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       Moonbeam, p.29

           Adrienne Woods
 

  It took everything out of me not to smile.

  “C’mon, he’s not that good.”

  I tuned out and pretended to not care about their stupid conversation. I didn’t want to give any of my talents away.

  The shield finally vanished. My mother got up from her chair and walked to my father, who was chatting to General Lee. My dad picked up on it and asked what was up with her.

  She just shook her head.

  My Cammy was burning a hole in my pants. I wanted to speak to her so badly. The hours ticked off extra slowly. Around nine I told Tabitha that she needed to say goodbye, and that we were going to leave.

  I hated that she was so friendly. Well, she needed to make it a good one as it was going to be her last goodbye.

  My mom hugged her last. Don’t you dare give this away.

  “Drive safely,” my mother scolded me. I narrowed my eyes.

  We climbed into my Mustang and I pulled away from the manor.

  “I’m still so fucking upset with you,” Tabitha said, surprising me.

  “About what?” I growled.

  “You could’ve phoned me last night and said that it was Elena’s sixteenth birthday party.”

  “And then what, Tabitha? Were you going to fly over?”

  She got upset and stared out the window.

  I sighed. “You knew who I was from the start, Tabitha.”

  “So?” she carried on.

  “You knew this day was coming.”

  Her eyes narrowed. “What day?”

  “This has to end.”

  “What has to end?”

  “Us,” I burst out, exasperated with how dense she was being. “You are one of the smartest girls I know. I can’t do this anymore. Elena is starting Dragonia Academy soon.”

  “She understands, Blake.” She started to change her tone. Guilt tugged at my heart. “She always has. She isn’t that person you think she is.”

  “I don’t want her to understand, okay?” I said in a stern tone.

  Her eyes stayed on me, filling with tears. I kept one eye on the road and one on her. I saw it dawning on her. She crossed her legs and looked out the window. “Something happened last night, didn’t it?”

  I nodded.

  “She’s fucking sixteen.”

  “Don’t give me that crap. We were sixteen, too.”

  “You don’t mean that. Please. I love you, Blake.”

  I squeezed the steering wheel harder than strictly necessary. “It’s over, Tabitha. It was never going to work. I told you that from day one.”

  “You’re a fucking asshole. Just stop the car.”

  I glanced at her to see if she was serious. “Don’t be like that.”

  “I mean it, stop the car. I can find my own way home.”

  “Fine.” I skidded the car to a stop. She got out.

  I watched in the rear view mirror as she pulled off her clothes and morphed.

  Racked with guilt and more than a little anger, I drove back home. Everyone was surprised when I entered the front door.

  “Everything okay?” my mother asked.

  “Peaches and cream, Mom.”

  Elena came back around five o’clock. This girl didn’t give me any heartaches, none. “Party not interesting?”

  “No, it was fine. I just felt like coming home,” she said.

  The three of us had dinner and watched some television together. Then Elena’s Cammy beeped. She didn’t look at it.

  “I’m going to crawl in. See you tomorrow.”

  “Tomorrow is your last day!” I cried animatedly.

  She smiled. “About that, do I have to go?”

  Where was this coming from? “You don’t want to go anymore, Elena? You would be the best of the best if the Elps guards trained you.”

  “He’s just a dragon, Mom.” So self-assured.

  I muted the television. “No, he isn’t. He’s the Rubicon. I will kill him if he hurts you.”

  She ran a hand through her short hair. “It’s going to happen, him hurting me. Whether you are going to kill him or not. It’s a claim. That’s what happens in claims.”

  I sighed. “I know.”

  “I’m ready with what I have. Please let me stay.”

  “Elena,” Albert said. “It’s the Elps’ guards. Pappi is looking forward to your visit.”

  She swallowed as if taking a spoonful of ill-tasting medicine. “Okay, I’ll go. I was just starting to wonder if I needed extra training. That’s all.”

  I kissed her head. “He is the Rubicon. You do.”

  She smiled. “Okay, then I’ll go.” She went up to her room.

  I turned to Albert and threw up a shield. “She’s worrying me. She was looking forward to this.”

  Albert smiled. “Don’t do this, Katie. We both know what is making Elena want to stay.”

  I hated Albert’s silly comments. He forced me to worry for the both of us. The chilled, laid-back attitude he’d carried with him all these years when it came to Blake and Elena was driving me insane. That led me do insane stuff.

  I sighed and unmuted the television. I needed to clear my mind. I wanted to go and play the piano…but no, it wasn’t that bad yet.

  It was a message from Blake. I closed my door and opened my Cammy. I had like a gazillion from Annie and Sammy. Both wanted to know why I’d left so early. I wasn’t leaving until the day after tomorrow. I went with I was tired.

  I opened Blake’s message.

  It’s done. It’s over. She’s not happy, but she knew from the beginning. What are you doing?

  I grinned. He’d broken up with Tabitha. Yes!

  I wrote back, I’m in my room. Tried to cancel the Elps. You are, after all, only one dragon. No luck.

  Beep. We just made peace and now you’re leaving again.

  I tapped out, It sucks. I know.

  My phone beeped again. Am I going to see you tonight?????

  I smiled. You know you are. Where?

  His message was immediate. Still a naughty little shit.

  I laughed.

  Your treehouse, after the ’rents go to bed? He sent.

  Okay. See you later.

  My phone beeped again. You bet your sweet ass you will.

  I laughed and put my Cammy inside my drawer.

  I went to take a long bath. I shaved my legs and whatnot. The treehouse. Oh my freakin’ word.

  Images of the previous night popped into my head. I didn’t know if this was going to happen again as I was still a bit sore from last night. But there would definitely be a spike in my hormones. My mother would have a fucking heart attack if she knew that I’d lied about Blake not being ready yet.

  But for now, she didn’t need to know.

  I went to their room and said goodnight. My mother smiled over the pages of a book in her hand. My father blew me a kiss as he walked to the bed from the bathroom. He was seriously built for an old man. He looked at me. “What are you looking at?”

  “You sure you’re two hundred and seventy?” I asked and he laughed.

  “He’s your father, sweetheart.” My mother laughed.

  “So what? He looks good. I can’t give him compliments?”

  She laughed as my father did a little dance in front of my mother.

  “Okay, that I didn’t have to see. Goodnight,” I said and left.

  I could hear their laughter as I closed the door and went to my own room.

  I waited for them to fall asleep and then I pulled on my slacks, rolled some of my towels up thick and placed them in my bed with one of my blonde wigs sticking out. Just in case Mom checked up on me.

  I pulled on a shirt and slacks and grabbed my sleeping bag and a lantern. I tiptoed along the hallway and down the stairs. Felix was snoozing in my father’s room, so I closed the door. I went through one of the side doors and made a run for the treehouse a few yards away from the castle.

  I climbed the ladder. Disappointment hit me; he wasn’t here yet. I pulled out my Cammy.

&n
bsp; Where are you?

  He didn’t answer. He was probably flying.

  I waited for what felt like forever. The lantern was a globe one because of what had happened when I was five years old. It was before he’d gotten his human form. It wasn’t my fault and it wasn’t Blake’s either. He’d had the hiccups. We couldn’t get the fire out. I took the blame said it was the lantern, but my mother was furious.

  I heard a rumble, not enough that it would wake my mother. Then I heard him climbing the ladder.

  He only wore shorts. His shirt was balled in his fist along with his shoes. He hadn’t bothered dressing fully after shifting. Oh man.

  I lay in my sleeping bag already. He tossed his bag in the corner. His muscles bunched as he hoisted up the ladder.

  He threw it into the corner and crawled over to me, and our lips met. I kissed him back. In two seconds I was on my back. He was climbing into my sleeping bag and carried on kissing me.

  “You miss me?” he said.

  “Not that much. I was pissed off with you for almost the entire day.”

  “Sorry about that. I felt really crappy. She just showed up unannounced. I had no idea what to do. Sorry.”

  “Is it over?” I was stern.

  “Yes, I told you it’s over.” He nestled himself in between my legs. Our lips found each other.

  I flinched.

  “You okay?” he asked.

  “It’s still tender.” Heat rose in my cheeks; I felt embarrassed that he noticed.

  “Well, I can fix that,” he said in a seductive way and his head disappeared under the sleeping bag.

  He pulled off my slacks and I had to suppress my laughter as he really struggled doing all of this in the confined space of my sleeping bag.

  Then he did the tongue thing again and I was gasping for air.

  The phone rang. Who the hell was phoning us at eleven o’clock at night?

  I picked up the phone. It was an unknown number. No hologram showed.

  I heard a girl crying. “Who is this?” I asked.

  “Your little princess is not as innocent as you think. She can’t keep her hands off other people’s property.” The phone disconnected.

  I squinted. Dragons were more likely to refer to “property” than humans. I froze. The Snow Dragon. No, Elena said that Blake didn’t see her in that way, unless… she wouldn’t.

  She’d lied.

  I went to her room, knocked, and peeked in. There she was, asleep in her bed. She was innocent. I closed the door and went to my chambers.

  “Who was that?” Albert asked, his voice thick with sleep.

  “Nobody, a spoiled brat. Go back to sleep.”

  “A spoiled brat?” Albert asked.

  “Yes,” I grunted. “Go back to sleep,” I said.

  He did, but I couldn’t. Was she and Blake hiding their relationship from me? I didn’t like that thought one bit. I tossed and turned and eventually got up and went to Elena’s room. She could sleep late tomorrow. I had to know.

  “Elena,” I said but she didn’t mumble or anything. “Sweetheart.” I touched her. It wasn’t a body. I flipped on the light and found towels in her bed as I pulled back her covers.

  That little…She’d lied to me.

  I fumed. Where the hell was she? I thought about to waking Al up. Then her treehouse jumped into my mind. I changed course and went to the treehouse.

  A cold finger rushed up my side as I heard soft moans. No, no, no. She is just a baby. I rushed faster and wanted to explode.

  She would be grounded forever. She would never go to Dragonia. Ever. “Elena Malone, you get your ass down here.”

  She went super quiet. I knew the little fuck had wielded his shield. I couldn’t get up there; the staircase was rolled up. I left. I’d never been this livid in my entire life. I went and woke Al up.

  He took one look at my face and scrambled out of bed. “What is going on?”

  “She fucking did it.”

  He blinked owlishly. “Did what? Who are you talking about?”

  “I caught them in her treehouse. Her and that…” I took a deep breath.

  Al squinted. “Lee?”

  “No,” I screamed, pacing frantically.

  “Just get your ass downstairs or I will kill them both.”

  “She’s going to kill you!” I yelled at Blake. This was mortifying. How did she know?

  “Elena, calm down.” Blake smiled. “It’s not the end of the world.”

  “I want to die,” I cried.

  “Just calm down, okay? I’m not going anywhere.” He pulled on his shorts and shirt and leaped through the hole with the ladder.

  I got dressed. His scent was all over me again. My father. I cringed. I followed him to the castle. This was the queen and she was crazy.

  Blake smiled.

  “It’s not funny. My mom almost walked in on us,” I whispered.

  Blake’s tone was light. “She can actually hear what we are saying right now, Elena.”

  That made my blood run cold. “She’s fuming, isn’t she?”

  He grinned again and nodded.

  “This is not funny. She’s going to ground me forever.”

  His eyes were filled with mischief. “I’m not going anywhere.”

  The kitchen light was on. The side door next to it was open. I walked through that door. My father and mother were both waiting for us. “You lied to me!” my mother shrieked as I entered the kitchen. If she’d been a dragon she would’ve breathed chlorine gas.

  “You gave me no choice, okay?” I yelled back “You would just play your piano again.”

  Blake’s smiled vanished. My father stared at him. “Don’t look at him like that, Dad. It’s not only him.”

  “Oh, you threw yourself at him, Elena?” Mom was apoplectic. “He knows better. He should’ve just told you no.”

  Blake raised his eyebrows at my mother.

  “Don’t you dare give me that look. I knew the minute you were back shit was going to happen. You are such a bad influence on her.”

  “Stop.” I slammed my hands on the table. A teacup rattled in its saucer. “I messed up, okay. I’m not your fucking ideal daughter. Seriously, Mom. You’ve said it so many times.”

  “Don’t you dare bring Cooper and Merica into this, Elena. You are sixteen years old. Blake is almost twenty. You know how bad this can get if it gets out.”

  I scowled. “Well, the way you are screaming, I’m sure it will, Mom.”

  “Don’t.” She pointed her finger at me. “You’re grounded. You will leave for the Elps, you won’t see Blake tomorrow, and I’m taking your Cammy away. I’ll think of how I can tutor you here, as you can forget going to Dragonia Academy.”

  Shock hit like a wall. I didn’t expect that. “Mom!” Tears sprang to my eyes at the mere thought of such a fate.

  My father finally broke his silence. “Katie…”.

  “Don’t you dare.”

  “Seriously, withholding Dragonia Academy?” Blake opened his mouth. “Tell me something, Your Majesty. How did the crows disappear?”

  “Don’t you dare use that tone with me!” Her rage kicked up a notched just because he was the one talking.

  “Answer me.” His fury almost matched hers.

  My mother gave him a scathing look. “I don’t know. Maybe there were no crows to begin with, Blake.”

  Though he was wound as tight as a piano wire, he kept his voice low as a counterpoint to Mom’s hysterics. “I wrote to her every week for an entire year. There were crows. How?”

  Every week?

  “I warned you…”

  “I know you can compel animals. It’s not that hard to use meta-compulsion on them. I do it all the time. Best party trick ever.”

  My mother’s nostrils flared.

  The horror of this possibility descended on me. “What?!” I yelled.

  My father closed his eyes and sighed as if all he had to do was wait for a grand spectacle to unfold.

  I faced my m
other and searched her eyes for any sign of guilt. “It was you?”

  She sputtered. “Elena, I’m not on trial.”

  “Mom, he was dark. He needed me and—” I couldn’t finish. I just couldn’t.

  “Why did you call my band if you hated me that much?”

  “I wish I never had,” she spat.

  “I hate you!” I screamed at her. “You had no right. You lied to me.” I started to cry. “You made my life a living hell for two years! How do you expect me to be honest with you if you lie to me?”

  “Elena,” my father said. His tone was quiet and pained.

  “No, Dad,” I cried. I rounded on Mom. “It’s your fault. Absence made the heart grow fonder, Mom. If you’d just let me have his letters, none of this would’ve happened!” I yelled and ran to my room.

  I could still hear Blake and my mother speaking. His voice disappeared.

  My father tried to speak to me later that night. It turned into a fight about how disappointed they were. I didn’t care about any of them at the moment. They’d tried to keep us apart.

  She took my Cammy and I couldn’t even speak to him.

  The phone rang in the early hours. My mom was fighting with someone and from the yelling I knew it was Isabel. She would be furious to discover my mother had toyed with his struggle with darkness. I would be, too. He had teetered on the edge and she had withheld the one antidote. It was just a game to her.

  It was morning before I finally fell asleep.

  The next day I didn’t want to see any of them. I took a long bath. I cried a lot. I only heard someone entering and exiting. When I got out, there was a box on my bed. I opened it.

  It was letters. Our letters. There were so many. Two fucking years’ worth.

  I read all the ones he’d sent me. He had hated me after a while. Even the one he sent after Pluggs died. It made me cry. He missed me so much and just wanted to see me so badly.

  She’d been here, lying to my face.

  I threw the letters on the floor with the box and cried inside my pillow as hard as I could. The anger didn’t dispel.

  Felix slept in my room that night.

  My animals were the only honest creatures I had in my life. I put Blake into that category, too. He’d never actually lied to me.

 
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