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White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements Book 1) Kindle Edition
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
There was a demon in McDonald's.
And it had a powerful hunger for Big Macs.
Most days, I loved my after-school job. Tagging the soulless and the damned usually gave me a mad case of the warm fuzzies. I'd even given myself a quota out of boredom, but tonight was different.
I had a paper to outline for AP English.
"Are you gonna eat those fries?" Sam asked as he grabbed a handful off my tray. His curly brown hair fell over his wireframe glasses. "Thanks."
"Just don't take her sweet tea." Stacey slapped Sam's arm and several fries fell to the floor. "You'll lose your entire arm."
I stopped tapping my foot, but kept my eye on the interloper. I don't know what it was with demons and the Golden Arches, but man, they loved the place. "Ha-ha."
"Who do you keep staring at, Layla?" Stacey twisted in the booth, looking around the crowded fast-food joint. "Is it a hot guy? If so, you better- Oh. Wow. Who goes out in public dressed like that?"
"What?" Sam turned, too. "Aw, come on, Stacey. Who cares? Not everyone wears knockoff Prada like you."
To them, the demon looked like a harmless middle-aged woman with really bad fashion sense. Her dull brown hair was pinned up with one of those old-school purple butterfly clips. She wore velvet green track pants paired with pink sneakers, but it was her sweater that was epic. Someone had knitted a basset hound on the front, its big, sappy eyes made of brown yarn.
But despite her drab appearance, the lady wasn't human.
Not that I had a lot of room to talk.
She was a Poser demon. Her astronomical appetite was what gave away the breed. Posers could eat a small nation's worth of food in one sitting.
Posers might look and act human, but I knew this one could snap the head off the person in the booth next to her with little effort. Her inhuman strength wasn't the threat, though. It was the Poser's teeth and infectious saliva that were the real danger.
They were biters.
One little nip and the demonic version of rabies was passed to the human. Totally incurable, and within three days, the Poser's chew toy would resemble something straight out of a George Romero flick, cannibalistic tendencies included.
Obviously, Posers were a real problem unless you considered a zombie apocalypse fun times. Only good thing was that Posers were rare, and every time one bit somebody, its lifespan was shortened. They usually had about seven good bites in them before they went poof. Sort of like a bee and its stinger but dumber.
Posers could look like anything they wanted. Why this one was rocking an outfit like that was beyond me.
Stacey made a face as the Poser moved on to her third burger. She wasn't aware of us watching her. Posers weren't known for their keen powers of observation, especially when preoccupied with secret-sauce awesomeness.
"That's disgusting." Stacey turned back around.
"I think the sweater is hot." Sam grinned around another mouthful of my fries. "Hey, Layla, do you think Zayne would let me interview him for the school paper?"
My brows rose. "Why do you want to interview him?"
He gave me a knowing look. "To ask what's it like to be a Warden in D.C., hunting down the bad guys and bringing them to justice and all that jazz."
Stacey giggled. "You make the Wardens sound like superheroes."
Sam shrugged bony shoulders. "Well, they kind of are. I mean, come on, you've seen them."
"They're not superheroes," I said, falling into the standard speech I'd been giving ever since the Wardens went public ten years ago. After the skyrocketing increase in crime that had nothing to do with the economic downturn the world faced, but was more like a signal from Hell saying they no longer wanted to play by the rules, the Alphas had ordered the Wardens to come out of the shadows. To humans, Wardens had come out of their stone shells. After all, the gargoyles adorning many churches and buildings had been carved to resemble a Warden in his true skin. Sort of.
There were too many demons topside for the Wardens to continue to operate without exposure. "They're people. Just like you, but-"
"I know." Sam held up his hands. "Look, you know I'm not like those fanatics who think they're evil or something stupid like that. I just think it's cool and it would be a great piece in the paper. So what do you think? Would Zayne go for it?"
I shifted uncomfortably. Living with the Wardens often made me one of two things: a back door to gain access to them, or a freak. Because everyone, including my two closest friends, believed I was just like them. Human. "I don't know, Sam. I don't think any form of press makes them comfortable."
He looked crestfallen. "Will you ask him at least?"
"Sure." I fiddled with my straw. "But don't hold your breath."
Sam leaned against the hard seat back, satisfied. "So guess what?"
"What?" Stacey sighed, exchanging a woeful look with me. "What random piece of knowledge are you going to wow us with?"
"Did you know you can freeze a banana until it's so hard you can actually nail something with it?"
I lowered my sweet tea. "How do you know these things?"
Sam finished off my fries. "I just do."
"He spends his entire life on the computer." Stacey pushed thick black bangs off her face. I don't know why she didn't cut them. She was always messing with them. "Probably searches for random crap for the fun of it."
"That's exactly what I do when I'm at home." Sam rolled up his napkin. "I search for little-known facts. That's how cool I am." He threw the napkin at Stacey's face.
"I stand corrected," Stacey said unabashedly. "It's porn you spend all night searching."
The hollows of Sam's cheeks turned bright red as he straightened his glasses. "Whatever. Are you guys ready? We've got some outlining to do for English."
Stacey groaned. "I can't believe Mr. Leto wouldn't let us do our classics report on Twilight. It is a classic."
I laughed, momentarily forgetting about the job I had to do. "Twilight is not a classic, Stacey."
"Edward is definitely a classic in my book." She pulled a hair tie out of her pocket, tugging her shoulder-length hair up. "And Twilight is way more interesting than All Quiet on the Western Front."
Sam shook his head. "I can't believe you just used Twilight and All Quiet on the Western Front in the same sentence."
Ignoring him, her gaze bounced from my face to my food. "Layla, you haven't even touched your burger."
Maybe somehow I'd instinctively known I was going to need a reason to stick around. I sucked in a sigh. "You guys go ahead. I'll meet up with you in a few minutes."
"For real?" Sam stood.
"Yep." I picked up my burger. "I'll be down in a few."
Stacey eyed me suspiciously. "You're not going to bail on us like you always do?"
I flushed with guilt. I'd lost count of how many times I'd had to ditch them. "No. I swear. I'm just going to eat my food and I'll be right there."
"Come on." Sam wrapped an arm around Stacey's shoulders, steering her toward the trash can. "Layla would've been done eating by now if you hadn't talked to her the entire time."
"Oh, blame it on me." Stacey dumped her trash, sending me a wave as they headed out.
I set the burger back down, watching Lady Poser impatiently. Pieces of bun and meat fell out of her mouth, splattering on the brown tray. My appetite was effectively slaughtered within seconds. Not that it really mattered. Food only eased the ache gnawing at my insides, never stopping it.
Lady Poser finally completed her feast of fatness, and I grabbed my bag as she ambled out the door. She plowed straight into an elderly man, knocking him right over as he tried to come in. Wow. This one was a real gem.
Her cackle could be heard inside the noisy restaurant, sounding as thin as paper. Luckily, some dude helped the man up as he shook his fist at the retreating demon.
Sighing, I dumped my food and followed her out into the late-September breeze.
Different shades of souls were everywhere, humming around bodies like an electrical field. Traces of pale pink and robin's-egg blue trailed behind a couple walking hand in hand. They had innocent souls-but not pure.
All humans had a soul-an essence-good or bad, but demons weren't rocking any such thing. Since most demons topside looked human at first glance, the lack of soul around them made my job of finding and tagging them easy. Besides the soulless factor, the only difference between them and humans was the odd way their eyes reflected light like a cat's.
Lady Poser shuffled down the street, limping slightly. Out in the natural light, she didn't look well. She'd probably already bit a few humans, which meant she needed to be tagged and dealt with ASAP.
A flyer on a green lamppost caught my attention. A fierce scowl and sense of protectiveness filled me as I read the thing. Warning. Wardens Aren't God's Children. Repent Now. The
End Is Nigh.
Underneath the words was a crudely drawn picture of what I assumed was a rabid coyote mixed with a chupacabra.
"Sponsored by the Church of God's Children," I muttered, rolling my eyes.
Nice. I hated fanatics.
A diner down the block had the flyers plastered across its windows and a sign proclaiming they refused to serve Wardens.
Anger spread through me like an out-of-control wildfire. These idiots had no idea of all that the Wardens sacrificed for them. I drew in a deep breath, letting it out slowly. I needed to focus on my Poser instead of silently stomping my mental feet on my pretend soapbox.
Lady Poser turned a corner and glanced over her shoulder, her glassy eyes drifting over me, dismissing me outright. The demon in her didn't sense anything abnormal about me.
The demon inside of me was in a hurry to get this over with.
Especially after my cell went off, vibrating against my thigh. Probably Stacey wondering where in the Hell I was. I just wanted to be done with this and go back to being normal for the rest of the evening. Without thinking, I reached up and pulled on the chain around my neck. The old ring dangling off the silver rope felt hot and heavy in my hand.
As I passed a group of kids around my age, their gazes moved over me, stopped and then swung right back. Of course they stared. Everyone did.
My hair was long. Big deal there, but it was such a pale blond that it looked nearly white. I hated when people stared. It made me feel like an albino. But it was my eyes that really caught people's attention. They were a light gray, almost leached of color.
Zayne said I looked like the long-lost sister of the elf in Lord of the Rings. That was a huge confidence booster. Sigh.
Dusk had begun to settle in the nation's capital as I rounded Rhode Island Avenue and came to a complete stop. Everything and everyone around me disappeared in an instant. There, in the soft flicker of the street lamps, I saw the soul.
It looked as if someone had dipped a brush into red paint and then flicked it over a soft black canvas. This guy had a bad soul. He wasn't under the influence of a demon, but was just plain old evil all on his own. The dull ache in my gut flared to life. People pushed past me, casting annoyed looks in my direction. A few even muttered. I didn't care. I didn't even care about their soft pink souls, a color I usually found so pretty.
I finally focused on the figure behind the soul-an older man dressed in a generic business suit and tie, briefcase handle clutched in a meaty hand. Nothing to run from, nothing to be frightened of, but I knew different. He'd sinned big-time.
My legs moved forward even as my brain screamed at me to stop, to turn around, even to call Zayne. Just hearing his voice would make me stop. Would stop me from doing what every cell in my body demanded I do-doing what was almost natural to me.
The man turned slightly, his eyes drifting over my face, down my body. His soul swirled crazy fast, becoming more red than black. He was old enough to be my father and that was gross, really gross.
He smiled at me, smiled in a way that should've sent me running in the other direction. I needed to go in that direction, too, because no matter how rotten this man was-no matter how many girls out there would hand me a gold medal for taking him out-Abbot had raised me to deny the demon inside. He'd raised me to be a Warden, to act like a Warden.
But Abbot wasn't here.
I met the man's stare, held it and felt my lips curve into a smile. My heart raced, my skin tingled and flushed. I wanted his soul-so bad my skin wanted to peel itself off my bones. It felt like waiting for a kiss, when your lips were moments away from joining, those breathless seconds of anticipation. But I'd never been kissed before.
All I had was this.
This man's soul called to me like a siren's song. It sickened me to be so tempted by the evil in his spirit, but a dark soul was as good as a pure one.
He smiled as he eyed me, his knuckles blanching around the handle of the briefcase. And that smile made me think of all the horrible things he could have done to earn the swirling void around him.
An elbow dug into my lower back. The tiny speck of pain was nothing compared to the exquisite anticipation. Just a few more steps and his soul would be so close-right there. I knew the first taste would spark the sweetest fire imaginable-a high for which there was no equivalent. It wouldn't last very long, but the brief moments of pure ecstasy lingered as a potent allure.
His lips wouldn't even need to touch mine. Just an inch or so, and I'd taste his soul-never take it all. Taking his soul would kill him and that was evil, and I wasn't-
This was evil.
I jerked back, breaking eye contact. Pain exploded in my stomach, shooting through my limbs. Turning away from the man was like denying my lungs of oxygen. My skin burned and my throat felt raw as I forced one leg in front of the other. It was a struggle to keep walking, to not think about the man and to find the Poser again, but when I finally spotted her, I let out the breath I was holding. Focusing on the demon at least served as a distraction.
I followed her into a narrow alley between a dollar store and a check-cashing place. All I needed to do was touch her, which I should've done back in McDonald's. I stopped halfway, looked around and then cursed.
The alley was empty.
--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B00DSX0QRS
- Publisher : Harlequin Teen; Original edition (February 25, 2014)
- Publication date : February 25, 2014
- Language : English
- File size : 3611 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 388 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #12,316 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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White Hot Kiss, the first installment of Armentrout's The Dark Elements series, focuses on Layla, a teenage girl who is half Warden and half demon. She knows nothing of her past - who her parents are, or why they abandoned her. Taken in by the Wardens as a young girl, Layla assists them in their war against the demons by using her "gifts". Layla, though living with the Wardens, and stifling her demon heritage, feels like she does not really fit in. When she meets Roth, a demon who seems to know a lot about her past and who she really is, Layla begins to question everything she has been taught to believe.
There is what some may consider a love triangle of sorts in this book. But I don't see it that way. I think there has to be more active pursuit by all parties involved for it to be a true love triangle. Instead, there is one teenage girl trying to process and come to terms with her own feelings regarding two very different males. One, a gargoyle, has always held a special place in her heart and represents "home" (dare I call it hero worship?); the other, a demon, sets her pulse to racing, muddles her brain, and represents everything she has been taught to hate and judge (by the Wardens).
If I am being completely honest here - based on this book alone - I am a Roth fan over Zayne. I found Zayne to be a confusing character. I struggled to really understand his motivation and his behavior. At times, he comes across as condescending and childish in his treatment of Layla; while at other times, I got the sense that he is struggling with his own inner demons and turmoil. Does he feel more for Layla than brotherly love and friendship? Does he want to buck the system and tradition, or will he bow to the will of his father? I just do not know. Maybe Book 2 will answer some of the many questions I still have!
Overall, I enjoyed the story, but I would have liked more focus on who the Wardens really are, and some more action involving them in their true form - maybe more encounters between them and the demons? I know this story is from Layla's POV, but I think this would have heightened the reading experience.
Seriously, look me in the eye and try to tell you don't want a familial after reading this book.
Jennifer L. Armentrout is growing on me as an author. Her books are never 'the best' (as in Throne of Glass Level), but she does write some of the better (if not the best) entertaining books.
She has this ability to make a series grow on you, more than I ever know possible. I felt the same way too when I was reading the Lux series. It's like it always starts off as another good, entertaining romance book, but as it progresses, you start to realize that you're enjoying it more and more, and before you know it you had already bought the entire series and listed in the top 5 best hate-love relationships I have ever seen.
Speaking of which, if you're a reader who finished the Lux series, really enjoyed it, and is desperately looking for another series that is like it, I strongly suggest this book (series). You will not disappoint.
Our main character, Layla, is a hybrid half-breed. An abomination. She is half-warden, half demon. A combination that is actually impossible because the two breeds really hate each other, no less mate.
We see how she struggles with her identity, and how she suffers the discrimination from her clan members and those who is the closest that she has to family. And how it pains her that she would never fit in either, because she's half in both.
In this book, I personally like Zayne better than Roth as a character. Roth is...not that well written actually. I don't know how to describe it. Astaroth, crown prince of hell, is a little bit of a disappointment. He didn't live up the hate/love relationship like I imagined (because he kept arrogantly trying to hit on Layla), but that also makes him the idea second-guy. But I see room for improvement, and hopefully in the next book I'll like him more. And we didn't get to see much (if not none) of any scenes where we get a glimpse into his true self. Remember: it's the rare depth of emotions that we see from these second guys that get us to fall in love with them in the first place. Hopefully, Jennifer will put more of these scenes in the next installment.
However, despite the slight disappointment I felt with Roth, both Roth and Zayne were well-written and likable enough that I find myself into a soon-to-be-really-severe-case of a triangle love. But currently, since it is literally not possible for Layla to kiss Zayne without sucking out his soul, I'm intrigued to see how Jennifer's going to pull that relationship out.
I also really loved Layla. Again, Jennifer has proved herself again and gain how she is really good at mastering the creation of kick-ass heroines which sassy-as-hell is there middle name. She can fight, she's independent and strong, and most importantly: she knows when to spare a life and when not to, basically, not overly soft to the point that she's annoying. The characters all felt real; even Roth's arrogance and dickishness are realistic (and attractive).
I really, really liked this book. I feel like if I paid for it, I wouldn't be exactly disappointed. The love-relationships are very enjoyable, and for fans of second-guy romances, this is the series to go for you. Although it's choose-the-second-guy romance, and not that much on the hate/love relationship, I still urge fans of the Lux series to check out this book. We all know Jennifer's writing style, so if you enjoyed her other books, you'll definitely love this one too.
Top reviews from other countries
Layla is of an unusual nature that makes her feel like an outsider, even in the home that she is grateful for. She has been crushing on Zayne forever, but the difference is their nature is a barrier to her feelings. She can't date either because of who she is. Along comes Roth who starts paying attention to her. He is a demon and a definite no no in her adoptive family's book. Zayhne and Layla get along very well. She isn't very keen on Roth at the begenning, but as she gets to know him, she sees a side of him which she rather likes. He is good looking, fun and protective. Will Layla continue to harbour her crush on Zayne or will she take a chance on Roth?
The mystery and suspense are fascinating. The revelations of Layla's parentage bring a complete turn to the story. The end to this installment is quite heartbreaking, but there is still a glimmer of hope. I am totally enjoying this series. Love the storyline.
Along with Layla - who is vulnerable, determined and a teenager through and through. I love that Dark Elements in a YA series, and it really remains true to that - and despite all of the chaos in her life, Layla acts like a teenager.
Along with a whole host of amazing characters - Roth is totally my favourite character, and he is so fun to read, and so just so snarky. I get real Desmond Flynn vibes from him (and he is one of my all time favourite characters.)
The pacing and the plot are perfection - I just could not put White Hot Kiss (or indeed the rest of the series) down. And I ended up reading all four of the books in less than a week.
White Hot Kiss is an incredible start to the series and I will most definitely be reading it again.
I will say that the series ends up with a love triangle and to be honest I usually avoid though as I find the will they won't they and the indecision ruins my enjoyment of the book. However, I loved Dark Elements (even if I did have to look up spoilers online - it actually really helped me to enjoy the love triangle elements of the series more because I knew what the end result was. I will say that of all the love triangle book/series I have read Dark Elements is the best.
Told in first person narrative from Layla’s perspective, being half warden and half demon she doesn’t feel as if she fits in anywhere. She is isolated, a problem exasperated by her ability to suck out your soul. Only a little problem, right? I despised the way Layla was treated, alienated within her own home, it made my heart ache for her.
There are many layers to the story and it is obvious that secrets about Layla’s origins are being kept from her. The justification for keeping things from Layla intensifies the plot tension. While a love triangle is hinted at, you have to consider the many forms of love, romantic and platonic and make up your own mind. Just have to get this out there but I have a total thing for Roth ;)
The exploration of free-will versus fate/destiny within the narrative was thought provoking while adding another element to the plot. Alongside this runs the nature versus nurture debate in an ingenious fashion, are we all doomed to become self-fulfilling prophecies? White Hot Kiss challenges preconceived notions especially regarding the ‘looks can be deceiving’ adage.
Jennifer’s trademark banter between her characters shines through the narrative and adds humor to the book as a whole while endearing the characters further. You know I’m a total sucker for sarcasm ;)
White Hot Kiss is action packed, tension fueled story topped with sizzling electric chemistry. I couldn’t get enough, the last page came way too fast yet not fast enough lol. This is one of those series where you have a countdown set to know exactly when you’re going to get your next fix.