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       Frostbite, p.28

           Adrienne Woods
 

  I smiled, but inside I was dreading the outcome of all of this. Typical, this was just my luck. Couldn’t my father have left a note with someone else besides Tanya? I gasped. “They can ask Tanya, she will tell them everything.”

  “I’m already on it, Elena. They should be able to strike up a deal with the Khumutsi?” he asked the name and I nodded.

  “Cheng told you about him?”

  He nodded. “He also told me that he wanted Cheng badly.”

  “What about Cheng, he can also verify this? He spoke to Tanya.”

  “He will be questioned, but Caleb will say that the two of you are in on it together.”

  “It’s not true.”

  “You don’t have to explain yourself to me, or prove who you are. I saw it the first time I laid eyes on you inside that museum. You are their child, anyone that can’t see that, is a fool.”

  “King Caleb can’t.”

  “You’re wrong. It’s why he’s fighting against it. I’ve got a funny feeling that he is afraid. Scared that he would lose everything. He’s changed for the worst, Elena. Wars sometimes leave scars, and the last one left a huge one that never healed. He is going to find a way to strip you of your birthright, but I promise you, Margerite and I will stay by your side, no matter what they say.”

  I closed my eyes and nodded. “Thank you. I know that must be really hard for you to say after what I’ve done.”

  “What?” he frowned.

  “If Lucian didn’t love me, he would’ve never come back for me that day and he would still be alive.”

  “Elena,” he sighed. “Lucian died the way he wanted to. He died saving the woman he loved, and protecting the princess of Paegeia. The thing that hurts the most is that he never realized that he’d fulfilled both of his dreams before it was too late.”

  I shook my head and bit the lower part of my lip. “He knew. Tanya told me that he guessed it on his first try. He just blurted out my name and she was free to tell him. It was why he came back.”

  Silence lingered around us as we just stared at one another.

  “Thank you for sharing that with me.” He smiled softly but the sadness in his eyes didn’t make it a genuine smile. “He died for what he believed in. I will always miss him, both of them. But they gave me so much joy and made me so proud of them in their short lives. It will keep me human for the rest of mine.” He got up and kissed me softly on my head, just like my dad, I mean Herbert, used to do when I was smaller. “Sleep tight, princess. You’re going to need it.”

  I closed my eyes and I heard his footsteps exiting the infirmary.

  OR THE NEXT few days the academy was a mad house. A bunch of people came to visit me in the infirmary, people I’d never even met before. They all knew my father, the king, very well, blah, blah, blah, and for some reason they thought that I could carry on with his legacy.

  The papers were overloaded with pictures of me claiming Blake and stating that I was the descendent of Queen Catherine and King Albert, but there were also those who didn’t believe it, who protested like mad, especially over the radio.

  “Where does she come from? The king and queen would’ve told us if there was a princess. If you ask me, Leonard, she is just …”

  Constance switched off the radio. “Stupid woman, what does she know?” Constance muttered in the office. It was weird how my super hearing had left the minute Cara died and how it had come back, ten times more enhanced when I’d woken up.

  She never played the radio in the infirmary, but I could hear it every morning when the hosts talked about the claiming and about me, and who I was.

  A knock on the door brought me back from the nightmare of thoughts I was facing.

  Becky and Sammy’s figures leaned against the doorway.

  “Where is Constance?” Becky asked.

  “You may enter,” she said from her office and the girls smiled.

  “Hi Doc,” George entered right behind them.

  She didn’t reply as I heard her answering her Cammy.

  Becky plopped another heap of various newspapers and two magazines on the end of my bed. My lip scrunched up.

  “Do we have to?”

  “You need to prepare yourself for it, Elena,” Becky said as she sat down with one of the newspapers in her hand.

  “Oh, this is actually a good one. This paper goes in the like pile. They actually believe it and they were so kind as to explain your foretelling, that you had to claim Blake so that all could know who you were.”

  “Still, there are those who say I only managed it because I’m a Rubicon dragon myself.”

  “Like this one.” Becky chucked the magazine against the infirmary’s wall, which made Sammy and I laugh.

  So here I was, not knowing how on earth I was going to make these people see that I was who I said I was.

  There was no DNA available from the king and queen this side of Paegeia, their lives were in Etan as well as their medical records. Because they were the royals their records were private, they couldn’t be found on the internet like everyone else’s.

  Sammy looked up at me with soft eyes. “You never told us what happened to her.”

  I knew who she was talking about. “I’m sure you heard me in the Coliseum. I had to kill her, Sammy.”

  She shook her head softly and frowned. “How on earth did it not kill you?”

  “Tanya brewed a potion, one that killed her from the inside. But Cheng was the one that brought me back.”

  “We heard, he told us what happened when you guys wanted to leave. Did it hurt?”

  I lifted up my t-shirt to show her the mark where the spear had struck me and found nothing. I searched frantically for it. I could still feel it, but there was absolutely no scar left. My head snapped towards the office. “Did you take away my scar?”

  She didn’t reply.

  “Constance?” I swung my legs off the bed.

  Both Becky and Sammy got up. “Whoa, what are you doing?” Becky said.

  “I have to speak to her. Why did she do it?”

  “Why is that scar so important? We believe you.”

  “It’s not that Becky.” I gave her a scolding look. “It’s more than just a stupid scar.”

  My legs wobbled slightly as my entire weight rested on them but I managed, with the help of Sammy, to walk to her office.

  When Constance saw me leaning in the door way she disconnected with whoever was on her Cammy and got up. “Elena, go back to bed.”

  “Why did you take it away?” I asked as she touched my arm softly.

  She gave me a quizzical look.

  “The scar, the one that was right here, Constance.”

  She knew what I was talking about and her face softened. “It had to be done, I’m sorry.”

  “Why?” I yelled frantically.

  “Because you need to focus on the future, Elena, not the past. That scar would only have reminded you of what you did, and I didn’t want that for you.”

  I shook my head. “You had no right. It was the last thing we shared. It was my reminder of what she’d done for me and you just took it away as if that never happened.”

  “I’m sorry,” she said really softly.

  I turned around and went back to my bed. This time I didn’t want anybody’s help.

  The girls left a short while after the incident.

  Around seven, Chef brought me a dish of my favorite, Coq-au-vin. It was a French chicken stew my father used to make, it almost tasted the same, but Dad’s was so much more special. It was difficult to not look at him as my father anymore, or deny my real one. After what Lucian just showed me a couple of days ago…her tears and kisses still stayed with me.

  After dinner, Constance came over to my bed to take my vital signs. We didn’t speak one word to one another and when she was done, she stood next to my bed for a couple of seconds.

  “May I?” She pointed to the chair.

  I nodded.

  She sat down and looked at me with sorrow
filling her eyes. “I’m so sorry, Elena. What I did, I had no right and I should’ve asked you first.” She took a deep breath. “Believe me, I had good intentions when I removed it.”

  “I know. It’s just that it was a scar I didn’t want to lose.”

  “Sorry,” she apologized again and gave me a soft smile which I returned. “Tell you what. Next time, I won’t remove any more scars unless you give me the go ahead.”

  “Deal.”

  “Besides, I don’t know how much longer you are going to need these healing hands. Your body is going to be able to heal by itself soon.”

  “It will?”

  She gave me a raised eyebrow and a smile. “You are the Rubicon’s Dragonian, Elena. It’s like you said, those abilities aren’t really his. They’re yours.”

  I smiled. “Then why can’t I use them?” I wanted to see my flame, but my hands didn’t light up.

  “Because he’s really far from you and he might be in his human form. When they are in their human form, you won’t be able to use your abilities, unless he gives his consent.”

  “Which will never happen.”

  “Don’t be so sure about it.” She bent down and planted a kiss on my head. “Sleep, you are going to need all the strength you can get.”

  COUPLE OF DAYS later, Constance finally let me go back to facing my new life.

  I shouldn’t have been surprised that the Academy wasn’t much different than the tabloids. There was one group that believed that I was a princess, and those kids treated me really nicely, and then there was the other group who still believed I was a dragon and that I had tricked everyone, hiding my true form. How was I going to prove that I wasn’t a dragon anymore? Chuck myself off a building and show everyone with my splattered body and guts strewn on the floor? Yeah, some darkness still lingered inside of me, deep inside of me.

  What the hell was my father thinking when he’d kept my existence a secret? He must have known this day would come and that this would happen.

  I held the letter inside my hand. I’d stared at this stupid thing ever since Master Longwei dropped it off.

  I had my meeting tonight with the council and the Ancients were going to be there. My future lay in their hands. To be honest I didn’t care what they were going to choose, it wasn’t as if I’d grown up as royalty. I was still Elena Watkins.

  Elena Malone… it didn’t even sound right. Still that was King Albert’s last name. The queen had been Squire, I’d seen that in the book the Keeper made me sign when I exited the cavern.

  They felt like strangers to me, even though I saw the things I’d seen and I’d experienced the memory my mom wanted me to see. I wondered what it would have been like if they’d defeated Goran? Would my mom have come for me if she was still alive?

  “Of course she would, Elena,” my inner voice sniped.

  I hadn’t dreamt about her since that last night in Tanya’s place. She had been saying goodbye.

  Tanya could explain everything.

  “I’ve got to go, see you later,” I said as I picked up my plate from the table.

  “Elena, we’ve still got class,” Becky said.

  “I don’t have a dragon, what could I possibly learn?” I rolled my eyes and she waved it away.

  I ran up the stairs back to my room. Master Longwei wanted to give me one of my own, but it would feel weird without sharing with my besties and to be honest, I couldn’t be alone right now.

  I opened my Cammy and rang Sir Robert’s number. He’d sworn his life to me that day in the infirmary and with every major interview from the paparazzi he was right at my side.

  Whenever they got too pushy and demanding, he would literally chuck their asses out of the infirmary, sometimes he even answered questions on my behalf, and told many that he truly believed that I was his rider’s daughter. He even asked me before one interview if he should lie. He’d gotten so desperate for them to believe my story, but I shook my head.

  There was this one interview that went so bad when some reporter asked the question of how I could let my father’s traitor protect me. It made me furious and I wanted to slap her silly, but it wasn’t princess-like. So I answered her instead, “Oh now you believe I’m the princess?” A couple of them laughed, but I received a lot of negative comments after saying that.

  I had a feeling this princess thing wasn’t going to be easy and King Helmut was right. It wasn’t easy to prove to people who I really was without any evidence.

  Blake still hadn’t returned. Part of me worried about him. I guessed I’d always known deep down inside who he was, but I didn’t want to believe it. He’d lied so many times. I even wondered if what Paul had told me was the truth, me hearing his thoughts or if Cheng was right. Thinking back to that time I’d fallen in love with Blake, he’d seemed really interested in what I’d heard. I had to admit, his voice sounded nothing like the dragon that spoke to me inside the Coliseum and the one in my head didn’t sound anything like Blake. He loved poems and I couldn’t imagine Blake ever loving poems. I huffed.

  None of it really mattered as one thing was clear. He didn’t want me to be his rider, dent or no dent, that boy had hated my guts since the first time I laid eyes on him. Lucian was wrong about him warming up to me, but then I thought back to the couple of times I’d thought Blake was going to kiss me.

  I shook my head and spoke Sir Robert’s name into the Cammy.

  Three rings later his face appeared. “How can I be of assistance, princess?”

  “I told you not to call me that.”

  “Sorry,” he apologized with a soft smirk.

  “Did King Helmut get back to you about Tanya? Do you know if they found her yet?”

  “Not to worry, King Helmut always delivers. It’s one of his specialties. She’ll be there tonight, and then this mess will be cleared up.”

  I smiled. “Thank you, see you tonight.”

  “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” His face disappeared again and I fell backward onto my bed. My thoughts were still a big mess. To think the greatest king that ever lived was my father, sorry, is my father. He was still alive somewhere behind those Creepers and I’d made a promise not to tell anyone or go and save him. The bravest queen, my mother. There was so much info on what they were like and yet I still didn’t know them. I had a memory of our time spent together and an ascending to keep reminding me who I was. Sometimes it felt like I’d dreamt all of it and that none of it was real.

  T SIX, I went to Master Longwei’s office. The meeting was scheduled for eight-thirty. It was to be held inside Areeth and this would be the first time I would see where Arianna lived. My heart and nerves were woven into a big knot, or that was how it felt.

  Suddenly, I was pushed hard into the wall just as I went to enter the hallway that led to Master Longwei’s office.

  “You leave Blake alone,” Tabitha spat into my face. “He’s been through enough, Elena. You are what he is, just admit it and set him free.” Her eyes were bright blue, soft, pleading but at the same time hard and scolding.

  “I am not a dragon Tabitha. A dragon saved my life, that was it. She’s dead.”

  She huffed. “If she was dead, you would be too.”

  “I was, I mean, I almost died, if it hadn’t been for Cheng,” I spat back at her.

  “You are a dragon. Admit it or I swear you will pay.”

  “Don’t threaten me Tabitha.” I pushed her away from me and she staggered backwards. “You forget whose abilities Blake carries. I don’t want him, I never did and that seems to be the problem here.”

  “It’s not. Blake can’t be claimed. They will find a way to bring out your dragon, even if it means that they kill you.”

  I sucked in a breath and let it go. They would really go that far? “Then I guess I’ll die, because I promise you it’s only me in here. There is no dragon.” I turned away from the wall and walked toward Master Longwei’s office.

  “It’s not worth it Elena, you have no proof that you are thei
rs. You’ll only get yourself killed,” she yelled after me but I kept on walking.

  I ran up the stairs and to Master Longwei’s office. I knocked three times.

  “Enter.”

  I opened the door and he smiled when he saw me. It disappeared fast when he saw the look on my face. “Are you okay, Elena?”

  “I don’t know,” I said and threw myself into the seat right in front of his desk. “What were they thinking, Master?”

  “They weren’t, Elena. No disrespect. They trusted Tanya to keep you safe and I know a part of them believed that they would find whoever was going to betray them before it was too late. Tanya is the one to blame. She should’ve protected you or come forward with this knowledge when the danger was over, yet she hid and the truth never came out.”

  “They’ll never believe me.”

  “Then they don’t. It won’t change who you are, Elena. You have their blood flowing through your veins. You saw him when you ascended, what more proof do you need?”

  “I don’t need any proof,” I said. “What if King Caleb forces me to change?”

  “What do you mean?”

  “She’s not in me anymore. I’ll plunge to my death.”

  He sucked on his lips. “That won’t happen. You’ve got my word.”

  I nodded.

  He put on a long golden coat and I followed him down the stairs again. A carriage with two dragons waited for us behind the main gates.

  I opened the door and found Constance wrapped in a thick warm coat herself. Her smile made me feel safe and I took the seat next to her. She grabbed my hand in both of hers as Master Longwei took the opposite seat.

  “How do you feel?”

  “Nervous,” I admitted.

  “Don’t be, I knew who you were the minute Matt brought you here. Every one of us could see it, we just didn’t know how they got you to the other side.”

  “Yet I turned into a dragon, one they probably want me to show tonight and I won’t be able to, because she’s dead.”

  “Then what is the problem?”

  “What if it kills me, you know the things they want to do? What if…”

 
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