We spoke about all the things I’d done the past few months, about Areeth and how my interviews and begging hadn’t helped at all. He was upset about the rock. I frowned, wanting to know how the hell he knew about that.
“Emanuel brought me all the newspapers.”
“I see,” I said. “Thank you for the tips.”
“You figured that out? Of course you would.”
I laughed, feeling so shitty that I’d read his journal.
“You know they will fight.”
“I know, but I’m scared.” I knew what he meant by that. If I told them that my father was still alive, Areeth would fight.
“You still have that exclusive with Just Kev tomorrow.”
I looked at Blake and smiled. It felt good knowing that he did care, even if I didn’t know about it.
“I don’t know how that interview is going to go.”
“Just tell the truth,” he said. His shield was popping slightly around us.
“Your father?” I sounded worried.
“We need Areeth, otherwise we can forget about this.”
I nodded. “So, you stay while I go to Just Kev.” I looked at him and he gazed down.
“It feels as if I’m never going to become just your dragon.”
I sighed and he looked up. “He is going to need you more than me, Blake. He can’t go after him.”
I squeezed him tightly. “There will be other times where you can be just my dragon, but this time, I need you to be Sir Robert’s son.”
“Okay, whatever you say, princess.”
I smacked him hard on the stomach and he laughed. My blow didn’t even hurt. His lips brushed the top of my head softly.
“I missed you,” he said.
“I did too. Well, probably not as much as you missed me. I was so freakin’ upset and then after I realized that George was right, I really, really started to miss you.”
“How long did it take for you to come?”
He laughed. “You only missed me for a few hours.”
“I’m the princess, we don’t do long or wait.”
He laughed again. “That is just so unfair,” he said and looked at me again. “You still practiced?”
“I was really upset,” I said again.
“I didn’t do – ”
“I know, but every time I wielded a sword or my axes, I kept hearing your instructions, which made me even more upset. I have you back in my head now.”
He smiled. “Not the way I want to be.”
“I know. It sucks.”
“We will get it back somehow.”
When? I didn’t put voice to it, but it just seemed as if we were never going to get that back. It was funny how a small poem that was hardly telling me what the dent was really about, put everything at ease.
We eventually reached the farmhouse. I really didn’t know they were so close by. It must be his tactic – stay close to home base. I would like to know his reason behind that. His shield vanished and background noises filled the air.
George and Becky said goodbye to us, and started walking arm in arm in another direction.
I saw Sir Robert standing in the doorway. His eyes were on the both of us and he started to applaud. Blake didn’t think it was funny.
I wielded my shield this time and turned to face Blake. “Meet me tonight,” I said, and his body froze slightly. A smile tugged on his lips.
“Elena, my father is watching me like a hawk around you, and I can promise you this shield just set off more alarms in him.”
I laughed softly. “You’re good at sneaking around. Just phone me, I will wield my shield. And I’m nineteen, not ten.”
He chuckled again, and I lowered my shield.
He nodded and sucked in the part of his lower lip again as he walked toward his dad.
My heart beat like crazy. How far would tonight go?
What the hell was that? I would’ve just given her the stupid book if I knew it was going to make all her doubts disappear.
“Dad,” I said. My voice broke. Why was I so nervous? It was me for crying out loud, then again, it was her. Something I’d wanted for the past eight months.
“Blake,” my father didn’t smile. Shit, he was so not going to let me out of his sight tonight.
He finally grinned. “I’m a strategist, and it’s the Dragon League. What kind of a leader would I be if my son overthrew me on his first try?”
I laughed and gave him a slap on his shoulder. “Let’s talk.”
“Yeah, we should, especially about that shield she just wielded. What did she say?”
“It’s private. I’m almost twenty-three.”
“Blake, she’s not.”
“Dad, she’s nineteen, not some twelve-year-old.” Just shut the hell up, stupid idiot. “You know that will never happen. Not after what she went through. She just finally feels safe with me.”
“Oh, is that what you kids are calling it nowadays?”
I chuckled and he started to laugh too.
“She’s my rider’s daughter, Blake. I just want you to be careful.”
“And now she’s my rider. Just like it always should’ve been. I’ve waited a long time for her to trust me enough just to be alone with me. Nothing will happen tonight, okay? I’m not stupid.”
“Okay,” he said.
Okay, so that was not entirely true, but he did seem to back off a bit. Whether he was going to stop being a hawk, I had no idea. He was a strategist after all, and this could be just giving me some rope – not a lot – to see what I was going to do with it. Probably hang myself.
I wielded my shield again and started speaking about Taylor. There was seriously something familiar about that chick but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was and my doubts didn’t vanish either.
It made me nervous not remembering where the hell I knew her from.
“Emanuel has worked with her more than a year.”
“I know. I’m just telling you what I’ve gotten from her the past two months. It’s like she is always scouting, wanting information. She makes me nervous and not in a good way.”
“We should get Emanuel.”
I lowered my shield and my father asked Fred to call Emanuel.
My heart was still beating like mad, and I sucked my lips as what might happen later tonight played through my mind. He just had to find a way to meet me. I sat around a fire with everyone else. Plenty of people were speaking about Sir Robert and Blake and the way he’d used me to make Blake forfeit.
I felt bad about it and looked away as they laughed.
My eyes caught Jerry.
I squinted as I looked at his retreating back. He was making his way into the woods, a different part of the woods. What was he up to?
I looked back at the house and saw Emanuel going inside with Fred, one of Sir Robert’s other league members.
Becky and George were nowhere to be seen, and I decided to follow Jerry.
I got and left the group. Nobody was even paying attention to me. That was why I loved this place so much. They treated me like a normal girl.
I kept my distance and almost lost him a few times, but a rustle up ahead in a slightly different direction helped me find him.
I knew I’d gotten Blake’s enhanced hearing after claiming him. It was a handy tool.
There was something very familiar about Jerry. At first I didn’t pick it up, but he would always say things, things that would make me remember something. It always brought up a horrible memory, but I would just shake it off.
He was one of Emanuel’s trusted scouts and had gone into Etan the first time with so many others. Tonight, however, he looked guilty of something, and I had to go and find out what he was doing.
A huge clearing appeared in the middle of the forest. It had huge boulders and I hid behind a tree as a torch was engulfed in flames. Jerry looked around him before he placed the torch against one of the boulders and grabbed a bowl.
He started to speak. It was Latin. He was reciting a very old spell, one that gave me the creeps a long time ago when I’d read through it, and I’d never gone to that page again.
He was conjuring someone.
I walked closer as his voice grew softer and softer.
He was wielding a shield but not a very good one.
What is he up to?
I could hear a faint voice speaking to him, and I froze, as it wasn’t Latin anymore, it was Wyvic.
Get the hell away from here, Elena.
I turned around ready to leave when I bumped into Taylor, the girl who’d stayed behind tonight when Blake handed in his flag.
“Taylor,” I said, and she pushed me hard onto the ground. She was really strong but I was stronger.
I wielded my fire, but nothing came.
She started to laugh. “Remember this,” she held up a pendant with a familiar stone, but the pendant looked different.
My eyes rose slightly as I realized what it was. It was Becky’s necklace that had been stolen the night someone broke into our room.
“Where did you get that?”
“Elena, Elena, Elena,” she said and then a rope behind her sprang to life.
“It’s the easiest thing in this world to change one’s appearance, you know.”
“Nora.” My voice broke as I just stared at her tail. It was the same tail that had killed Lucian.
“What have we here?” Jerry’s voice was fully back now.
“Stupid idiot, she was following you,” Taylor or Nora spoke to Jerry.
I looked at him. “How could you?”
He smiled. “How could I?” he looked at Nora. “Guess this new body is really that good at tricking people, princess.”
My insides crawled with the way he said princess. “Paul?”
“Ta da.” He laughed and looked around. “No Rubicon?” He grinned wider. “Oh, he is going to be so pissed off when he discovers your lifeless body in pieces, Elena.”
Fred had just left and my father started to speak to me about the intelligence they’d gotten from the other day Elena had to go back in. She’d brought in a couple of new people and brought out scouts.
“They saw Goran.” My heart clenched as I heard the news. He showed me a photo. He looked so much like his twin. It made me want to throw up.
“Have you showed anyone else this?”
My father nodded.
“He still looks the same way I remember him, Dad.”
“He’s not that guy anymore.”
“I know. It’s just so hard to think that it was him that betrayed them.”
“I know, but at least we have the advantage here. We have his twin and if there is anyone that can become him,” he tapped on the photo, “It’s –” The door opened and Emanuel entered before my father could finish his sentence.
“You called?” Emanuel sat down and I wielded my shield around the three of us again.
“It’s about Taylor.”
Emanuel frowned and looked at me. “Something happened?”
“She makes me nervous, and I don’t know why.”
“In what way?” He started to smile.
“Not like that. There is something seriously fishy about this girl.” The more voiced my concerns, the more it made sense.
He told me about Taylor, how she’d made him nervous the first few months too, but she was on their side. He’d done a thorough check on her. She was a Night Villain (that much I knew), and smart as hell. Sure she didn’t like to lose, but that wasn’t just her, it was a Night Villain thing. He looked at my father as he said it and I chuckled.
It wasn’t that, though.
He’d recruited her with Simon, and Jerry.
Simon also gave me the creeps and he was huge. He and Jerry were human. Emanuel broke down all of their abilities. Simon was a lightning wielder who’d lost his dragon a long, long time ago, and Jerry was a blue fire wielder. I looked at my watch. Time flew when one was speaking about things like that. Emanuel had almost been there for more than an hour.
Emanuel smiled at something.
“What is it?”
“It’s funny how you mentioned her and not Jerry. Jerry was actually the one that started all my doubts about the three. Not really Simon, as he reached the palace in Tith the same time they did.”
“Jerry made you doubt?” Jerry was far from dangerous; sure he was really good with weapons, any sort of weapon.
“Why?” I frowned, thinking that if there was smoke, there had to be a freaking large fire somewhere.
“When I asked Jerry to wield his fire the first time, I could have sworn I saw a different kind of flame, one I’d never seen before.”
My insides clenched.
“It was as if it was green, I closed my eyes and opened them again, and it was blue.”
My heart beat crazy fast and Emanual saw my horror.
“Blake, what is it?”
“Jerry, has a green flame?”
“No, his flame is blue. I made sure of it time and time again. It must have been my imagination or something.”
I closed my eyes and got up. “It’s not your imagination, you idiot.” I grunted.
“Blake,” my father said.
“Paul had a green flame. He can put thoughts in your head. You must have seen his true flame the first time he wielded it, and put that thought in your head that it was blue.”
Emanuel’s eyes widened. “No, Blake. I’m not that easily persuaded.”
“Emanuel, Paul is really strong. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. He used it on me so many times, but my own doubts always came back after a while, breaking whatever that idiot put in my head. It was as if I would lose information every time he put something in my mind and had to start all over again, finding the clues. We don’t know what Paul looks like now. He’s been under our noses the entire time.” I froze.
“No.” Emanuel sounded worried again. “No, I know Jerry. Blake?”
“What, you mean Paul is not dead?” My father voiced. None of us answered him.
“Elena.” I jumped up and so did my father.
I opened the door and walked straight into Sammy and Dean. They both looked petrified. “Elena is missing. George and Becky are tracking her right now.”
Paul looked down at me on the ground. He’d just told me he was going to brutally murder me, and Blake was going to hunt him like it was just a game.
“That will never happen.” I jumped up, going for Paul.
Nora’s tail wrapped around me and she threw me away from him. I collided hard with one of the other huge boulders.
Paul was immediately against me, pressing me harder against the boulder. “Does this make you uncomfortable?” he asked in a slight whisper.
“I heard what happened, how those men ravished you time and time again.” He smiled.
Angry tears filled my eyes.
“Oh, don’t worry, I’m not like that, I like my women –” He took a huge sniff that made me close my eyes. Don’t show him any fear.
“Fresh.” He did not just say that! I brought my knee to his groin and swung my arm into his face.
I only managed to get three steps away, when Nora’s tail caught me around the legs. She let go immediately and her stinger went for my body. I rolled out of the way.
“Enough!” Paul yelled as her stringer hovered above me. “Enough, Nora. Her blood needs to be clear. Otherwise, the wyvern king will never be free.”
Nora grunted. She stared at me with so much hatred.
“Patience, my bird, patience.”
The way he said bird made my skin crawl.
He grabbed me around the arm and pulled me up. I tried to kick him again, but this time he was faster, and a rock connected with my head. I started to lose consciousness but refused to go down. He pressed me hard against the wall as blood dripped down my face.
“I see the Rubicon’s trained you a bit.”
I grunted at him but nothing I was going to say would make the plan in his head vanish.
“He is never going to get here in time, you know that, right? He doesn’t even know about me and Taylor.”
“He’s not that stupid, idiot.” Blake please, I need you! I yelled in my head. I hoped it worked. “You forgot whose voice I heard, Paul. It wasn’t yours, and I hate to break it to you, he is on his way, and I really feel so sorry for you.”
Paul chuckled. “I know it’s broken.”
Shit. I swallowed hard.
“I love that he is going to hate me. One can never get enough of hide and seek. Don’t you agree, Nora?”
She didn’t say anything. Just smiled.
“He will kill you! You and your precious, psychotic bitch, for what you did to Lucian.”
“We got him out of the way. How else would the two lovebirds get together?”
A tear rolled down my cheek.
“You should actually thank us.”
“He didn’t deserve to die!” I yelled and tried to wield my fire again.
“Your powers are not going to work, sweetheart.”
Taylor threw something huge at our feet. I look down at it. It seemed like a block of skin. It had scales, but it was glistening. It didn’t belong to a dragon. Then I gasped as I realized what it was. It was a mermaid’s tail. She’d killed Xaline for her powers.
“Mermaids’ abilities stay in their tails even after death. When we discovered what this one could do, killing her was our number one priority.”
How the hell did they manage to do that? He was really strong and smart, evil, but smart. I recalled my encounter with her. “Her father will get his revenge; that I can promise you.”
“Don’t promise things you won’t witness,” he said loudly. Paul seemed quite upset again, but his smile appeared as I flinched. “You are still the same pathetic little princess you were the last time I saw you.”
“You know nothing about me.”
“How did you claim the Rubicon?” He grinned.
“Get that tail away from me and I’ll show you.”
He looked at Nora and both started to laugh.
“Get on with it Paul, please. You’ve toyed with her enough.”
“This really wasn’t part of the plan, you know, and it’s going to be a slow, painful death because we need that precious blood of yours.”
“You are and will always be an asshole.”
He laughed again and winked.
Paul lifted his hand, a silver knife in his grip. The point was sharp, and when he swung his arm back down, I closed my eyes, and just visualized Blake. If I died, it would be with him as the last person on my mind. I waited for the entry, but the only thing I heard was the grunt that left him, and I opened my eyes.
He was struggling and his entire body was shaking with all the strength he’d used trying to push the knife into my neck, but he couldn’t.
What is this?
The earth tremble as something collided with it.
Paul grabbed me and placed me in front of his body. The knife was still close to my neck.
I glimpsed Blake he pulled a robe over his head and it fell over his body like silk. “Nice job, Taylor.”
Paul’s hand went over my mouth just as I wanted to yell that it was Nora. I grunted, and Blake looked at us again. He started to laugh. “What are you trying to do, Jerry? Or should I say Paul?”
My eyes were on Nora as she moved out of Blake’s view. I squirmed again. He can’t die like Lucian.
“She’s a feisty one, isn’t she? I bet she tastes just as sweet,” he said with his mouth close to my neck, I could feel his lips turning into a smile as they lingered softly on my skin. He loved every moment knowing that Blake was going to die the same death as Lucian. It’s Nora, Blake! It Nora, Taylor is Nora. I kept thinking it as loud as I could, but nothing happened.
“Are you trying to piss me off?” Blake sounded calm. “Believe me, you don’t want me more pissed off than what I already am. I’m dangerous when I’m pissed off.”
Paul laughed, and Nora struck at Blake with her tail. I let out another agonizing grunt and squirmed like hell, but nothing was working. Paul was too strong, and I couldn’t even use his strength to get out of this one.
Blake turned around and grabbed her tail just before it struck him.
Neither of them had expected that. I hadn’t either. It felt as if I could breathe again.
“You think I didn’t know? You reeked!” he yelled at her.
She ran toward him, trying to get her tail out of his grip.
“And you are not my problem.” He pulled her tail harder and she stumbled. She was off her feet, in the air, and collided hard against a boulder behind him. She fell on the ground, out cold.
Paul grunted. “You will pay for that.”
Another dragon landed hard.
Emanuel changed and picked Nora up as he threw something in Blake’s direction, which he caught and tucked into the sleeve of his robe.
“Blake!” Paul yelled and tried again to stab me with the knife. I squirmed again as tears welled up in my eyes.
“I swear to you, I will kill her. Let Nora go.”
“No, you won’t because you can’t even push that knife into her neck.”
Paul breathed heavily, and I knew Blake was doing this; he was keeping him from hurting me. Paul seemed to only realize that now too.
“You killed my best friend.”
“I did you a favor,” Paul spat.
“Fuck you,” Blake said harshly and moved fast toward us. The movement was so quick. In a flash, one of his hands was subduing Paul in some death grip, another was around my arm, and then with a shove I was flying through the air without Blake. The shriek came first then a claw grabbed me and took me away, away from the danger, away from Blake.
“Elena!” Becky’s voice yelled from above. “Are you okay?”
“We have to go back, Becky.”
“To the farm,” Becky ordered George and he did.
“No, we have to go back!” I yelled but she ignored me.
The clearing disappeared fast and I only saw treetops as if the clearing had never existed.
I had to get back to Blake.
George landed and he opened his claw. I rolled on the grass, got up to my feet and started running toward the forest again.
A pair of arms grabbed me, Raymond’s. “Calm down, princess, you are safe.”
“Blake is alone.”
“He is the Rubicon, just calm down. He will come back. You are safe.”