the second book in the Darkest Elements series ... and holy shitballs was it intense.

Sorry. Had to get that that out there.

I frigging love Jennifer L Armentrout. Stone Cold Touch was a thrilling read. It is fairly original (there is that high school Buffy the Vampire Slayer feel to it, but it's referenced in the book. She owns it!). There is also parts in it that directly remind me of Obsidian, but as she wrote the LUX series, I won't fault her for reusing some material. I don't think I will ever get sick of a good cafeteria food throw down, or crashing a date. Doesn't ruin the story at all for me. The plot line is perfect. Lots of action, never a boring moment, and full of witty banter that will have you laughing, whether you are a teenager, or an adult like me who likes to dive in to young adult books from time to time. The climax is intense, and emotional, and doesn't let up for long, as the book ends of a freaking cliffhanger. I will say, I saw where the story was going. It was fairly obvious who the "big bad" was, so it wasn't a "oh shit!" moment, but I was still waiting for that moment that Layla realized who it was.

I'm going to focus on some keys characters: Layla, our half-Warden, half-demon hero, Roth, the Crown Prince of Hell, object of some very confusing feelings for Layla, Zayne, Warden, Layla's best friend, and object of a long crush, and lets say some things about Abbott as well, Warden, clan leader of DC, and Zayne's father and Layla's adoptive father.

Layla is still a strong female protagonist, but I am not sure if she has had a lot of growth in this book. She is very much still weary of her demon side, and I hope that she is able to come to terms with that part of herself in the next book. To be fair though, shit has hit the fan, and there is really no time for her to come to terms with herself. The only man she has ever known as a father figure doesn't trust her, and does something to her that is truly horrific. Zayne, her best friend who she loves deeply, admits his feelings for her, and after a short period of time where they are happily together, a moment makes it all come crashing down. Roth, someone she has deep feeling for, tells her he was just using her, while still inserting himself in her life. Things suck.

Roth, Roth, Roth. It's obvious that he was pulling an "Edward in New Moon", when he claimed he didn't truly feel anything for Layla. It was obvious right away. Layla even knew on some level that he was lying. His character has grown a bit ... after all, he is a demon, and even after coming back from Hell, on his new job assignment, he throws it all out the window for her. She brings out emotions he never thought he would have.

Poor Zayne. I really do love that guy. He goes from Warden who follows orders, has faith in his clan, to someone who questions what is right and wrong. He obviously is crazy for Layla, and head over heels in love with her. The faith he has in her is astounding. I feel terrible for him, because I don't think he is meant for Layla the way he wants to be, and I feel like he has some major heartbreak coming his way. If he admitted his feelings before Layla met Roth, I think it would have been different. And what happens in the last few chapters of the book? Ugh. UGHHHH! My heart.

I was going to talk about Abbott, but I find I can't. It sucks to see his arc go from, well, a standoffish but kind father figure to Layla, to stone cold, calculating asshole. I have this hope that Elijah, Layla's biological father, (who yes, has admittedly wanted Layla dead since she was born), comes to his senses and makes things right, as he hasn't been seen since the first book, but I feel like Layla is now truly an orphan.

In the end, Stone Cold Touch is a thrilling, emotional novel, that answers some answered questions that were left from the first book, but leave us with even more. Everything is so screwed up when the book ends, you are left questioning how they will fix everything. As for the romantic side of things, I actually empathize with Layla's predicament. Roth and Zayne are equally amazing guys. She literally has to choose between the angel and the devil on her shoulders. Despite being a little predictable, and seeing some recycled material from another series Jennifer has written, I highly recommend picking up the Darkest Elements series, you won't regret it!

Where to Buy

Paperback (amazon)

Paperback (Chapters/Indigo)

Zayne: "God. You're beautiful, Layla. A gift."

Stacey: "I'm interested in him."

Layla: "Then that's all that matters, right?"

Stacey: "I think so."

Glancing down at herself, she tugged down the red tank top she wore under her long cardigan, exposing the swells of her breasts.

Stacey: "And in art class, he will discover that he's interested in boobs. Wish me luck."

Layla: "Good luck. Not that you need it."

Stacey: "I know."

Zayne: "Where's Bambi now?"

Layla: "On me."

He arched a brow

Zayne: "Is she invisible now?"

I cracked a smile

Layla: "She's wrapped around my leg at the moment. I think she's hiding."

Zayne: "Maybe she has an upset stomach."

A party hysterical laugh burst free and a small grin stretched his lips.

Abbot: "Mind yourself, girl. No matter what he did for us, don't forget he's still a demon."

Roth: "Actually, I'm a prince. It's best you don't forget that."

Abbot stiffened and his hand tightened a fraction as I tried to pull free.

Roth: "And it would also serve you well to let go of her. So we can start waving out little white flag of friendship without spilling blood."

Maddox: "You think you're cute?"

Roth: "Nah, I think I'm sexy. And I also think I'm hilarious."

Layla: "Okay. Stop. All of you. This gossip-fest about my virginity is not something I want to continue."

Dez: "You and me both."

Layla: "But I was still rocking a hymen the last time I checked, which means I'm a virgin."

My hands formed ineffective fists when Roth's brows climbed up his forehead.

Layla: "So can we not talk about this anymore?"

Abbot: "Then if what you're saying is true, the demon is lying."

Roth: "The demon? That's 'Your Highness' to you."

Cayman: "Okay. Nobody is lying - not our Crown Prince or our wittle, precious, virginal Layla."

I shot him a dirty look. He grinned.

Cayman: "As always, the text in which the ritual was written does not go into detail explaining how or what it takes for Layla to lose her innocence."

Layla: "I wish you would stop saying that. It's not like you can just 'lose; your innocence or accidentally misplace it somewhere and forget about it."

Abbots's eyes narrowed

Cayman: "Good point. The loss of innocence refers to carnal sin and it's not like you have to do the deed to experience the pleasure of sin. Correct?"

Blood drained from my face as my mouth dropped open. Oh, I had experienced pleasure with Roth. That blood rushed right back to my face as the hours before we'd gone for the Lesser Key played out in my thoughts. Roth and I ... we hadn't done it, but we'd done other things. Well, he's done other things with his hand that I had only - oh,God, I really needed to stop thinking about that right now.

Roth's impossibly long lashes lowered as what Cayman had said sank into the minds and imaginations of all those present. One by one, they looked at me like ... like I'd murdered a nursery of babies and then bathed gleefully in their blood.

Layla: "What?"

I glanced at Zayne. A muscle throbbed along his jaw.

Cayman: "In other words, all she needed to do was have an orgasm."

Layla: "Oh my God."

I moaned, smacking my hands over my burning face.

Cayman: "And most likely not by herself. Besides that is the only explanation."

Someone kill me now.

Zayne swore under his breath and I thought I heard the word whore muttered from someone in the peanut gallery behind me, but I couldn't be sure because no one reacted to the low murmur. It didn't take a genius for anyone to figure out whom I'd experienced "the pleasure of sin" with. Wasn't like I had a lot of options considering the whole "getting too close to anyone with a soul" thing.

Roth: "Well ... This is awkward."

I slowly lowered my hands

Layla: "You think?"

Roth: "Care to share? Because sharing is fun."

Roth: "Are you ... seriously growling at me, Stony?"

Zayne: "I'm about to do a lot more than growl."

He chuckled

Roth: "That's not very appreciative."

Zayne: "I'm sorry."

I closed my eyes

Layla: "Why?"

Zayne: "I know you're hurting and I want to kill the son of a bitch for that."

Zayne: "You're part demon. Like I said that night at the ice-cream shop, we shouldn't have made you hate that part of you. Every part of you is good - even the demon side. And I saw you that night."

Layla: "What do you mean?"

He leaned over me and several locks of hair glided over his cheeks.

Zayne: "You didn't look like us when you shifted, but you didn't look like a demon either. You were a mixture of both."

Layla: "So I looked like a freak?"

Zayne: "No."

His hand moved and his fingers curved around my waist.

Zayne: "Your skin was black and gray, like mottled marble. It was beautiful. Best of both."

Zayne: "Do you ...? Did you love him, Layla?"

Oh God. My eyes widened and I could feel the heat in my cheeks grow. He looked away and shook his head

Zayne: "Shit, Layla-bug."

Layla: "No!"

When his head swung back to me, my heart jumped in my throat.

Layla: "I don't know how I feel. I don't know, Zayne. I care about him a lot and he ... I don't know."

Roth: "Anyway, back to me. I'm all better and I am back."

He slid me a sly look that made me want to punch him instead of cry into my pillow like a baby.

Roth: "I'm sure I was missed."

He took a big bite of the hamburger and grinned around the mouthful.

Roth: "A lot."

I didn't know what happened that switched my emotions so fast. The hurt his rejection had left behind exploded into rage - like the head-spinning, spraying-green-vomit kind of rage. My brain clicked off. I wasn't thinking as I reached over and plucked the hamburger right out of his hand. Twisting at the waist, I threw the hamburger on the floor behind Roth as hard as I could. The satisfactory splat it made as ketchup and mayo splattered like a gruesome burger massacre brought a wide smile to my face.

Stacey let out a burst of shocked laughter.

Roth glanced down at the hamburger and then his gaze slowly tracked back to mine. His eyes were wide.

Roth: "But I really wanted that hamburger."

Layla: "Too bad. Your fries are next if you don't remove your ass from my presence."

Stacey: "Daaammmn."

We were locked in an epic stare-down for a couple of moments and then his lips twitched as i f he was trying not to laugh.

Roth: "I'm surprised. I'll admit it. You surprised me."

Layla: "Really?"

I let out a harsh laugh, irritated that he was shocked

Layla: "Did you think after what you said to me that I'd be happy to see you? Seriously?"

He popped a fry in his mouth and chewed thoughtfully, as if he really had to think about it.

Roth: "Yes. I know so."

Layla: "You're delusional."

Roth: "Wouldn't go that far. Layla: "You have an overinflated sense of self-worth."

He grinned

Roth: "I am very valuable, actually. Being the Crown -"

I yanked the bad out of his hand, spun around and tossed the remaining fries in the garbage. Turning back to him, I smiled widely

Layla: "That's what I think about your valuable Crown Prince shit."

Roth heaved a huge sigh

Roth: "I'm a growing boy and need my sustenance. I'm going to starve no and it'll be all your fault."

Layla: "Whatever."

He stared at me and then tipped back his head and laughed. The laugh quickly faded, replaced by a surprisingly morose look.

Roth: "Oh, shortie, you're already making this hard."

Layla: "Why are you here, Roth?"

Roth: "You want the truth?"

Layla: "No. I want the lie. What do you think?"

Layla: "Did I mean anything to you?"

Roth: "It doesn't matter. It never did, Layla."

Stacey: "You guys don't know each other?"

The muscles along Zayne's forearm flickered

Zayne: "We've met a time or two."

Roth smiled broadly

Roth: "Good times, too."

Oh, God...

Sam: "You know he's a Warden, right? I think we told you once at lunch, but I can't remember."

Stacey: "Sam!"

Sam: "What?"

Stacey: "I don't know. But it seems rude to point that out."

Roth's golden eyes twinkled with mischief

Roth: "I said before, I think it's epic."

Zayne smiled tightly as the hand on the table curled into a fist

Zayne: "I bet you do."

I wanted to bang my head against the table

Roth: "Oh, it is. You out there, helping fight crime and all that good stuff. It's amazing. I bet you lay your little - er, not so little - head on your pillow every day feeling like a hero. Wait. Do you even sleep in beds? I've heard that Wardens -"

Layla: "Do you really need to be sitting here?"

Roth: "Well, someone did ruin my lunch."

He looked at me pointedly.

Roth: "So I am hungry."

Sam grinned

Sam: "Yeah, you kind of owe him a meal."

My shoulders slumped

Roth's hand landed on my thigh, causing me to jump.

Roth: "What are you looking at, shortie?"

Layla: "Nothing."

I went to remove his hand, but Zayne beat me to it.

Zayne: "Hands off, buddy. If you want to keep them attached to your body."

Roth: "Don't run off. The three of us need to talk."

Zayne's eyes narrowed and he slipped between Roth and me, a huge barrier that caused Roth to grin like a cat that just spotted a mouse trapped in the corner of the room.

Zayne: "You need to make this quick. Because I am not sure how much more of your presence I can stomach."

Roth faked a pout

Roth: "You're so mean, Stony. Perhaps you have something shoved up your ass that you need to remove."

Layla: "Roth. Knock it off."

Roth: "He started it."

Layla: "What? Are you guys two years old?"

He glanced at a stewing Zayne and that faint twinkle in his eyes was back.

Roth: "Well, he does look like he shit himself and needs his diapers changed."

Zayne: "That's it."

Zayne started to rise, but I placed a hand on his arm.

Roth: "See? I'm necessary."

Zayne: "I wouldn't go that far. But I'm promising you this, if you do anything that hurts Layla or even causes her to look at you strangely, I will personally destroy you."

My eyes popped out of my head

Layla: "Okay. Well, I think this little meet and green is over. Let's go."

Roth: "I never meant to hurt her in the first place."

Layla: "I think one of them has a gun."

Zayne: "Christ."

Roth snickered

Roth: "If they try to mug us, I'm seriously going to laugh."

Zayne: "Only you would laugh at that."

Church of God man: "Shut up, whore of Satan."

My mouth dropped open and my head was about to spin Exorcist-style. I stepped forward as Roth cracked his neck, signaling he was ready to end this little conversation.

Layla: "Call me that one more time and I'll give you something to fear. That's a promise. Is there a reason you followed us, other than to preach hypocritical nonsense?"

Bible Guy's cheeks flushed

Layla: "I doubt it. I doubt there is a single intelligent thing either of you two have to say."

Zayne: "Layla."

Bible Guy: "You should've been put down the moment you were birthed from the womb. You're an atrocity."

Whatever control I had was stretched too taut and snapped like a rubber band pulled to its limits. I moved faster than I probably ever had. Shooting forward, I snatched the thick Bible out of the man's hands. Whipping my arm back, I swung it around and the sound of what had to be the most biblical bitch smack on Earth echoed through the garage.

Roth's surprised laugh shook me to the core.

Roth: "Damn. That's getting served. In the biblical sense."

Zayne: "Don't be a brat, Layla-bug."

Layla: "Don't call me that. I'm not a little girl anymore."

Zayne: "Believe me, I know you aren't."

Zayne: "Come here."

Layla: "Zayne...? You're being annoying tonight."

Zayne: "You're annoying every night."

He patted the bed again, a lock of hair falling over his eyes.

Zayne: "Stop acting so weird, Layla."

Bambi's head was resting on the swell of my right breast. Again.

Zayne: "She really likes putting her head there, doesn't she?"

Layla: "I guess it's soft for her."

The moment those words came out of my mouth I wanted to kick myself in my soft boob.

Layla: "God. Sometimes I need to -"

Zayne placed a finger on my shin, silencing me. That slight touch packed a punch of sensations - hunger, need, a yearning so intense that it rattled me to the core.

Zayne: "That would make sense."

Pausing, he swallowed as his gaze traced the detail of the demonic tattoo.

Zayne: "I bet it is a ... soft place."

Layla: "I need the address so Zayne and I can go check it out."

Roth: "You and Stony?"

Roth laughed

My eyes narrowed

Layla: "Yes."

Roth: "You think you're going to have fun without me? Think again. We're going to have a threesome."

He grinned wickedly when I rolled my eyes.

He whipped the headphones right off Dean's head.

Roth: "Ignoring us is rude."

The boy on the bed - the boy who'd always been quiet and had held doors open for other students - smirked as he folded his arms behind his head.

Dean: "Do I look like I care?"

Roth: "Do I look like I won't rip your head off your shoulders?"

Layla: "Whoa. That's not helping."

Dean looked at me and sat up. He reached down between his legs and did something that made my ears burn.

Dean: "You're more than welcome to stay in here, honey. These two tools can hit the road, though."

My mouth dropped open

Layla: "Okay. Commence with ripping the head off."

Roth smirked

Layla: "I know what you're doing. You're goading me into going with you."

Roth: "Is it working?"

I sighed

Layla: "Yes."

Roth: "Did he tell you what he said to me?"

Layla: "I really don't want to know."

Roth knelt beside me, so close his thigh pressed into mine

Roth: "He said that I needed to stay away from you."

Layla: "Really."

Roth: "Yes. And he also told me that you don't belong to me."

Layla: "Well, last time I checked, I don't."

The smile kicked up a notch

Roth: "And do you know what else he said?"

Layla: "If you tell me, will you drop the subject?"

Roth: "Sure."

I didn't believe that for one second.

Layla: "What, Roth?"

Roth: "He said that you -"

He tapped the edge of my nose

Roth: " - Belong to him."

My mouth dropped open as I stared at him

Layla: "I don't believe you."

He shrugged his shoulders

Layla: "Something like that would never come out of his mouth. Ever."

Roth: "You can believe me or not, but I notice you're not denying it."

Layla: "Why are we even talking about this?"

Roth: "Just curious. I just think it's ... great how quickly you've moved on."

I blinked once and then twice, thinking I hadn't heard him right, and when I realized I had, I wanted to slam my fist between his legs.

Layla: "Are you serious?"

Roth: "Do I look like I'm not serious?"

Layla: "You think it's great that I moved on so fast. Right? From what? What exactly am I moving on from? According to you, whatever we had didn't matter and never would. All I was good for was easing your boredom, remember?"

Roth: "I apologized for saying that. Do you want me to apologize again?"

Layla: "No! Let me as you a question. Do you want to be with me, Roth?"

His pupils dilated as he took a step back

Roth: "What?"

Layla: "Answer the question."

He backed up again, away from me, his chest rising deeply.

Roth: "It's not about what I want."

Layla: "Whatever, Roth."

Stalking forward, I shoved my finger into his chest

Layla: "I liked you - really liked you and when you were gone and I thought you were being tortured in a fiery pit, it hurt me."

Roth: "Layla -"

Layla: "I know we were never really together, but I hardly ate or slept after you left, and the only person who kept me from going crazy was Zayne and you knew that! You even said that was why you took his place. Then you come back and you tell me that everything between us never meant a damn thing to you. You even threw Zayne in my face, basically telling me to get with him and now you're saying it's great I moved on so fast. Well, you can go fu-"

Roth: "Layla?"

Layla: "What?"

His eyes brightened into golden pools

Roth: "You're sexy when you're pissed off."

I gaped and reacted without thinking. Making a shrill sound, I slammed my hands into his hard chest. Caught off guard, he stumbled back.

Layla: "You are so freaking annoying."

Roth tipped his head back, laughing loudly. When he finally settled down, the grin was slow to slip off his face.

Roth: "But on a serious note, if I did want you ..."

He was suddenly right in front of me and his fingers spanned the sides of my face.

Roth: "If I did want you, would you still want me?"

I stared at him for a moment and then jerked away, breaking the contact between us.

Layla: "That's so wrong to ask. Cruel, even."

A fierce and story emotion flickered across his face and then it was gone as quickly as it appeared.

My eyes met Roth's. He looked shell-shocked as he stared at me.

Layla: "What?"

Roth: "I forgot you could fight. And I forgot how incredibly hot that is."

Roth: "Take your shirt off."

I stared at him. His brows rose.

Roth: "I'm being serious. I need to put this on the scratches."

Layla: "I'm not taking my shirt off."

Roth: "Yes, you are."

Rising on my elbows, I met his determined gaze with my own.

Layla: "You're on crack if you think I'm removing a single stitch of clothing."

Roth: "Like I said before, crack is whack. Your shirt needs to come off, shortie. The reason your stomach doesn't hurt is because you'e got some venom or blood soaking through your sweater. It's numbing your skin and having venom all up on you isn't really going to be conductive to healing. The top needs to go."

Roth came closer, crouching by the bed.

Roth: "No need to be shy."

Layla: "It;s not that."

Roth: "I's not like I haven't seen you before."

Layla: "Oh my God. That is not the point."

Roth: "Look, we're wasting time. You're going to get sicker and this holy water won't work. It's as simple as that, so stop being a girl and take off your sweater."

The dragon tattoo was where it always was, curled up along the side of his abs, with its tail disappearing under his jeans. My question about the kittens' presence was answered. One was under his right pic, appearing more like a tiger crouching, and another one looked as if it was snuggling into his side.

Layla: "Where's the third kitten?"

Roth: "I'd have to take off my pants to show you that."

I squeezed my eyes shut. There was a deep chuckle.

Roth: "Clock is ticking. And, more importantly, the longer you're standing there in just your bra, the more I'm tempted to be a very, very bad boy.

Layla: "You're an ass."

Roth: "And it's a fine ass, I'm told."

Layla: "You can't hit him again."

His brows rose in doubt

Layla: "My getting hurt wasn't his fault."

Zayne: "He coaxed you down there when he could've gone by himself, and the moment he saw that cocoon or those Nightcrawlers, he should've gotten you out of there. He didn't. And not just because he wanted to get at me. He wanted you there, with him."

I laughed at that

Layla: "I'm pretty sure he just wanted t o mess with you because he knew I was going to tell you about everything."

Zayne: "That's not the only reason, Layla. I see the way he looks at you."

Layla: "You don't know what you're seeing."

I'd taken one stop when Zayne was suddenly in front of me. Gasping, I stumbled back as his hand curled around my upper arm in a gentle but firm grasp.

Zayne: "I know what I saw."

The air whooshed out of my lungs as he pressed me against his chest. He dipped his chin so that our faces were only inches apart.

Zayne: "I know exactly how he looks at you and you do, too."

His other hand curved along my lower back and slid up, tangling in the edges of my hair.

Zayne: "I know that look. So do you. Because it's the way I look at you."

He tugged me down, and there was nowhere to go but into his lap. I landed facing him, my mouth level with his throat. For a moment, I was frozen. With my legs straddling his, there was an uncharted feel to this that stretched my nerves tight. If I moved my hips forward ... I couldn't even finish the thought.

Layla: "I'm not running from you."

Zayne: "Yeah, you are. You're also avoiding me again."

His hands spanned my waist as I started to climb off.

Zayne: "Nope. Not going anywhere."

Layla: "What ... what are you doing?"

Zayne: "Keeping you from running from me."

He tugged me forward, causing me to clap my hands down on his shoulders to stop certain areas of our bodies from touching.

Zayne: "In case you haven't figured this out yet, I'm not into the chasing thing."

Layla: "Why would you chase me?"

The look that crossed his face was a mixture of fondness and disbelief.

Zayne: "I don't want to, but I have been. I am. And I'd think after Saturday night, it would be pretty obvious."

Zayne: "When Father brought you home all those year ago, he told me it was my job to watch over you, that I'll be the closest thing to family - to a brother - that you would ever have. And I took that seriously. Ever since I was twelve years old. I know I was never supposed to think of you any other way, but you got older and the past year or so? I find myself unable to stop staring at you, and it was hard not wanting to spend time with you. Why else did I always get up so early? And when Father started bring Danika around, I knew ..."

Layla: "Knew what?"

Zayne: "I knew I couldn't be with her. Not when you're constantly in my head. Is it wrong? No. Screw that - screw all of that. It's right. It's always been right."

Layla: "You can't -"

Zayne: "Can't what, Layla-bug? Can't think about you? Can't tell you that you have always been the most amazing girl I've ever known? Can't stop living under the same roof with you and pretending that what I feel for you - what I want from you - is something brotherly?"

As my breath caught, his hands slid up my rib cage, leaving behind a wake of shivers.

Zayne: "That I can't hold you? Touch you? Because the last time I checked, I could do all those things."

Layla: "Zayne..."

Zayne: "And I know it's what you've wanted. I've known for a long time. Or has that changed because of him?"

Layla: "Why now?"

Zayne: "Is 'now is when I finally pulled my head out of my ass' the wrong answer? I guess it probably isn't good enough, huh? I almost lost you that night Paimon captured you. When I realized you could've died. That I could've died? I didn't want to deny this any longer. I couldn't."

Layla: "It doesn't mater. It's impossible."

Zayne drew back, lifting his head

Zayne: "How so?"

Layla: "We can't ... I mean, we couldn't ..."

Zayne: "We can't? I think last Saturday night proved there's a lot we can do."

Layla: "But it's too dangerous."

Zayne: "I trust you."

Zayne: "So, you could feel what I was feeling when I was touching you?"

Layla: "Faintly. Like a rush of emotions. Nothing too strong."

Zayne: "Well, I'm glad, then. Because if you'd been feeling everything I've felt when we've touched? That would get really embarrassing considering all the feels I had going on."

Zayne: "As much as it kills me to say this, going in there with Roth is a good idea."

Layla: "What? Did you really just say that?"

Zayne: "I'd like to peel Roth's skin from his bones in a very low manner. You know, like with an orange peeler."

Layla: "Ew."

Zayne: "But for the most part, you're safe around him."

Layla: "For the most part?"

Zayne: "He'll protect you. Better than he did today. You're just not safe from him."

Layla: "No matter what he wants or what you think he wants, I'm safe from him. Trust me. He made it plain and clear that there was nothing between us except ..."

Zayne: "Lust?"

Layla: "Yeah."

Zayne: "Asshole."

Layla: "Yeah."

Layla: "I have a confession."

Zayne: "Hmm?"

Layla: "I've always dreamed of you ... saying those words to me, of you wanting me. Probably ever since I understood the difference between boys and girls, I've wanted you."

Zayne: "That's a long time."

Layla: "It was. And it was so hard, you know? Trying not to show it and not be jealous of Danika or any other girl who -"

Zayne: "There's never been any other girl, Layla-bug."

Layla: "Come again?"

This time it was his face that flushed

Zayne: "I've never been with anyone."

My mouth dropped to be chest

Zayne: "Do you need to look that surprised?"

Layla: "I'm sorry. It's just that I can't believe you haven't ... I mean, you're you. You're gorgeous and you're kind and smart and perfect and girls check you out everywhere we go."

He smiled

Zayne: "I didn't say the opportunity never presented itself. I just never acted on it."

Layla: "Why?"

Zayne's eyes met mine

Zayne: "Truth?"

I nodded

Zayne: "I really didn't know at first why I didn't when ... well, when I could have. It's as though I'd never been interested enough to go through with it the whole way. It wasn't until the past year that I realized why. It's because of you."

Layla: "Me?"

Zayne: "Yeah. I would get to a certain point and all I could think about was you and that seemed wrong. You know, to continue with someone else when I was picturing being with you."

I started to get up, but a hand curled around my wrist. Gasping, I looked back down at Zayne.

One eye was visible and a sleepy smile pulled at his lips.

Zayne: "Where are you going?"

Embarrassment swept through me

Layla: "How long h ave you been awake?"

Zayne: "Long enough to know you've been checking me out."

The lopsided smile spread

Zayne: "I feel like a piece of meat."

Layla: "Shut up."

Zayne: "Didn't say I didn't enjoy it. I like waking up and seeing you here."

Zayne: "Act like you've always acted, Layla-bug. That's what I've always liked about you."

Layla: "The fact that I act like a dork most of the time?"

Zayne: "Yes."

Layla: "That's very un-Wardenlike."

Zayne: "If you only knew my very un-Wardenlike thoughts, you'd probably run from this room."

He took note of my sharp inhale.

Zayne: "Or maybe not."

As I passed him, he reached out, tapping my behind. I jumped, shooting him a look.

Layla: "You are so bad."

Zayne: "Terrible."

Roth: "It'll work some of my awesome skill and no one will be the wiser. Boy Scout's honor."

Layla: "You were never a boy scout."

Roth: "Ah, good point, but come on. What's it going to hurt? We're friends, right? Two demon peas in a pod."

Roth: "Look, there's something that I want to show you."

As I raised my brow, Roth pouted.

Roth: "Not my manly bits, you little perv."

Layla: "Your manly bits?"

A laugh burst from me

Layla: "You are so bizarre."

Roth: "But you were thinking about my manly bits."

Two spots of heat blossomed on my cheeks. Now I was.

Layla: "No, I wasn't."

He grinned

Roth: "By the way, my manly bits are not bits. Just want to clear that up."

Layla: "Oh my God..."

Sighing, I studied the motorcycle. It wasn't hard to picture Roth on the crotch rocket. Shirtless. Why did my brain always take everything in that direction? I was going to blame the genes from mommy dearest.

I squealed, clapping my hands together.

Layla: "I do want to pet them! They're so tiny!"

He sighed

Roth: "I've been told size doesn't matter."

Layla: "Someone lied to you."

Roth: "Ah, that may be the case. Do keep in mind that looks can be deceiving."

Layla: "I could carry it in a purse, like ... like one of those expensive purses."

Roth: "I don't think they like the sound of that."

They didn't. Both were now standing, ears back and growling. One barked. It sounded like a squeak.

I laughed.

Layla: "What are they going to do? Bite my ankles?"

Roth: "I just wanted you to see how the other half lives. Not those two bastards. They're bad news, but not ... not all of us are like that. I wanted you to see that. For you to see that what's inside you ..."

He tapped a finger off my stomach

Roth: "Isn't bad, no matter what that asshole of a clan leader says to you or how he makes you fell."

Layla: "Same to you."

A brow arched

Roth: "What does that mean?"

I reached up, tapping my finger off his chest.

Layla: "You are not as bad as you like to think. You are capable of acts of great kindness."

He snorted

Roth: "You're high."

Layla: "Am not."

I poked him again

Layla: "You've done things that humans with souls wouldn't do. You -"

His hand encircled my wrist, pulling it away from his chest.

Roth: "Everything I do is for a purely selfish reason. Trust me on that."

Layla: "Kiss me."

His face tensed, almost as if he was in pain, and I wasn't sure why that request would both him so.

Roth: "Layla..."

I tugged on my arm again, and he came even closer. When I spoke, our lips were inches apart.

Layla: "Kiss me."

Roth: "You don't know what you're asking for."

Layla: "Yes, I do."

Roth: "You don't. You're really -"

I pushed Roth and he landed on his back with force, bouncing the bed. It might have been the fact that I caught him off guard, but, either way, I took advantage of it. I threw my leg over his hip and sat down, pressing the palms of my hands into his shoulders.

His eyes widened with shock as I moved my weight to my arms. My hair slid over my shoulders, creating a whitish-blond curtain. Sitting astride him, feeling him under me, between my legs, I felt like a goddess rising on the throne of sexy. I almost giggled at that thought, but I figured that would ruin my sexiness.

Roth: "God."

He kicked his head back, groaning as his hands settled on my hips.

Roth: "I really, really like you this way."

Layla: "Then what's the problem?"

I asked as I rocked back, trailing my fingertips down his flat stomach. His fingers dug into my hips as he stared up at me through heavy-lidded eyes.

Roth: "I can't really think of one right now."

Layla: "Good."

I started to dip my head, aiming for his parted lips. He caught me again by the wrists, lifting my arms and holding me back.

Roth: "This ... this isn't going to happen, baby."

Layla: "You ... you don't want me?"

Roth moved so quickly I didn't have a second to think about what he was doing. He had me on my back with my arms stretched above my head.

Roth: "Don't want you?"

Every part of our bodies touched, robbing me of my breath.

Roth: "I think you know the answer to that."

Oh, I think I did.

I managed to get one of my legs freed from under his, and I hooked my calf around his lower leg. His hips sank in and my lower body tingled as if little sparks were dancing over my skin. He groaned again.

Roth: "I want you so badly it's like a hunger that gnaws at me endlessly. It doesn't go away. You have no fucking clue."

Layla: "Then do something about it."

Roth lifted his head, and his pupils had stretched vertically.

Roth: "Layla... Please."

My fingers curled helplessly as I stretched up, finally reaching him with my lips. Out mouths barely touched, but Roth shuddered and his grip around my wrists tightened. And then he was on me.

Layla: "You let me sleep until three in the morning. If Zayne hadn't covered for me ..."

Roth: "But he did. I didn't want to wake you."

Layla: "Because you were afraid I was going to throw myself at you again?"

Roth: "More like I was afraid you wouldn't and that's the problem. I left you alone because if you woke up and asked me to kiss you, I wouldn't be able to stop a second time around."

Layla: "You don't have to worry about a second time. I was high."

One side of his lips curled up and he laughed softly

Roth: "You are such a terrible liar."

Layla: "I'm not lying."

Roth came back up the step, crowding me. As he dipped his head so that his mouth nearly brushed mine when he spoke, I refused to back away.

Roth: "I know why you say that. I even understand it, Layla. I get it. I hurt you and deserve every single one of your lies. But there is so much you don't know or understand."

He said, tilting his head so that his words brushed the lobe of my ear, sending a shiver down my neck.

Roth: "So don't claim to know what I really want or what I would do to protect it."

Layla: "I don't deserve you."

Zayne: "See, that's where you're wrong. That's where you've always been wrong. You deserve everything."

Zayne: "You really do look beautiful. Bu you always look beautiful, like something that's not quite real."

Layla: "What if S-Stacey hates me now or is a-afraid of me?"

Zayne: "Oh, Layla, she's not going to hate you."

He lowered his head and pressed his lips against my forehead

Zayne: "She's not going to be afraid of you and she's not going to think of you differently."

Layla: "How c-can they not?"

Zayne: "Because they know you like I know you, that's why. What you are doesn't change who you are."

I nodded.

Zayne: "Whatever you think about demons, and despite what that bastard at the theater said, you should know that Layla isn't evil. She's good to her core. She's more Warden, more human, than anyone I know."

Stacey: "Well, fucking duh. I know she's not evil. I've known her for years. She's like the equivalent of an evil baby panda or some shit like that. What about Roth? I mean, you just said Crown Prince of ... of Hell?"

Zayne: "Totally evil."

I sighed