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       Frostbite, p.10

           Adrienne Woods
 

  “Stop celebrating. We only celebrate when we have the cup in our hands, Becky.”

  I could see her eye roll behind her goggles and could just imagine what was going through her head.

  On Friday night the first game was played.

  It was against The Brothers, who had been Dragonia Academy’s winning team for the past five years. Most of the dragons and riders were in their last years and they were extremely good.

  Clark and Simon, two last year students, were broadcasting the game. They were the ones who broadcasted all the games to the people who couldn’t be present.

  Becky was really good on her raider and George somehow managed to always stay very close to her.

  Sammy managed to get us seats close to Blake who was yelling instructions from one of the player boxes.

  Being near him like this did help, sort of, it wasn’t as magical as the time I spent with him one on one, but it was sufficient.

  We all wore the colors of Blake’s team. They were a funny red and white, which really didn’t go with Becky at all. She hated their uniform and even begged her mother to fund them new ones. After seeing them still wearing it, I guessed Lucille’s answer hadn’t been yes, unless she’d made a deal with Becky and was waiting for her to deliver first.

  We all cheered as Becky scored, but as soon as she saw Blake her posture changed and she went back to her position.

  Then The Brothers scored six times. They had a black uniform that for some reason reminded me of Batman’s. Still, their winning streak didn’t leave a good mark on Becky and the rest of her team. Blake was close to breathing fire.

  “I thought you were joking when you said he wasn’t fond of losing,” I said to Sammy.

  “I feel sorry for Becky and them if they don’t get back on track.”

  By half-time the points were miles apart. There was no way that Blake’s team was going to win, but still, he kept reminding them of the strategies and how they could beat this.

  When the whistle blew again, we witnessed a completely different team enter the field. The Brothers struggled to get to their bell and Jenny, another girl on their team, scored. George scored the next one while blowing a Thunderbolt at his attacker, which he got a two minute down time for.

  Becky and Damon, another team member who I’d gotten the pleasure of meeting by being present at every single practice, scored the next couple of goals, and I was really surprised that they lost only by one point to The Brothers.

  Blake still wasn’t happy but it wasn’t a bad loss. I thought the other teams would think twice now about his team, and if they won every single one from now on, they might still come up against The Brothers again in the finals.

  I was happy that it was over which meant on Monday our training would carry on again.

  On Monday morning Master Longwei’s voice filled the entire school as we were on our way to the cafeteria. “On Thursday afternoon, Nicole Brigitte will claim Elena Watkins in the ring…”

  The three of us froze and that was all I heard. Becky and Sammy stared at me.

  “Are you okay?”

  “I think I’m going to puke,” I said as I hurtled over to the nearest plastic pot plant. Nothing came out but the noises the girls made who passed by us told me it wasn’t the best way to handle it.

  “Move on, there’s nothing to see here,” Becky remarked. “It’s Nicole, Elena. Seriously.”

  “Becky!” Sammy sounded mad.

  Inside the cafeteria people still congratulated Nicole. Becky and Sammy glared at her on my behalf as I still felt sick to my stomach.

  I lifted my head and found Blake. The horror on my face told him exactly how I felt. He winked and smiled which sort of calmed me down as this afternoon he would guide me through what would happen in that ring on Thursday. Still, a heaviness fell on my chest. Rumors had it that Lucian hadn’t trained her but that her father had paid a shit load of money to get her four trainers ever since she entered Dragonia.

  I wasn’t ready for the ring and to be honest I didn’t know what to do. I heard Becky back biting Nicole, who just laughed it off. She didn’t even seem worried or anything. That freaked me out more.

  Sammy put a tray of food on the table in front of me.

  “I can’t do this.”

  “Elena, it’s just a claim.”

  Becky slumped down onto the pillow next to me.

  “What if she succeeds?”

  Both of them stared at me with raised eyebrows.

  “Worse, what if I end up killing her. I don’t have full control of my dragon.”

  “Now that’s what’s supposed to come out of your mouth. Besides, she deserves to get her ass kicked Elena,” Becky said.

  “I can’t end up killing Lucian’s cousin, Becky.”

  “She should’ve never asked for this.”

  “How on earth did they even give permission for her to face Elena in the ring?” Sammy sounded as if she couldn’t believe it herself.

  “Daddy has plenty of money,” Becky offered, and jumped up as George reached our table. She gave him a long kiss before he sat down on the pillow next to her.

  “Thursday.” George had this huge grin with both thumbs up.

  “Your timing sucks,” Becky snapped at him and he dropped the thumbs and his smile vanished. “You’re not scared, are you? It’s Nicole we’re talking about here.”

  “She’s had trainers, George.”

  “Still, Elena. You’re a freaking Rubicon.”

  I ignored his over confident comments. “I can’t become her dragon. She’s like Arianna, even worse.”

  “You won’t. George is right. You have a shit load of abilities. She doesn’t stand a chance, Elena,” Sammy said.

  “Maybe you should stop seeing Blake for a couple of days,” Becky said. George just gave her the ‘huh?’ look.

  “Are you insane?” I grunted at her through clenched teeth and looked at George. She rolled her eyes.

  I couldn’t do that. I would go dark and that girl would die. I wasn’t going to kill Lucian’s cousin.

  “Just a suggestion.”

  “No.” I took a huge breath and pulled out my ponytail. I was used to the rainbow fringe and didn’t stare at it the way I used to anymore. “I will have to be calm and not give in. She can’t possibly be that good yet.”

  “Don’t underestimate her trainers.”

  “Seriously,” Sammy said and gave Becky the look. “Make up your mind if you’re going to help. You just told her that she has nothing to worry about.”

  “I’m just saying.”

  “So what do you say, give up, let that horrible girl become my Dragonian?”

  “Elena, she’s not going to become your rider. She doesn’t have what it takes to claim you. I’m sure my brother will have some sort of plan.”

  I nodded.

  “What is this about Elena not seeing Blake?” George still wanted to know.

  “Eat your food,” Becky snapped at him.

  LASS WAS DIFFICULT because I couldn’t stop thinking about Thursday. I hated every minute of it. Two o’clock couldn’t come soon enough and when Blake landed on the mountain I just started to explode.

  “How could she do that? How did they even let her?” My back was turned to him and my hands went up in every direction. I was so furious but with him being close to me, the feeling disappeared faster than it appeared. “I don’t understand. I can’t face her, I’m not ready.”

  Blake grabbed both my arms and for a minute I really thought he was going to kiss me to make me stop ranting, but he just stared at me. “Stop freaking out.”

  His peacock-blues took the heaviness from my chest and I could breathe again.

  “The ring isn’t your enemy, it’s theirs.”

  “I don’t know how to do this.”

  “Then I suggest we get started.”

  For the next four days Blake drilled me. The minute I brought Cara out and told her what was going to take place, she wasn’t happy.

/>   Spending time with Blake’s human form while I was in my dragon form was fun, but not easy as he would bring both of us back to reality on an hourly basis.

  “Elena, your biggest asset is changing the ring into what you want Nicole to see.”

  “Hell,” Cara said and I laughed.

  “What is the worst place you’ve ever imagined?” I asked Blake.

  “I once imagined a place filled with scorpions, snakes and spiders when Arianna tried to claim me. Let’s just say it was over before we even started.”

  “Would I see the same as she does?”

  “Elena you control it, you have to imagine it, otherwise she won’t see it.”

  “So, yes.”

  He chuckled.

  “You scared of spiders, Sugar?”

  “Spiders and scorpions are so not going to work.”

  “Bummer,” Cara replied.

  “Even if it’s Nicole’s worst fear?” Blake asked.

  “I don’t even know what her fear is.”

  “If you ask me super nicely, I can find out for you.”

  “Will you?”

  He chuckled. “Just don’t believe the rumors you hear.”

  “I like him more and more.”

  “Easy tiger,” I snapped at Cara.

  “What?” Blake asked.

  “Nothing, I wasn’t talking to you,” I snapped back.

  “Let’s practice. Imagine a volcano and that everything around you is covered with lava.”

  I sighed and closed my eyes.

  I took the picture in front of me and imagined the mountains as a volcano. Lava ran down from the top and into huge rivers of red and orange liquid fire.

  “Amazing.” I opened my eyes and found myself on the same spot, but the view wasn’t breathtaking anymore.

  “Put a bit of heat Elena, to make it more real.”

  “Leave that to me, Sugar,” Cara said and the air became dry in one second and heat blew in our faces.

  Blake stepped back covering his face. “A bit too much.”

  Cara laughed and turned off the temperature. “I could have fun with this.”

  “You think this might work with Nicole?”

  “I told you, leave it to me. She isn’t afraid of combat, you need to attack her worst fear otherwise you will face her again real soon.”

  “Okay.”

  N WEDNESDAY I gasped at a rumor one of the girls in my Arithmetic class told the girl next to her.

  They sat three rows in front of me, but the super hearing that came with being a dragon was awesome.

  “Blake slept with Nicole. Tabitha is so not happy about that.”

  “Is that why she slapped her this morning? Why did he sleep with her, I thought he was so over the girlfriend thing.”

  “She what?” The third one asked. Why I’d never gotten their names beats me.

  “Danika, I swear, we all saw that. Lucky bitch.”

  Don’t believe the rumors you’ll hear. Oh Blake what did you do?

  That afternoon he waited for me.

  “You slept with her?”

  He burst out laughing. “I told you not to believe the rumors.”

  “Blake, I didn’t mean you should sleep with the girl in order to find her fear.”

  “It’s the only way the female species spills their deepest secrets.”

  “You know what, I don’t want to know,” I started to laugh. “Just tell me what’s she afraid of?”

  “It really is pathetic.”

  “Tell me.”

  “She’s got a couple. One is vines that strangle you. Specifically, the creepers, then she’s scared of patsies.”

  I gasped. “What’s a patsy?”

  “You don’t know what a patsy is?” he asked through a huge grin.

  “No, my father used to say it all the time, but he never told me what a patsy was.”

  “It’s a small gecko that has a poisonous tongue, one lick will kill you but that’s a small piece of info that wasn’t shared with them, so instead of just licking their prey they roll over and pretend to be dead or limp, some even kill themselves.”

  “Are you serious?”

  He nodded with a huge grin on his face.

  “She has others?”

  “She doesn’t like the desert, something about the heat, and she has a thing for being ugly. I suggest you play with that one. Make her look ugly with boils and burns.”

  “Oh, I could have fun with that one,” Cara said.

  “My other suggestion is to give her hell, and she will never try to claim you again.”

  “It’s funny you say that, it was Cara’s first thought.”

  He burst out laughing. “You’ve got a funny way of dealing with things.”

  “What!” Cara said.

  He thinks I’m making you up.

  Cara was speechless but through her emotions I could tell it was bothering her a lot more than it bothered me.

  “So I’ve been told,” I said out loud and sent Cara a message that we would deal with this later.

  He showed me what a patsy looked like.

  It was quite big, and had all sorts of blues and yellows over its body. It shimmered in the sun.

  I watched as it licked its eyeballs every few seconds and when it saw us, it started to bite himself.

  “Okay, enough! You didn’t have to show me the gruesome killing themselves part. You could just let him fall over and pretend to be dead!”

  Blake just laughed.

  “Why on earth people are scared of them, I don’t know.” Another patsy took its place.

  It looked cute and the blue and orange on its face made it look as if it was smiling. I took over from Blake and imagined a couple of patsies playing around us.

  Blake laughed. “Don’t let them play, Elena. Make them vicious.”

  “I don’t know how.”

  “Let me.” He gave them teeth and made their tongue longer so that they almost reached us. I moved away from them, which made Blake laugh again.

  “They’re not real, but I’m sure you get the picture.” Blake laughed. “If you add them to the pit of hell, she will scream for the hills.”

  “I hope she doesn’t go insane.”

  “It should teach her to never even consider going after a Rubicon again.”

  “Can she reverse it, you know back to what is real?”

  “If she’s good and not afraid, yes.”

  “Could she create a world where I would forget that it’s only a spell?”

  “She’s not a dragon, Elena, and she’s only in her first year, besides spells don’t work on dragons.”

  I sighed. “So she could only make me see what is real?”

  He nodded.

  “Just as long as I don’t end up being her bitch.”

  He laughed again.

  “Is this how you felt every time Lucian tried to claim you?”

  “It was different with him. A part of me really wished that he would succeed but the dark in me wouldn’t let him. I’m just glad that I didn’t end up killing him. That last time when he didn’t get up and I just wanted to keep on fighting…” he stroked his face hard at that memory. “No one will ever be as brave as him.”

  “He surely was that, and so much more.”

  “You’ll see, tomorrow. I promise you, Nicole won’t claim you.”

  “Okay.”

  “Not okay, Elena. She won’t.”

  “She won’t.”

  I tried to have a discussion with Cara on our flight back but the info she’d gotten from Blake today still haunted her. She had plenty of questions and I couldn’t answer all of them, but it elevated some of her fears.

  That night I decided to go for an evening flight and slipped out of the window butt naked. I didn’t have time for a robe.

  When I jumped off the ledge I turned in mid-air. It was crazy how fast I’d learned all of this, and how natural it all felt now that I’d made peace with my dragon form.

  “Oooh a night str
oll?”

  “Night glide you mean,” I joked.

  “What’s on your mind, Sugar? You never do anything like this.”

  “I’m scared. What if Nicole succeeds?”

  “She won’t.”

  “But what if, Cara?”

  “Honey bun told you what her greatest fears are, use them.”

  “So what, we have a name for him now?”

  She laughed. “I know you like him too, Sugar.”

  “Yeah, but he warned me not to fall for him.”

  “He’s a coward. You are amazing.”

  I huffed. “So what, we give her hell?”

  “No, we give her her worst fear. Desert, it will be a kind of hell she will never forget.”

  “I don’t know if I can watch.”

  “You don’t have to if you don’t want to,” Cara said.

  “What if something happens? We can’t kill her Cara.”

  “I know, Sugar, but I don’t want her to come after us again.”

  “Me neither.”

  “Let’s scare and repair.”

  “Scare and repair,” I laughed as we glided on a roof of clouds. The stars shone brightly and they looked beautiful. This was the most amazing feeling ever and I couldn’t believe that I used to be so afraid of heights.

  “Yes, we scare the living crap out of her and let Constance repair her.”

  I laughed. “You sure have a plan for everything.”

  “That’s why you love me so much.”

  We took a sharp left and found the top of another mountain. It was beautiful.

  “You still miss him?”

  “Every day,” I said as we walked past huge trees. “But it disappears for a while when I’m with the idiot.”

  “Whatever lets you sleep at night. Just remember, men don’t always mean the things they say.”

  “When did you become an expert on men?”

  “Oh my instincts say other things.” We just laughed. “He tell you why he’s doing this?”

  “Not yet, but I’ve got a feeling that I’m keeping the dark in him away too, just like he does with us. So I don’t think he has a choice.”

  “You always have a choice.”

  We found a lake with beautiful trees whose branches touched the water. A wooden bench stood right on the edge and looked onto a waterfall.

 
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