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       Frostbite, p.21

           Adrienne Woods

  “Bow,” Cheng said and I did as he asked. My hands started to become hot, and I knew at any minute the rope around my wrists was going to fall off.

  “Why are you here?” the man asked.

  “We wish to speak with Tanya Le Frey, sire,” Cheng answered.

  “Another one.” The leader or whatever he was sounded annoyed. It was Lucian he was referring to.

  “Please sire, the one that came before us died and we don’t know the verdict of the business he had with Tanya Le Frey; I beg you, we need to speak with her,” Cheng pleaded.

  My heart sunk as the guy next to me pointed his gun straight at us. He was ready to pull that trigger when their leader gave the command.

  “No, he promised no one else would come and that he would never set foot here to speak with this so-called Tanya Le Frey ever again.”

  “Sire, I beg you…”

  “I said no.” The leader got up on both his feet, roared and nodded to the guards.

  I shifted without thinking about it and blew fire on the one guy right next to me as I hit Cheng down with my tail.

  “Elena, stop. Please, stop,” Cheng sounded worried and had both hands up in defense. I did as he asked and the leader was staring at me with huge brown eyes. He showed the halt sign as his eyes just lingered on my majestic body.

  “Where are we?” Cara asked.

  “Not now, Cara. We are in grave danger, these people want to kill us and we have to get out of here.”

  “Just give the command, Elena and I’ll kill whoever you want me to.”

  “Deep breaths, Elena,” Cheng said again.

  “They tried to kill us, Cheng. You promised that wouldn’t happen.”

  “You speak English?” the leader asked.

  “Yes, and you are?” Cara spoke this time.

  “I’m Balitomora De Ganor, son of—”

  “Balti is just fine, no need for the entire history lecture.” Cara sounded so rude.

  The sire laughed as if she was merely telling a joke. He touched his chin and kept staring at us. There was lust and want in those big brown puddles and I felt sick.

  “What the hell is he looking at?”

  “Us?” I replied.

  “What is it you want with Tanya?” Balti asked.

  “My friend already explained that to you,” I said.

  “He’s your rider?”

  “I don’t have a rider,” Cara spat.

  “She’s a Rubicon dragon, sire.”

  The guy looked at Cheng with horror then back at me. “She can’t be, only one can live at a time. We know the one is male.”

  “It turns out that they were wrong, sire. We believe Tanya has the answers,” Cheng said.

  “I don’t.” A woman’s voice came from behind us. “I told Lucian everything I could. Now get the hell out!”

  I turned around and my entire body froze on the spot. In front of me was a woman I’d only seen once. In a picture that I’d lost that night on Interstate 40.

  COULDN’T SPEAK. I was bowled over. Tanya Le Frey was my mom?

  “Please, Tanya, you have—”

  “What is the Rubicon doing here? Are you insane?” She looked at Cheng through slits.

  “It’s not him. It’s another one,” Cheng said.

  “Tanya,” the leader spoke. “You said this wouldn’t happen again.”

  “Mom,” I finally found my voice. She turned her gaze from Balti back to me and her eyebrows furrowed hard.

  I heard Cara gasp. That is our mother?

  I ignored Cara completely.

  “Who are you?” Tanya wanted to know.

  Betrayal and hurt jolted through Cara’s body and mine. It numbed her completely, so it was my time to be strong now, and ask the questions. “What are you doing here?” I yelled at her.

  She looked at Cheng for the answer. “How is it that this dragon can speak English? Who is he if not Blake?”

  Cheng stared at both of us. I could see in his eyes that he felt my pain and anger. It was silent for a short while before he spoke again. “It’s not a he, it’s female. Her name is Elena.”

  Tanya grabbed her mouth. “Change back immediately. Now!” she yelled at me.

  My head turned to Cheng who was still protected by my tail. We both just stared at each other.

  “Now, Elena, turn back,” Tanya yelled again.

  I did as she asked and she ran over to wrap a table cloth that was spread over one of the tables around my naked body. My eyes didn’t leave hers. “I’m sorry that this is happening.” She looked back at Balti. “I know the consequences but I need to speak to my daughter in private, please my liege.”

  The leader nodded. “But the boy stays.”

  I looked at Cheng. “It’s okay, Elena. Go talk to your mom. I’ll be fine.” He sounded stunned, mixed with confused, exactly the way I felt.

  I looked back at Balti. “If you hurt him, I swear to you…”

  “Don’t,” my mom grunted.

  “He will pay if he hurts my friend,” I grunted back.

  “Understood,” the sire said and my mom pulled me away into another passage. I just stared at her as I kept the same pace as hers. Hurt jolted through my entire body again followed by a lot of anger. We took a lift and my eyes didn’t leave her for one second.

  When the door closed I gave it to her. “You left us. How could you do that? I was only two years old.”

  “Elena, I had no choice.”

  “Don’t give me that bullshit, Mom. How could you do that?”

  “Watch your tongue.”

  “Don’t tell me what to do, you gave up that right the day you walked out of my father’s house.”

  My words stung her, but it was not nearly the hurt I felt. She closed her eyes. “Believe me I’ve been punishing myself every single day for leaving you and Jako.” She flinched. “I mean Herbert.”

  “So, Jako was Herbert?” I asked. I should’ve known that. I should’ve looked for what Jako looked like when my curiosity about him was piqued. They were so similar in so many ways.

  She nodded.

  “Why didn’t he tell me? About what I am? About this?”

  “This isn’t the place Elena.”


  “I know you have many questions, but this isn’t the place to get them answered.”

  My nostrils flared and I thrust myself against the elevator’s wall with both arms curled, still clutching the table cloth around my naked body.

  My mind went crazy with questions and Cheng managed to enter it too. “Is my friend going to be okay with this Balti guy?”

  She smiled slightly. “Yes, he knows he’s a dragon. He finds dragons fascinating.”

  “So I’ve been told.”

  The elevator opened and I followed her down another hall. She opened a door that led into a small apartment that was very high class. Everything was marble and pure white. The kitchen had a glass table and the most beautiful oven I’d ever seen. All the décor was crystal, and on the table stood a crystal vase with the most beautiful flowers in a million different colors. A huge tree even grew right through her apartment.

  A monkey came out of nowhere and jumped onto her shoulder. She patted it softly and gave it air kisses before she took it off her shoulder and put it onto the tree.

  “Sit,” she ordered me. “I’ll make you some tea and get you some clothes to wear.”

  “I don’t want tea, I want answers,” I yelled again. “Why did you leave?”

  “I couldn’t stay, Elena. I wanted to so badly, but I couldn’t. Jako kept moving us around. Said there were dragons that knew about you and that they wanted to kill us. He moved deeper into the city and I couldn’t change anymore. I am what I am, even if I try not to be. I couldn’t go without my true form, so the best thing for me was to leave.”

  “You only thought about yourself. What about me and Dad? You couldn’t just try to make it work. You never even came back.”

  She closed her eyes. “I couldn

  “Oh please, don’t give me that crap.” I wiped off an angry tear and threw myself down onto the whitest couch I had ever seen. This entire place would drive me insane.

  She came over to me and sat down on the opposite couch. I could feel her eyes on me but I didn’t want to look at her. I’d never felt so betrayed in my entire life.

  “When did you turn into a dragon?” she asked.

  “The day Lucian died.”

  Her eyes grew and a gasp left her mouth. “Lucian died?”

  “Don’t, it’s not like you knew him.”

  She sucked in a silent breath. My words stung her more than I’d hoped for, but she deserved it, all of it.

  “I knew how he felt about you and you about him. I’m sorry,” she said in a soft voice. It was silent for a while as I kept staring at the tree that grew majestically through her apartment. “Did he tell you anything?” she asked.

  “Nothing, he told me nothing because he died. Why do you think we are here? Vacation?”

  She bit hard on her lower lip and took a deep breath before her gaze turned down another hall behind her. “Anna!” Tanya yelled.

  I frowned as a girl in her early teens came running into the room. She had blond hair like mom and bright blue eyes. She was slender and really tall.

  “Please give Elena some of your clothes.”

  “Mom!” The girl protested.

  “Please, Anna, do as you are told.”

  The girl turned around and disappeared.

  I started to laugh. “You are unbelievable, you know that.” I glared at the woman who I would have given anything to find a couple of years back. “Does she know who I am? Did Dad know?”

  “Yes, Jako knew.”

  I couldn’t believe I had a half-sister. “Is she a dragon too?”

  “No, she’s not, and neither are you.”

  XCUSE ME,” I said. “Are you blind? What do you call that thing that was in the throne room a couple of minutes ago?”

  She gave me a sarcastic look she had no right to give. She’d left. She deserved everything that was coming to her.

  Anna came back with some clothes and dropped them on the couch. She glared at her mom and then at me and left. Ungrateful little brat.

  “Thank you, darling.”

  Darling? I shook my head again and took the clothes that were lying on the couch. The jeans were a bit too long and I rolled up the legs. The shirt and jersey were long too, but at least they kept me warm. I hated winter and I hated the cold, but it was warm here.

  “I know what it is you’re thinking, but the dragon in you should have never awoken.”

  I laughed again. “The dragon in me…” I whispered. “I’m so sick and tired of the crap that keeps on happening to me.”

  “Elena I know you are angry, believe me this wasn’t how we wanted you to find out about Paegeia and who you are.”

  I shook my head in disgust. She didn’t know me at all, how could she possibly know who I was now. I was only two years old when she’d left. I’d needed her just as badly as that brat, Anna, did.

  “I know you think by leaving you…” She stroked her face hard. “Believe me, I know seeing Anna doesn’t help, but I’m not as selfish as you think and I do love you, that is the truth. I’ve thought about you every single day.”

  I wiped away another tear. “Spare me. Just tell me what you told Lucian, or must I guess the way he did, too?”

  She looked down at the carpet. “You don’t need to guess.”

  “Is there something that can claim Blake?”

  She nodded.

  “Where is it?”

  “It is sitting right in front of me.”

  I looked behind me and found an empty table pushed against the wall. I turned back to her because she didn’t make any sense. Then it hit me, as if it was a hand that had slapped me across the face. She was referring to me. I started to laugh. “What? If you haven’t noticed, I’m a dragon. And one that resembles him.”

  She looked up at me sternly. “I told you before, you’re not a dragon, Elena.”

  “Then what am I! Cause I know you saw that dragon a couple of minutes ago too.”

  “It’s not what it looks like. She was never supposed to wake up. You have to get rid of her.” She got up and leaned on the kitchen table with her back facing me.

  She? “What do you know about her?”

  “It doesn’t matter anymore, what matters now is you, you have to get rid of her, Elena.”

  “How do you suppose I do that, I can’t kill her! I’ll die too.”

  She turned back around. “No, you won’t. But I promise you if you ascend and she is still inside of you, you will die.”

  “Then so be it because I’m not getting rid of Cara. She’s the only being that truly understands me.”

  Tanya gasped. “Cara.” Tears glistened in her eyes.

  “You do know her?”

  She didn’t nod but the expression on her face and the tears glistening in her eyes told me she knew who Cara was. I had a horrible feeling that the story behind her and me wasn’t a good one. “What did you do, Mom?”

  She was silent for a few seconds.

  “My sister was so happy the day Irene told Robert that his son’s Dragonian would be coming from their bloodline. It’s the only thing she ever wanted, Elena.”

  “Your sister…” I thought hard. “You mean the queen.”

  Tanya nodded.

  “That never happened. She died before she could?”

  “That’s not entirely true. She had a child. But nobody could know about the baby. We still didn’t know who was going to betray them and therefore everyone was a suspect, except me. I shared a dent with Katie, I would never have betrayed her like that,” she said and wiped away another tear as she spoke about the rider she’d left alone to die.

  “Before her belly grew too big, we told the council that we were going on a quest in order to enhance Katie’s hearing ability. They had no clue it was a lie because dents don’t have to go on quests to enhance anything.” She sighed and bit hard on her lower lip. “We couldn’t tell Robert about it either because we didn’t know who was going to betray them. Jako found out when the baby was born and he promised to keep our secret. We were going to let another woman claim the child as hers and she would be sent for to come and live in the palace, that way the baby could always be close to them and when the danger was over, the truth would be revealed. That was the plan, but the circumstances we found ourselves in after the child’s birth made it impossible. Two weeks later we found out that the little one was sick. An infant that small will die if a Swallow Annex tries to heal it, so I had to watch my sister say her goodbyes to the one thing she wanted the most in the world.” She shook her head. “I couldn’t.” A tear rolled over her face and dropped from her chin. She didn’t even wipe it away. “Irene gave me a foretelling when Cara’s egg hatched, she said one wouldn’t make it, but two might. I never knew what that meant until that very moment. I knew what had to be done and I sacrificed Cara to keep my sister’s baby alive. I gave both children the Calupso potion. One that would draw the essence of the sick child into the strong one. Cara didn’t have her human body yet, and if it worked, she would turn into their child, meaning that their blood would flow through her veins and the stronger one would die.”

  I remembered what she’d said earlier. That I could claim Blake. She’d sacrificed Cara to save the queen’s baby. The air was sucked out of my lungs. What the hell was she saying?

  “What?” I whispered.

  “You’re that baby, Elena. Your mother loved you so much.” She looked away and I took another deep breath.

  “No,” I jumped up. “Dad would’ve told me.”

  “He tried.” Her tone turned harder as she tried to reason with me. She got up too and just watched me as I paced up and down her living room with the huge oak growing through it. “When you were ten, he told you the truth. You cried so much and you didn’t want to
accept it. He called me and asked me to wipe it clean from your memory. He never tried it again, he was always afraid you would react the same way.”

  I stopped in my tracks as I remembered that night on Interstate 40. Dad wanted to tell me about something important, he wanted to take me out to dinner but he didn’t get the chance. Then his stories of Paegeia that I couldn’t remember suddenly came back.

  “Wait, what do you mean you wiped it clean?”

  “I can erase some memories if needed, persuade minds if I have to.”

  “You wiped away Dad telling me that I was King Albert and Queen Catherine’s daughter?” It sounded unreal.

  She nodded.

  “You didn’t just wipe that away, you wiped away everything he ever told me of Paegeia.”

  “What?” She stared at me.

  I started to pace up and down again, biting hard on the flesh inside my mouth, my hand tangled inside my hair. “I knew there had to be some explanation for why I couldn’t remember any of the details,” I murmured. I just never imagined it was something that would be so hard to swallow.

  “I’m so sorry. I don’t have control over it completely if it’s someone I care for.”

  I stopped in my tracks at her words. “You never cared for me, just like you never cared for Cara.”

  “Don’t say that. I cried for my child every day, Elena. I still do. She was never meant to come back, but something awoke her that day. She’s not a Rubicon, she was a Thunderlight. The reason she turned into a Rubicon was because of who you are and who your dragon is. You turned into a Rubicon, because of the bond you share with Blake.”

  “I don’t share a bond with him. He hates my guts,” I yelled.

  She started to laugh. “How did he react when he saw you as a dragon?”

  I squinted. Forcing my mind to remember when Blake ran into the cave the day Lucian died. He was shocked.

  “You don’t have to tell me, I can see it on your face. A dragon always knows who his rider is.”

  “No, he would’ve said something.”

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