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Darkbeam part i, p.13
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       Darkbeam Part I, p.13

           Adrienne Woods
 
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  I nodded. As pathetic as it was, these were the beast’s friends. This was where he wanted me to be, even if I didn’t agree.

  He took something out of his pocket and threw it at me. It was a small packet of bills.

  I look at him, uncomprehending.

  “For next time. To kill them faster.”

  I thumbed the money.

  He spoke in Spanish to the driver and nodded at Dimi. The limo stopped in the middle of nowhere as I felt Dimi’s magic slowly evaporating.

  “Get out.”

  I gaped at Samuel.

  “Out, boy!” he shouted.

  I had no choice but to get out and watch him shut the door behind me. The limo drove away.

  I gritted my teeth as the real me returned. The Rubicon was at peace. I stretched out my arms and pushed myself up into the air.

  I’d never felt so pathetic in my life.

  “Blake?” my mother said. “Where did you get this money?”

  “Does it matter? Just take it.”

  She gave me that look. The one filled with concern and fear.

  “Don’t worry. I didn’t steal it, if that is what you’re afraid of.”

  She flung her arms around me. “You know I’m grateful, right?”

  “Yeah, I know.” I kissed her on the head.

  “Your father is just…”

  “Don’t make excuses for him, Mom. He should know better.”

  She nodded. “You don’t know what it’s like for him. He had everything…”

  “He still has us! Look what he is doing. I don’t want to hear how he lost everything. It was almost fifteen years ago. He should get over it and move on.”

  “Please!” She raised her voice. “I don’t want to fight.”

  “Then stop defending him.” I looked around. “Where is he anyway?”

  “He took Samantha to Warbel practice at the club. He is trying, Blake.”

  I hope it sticks this time. I really did.

  “You aren’t staying?”

  “No, I have other arrangements,” I said and saw the disappointment on her face. I hugged my mom.

  “I miss you.”

  “I know you do. I just cannot deal with him right now. I’ve gotta go. I’ll speak to you soon.”

  She nodded. “You still here?” She was referring to the darkness.

  “I’m still here, Mom.” For now.

  I walked out the front door.

  I was glad Samantha wasn’t there. She would find a way to convince me to stay.

  I took to the sky again and flew back to the Academy. All the while, fears chased me like ghosts. Images of my mother finding out what I’d done to get that money haunted me.

  Was I still here? Was I truly trying to hold on, or was I starting to give in?

  I hoped I didn’t exist when my mother discovered the truth about who I really was.

  I was in the ring again. Patrick the Green-Vapor was overpowering me.

  “I know it’s you, Rubicon.”

  He was stronger.

  He ripped at my arm. The screams were deafening. I didn’t know how this fight could’ve gone so wrong so quickly.

  I killed him. I knew I had. But somehow here he was. Beating me. Calling me out.

  “You are a monster, Blake Leaf!” he kept yelling.

  I grew smaller and smaller as the crowd chanted, “Monster! Monster! Monster!”

  The words took the shape of an invisible force and it started to grip my neck. Suffocating me. I couldn’t breathe.

  “Monster! Monster! Monster….”

  I shot upright in bed, panting heavily.

  For a few seconds, I tried to get the invisible grip around my neck to loosen until I realized I was in my own room.

  Reality dawned on me. What I had done, truly had done.

  Bile rose in my throat. I ran to the bathroom and barely made it to the toilet. I barfed.

  Thank God Lucian wasn’t here. He’d gone home like he always did on weekends.

  I could still hear Patrick’s screams, still smell his insides spilled all over the floor, hear his flesh incinerating and ripping from his body.

  I couldn’t deal with this, not now.

  I grabbed the bag of Fire-Cain that Phil had given me and poured a bit onto the palm of my hand, snorting it up. It burned my nostrils and set my brain on fire. It only lasted for a few seconds. Then, everything changed, the world fuzzy and clouded.

  The high was everything I ever needed. It felt good to be free. To not feel or care or hear anything I didn’t want to hear.

  I was at peace.

  And that was how I wanted it to be.

  The next few weeks, I dreamed about Patrick every night.

  I didn’t dream that he broke me anymore. My mind was too strong and even in dreams I knew the truth. I dreamed about the horrible deeds that had actually happened. Which were worse.

  “Blake what is going on with you?” Lucian asked one morning. “Who is Patrick?”

  “Leave me alone,” I mumbled and stalked out the door.

  Irene asked me who Patrick was, too. Apparently I cried out his name in my sleep. I lied to her, told her it was an old friend who’d died a long time ago. Whether she believed me or not, I didn’t know. It wasn’t as if she could see my future anyway. All she saw was darkness upon darkness.

  I tried to deal with it as best as I could. I didn’t want to fight anymore and I was literally counting the days until my contract ended.

  Then one night something else, something totally different, happened.

  I found myself standing in the ring. A different kind of ring. The Colosseum.

  The crowds were chanting. I looked at each spectator. They all took Lucian’s form. Every single one of them was Lucian. Icy fingers of fear snatched my spine, immobilized me.

  The earth vibrated. I felt it underneath my feet. I couldn’t shift. I tried, but my true form just didn’t want to come.

  Wake up, Blake.

  Nothing happened.

  I choked and gasped for air.

  I wanted to run. I never ran. I was no coward. But whatever was making the earth vibrate was big—and unfriendly.

  I couldn’t get away. My feet became lead. They didn’t want to move.

  Lucian, every single one of him, pointed in my direction. Then everything just stopped. There was no more vibration, no sound. Just all the Lucians pointing at me and the sickening taste of silence.

  The gate of the Colosseum creaked open. A drum beat rose, a tattoo of terror. It grew louder and louder until I realized what it was.

  Not a drum.

  When it came out, I had to cover my eyes as the sun reflected off armor. A thousand knights, all of them were wearing platinum—no, white, pure white—armor.

  They marched to the same beat. Toward me.

  A thousand knights couldn’t claim me. It was against dragon law.

  I finally shifted but I wasn’t as big as I accustomed to being. In fact, the closer the knights came, the smaller I grew.

  No, this wasn’t right.

  No.

  No.

  No! I woke up.

  My breath was rapid.

  Why the fuck did I just dream that?

  “It’s just a dream, Blake.” Lucian was at my side.

  His hand touched my shoulder. “Just a dream.”

  The dream about knights claiming me haunted my subconscious for the next few days.

  Irene was incapable of discerning its significance. It couldn’t be about my future. Lucian wasn’t the white knight; he was in the crowd, pointing. Who or what represented the white knight? Goran? He was everything but light. He was evil and should be dark in the dream, but he was also the only one strong enough to be able to handle me when I turned.

  No matter how hard I tried to figure this one out, all roads led to the one thing I didn’t want: a rider.

  I didn’t care how brave or how worthy of me they were, I wasn’t one of those dragons who could belong to someone.


  The redhead popped into my mind again. Why did I dream about her, my Never-Breath? Why? It all started with her occupying my dreams.

  I met Isaac and the band on Friday for rehearsal. We’d put a few songs together and were tinkering with the rest. Getting another album out there might not be such a bad thing. We could record it during our summer break that was coming up soon.

  We practiced “Forever Last,” and Isaac’s additions brought it to life.

  The “Never-Breath” single had been performing great on the charts. Royalties from its sales went straight to Mom.

  Hearing my mother telling me that he took my sister to Warbel practice made me wonder. Maybe he was really different this time.

  Singing “Never-Breath” at practice added more pressure instead of lessening the darkness. The song was just for her. The girl who didn’t exist, that would never exist.

  I was an emotional wreck by the fourth time. I threw the mic to the ground, causing a shrill feedback loop that made the band members clap their hands over their ears.

  “Blake!” Isaac yelled.

  I ignored him. I needed to get away.

  “Is he okay?” I heard Ty ask as I stripped and took flight.

  “Just let him go. He’ll be fine,” I heard Isaac say before I was gone, headed to my mountain.

  I screamed a lot that night.

  I was so frustrated.

  Frustrated about my past, frustrated with what-ifs, frustrated that I couldn’t be normal no matter how hard I tried. There would always be a dark underline in my life. Even if Lucian claimed me, which he wouldn’t... I would always be dark.

  I needed to make peace with it, but for some reason I still held on.

  That night I dreamt again about the knights; they seemed to multiply and the fear became more real with each repetition.

  I woke with a startle again and used. I had no choice. Nobody was here to calm my soul. To tell me it was just a dream.

  Or maybe it was just an excuse.

  Maybe I was already too addicted that I was going to find excuses now to use whenever I could. My worst fear just became reality. I was an addict.

  A rampage of killing went on during the high. Everything the beast wanted. The human was gone, drugged out of his mind. No protesting, just giving the beast free range to do as he pleased.

  Was it my imagination? Hallucinations? I couldn’t be sure. But it haunt me on the lows.

  The only thing I did feel on the lows was a mother of a headache and utter loneliness. Loneliness that made it hard to breathe.

  I felt someone tapping on the floor. A hollow sound. Tap, tap, tap, fast.

  Then I felt a tug against my cheek. It became harder, faster, until I realized that the tapping wasn’t on the floor. Someone was hitting my face.

  My eyes opened. The headache threatened to split my head in two. A body hovered over me.

  It wasn’t Tabitha, the smell was masculine.

  Lucian. He was back. “Fuck, Blake. What the hell?” It felt as if he was screaming into my ears.

  I saw the bag of Fire-Cain in his hand. He emptied the packet over the toilet. My reflexes were too slow.

  “Are you insane!” I roared at him. “I NEED THAT!”

  “You need that? You fucking need that?” Lucian wasn’t much for cussing. No, he was too good for that. He flushed the toilet, face bright red.

  “You need help.”

  “No, I need to stay sane. This was helping me.”

  “It’s Fire-Cain, Blake. It’s a drug that will put you into the ground faster than the darkness.”

  “Fuck you! You have no idea what it’s like!” I yelled at him. “To have this darkness…” I chose my words with care. I didn’t want to sound like a loon. I tapped my temple hard. “Stuck inside of you; wanting you to do shit you don’t want to, and if you don’t, it would kill everything you love.”

  His eyes were hard. Anger rolled off him in waves. “Fire-Cain was never the plan, Blake.”

  “The plan changed a long time ago, Lucian. You are the only one who doesn’t seem to be getting that.”

  “I’m working my ass off to claim you.”

  “You’re wasting your fucking time. You aren’t the royal fated to claim me!” I screamed. When would this idiot get it?

  “I don’t fucking care. You will not use again. Otherwise I will go to the authorities.”

  “Authorities? Are you threatening me?” I grabbed his collar.

  He pushed back hard. “I will do whatever it takes to keep the Rubicon sane.”

  “Is that what blood brothers do? You would betray me?” The beast inside was furious. Furious with his fucking skinny ass thinking he could just snap his little fingers and get what he wanted.

  “Blake, stop this,” he said.

  My fist connected hard with his jaw. The second punch was air as he rolled out of the way and then dove into me. I crashed with him on top of me.

  “You want to use fists?” He knocked one out of the park. His blow burned on my face.

  Another blow. My teeth scraped against the inside of my lip and I spat blood. My fist connected hard with his and he toppled to the ground. I got up and my foot connected hard with his stomach.

  A pair of arms grabbed me from behind.

  I growled at whoever was holding me back.

  “Calm down, Blake,” George said.

  I pushed forward again but another pair of hands yanked me back.

  Brian. “Dude, Brian doesn’t approve. He is royalty.”

  “Brian,” Lucian grunted still on all fours. “Shut the fuck up.” He lunged, but Brian let go and took the blow instead.

  “Calm down, both of you!” Brian yelled. No longer speaking in third person.

  “Blake, snap out of it. That is Lucian.”

  I spat blood on the floor.

  Blood poured out of Lucian’s nose.

  “I’ll see you in the ring soon,” Lucian grunted and walked out of the room, shoulders straight, chin high.

  “Seriously, dude,” George said. “You will fucking kill him.”

  “Get the fuck out of my room!” I yelled.

  When they didn’t move, I was tempted to beat the living crap out of them too. I decided it was best to go myself. I jumped out of the window and allowed my wings to take shape.

  Calm down, Blake. Calm down. I repeated to myself.

  That wasn’t the beast who had gone off on him.

  It had been the human. That was me.

  Summer arrived, slow and sticky and hot.

  Lucian and I hadn’t spoken after the that last fight.

  He trained every second he could with Mia in the Parthenon and at night he crashed wordlessly into bed.

  I hated him so much for trying.

  I didn’t want to think about the brotherhood we’d shared so long ago, about the blood promise he’d made. I was going to be the death of him. That I did know.

  I wanted to spend the summer at Dragonia, but I was forced to go home.

  The first day wasn’t easy. My father was always there. We didn’t speak much. I didn’t even want to look at him. He was a coward, even if he didn’t remember any of that. The old Sir Robert would never hide behind his family.

  My mother often tried to get some sort of a conversation going around the table, but the minute my plate was finished, I would get up and leave.

  I found myself in the park numerous times, sitting in the swings.

  When it got dark and late, I would work on my songs. Sometimes a few sentences would pop up; other days I would sit for hours hearing nothing.

  The tabloids were filled with Lucian and Arianna one morning.

  Arianna was the Princess of Areeth. She wasn’t what I thought of as beautiful. Not that she was ugly or anything; she was a looker in her own messed-up way. She had long strawberry curls flowing down her back and an oval face. I never cared for her or her family. Not the way I cared for Lucian.

  Their budding relationship had been arranged
from day one. I wondered if he really loved her or if he was just giving his father what he demanded. Being a good son.

  I couldn’t identify with that.

  The kingdoms wanted one ruler for Paegeia again. And this was their way. So sixteenth-century. I actually felt bad for the guy.

  “So they’re, like, an item now?” my sister asked over her orange juice, fluttering a newspaper over her eggs.

  “I think it’s lovely,” Mom said. “They fit together.”

  “Fit together? Mom, it’s Arianna.”

  “She is still your princess, Sammy.”

  “I don’t know. Lucian is too good for her. He always has been.”

  “Do we really need to listen to this now? It’s so not our department,” my father said, pointing at me and him. He smiled.

  I tried. I really tried to see what my mom and sister did, but it was so hard, remembering the bad.

  “You need to get ready, sweetheart. Warbel tryouts don’t wait for anyone.”

  “I’ll take you,” I said and got up.

  “Seriously?!” Sammy sounded excited.

  “Seriously,” I mocked her, making my voice deeper and raising my eyebrows softly.

  She clapped her hands and jumped up. “Let me go get my bag.”

  She ran up the stairs and I found my mother smiling after her. She kissed my head and took my plate.

  My father got up and left the room.

  “He’s trying, Blake.”

  “Don’t push this. We’ll make peace when we do, okay?”

  She nodded with a faint smile. I was worried about her speaking of the trying part. What did Samuel took away and what did he leave behind.

  “Let’s go!”

  Sammy babbled all the way to the crevice. It was the only place big enough for Warbel practice.

  I would have given anything to be on a team. But the Council refused. Being the Rubicon wasn’t always all it was cracked out to be.

  I watched Samantha play. She was fast, but her reflexes were slow.

  I knew the coach. He’d played professionally and was on Blaze’s team. She’d tried to get me on their team but it was no use.

  She offered Lucian a spot, too, but he’d refused it because of another stupid promise; that one day we would both play on the same team. He tried to pull strings for me, to no avail.

 
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