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       Poison, p.4

           Adrienne Woods
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  “I know the feeling,” I whispered. At least I’d had a chance to say goodbye, his mother hadn’t.

  She wiped away her tears and giggled. “Sorry, I’m not setting a good example. A princess should never cry in public,” we both said that last line together and laughed.

  “But we are not in public. We are in Lucian’s room and we both miss him so much,” I said and looked at her. “How did you and my mother ever get used to this whole princess thing?”

  She went over to Lucian’s bed, sat on it and stroked the top of his bedding with a long wipe of her hand. “If only I could tell you how many times I fought in private with Helmut’s mom,” she laughed. “I even secretly wished for the old hag to get poisoned.”

  I giggled.

  “They were horrible, but she taught me a lot. How to open your mouth when it mattered and how to shut it when you think it matters but it doesn’t.”

  “She didn’t like you?”

  “Not one bit,” Queen Margerite said. “A part of me felt like her when Lucian told us about you, and I’m so sorry that we didn’t accept you sooner. We could’ve had so many memories together of him.”

  I smiled again. It felt like such a long time ago. “We have that weekend, it will just have to last us a lifetime.”

  She got up and gave me a soft hug again. “Get into something more human and meet us on the porch.”

  I giggled and watched her leave.

  All three of my bags waited for me and I folded Lucian’s jersey and put it into the closet.

  I opened my first piece of luggage and looked for my bikini and summer clothes. I seriously had to do some summer shopping as I couldn’t find a pair of flip-flops or even shorts.

  Becky and Sammy entered. Sammy wore a short summer dress with her bikini underneath and Becky was in shorts and a tank top.

  “What’s taking you so long?” she asked as I hovered over the last open case.

  “I give up. I swear they must have burned my normal clothes. It just this…” I picked up a jacket from some famous designer and chucked it back. “I have no shorts, no summer clothes and no bikini.”

  “No biggy, I have many…remember.”

  I shook my head with a smile, remembering the first time back at Dragonia when she’d invited me to come with them to the lake. It was also the night she’d ascended.

  Sammy came over and helped me close my suitcases. “We’ll get you new ones, I’m sure there’s a mall somewhere.”

  “I hope there is one, somewhere, otherwise Stanley will get a nasty letter from me delivered by Emanuel.”

  She laughed.

  Becky came back. “Remember this little number?” She had the black bikini in her hands and threw it with a pair of shorts and a strapless shirt on my lap.

  “You are a lifesaver. Thanks.”

  “I know,” she said with buffing eyes as I disappeared into the bathroom.

  I changed as fast as I could and ran down to the dock with Sammy and Becky.

  When I burst through the door leading to the porch I heard a dog’s bark and found Cat. He’d gained a couple of pounds, more than a couple of pounds, and paddled like a duck to where I stood. I felt sorry for the bulldog and met him halfway. His rough tongue scraped my cheek softly.

  “Okay, Cat, that is enough!” Queen Margerite yelled and I got up. The dog didn’t leave my side and I had to admit, it was good being here, even though Lucian wasn’t.

  A huge table with a buffet right next to it awaited us on the other side of the porch. My stomach growled as I smelled the fresh baked bread and bacon. Late brunch, I thought and raced Cat to where the others waited.

  We all dug in and spoke at the same time.

  Isabel and Lucille were in a deep discussion about the exterior and interior decorations of the house and Sir Robert, with King Helmut, spoke about Paegeia and what my future held.

  I didn’t want to listen to that, and gave all my attention to my friends, speaking about jet skis and paragliding. I’d never done any of it and I couldn’t wait to try it out.

  After breakfast we went down to the dock and found Emanuel in a tank top with swim shorts and flip flops. He looked like one of us, and not like the King’s dragon. When he saw us come near he stood up from his crouched position busy with the jet skis and a small grunt left Becky’s mouth as we all stared at what Emanuel was hiding behind black tuxedo’s and formal wear. Guilt flashed across her face and George roared with laughter. Not one ounce of jealousy.

  “You guys want to take these babies out?” He had five sets of keys dangling from long lanyards and threw one in each of our directions, I barely caught mine and had to bounce a couple of steps back to regain my balance. They all laughed.

  “Princesses know how to catch, Elena,” George mocked me as he started to strap a safety vest around his torso. Emanuel handed me a vest too.

  “I’m not your typical princess,” I said and they all laughed again as I put my arms into my vest.

  Sammy and Becky gave back their keys to Emanuel as they shared Dean and George’s jet skis. I eyed the key in my hand and one of the jet-ski’s and sighed.

  Emanuel walked over to me. “You’ve never driven one before?”

  “The last time I checked, the academy didn’t have jet-ski’s.”

  “Then I should speak to Helmut about that.”

  We both laughed. “Come, I’ll take you.”

  “No, I can’t possibly ask you to do that.”

  He climbed on one and I watched the jet ski bob slightly. “Hey, where I am from, when it’s someone’s birthday, we do whatever they want, now get on.” He glanced over his shoulder.

  I closed the straps of the safety vest and did as I was told. For the past three weeks it was all I’d done, do as everyone told me, except for the nights I’d tried to break free.

  Emanuel guided my hands around his big, gorilla-sized waist and I held on tight as he started the ignition and we left with a jolt. It skidded over the water and I laughed with pure excitement. My heart raced inside my chest as I didn’t know what to expect.

  Water sprayed over me as George and Becky suddenly turned in the opposite direction.

  “Oh, it’s going to be like that, huh,” Emanuel said and glanced at me over his shoulder.

  “Go for it!” I yelled back and held on tighter.

  For the next half an hour we chased George and Becky and laughed when they were thrown off their jet-ski.

  Becky cussed fiercely at George when her head came up, but laughed as he pulled her up making jokes.

  Dean and Sammy shared in our fun and I had to admit, I was glad that Emanuel had taken me out.

  Half-way through he literally grabbed me and put me in front of him.

  My heart fluttered a bit. I know Emanuel was an old dude, but he looked twenty-three and he wasn’t bad looking at all. He was far from bad looking with his bald head and smile that would make any woman sigh.

  “C’mon, if you can break the Rubicon, you can learn how to tame one of these babies,” he said with a wink.

  Was he flirting with me?

  He guided my hand and turned on the jet ski again.

  Becky and the others cheered me on. “C’mon Elena, it’s really fun!” Becky yelled.

  “Now, one is the accelerator, the other is the brake. You change gears with this one. Just like a car. You will hear it at first when you need a different gear, and later it will come naturally.”

  “Just like flying,” I said and he laughed.

  “I forgot to ask you, how did it feel to be a dragon?”

  “Don’t, I miss it more than anything in this world.”

  He didn’t say anything and I pressed the accelerator. The jet ski darted forward and Emanuel fell off.

  Becky and George cheered again. “You go, Elena,” George yelled.

  “I didn’t mean to,” I said and stood straight to look back at Emanuel. “Are you okay?” I asked as he wiped the water from his face.

  “I’ll live
. Next time a little less power, princess.”

  I went back for him and he got up, soaking wet. Bulges of muscles showed and heat rose all over my body. What was it with me today?

  He’s old, Elena, he’s old, he’s old, he’s old, I said a couple of times to myself.

  He isn’t that old.” The voice I used to hear when Paul attended the Academy said.

  The jet ski threw both of us off again as I must have turned the wrong handle. I hit the water with force and coughed as I finally got my vest to push me back out of the water.

  The side of my body ached as it’d connected hard against the water and I was grateful when Emanuel lifted me with one arm out of the water. “Are you okay?”

  “I’ll live.” I managed to give a soft giggle.

  “Maybe jet ski lessons should be left for another day,” he said and I found myself back behind him.

  My arms automatically went around his waist again and I closed my eyes, not because I’d changed my mind about Emanuel and his age, but because of the voice inside my head. It was the same voice I heard more than half a year ago at the Academy.

  The only difference was that this time, I knew exactly whose voice it was and what it’d said.

  Cheng was right. It wasn’t Paul’s voice, it was Blake’s.

  LENA,” EMANUEL SAID and when I didn’t react he said my name again and touched my shoulder gently with a shake.

  “Huh?” I snapped out of my thoughts about Blake’s voice and saw that we were at the dock in front of the house. “Sorry,” I said and tried to stand up but a pain burned my skin on the left side of my torso.

  “Are you hurt?” he asked worried, as I grabbed my side.

  “I think I scraped myself against something in the water when I fell.”

  He lifted up my tank top slightly and the thought of him touching me started to make my stomach flutter. What is this? I’d never had any of these feelings toward Emanuel before.

  “We should get Isabel. I think you connected with a livaworm.”

  “What’s a livaworm?” I asked, confused.

  Becky jumped off her jet ski before it’d even stopped properly and came to me.

  “It’s a worm that looks nothing like a worm,” he said as he crouched to tie the jet ski. “Its touch is gentle but the effect of it, not so much. It’s super hard to catch, but they are in there.” Emanuel’s eyes fell on mine. They were soft and gentle, he was a gentle giant. “Sorry about that.”

  “It’s not your fault. I was the one steering,” I said and looked at the side of my waist. It looked like gills with blood pouring out of them. I shivered as the sight turned my stomach.

  “You’re not healing?”

  “Dent thing, which is so broken at the moment,” I said to Becky.

  “I’m going to call Isabel, she’ll have it fixed in no time,” Emanuel said and ran up the dock and reached the house in a matter of seconds.

  George came to look at my livaworm incident and last was Sammy and Dean.

  “Livaworms are vicious. You’re lucky one only scraped you, Elena,” Dean said.

  I shook my head trying to imagine what this livaworm looked like but the only image I got, well, Emanuel had said it was not a worm.

  It started to burn more and I fanned my side with my hand to help with the sting. Becky helped too and blew softly on it.

  My eyes finally caught sight of Isabel, Lucille and Queen Margerite all running to the docks.

  “It’s going to be okay, Elena,” Isabel said and stretched out her hand. Her touch was warm which only made the feeling worse. I bit on my teeth and lay with my head on her shoulder. A couple of minutes later it started to cool down.

  “You can be glad it only scraped you, it could’ve been worse,” she said.

  “I didn’t even know livaworms were in this part of the ocean,” Queen Margerite scolded King Helmut.

  “They are usually gentle creatures Margerite. Elena must have touched one by accident. They don’t go near people at all.”

  “Which makes absolutely no sense,” she said again.

  “It’s fine, I have a personal healer,” I joked and Isabel’s lips twitched slightly.

  When she lifted her hand, the wound was closed and only three small pink lines stayed behind.

  “How does that feel?”

  “Another scar, awesome,” I joked again and she laughed.

  “It will be gone by tomorrow.”

  “That sucks so much.”

  They all burst out in laughter as we made our way back to the house, all of us starving.

  Queen Margerite had subs ready for us on the porch and after I devoured mine I went to take a hot shower.

  The water was soft and I remembered the first time in Constance’s infirmary how in awe I’d been of it. Now it was something normal, I would never be able to get used to normal showers again. As the water rinsed my body off, my mind went back to Blake’s voice.

  Why would it say that, why would it put that thought into my mind? The worst part of it all was he knew exactly what it was I was thinking.

  This couldn’t be happening to me, not now, not ever. I felt violated, disgusted that he knew about this, scared.

  I tried to feel for him inside of me, but there was nothing. It was hollow, the way Cara and Lucian had left me.

  I closed the taps when the warmth of the water reached my bones and wrapped a soft towel around my body.

  I pulled on a pair of my designer jeans Denise had bought me on our first trip to the mall and a beautiful top with Becky’s flip-flops. Denise was the blonde Becky had spoken about with the sweet angelic voice. I thought at one time that she was my only friend, but when Becky mentioned those awful words Denise had said to her, I hated her even more than I did Stanley.

  Still the clothes she’d gotten me didn’t fit at all with this vacation.

  I felt so out of place, everyone was here in summer clothes and I looked like a designer doll, it was so not me.

  Around seven we had a celebration dinner for my birthday. A huge cake came out, well not as big as last night’s, but it was big enough and perfect. The eighteen candles were blown out and the wish I made, was for Blake.

  I wished he would find peace with all of this and come home for his family’s sake. They really miss him, and I hoped that he’d heard that.

  At eight, Emanuel entered the dining hall again and slapped his hands together. “You guys ready?”

  “Ready for what?” George asked with a huge smile plastered on his face and looked at all of us. His dimples dented deep into his cheeks.

  “We are going to party on the yacht.”

  “You bet,” George and Dean said.

  Becky and Sammy both clapped their hands and shrieked softly.

  “I just want to go and grab my jacket,” I said and followed the girls upstairs to where all our rooms were.

  When we reached the dock where the yacht was waiting, I noticed small fairy lights hung at the back.

  Emanuel lent all of us a hand as we climbed on this humungous boat. My stomach fluttered again as his hands touched mine. They were warm and soft, something I’d never imagined as he was quite the opposite when he was a dragon.

  Then again George was a thunder breather, and he was always warm too.

  He gave me a super smile, which I returned, and went inside.

  George and Dean both chuckled and cheered as they saw a huge eighteen made of shot glasses on a table filled with hard liquor and a bottle of Fire Powder, next to food stacked on platters

  Emanuel shut the door but didn’t come in and I saw his huge figure going to the front of the yacht where I assumed the engine room was.

  “To Elena, may you have more birthdays than we all can count and may you be the best damn princess this world has ever seen,” George said holding a shot glass in his hand.

  Becky grabbed one for me and her, Dean and Sammy already had one in their hands. We flicked the contents back down our throats and I coughed as the one in
mine took away my breath.

  Everyone laughed as Becky tapped my back softly a couple of times.

  “That is…” I coughed again, “disgusting.”

  “Oh come on, Elena. It’s your birthday, you’ve got to let loose,” Becky said and handed me another one. She took one herself as the others also grabbed another.

  “To friendship, may it last till we are all old farts who have no clue who one another is, and irritate the living crap out of each other till death do us part,” she said and I couldn’t help but laugh. We drank the second shot, it still burned but not as bad as the first one had.

  “Now let’s party!” George yelled and pressed a button against the wall. Music blared through the walls and the lights dimmed. A huge glass ball hoisted down from the roof.

  I laughed as all of them started to dance to the music and before I knew it, I started to follow their lead.

  OON I WAS feeling dizzy as the music pumped through my body. I’d never drunk so much and went to sit outside. My head was spinning slightly and I didn’t like it at all. Let loose, was what Becky had said but I hated to be out of control, I hated that my thoughts were swimming inside my head and I couldn’t make sense of just one of them

  Everything was mixed up.

  I leaned my head against the sofa and looked up at the stars. They were really beautiful. I missed flying so near to them, soaring through the sky, letting the wind touch my scales and…I closed my eyes as tears over Cara felt near.

  I wished she was here.

  I wondered constantly what her human figure would’ve looked like if Tanya, her mom, hadn’t sacrificed her daughter to save my life.

  That was the way it was explained to me by Pappi, when none of it made sense to me. How could I still have my human form when Cara’s human form died?

  “It’s easy,” he’d said, “Cara didn’t own her human form yet, and the essence of your human form was overpowering hers.” So she’d automatically died when she gained her human form. She’d lived with my entity inside of her, like a virus waiting to kill her.

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