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       Firebolt, p.21

           Adrienne Woods
 
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“He's that shallow.” I shrieked, disgusted.

  He smiled again, but this time I could see sadness around the edges. “You still need to learn that Blake only does things for himself, no one else.”

  “Then who did he write this for?”

  Lucian shrugged. “He recorded this about a year ago.” His forehead crinkled in thought.

  “You really miss him, don't you?”

  His nose wrinkled, not answering, as his eyes looked out the window.

  “So, what song did you play when you faced the big, mighty Rubicon?” I needed to change the topic. A huge grin spread over his face and lit up his eyes. He happily took out another CD.

  “Blake once admitted that this song scares the living crap out of him.” The radio swallowed the CD, and his grin spread wider.

  My eyes grew bigger as the song started. “You know ACDC?”

  “Elena, everybody knows ACDC,” he said, rolling his eyes.

  I leaned back in my seat and closed my eyes, trying to imagine what Lucian looked like being introduced by “Thunderstruck”. It gave me goose pimples.

  “Wow.” It slipped out as my image of him in gladiator gear exposed his muscular arms.

  “What?”

  “I can just imagine what it must be like. I'd be scared too if I was Blake.”

  He laughed and turned into a deserted parking lot. When the Hummer stopped, he put on a baseball cap and shades.

  “Just a precaution.” He smiled and jumped out to open my door. “You don't know what I had to do for this surprise.”

  When we walked to the entrance, I saw that it was an Art Gallery. “You didn't?”

  “I had to.” He knocked three times on the glass doors.

  A woman with a short bob opened the door. She wore a soft grey suit with a white satin blouse completely covering up her neck.

  “Good morning, your Highness,” she greeted Lucian.

  I suppressed my giggle.

  “Maggie,” he muttered.

  “You must be Elena. I'm Maggie and this is my art gallery. Welcome.”

  Lucian rolled his eyes. He despised being addressed as royalty.

  The gallery was empty, besides us and the masterpieces on the wall.

  We followed Maggie from painting to painting as she explained more about the pieces and the artists. Suddenly I missed Dad again. He promised me that one day we would go to an art gallery, but we never got around to it.

  A painting in the corner caught my eye. It was a pencil sketch of a woman sitting against a tree. The artist had done an amazing job. Her face and eyes carried a deep sadness in them that made my heart ache.

  “This is a portrait done by Renaldo Aramiz; the woman in the picture is none other than Queen Catherine.”

  Lucian and I both gasped.

  “Are you serious?” he asked, and she nodded.

  “It doesn't look anything like her.”

  “It's not supposed to either. She was merely the inspiration,” Maggie said simply.

  “Was she really so sad?” he asked.

  “It was the year before she died,” Maggie said. Cheng's story of Tanya leaving her jumped to my mind. The queen must have struggled with losing her dragon sister.

  Lucian touched the lines that formed the queen's face, as if he wanted to wipe away the invisible tear. “How much?”

  “It's not for sale, Lucian.”

  “Are you sure about that?” He smiled.

  She grinned back with soft eyes. “That smile won't work on me. I'll never sell it.”

  “Elena's an artist too.” Lucian changed the subject.

  She looked at me with a slightly raised eyebrows and a Julia Roberts smile. “You should show me one day,” she said eagerly.

  “They're not that great.” I pointed to the picture of the queen.

  Lucian glared at me. Clearly he didn't like the way I sold myself short.

  A bright flash reflected on the colors of the next painting as we made our way over to it. It almost made the leaves on the trees come to life. Lucian jolted his head back when a more flashes bounced off the walls. He yanked me back behind a pillar, pulled off his leather jacket, and threw it over my head. Maggie froze on one spot, staring with huge eyes at the front door.

  My heart beat fast. “What is it?”

  Lucian ignored my question. The light overpowered the gallery and I could hear people yelling Lucian's name.

  His jaw muscles clenched and his eyes hardened. It almost made him look like a dragon. “Who did you tell, Maggie?”

  “Lucian, I promise I didn't say one word.” She spoke fast and she sounded just as shocked.

  He took a deep breath. “Just wait here okay. I'm so sorry, Elena.”

  I just nodded, not really knowing what was happening and felt as if my heart was going to explode with the tempo it beat in my chest.

  “I'm going to kill the person that leaked this,” Maggie said.

  “Are those people from the press?” My voice broke on the last word and I cleared my throat.

  “Yes, Elena. He really didn't plan on this.”

  “Can we wait them out?” Images of them trampling over us to get clear shots jumped inside my head.

  She huffed. “If it was another celebrity, maybe, but Lucian McKenzie? No way.”

  I closed my eyes and wished I could disappear. I wasn't good with handling big crowds, especially ones with cameras. “Is this going to be in the newspapers tomorrow?”

  “Sweetheart, it's the Prince of Tith. It's going to be in every magazine.”

  Lucian came back. “I'm so sorry, Elena. Welcome to my world.”

  I felt sorry for him if this was what his life felt like. “What are we going to do?”

  “We can wait it out, but they're not going to leave. By the next hour, the crowd will have multiplied and who knows what it could look like in three. They know that I'm in here with you and will wait until you come out, even if it's going to take three days.”

  I swallowed hard while my stomach took a couple of turns. An image of me hurling in front of cameras jumped into my mind.

  “Honey, the way I see it is, give the ones out there what they want and get the hell out before more arrive,” Maggie said practically.

  I closed my eyes, not knowing how I would be able to walk out of here. I was a nervous wreck.

  "Here." Lucian gave me his shades that were way too big for me and pulled the hood of his leather jacket over my head. “We walk out when security arrives. Don't say a word, Elena; we might be able to hide your identity.” He glared at Maggie again.

  “I won't say anything, Lucian.”

  “Nobody else knows her name except you. Don't get any ideas, Maggie!” he warned. She locked her mouth with an imaginary key. Three hard knocks on the door made me jump.

  “It's just security. Are you ready?” he asked in a croaky voice.

  I nodded.

  “Not a word, Elena, and keep your head down.”

  I did what he said and kept my eyes on the ground, clinging to his hand.

  He opened the door and the first thing I heard was the security speaking over their radios. I noticed they were using codes.

  “Prince Lucian, what's her name?” I heard one reporter shout.

  “Are you a couple?” another yelled.

  I didn't know what he did, as no sound came from his lips. Everybody yelled questions as security tried to lead us back to the Hummer. I allowed Lucian to guide the way as I stared at the ground. My heart bounced inside my chest with the rhythm of the thousand flashlights. For the love of blueberries, how could Lucian handle this kind of attention?

  We finally reached the Hummer, and he helped me inside.

  “Sorry about this,” he whispered in my ear. “Just keep your head down.”

  I smiled as he closed the door.

  Don't look up, Elena.I waited for him to get in the driver’s seat.

  When his door opened, more flashing lights assaulted us. The security asked the paparazzi to back
away from the vehicle,but it didn’t look like it was working.

  Lucian revved the engine and reversed out of the parking lot. I was glad the windows were tinted, but the photographers didn't care; they still took pictures like crazy.

  “It's fine, you can look now. Are you okay?” he asked, sounding the way I felt.

  I lifted up my head to look at him. “Yeah, are those pictures going to be in all the magazines?”

  “I'm so sorry, Elena. I should've thought twice about today's trip. I'm so naive when it comes to people keeping their mouths shut,” he said through clenched teeth.

  “Is it like this every time you go outside?”

  He chuckled. “Pretty much. Sometimes I get away with hiding behind my disguise.”

  Lucian honked for the two bikes in front of us. They saluted him and turned in the opposite direction at the stop sign. He floored the Hummer, and we were back at Dragonia in no time. We kissed goodbye at the stairs until someone close by cleared his throat.

  It was another student,and he didn’t look very happy. “Master Longwei wants to see you in his office.”

  “Thank you, Stan,” Lucian said, and the guy ran off. “Don't worry, he probably wants to know what happened. It's not a scolding. Go take a hot bath and I'll see you at dinner, okay?”

  I did what he said and sighed as I slid into a hot bubble bath. When Becky and Sammy returned from their day out, I told them what happened.

  “Are you okay?” Becky asked. We sat on the couches, each having a Coke. The sugar helped as it entered my bloodstream.

  “Taking a bath seemed to work.” My heart beat at a high tempo as I told them everything.

  “Elena?” Sammy put her arm around my shoulder.

  “It's going to be in every newspaper and every magazine, you guys. I don't want to even think about what his parents are going to say. Not to mention what they would do.”

  “Well, if Lucian didn't tell his dad about you, I guess they're going to find out the hard way. I'm so glad that I'm not Lucian,” Becky said.

  “Becky!” Sammy glared at her.

  “What?”

  Sammy rolled her eyes.

  “Will he get into trouble?” I tried to ignore Becky's remark.

  “We'll have to wait and see,” Becky said, and eyed Sammy again with a huge question in her eyes.

  Sammy shook her head. “Remember what you said to me? Everything happens for a reason. We just need a little bit of faith.”

  “Thanks you, guys,” I said, feeling a bit better.

  We talked about their day and how goofy George acted around Becky, who was gloating.

  At six, we went to dinner. I didn't speak much. The images of King Helmut forcing Lucian to break up with me played over in my mind. Lucian kept stroking my back, and every ten minutes or so, he kissed me on my shoulder.

  Lucian started to tell them about the gallery and the queen's painting.

  “I'm sure it's a first date Elena will never forget,” Becky teased.

  I couldn't help but smile. “You got that one right.”

  Around eight, we walked slowly back to our dorms.

  “Elena, meet me tonight?” Lucian whispered in my ear. I gave him a frantic look, thinking that we had enough drama for one day, not to mention what happened the last time we sneaked out at night.

  He chuckled softly. "We won't go to the lake."

  “What if we get caught? Master Longwei will chuck my ass out of this place.”

  He raised one eyebrow. “With a mark as dark as yours, I doubt it. I'll wait for you by the door around twelve.” He cocked his head indicating the big wooden one to our left.

  “Fine, but if we get caught, I'll blame everything on you.”

  “It's a blame I'll take with pleasure,” he said through a smile. “Goodnight, my Juliet.”

  I blushed as I climbed the stairs and giggled at how goofy he sounded. Some of the boys teased him about his last line,but he didn’t seem to care.

  We’d barely made it to the room when the most horrible sound wailed inside my ears.

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  It was a loud siren and had a strong sense of foreboding connected to it. The sound made me clutch my ears. Becky and Sammy looked at each other with huge eyes. That wasn't a good sign.

  We ran out of the room as students descended from the stairs around us.

  “What's going on?” Becky asked one of the girls.

  “We all need to go to the auditorium,” a girl with a red prefect badge on her blazer said, and moved with the crowd.

  Becky grabbed my wrist and pulled me down the stairs behind her. It felt like it took forever to reach the lobby, and not to mention getting to the auditorium.

  Students poured through the doors on both sides. Becky led me to a seat in the back row and plopped me down hard. She looked around, frantic, standing on the tips of her toes. Everybody around us had frantic expressions on their faces, and some of the girls even cried.

  George spun Becky around, and she started to kiss him like crazy.

  “Do you know what's happening?” I asked George, who had his arms still wrapped around Becky.

  “It's not good, Elena.” He spoke in a fast, tight voice.

  A cold shiver ran up my spine as I tried to think about the reasons behind that horrible siren.

  “The last time they sounded the alarm was the night the king and queen died,” Sammy said in a tiny, squeaky voice.

  “What?” I shrieked, alarmed.

  Lucian finally reached us. He pulled me from my chair and hugged me tightly. I really hoped that it didn't have anything to do with his parents. His heart was pounding as I laid my head against his chest.

  “Do you know what's going on?” Becky asked.

  I looked up to hear his answer, but he just shook his head. The grave look on his face didn't suit him. For the love of blueberries, he was the bravest guy I knew. It wasn't a good sign if Lucian was scared too.

  The auditorium was almost filled with students, and everyone around us wanted to know the same thing. What the heck was going on?

  Master Longwei came in, and I didn't like the look on his face. His eyes looked dark and his lips were pressed together in a thin line. He had a huge crease on his forehead. Everyone started to settle down as he ran up the podium's stairs.

  “The King of Lion sword has been stolen.” Master Longwei blurted it out over a microphone. Thick silence saturated the auditorium. Then the room filled with noise, as most of the students started to cry out in panic, yelling questions of how, when, and what now?

  “This isn't good.” Lucian spoke first and rubbed his face with his free hand.

  “How could it be stolen?” Becky shrieked.

  “Silence!” Master Longwei's voice roared and the sound bounced off the walls. “There is no reason to panic yet. Members of the Royal Council are searching for it as we speak. However, we have to keep guard for any sign of danger. Dragonia will be one of the first places they attack if this is war.”

  “Typical,” George uttered.

  “Should that news make us feel better?” I asked Lucian as Master Longwei carried on speaking about the plan of action. He just squeezed my hand with a terrified look.

  “We will have the groups up in place first thing tomorrow morning,” Master Longwei said,and then he called out names I hadn’t heard before. Blake and Lucian were the last of the five names, and they were ordered to meet him in his office.

  Lucian kissed me goodbye. “I'll tell you what I know, okay?”

  I nodded and felt like crying as I watched him disappear through the ocean of students trying to make their way out of the auditorium.

  We went to the cafeteria to analyze all of this, finding it difficult to process in all the chaos.

  “Who would've stolen it?” I asked harshly, not yet in control of my emotions.

  “It could only be one person, Elena.”George said.“Goran.” He got up to get us each a soda.

  “Goran!” I shrieke
d with a thin voice. “But he's locked up behind Etan.”

  “It doesn't mean he can't compel someone's mind. He did it before,” Becky said. George came back with four sodas. He handed us each a Coke.

  “So the sword is now with him?” I wanted to know, and she lifted up her shoulders, not knowing the answer to my question.

  Sammy took a big sip of her Coke. “I hope it still exists.”

  “Exists? You mean he's going to destroy it?” I asked, and she nodded solemnly. I suddenly remembered I knew all of this. Cheng had told me about it during our first History lesson.

  “With the sword out of the way, there's no stopping him if he manages to break out of Etan. He'll destroy the wall and Paegeia with it.” George took a couple of gulps from his can, and I noticed his hand was shaking slightly.

  My throat tightened as he said the word“destroy” and I struggled to swallow.

  “Relax, Elena, they'll find whoever took it,” Becky said and squeezed my arm reassuringly.

  I waited for Lucian, wishing he would come back. It felt like hours before he plunged down on the pillow next to me.

  He gave me a quick kiss on my temple while wrapping his arms tightly around my shoulders. “They stole it somewhere between midnight and four a.m.yesterday. The Council didn't want to say anything, because they thought they would’ve retrieved it by now. If they don't find it soon,we're going to be in serious shit. They believe that Goran has found a way to break out of Etan, but won’t do it until the sword's destroyed.” He spoke in a trembling voice.

  “So what, the Council’s really searching for it?” Becky asked.

  “My dad and Arianna's have sent out a small search party.”

  “We just have to wait?” I sounded skeptical, just like Becky.

  “It's the only thing that we can do, Elena.”

  “If they destroy that sword, Lucian─”

  “Shhh, don't think like that. It won't happen. Master Longwei is with the Viden now to draw up the groups that will guard the school. We'll have to be on watch for seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. Not that it will take that long, I hope.”

  “Until it's found? Are they crazy?”

  “Don't worry, Elena, you won't be alone.”

  For some reason that didn't make me feel safe. I wanted a better plan.

 
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