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Darkbeam part i, p.5
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       Darkbeam Part I, p.5

           Adrienne Woods

  What the fuck was that?

  It couldn’t have been my Moon-Bolt ability to foresee things. No way. My rider didn’t exist. The queen was dead. Unless… no.

  I’d never thought my rider could’ve been a she. I always assumed it would’ve been male. The Prince of Paegeia, and I his mighty Rubicon. It was always a him. But that dream…

  It felt so real.

  It was just a dream, Blake. The beast inside me spoke softly. You have no rider, no one to tame you. Darkness is our only friend.

  “So, are you going to come with?” Tabitha plunged down onto the pillow next to me.

  The cafeteria was almost full for lunch. George stared at me, and Brian lifted his left eyebrow. He wanted to say something, obviously. I quickly shook my head.

  “Sweetheart.” I smiled. “Now why would I come home with you?”

  The guys chuckled. Tabitha shook her head and left.

  Nobody knew that we were doing it, and I didn’t want them to know, either. I had cultivated the mystique of the Rubicon as a solitary creature, someone who wouldn’t be spoken for by a mere Snow Dragon.

  I watched her leave. A part of me felt bad as Brian and George high-fived one another, trash-talking Tabitha.

  I felt stupid.

  This meant that I had to go back home. My mom was there. She was always hovering, always wanting to know about my dark side. What if I told her about the guy I killed, about both of them? She would never understand.

  The bell rang and I left for Latin. I didn’t really need the stupid language; it came naturally to me as a dragon. But I had to go; I desperately needed to assure Tabitha that it had been a joke.

  Going home with her was the only way out of breaking my mother’s heart. Mom wasn’t going to be happy that I wasn’t coming home yet again, but was better this way.

  Tabitha sat a few rows in front of me. She was pissed off, that much I could tell. I would probably be pissed off, too, if she had just dissed me like that.

  I tore out a page from my notepad and scribbled a few words. Sorry, I’ll make it up to you. I’m stupid. It was all just a dumb joke. I rolled it up in a wad. My aim was perfect as the ball flew through the air and landed perfectly on her desk.

  Professor Gregory turned around just as Tabitha grabbed the little ball of paper and quickly hid her hands underneath the desk. He didn’t suspect a thing, but it was horrendous just imagining the outcome of being caught by him this time.

  How would I explain that to the boys?

  She read my note as the lecture droned on. I watched her expression. She didn’t think much of my note.

  I had really done it this time.

  When the bell rang, I ran up to her and put my arm around her shoulder.

  “Don’t even try it.” She shrugged my arm off.

  “It was a joke, Tabitha.” I forced a laugh. “C’mon.”

  She threw me a middle finger. “Ha,” she said sarcastically and stalked away.

  I shook my head. Her loss. She’d come around. She had to come around.

  On Thursday, a knock came at my door. I sighed as I looked at the empty bed. When was Lucian coming back?

  I went to the door and found Tabitha.

  “You’d better make it up to me, big time,” she announced. She turned on her heel without waiting for my response.

  “You don’t want to come in for a drink?”

  “No,” she stated. She disappeared into the elevator.

  I smiled. I knew how to handle Snow Dragons.

  I closed the door and thanked my lucky stars. I needed a break away from all the eyes. The glares and pitiful looks.

  I needed to just feel free again.

  I hadn’t been to see Irene in a while. I couldn’t, not while the beast craved her.

  I must resist. It wasn’t just my ass on the line if things got out of hand. Jeez, Blake, listen to yourself. Irene is three hundred years old. She would never go for a young dragon like you.

  I needed a break.

  Friday flew by. I skipped Transformations and went to pack a bag.

  Still no sign of Lucian. Why did his empty bed wrench my insides? I’d never told him to keep his promise to claim me.

  A knock on the door drew me back from my thoughts. I grabbed my bag and left.

  We reached the dragon city closest to Tith later that night.

  Tabitha’s parents didn’t like humans and had never changed into their human form before. Only Phil and Tabitha embraced their human form in that family.

  They weren’t rich, but they weren’t poor either. They lived in a huge cavern. They hunted like dragons and slept in a pack. It was customary in the wild, not unheard of, but I wasn’t used to it. My family was the opposite. The only time my mom and dad had transformed into dragons in our presence was when we were little.

  Tabitha’s father loved the prospect of housing the Rubicon for the weekend.

  I needed to speak to Phil.

  “Tonight, Ruby,” Phil joked. “We’ll go to Longbottom and then we can have a proper chat.”

  By proper, I knew he meant out of our dragon scales and away from parental ears. But the fact that he’d picked Jimmy’s semi club wasn’t comforting.

  What if Isaac and the band were there? We hadn’t left things well the last time we’d spoken, and I wasn’t ready to drop it.

  I could’ve easily hurt Isaac. He was part of the shifter race, a giant eagle. We’d fought viciously in our true forms. It had been all over the news. My father didn’t understand; my mother had just given me a look. It was the last time I’d gone home and was one of the reasons I hadn’t gone back since.

  The beast pushed everyone away, everyone who mattered.

  Around nine, we grabbed our backpacks and flew to one of his friend’s houses.

  The guy was filthy rich. His name was Samuel, and he owned a powerful corporation that traded illegally in things I didn’t even want to know about. He was a Spaniard and comported himself like a drug lord. If I wasn’t mistaken, Sam was Phil’s contact when it came to Fire-Cain. He’d given it to me once, and I had to admit, the high was amazing—though the low was shit.

  We got dressed in front of everyone who was there. They treated me as if I was made from gold.

  The girls gave me kisses and offered me a couple minutes on the side. Tabitha growled at them. Vulgar curses were exchanged. Girls fighting over me should’ve been my thing, but for some reason it wasn’t. I didn’t want to be spoken for.

  Phil shook his head and we left. We reached Longbottom around ten. Relief flooded me; no one from the band was in sight. We went to the VIP room upstairs.

  Everyone who was anyone greeted me with either a slap-shake or an arm press. It was a dragon thing. The girls just stared. It wasn’t as hostile as it had been in the mansion.

  “So,” I started. “Why the urgency to meet? What do you want, Phil?”

  The sides of Phil’s mouth tugged. “Ruby, it sounds like you’re not really interested in what I have to say.”

  “Just spit it out!”

  “Fine. Sam is sponsoring the resurgence of a sport that died out a very long time ago.”

  “What sport?”

  “Slay the dragon.”

  I narrowed my eyes and put two and two together. Had a sport like that ever existed? “You want me to kill.” The beast inside of me relished every word. The human, not so much. My stomach twisted and turned.

  “Not humans, Blake. There’s not a lot of money in sponsoring dragons. And the Rubicon can’t participate in the tournament. It’s against an old set of rules.”

  “Seriously, then why even mention it?”

  “Because Sam thinks we might be able to get away with a potion and a very dark spell performed by a really good magic wielder.”

  I wanted to tell him that magic didn’t work on dragons but he interrupt.

  “It works on dragons, it will make you appear as someone completely different. We’d have to bind a few abilities; that’s going to be a b
it harder than your appearance, but the money is good, Ruby. The money and perks are really good, and who knows?” He slapped me hard on the shoulder. “Maybe you can hold on just a tad bit longer.”

  “A tad longer.” I said sarcastically. I was pissed off, pissed at myself for ever telling Phil I was losing control over the beast. “So you want me to become a human who kills dragons in a sick tournament?”

  A cold finger rushed up my spine. I didn’t like this. Not one bit.

  “Think about it. It will be completely new for you.” He got up and left before I could say anything.

  I just stared at his back as he went over to the nearest group of guys and greeted everyone.

  “So,” Tabitha plopped down on the couch next to me. “What did he want?”

  “Nothing.” I pushed myself up from the couch. I needed to get the hell away from all of them.

  I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t kill my own kind.

  I put my hood over my head and skipped down the steps. I should’ve never come. I didn’t even want to go back to Tabitha. I didn’t want to be in another evil presence. I was already trying my best just to hold on. I didn’t need the temptation.

  “Hey, bud,” a familiar voice said, inches away from me. On my left, there stood Isaac, smiling mischievously. “How are you? I haven’t seen you in such a long time.”

  “Isaac, please, I can’t.”

  “It’s okay. I’m okay. Can we just talk?”

  I hated when he begged.

  He was like Lucian in so many ways. Except, well, he didn’t make me sick, for one thing, and he didn’t want to claim me, either. But he was a great friend whenever I was in trouble, and the most amazing thing of all, his eagle form was just as big as my Rubicon form. Which was saying something.

  “Can we please just grab a beer and talk? I haven’t seen you for such a long time.”

  He really did look sincere. He isn’t angry?

  I nodded and followed him to the bar. I bent my head low as girls bombarded Isaac. The shifters were famous; they could make it big if it weren’t for the lead singer being bound to this world.

  Dragons could never live a life of fame. Our essence made us stay young for centuries and centuries. The oldest dragon was King Albert’s nanny. She’d raised more kings than anyone in this world. She was twelve thousand years old. The king had thrown her a mother of a birthday party for that one. Nobody else had beaten her milestone yet.

  I doubted it would be me. It wasn’t in my destiny to live more than a hundred years. I’d be lucky if I made it to my thirtieth.

  I didn’t want to think about it.

  I walked past Isaac as he signed a couple of shirts and boobs. If they knew I was here... well, it would turn into something I didn’t want to be a part of right now.

  I took an open barstool .

  “What will it be?” Jimmy asked. I barely looked up and he froze. “You sure it’s safe to sit there?”

  I thought he was going to throw me out because of what had happened the last time I was here.

  “Nothing I don’t deserve,” I joked back.

  “You guys going to kiss and make up?” he cajoled. He wanted me to get back with the band. On the nights we played, his bar was packed.

  “We’ll see.”

  “Please do, Blake. Battle of the Bands is coming up soon.”

  I smiled as he handed me a beer with an ounce of Fire Powder—the drug of all fire-breathers.

  He dropped the matter.

  Isaac finally made it to the bar in one piece. He put on his hood, too, and we started to talk.

  The night flew by. I hadn’t laughed like this in a long time. Isaac, Ty, Jamie, and the rest of the guys just knew how to lift each other’s spirits.

  “Come back, dude. The guys miss you and to be honest, we could do with a few gigs.”

  “You don’t need me for that.”

  Isaac slugged me. “You’re fucking with me right now? Nobody wants to book us without you. Please, I’ll get on my knees.”

  “I can’t,” I sighed. “The same thing will happen, just like last time.”

  “Dude, then let it happen. We know what you are, who you are. You losing your head is bound to happen from time to time. Just come back. At least think about it, please.”

  I nodded. My eyes caught on Phil. I looked away immediately as he was searching for someone—probably me.

  Isaac picked it up. “You know him?”

  “Yeah, it was a mistake to come with him. I’m staying with the Snow Dragon this weekend. I just want to go back to Dragonia.”

  “Not going to see your mom?”

  “She’s too much right now,” I lied. That wasn’t the reason I didn’t want to see her.

  “Then come crash at my place. My father is dying to know how you are. Been asking me so many fucking times it makes me want to puke.”

  We both laughed.

  I peeked to the right again and saw Tabitha and Phil leave.

  “Okay,” I said. It was only for a night. I’d just see how it went.

  Clouds danced in the sky above. I squinted. Weird clouds. They were actual shapes—clowns juggling, horses galloping, a lion roaring, and a rabbit jumping.

  “Oh, look at that one,” said a female voice. I looked to my left.

  She was lying in the crook of my arm, pointing at the sky. It was the redhead with freckles again. I stared as her lips moved, describing the cloud.

  She was kind of beautiful, in an unconventional way. The feeling came. It crept into my soul. It warmed my ever-freezing bones. I was addicted to this feeling, yet I had no idea what it was.

  All my emotions had been smashed into a big ball; I felt everything at once.

  Her eyes caught on mine.

  “Blake, the point of this game is, you actually have to make pictures by staring at the clouds, not at me.”

  I laughed and my face turned automatically toward the clouds. “Fine. That one looks like a baboon.” I laughed softly. This Blake sucked at the game. “That one looks like a guy getting a blow job.”

  The redhead laughed. “You are such a pig.” Despite her words, she climbed on top of me. “But I absolutely love every ounce of you.” Her face neared mine. A shift in my body told me my heart was beating faster. I couldn’t breathe, but it wasn’t the scary kind of suffocating; this... this was amazing. And then our lips touched.

  My eyes opened. It was dark. The clouds were gone, the redhead was gone.

  Who is she?

  Was I going to meet her? Was she supposed to be my rider?

  If she was, I was so screwed. I would never get a chance with her. She’d never get to take that first breath.

  A title stuck with me: “Never-Breath.”

  Words started flowing through my mind again. I got up. I needed a pen and paper.

  I couldn’t find any, so I left. The funny part was that I didn’t care about anything anymore. Not about Isaac and what he might think when he found his couch empty. Not Phil or Tabitha, when I saw her on Monday again.

  Not my mother.

  Getting these words on paper was more important than anything else.

  I just had to hold on to them.

  I found myself in front of our creaky old house. It was a wonder that the thing was still standing. Termites holding hands.

  It made me upset just thinking about everything again. We owned a shitload of land behind those Creepers, plus a mansion, which probably had burned to the ground. A cave stuffed with gold that we could never get to. It probably was the first place those assholes raided, the dragon caves.

  The Council hold no value in our lives. My father had been King Albert’s dragon, for crying out loud. I was the Rubicon. I guessed the Council already knew my fate and didn’t see us as assets anymore. They didn’t care about what King Albert had wanted.

  We became nothing the day he died.

  I climbed the wall and jumped into my room.

  When I got in, I opened my drawer and found an old n
otepad. I wrote down words to a song that was probably going to end up again on an album. Well, maybe not this one.

  The door opened and my mother stood in the frame, clutching a golf club.

  I raised my eyebrow.

  “You bloody gave me a heart attack,” she said in that strong British accent of hers.

  “Sorry.” I didn’t even bother to sound sorry. “Why do you have a golf club?”

  She started to laugh uncontrollably.

  I joined in. I’d missed her.

  “You want some breakfast? Of course you do. You’re always hungry.” She closed the door behind her and headed toward the kitchen.

  I went back to thinking about the words again, how I’d felt. But I couldn’t get my mother standing with a golf club in the doorway out of my head.

  The door flew open again, and a figure with a very loud, shrill voice ran into my room. Her body connected hard with mine. My sister’s floral scent filled my nostrils.

  “You finally came back. You know how much I missed you? This house is so empty without you. Why didn’t you come home? Where were you just now?”

  “Stop with the million questions. I needed a pen and paper.”

  She squinted. “You came home for a pen and paper.”

  “Yeah.” I sighed audibly. “Crazy, huh?”

  She shrugged. “Are you at least going to stay for breakfast? She’ll make me crazy if you just disappear again.”

  “Yeah, I’ll stay.” I smiled.

  She smiled back. Her dimples dented deep into her cheeks. She got up and walked to my door. “It’s really great to see you again, Blake.” The door closed behind her.

  This was one of the reasons I didn’t want to come back. I didn’t want to hurt them, or worse—I didn’t want the beast to hurt them.

  They were the only people who still looked up to me. I didn’t know what I would do if that ever changed.

  I stayed for breakfast. My mother kept talking about the Council, the things they’d promised her, but there was a shallow pool of deceit clinging to her face. She was trying to dodge my questions about my father.

  I hadn’t seen him yet.

  I sighed. She knew how I felt and I wasn’t going to spoil today because of his disappearance. For all I knew he was stuck in a bar or some casino.

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