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       Moonbeam, p.8

           Adrienne Woods

  Blake hurtled toward the ground. His mind was blank as he struggled to hold on.

  Blake! Wake up.

  Our speed increased as he tumbled down to the treetops below. They were coming nearer. I kept yelling his name inside my mind.

  He finally opened his eyes, but he was still disoriented.

  Close your eyes, I said, calmer than I felt. Trust mine.

  He did, and he righted his position just as we were about to hit. We skidded through the trees and came to a crash-landing.

  Dust lay heavy around us. My body ached. I’d never felt so tired.

  When I opened my eyes, Blake’s hulking figure lay paces from mine.

  I had no idea where we were, in which era we were, and whether we were in danger.

  I grunted from the twinge of an array of scrapes. My face, my elbow, my torso…everything was sore. My clothes had changed back to the sweater and jeans I’d been wearing in the future, but the material was now torn and grubby from our fall. I thanked the heavens that my ability to heal would kick in soon.

  I sucked air through my teeth against the pain and crawled toward Blake.

  He was so huge that it took me a few minutes just to reach his face.

  I tried to connect with his mind. He was stone cold. Nothing penetrated. He was just a big, dark, black space.

  I stroked his face, touching his scales.

  The tip of the spear was still lodged in his thigh. Better get that out now, before he wakes up. I climbed onto the injured leg and all the way up to his thigh.

  He didn’t even move.

  I stood over the end of the spear, which was the size of a medium tree trunk, and wrapped both my hands around the end that protruded from his body.

  I closed my eyes and gathered the strength I needed to yank it out.

  He was already healing, and I knew he couldn’t with half a tree sticking out his leg.

  This is going to hurt like hell. Sorry, baby.

  I waited a few seconds, took a huge breath, and pulled as hard as I could.

  A sickening tearing sound signified flesh that had healed ripping open again.

  Blake growled pitifully.

  The spear was much bigger than I’d thought. I threw my weight into it and yanked as hard as I could, trying not to hurt him. After a few minutes, the end finally appeared. Bits of flesh and one shiny purple scale clung to it. I grimaced and tossed the spear to the ground.

  Motherfucker! Blake’s voice screamed inside my mind.

  “You’ll be okay. It’s merely a flesh wound now. Just go back to sleep,” I said, sliding down his tail. Twigs crunched underfoot as I walked back to his face.

  I laid a hand against his jowl. He felt hot—but in dragon form, he was always hot. I couldn’t tell if it was a fever or just his normal temperature, especially in the sunlight that streamed down through the trees.

  “Can you change back?”

  His labored panting made him look like a breathing house. “I’ll try.” The words barely came out.

  If anything happened to him…No, I can’t think like that. We’ve been through worse. He’s fine.

  He grunted. The huge heap of dragon in front of me turned back into the man I loved with every inch of my body.

  He looked tired. His leg was soaked with crimson liquid. His skin was warm. Too warm for my taste.

  The shredded wound dominated his thigh. I took off my sweater and cinched it around his thigh to staunch the flow of his precious blood.

  At least the trees covered us. I prayed that we’d made it out of that horrible era.

  My great-great-great-grandfather wasn’t the nicest person I’d ever met. We couldn’t have possibly gotten anything through that thick skull of his. What had we been thinking? They were so stupid back then.

  After overcoming my pride and doing my business in the forest—no toilet! —I stayed with Blake until the break of dawn. Then I went in search of water. Anything to bring his temperature down.

  The fact that this ability of ours only worked at night was a huge obstacle. We should have practiced more. Found a way to do this right from the start. We should never have tried to jump around through time, not knowing where we would end up.

  Even as I pondered how foolhardy we’d been, my surroundings enchanted me. This verdant forest and unpolluted air felt like its own brand of magic. I had to admit, the untouched nature of the past, this uncorrupted earth, was surely worthy of losing a couple breaths over.

  As I walked, I heard rushing water, but I had no idea how far it was.

  Birdcalls formed a joyous cacophony around me as mates called each other. They were so loud I almost didn’t hear the footfalls of another human.

  I hid behind a tree to hide from whoever walked past. A teenage girl, around fourteen, maybe sixteen. She had dark hair and walked with a bow and arrow and a sack made of what appeared to be deer skin. Her shoes were hand-sewn, tanned leather. Okay, so we hadn’t yet reached our target era, but at least we weren’t in King William’s time anymore.

  I waited for the girl to pass, but the sole of my foot crushed a few twigs. Though the sound was subtle, my entire body froze. Had she heard that?

  I couldn’t hear her footfalls anymore. I listened harder. I heard her heartbeat rise steadily.

  “Who is there?” she asked.

  Shit. Fuck.

  I made myself go even quieter. My breathing diminished to almost nothing. My own heartbeat turned softer. Something Blake and I shared when he’d given me a piece of his heart was the ability to exert my will over my heartbeat. His piece could regulate the tempo.

  She walked closer to my hiding spot. Just as I contemplated showing myself, hands up in the air to indicate I was no threat, a squirrel skittered past me, and darted into a nearby tree.

  “You scared me!” she spoke to the squirrel. Now I prayed that she couldn’t actually speak to animals. It wouldn’t be completely crazy in Paegeia.

  Her footsteps moved away from my hiding spot, deeper into the forest.

  “Thank you,” I whispered to the squirrel. I could still see him, his bushy tail twitching as he regarded me from his perch. He just looked at me, blinking, before turning and scurrying into his nest.

  I waited for twenty minutes to be sure the girl was truly gone. Then I continued my search for the river, stopping occasionally to scratch tree trunks with rocks to make sure I could find my way back. The roar of water was deceptive; it took me an hour to find it. The water glinted with early morning sunlight, surprisingly bright, as I filled the empty water bottled from my backpack with the clear water that gurgled over the rocks.

  Finding my way back to Blake wasn’t the easiest thing in the world—even with all the markings I’d left in the tree trunks.

  He was still fast asleep when I reached him. The sun filtered through the thick leaves of the forest, turning the scene into a fairy tale.

  I bent and touched his head. He was still warm.

  I poured some water over my spare shirt from my pack and gently placed it on his head.

  You’re going to be okay. Nobody is going to die in the past. Nobody.

  Fear thrilled through me. If he died, I’d be stuck here forever.

  I kissed his temple and investigated the wound on his leg.

  It was closing now. The blood wasn’t oozing out anymore, but the sweater I’d tied around his wound was soaked with blood.

  Some of his muscle showed, but it looked ten times better than it had a few hours ago.

  Time inched by. Periodically, I wrung out the sweater and refreshed it with cool water.

  You will be okay. You will pull through. Your healing ability is starting to kick in. But other thoughts crowded in. Why isn’t he waking up? Give him time, Elena. He was just shot down with a freakin’ spear meant for Quitto. I wondered what the history books would say now. That he’d had a wildling, a wild girl for a rider. I looked like one, and the way I’d spoken to William supported that.

  Ugh, William. He was such
an arrogant bastard. How had he ever become king? They were all like that in those days, though. Hard, cold, soulless. How many dragons had they killed?

  Was there still a chance that maybe, just maybe, things might turn out differently? If William would take some of the things Blake had said into consideration… Would he try to trust some dragon species?

  I sighed.

  I was starting to get nervous about the price we were going to pay for the things we’d done. Perhaps we had interfered too much. My father’s words jumped into my head. You don’t know what price you must pay to fix the past. I was starting to understand why neither of them had wanted to do this at all. Meddling with the past was a dangerous thing.

  By now the sun was at its highest. I’d drifted asleep with Blake’s head on my lap. When he finally stirred, the sun started to set. His movement woke me from my slumber. I opened my eyes and looked down.

  Sweat droplets no longer stood on his brow. His hair was dry. The fever had finally broken.

  I lifted his head softly from my lap and helped resettle him on the soft grass. I moved to check his leg. I peeked beneath his trousers, sticky now from Blake’s blood.

  The wound, now closed, resembled a big, ugly red scar. His healing abilities were amazing, but always took longer when he was stone-cold unconscious.

  I removed the sweater from around his leg and let the scar breathe. I leaned against the tree with his head on my lap again.

  He is going to be fine, I said to myself again.

  Of course I’m fine. Blake’s voice invaded my brain. My eyes shot open as I looked down at him.

  I showered his gorgeous face with kisses. I’d been so scared. Terrified that I wouldn’t hear his voice again.

  His hand brushed my back as his laughter filled my mind.

  Told you before. I am the Rubicon, Elena.

  I kept kissing him as my words slipped out. “I’m sorry. This was stupid, Blake.”

  “No, it wasn’t.” He touched my face and wiped away tears I hadn’t noticed were there. “We need to do this not just for Silho, Elena, but for our people, too.”

  I nodded and a small smile tugged at the corner of my lips. I wasn’t so sure about this anymore.

  I am.

  What a one-eighty.

  We had no idea what era we were in. I told him about the girl from earlier, but that she hadn’t seen me. “From the look of her clothes, I’d guess, give or take a few decades, that we’re somewhere in the nineteenth century,” I concluded.

  “Wait until nightfall. Then we can leave. If we are in the nineteenth century, it means our parents might not be born yet. And if they are…I do not want to run into a teenage Robert Leaf. He won’t understand any of this. Not yet.”

  Agree with you on that one.

  The forest was safe. For now. We decided to wait until nightfall and try to jump in time to the place we needed to be.

  We started to configure all our time jump experiences into a plan. We tried to figure out what Blake thought about when he went through. He insisted, though, that he was never thinking about anything specific—just trying to get away.

  We had. Away from King William, all the way to one of his descendants’ timelines, whether it was my grandfather—he was the ruler in the nineteenth century—or my father.

  We wanted to land closer to the twenty-first century, in the time we existed.

  When hunger gnawed at our bellies, we each had a granola bar from my pack. We munched in silence. We didn’t want to think about the Creepers. The possibility that we might jump into that time horrified us both. By then, it would be too late.

  The only solution was the early twenty-first century, or maybe the late twentieth century.

  When the stars twinkled overhead, we waited in anticipation for the bright light to show itself. I tried to come up with names to call it. “White light” didn’t sound correct.

  Beam? Blake’s voice popped into my head.

  He’d nailed it perfectly, just like he always did.

  Not long after, the Beam finally revealed itself. I saw it through Blake’s mind. We were ready for it.

  I put on my pack and climbed onto Blake’s back. He leaped into the air with me, transforming midway and darting toward the Beam.

  Be careful with your thoughts, Elena.

  Late twentieth century, I thought. It was all I thought about. Well, that and my mother.

  Blake’s thoughts synchronized with mine. We both focused on the late twentieth century. The bright light swallowed us.

  We opened our eyes and we saw lights like a nest of fireflies below.

  We were somewhere in the twentieth century, past the invention of electricity, past primitive plumbing systems and whatnot.

  This era was more breathable.

  There were not as many forests as the two previous places we’d found. We were really close to our target timeline.

  A bonus was we’d arrived here at nighttime.

  Blake seemed tired. Going through this Beam had taken a lot of his energy. We needed to find a spot and camp out for the night. We waited for daylight so we could find out which time this was with less chance of being detected.

  We found a spot in a small patch of trees.

  Blake was restless. He wanted to take precautions. I agreed. He transformed us both into two completely different-looking people. He had blonde hair and reminded me of Lucian’s guard—the one who had protected us at Dragonia Academy all those years ago. I had shoulder-length red hair and a face dusted with freckles. It was the girl from the Never-Breath’s song. His imaginary friend. I laughed at my resemblance through his mind.

  “Now I can finally say you wrote that song for me.”

  He chuckled. We lay on the ground and went to sleep, his arms wrapped securely around my chest.

  “Woohoo!” Emanual’s voice said.

  What the hell is he doing here?

  It took me a second to realize that I wasn’t in my own time anymore. My eyes flew open.

  I found his bulky, shaven-headed figure looking down on us. Golf clubs were slung over his shoulder. A happy grin plastered his face. I wished that I could go and hug him, but he wouldn’t understand. He didn’t know me yet, and he didn’t know this girl I looked like.

  More laughter floated toward us. I looked past him and saw my father, Sir Robert, and King Helmut. Tears wanted to well up, but I pushed them back. Behind him, speaking over a Cammy, was Goran. The traitor was pretending to be their friend.

  I smacked Blake with the back of my hand; he still looked like Cooper. He woke up instantly.

  We are in a different timeline. Don’t say their names. We made it, I think. My voice rambled in his head.

  Your name, Elena?

  Merica. It was all I could think of.

  “You know that this is a private golf course, right?” Emanual said to us.

  “Sorry, it was late last night. We came from afar and didn’t realize,” Blake said. He sounded different.

  “What is your name?” Emanual handed him his hand and Blake took it.

  “Cooper,” we both said, me in his head, Blake out loud.

  “And this is my rider, Merica.”

  “Merica?” Emanual smiled. “Nice to meet you two.”

  My father came forward, still smiling. I returned a grin. We pretended not to be royalty. “Your Majesty,” I said with a curtsey. Blake bowed.

  “Get up.” My father still carried humor in his voice. “Where did you come from?”

  Let me talk, Elena.

  I nodded once and watched my father staring at me until Blake spoke.

  “We came from the North side of Elm, a small village right by the border of the Wall.”

  “Wow, that is far,” King Helmut chirped.

  “What business do you have here in Etan?” My father asked.

  Tell him what we are?

  Blake hesitated. How do you tell someone that you are the Rubicon?

  “Running away from our village,” B
lake said and I could see the plan forming in his head. He was a genius.

  “Running away? Why?”

  “Because of what we are.”

  My father was intrigued. “What are you?”

  “I’m a Rubicon dragon.”

  Everyone gasped. We had their attention. Silence lingered in the air. My father’s lips curved. It looked like hope. I couldn’t help but think the timeline we’d reached was perfect.

  Sir Robert didn’t share my father’s curiosity. He immediately drew a golf club. His posture suggested that he was going to use it to protect his son, also a Rubicon.

  He started to go for Blake.

  Blake covered me. His shield was around us. To their eyes, we vanished, blending in with our surroundings.

  I think we’ve got the right timeline.

  Yep, I’m already born. Otherwise my father wouldn’t have done what he just did. He’s afraid.

  All of them were in shock, trying to figure out where the two of us had gone.

  They looked around. Their lips were moving. My father’s hand touched Sir Robert’s chest. He wanted to know more. Goran disconnected his phone call and stood at my father’s side.

  That smile lingered on my dad’s mouth as he stared at us, or where we’d been a few moments ago.

  I don’t like the look on Goran’s face, I muttered.

  I told him I am a Rubicon. He doesn’t have to wait anymore. This mission just got more dangerous.

  We’ve been in plenty of those before, Blake.

  He snorted. That we have. By the look on your father’s face, I guess you’ve been born, too. Your father wants to know more.

  The question is, how long do we have before the Creepers come?

  We will find out soon enough.

  My father spoke to Sir Robert. What they said, I didn’t know; we couldn’t hear through the shield. But he lowered the golf club. When the danger had passed, my father walked slowly toward us, his lips were moving.

  Lower your shield.

  He did.

  “…mean you no harm,” were the last words my father spoke. When we reappeared, he touched Blake’s shoulder. All their eyes were on us. Shock laced with admiration was written all over their faces. Even Goran’s.

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