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       Frostbite, p.15

           Adrienne Woods

  “Don’t do this, Elena. That fire kills, there is no cure. Sammy is your friend. I’m your friend. Just calm down. This isn’t you.”

  I looked at her and could hear grunts coming from my chest.

  “Just calm down. We don’t need your help, it’s okay. We’ll do this without you.”

  “He doesn’t deserve our help,” I grunted at Becky.

  “Lucian died for him too, Elena. He wouldn’t have wanted this.”

  “Everything changed when Blake didn’t go with Lucian. You don’t know what Lucian wanted.”

  “You’re right, I don’t. But he didn’t want the girl he loved to kill his best friend.”

  I just stared at her. “I’m not that same girl anymore.”

  Becky nodded her head. She knew it was the truth and it was as if it’d finally sunk in.

  “You really want to kill my brother.” Sammy’s body lingered halfway past Becky’s. Disappointment changed her face.

  “I’m sorry, but I don’t believe your brother can be claimed. I’m not going to lose my home or let Goran past the Creepers because of him.” I grunted the words. “He won’t be your brother anymore.”

  She had tears in her eyes and nodded her head. “Then we can no longer be friends.”

  “Fine with me. I don’t need you anyway.”

  Sammy stormed out of the room with Dean right beside her.

  George and Becky became silent and they just looked at me.

  She opened her mouth to say something but George touched her shoulder and shook his head. “Don’t, it’s no use,” he whispered but my enhanced hearing made it sound as if he’d said it to me.

  She nodded and they left.

  WAS LEFT ALONE from that moment on and I found myself sleeping most of the time. It was my way of holding on. When I was asleep, the dream world took over and I could do whatever I wanted in there without hurting the people I loved. Keeping them at a safe distance from me was the only way I knew how to show them I cared anymore.

  Christmas break was coming up. Becky and Sammy were going home. Both their moms invited me to come with, but I declined as I wanted to be left alone. Who knows what I would end up doing.

  I entered the room after a really hard day and kicked an envelope that was lying on the floor a couple of paces away from me. The crest of Lucian’s family looked back at me. I picked up the envelope and just stared at it.

  The past couple of months they’d had nothing to say to me and now I get an envelope reaching out, or…. Maybe they weren’t reaching out.

  One hand lit up to burn the envelope that was inside the other, but for some reason I couldn’t do it. I knew I had to face the things they had written. My fire disappeared and I tore the envelope open. A small note fell out onto the floor.

  My eyebrows knitted together. A note? All they gave me was a note.

  I picked it up and opened it.

  “Join us for Christmas. We have lots to talk about. It was what Lucian would’ve wanted.


  I turned the note around and it was blank on the back. Nothing made sense. I was exactly who they’d thought I would be. I’d led their son to his death and yet they still wanted me to join them. I didn’t understand.

  I put the envelope in my drawer as Becky and Sammy entered.

  They dropped off their bags and left without saying a word. I don’t know why they still wanted to figure something out. Blake was evil and there was absolutely nothing that could change that.

  The rest of the week passed by slowly. I went down to the dungeon of the castle where they kept Blake. I’d never even known we had a dungeon but for some stupid reason I could still feel him close by; when I followed the feeling one afternoon it led me down a lot of stairs and I found him sleeping on a bed inside one of the cells. He was completely gone. No emotion showed on his face. I would end up staring at him for hours. He was so damn beautiful.

  It was weird what we had, but it was strong. He was the only one that could keep me from the dark. Even when he wasn’t here, he still had that effect on me. He controlled my darkness.

  Things always ended up with me asking his sleeping body why he hadn’t gone with Lucian, did he really hate me so much? But not once did I get my answer. I guess I never would.

  I found myself down with him more than I wanted to, but controlling the dark was the only thing I had to do. Until it was time to kill him. Heaven knew I wanted to do it while he was sleeping there, but I wasn’t a coward. I couldn’t kill someone who had no ability to fight back. Sammy and Becky were right, this was so messed up.

  HE MORNING OF the 23rd I started to pack. I’d replied to Queen Margerite’s invitation and I thought maybe being back in the castle would be good for me.

  Becky and Sammy entered and they stopped at the door as they stared at me.

  “You going somewhere?” Becky was the first to speak. I tucked my hair behind my ear. The past couple of weeks even my ponytail annoyed me and I was wearing it down. “Yeah,” I replied.

  They didn’t respond and for the next twenty minutes we just packed. The room had never been so quiet since that day we fought.

  A knock on the door made the two of them jump. Becky ran to open it as she was sure it was George and gasped.

  “Miss Johnson.” Emanuel’s voice came from the door and I turned around and looked at the huge ogre that hid a Sun-Blast dragon beneath his skin.

  “I’m almost done,” I said to him.

  “Take your time, I’m in no hurry. I’ll be waiting in the lobby.” He turned around and I listened to his footsteps running down the stairs.

  “You going to his parents?” Becky asked.

  “Yes, they invited me.”

  “That’s good,” she replied as I zipped up my bag and pulled it over my shoulder.

  I hated the vibe that had formed between us, but I couldn’t back down on the promise I’d made Blake. I knew it wouldn’t bring back Lucian, but killing him would avenge him at least.

  The ride to Elm was quick. Silence was one of the things that had become my friend. I missed Cara though. She still didn’t want to speak to me, but she would understand after this break why Blake must die.

  Lucian’s presence was still there, and I knew if I was going to feel it, so would she. Cara was going to fall in love for the first time.

  I got pulled out of my thoughts as flashing lights blinded me. Questions were asked but I blocked them out. I was good at doing that now. Emanuel answered one or two and forced himself through the crowd of cockroaches. A yearning deep inside of me to scorch their asses grew deeper and deeper. I pulled my hand into a fist, trying to stop myself.

  The elevator ride felt like second nature now that I’d turned into a dragon.

  When the door of the palace opened, Queen Margerite smiled at me; it wasn’t warm like that first time I’d come to visit, but it was there. King Helmut looked different. He looked tired, older and troubled.

  I got out and the queen opened her arms. She folded them around me and my entire body just felt as if it’d had enough. “I’m so sorry,” I started to cry.

  “Shhhh,” she stroked my hair. “It’s not your fault.”

  King Helmut’s hand touched my shoulder gently. I looked at him and found tearful eyes looking back. “I should’ve listened to you.”

  “It’s okay, Elena. He fooled us all.”

  “No, I should’ve never trusted him. Why aren’t you mad?” I yelled.

  “How is that going to help? It won’t bring Lucian back, and it certainly doesn’t change the way he felt about you. Believe it or not, we are happy that you are here.”

  “You don’t mean that.”

  “Come here.” She grabbed me again and held me tight to her chest. “You were Lucian’s choice. That boy would’ve died a thousand deaths for you.”

  I wiped away another tear.

  “Come, I’ll take you to your room.”

  I paused for a minute.

  “Can I have his?”

  She looked at me and at the ground. I didn’t want to take it back. I needed to be close to the things that were left of him. She finally smiled and nodded. I walked beside her to Lucian’s room. Neither of us said a word. When she opened the door that led to his room, she had to suppress her tears. “Sometimes I wake up and I could swear I hear him pacing up and down,” she said softly. “But when I open his door, there is nothing.” She touched my arm again. “I know how you feel Elena, I feel the same way.”

  “You lost both your children because of Wyverns.”

  “And both Wyverns are dead.” She looked down the hall and back at me. “It’s the hippogriff Helmut is obsessed with.”

  I closed my eyes. I forgot that it was actually her that had killed him. She’d gotten away and of course King Helmut would want to know where she was. He wouldn’t rest until she was dead too.

  “Did he try to look for her?”

  “He sent out his scouts but everyone comes back empty handed. We don’t know which Wyvern city she lives in, which makes it a bit harder than it was finding Wyland.”

  “Paul told me he was his brother. That he wanted King Helmut to pay for what had happened to him. I’m sorry.”

  “Don’t be. I thought it might have been something like that.”

  “I just don’t understand why they had to take the Elementals with them. They were only babies.”

  “Danger is coming, Elena, and I think they need them more than we do.” Her hand caressed my face. She was wrong about that. But I was going to try to stop them from getting Blake.

  “Make yourself at home. We serve dinner around six.” She smiled one more time. “It really is nice to have you here.”

  After she closed the door I fell on Lucian’s bed. My stomach and heart ached as I smelled his scent on the bedding. He was still here, somehow. I couldn’t get him out of my mind. The way he looked when he’d found me. Knowing that he’d heard that I’d almost kissed Paul and that he’d still tried to save me….Blake was right, I didn’t deserve him.

  I lay there until Brigitte entered.

  She just called my name softly and without a word she took me to the dining room which was only laid for two. King Helmut was nowhere to be found.

  Queen Margerite gestured to the place opposite her and I sat down. The staff that served us only spoke when they had to offer a choice of food. They all carried the burden of losing Lucian. The rest of the dinner was shared in silence.

  I found Cat on his pillow. He’d lost a few pounds, even he missed Lucian. The dog wasn’t himself and he didn’t even take the piece of bacon I offered him. He didn’t even look at it.

  “He is still looking for him everywhere,” Queen Margerite said. “Bacon won’t help if it’s not coming from Lucian’s hands.” She looked back to her plate of food and carried on trying to eat.

  I wanted to say something, but nothing would help this situation. So I kept my mouth shut and finished my meal in silence.

  We bid each other goodnight around eight.

  I couldn’t sleep. The last time I’d slept in this bed was with Lucian. I could still see him looking at me when I closed my eyes. This time the memory was clear. His eyes were soft and his kisses were warm, feverishly warm. Another ache jolted inside my heart and I sobbed uncontrollably. I tried to muffle it in the pillow not to wake his parents and when it finally stopped I found myself leaving his room and walking down the stairs to where Cat was still lying on his pillow.

  The dog didn’t even look up when I stood right in front of him.

  “Cat, if I can eat and carry on with life, you can too.” I went to the kitchen and opened the fridge. I found ham and took it out. Tears lingered in my eyes as I kept looking at the spot where he was sitting the day he asked about Tanya. When I closed my eyes I could still see him and hear his anger.

  I cut myself by accident with the knife and clutched my bloody finger. I watched as the cut closed and disappeared. My healing ability was by far the strongest.

  I put the ham roll away and took a heaped plate back to the dog.

  I put it in front of him and he turned his head away.

  “No!” I found myself lying in front of him and turned his head back to me. “I know how you feel. We all miss him, Cat. He would want you to eat.” A tear rolled over my cheek and to my surprise the dog lapped it up. I giggled at him. “Please, just eat.”

  He looked at me for a couple of seconds and then at the plate of ham.

  His tail started to wiggle slowly and I watched with relief as he started to eat.

  I stroked his head softly. “That’s it. One day at a time.”

  “I’ve tried everything to make that dog eat.”

  I jumped at Queen Margerite’s voice. She giggled and apologized. We both started to laugh.

  “Maybe he just needed someone to tell him how things will be from now on.”

  She crouched down in her pajamas next to me and stroked the dog’s head too. “Thank you, Elena.”

  “It’s nothing.”

  She smiled and we watched Cat eat all his food.

  We said goodnight again by Lucian’s door, this time with Cat right behind me.

  Cat made himself comfortable on Lucian’s bed and I crawled in next to him.

  Lucian’s scent that lingered on his bedding filled my nostrils. I was sure if I was human I wouldn’t have been able to smell him anymore, but I wasn’t human. “I miss you.”

  HE NEXT DAY was Christmas Eve. The castle was pretty quiet and it was snowing outside. Every fire place was lit and it was toasty warm. Cat followed me everywhere and we ended up inside the library. I found a good book to read. The staff served us lunch inside the library, and around three in the afternoon Queen Margerite entered.

  She came to sit on one of the chairs opposite me after she patted Cat.

  I put the book down and looked at her.

  “There is a Broadway Lucian and I used to go to. Helmut isn’t a huge fan of musicals and I doubt that Lucian was either, but he came with me every Christmas Eve. Would you like to come with me tonight?”

  I smiled. “I’d be honored.”

  “Thank you, Elena.” She touched my arm softly, got up and went to the door. She turned around right before she exited. “I’ll have the staff bring you up some clothes around five.”

  “Okay. Thank you.”

  She left and I looked at Cat. “We are going to a show, Cat.” I ruffled his face the way Lucian used to and laughed as blobs of slime spattered everywhere.

  At five Brigitte and the two other maids entered Lucian’s room. They laid the most beautiful dresses and two piece suits out on the bed. I set my mind on the turquoise pants and a beautiful matching halter neck with a gorgeous cream coat. It came with a pair of cream boots that had killer heels.

  I took a deep sigh and decided to go with the boots. I had to learn how to walk in them without breaking my legs someday, and today was just as good as any other.

  Queen Margerite looked beautiful too and she’d also gone with a pant suit, a dark one.

  “You look absolutely breathtaking, Elena.”

  “So do you, Queen Margerite.”

  “I told you not to call me that.”

  I giggled. “Now I know where Lucian got it from.”

  She giggled too and hooked her arm inside mine as we walked to the lobby. “Let’s say I got it from him. He hated being royalty.”

  “And yet he was so good at it.”

  “Yes, he was.”

  I didn’t want to say what I thought of next. It would’ve broken both our hearts and tonight we were going to try our best to get into the Christmas spirit. He would’ve been a great king.

  We were soon picked up by a limousine that Emanuel was driving.

  “How is he?” she asked.

  I frowned because I had no idea who she was talking about.

  “He’s doing fine, my queen.”

  I looked at Queen Margerite. She just winked at me. “Nothing for you to worry a

  HE CAMERAS WERE flashing again as we exited the limo in front of the theatre. Queen Margerite gave them her most beautiful smile and you would never imagine she’d just lost her son. I followed her lead and she grabbed my arm as we walked to the theatre.

  The balcony reserved for us was huge. It was cold but at the same time warm. It was a very hard feeling to describe. The stage had the most beautiful scene of a wishing well in front of us. It was stunning.

  I opened the leaflet to see what this play was all about. It was about star-crossed lovers, one from a wealthy family, another from a poor family. It sure reminded me a lot of the love I shared with Lucian. It was very Romeo and Juliet. I hoped nobody died at the end.

  “They say it’s new and really something else. I hope it’s going to be worth it,” Queen Margerite whispered softly.

  “I’m sure it will be.”

  “Have you ever watched a play?”

  I shook my head. “It’s my first time.”

  “I hope you will enjoy it, Elena.”

  “I’m sure I will.”

  The lights started to dim and loud music played. The characters entered and the story began. It was very Paegian-like with dragon figures flying in the air and some of the characters pretending to have abilities. The love between the rich girl and poor boy was beautiful. I found myself dabbing a couple of tears away and leaning forward, resting on the edge of the balcony to see things clearer. As the play broke for intermission, I quickly slipped into the bathroom to go to the toilet and found a huge tray of goodies when I returned to Queen Margerite.

  We each had a nice cup of eggnog and tried to make conversation about the first half of the play. I really had enjoyed it.

  When the lights dimmed the second half started and I found a completely different scene in front of me. The ambience went from light to dark in a couple of minutes and if it wasn’t for the characters I would have sworn that we were watching a completely different play.

  Half an hour later the stage moved to a cave. I watched in horror as I kept witnessing similarities to what I’d gone through that last time in the cave with Paul. The rich girl got her head bashed in and found herself tied up on a podium.

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