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       Frostbite, p.22

           Adrienne Woods
“He’s dark Elena. The dragon part of him doesn’t want to be claimed, yet he saved you a couple of times, or so Lucian told me.”

  I just stared at her. Lucian knew. The dream of Paul…did that really happen somehow in-between all the craziness? He was talking about Blake? He didn’t care that Paul claimed to be my rider. He didn’t care.

  “It’s the good in him,” Tanya said. “The part that keeps holding on. He knows who you are, but Cara threw him off that path. I think she threw plenty of people off that path.”

  “What do you mean?”

  “Ever wonder why everyone you met ended up staring at you?” Blake’s unfinished story jumped into my mind.

  “It’s because you look just like him, Elena. You have your father’s hair and soft eyes, but your mother’s grace and beauty.”

  “How did I get past the Wall?”

  “You were inside Cara,” she said. “Jako found us three days after. When he found Cara, he was so happy that she was still alive. I never told him what I did or why I left. He assumed so many times that Katie’s daughter was dead and I never corrected him because I wasn’t sure if it would work.” She looked at me as I found my way back to the couch. “A couple of months passed. It was the best time of our lives. Then it was time for Cara to get her human body. She was supposed to be a little girl of five and I was with her in the bathroom when the shift came. It wasn’t a five year old girl, Elena, she was only one. Jako knew immediately what I had done and everything went downhill from there. He tried not wanting anything to do with you, but for some reason you wanted nothing to do with me and just wanted him. So yes, he was your father in so many ways, but your true father was someone so much more, Elena. Your parents wanted you so badly and both had to deal with the fact that they might never see you again.”

  I shook my head fast. It was spinning with so many questions that had finally gotten their answers. “Why did we move so much?”

  “Other dragons found out about you, they just had to look at you once and they knew who you were. Not all of them wanted to protect you. Fox was one that was desperate to kill you, but there were twelve groups of dragons that vowed to protect you. They always found a way to warn your father, before they died. That is why he didn’t register us with the council. Because he couldn’t let them find you.”

  Tears glistened in my eyes as I thought about my dad. How much he must’ve hated me in the beginning, knowing that I killed his daughter.

  “You have to kill Cara, sweetheart.”

  “Are you insane?” I yelled. “I can’t kill her. She is mine.”

  “She’s not yours. Blake is your dragon and when he turns, Elena he will take you with him. Your bond was supposed to be made a long time ago, you weren’t supposed to wait like this.” She was starting to get angry now.

  “Kill Cara, or I’ll do it myself.”

  “She’s your daughter, still.”

  “That isn’t my little girl in there, it’s something else.”

  “I can’t kill her. I won’t kill her and I don’t care what happens to me.”

  “Then your mother and father died for nothing.”

  “Well, she couldn’t have loved me that much if she gave me away.”

  Tanya slapped me across the face. “You have no idea what that woman went through when she gave you up. Now go to your room.”

  “You’re not my mother,” I yelled.


  I turned around and just ran down the hall. I flew into the first room I found and fell on the bed. My cheek still hurt from Tanya’s slap. How dare she, how dare they? I didn’t understand any of this. Who I was, what I was supposed to do.

  Tears flowed down my cheeks, but I refused to wipe them away. I couldn’t kill Cara, she gave me something I’d never had before: strength and courage. She’d gotten rid of my fear, she’d given me freedom. I would die if I killed her. She was mine and I loved her with all of my heart.

  I fell asleep and found myself on that hill again.

  Queen Catherine was waiting for me.

  I ran to her this time. I’d never felt this much anger, betrayal and rejection before. “Why didn’t you keep me?” I yelled and she just stared at me.

  Tears sparkled in her eyes and for the first time she moved toward me. Her touch felt so real, she wrapped her arms around me and squeezed so tight. “I love you so much,” she said and pushed me away so she could see my face. The kind Queen Catherine from the pictures stared back at me. She stroked my face gently. “You look so much like your father.” A tear rolled down her cheek and her head touched mine gently. “I would’ve done anything to keep you, my sweet, sweet girl. But I couldn’t.” She smiled. “You finally know the truth, I can rest in peace.”

  WOKE UP AND had no idea what the time was. When I went outside I found Tanya in the kitchen. She was brewing something. Cheng lay on the couch sleeping and unharmed.

  Relief that he was safe washed over me. I almost wanted to curl up beside him and just lie on the couch right next to him, but he looked so peaceful.

  I covered my nose with my sleeve, blocking the stench of whatever Tanya was brewing. When she heard me she turned around.

  “You must be hungry, come sit.” She pulled out a chair.

  “When did he come back?” I gestured to the sleeping Cheng as I took the seat in front of the breakfast nook.

  “Around five.”

  “Did you tell him who I am?”

  She nodded.

  That’s just great.

  “Elena, I’m so sorry about Lucian. I know how you felt about him.”

  “You know nothing.”

  “He told me about the two of you.”

  “Did you tell him who I was?”

  “I couldn’t because of the vow I had made with your mom. He guessed it right on the first time.”

  “What do you mean the first time?”

  “It was like he knew, he just wanted confirmation.” She smiled at me softly as she put a plate of bread, ham and cheese in front of me. “I was shocked to learn that you were inside of Paegeia and couldn’t understand why Jako didn’t tell the council who you were. When he told me that Jako died, and that Matt brought you here without giving an explanation as to who you were, I realized he’d never gotten the chance to tell you.” She sniffed hard and turned around to stir the brew again. “How did he die?”

  “It was a rainy day. We were fleeing again….” Pausing to think about how stubborn and hateful I’d been toward him every time he made us move, I didn’t finish that sentence. I hated myself for that. “Fox found us, he caused a car accident. Dad transformed for the first time in front of me. I never knew what he was.”

  She gave me a sad chuckle while shaking her head softly. “Metallic dragons are so good at hiding their true form.”

  I imagined Lucian, how he would have acted when he realized Blake was my dragon, not just my dragon but my dent.

  “He struggled to accept it, Elena. But before he left, he’d made peace with it.”

  I looked at Tanya who was staring at me. “You can read minds?”

  She laughed. “No, your mom wanted to know if I could read minds too on so many occasions.” She filled a cup with juice and placed it in front of me. “She used to ponder things, you carry the same look as her, you know. It’s really not that hard to know what you are thinking.”

  “I dreamt about her.”

  Emotion left her face as she looked at me. “You dreamt about Katie?”

  I nodded.

  She huffed. “It doesn’t surprise me. Sometimes our loved ones who are no longer with us guide us to the truth in our dreams.”

  “Why didn’t they tell Sir Robert?”

  “That was my fault. I was sure that he was with whoever was going to betray your father. They didn’t share a dent.”

  “If that was what you thought, you don’t know him one bit. He loved the king, he would’ve done anything for him.”

  “We had our differences, Elena. We could ne
ver see eye to eye, it blinded me then. I know now that Robert would never have done anything to hurt Albert. What they did to Robert and still do, Albert would turn in his grave if he knew.”

  “How do you know that?”

  “Know what?”

  “What they are doing to him?”

  She smiled again. “I might live here, but we do hear about everything that is going on inside Paegeia. Not letting your father share the news about you with his dragon is the second thing I will never forgive myself for, Elena.”

  “What is the first?”

  “Breaking my sister’s promise. That I would treasure her child as if she was my own. That I would watch over her and enjoy every milestone, every birthday that she wouldn’t.”

  “You know how she died?”

  Tanya nodded and quickly wiped away another tear. “I felt it that night.”


  “I didn’t know what was going on, but Jako did. I was withering in pain. If your mother was still alive, I wouldn’t have been able to return to Paegeia. She bound me with her life to never come back until the right time. The bond vanished the minute she died.”

  “Nobody ever suspected Goran.”

  She shook her head. “He was their most trusted friend, Elena. Your mom even asked him to make her a coward’s potion so that whoever would betray them might think she’d died and leave her. She tried everything in her power to be reunited with you.”

  Bastard. I closed my eyes trying to paint a picture of my mom and her wanting me so badly. There were so many blanks that would never be filled.

  “Look who’s awake.” Cheng’s voice came from behind me.

  I turned around and looked at him. He gave me a hug and it felt nice. “You finally got your answers?”

  “Just not the ones I wanted.”

  “We can go home, Elena. You found out what your foretelling means.”

  “I can’t claim Blake, Cheng.”

  “Elena?” Tanya’s tone was harsh.

  “No, I can’t claim him. I don’t want to claim him. You have no idea what he is like, and I’m not going to kill the one thing that knows me better than I know myself.”

  “Elena. Don’t do this,” Cheng begged softly.

  “No Cheng, Blake is the last person that deserves to be claimed.”

  “It’s already started.”

  We both looked at Tanya. “Cheng told me that they have sedated him. If that is the truth, there is no way she could feel it.”

  “Feel what!”

  Tanya smiled. “Just shows you how strong your bond is.”

  “Again with this bond crap. I hate him, and I’ll always hate him. Cara is not going to die because of him. I refuse to do that.”

  I got up.

  “Elena?” Cheng’s voice was close to me.

  “Don’t, let her come to terms with it in her own time,” Tanya said just as I opened the door to the room I’d slept in.

  I could hear Cheng and Tanya still talking. I couldn’t hear what they were saying but I bet I knew what it was about. They were wrong, I would never come to terms with it, and I would make Cheng promise me never to tell them who I was. Even if I had to scare the living crap out of him, I wasn’t going to claim the Rubicon.

  I became tired again and fell asleep as I refused to think about anything anymore. I loved Lucian and Cara was my dragon, it was going to stay that way. Even if it killed me.

  HE NEXT MORNING I walked in on Cheng and Anna having a conversation around the breakfast table. Tanya wasn’t there and Anna gave me an awkward smile.

  “Come, sit down have some breakfast, princess,” Cheng said and smiled.

  I pulled out one of the nine chairs and slumped down onto the seat. “Don’t call me that.”

  He chuckled. “You are one, doesn’t matter what you say.”

  “Now I know how Lucian felt.”

  They both chuckled.

  “I liked him, I’m sorry that he died,” Anna said right before she put a heap of scrambled egg into her mouth.

  “It turns out that Anna’s dad is the leader, or the Khumutsi, as you call him?” Cheng asked her.

  She nodded. “He’s not all that bad once you get to know him.”

  “I bet.” I played with my food.

  “Eat, it’s a long way back,” Cheng said.

  “We can fly back.”


  “Don’t, Cheng.”

  He dropped it and the table fell silent.

  I still couldn’t think about it, let alone consider it. She was my life, she kept me alive. I was too weak to survive, if I killed her now, I’d die anyway.

  The door flew open and Tanya came in. “You have to go, now.”

  “Mom!” Anna jumped from her chair with huge unblinking eyes.

  “Your father has a deep fascination with Cheng, Anna. He doesn’t want him to leave.” She looked at Cheng. “You should’ve never told him what you were, Cheng. He’s always wanted a Crown-Tail. Now get your bags and follow me.”

  We didn’t need to be asked twice and followed Tanya to the back of their house. She moved a painting away and pressed a button. A door that was hidden in one of the wall panels opened. Two familiar chairs covered with cobwebs looked back at us.”

  “You have an elevator?”

  “He doesn’t know about it, now go.”

  We sat down on the chairs. “Where will this take us?” Cheng asked.

  “Don’t worry, you’ll have enough time, just remember your promise Cheng.”

  “What promise?” I looked at both of them but Cheng looked away.

  The door of Tanya’s apartment flew open again and male voices filled the room.

  “There is no time, just keep quiet,” Tanya whispered. She didn’t even cover the opening.

  The men found her and she stood by the window pretending to look outside. My heart sat in my throat as the men saw me and Cheng.

  I almost jumped up but Cheng held me down and shook his head.

  Was he blind, they were going to kill us. I glared back at him and he tapped on his head with his finger and pointed at Tanya.

  I looked at her figure still standing as if nothing was wrong at the window.

  “Where are they?” one of the men asked.

  “They left last night,” Tanya had questions in her eyes. “You didn’t take them out?”

  One of the guys spoke on the radio and I could hear another answering back. They all turned around and exited. When the coast was clear Tanya came back to us.

  “Why didn’t they see us? We were right in front of them.” I asked, shock mixed with surprise and relief laced my tone.

  Cheng started to laugh.

  “I’ll take that as a compliment, Elena,” Tanya said and gave Cheng two kisses on the cheek. She turned to me and I pulled myself away from her. “Okay, just take care and do as you are told, Elena. She will kill you if you ascend and she’s still inside of you. Don’t let your parents’ sacrifice be for nothing,” she begged.

  “Remember our promise, please,” she said to Cheng again. “Take care.” She closed the door.

  “What promise, Cheng?”

  The two chairs dropped and I took a breath when they came to a halt. We flew forward and the chairs threw us into the air. I fell with a thud onto the ground.

  It was night time and I looked back. The Acker Woods were behind us and there was no sign of an elevator.

  I looked at Cheng who lay a couple of paces in front of me. “Let me guess, Paegeia.”

  Cheng chuckled, but the seriousness in his face came back instantly. “We need to get the hell out of here, Elena. They will follow us.” He started to strip down.

  “Wait, what promise did you make Tanya?”

  He stopped and sighed.

  “She told me what has to be done, and she asked me to do it.”

  I clenched my jaw. “You want to kill me.”

  “Not you, Cara. She’s not supposed to be in there. You’ll ascend, El
ena, and it could happen any moment. You will die.”

  “I will die if I kill her, Cheng.”

  “Not with this.” He took out a bottle with purple liquid in it. “Only she will die.”

  I shook my head.

  “It has to be done, Elena. You are the only one that can claim him. Your father and mother gave their lives for the both of you. You can free Etan,” he pleaded. “In all our time spent together, there is one thing I’ve come to learn about you. You care more than you should. It’s a fine quality for a princess. We’ve got a way to reunite families, Elena. Think about Constance, Master Longwei, my father might still be alive. If not for Blake, please do it for us.”

  I closed my eyes. Why did he have to bring that up? A part of me always wanted to find a way to free

  Etan, to pay back Constance by reuniting her family, but never in a million years did I imagine that it was me that would have that ability.

  “She will know the minute I turn what we have planned.”

  “Then give her the choice. If she loves you the way you love her, she will do it, Elena. It has to be done.”

  I pressed my palm hard against my right eye and started to take off my clothes too. I shifted immediately.

  “Are we safe?” Cara’s voice filled my head. “Elena what happened, where is Mom? Where are we?”

  She had so many questions and refused to look at the images of what had happened.

  The picture of me nodding filled my mind. It was followed by the entire conversation of what her mom had done, how she’d sacrificed her life to save mine and how I’d protested at the idea of killing her.

  We’d just started to ascend when a net caught Cheng and started to pull him back to the ground.


  ARA AND I stopped in mid-air. Cheng was growling and fighting as the rope of the net brought him down faster than we could react.

  Cara didn’t think twice, she darted back down. The flashes inside her mind showed me a war against the Rubicon and the savages that wanted to capture my friend. I agreed and we dove faster.

  I saw Cheng tangled up in nets and another one shot out, aiming for me and Cara. Hot lava boiled inside my core and ran up my throat. A flame of pink fire turned the net into ashes, disintegrating it on the spot. I watched as each little dust cloud evaporated into nothing.

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