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       Frostbite, p.16

           Adrienne Woods
 

  Images of what happened to me played in flashes on the podium. I had to shut my eyes for a few seconds to see what was real and what wasn’t. Sweat dripped from my temple as Paul was dancing his steps across the floor. I shut them again and when I opened them the character was laughing the same way he had.

  I shook my head. This couldn’t be real.

  “Elena, are you okay?” Queen Margerite asked with a concerned tone.

  “I need to get out of here. I’m sorry.” I got up and ran out of the balcony.

  The lobby of the theatre was deserted but I found Emanuel at my side in only a few seconds.

  “Elena, what is wrong? Where is the queen?”

  At that moment Queen Margerite was exiting as well. She wrapped her arms around me. “What is it, was it the play?”

  I nodded. “It felt as if I was back in that cave with him.”

  She hugged me again. “I’m so sorry.”

  “It’s not your fault. It just was so real.”

  She pushed gently away to look at me. “What do you mean it was real?”

  “The dialogue, everything. It was exactly how I remember it.”

  She looked at Emanuel. “She’s here.”

  ’M NOT GOING to leave you here, my queen. If that hippogriff is here, your life is in danger. Let’s go back to the castle, you’ll be safe there. I can always come back to investigate.”

  The queen nodded.

  “You think she’s here?”

  “She might be.” Queen Margerite looked worried. “Let’s go.”

  I pulled myself out of her grip and just looked at Queen Margerite. “If she’s here…we’ll never get another chance like this.”

  “No, Elena.” The queen’s hands held mine gently. “In times of desperation the mind plays tricks on us. You’ll see things that aren’t real and the wrong people will pay for them.” She begged me to listen. “I know what I’m talking about, please, just come with me.”

  “But…”

  “It will turn ugly, please.”

  I desperately wanted to go search for Nora. She was Lucian’s murderer and she was still out there.

  “Elena, I’ll come back once I know you and the queen are safe. I promise you I will find her. But not now, not when your life’s at stake,” Emanuel pleaded.

  I nodded, it was hard but I gave in and Emanuel led us to the limo.

  Queen Margerite had her arm around my shoulder, she hugged me tight as if she was scared I would break free and run off to go find Nora.

  We exited the main doors of the theatre.

  Again flash lights lit up the night and our faces. Gosh, I hated them and the feeling of wanting to roast their asses again grew stronger.

  Emanuel kept them at bay as questions of why we didn’t finish watching the play filled the air. Once outside I knew Nora wasn’t going to be found. Our immediate exit would tip her off and she would know that Emanuel and King Helmut would be coming for her.

  Regret washed over me like a bitter river. I cursed myself for listening to Lucian’s mother, sickened by my obedience. Didn’t she want to catch her son’s murderer?

  I took deep breaths and buried my head between my legs.

  The Queen’s soft hands stroked my back gently. “I know how you feel, Elena, believe me I do. I want that bitch as much as you do, but believe me when I say a crowd full of innocent people will pay the price.”

  My head shot up. “How do you know that?” My tone was harsh.

  “Because I was once where you are now.” Her eyes were stern and her lips thin. She sat back in the chair as my big round eyes just looked at her.

  “After Desi died I thought I was going to die too, but that was nothing compared to how I feel now. She took my baby boy and nothing is going to bring him back.” She inhaled a deep breath. “I was at a function when Helmut searched for Wyland. Lucian was little and had stayed with the Nanny. I thought I saw Wyland in the crowds, but I was way off. He didn’t even have dark hair. Our minds play tricks when we think we have what we truly want. It makes them real and I thought I had the chance to avenge my daughter, but I didn’t. An innocent man died and it’s on my conscience every day. I have to live with that. I don’t want that for you.” She touched my cheek softly.

  “I’m sorry that I sounded so harsh,” I apologized and gave her a hug. “I just wanted her to pay for what she’s done.”

  “She will, in good time.”

  “Promise.”

  “With God as my witness, we will get justice for what she’s done, Elena. I promise.”

  I nodded.

  Emanuel drove at terrible speed back to the palace and once we stopped at the entrance the other guards could tell something was wrong. He spoke in Latin which made Queen Margerite pause in her steps.

  She grabbed Emanuel’s arm and pleaded with him in Latin.

  What the hell is going on?

  Emanuel spoke again and by the tone of his voice I knew it was nonnegotiable.

  The queen started to cry and when King Helmut came out wearing a Vest much better looking than the Samurai 3000 I knew exactly what she was begging Emanuel for.

  “Helmut, please. I can’t lose you too.”

  He stopped but didn’t turn around. “You won’t, but this I have to do.” He climbed into the Range Rover with a couple of other guards and Emanuel looked at the queen. “I’ll bring him back, it’s a promise.”

  I wrapped my arms around Queen Margerite. “He’ll come back.”

  She sobbed and the maids took her from me and led her into the palace.

  I couldn’t sleep that night. Cat was pacing up and down with me in the room, but half an hour into it, he jumped onto the bed and fell asleep. I kept gazing out the window, praying that the lights of the Range Rover would light up the court yard. They’d been gone for more than three hours now.

  Flashes of Nora killing them all jumped into my mind. I shook them away fast as I couldn’t let them get the better of me.

  The staff gave the queen some sort of a sleeping potion, she wouldn’t have slept any other way. They offered me a cup too but I declined. I wanted to know the minute they got back if she was dead or not.

  Half an hour later I got my wish and the SUV pulled in.

  I ran out of my room and wasn’t at all surprised that Cat was right behind me. The dog barked at the commotion outside. My heart was beating like crazy. Something was wrong.

  The doors flew open just as some of the staff came out of their rooms on the third floor.

  King Helmut entered with Emanuel and a couple of other guards carrying a limp body.

  The first thing I saw was the black veins on his face and I knew they’d found her. I followed them to the nearest couch inside the living room and King Helmut yelled for Jeeves.

  “I’m here,” I said and crouched right next to King Helmut.

  “Get me very hot water and towels. Now.”

  I got up, ignoring his tone and ran to the kitchen. I poured water inside a huge metal bowl and heated it up with my hands. The glowing fire inside the liquid took my breath away, it was the most beautiful picture, ever.

  Jeeves entered in his night gown carrying a couple of towels. He thrust the towels into my hand and saw them warming up the water. “You’re a Rubicon,” he said and grabbed me and ran back.

  The guy was coughing up black ooze and didn’t look so good. “Jeeves where are the water and towels?”

  “I got something better, your highness.” He pushed me toward the man. I just looked at him with a huge frown. What was the old fart talking about?

  “She’s a Rubicon, she can heal him.”

  King Helmut looked at me and then at Emanuel.

  “It’s better than our plan, Helmut.”

  “Elena, could you please see what you can do?” King Helmut stood up and put his hand on my shoulder.

  “I’ve never healed anyone in my life before. I don’t even know how to,” I rambled.

  “It’s in you, you have to try. Ple
ase.”

  I could see it in his eyes, the begging. I couldn’t save his son, but I could save this man. I nodded and crouched down beside the guard. One side of his face was a purple, black color.

  “Where did she sting him?”

  “His leg,” Emanuel said and my eyes darted to it. Black ooze still poured out of his wound. I closed my eyes and lay my hand on it. I really had no idea how to do this, but I had to try.

  I thought about Constance’s healing touch and how her hands always glowed. The minute that jumped into my head, my hands started to become warm. I could feel the heat flowing from my hands into the body that was lying in front of me. The guy started to scream as my hands became hotter.

  “Hold him down,” King Helmut ordered. He took a spot right next to me. Our eyes met. “Whatever you are doing, just keep doing that.”

  I nodded and closed my eyes again. I really just wanted to save this man for Lucian’s dad. When the guy screamed harder I could hear King Helmut yelling things at him in Latin. I didn’t know what he said but it sure sounded like “Hold on.”

  The staff around us that witnessed the horrible deed that had been done to this man all gasped in unison.

  “It’s working,” I could hear one of the maids whispering to another.

  I wanted to look but I didn’t, I just kept thinking about Constance’s hands and hoped I was doing the right thing.

  The guy was still screaming. Suddenly something yelled inside my head to stop, that voice, not Cara’s but another, and I yanked my hand back.

  I opened my eyes and watched the men who pinned him down.

  “Why are you stopping?” King Helmut yelled at me.

  I didn’t answer and just stared at the black and purple fading back to a pinkish color.

  The guy was grunting now and I saw the belt in his mouth. Our eyes met and the begging in them to save his life made me want to cry.

  “Elena.”

  “She doesn’t need to anymore. Look,” Emanuel said and they all looked at the fading of the black and purple. When the color moved away from his cheeks a pink, healthy rose color emerged and moved down his neck. King Helmut tore off the guard’s shirt.

  We all watched how all the veins inside his body ran down his body back to his leg. I remembered what Sammy had told me that day, only a very old Swallow Annex could heal a Hippogriff’s sting.

  “It’s a miracle,” one of the men with tears in his eyes said.

  “No, it’s not.” King Helmut put his hands on the guy’s shoulder. “It was Elena.”

  HE GUARD BEGAN to cough and King Helmut gave him some space to breath.

  “Thank you.” The guard closest to me grabbed me and pulled me into his huge gorilla arms. “You saved my little brother.”

  I hugged him back. “You’re welcome.”

  The staff all cheered and to be honest, I didn’t know what I felt inside of me. I knew I’d heard his voice again. It was Paul’s voice, but it’d spoken for the first time in the language I knew. It didn’t make any sense as Paul wouldn’t have saved this man’s life. He would have let him rot and die.

  Unless, what if this man….?

  I shook my head. No, it can’t be. King Helmut trusted all his men. There is no way this guy was a traitor, working with Paul trying to get close to King Helmut. I could see it in his eyes, he wasn’t a dark person. He had gentle eyes that begged me to save him. Queen Margerite’s voice entered my thoughts. Our minds play tricks on us in times of desperation.

  “Elena, are you okay?” Emanuel asked me.

  I nodded. “I’m just tired.”

  He smiled. “Do you know what you did tonight? You saved a man from a horrible death.”

  I nodded. “Yeah, I know.”

  He wrapped his big ogre arms around me. Why hadn’t I had this ability a couple of months ago? I could’ve saved him.

  My entire body felt drained but I still managed to sob silently. Brigitte’s voice was right next to me in a flash.

  “I’ll take her to her room,” she said.

  “No, it’s fine. I’ll take her,” Emanuel said and lifted me up like a small child, carrying me to Lucian’s room.

  He didn’t speak one word and tucked me in Lucian’s bed like a father would his daughter. “Sleep tight,” he whispered and left.

  The next day I found the entire lobby set out for a feast. The entire palace, including the staff and guards, all sat in normal clothes around a long oblong table.

  Queen Margerite was finally awake and was sitting next to King Helmut. She saw me standing on the stairs and she got up.

  Her arms were reaching out to me as she came near. “Our little miracle worker finally woke up.”

  I smiled and gave her a hug.

  When the hug broke one of the guards stood right next to the queen. He gave me a warm smile.

  “Thank you for saving my life last night.”

  I frowned. “That was you?”

  He chuckled and bowed his head in shame.

  “You’re welcome,” I said but couldn’t help but frown. His hair was blond and I knew I’d saved a man with dark hair. Nothing made any sense.

  I sat on the chair closest to Queen Margerite and enjoyed the feast with all the staff. It was a beautiful gesture that they celebrated Christmas with all of them together.

  Isabel was right, King Helmut was one hell of a ruler. He didn’t deserve to lose both his children.

  I even helped with the dishes and around five I went back to Lucian’s room. I fell onto his bed and wished with all my heart that he was here, right now, with me.

  My mind didn’t want to play that trick.

  A soft knock came on the door.

  “Enter,” I said and the queen’s head popped around the door. She gave me a smile and entered.

  She had something wrapped up in her hands and I grunted softly which made her laugh.

  She came to sit on the bed. “It’s just something small, it didn’t even cost a thing, but I’m sure he would want you to have this.”

  My heart stopped for a couple of seconds as she said that last part, and I knew it was something that used to belong to Lucian. She handed me the gift and I tore the paper. I found a leather journal and I had no words when I saw the letters L.M. engraved on the front.

  “Are you sure about this?” I asked her softly.

  She nodded, got up, gave me a soft kiss on my head and left the room.

  I sat there for a couple of minutes just looking at the journal in my hands. I gently stroked the top of the leather, then brought it to my nose and took a sniff. It smelled like leather, nothing like him, but his words were written in these pages, his thoughts. It was the most amazing gift anyone could ever give me.

  I opened the first page and started to read. The version of his voice in my head was still not quite his, but it had to do for now.

  Most of it was about the friendship he had with Blake and how he worried about him as he was clearly starting to change.

  When my eyes stung I held the book close to my chest for a couple of minutes and closed them. When I opened them again, I put the journal away and felt like I needed fresh air.

  I wrapped Lucian’s blanket around me and went to sit outside on the balcony. The snow had stopped and the air was cold, but the stars shone beautifully in the sky.

  I craved his arms around my body and closed my eyes and pretended that the blanket was his warmth, his arms, and that he was here with me. I snuggled my face deeper into the blanket and took in the scent that was left of him. I felt so tired.

  The wind caressed my face softly and I realized that I was still sitting on the balcony. The blanket had really started to feel like arms around me and even the chair that touched my back felt human. I froze as lips touched the inside of my neck.

  “I miss you so much,” he said, and I turned around. My eyes were huge as I stared at him. I wanted to say something but the words were gone. How was this possible? This couldn’t be real.

  His thum
b touched my cheek softly. “Shhh, don’t cry,” he whispered. “I’m here now.”

  I didn’t think twice and I grabbed his neck and planted a kiss on his lips. They felt so real, he was really here. I didn’t want to stop kissing him and I never wanted him to leave me again.

  I needed to breathe and our kiss broke. “How is this possible?”

  He chuckled. “The same way Queen Catherine haunts you.”

  “It’s different Lucian. It’s not the same.”

  “It is sweetheart.”

  “No, I dream…” I stopped and closed my eyes. “This is a dream?”

  He nodded. “Something like that.”

  “Then I never want to wake up.” I buried my face in his neck and took in deep breaths, filling my lungs with his scent.

  “As much as I want to stay with you like this, I can’t.” He pulled me gently from him so I could look at him.

  “I can’t live like this, Lucian. It’s too hard.”

  He smiled. “You know that isn’t the truth, Elena.”

  I closed my eyes. Of course he knew about Blake and how I felt about him. “It was a mistake. It should’ve never happened.”

  He chuckled. “You don’t have to explain to me, Sweetheart. You need to live your life.”

  “I can’t.”

  “Yes, you can.” His smile disappeared and sadness filled his eyes.

  “Don’t go.”

  “Not yet.” His hand touched mine and our fingers curled around one another. He brought them to his mouth and kissed my hand softly. “You’ve got to help Sammy and Becky.”

  “Lucian, I can’t.”

  “Elena…”

  “No, he chose not to come with you that day. He knew that I was in trouble, and if you tell me that it’s because of his darkness, I swear I will wake up.” I didn’t mean any of it, but I didn’t want to hear this from him.

  “You’re bluffing.” He smiled.

  “Okay fine, I’m bluffing, but I’m not going to help them.”

  “I found everything. And…” he struggled to speak. He couldn’t say it.

  “What is it? What did you find?” I wiped my stupid tears away again.

 
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