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       Moonbeam, p.31

           Adrienne Woods
 

  “Elena, please.”

  “Just don’t, Blake, fucking don’t.” She spun around. I hated this look on her. “You two deserve each other.”

  “No, please,” I begged again as she just kept walking, and fast. “It’s not what you think, please.” I grabbed her arm. She needed to listen to me.

  “Get your fucking paw off me!” She yelled, “Or so help me, Blake…”

  She’d never used that tone with me. A foreign emotion entered me: betrayal, heartbreak. I let go of her arm as Lucian reached us.

  “Blake,” he said. He knew I’d fucked up last night. Tried to warn me.

  A tear rolled over my cheek. She was never going to forgive me. Ever.

  Everyone talked about our fight. It floated through the air like twittering birds.

  Whenever I walked into a class or the cafeteria, everyone inside stopped talking.

  So fucking what? I tried not to feel guilty, but I couldn’t. Elena was here now, keeping me normal. Her proximity lessened the darkness. I felt better, and it wasn’t the Fire Caine that had drained the beast.

  The darkness wasn’t going to come. I’d fucked up and it was killing me. I kept seeing that look on Elena’s face.

  She wasn’t sitting at Sammy’s table. She wasn’t going to listen to me. I knew her; she was just as stubborn as her mother.

  Every blonde who walked into the room made my heart beat faster. Not that I could hear it, but I felt the elevation through my entire body. But it was never her. She was hiding from me.

  Rumors swirled the entire day around the school. The Parthenon dome was closed. Elena was training.

  She was making me nervous. Especially now with what happened. But I was glad that she was still going to claim me.

  During class a royal messenger came. Everyone looked up and Professor Gregory smiled. “Blake,” he said. The messenger bowed out. I knew what that was. It was my date, the date that she was going to claim me. I got up and moved forward.

  “Mind sharing?” Professor Gregory asked.

  I tore the envelope open and took out a claim date. This was the way they’d done it hundreds of years ago. Her father was making a huge thing about this.

  The date was next week.

  “Next week Wednesday,” I said and everyone cheered, except Tabitha.

  That fast? She wants to claim me that fast? I needed to speak to her.

  I put the parchment into my backpack. It was going to get framed.

  I tried to speak to her during class, and I even went to the Parthenon dome which was highly guarded. I could hear a sparring session in progress.

  I would love to see her in action, but the guard told me to go back where I came from. I hated that. So what, I couldn’t see her moves?

  During lunch I sat at a table outside, picking at my food. I could feel Lucian watching me like a hawk.

  I knew it was pity. I had gotten caught in the act, horribly, and nothing I could say would ever make this feel right. Nothing.

  I saw him at lunchtime. Our eyes met for a few seconds. How could you do this to me?

  I felt his eyes on me the entire period. It got so bad that I got up and went to sit inside, where I could eat in peace. The whole school was talking about me catching him. How upset I was. None of them understood it as the papers were still carrying the narrative that we still hated one another.

  I finished my lunch, pushed back my tears, and went back to the Parthenon dome. I had a lot of training to do.

  Four tutors came today, another four would come tomorrow, and another four the day after that. He’d received his invitation today. My dad had gone all out to make this as memorable as possible. Now I didn’t want anything to do with him. He made me sick.

  Even with my head swimming with all of this, my trainers fell. All of them. I’d never felt this ready for anything in my life. Now I didn’t care anymore. I should just put the poor dog out of its misery. I really didn’t care anymore about anything. The snow bitch would always be there.

  Murphy’s Law. I walked past her up to my room.

  She didn’t even look at me, just glided past me.

  I loathed her. I wished she would just roll over and die. It was because of her that all this shit happened. She’d started it. She was supposed to keep her grubby paws off him.

  It took everything out of me not to bash her head against the railing.

  And the fact that I was tired and needed a nap and a shower.

  I didn’t see her at dinner. I wanted to speak to her, but she wasn’t there. I went back to my room. Tabitha desperately wanted to talk to me but I avoided her. I was so tired of her.

  I couldn’t get that disappointment on Elena’s face out of my head.

  The door opened and Lucian walked in. “You okay?”

  “Yeah, I’m fine.” I didn’t growl. She had been here for one day and I’d already started to feel like myself.

  Lucian spoke quietly. “You want to talk about this morning?”

  I shook my head.

  “Okay, I’m here if you do, Blake.”

  I knew he was. Always near, ready to talk if I needed him. “You spoke to her?” I had to know.

  “Nope, she sees me as one of your pack dogs, Blake.”

  The next day, I just missed her. I caught her walking out of the back door heading toward the Parthenon dome. She was never going to forgive me.

  She had training again today.

  Reporters showed up. They were going to interview her.

  Why did they always make such a fuss over a claiming?

  Note to self. Stay inside your room.

  I spoke to Tabitha in class.

  “You didn’t see her, the way she looked at me, Blake,” Tabitha said as the bell rang.

  “I’m sure it couldn’t have been as bad as the one she gave me. Just stay away from her, you are good at that.”

  She followed me. “She was supposed to keep her paws off you. You were mine, not hers.”

  “We’ve been through this a million times,” I said to her as we reached the lockers. “I’m not yours, Tabitha.”

  Everyone was staring again.

  “You sure about that? That’s not what you said the other night.” She touched my face. I closed my eyes. I just wanted to fucking die.

  “Stop touching me.” I opened my eyes and looked at her. She knew what that had been, it was the Caine talking.

  “To be safe, stay away. She’s not like that, but don’t push her, Tabitha.”

  She nodded as we made our way to our lockers.

  I was walking behind her. I could feel Elena close by but where, I didn’t know.

  Tabitha smiled at me. “I didn’t regret the other night.”

  I did, but I didn’t say it out loud. It was cruel, and I wasn’t cruel when I was normal.

  She turned back around to look in front of her, when a locker opened all by itself. She smacked right into it.

  My mind immediately went to Elena. I had to suppress a laugh. Okay, so it wasn’t nice, but it was funny. “Let me see.”

  “You sure about that statement?”

  “C’mon, you see her here anywhere?” I asked.

  I looked at her face. She was going to end up with one hell of a shiner.

  Something on the roof caught my eye. It was a blue jacket with some sort of symbol on it. I looked back at Tabitha for two seconds and when I looked up again, he was gone. Lucian? Would he do that for Elena to get back into her good graces? If so, what did that mean?

  I decided to sit inside the cafeteria the entire evening.

  I was going to speak to her tonight no matter how hard she tried to avoid me. We needed to sort this shit out.

  Around seven, Sammy and Elena walked in. She was wearing a blue jacket with a symbol on it.

  She can already do elevation spells?

  It scared me even more. Sammy went over to the table while Elena went straight to the buffet. She’d been training hard. I could see it in her face.

  I
got up and walked slowly toward her.

  Sort this out, Blake. Just sort it out.

  I knew I should feel bad for what I’d done this afternoon, but it was Tabitha. Her perfect face would heal eventually.

  Thank heavens nobody saw me.

  “Hey, Princess,” a big man with a round belly and red beard greeted me.

  “Good evening,” I said, reaching out my hand. He kissed it softly, which made me smile. “And it’s Elena.”

  “You love riddles?”

  “I suck at riddles, always have,” I joked.

  He chuckled. “Bummer.”

  All the hair on my arms rose.

  I looked around and saw Blake standing right next to me. I was still so fucking mad at him. I stared at the ground. My heart was beating like crazy. What was he doing here? I’d told him I didn’t want to see him.

  “Blake,” Chef said.

  “Chef,” he spoke. It was silent as I heaped way too much potato salad onto my plate. Stop, Elena. Stop.

  “Elena,” he said.

  I looked at him. “I told you to leave me alone. Go to your Snow Dragon.”

  “It’s not like that. Can I just explain, please?” His shield was already around us.

  “I don’t care, Blake,” I said even though it was far from the truth. It was the only thing I’d thought about the past two days.

  “You don’t mean it.” He sighed. “I got dark, Elena. Really dark. It happened so quickly. And with your mother saying that you weren’t going to come to Dragonia, I lost hope, okay? I was weak. That happens. So I had to take other measures again.”

  “Oh what, screwing someone, is that it?” Sarcasm dripped from my words.

  “No.” He took a deep breath. “I fucked up. I was going to phone you and tell you that. I can’t fucking lie to you, Elena.”

  “What measures, Blake?” I yelled at him.

  He didn’t want to say.

  I wasn’t going to listen if he wasn’t going to be honest. Too many people were dishonest with me and I was fed up.

  I turned around to walk away.

  “Fire Caine.”

  I halted, shocked. Fire Caine.

  I gaped at him.

  “Yeah, not so fucking nice is it? It’s the only thing that keeps him at bay, Elena. Except you. I fucked up on the high. You are the furthest thing from my mind on a high.”

  That was so not what I wanted to hear. I shook my head. “Fire Caine. Blake you could’ve phoned me. Pappi would’ve found a way to get me here. But you decided to take the other path, the dark path. Indirectly, you chose darkness above me.” Tears rolled over my cheeks. I was uncomfortably aware that even though people couldn’t hear us, they could see the scene we were making. What a great first impression at Dragonia. “Do you know how much that fucking hurts?”

  “I do.”

  “No, you don’t!” I cried. “I don’t even want to claim you anymore.”

  He flinched.

  “But I don’t have a fucking choice. So I’ll decide what to do with you afterwards. All I can think of is setting you free.”

  Horror spread over his face. “You don’t mean that.”

  “Oh yes, I do.” I reached him again. “Whatever this was, it’s over. It’s all you ever do. Break my heart. You’re really good at that. No more,” I said.

  I couldn’t believe how honest I was being with him. Too honest.

  His face hardened and he huffed. It was as if he was finally free of whatever hold I had on him. He didn’t have to pretend anymore. He shook his head. “You’re just like your mother. You never listen to what I’m trying to tell you.”

  “Well, she raised me,” I snapped at him.

  “I really thought you’d grown up, but I see you’re just the spoiled little brat you’ve always been. I know it was you with the lockers. And yes, I actually regret that night.” He turned around, his shield disappeared, and he walked away.

  I should’ve just agreed with what a stupid idea that night had been. But I didn’t. Hearing him say that only angered me more. My eyes caught on the stack of plates.

  The movement was so fast. It started inside my head. I saw how I picked a plate up and threw it at Blake.

  It shattered against his back. He tripped but landed on all fours.

  “You’re a fucking asshole!” I yelled after him. Everybody’s eyes were on us. They were like statues, just staring at us.

  Blake grunted and I saw how he started to tremble slightly.

  “Go get Master Longwei!” Chef yelled from behind the buffet.

  I couldn’t keep my eyes off Blake. I watched how his body shook. He groaned.

  Whether it was to tame the beast inside of him or tame his anger, I didn’t know.

  But it didn’t last and he morphed into his dragon form.

  I backed away. He was huge, much bigger than the last time I’d seen him. Impossible. That was only a couple weeks ago!

  A shrill screech left his mouth. Spit spattered my skin.

  My heart hammered like crazy, but I wasn’t scared. Even if he’d gotten big, I’d never feared his dragon form, not like other people. This was a different type of emotion. It was as if I thrived on this. Pure adrenaline was my drug.

  Unfazed, I screamed right back at him. The plates in the stack zipped through the air and smashed into his face.

  A force blew me backward. I didn’t even see it, just felt myself get shoved over the buffet line, and crash behind it.

  Screams filled the cafeteria. Feet stomped on the tiles. Everyone stampeded toward the doors. Then it all went silent.

  My father’s laughter filled my ears. I opened my eyes. I still lay between the ovens behind the buffet area. “Sweet pea, what the hell did you do?” he asked.

  I lifted my head. “What are you doing here?” His corporeal form stood in the cafeteria with me. Time stood still. It was our special moment. I’d expected this…next week.

  “What happened to the big claiming in Etan? This wasn’t supposed to be it.”

  I realized what he said. “No.” I closed my eyes.

  He laughed again. “You can’t back down now. You have to claim him.”

  “He made me so furious, Dad.”

  “About what now?”

  I shook my head. I couldn’t tell my father. A tear rolled over my face. “I’m ascending?”

  He smiled. “Look for yourself.”

  I got up. I stared at Blake’s ugly mug. How had he gotten so big? The last people had just made it out of the cafeteria. But time was frozen in this moment. Nothing moved. No one blinked. I closed my eyes and thought of my mother. “She’s going to kill me.”

  It was supposed to be a huge claiming. Inside the Colosseum of Etan where they held all the famous claimings, with cameras and thousands of spectators. Paegeia had waited for this for years. And I couldn’t control my temper. I was so disappointed.

  “Maybe not that much,” my father said.

  “What?”

  “Your mother begged me to use this time to speak to you about everything and explain why she did this.”

  “It doesn’t matter anymore, Dad.”

  “Yes, it does, Elena. Please, just listen.

  I nodded.

  “It started with the letter where he said he didn’t feel the same way about you.”

  I’d read that letter. It still hurt me reading those words.

  “She didn’t have the heart to give it to you.”

  He was going to go with this crap?

  “But you need to know why she did it, Elena.”

  “I know why, Dad. She has this stupid thing stuck in her mind that we would turn into Cooper and Merica one day.” And she was right, but I didn’t say that out loud.

  “You done? Can I tell you now what she did for you?”

  “What she did?” I’d always wanted to know what she’d done for me, ever since my dad had told me that day in the kitchen. He’d said I was too young to appreciate it.

  I nodded.

>   He started with Goran. A tale my mom had never told me. He was like her Blake. But her heart belonged to my father. I knew the story of how they’d met; she was a commoner, he was a prince. What I hadn’t known was that his parents never approved of my mom. They didn’t want him to marry her because she was a commoner. However, on my grandfather’s deathbed, he told him that he could choose who he wanted to marry. Goran had asked my mother to marry him, too, but she loved my father, and couldn’t. It broke him, but he accepted it and they all stayed friends for a while.

  My father’s voice wavered. It was hard for him to tell me this story. I didn’t know what it had to do with me. It was evident who my father was. I looked like him, not like King Helmut.

  “You know that he died in the ambush set up by the person who was going to betray us.”

  I nodded. Irene’s prophecy had been that someone close to them would betray them. Goran—Mom’s Blake—died in the process.

  He was like my father’s brother.

  “Three days before the ambush, Merica and Cooper came to us. We knew what they were, he was a Rubicon, like Blake, but he wasn’t a threat. She was his rider.”

  “I know their story, Dad.”

  “We never knew who was going to betray us or when. Merica and Cooper did, and I didn’t want to listen.”

  Why didn’t he want to listen?

  “It was Goran, sweet pea.”

  “What was Goran?” I asked.

  “Goran was the one who betrayed us.”

  My mind whirred a mile a minute. “He couldn’t. King Helmut was his twin. You just said he was like your brother, and Mom…” Goran was her Blake.

  “Hence the reason I didn’t want to hear Merica and Cooper out.”

  He carried on. How they’d gone to my mother. She didn’t want to listen either, especially when Merica told her that I would’ve had a different life if she didn’t do it. I would have never known that Paegeia existed, never known Dragons existed. Jako would’ve raised me alone. I would have never known my mother. I tried to imagine that. I couldn’t. She was a pain in my ass, but not knowing her, not knowing my home existed…

  Goran would’ve tortured my father. They didn’t know much since my mom didn’t get all the details. My father had been hunting them. He wanted to throw them into the dungeons for treason.

 
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