Exclusive Advanced Excerpt: Jennifer L. Armentrout's WHITE HOT KISS
She burst onto the scene a few years ago, and now it's hard to go a month or so without encountering a new Jennifer L. Armentrout book. And we read them all. Good thing we're exceptional at ignoring our families and ordering take out for dinner. Priorities!
We're especially excited about the first full-length title in Jennifer's new pararnormal Dark Elements series, White Hot Kiss. The book doesn't hit stores until February 25 (you can find our review in the March issue of RT, available digitally this week), but we called in a few favors for you, our favorite readers, and we today have a super advanced excerpt to share!
Jennifer set the scene for us, saying, "In this scene, you'll get to see a little bit of Layla...and a little bit of a very naughty and very, um, hands-on demon who goes by the name Roth. And there will be kissing, of course. It is a book I've written."
Well now we really want to check it out! Read on …
“So what do you know about your other half?”
And he was back to me again. I sighed. “Not that much. They told me my mom was a demon, and that’s pretty much it.”
“What?” Roth sat back. “You really are that innocent of your heritage. It’s cute, but oddly infuriating.”
I nibbled on my cookie. “They think it’s better that way.”
“And you think it’s okay for them to keep you completely in the dark when it comes to the other part of you?”
I took another bite, shrugging. “It’s not like I claim the other half.”
He rolled his eyes. “You know, it kind of reminds me of a dictatorship. The way the Wardens treat you, that is.”
“Keep the people in the darkness, away from the truth. Makes them easier to control.” He sipped his coffee, watching me over the lid. “It’s the same with you.” He shrugged. “Not that you seem to care.”
“They don’t control me.” I broke off the cookie roughly, briefly considered throwing it in his face. But that would be a waste of a perfectly good cookie. “And I guess you’re on speaking terms with some of the world’s most infamous dictators.”
“I wouldn’t say I talk to them.” His lips pursed thoughtfully. “More like shove hot pokers through them when I get bored.”
I cringed. “For real?”
“Hell ain’t pretty for those who’ve earned their way.”
I thought about that for a moment. “Well, they kind of deserve an eternity of torture.” I glanced around the café, over the shimmering souls and framed portraits on the walls. They were pictures of former owners, each old and silver-haired. And then I saw her.
Or I saw her soul first.
Sinner alert. The essence around her was tainted, a kaleidoscope of dark shades. I wondered what she had done. Once her soul faded, I saw that she looked like a normal thirtysomething woman. She was dressed nicely, wore really cute heels and carried a to-die-for purse. Her blond hair was a bit brassy, but cut in a trendy bob. She looked normal. Nothing to be afraid of or to run from, but I knew differently. Evil simmered under the normal facade.
“What is it?” Roth sounded far away.
I swallowed. “Her soul—it’s bad.”
He seemed to understand. I wondered what he saw: a woman in nice clothes, or the woman that had sinned so badly her soul was now tainted?
“What do you see?” he asked, as if he was sharing the same thought.
“It’s dark. Brown. Like someone took a brush, dipped it in red paint and flicked it around her.” I leaned forward, breathless with want. “It’s beautiful. Wrong, but beautiful.”
My nails dug into the tabletop. “Yeah?”
“Why don’t you tell me about the necklace?”
Roth’s voice tugged me back to reality. Tearing my gaze away from the woman, I sucked in a deep breath. I looked down at my cookie, my stomach filling with lava. “What…what do you want to know?”
He smiled. “You wear it all the time, don’t you?”
I felt around until my fingers touched the smooth metal of the band. “Yeah, I’m not big on jewelry.” As if compelled, I turned back to the woman. She was at the counter, ordering food. “But I wear this all the time.”
“Layla, look at me. You don’t want to go down that road.”
With effort, I focused on him. “I’m sorry. It’s just so hard.”
His brows furrowed. “You don’t need to apologize for something that is natural to you, but taking a human’s soul… You can’t go back from that.”
So many emotions shot through me. First was surprise. Why wouldn’t Roth, being what he was, want me to jump out of this chair and suck some soul? But then the bitter lash of sadness followed. “Why do you care?”
Roth said nothing.
I sighed. “It’s not natural—what I want from her, or from anybody, for that matter. I can’t even get close to a boy, Roth. This is my life.” I picked up a cookie, waving it in front of my face. “This is all I have. Sugar. I’m a walking ad for diabetes in the making.”
A deep frown pierced his striking face. “Your life is so much more than what you can’t do. What about all that you can do?”
I laughed, shaking my head. “You don’t even know me.”
“I know more than you realize.”
“Well, that’s creepy and you’re a demon preaching to me about life. There is something inherently wrong with that.”
“I wasn’t preaching.”
I glanced at the counter. She was gone. I sank down in my chair, the relief as sweet as the cookies. “Anyway, the necklace belonged to my mother. I’ve always had it. I don’t even know why. I mean, it’s stupid since she was a demon and didn’t even want me. And here I am, running around wearing her ring. Pathetic.”
“You’re not pathetic.”
I cracked a smile, not sure why I’d admitted that. It wasn’t even something I’d ever said to Zayne. I took another bite of the cookie and dropped it on the napkin.
Moving as fast as Bambi, Roth reached over the bistro table, caught my hand and brought my fingers to his mouth. Before I could even react, he licked off the tiny specks of sugar the cookie had left behind.
I gasped, but the air got stuck in my throat. Sharp tingles spread down my arm and across my chest, then lower, much lower. A heaviness settled just below my breasts, different and intense, but not unpleasant. “That…that makes me uncomfortable.”
Roth peered up at me through thick lashes. “That’s because you like it.”
A huge part of me did, but I slipped my hand free, glancing around the small bakery. I felt unnaturally hot. “Don’t do that again.”
He grinned. “But you’re so tasty.”
I wiped my fingers clean on the napkin. “I think we’re done.”
He caught my hand again. “No. Don’t run off yet. We were just getting started.”
My eyes locked with his and I felt…I felt like I was falling. “Getting started with what?”
His fingers slid between mine. “Becoming friends.”
I blinked tightly. “We can’t be friends.”
“Why not?” Roth threaded his fingers through mine. “Is there a rule I’m unaware of?”
Suddenly, I wasn’t really sure anymore. He got up to take care of our tab while I tried to figure out what was going on between us. Could I be his friend? Did I even want to try? I probably should’ve made a run for it while he waited in line, but I didn’t.
A middle-aged waitress approached our table. Her soul was a faint pink—a complete contrast to the haggard look on her face and world-weary gleam in her eyes.
She picked up the napkins and empty plates as she glanced over her shoulder to where Roth stood. “That boy looks like he must be a handful.”
I flushed, at once very interested in the hem of my shirt. “You could say that.”
The waitress snorted and moved on to another table.
“Why are you so red in the face?”
“No reason.” I grabbed my bag, standing. “You promised to tell me about the one who could do what I can. I think now is the time.”
“It is, isn’t it?” He held the door open for me.
In the waning sunlight, all the buildings in the district looked old and unfriendly. We stopped near a small, neatly kept city park. I stared up at him, waiting.
“I know what you want to know, but I have a question to ask first.”
Fighting my impatience, I gave him a curt nod of assent.
He dipped his chin again, looking terribly innocent. “You’ve never been kissed before, have you?”
“That’s so not your business.” I folded my arms as Roth waited for an answer. “I think it’s obvious. I can’t kiss anyone. You know, the whole soul-sucking thing makes it difficult.”
“Not if you’re kissing someone who doesn’t have a soul.”
I made a face. “And why would I kiss someone who doesn’t—”
He moved unbelievably fast. I didn’t even have a chance to react. One second he was standing a good three feet away from me and the next his hands were gently clasping my cheeks. There was an instant when I wondered how something so strong and deadly could hold anything so carefully, but then he tilted my head back and lowered his own. My heart rate kicked into hyperdrive. He wasn’t going to kiss me. No way—
Roth kissed me.
The brush of his lips was tentative at first, an unhurried sweep of his mouth against mine. Every muscle in my body locked up, but I didn’t pull away like I should’ve, and Roth made a low sound deep in his throat that sent shivers down my spine. His lips caressed mine again, nibbling and clinging to them until they parted on a gasp. He deepened the kiss with a thrust of his tongue. My senses went into overload, firing in every direction. The kiss—it was everything I could’ve imagined a kiss to be and then some. Sublime. Explosive. My heart fluttered wildly, from a yearning so deep, darts of fear shot through my veins.
“See,” he murmured in a thick voice, and he let go, his fingers trailing over my cheeks. “Your life isn’t about all you can’t do. It’s about what you can do...”
White Hot Kiss will be available on February 25, so mark your calendars! And in the meantime, check out our Everything Young Adult page for more YA romance.