BONUS: Unedited – Zayne POV – The Dark Elements

March 16, 2020

May I? 


Layla actually ran from me. 

I stared at the door, clamping down on the instinctual urge to give chase. That baseline desire was there, inherent because it was what Wardens did whenever something ran from us, but there was a far stronger reason for the need that had nothing to do with what I was. 

Or with what Layla was. 

And I really didn’t care about what she was doing in my father’s study at this moment.  

She hadn’t really run from me, but she had left me, and I didn’t like it, couldn’t remember a time when she ever did it. Not before him—before Roth came into the picture.  

Yeah, I didn’t like any of that crap.  

Pushing my hair back from my face, I exhaled roughly in the silent room. The image of Layla in her bra formed in my thoughts with little to no effort. Just like ever other freaking second of the day since I’d seen her.  

God, she had been… she was beautiful. Not like it took me seeing her like that to realize it, I had for a long time now.  

My gaze flipped to the ceiling. 

It took me less the five seconds to make it from the study to her bedroom. I didn’t knock, just pushed the door right open, and there she was. Perfect timing.  

Minus the cardigan and socks, she wore nothing but shorts and a thin tank that should’ve been outlawed. Heat kindled beneath my skin as I eyed her, not like it did right before I shifted. Ah no, this was a different kind of burn—a hotter, deeper one.  

I stepped through the door, folding my arms across my chest.  

Her arms twitched as if she wanted to move them. “What do you want now?” 

The fire in her tone lacked real reprimand. If anything, she sounded more…confused. Bewilderment lingered in the air around her, and that confounded me. “Nothing,” I said, and before I could stop myself. I strode to the bed and dropped down. Stretching out, I patted the space next to me while my heart pounded in my chest. “Come here.” 

“Zayne…?” The confusion increased as she stared at me, rosy lips parted. “You’re being annoying tonight.” 

I was. 

Totally knew it, but I couldn’t… I couldn’t stay away and I was so damn tired of trying to.  Youre annoying every night. I smacked the bed againStop acting so weird, Layla. When she didn’t move, I raised my brows at her. “You coming?” 

Five seconds. If she didn’t move within five seconds, I would leave.  

Layla moved. 

Exhaling softly, she climbed into the bed beside me, and swallowing suddenly became difficult. We’d down this a million times, but tonight felt different. Everything was different.  

I needed to clear my head. “Nice shorts,” I told her.  

Can you not talk? 

A soft laugh rolled out of meYoure in such a mood tonight. Was it the sugarcookie dough? 

She rolled onto her side, and our mouths were lined up. Rarely did she ever allow herself to get this close and I wondered if she even realized it. I looked up at her and our gazes met and held.  

Without warning, I thought about the first time I realized what I felt for Layla ran deeper than what my father attended—what the entire clan wanted. It happened on March twenty-third, in the evening while we practiced evasive techniques in the rooms under the compound. She hadn’t been paying attention that whole evening. I knew she hadn’t been, because she had kept focusing on my… well, on my mouth while I was instructing her. For a while, I knew she was looking at me differently, and I had been doing everything to not think about it, acknowledge or deal with it, because I had believed it was wrong. Not because of her being half demon or what she was or was not capable of, but because I had always been in charge of keeping her safe. What her not-so sly lingering looks and the way she’d flush sometimes was not safe.  

But after training, she had down something she’d done a thousand times. She’d threaded her fingers through mine and squeezed, and as our eyes met that night, I don’t even freaking know what happened. Our entire life together played out in my head in a matter of seconds, replaying our entwined history. And as I squeezed her hand back, I wasn’t thinking about anything except how that tiny squeeze felt like a kiss. And that feeling has scared the shit out of me, because I had wanted that then.   

It was almost two years ago.  

And I still wanted that.  

Layla broke away, shifting onto her back. 

Did she feel it between us now? The history? How our future was changing and there was nothing—not my father, the clan or us—could change? Nothing that Roth could change? Or had it, at least for her? 

At once, panic poured into my chest. What if it had changed for her because of him? What if it was too late? Part of me, as much as I loathed the very idea of it, could understand. Maybe I waited too long. I took her attraction for granted—her beauty, her kindness, her unwavering faith in me. I took everything about her for granted.  

My mouth was dry. Whats going on, Layla-bug?  

Nothing,” she said, her voice barely a whisper.  

Bullshit. I rolled onto my arm, lifting up so I could look at her. Wrong move. Maybe a right move. There was barely any space between us, and as my gaze drifted over her flushed cheeks, I followed the blush to the low neckline of the tank top she wore, the tips of my fingers tingled with the need to touch her, to— 

I blinked and my vision cleared again, telling me I was really seeing what I was seeing. It hadn’t been the first time I’d noticed the Bambi liked to rest in a place that demonic familiar had no business being at.  

And it also wasn’t the first time I found myself jealous of said demonic familiar, and how messed up was that? 

Oddly though, as my gaze tracked over the curve of the snake—the curve of her breast—there was no denying the beauty of that damn tattoo.  

 She really likes putting her head there, doesnt she? My voice was rough to my own ears. 

I guess its soft for her. Her chest rose in a sharp breath, enticing me further. “God, she groaned. Sometimes I need to— 

I pressed the tip of my finger on her chin, and a deep hunger rose inside me, clawing at the muscle and skin. The power in the need unsettled me. That would make sense. I wanted to… Hell, I knew what I wanted. I bet it is asoft place. 

Forcing my gaze away, I focused on the chain and ring that rested against her flushed skin. I lowered my hand, drawing my finger over the cool links. Why do you keep this necklace? he asked, lightly fingering the chain. 

A moment passedII dont know. 

Lie. I knew why she did. It linked her to her mother. It also linked to her that bastard pain in my ass prince.  

He had no place here, I decided as I followed the length of the chain around the delicate bones of her collar, down to the smooth band of the ring. I paused for a moment, pulse pounding way to fast.  

What I did next wasn’t the smartest thing. I was sure that damn snake wasn’t fond of me, but I had no control at all as my finger skated over Layla’s skin and then the very edge of Bambi’s head.  

Half expecting the familiar to rise off her skin and bite me in my face, I was shocked when Bambi shifted, gliding up toward my touch.  

It struck me then that I was touching her—touching the demonic familiar—and my skin was on fire.  A shudder worked its way up the taunt lines of my body as I lifted my gaze to hers. Those pale, haunting eyes entranced me. They had for a long time, and now I saw something I never seen in them before. A fire. As I traced around the snakes nostrils, surprised by the texture. This… befuddled me too, dragging a small grin out of me. It wasn’t so much that it was rough, but I could definitely tell that the snake was there, an entire separate being adhered to her skin. 

It doesnt feel like I thought it would. The skin is just slightly raised, but its really like a tattoo.” I had this need to point that out, which was probably stupid as banging my head against wall, because I’m sure she knew that. That she’d touched the tattoo before.  

I bit back a groan as that image took root. Another one I’d never get out of my head.  

Layla’s lashes drifted shut and her lips parted even more. God and all the demons in Hell, I knew her mouth had to be the sweetest thing ever.  

Does she like it? I asked. 

After a moment, Layla nodded. 

The words were out of my mouth in an instant. Do you? 

Her eyes flew open, and she watched me as I followed the curve over the swell of her breast, to the fragile lace of her top.  

I wanted—no, needed to see all of it, all of who Layla was now, but I waited. What I asked pretty much laid it all out there, I thought. If she said yes, then she had to know how I felt about her, which was something I never really felt for anyone else before. Sure, I knew the razor sharp edge of lust, but with her that lust mixed with something far more potent.  

But if she said no, then I would get the hell out of here. As much as it would kill me, I swear I would.  

Layla didn’t say no.  

Yes. It was a whisper, but it was like thunder to my senses, rattling every cell and organ in me.  

I breathed deeply, unable to wait. Like a kid who’d been staring at presents under the Christmas tree for weeks, the anticipation was far too great.  I held her gaze, seeking out any hesitation as I asked, Can I see the rest of her? 

Her mouth opened, but there was no sound as a long, torturous moment passed between us, and then Layla nodded.  

It was freaking Christmas morning. 

My hand shook as I reached for the strap of her top, and I hoped she didn’t see that. I slipped the strap down to her wrist, keeping my gaze trained on what I was doing, delaying what I desperately wanted. I moved the other strap to her slim wrist and then threw up a prayer of thanks before I shifted my feverish gaze.  

Air punched out of my lungs, and my arm suddenly felt week, like I wouldn’t be able to hold myself up longer. I followed the line of Bambi, but not really seeing it. I was seeing Layla, committing every beautiful square inch to memory.  

“Layla…” It was all that I could say.  

Never in my life have I ever seen such beauty like this. The mixture of the demonic tattoo and the heaven that was Layla’s body was a startling combination.  

Unable to stop myself, I continued down the path of Bambi, over the sweetest swell Layla moved, arching her back as I trailed the length of Bambi, all the way to where her body curled around Layla’s ribcage. Between the way she felt, the breathy sound she made, and how she rose up as she pushed her shoulders into the bed, I was going to loose my freaking mind.  

Who cared? 

I’d already lost my heart and my soul to Layla.  


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About Me

#1 New York Times and #1 International Bestselling author Jennifer lives in West Virginia. All the rumors you’ve heard about her state aren’t true. When she’s not hard at work writing. she spends her time reading, watching really bad zombie movies, pretending to write, hanging out with her husband and her Border Jack Apollo.

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