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       Frostbite, p.11

           Adrienne Woods
 

  “Isn’t this gorgeous?”

  “I dreamt about this place.”

  “What!” Cara laughed.

  “I dreamt about it, every detail. How is this possible, it doesn’t make sense?”

  “Everything is possible if you have love in your life, Sugar.”

  “It’s not like that.”

  “What doesn’t make sense?” She wanted to know the answer to a previous question.

  “It’s like I’ve known Paegeia my whole life and yet I was born on the other side.”

  “Mmmm, the heart wants what the heart wants. The way I see it, our homes are imprinted in our hearts and minds, every fiber carries its blueprint. Your soul longed for Paegeia even without you knowing about its existence.”

  “Those are the most beautiful words I’ve ever heard.”

  “What can I say, I’ve got a magic touch when it comes to words, and I’m lethal all at the same time.”

  “The yin-yang.”

  “Exactly.”

  It was quiet for a while as I lay on the edge of the lake just staring at the waterfall. Night vision was amazing. You could see every detail, even when it was pitch black.

  “You’re still scared?”

  “Not so much.”

  “Then let’s give this girl a piece of our mind tomorrow. Show her she should never have asked to claim us. We don’t need a Dragonian, Elena.”

  “Agreed.”

  LAKE CAME WITH me to the Coliseum. Nerves were tucking inside my body but it was because I needed to hear Cara’s voice, to know that she was still up for taking the lead. I decided to be present. They say two heads are better than one, today we would prove that theory.

  “You’re extremely quiet today. You still scared?”

  “No, not scared. I just don’t like any of this.”

  “Now you know how all of us feel.”

  “You guys really don’t want a Dragonian?”

  He frowned as he walked beside me. “It’s not really about not wanting a Dragonian. The Chromatics need one. I guess it’s got to do with the type of person that wants to claim you. See Lucian was worthy of claiming me, but he wasn’t strong enough. Arianna,” he rolled his eyes. “I guess I don’t have to elaborate on that.”

  I laughed. “That’s exactly how I feel about Nicole.”

  “Then don’t give in, Elena.”

  “I’m not planning on it.”

  He smiled. “That’s the spirit.”

  We reached the Coliseum and he opened one of the gates as if they didn’t weigh anything.

  “Will Mia be here?”

  “Mia will be prepping Nicole, but I can bet she wanted to be here, Elena.”

  We walked into a room and I could hear the crowds outside. “I don’t have to run around like an idiot outside, do I?”

  He laughed. “No, less is better. It’s more intimidating.”

  “Thank heavens for that.”

  He chuckled. “What, no ‘for the love of blueberries’?”

  “Ha ha,” I rolled my eyes.

  “It’s time. You should get ready.”

  I went into another small room and started to undress. I didn’t know when I’d get used to ever being naked in front of Blake or any other person. I pulled the robe over my head and it covered everything up to my ankles. I took a deep breath. Cara, I hope you are ready for this.

  I found Blake sitting on the stone bench which was molded into the wall, with his eyes closed. I stepped forward, and his eyes opened and he looked at me with a soft smile. I sat down next to him and rested my head against the wall.

  The crowd started to cheer loudly. “It’s time. You should get your ass out there.”

  I blew out a breath hard and got up. “Any last minute advice?”

  “Yeah, don’t get claimed.”

  “Yes, sir.”

  He chuckled as I pressed the button and the gate in front of me rose. I stepped out into the ring and immediately spotted Becky, Sammy, Dean and George in the crowd; they weren’t hard to miss as George and Dean held a huge banner saying: Give her hell, Elena. It made me smile.

  When Thunderstruck started to play I looked back at Blake. “Seriously,” I mouthed and he shook his head.

  I lifted up both my arms and jumped with everything I had. Cara came out and I could feel my robe tear into pieces. The crowd went crazy as we flew around the ring.

  “Are you ready for this, Sugar?”

  “I’m ready, just don’t kill her.”

  “Me, never. I’m just going to give her what she deserves.”

  “And what is that?”

  “To wish she was never born.”

  I laughed.

  Nicole came out wearing something similar to Becky the day she’d claimed George. The crowds cheered and I caught King Helmut resting his head on his arm. He looked bored, older. My heart ached for him.

  “Honey, now isn’t the time,” Cara said. “Whatever it is, it has to wait.”

  Cara ducked a bolt of lightning. “What the hell?” both of us yelled.

  It brought me back to reality. “She doesn’t have the mark, where the heck did she get lightning from.”

  “I don’t know but this is turning into a different ball game, Sugar.”

  “Do what you have to do, just don’t get claimed.”

  “Not planning on it.”

  For the next ten minutes we ducked and dived lightning. A couple zapped me on my butt, but they didn’t do the kind of damage Nicole had hoped for.

  “It’s time,” Cara said.

  I closed my eyes and let Cara take over, while I concentrated on the driest desert I could muster. An ocean of sand formed in my head with no sign of a tree or shade. I couldn’t see what Nicole saw as I had to keep my mind clear. The more details my picture had, the better we would succeed in giving Nicole what she deserved. When the picture in my head was done I imagined a patsy. She shrieked and started to scream as I imagined more than just one. The crowd was gone and the only sound was the sizzle of the blazing sun. Vines sprouted out of the earth.

  “I wish you could see this, Elena.”

  “Don’t mess with an artist.”

  Cara laughed. “Ditto.”

  “This isn’t going to work, Elena, your ass will be mine,” Nicole yelled.

  “Yeah, we’ll see about that.”

  I could feel heat emerging from my core and leaving my throat. My eyes were still closed as I held on to the picture of what I wanted Nicole to see.

  She screamed a couple of times.

  “I got to give it to her, Sugar, she sure doesn’t want to surrender.”

  “I don’t care what she wants, she’s not claiming us.”

  “We need to push this one up.”

  What could be worse than her fear?

  I could feel Nicole’s lightning burning on my skin. She threw them fast and didn’t stop. I struggled to gain my balance and started to lose my grip on the picture inside my head.

  This can’t be happening! It was both mine and Cara’s thought.

  I had to do something but at that moment I was too worried about missing one of her lightning bolts to regain my balance.

  Cara and I stopped in mid-air as we found ourselves inside the pits of hell. It was dry and there were rivers and rivers of lava. It made the scales on my body smell as if they were roasting. The picture in my mind wasn’t mine. It came from another source. More patsies ran towards Nicole. She started to kick at them and dodge their tongues. Their evil glares were nothing like I’d imagined. The whole picture was nothing like I’d imagined. Hands made of thick, worm-like creatures with teeth snapped at her. Nicole screamed again as the teeth of the worms almost grabbed her. The earth shook slightly as more fire sprouted out of the ground, she tried to keep her balance on a small rock, with flailing arms. Then a huge rock hand formed from the rocks that weren’t engulfed in flames, and trapped her. I could see fire starting to lick her and boils and burns consumed her face. She screamed in agony.

/>   “Cara, enough,” I yelled as Nicole’s face boiled.

  “Honey, this isn’t me doing this.”

  “Then who?”

  “I don’t know.”

  Nicole yelled “Give,” and everything disappeared. We found ourselves inside the ring and she was crying in pain like a crazy person.

  “Don’t, just walk away,” Cara told me as I wanted to go and see if she was okay. “She’s showing signs of life. You don’t need to go to her.”

  Dragons flew in front of us blocking my view. Mia was still in her human form. “She gave up, Elena, just calm down.”

  “I am calm. Is she okay?” my deep voice asked.

  “She’ll be fine. The pits of hell, it was a bit drastic, Elena. I doubt that she will try claiming you again soon. Unless she’s like her cousin.”

  “She’s nothing like Lucian,” I snapped at Mia and walked toward the area I had come from.

  Blake was nowhere to be found.

  “Cara what the hell just happened in that ring?”

  “I don’t know, Sugar. I thought it was you.”

  “It wasn’t.”

  “Then we better find out who.”

  Something told me I already knew the answer, but how? He told me he didn’t have that ability. He couldn’t read minds and yet that picture was exactly what Nicole was afraid of. The boils and the patsies; the same patsies he’d conjured that day on the rocks with their tongues a bit longer and their evil glares.

  “I’ll speak to you later,” I whispered.

  “Okay, Babe.”

  I shifted and pulled on my clothes fast. Becky and Sammy were waiting for me outside the ring.

  “You are the shit!” Becky sang and held out her hand for a high five, but when she saw that I didn’t share her enthusiasm, her grin faded and Sammy’s smile disappeared as they saw the confusion on my face.

  “What’s wrong?” Becky asked.

  “I’ll tell you later, too many ears,” I said. “Any of you seen Blake?”

  “He’s not with you?” Sammy asked.

  “He was, but he disappeared.”

  We went back to the castle and I hoped that I would find him on the way, but he was really gone. When we reached the room they couldn’t stop talking about the pit of fire, saying that it would go into the book of worst places Dragonians ever faced inside the ring.

  “I’m so glad that I didn’t have to claim you.”

  “You don’t get it Becky, that wasn’t me.” I looked at Sammy. “I think it came from your brother.”

  ORRIED WAS AN understatement and Blake was missing in action. What Blake had done was called Intervening and by law, Nicole could claim me as her dragon without any further ado.

  How it all worked was still Greek to me, but the one thing I got was unless you’re Blake, if someone interferes with a claiming, the dragon automatically becomes that Dragonian’s property. I didn’t know if it went for me too, since I was what he was, but I wasn’t going to tell anyone and find out.

  I hate the word claiming now even more, and I had never thought so much about it until now. I guess seeing everything through a dragon’s perspective was a whole different world.

  The rest of the day I searched everywhere for Blake. It was hopeless and I had a restless night.

  The queen still somehow managed to jump in-between a giant Nicole claiming a baby Rubicon, which I assume was me. She dragged me to that forest and then turned into the queen. I could hear her saying my name, but it wasn’t directly, it was floating on the wind.

  I woke up the minute she burst into flames again. Cold sweat ran down my back as I remembered Lucian telling me about Queen Catherine being strapped to her bed and set on fire. No person should die that way.

  The next day, class couldn’t move fast enough. Every subject dragged and I kept staring at the clock. Each second that ticked by felt like an hour.

  When the last bell rang I ran to my room to change. I pulled on my robe over my naked body and ran to the trees close to the lake. When the coast was clear I shifted and flew to the mountain where I’d met Blake for the past five weeks.

  He wasn’t there and I shifted back, pulled on the robe and waited by one of the boulders. If it was him who had put that image into my head….he’d lied.

  I racked my mind for any other explanation, but none came. It was just an image, but I knew for a fact it wasn’t mine. It had that same familiar feeling as the image I’d gotten that day in Professor Gregory’s class when we covered the Green Vapor.

  Could Blake really do that? Lucian said he didn’t own that type of ability, but then again, Lucian only knew about four of Blake’s abilities.

  “Sorry I’m late.”

  I jumped but didn’t look at him. I could see through the corner of my eyes his hands fiddling with getting the robe over his head. I closed my eyes.

  I could feel the heat from his body radiating as he sank down onto the boulder next to me.

  “Are you okay?” he bumped me softly.

  “I don’t know.”

  “Elena, she didn’t claim you.”

  I gave him a stern look. “Was it you?”

  “Was it me, what?”

  “You know what I’m talking about Blake.” I got up, scared to speak about this, afraid someone else might hear.

  “No, I don’t.”

  “The hell, with the evil patsies and everything,” I spat at him. “It wasn’t me, and it sure wasn’t Cara, so I don’t know who the hell imprinted that scene into my head. Paul was the only one, Blake.”

  “It’s not Paul, okay,” he said fast. “The desert wasn’t scary enough, Elena.”

  “I don’t care.

  “She wasn’t afraid of it. It was as if she expected it, so I wanted to change it… and it happened.”

  I kept staring at him. “She could claim me if she ever found out.”

  “They won’t, you’re a Rubicon, Elena.”

  “You don’t know that.” Nicole was Lucian’s cousin, but she was far from Lucian. The total opposite to be exact, and I so didn’t want her to become my rider.

  “What is going on with us? I don’t get this.”

  “I do.”

  “Please share.”

  “We’re the same, Elena. We’re bound to have some sort of link with one another that makes us different from all the other dragons.”

  “All my life I’ve been different, but never in a million years did I expect to be this.” My hands gestured down my body.

  “You still don’t like being a dragon?”

  “That’s not what I said. I love my dragon. She has helped me with a lot of things that I would never be able to make peace with on my own.” I went back to the boulder and sat down. “Why did you help me?”

  “She’s not worthy enough to claim you,” he said.

  “Why do you care who is worthy enough or not?”

  “You’re a Rubicon. Only the best of the best should be able to claim you, never forget that.” He looked at me in such a way that I thought he was going to be able to see my deepest secret. The one where I’d broken his promise and crashed madly in love with him. I hid my face inside my hands.

  I looked back at him, he was still staring at me and I could feel his peacock-blues. His face came closer to mine and for a short moment I couldn’t breathe, then he snapped his head away, got up and walked to the nearest tree.

  My heart started to thump and I didn’t know what had just happened. I could feel we were almost there. I could sense that Tabitha was far from his mind and Lucian was nowhere near mine. It was only us.

  “There are rumors that Arianna is going to try to claim one of us next. I’ve got a feeling that it’s going to be you, so we should start preparing for it. She’s a bit more fierce than Nicole.”

  “Are you shitting me?”

  “I can help you.” He was back in front of me in a crouching position.

  “Blake, you can’t. If anyone finds out what it is you can do…” I closed my eyes
and shook my head. “I can’t become Arianna’s, she’s even more evil than Nicole.”

  “You won’t, just trust me.”

  “I take it you know her fears too?”

  “All of them.” He gave a seductive smile.

  “You know when she’s planning this?”

  “The way some of the Dragonians spoke about it, soon.”

  “Then we should get started.”

  OR THE NEXT couple of days I froze every time Master Longwei’s voice came from the speaker system. He hadn’t once mentioned my name or Arianna’s, or the word claim, but it’d led to a lot of restless nights and I somehow missed Paul’s stupid voice inside my head. He sure had a way of calming me down.

  The afternoons with Blake were the only things that helped, even though he trained me harder than ever; I somehow forgot what it was he was preparing me for.

  I was drained every afternoon and barely had the strength to notice anything else that was going on around the Academy.

  Becky and Sammy disappeared after dinner and I took a long bath. I would wake up every single time when my gills appeared and realize that I had fallen asleep in the tub.

  When I got out, I would usually be wide awake and have a bit of strength left to do my homework for the next day.

  When I left the bathroom that night the most beautiful dresses were strewn on Becky’s bed. Not the modern fancy type of dresses but the princess kind, with undergarments and corsets.

  “Is Halloween coming early this year?”

  Becky laughed. “No silly. It’s for the Testrial ball.”

  I gave her the best confused look I could muster.

  “Seriously Elena, where is your mind lately? You know what?” she said with her hand in the air. “Don’t answer that.”

  I giggled.

  “The school has banners everywhere,” Sammy said.

  “I guess my mind is not on balls and …okay, that did not come out the way I wanted it to.”

  The two of them laughed after they gasped.

  “My brother is seriously rubbing off on you.”

  “You guys are talking about balls?”

  “No,” somehow I managed to blush which made them laugh even harder. “Whatever.”

  Becky got up and put her arm around my neck. “Not to worry, dearest Elena. I got you a ticket and a dress.”

 
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