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       Moonbeam, p.3

           Adrienne Woods

  The priest spoke loudly. “Who is giving this woman away?”

  “I do,” my father said. He turned to look at Blake. He just stared at him until everyone watching started to laugh.

  “Make her happy, Blake.”

  “You know I will,” Blake answered.

  He took my hand and put it in Blake’s, before stepping off the altar.

  The ceremony started, but to be honest, I didn’t hear much of it. I couldn’t stop staring at Blake, and he couldn’t stop staring at me.

  “You may now speak your vows,” the priest said.

  Blake went first. He took the ring out of his pocket. Very romantic.

  “Sorry, I have many trust issues,” he said to the crowd, who laughed.

  He put the ring on my finger. “With this ring, I promise to give you my soul and my undying love.

  I place this ring upon your hand.

  You have made me a better man.

  With your sweet love and gentle kiss,

  The darkness from my soul you forever dismiss.

  With this circle of gold, I solemnly vow

  To love you until my life takes its final bow.”

  Tears filled my eyes as he spoke the words. I felt each syllable imprint on my soul. Rhyming. It just had to be rhyming…

  As I felt the cool circle of gold nestle onto my finger, I turned to Becky, who had been holding Blake’s ring for me.

  The ring felt heavy in my hand as I turned back and stared into his peacock-blue eyes. The same eyes I wanted to look into for the rest of my life.

  Taking a deep breath, I began my vows. I hadn’t planned them in advance. I let my heart speak the truth.

  “While our challenges have been many, there has really only been one constant for me, and that is my soul-deep love for you. Even when you pushed me away, deep down I knew we were meant to be together and destined to face the challenges of this world together, hand-in-hand, forever. You are more than my dragon. You are my heart, my soul, and the very life force that flows in my veins. I promise to keep you, love you, and care for you, until my dying breath.”

  I could feel the emotions flow out of me. Light sparkled in his eyes as I slipped his ring onto his finger. I could feel the moment our lives became one.

  “I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss your bride.”

  Blake stepped forward, his hand curled around my waist and he kissed me softly.

  I didn’t dare open my eyes, since this kiss was our first as husband and wife. When we finally broke away it was dark, and I looked around me.

  I realized he’d covered this private moment with his wings, partially transformed. Then he lowered his wings and the crowd came back into view.

  Everyone cheered.

  The reception took place in the sky as well. It all went by so quickly. Toward the end, Blake took me for a flight.

  The stars were like diamonds tonight. He took me to our special spot by the river.

  It still took my breath away, with the fireflies lighting the way.

  I slid off his wing, and when I turned around my husband was naked, and I was in his arms.

  What followed next was a blur.

  We made love right there under our tree without tearing my dress.

  Like I’d always said, he was a jack-of-all-trades.

  We stayed there until the sun came up, and then we returned to the castle.

  That was our wedding. Beautiful. Impossible to forget.

  My dad gave us our own wing in the castle—the west wing that had once been my mother’s. They’d rebuilt it. We would never be able to fill all those rooms. Every night we made love. For hours. I thought I was going to die of happiness.

  Getting pregnant wasn’t as easy as I’d thought it would be. Several times I’d thought I was, but then it turned out that I was just late.

  But when the day came, it was even more magical than I could have dreamed. Now it was my turn to try and block out my thoughts. I was going to break the news to Blake at dinner.

  Blake had been away for a few days, helping my father with some of the threats the Wyverns posed again. I didn’t like it when he was gone for so long.

  My dad didn’t even know yet, but Constance said she would tell him before dinner when he came back, so it could only be Blake’s surprise.

  I spent the entire day waiting for him by the window of our room, praying to see his outline.

  “Constance!” I yelled and run out of the room. “They are here.”

  Sure, he was the Rubicon, but Wyverns, they would always be Wyverns. I was glad to have him back safe and sound.

  He landed hard. The ground rumbled; his dragon form was bigger than ever.

  He morphed back to his human form and I was in his arms, kissing him everywhere.

  “I was only gone for three days, Elena.”

  “Three days too long.”

  He laughed. “So how is my favorite person?” He squinted at me.

  “I’m perfect.”

  “What are you trying to hide from me?” he asked in a serious tone.

  “Nothing! I’m not hiding anything.”

  “Why can’t I reach your mind, Elena?”

  “You can’t?” I tried to sound surprised. “Guess I finally found a way to block you.”

  He shook his head. “Fine, whatever,” he mumbled. He took the robe that Jeeves held toward him.

  “Thank you, Jeeves.”

  “Welcome back, my prince,” he said.

  Blake huffed. “Still need to get used to that one,” he said as he pulled the robe over his body. He flung his arm around me and we walked side-by-side to the castle. “Seriously, Elena. You are starting to freak me out, just a little.”

  “Nothing? You can’t see anything?” I was smiling ear-to-ear.

  “Nothing. It’s scary.” He took a huge breath, which made me laugh.

  “It’s not funny! I feel off balance.”

  “Soon. Just be patient.”

  We got ready for dinner and went down around seven o’clock. It was nice to have a full table for tonight.

  Isabel had come over for dinner. Sir Robert had been away with my father, so he didn’t know about anything either.

  My father caught me in the kitchen right before we sat down.

  “Sweet pea,” he whispered with tears in his eyes, hugging me tightly.

  “I don’t want to say anything. You’ve been trying so hard to keep this a secret.”

  “Shh, Dad.”

  “Sorry,” he said and mouthed, Congratulations.

  We sat down and dinner started.

  They talked about the Wyverns and everything that had happened the past three days.

  Blake was quiet, very quiet. I tried to peer into his mind to see what was bothering him, but I was scared that would open the gateway for him to see my thoughts too and ruin the surprise.

  Finally, it was time for dessert.

  The staff all exited the kitchen. A plate covered with a silver bowl was placed in front of each of us.

  They all took off the silver lids with a flourish to reveal dessert on every plate—except Blake’s. On his plate was a pair of booties.

  I looked at him sitting next to me as he stared at his plate. For a very, very long time.

  The silence stretched around the table as everyone looked at him, waiting in anticipation for his reaction. Nobody expected this.

  I looked at my father, who still had excitement on his face. I begged him with my eyes to do something, but he shrugged.

  Blake still stared at the stupid plate.

  Then finally he moved his head and met my eyes. “You serious?”

  I nodded.

  “I’m going to be a dad?”

  He was scaring me. “Yes, you are going to be a father.”

  A sloppy grin spilled over his face. He grabbed me and hugged me tight as I unleashed the lock on my mind and my thoughts streamed into his.

  He laughed.

  “Good surprise?” I ask

  “The best,” he said, touching my belly and kissing my lips.

  The pregnancy was a blast. It went slow, but eventually the big day arrived.

  I didn’t know who was more nervous—my father or Blake.

  Constance told them both to go wait in the living room. I’d planned a royal home birth.

  A beautiful little girl made her grand entrance four hours later. We called her Silho.

  She had dark fuzz down to the nape of her neck and the most angelic face. A perfect mixture of Blake and me.

  Life was beautiful. A princess couldn’t ask for more.

  We were preparing for the Royal Chastniss tournament.

  It wasn’t Warbel. Chastniss was much more fun. It reminded me a lot of lacrosse but with dragons. Like all dragon games, this one was dangerous.

  As I suited up under a glittering night sky and watched Blake transform into his dragon form, I reminded myself of the rules. We were allowed to use our abilities—except for Blake and me, who were only allowed to use one, no swapping. The pink kiss was forbidden, as that one was a killer. Literally. That ability inflicted a gruesome death at its mere touch. So, we usually went with lightning or frost.

  I climbed up on Blake’s back and he leapt into the sky gracefully. My heart lurched with the thrill; I’d never get tired of flying.

  The riders played with an old sheepskin ball astride a dragon. A huge racket was used to hit the ball, then the players chased it and hit it again. Teams were three against three. A dragon took up the position of keeper and stood guard in front of a net close to the ground or way up in the sky.

  Our goal was the sky since Blake loved to fly, and our opposing team was on the ground. We had plenty of hard flying to do and plenty of defending, making sure that the ball stayed close to our opponents’ net.

  In between all this, we had to duck and dive the other abilities. Blake cheated in the beginning, swapping and changing abilities to use on the others, but we would get suspended for ten minutes and usually ended up losing the game.

  Love, stop daydreaming and hold on tight. Blake’s voice popped into my head and brought me back to earth—or more accurately back to reality where I was sitting on his back.

  I rolled a few of his catfish-like whiskers slightly around my hand. I mentally sent the message: I’m ready.

  My father disliked that we wouldn’t speak a single word to one another, but when we told him that we did speak, just silently, he relaxed. He was downright impressed with what we could do. Admiration often shone in his eyes when he realized we were speaking to each other in our special way. He was really in awe of us.

  “GO!” Becky yelled. She and George were always on our side.

  Since George got that first vision of Blake being stuck in what we now call The Nether, he had seen so many things about the two of us. Beautiful things and scary things he didn’t want to share. Those frightened me. He wouldn’t even tell Becky.

  I yelled out of excitement as I wound up to hit the ball with the racket.

  Sir Robert dashed past us. My father hit the ball first and it careened back down.

  Blake grunted and swooped around, and my father laughed gleefully. We chased after the ball.

  Becky served it cleanly back to me. I smacked it before my father could reach me.

  “Slow down, Elena, before your hurt yourself!” my father yelled.

  “I can take care of myself, old man,” I joked. After all, he was about two hundred and seventy now, give or take a couple years. But he still resembled a man in his late forties. His dragon, Sir Robert—my father-in-law—had given him his essence a very long time ago.

  The game was fun. Laughter soared all around us. A couple of bystanders watched from below, crying out excitedly at our antics.

  Sir Robert and Blake chased the ball. He’d gotten faster since my father’s return. Blake increased his velocity as his father was on his tail. The wind tore at my blonde hair, adorning it with microscopic pearls of moisture.

  We streaked toward our goal post. Not far now.

  “Let them go!” my father yelled at last. Sir Robert would kill himself if he tried to keep up with Blake at these speeds.

  I felt as if I was on an insane rollercoaster with no brakes.

  My enthusiasm ripped a scream from my lungs, clawing its way out of my throat. It echoed through the night sky as we climbed higher and higher, hitting the ball each time I passed it.

  Emanual was my father’s goalkeeper. He lurked high up in the darkness—how high, we didn’t know. It was one thing to get the ball, but another thing altogether to get past him.

  A bright light appeared right in front of us out of nowhere. Blake didn’t have time to stop.

  We flew right through the dazzling light. He slowed down.

  “What the hell was that?” I spoke out loud for the first time. I craned my neck to look behind us. The light was gone. When Blake turned around, it reappeared. But then I realized it hadn’t reappeared; I was seeing it through his mind.

  I don’t know. It came out of nowhere.

  The sky was crystal clear. A million stars were strewn across the black velvet blanket of night.

  There were no signs of our game. The world was deathly quiet, all sounds of our onlookers and the other players simply vanished. I didn’t like this. Not one bit.

  A string of thoughts zigzagged through Blake’s head. The stars in this sky weren’t part of our galaxy. In Blake’s mind, I could see that some of these constellations didn’t exist.

  This made no sense.

  Threads of worry curled around Blake’s mind like clinging ivy. His fear became my own. My heart fluttered anxiously. I didn’t know what any of this meant.

  Blake, where are we? What was that bright light? And what do you mean these aren’t our constellations?

  I have no idea. I don’t like this. This place feels wrong, Elena.

  I know, I feel it, too. What is it with the stars? I asked him again.

  Some of them shouldn’t be in the sky. They fell a long time ago.

  What does this mean? Just get us back, please.

  Okay, hold on.

  He veered off course. The hair on my neck stood on end as the wind brushed against my face. We weren’t even close to the palace, but a few miles away, we saw the palace standing tall in the horizon.

  I loved flying. I lived for it. But his fear, his thoughts, had become mine. I shared his mounting unease.

  Fire light caught my eye. I peered down toward Mount Likwa, a hulking mountain nearby the castle.

  Atop the mountain a battle was being waged. War.

  The whiz of fire arrows. Steel breaking against steel. Humans screaming in agony as they perished. These sounds pierced my eardrums.

  I sensed Blake watching the images in my mind. He fanned his wings to slow down to make sense of what we were seeing.

  It was a battle to the death.

  What is that? Who is it? Why don’t we know about this? Alarm ratcheted through my tone.

  We need to get back, Elena. We need to warn your father and the others!

  Just get us the hell out of here, I ordered.

  He sped up.

  Sharp pain seared through my waist. But it wasn’t me who had been hit. It was him.

  “Blake!” I yelled. Are you okay?

  His wingbeats faltered, barely noticeable. Yes, I’m fine.

  I prayed for the castle. He was always saying stuff like this—that he was fine, not to worry—but I always knew the truth. This thing hurt like hell. Another thing our connection let us experience: each other’s pain.

  Drowsiness rose through me, sudden and unexpected. I glanced at my waist and realized it wasn’t Blake’s pain I was experiencing after all. It was my own. The feathers of a blazing owl placed in a beautiful formation at the tip of an arrow jutted halfway from the side of my torso.

  I’d been hit, not Blake, it was me…From that distance? How?

  Elena! Blake must have sensed the
turmoil inside my head. A soft keening sound left his core. My eyes felt heavy, so heavy. The last thing I was aware of before I blacked out, before I lost complete control of my sight, was slipping off his back. Into nothingness.

  Elena was losing consciousness. I had to tune her out in order to fly straight. I saw her figure plummeting through empty air past my paw.

  I darted after her and grabbed her with my claw. She was so tiny.

  Got you. Just hold on, I begged. I flew like I’d never flown before. I raced back toward the castle, or at least back to where the stars made some sense. How bad was her injury? Where were we? What had happened?

  The bright light was up ahead. I didn’t even try to stop this time. I picked up speed and zoomed straight through it.

  A voice in the darkness. King Albert. “What do you mean they never came this way?”

  “They never reached the goal post, my king,” Emanual said.

  “Help!” I roared. I could hear from the rhythm of their heartbeats that they knew I was desperate.

  “Blake!” King Albert yelled.

  “Son!” my father shouted.

  “Here,” I called. Is she okay? Miles melted before me. Within five breaths I saw two dragon silhouettes against the smudge of a cloud. The King’s figure perched atop my father.

  “Something is wrong!” my father said as he picked up the deranged tone in my voice.

  Elena! I tried to connect with her mind, but she was as vacant as a stone-cold wall. Either that or the connection had been broken again. I couldn’t go through that. Not again.

  “Stay with me!” I said.

  “Blake!” Her father’s voice was confused and worried tone. “Where is Elena?”

  “In my paw. I think an arrow hit her. There is war on Mount Likwa.”

  George and Becky came into view.

  “War?” my father said.

  “Get Elena back to Constance. Now,” King Albert ordered. “Blake, stay with her. The rest—” he nodded at George and Emanual “—Mount Likwa. Now.”

  “Is Elena going to be okay?” Becky sounded deranged, but nevertheless followed King Albert and the rest. I nodded. What else could I do?

  “George, be safe. It’s full-on war.”

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