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       Moonbeam, p.20

           Adrienne Woods

  He would do as I said, spread it, until I reverse it. I let him go and he flew away.

  He was going to break her heart. I’d break his fucking neck, whether he was Bob’s child or not.

  He had no idea how lucky he was.

  A month passed. I sent, like, four letters to Blake, apologizing in each one and I hadn’t received one back.

  Why wasn’t he answering me?

  I told him I was drunk, as stupid as it sounded. Why did I kiss him? It wasn’t supposed to be like that. He’d said he would always be there. He’d made it sounded like he cared more for me than he did for her.

  My mom tried. Heaven knew she tried to get me out of my sullen mood. But nothing worked. Nothing.

  Was he really going to do this—punish me for something I did? How many times did I have to apologize? It wasn’t fair; I wasn’t the only one who had behaved badly that night.

  I felt him slipping away. Things would never be the same as they were, and I didn’t know how to deal with that. He had been the biggest part of my life.

  I felt so humiliated. Blake had always been the best at comforting me. When we were younger and someone hurt me, he would humiliate the other person in front of others so spectacularly that they wouldn’t show their face for weeks.

  I never thought he would one day be the one humiliating me.

  But I guess my mom was right. Things changed. People changed, and dragons changed, too.

  Elena sent four letters. Four letters apologizing. She wasn’t the one who should apologize.

  Still, the sleazeball sent six letters. Six letters wanting to know how long she would keep ignoring him.

  Albert found out what I’d done with the third phone call on my Cammy. Blake wanted to speak to her, and I told him, “Elena is out, but I’ll leave her a message.”

  I saved his name as someone completely different on my Cammy so that Elena wouldn’t know that we paired cammies.

  He grunted, “Don’t bother.”

  I put down the Cammy. I glanced up to catch Albert standing in the doorway, his expression thoughtful. Busted. “You are seriously digging a grave for yourself, woman.”

  I ignored his disapproval, and he didn’t interfere.

  He scolded me even more the next time, when he found a letter in a box underneath a lose floorboard. “Katie, you have to stop this.”

  “I can’t give them to her now. She would know that I read them. She would never trust me again,” I pleaded with him.

  “She has all the right to feel that way,” he said reasonably. “You’ve broken her trust.”

  Tears welled up in my eyes.

  His eyes grew softer. “Why did you withhold that other one from her, Katie?”

  “Because it would have torn her heart out, Al. I couldn’t let her go through that. You know how hard that night was for her.”

  “I saw the tears. I can just imagine.”

  “Why did she kiss him?” I whispered. Why?

  Albert shrugged. “You know how Blake is with her. Charming as hell. He had no idea how Elena truly felt.”

  I scoffed. “For once, he doesn’t know her that well.”

  “I agree, he slipped up. But what you are doing, Katie? It’s not helping at all. She’ll discover it sooner or later.”

  “Then I’ll take full responsibility. They will end up together. I’ve seen it. But until then, a little distance can only do them good.” I was adamant.

  “She is going to end up hating him, and that will be on you.” He turned around and walked away.

  Heaven knew I didn’t want her to end up hating him, but a little hate never hurt anyone that badly. They were going to be a Dent one day. A strong couple. Soulmates. I just needed her to be a teenager, a happy teenager, for now. Blake failed to make her happy at this moment. She should go shopping, check out other boys, and not just have eyes for one. It wasn’t fair or healthy. She was going to end up having just that one.

  I was doing them a favor. It felt right. A little distance and a little anger never hurt anyone, and in the end it would only make them stronger. I knew it in my bones.

  Then why did I get a feeling this was going to bite me completely in the ass?

  Five months passed. Elena recovered from her sulking mood—somewhat. Anger still stalked her daily. We couldn’t mention Blake’s name in this house.

  He even showed up a few weeks ago. Thank heavens Elena wasn’t home. One of the servants told him that they would give Elena the message. I watch from afar. I end up erasing another memory and didn’t tell Elena about Blake’s sudden visit.

  They would end up together. They would.

  And then another fear started.

  She had her first boyfriend. Lee Evers. For weeks she couldn’t stop talking about this boy.

  I was extremely happy at first. After all, my meddling had always been about helping Elena have a normal childhood and not being obsessed with Blake her entire life, right? But then Lee was all she talked about. He was turning into her sun. I had to admit, I understood why Al didn’t like it one bit.

  With Blake, we knew what we were getting ourselves into. With this new one, we had no idea. Still, Al decided to invite him and his family over to the castle for dinner.

  They showed up in evening wear. Al was the only one who wasn’t underdressed. The three men wore dark suits, even Lee. His mother wore a ruched lilac gown.

  Elena and I ducked out to change. In a hurry, I selected tasteful dresses for each of us—a gold silk dresses that contrasted well with my dark tresses for me, and a pale pink dress for Elena, which she fought me over because it was too babyish. I thought she looked like a perfect princess once her lady-in-waiting hastily pinned her blonde hair atop her head.

  Al kept the guests busy with finger foods and champagne, chatting about Paegeian politics. Al loved small businesses; Lee’s father, whom I’d only met through Elena’s stories, knew the family business well. He owned a string of transportation companies.

  We swept across the gleaming teak floor. Albert and our guests clustered around a spindly table that was overpowered by an extravagant vase with a spray of orange and red heliconia flowers.

  “Lovely to meet you, my queen.” His mother curtseyed to me. Al suppressed his laughter. He knew how much I hated it.

  “Please, call me Catherine. No need for formality,” I said.

  She smiled. She was plain but had an honest face. I couldn’t help but like her a little. “Jody. Jody Evers. This is my son, Lee.”

  I narrowed my eyes slightly. Everyone laughed.

  “Sorry, Katie is a bit overprotective of our daughter. If you are going to mess with Elena, you will have a crazy person to deal with,” my husband joked.

  Good-natured laughs tinkled around the table. James, Jody’s husband, added, “And she has authority, so Lee, my boy, you need to tread lightly.” He was funny. Smart, but funny.

  My eyes were on Lee and Elena the entire night. Their connection was almost as intense as the one she shared with Blake. But it was gentle. A bit more doable.

  Jody was a nice, elegant woman. She was an artist, sculptor, and writer. I loved reading, and she said she would get her publisher to send me some of her novels.

  The evening progressed without a hitch. At ten we said goodbye.

  We all went back in when they drove off.

  “So,” Elena asked. “What do you think?”

  My husband started, “Do you really like—”

  I slapped Albert and he stopped mid-sentence.

  “I like him.” I gave my input.

  Her eyes light up. “You do?”

  I nodded.

  She hugged me tight.

  I added, “Just as long as he doesn’t break your heart, sweetheart.”

  Christmas was upon us. Blake was due to come home.

  Elena was just getting over him. Dating Lee helped. The boy was really nice. He stuck to my rules. He wasn’t a jackass like that Rubicon who lately got himself into so much trouble.
  Issy confessed that she was glad he would see Elena again. Apparently they’d gotten letters from Dragonia complaining about his attitude. His Chromatic nature—his darkness—threatened to take over. Issy truly believed Elena was the antidote.

  Well, Blake should’ve treated her with respect and not broken her heart.

  Elena wasn’t the only one who was angry. Blake was livid. Crows still came bearing letter after furious letter. I knew what Issy didn’t know. Blake wrote about everything he was doing. The bad and the ugly.

  He lost his temper on a daily basis now. The school didn’t want to let him participate in activities. In both attitude and size, he was ten dragons in one. More advanced.

  The first few letters expressed his sadness. I almost told Al to take her to Dragonia. But I knew when she saw him, I would lose my daughter. Everything was too damn perfect to risk that. The next few crows were hurtful.

  My anger at him returned, and I decided that he didn’t deserve her good, kind heart or the calming effect she had over him. He didn’t treat her like the light of his life.

  Then a letter arrived detailing how much she’d disappointed him., I never thought you’d be as stubborn as your mother, he wrote.

  What a douchebag.

  Her letters stopped way before his. She said goodbye to him, and told him that she hoped he would be happy. That was it. Pride surged in my heart as I read it. My little girl was getting so mature.

  No more letters. But she was still mad that he’d ignored her for so long, punishing her so long.

  It was really gnawing at me.

  Tanya—whom I told everything—thought it was hilarious. But when the letter about Blake’s darkness came, she sobered. “Katie, this isn’t funny anymore,” she said.

  “He’ll be fine,” I insisted. “A little darkness hasn’t done anyone any harm.”

  Tanya’s eyebrows show up. “Oh really? What about Goran?”

  I scowled, but even so, my subconscious sent out alarm bells. What are you saying? The old Katie would have been shocked at my blitheness.

  Tanya rambled a couple of other things, but I shut her out. She was just as naïve as Al. I ignored her.

  I was disappointed with myself. I didn’t need my conscience to make me feel shittier. This web of lies I’d woven was going to destroy me one day. I knew it, yet I couldn’t stop.

  Blake and Elena were going to see each other on Christmas. Once they talked and realized their letters hadn’t been delivered, everything would be over. I would be caught. I was still thinking of something brilliant to say. If only Al could see things my way. I could always try to persuade him. Ugh, I was turning into an evil mother. I hated that.

  I played my piano almost every single day. It was haunting me, what I was doing to them. And my clever plan from five months ago didn’t seem so great anymore.

  A knock came at the door of the library. My fingers stilled on the ivory keys. Elena popped in her head.

  “Hey, baby.” I smiled, but I felt like shit.

  “Can I ask you something?” she said.

  I nodded, tapped on the stool.

  She came in and sat where I’d indicated.

  “Spit it out,” I said as she took two deep breaths.

  “Can I spend Christmas over at Lee’s? His mom invited me. They’re going to their winter spot. Please, Mom.” Her voice was a husky whisper. She wasn’t ready to see Blake either.

  This wasn’t just my escape plan; it was hers, too. “Not ready yet?”

  She shook her head as her eyes welled up. What was going on in her mind?

  “Okay, but Elena, I swear, if you…”

  “Mom!” she gave me shocked look. “No,” she shook her head with exaggerated vehemence.

  I laughed. We’d had the talk a few times.

  “Seriously.” She laughed and gave me a hug. “Thanks. You’re the best.” Despite getting her way, she sounded so sad.

  She left. I noticed the way she slouched. She didn’t resemble the confident girl I’d raised. I started playing the piano again.

  She would get over this. She would. Even though she’d grown up with him. She would.

  Keep telling yourself that, Katie, maybe it will come true, the old Katie snapped, her tone sarcastic.

  Five fucking months. How many times did I need to tell her I was sorry?

  I’d sent how many fucking letters to her? She hadn’t even answered one. She didn’t care about the darkness.

  She said she would come, and she didn’t.

  I even went to her, and still no reaction what so ever. Not to mention all the phone calls. So fuck that.

  This Christmas I was going to give her a piece of my mind about how shallow she was. I packed my bags, stuffing clothes in with such force that one of the zippers broke.

  Tabitha was going home. I knew now that Elena had never been okay with my relationship with Tabitha.

  I zipped up my bags and stormed out.

  I found my dad’s SUV in the parking lot of Dragonia. Dad was behind the wheel and Mom was in shotgun. They both smiled at me, but at my dark expression, didn’t say much. I gave Tabitha a brusque kiss and slammed the car door. We went home.

  I brooded on the drive, barely aware of my parents’ chatter. I gave Elena a piece of my skin and she won’t even come keep me sane when things get to be too much. She’s abandoned me.

  I had to work through that, using Fire Caine to keep me stable. To keep the beast in me stable. Fire-fucking-Caine. My dad would rip off all my scales if he found out.

  It was something the brat could never know either.

  How long was she going to punish me? It was going to stop real soon. And I didn’t care what her mother said. She was a spoiled brat, throwing tantrums because…what? I didn’t share her feelings? What happened to “you’re like my brother”? When did it all change?

  The drive wasn’t that long. I hated the elevators. They made me unbalanced for days. I said goodbye to my family at the port—they all stayed in the car—and flew home alone.

  When I eventually reached the manor, they’d beaten me there. Sammy was glad to see me without Tabitha.

  Christmas decorations were hanging everywhere. Christmas was at our place this year. The place was a veritable explosion of red, green, and silver.

  “Where is the Ice Queen?” Sammy asked. She’d gotten bigger, and if I was not mistaken, a tad more beautiful.

  “She went home. She has a family, too, Sammy,” I snapped. I hated the way it came out, but I always felt so angry.

  “Oh, I thought she didn’t.”

  I rolled my eyes.

  Everything was set up. Elena’s stocking hung on the mantle and her ornament glinted on the tree.

  Early on the twenty-third, King Albert’s SUV pulled in.

  I didn’t see Elena. I didn’t like this. She better be here.

  Then again, her mother would never let her stay at the castle alone. She was here, somewhere. She had to be.

  She must be sleeping in the back. Yeah right. It’s not even a ten-minute drive.

  I watched King Albert close his door. He walked past the passenger door, opened the trunk, and took out two suitcases. Queen Catherine emerged with her handbag.

  My dad was happy to see them.

  “Where’s Elena?” Mom sounded worried.

  “Don’t even ask,” King Albert joked. “Katie here’s played the piano nonstop the past few days.”

  Where the hell is Elena?

  I waited in my room until they were settled in before I made my way to the lounge.

  “Hi, Blake.” Queen Catherine got up. My lips curved as I saw her. She came over and gave me a hug. “What are they feeding you at Dragonia?”

  “Junk food,” I said, trying not to bark it out. I plopped down on the sofa.

  Sammy was in her room. Maybe Elena was with her.

  “So?” Mom asked, looking at the queen.

  “He’s okay,” Catherine said, apparently continuing their conversa
tion. “I told him if he ever thinks of laying so much as a finger on her, I would be his worst nightmare.”

  My father laughed the hardest. “Poor boy,” he said.

  Poor boy? I didn’t like that.

  “She’s exaggerating like usual,” King Albert said. “His father owns all the transportation companies that go to the other side of the Wall.”

  “That’s him?” my mom asked.

  “Yeah, really smart, too.”

  My head bounced back and forth as if I were watching a tennis match. I had no idea what they were talking about.

  “So, you just let her go?” Mom asked.

  “She promised me on her life she would be good. So, yes. She’s spending Christmas with them. We speak every day and it sounds as if she is really enjoying herself.”

  She’s not coming.

  I could see how my next six months were going to be. More fucking Fire Caine.

  Christmas break was amazing. I never thought my mother would say yes. Maybe the way I’d asked her had done the trick. I guess she knew how I felt about Blake.

  I wasn’t ready to see him, not after what he’d done. I was so not ready to see the Ice Queen again, to see her gloating. No doubt the idiot had told her about that kiss. I was sure she would think me a poor baby.

  No, I wasn’t ready.

  My mother saw that. Although she played the piano nonstop for the next few days, she still let me go.

  Seriously, she thought I would sleep with Lee?

  Sure, we went to second base a few nights, feeling each other up, but that was where it stayed. He knew where he stood with me. I wasn’t in love with him. He was just a distraction. A really good distraction.

  He’d been afraid of Blake in the beginning, but the more we’d talked about Blake, the less he’d feared him. That actually led to our first date.

  On the second date, my parents met him and his family. They loved Lee. Of course they would. They saw the person he wanted them to see, not the bad boy…I sighed. The one who reminded me of my dragon—that side of him was reserved for only his close friends, and of course, me.

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