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       Firebolt, p.17

           Adrienne Woods
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  “Well, when you put it like that, getting a saddle sounds pretty cool.” I tried to sound excited for her, but the reality of it scared the jeepers out of me. It was definitely the height thing.

  “Way cool, it's like a girl’s first kiss,” Becky said.

  “You're finally getting your saddle?” Lucian placed his tray of food on the table and plunged down on the pillow next to me. He gave me a quick peck on the mouth and took a bite out of his pizza.

  “Going to, next week,” she said, launching into the story all over again.

  We finished our lunch quickly, forced to listen to Becky going on and on about what kind of leather she chose and the type of buckle and rope she picked out for the reins.

  When the bell finally rang,I curled up my lip. I wasn’t looking forward to Art of War.

  Chapter Eighteen

  After school, knots twisted violently in my stomach. Sweat beaded on my forehead as I fought the urge to puke, not knowing what to expect with Blake's Latin lesson. He’d told Sammy to have me meet him in the library. I cringed, thinking back to how I had ogled him the first time we met like some star-struck idiot blinded by his unnatural beauty. I was such a dork when it came to things like that.

  Taking a deep breath, I braced myself as I entered the large room. I saw him sitting deep in thought and playing with a lighter at one of the tables. What was it with him and fire? Don't stare, Elena, blared in my head. Walking up to him,I silently recited my choreographed greeting. Should I say“Hi, Blake” in a chirpy voice, but then he would know that he had some kind of an effect on me. If I said it in a dull tone,he would think I was depressed. When the time came, it was worse than I’d imagined. For the love of blueberries, I was speechless, I couldn't even say hello like a normal person.

  “Io,Elena,” he started.

  Huh? I frowned, trying to think what the hell he just said.

  He rambled a couple of other strange words,and I realized he was speaking Latin. He‘d asked something, but I had no clue. An awkward silence lingered for a couple of minutes. He stared at me with his smoldering blue eyes as if staring straight into my soul. It made my heart skip a beat. I didn't like it.

  When he spoke again, I shook my head. I assumed it was his way of rebelling against having to tutor me.

  “What?” My voice disappeared.

  He seemed irritated by my reply and answered in Latin again. His chair made a horrible screeching sound as he pushed it back. Heads shot up from the noise of the chair. He rose, said something else with a nod, and headed for the door.

  “Blake, please,” I yelled after him, and he stopped. “I really need your help. I don't want to fail.”

  He just stood there with his back facing me.

  “Please,” I begged again, hoping it was working.

  He growled and turned back to face me, his upper lip curling up. It made him look extra hot, and I could hear a couple of girls nearby sighing.

  “Fine,” he said. “But if you’re going to cry, I'm done.”He threw himself hard onto the same chair he’d sat on a few moments ago. I cringed as he pulled himself, chair and all, closer to the table. The librarian frowned at him, her glasses resting precariously on her nose.

  He started with the easy stuff; the words that were similar to English.

  We switched over to conjugating verbs and recited words like confirmare, which meant to confirm, straight through to vocare,which was to call. We recapped the I's, you's, he’s, she’s,and it’s.

  When he started to use an example with the word “give”, it began to make sense for the first time, but he wasn't kidding about the crying part. He was mean and made me recite it a million times until I pronounced it correctly. He would flinch if

  I mispronounced the word as if it was insulting him. I sighed, trying really hard not to scream.

  “You struggle with verbs the most. For dragons, it's easy. We are born to speak Latin where humans find it difficult. In Latin, the ending of the verb changes every time. The ending is crucial, as it tells you tense, person, and number,” he said, counting with his three fingers to make it easy for me to understand. I had already forgotten what the first finger represented. I was lost in his eyes.

  Snap out of it, Elena, the voice inside my head said through gritted teeth.

  I forced myself back to the present, while he explained when using singular and plural, you always change the verb. I struggled to keep up and felt guilty when I caught myself staring at his mouth. His lips made me feel like I wanted to grab and kiss him. I felt as if I was already cheating on Lucian. My head felt like it was about to explode when, lucky for me, he called it a day.

  He said goodbye and grumbled for me to meet him at the same place next week.

  Until dinnertime, I poured over my notes. Everything seemed to go back to not making sense, and I wished that he didn't have this effect on me. I had no idea how the hell I was ever going to be able to speak Latin fluently the way Blake had this afternoon.

  Becky was right though, he was verautiful, but such a dickhead, and I didn't feel like meeting him again next week.

  During dinner, Sammy and I stared at George as he whispered sweet things to Becky, who was acting mildly amused.

  I tried hard not to burst out laughing.

  “You're an idiot, go sit with your buddies,” Becky said and pushed him off his pillow.

  He grunted as he jumped up to go and sit with Blake again. Blakewas making fun of him and the way he’d suddenly changed toward Becky. George laughed, and I realized that Blake was only teasing him and not treating him like an outcast.

  “He's like a fly circling a piece of crap,” Becky whined, and hid her face in the palms of her hands.

  “You know, you just referred to yourself as a piece of crap, right?” Lucian joked. We all laughed.

  “Oh shut up,” she snapped, and then joined in our laughter.

  We got up after our dinner. I felt dead tired.

  “See you at five, my love.”Lucian's voice roared from the boy’s stairs, and I really wished that I had a smart comeback to wipe the excitement out of his tone. I’d never met anyone who looked forward to morning runs.

  “I'm a poet and didn’t even know it,” he said.

  Sammy and I laughed hearing how the other guys teased him.

  “So how has it been with you and Lucian?” Sammy asked, amused.

  “Becky's right, he's a slave-driving demon.”

  After my shower, I went over the stuff Blake taught me before I slipped underneath the covers.

  The second I closed my eyes, I was faced with the same dream again. I really had no idea who the woman was, and it was starting to freak me out.

  My alarm clock went off again at 4:45, and I rolled out of bed to get ready for my two-mile run with Lucian. My abs still hurt like hell from yesterday’s training but I pushed through it.

  Lucian didn't care about my pain either, and we ran the same path we’d taken yesterday. After the trillionth sit-up, we walked back to the academy. I was so grateful for that. He wanted to know more about me and asked about my life with Dad. He looked at me with soft eyes as I told him about Dad's paranoia that made us move every three months. When he had questions regarding why Dad did it, I couldn't answer. The only thing I did know was that it had something to do with the dragons and the conversation that he had with Matt right before he died.

  I swallowed hard when he empathized with how hard it must have been to lose my mother to the plague at such a young age. When he saw my look of shock at his statement, he quickly explained that Master Longwei had explained to everyone at the school the unfortunate events of my mom’s passing. If they only knew. This prompted another thought I hadn’t even considered. If Master Longwei had told everyone that she had died, how the hell did the Viden know she had abandoned me? Was she really that good?

  The conversation about Dad brought tears to my eyes. He dabbed one softly with his thumb and then kissed me.

  “I'm sorry for your loss, Elena
. Your dad sounded like an amazing dragon, well, except for the paranoia part,” he joked.

  “Do you think you're up for a fancy affair at the palace next weekend? It's my mom's birthday, and you would do me such a big favor if you came.”

  “Lucian, please,” I begged. “I'm not ready to meet your parents or go to a fancy party. Sorry.”

  “It's fine. However, it's something we need to fix, otherwise it's going to become a huge problem.” I had to suppress my smile. “You know, if it was any other girl, they wouldn't hesitate to come.”

  “I'm not any other girl,” I snapped back, hating how people always compared me to others.

  “That you aren’t,” he agreed, and I laughed at how formal he sounded. His arms wrapped around my waist. “That's one of the reasons I'm so crazy about you.”

  “You’re crazy about me now?” I flirted, and my heart started to beat fast as he bit his lower lip. Crap, that's so hot.

  “You know you make me crazy,” he admitted, and I just kissed him. It was a long one, and we were out of breath when we finally parted.

  “No running back?” I said hopefully.

  “There's still time.” He slapped me hard on my ass as he ran away. The chase was really stupid,because he was crazy fast and before I could spell the words“blink my eyes” he was gone. I found him a couple of minutes later running in place.

  Switching back to walking, he started to talk about a way to enhance his hearing ability, so he could use it the next time he was going to try to claim Blake.

  Cheng's theory popped in my head.“You know Cheng? He helps me with History─”

  “He doesn’t believe that anybody can claim Blake,”he interrupted me, taking the words right out of my mouth.“Just like no one ever believed King Albert claimed any dragon.”

  “What do you mean?”

  He smiled. “He wasn’t born with a mark,Elena.”

  “What?” I was shocked.

  “You heard me. Back then,they didn't know about the mark-thing. He believed in what was in here.”He tapped on his chest.“If your mind and heart are in the same place, you can do whatever you want.”

  “But didn’t you have to be special to claim a dragon with abilities?”

  “Or just really smart,” he said, and grinned. “Why do you think Master Longwei allows the rich to pay so that their non-gifted kids can attend Dragonia?”

  I huffed, remembering Becky's conversation and how she’d complained about that. Did she mean King Albert? “He really claimed a Night Villain?”

  He nodded. "He claimed the first Chromatic dragon. He started everything.”


  “It's one of the legends you'll cover soon. Some say that he studied one for years. King Albert was really good with his hands, enhancing equipment was his specialty. He made a shield of the thickest metal that helped him block their acid breath and slobber. They’re evil dragons,and why he chose a Night Villain, no one knows.”

  “What do they look like?” I asked, intrigued.

  “Extremely ugly. Their faces look like they have been burnt. It’s almost like they aren't immune to the acid themselves. I guess it was one of the reasons King Albert chose the Night Villain.”

  “So he claimed one of the most evil dragons just by studying them for a long time?” I said, not completely convinced.

  He nodded.“That's how I know that deep down inside,I don’t have to be the kind of royalty that the Viden foretoldabout.”

  “But the Viden said that only the spawn of King Albert and Queen Catherine can claim Blake.”

  “Elena, didn’t you hear anything I just said?” he asked.

  “The Viden has never been wrong, Lucian.”

  “I don’t care. She will be with this. I have to claim him.”

  “Why on earth do you want to claim him?” I was starting to lose my patience. I stopped, but he still carried on for a couple of feet.

  “Because he used to be my best friend,” he said as he turned back around to face me. It took some time for that to sink in. I struggled to imagine Lucian and Blake walking arm in arm next to each other the way Becky and Sammy always did.

  “You used to be best friends!”

  “Yes. Both our fathers served in King Albert's court. We used to play outside while they were attending meetings.”

  “Why are you no longer friends?”

  He looked at the ground with a huge crease on his forehead, and he sighed.“It’s not his fault, Elena. It’s the dark side that starts to take over. He hardly has control over it. I promised him when we were thirteen that I would do anything in my power to try toclaim him.” He stroked his face hard, maybe to hide his emotions, or he was starting to realize how difficult it was going to be to keep that promise.

  “I'm so sorry,Lucian. I didn’t know,” I said.

  He gave me a crooked smile. “No one does, except for Sammy. If I told you we never tried to ditch her ass, I would be lying.”

  I giggled, imagining them as children, running away from a small blabbermouth. “So when did you stop being friends?”

  “More or less the same time that we arrived here,”he said.“My first claim was right after we enrolled. It’s against the law to participate in a claim before your sixteenth birthday,and on mine, I tried for the first time. I was down for two weeks,” he boasted.

  “You mean,he almost killed you.”

  “Trying to claim a dragon that doesn't belong to you does have risks, but we both know it's not impossible.”

  “Lucian, why don't you wait till you ascendbefore you try again,” I begged him.

  “I might not even ascend, Elena,”he said.“You know my mark isn't that dark.”

  “Then how are you going to use Blake's powers once you have claimed him?” My tone was full of concern mixed with questions and disbelief.

  “It's not mine to use, so it becomes his.”

  I frowned.“I don't understand.”

  “If someone claims a dragon that doesn't share the same ability, then it becomes the dragon’s. Emanuel revealed that little secret to me when I turned seventeen. He also said that it hurt when my father claimed him because they shared the same ability. My dad is a fire wielder too. Emanuel believes that it would've been ten times worse if they were dents.”

  “Is it true that Blake has many abilities?” I asked.

  “He does, but the problem is that they're nothing like the other dragons’ abilities. I only know of three.”

  Chapter Nineteen

  “Three?” I shrieked. “So he's got more! Lucian, what if you're just wasting your time? I mean, you know of only three abilities. What if he uses another one that might claim your life?” I could feel my voice rising.

  “Elena, I have no choice. I promised him!” Lucian threw his hands up in aggravation.

  “You were only kids!” I shook my head, trying to understand.

  “I can't break my promise and let him become evil. Urgh! Forget it. You're just a girl who knows nothing. You'll never understand.”

  I was glad we were close to the main building, because otherwise I would never have found my way back. Shaking, I forced myself not to cry. He was so stubborn.

  He left for the weekend without even saying goodbye or hello when he came back on Sunday afternoon.

  I didn't go for my morning run with him on Monday. I was surprised to find him close that afternoon as I went to Arianna's Enchantment lesson. She didn't like it one bit that he was hanging around, keeping an eye on her.

  Tuesday was Cheng's turn. We spoke about the Rubicon, not just Blake but the previous one as well. There were four they knew of, but the museum in Elm only carried two. The Rubicon before Blake was killed by King William. The people celebrated for a whole month. The picture in my head was comical. People drank, passed out, woke up, drank some more, and for some reason they danced around a roaring bonfire. He took me towards the coliseum today, and we stopped in front of two huge stone dragons at the entrance.

  The det
ail on them had started to fade, and when I softly glided my index finger over the carving, a bit of sand fell to the ground.

  “They will wake up when they are really needed.” Cheng said.

  “What?” I yanked my hand back.

  Cheng just chuckled.

  “Are you playing with me?” I asked through a huge grin.

  “No, they will wake up. But they haven’t for a very long time.”

  The idea of the stone dragons coming to life imprinted on my mind. We talked about them. There were four altogether, and they had something to do with the elements of nature. It was very interesting, but it didn’t make much sense to me.

  Just before we said goodbye, Cheng asked me if I wanted to come with him this Saturday to Elm. He really wanted to show me the museum of Etan; well actually, it was the Museum of Paegeia, but when the creepers consumed Etan, they changed the name.

  Feeling excited about the upcoming trip, I entered the dorm whistling. Sammy and Becky looked at me puzzled.

  “What?”I protested.“I really like spending time with Cheng.”

  Becky lifted her head from her pedicure.“Elena, he's a geek.”

  I shrugged my shoulders.“So, he's the geek that's going to help me pass History.”

  Rolling her eyes, she went back to painting her toes. “Just don't fall for Cheng. Lucian is already worried about other guys tutoring you.”

  I huffed. “I don't care what Lucian thinks.”

  “You two are still fighting?” Sammy asked, sitting on the couch.

  I ignored her question. He was the one that didn't want to speak to me.

  I skipped running again with him on Wednesday, and I saw him chatting with Dean at one of the tables at breakfast. He didn't even look my way, but I knew he saw me.

  I sighed, realizing today was my Art of War lesson with him, and I knew he wasn't going to show up this afternoon.

  I found Becky and Sammy sitting alone at a table outside.

  “Elena,” Becky said, “You need to speak to him sometime.”

  “Why must I─”

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