The drive to wherever Blake had booked us for the next two days was a few hours outside of Tith. It was somewhere on the border of Elm and Tith.
My heart felt as if it was beating a thousand beats per minute as adrenaline flowed through my veins, adrenaline that was caused by the speed he was going.
Still, I got the feeling that this was what he lived for. Bike rides, sky diving, snowboarding. It was who he was, and I had no choice but to try it at least once with him.
The helmet he’d gotten was a bit on the small side, making it feel as if my head was going to explode, but he said it fit perfectly and the jacket was snug around my body. It kept the cold out, and it helped a lot that I was snuggling the hottest dragon in this world on a bike.
At the two hour mark, Blake slowed and took the turnoff that said Lake Tenikwa. A few miles further I started to see part of a huge lake on the horizon, glistening in the sun.
The houses on the lake were each trying to be more beautiful than the last, and he parked right beside a picnic area with benches and tables.
He switched off the bike and I got off.
I removed my helmet and watched him take off his.
“Why are we stopping?”
“It’s a rocky path leading up toward the cabin. That’s why Dean drove with the trailer.”
“How long are we going to wait?” was my next question, as he had been speeding like a bat out of hell to get here.
“An hour at the most, but I heard that they have a mean diner just up the road. Care to join me?”
“Let me guess, you are starving?”
“My stomach growling that much?”
I laughed as he took my helmet from me and put it with his on top of the bike’s handles.
He reached for my hand and I took it. His hand was big and mine disappeared in it. I felt so safe with him.
We walked past a few docks that had yachts and jet-skis lined up. It was definitely only the rich who could afford something like this.
Something told me that this getaway was going to be one of the best days of my life.
I put my hoody over my head. I was so used to it now, and didn’t want to be bothered by the public, especially on this getaway.
I just want to spend it with Blake and my friends. That was it.
He did the same after he kissed the back of my hand, as we walked toward the diner that had a deck overlooking the lake.
A few steps led up to the opening of the diner, and a friendly hostess greeted us.
Blake didn’t look like Blake behind his sun glasses and hoody pulled over his head. It was the best disguise, well best non-magical disguise, we had.
“Table for two?” she asked with a beautiful smile.
“We are expecting eight more. They will be here in an hour. We are a bit early.”
“Sure,” she sounded even friendlier, knowing that it was going to be a good day if their first table was for ten.
“Somewhere on the deck if you don’t mind.”
“Not at all.”
We followed her toward the deck and sat on the corner of a table as the waiters pushed two more tables against the one we occupied to make it bigger.
When they were done, we ordered two coffees.
We both just watched the lake, staring at the water sparkling in the sun.
It sure was beautiful and peaceful here.
As we sat, I struggled to get Etan and the mission out of my head.
For all I knew, this could be the first and only getaway we would ever take.
“Ralph spoke to you about the serum he made from Louie’s berries?”
“This is not that type of getaway. No war talk.”
“I need to know.”
He picked up both my hands in his and kissed the knuckles of my fingers. “Yes, he did, and everything they thought will help will be waiting for us as soon as we get back to the league. Promise.”
We fell silent again.
“What is King Helmut hiding from me? Do you know?”
He looked away as he nodded, and I huffed softly. I knew it! There were something, but I had a feeling Blake wasn’t going to share it with me either.
“You’re not going to tell me?”
“It’s not that I don’t want to tell you. I think his reasons for keeping some things from you are valid. Just know this: He is protecting you, and me, for that matter. He doesn’t want us to worry about what the others have to do. The Saadedine is our main priority, and that is what he wanted us to focus on, nothing else.”
I sighed. “You trust it?”
“King Helmut keeping things from the two of us?” he asked. “Yes, I do, as I know how your mind works. You will worry too much about the others, and that leads to slip-ups. I don’t want any slip-ups on this mission. So please, just trust his reasons.”
“What do you mean by, ‘you know how my mind works?’” I smiled.
“I saw how you reacted to what King Caleb told everyone about the explosion. You were quiet. It made me worry seeing all that doubt in your eyes. I know you worry about whether your father is still alive or not, but I agree with Emanuel’s reasons. Like I said, it reminded me of the time I asked you to kill me if I turned evil. I was holding on then, but could understand that once I turned, I would kill my own father, even Sammy, and it wouldn’t bother me. So I do believe that your father is still alive.”
“You really do?”
“I do, and not just for my father’s sake. I really want you to meet him, for real this time.”
I smiled. “I do too.”
Silence filled the air around us. I could live here. It was so serene. The lake stretched out as if there was no end to it. In the distance, way on the other side, I could make out a shoreline and what looked like a couple of houses.
I drew a deep breath and smelled the air. I was trying to form a memory that would last me a lifetime. No matter what happened, I wanted to remember this exact moment.
The smell of nature disappeared when I couldn’t breathe in more, and I let it out. “Well if you trust him, I will trust that.”
He gave me a soft squeeze, and winked at me as the waiter brought us our two coffees and put the menus in front of us.
“So can I ask you a couple of things?” I said as I really wanted to know him a bit better.
“Oh, crap.” He sounded serious, but there was a hint of a smile playing around the corners of his mouth. “I was wondering when you were going to want to know about a couple of things.”
I laughed the way he put the emphasis on a couple of things. “I just wanted to know a few things. Apparently you already know everything about me.”
He laughed and shook his head as he drew a huge breath. “Okay, shoot.”
“What does FC mean? I saw it plenty of times in your journal and it looks like something you really needed.”
He bit his lip and I could see how his posture grew slightly inflated. “You really want to know?”
“I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t.”
“Okay.” He sighed. “It was a drug I needed to keep the Rubicon suppressed.”
“So it was a hang-on technique.”
“You could say that.”
“Was it a bad drug, like were you addicted to it?”
“Yes, I was, but I’m not anymore.” He smiled.
I brought the cup to my lips and took a small sip. “What did it do? Did you see things?” I put the cup back down on the table.
He laughed. “You mean did it put me on a trip? Um, no, it made me carefree. Like there was no dark omen hanging over me, but it also made me extremely aggressive, and we all know who suffered for it.”
He was talking about Tabitha.
“What does the FC stand for?” I looked from the surface of the table to his eyes hidden behind his glasses.
I squinted. “So it’s like cocaine?”
“I don’t know what cocaine is.”
“Something bad on the other side of the wall.”
“Then yes, it’s probably like cocaine.”
“And you used to take your aggression out on Tabitha?”
He sighed and nodded. “One of the things I know I will never be able to make up to her. Well I can, but I don’t want to do that,” he said in a mysterious tone, and we both knew what she wanted.
“Did you love her?” I had to know.
“I told you before, it wasn’t love, it was more of a lust…thing.” It was as if he struggled to find the right words. “I was used to her, it’s the easiest category to put it in.”
“Used to her?”
He laughed, scratched his hoody and lingered with his hand on his head for a while.
“What happened that night she was in your room, I mean why was she there?”
“You really need to know this?”
“Yes, I would like to know this.”
He lowered his arm and rested both of them on the table. “Well, you know about Phil, how I searched for him with her. She forgot to tell me that he was in on the other side on actual business. Something she knew. I never knew she was that good at acting, and her excuse of why she’d lied to me like that, laying it on thick, was that she was trying to break the spell you had over me.”
“Yeah.” He smiled. “She believed it was a spell more than you did, and thought if I spent more time with her that it would vanish or something.”
“I realized that we can’t be friends after that, it’s just too complicated with her. She will always want more, and I will never be able to give her that, so I told her I never wanted to see her again.”
“Is that what you truly wanted?”
“I won’t lie to you, I really thought that we could all be friends, but…” He scrunched up his nose. “Not going to be possible.”
I played with one of the sugar packets. “One last question?”
“Just one more.”
I laughed the way he said it. “Irene? You really had a relationship with her?”
The smile tugging on his lips disappeared instantly. He didn’t look at me, and the vibe got so thick I almost told him to drop it. “This conversation is really starting to become awkward.”
“No, it’s not. I’m open-minded, and I knew all of this already. I just want to know a bit more.”
He sighed. “It’s difficult. Yes, I think a part of me did love her, but it didn’t start out like that. She was a no-zone and I don’t listen to those. Her seeing me regularly didn’t help with my demeanor either. She was just something I had to put on my list. I was very shallow back then.” He smiled slightly. “But I realized after a while that her feelings for me were real, and I did feel something for her too. But again, it wasn’t love. I thought it was, but it wasn’t.”
“How do you know it wasn’t love?”
He smiled. “Because I know what love actually feels like now.”
I blushed as he said it. “So you love me?”
“More than I can tell you.”
“Just like that?”
“It’s not hard to love you. Quite easy.” He took my hand in his, and I stared at our intertwined fingers intertwined.
“You love me?” he asked.
“I loved Lucian, or I think I did. This feeling is ten times worse.”
He squinted. “Worse?”
“Yes, worse, as I want to give in to it, but I don’t want to either. Every time I feel like this, the person ends up dying.” Tears lingered in my eyes behind my glasses, thank heavens for that, and I plastered a smile on my face to make it sound like a joke, which was far from how I felt.
“I see, so it’s not a bad feeling. You are just scared.”
He bent over the table and brought his mouth close to my ear. “I’m terrified too.” He moved back and smiled.
“Of course, but I’m the Rubicon.”
“I hate that so much.”
He laughed. “I don’t.”
“Finally!” I heard Becky’s voice first before I saw her. She put her sunglasses on top of her head and her bag down next to my seat, throwing the keys from the SUV on the table.
“How did you know we were here?” I asked.
“George tracked you easily.”
He walked onto the deck too, with Dean, Sammy, and the rest of Blake’s band, laughing at something. They all took a seat.
“I am starving,” Isaac said and looked immediately at the menu.
“So, how long did it take you?” Ty slapped Blake on his shoulder. “How fast does she fly?”
“Not nearly fast enough.”
“Man.” He grinned like an idiot and looked at me. “If you’d like to know, my birthday is in a few months.”
We both laughed.
“Did you get the keys?” George asked.
“Picked them up last night already,” Blake answered. “Top main bedroom is mine.”
Everyone laughed as George grunted.
The waitress came back, and Ty immediately turned his entire attention on her.
“My name is Emily and welcome to the Cedar Inn. What can I get you to drink?”
Isaac said a Denoldi beer, and so did most of the others, Sammy and Becky went with coffee. Ty, on the other hand, had a huge list of things this poor girl could get him.
“Ty,” all Blake’s band members sang.
Blake shook his head. Poor Emily blushed and looked at him. Then her smile disappeared as a light bulb went on. “Aren’t you the drummer from The Shifters?”
“Busted.” Ty smiled and raised his eyebrow at Blake.
“Ty,” Blake said, and Isaac threw a sugar packet at him.
“Seriously, it’s called a getaway, Ty.” Isaac and Jamie sounded furious.
“So what, no girls?” Ty asked. “Dude.” He looked at Blake. “I might die in two days. Let me have some fun.”
Blake laughed. “I’m so sorry.” He looked at me.
Blake looked at Emily, and took off his glasses. I thought she was going to have heart attack as she realized who he was. “Please, I’m begging you, don’t tell anybody that we are here. We really just want to get away for a few days.”
“Of course,” she finally said. “I won’t tell a soul.”
“No please, you can tell a couple of your friends. Most of us are still single,” Ty said, and I laughed quietly.
“Whatever you say, tiger,” Emily chirped.
“Actually, a panther, but I get where you are going with that.” He winked at her.
She took his order and left.
“Really,” Isaac said. “You can’t just be normal for two days?”
“It’s fine,” I answered. “We all know Ty, and we have no choice but to accept the guy the way he is.”
“It’s fine, Ty. I just hope that the walls are soundproof.” I looked at the menu.
The rest of the breakfast/lunch was extremely fun. I felt sorry for Emily, but she was true to her word and didn’t tell a soul. She did, however, take a few selfies with the band.
When it was time to go, I knew that I was going to see Emily again by the way Ty flirted with her.
Once the bike was on the trailer, Dean drove up the rocky road to our cabin that was built near a patch of trees. It was the most beautiful, eight-bedroom and five-bathroom cabin, with the hugest living room I had ever seen. It had a massive porch that looked out on the lake and a beautiful granite countertop kitchen with cherry wood cabinets.
Everyone ran to find rooms as Blake brought our bags in to take it to our room.
While the guys were busy finding their way, Sammy, Becky and I went into town to buy some groceries.
It was the most beautiful little community by the lake, with a couple of stores in town and the diner.
Sammy was really quiet, and I had no idea how to get her out of her mood.
She was just as scared as all of us were on this getaway, but we had to find a way for her to forget about what was going to happen two days from now.
We split up inside the store to find all the things we needed.
I ended up at one of the aisles that carried toys and found some water guns.
There weren’t a lot people in here, and I decided that maybe it would be the fun Sammy needed.
Becky found me and smiled when she saw the smile on my face.
“What is going on in that mind of yours?”
“Sammy!” was all I said.
She looked at the guns. “Let’s do it.” She laughed and opened the water bottle she held, filling both our guns.
Sammy was pushing a cart stacked with all the junk food she could find as she came around the corner.
Becky and I crouched low, and I watched Becky counting off with her fingers.
We jumped out and just sprayed Sammy with water. She shrieked at first, cussed a few times then she let her hyena laughter fill the entire place. “No fair!” she yelled, but we emptied the entire water bottle on her.
Sammy quickly searched the toy guns and found one too.
For the next few minutes that was all we did. We sprayed each other with so much water it made the floor slippery.
“What is going on here?” The clerk finally came to investigate and wanted to yell more when he found all the water on the floor and the three of us soaking wet. But the minute he saw my face he bowed down. “Sorry, princess, I didn’t see you there.”
“It’s okay, sorry about the mess. I’ll pay for all of this. I just wanted one of my friends to have a bit of fun.”
“No need to explain. With what you are doing for all of us, you can have as much fun as you like.”
“You staying in one of the cabins?”
“Yes, a small getaway, and if you don’t mind, can we please keep it that way?”
“Won’t say a word if anybody comes looking for you.”
The clerk’s arrival had ruined all the fun, so we quickly found the rest of the groceries we needed and paid.
We walked into the next store, drenched.
“I can’t tell you when the last time I laughed like that was,” Sammy said.
“I really missed that laugh, Sammy.” Becky hugged her and kissed her on the temple.
We bought plenty of booze for the guys then we left and went back to the cabin.
The inside was empty, with no trace of anyone, and we had to unload all the grocery bags by ourselves. We unpacked each item out of their plastic, and laughed at the memory of the clerk’s face when he saw me and not some troublemaker.
When we were done, we went to look for the guys and found them on the lake with the jet-skis.
The rest of the day flew by, enjoying swims and jet-skis. Around five, Isaac lit the barbecue with Sammy’s fire and after dinner we played one of those booze games that got me completely messed up.
It was good fun though, and when I passed out, I assumed Blake took care of me, as I was woken by the smell of strong coffee close by and two Advils for my headache.
Blake laughed as I opened my eyes.
“What happened last night?”
“Apart from the few minutes you puked your guts out?”
I grunted and buried my head under the pillow. “I was that drunk?”
“You had fun, Elena. You let loose.”
“Is it normal to have this headache?”
“Yes, it is. Here let me help.” He took the Advils off the side stand and chucked them over his shoulder. His hands were warm as he rubbed my temples softly.
I could feel the zing of his ability moving toward the pain and it slowly disappeared.
It felt so good.
“How is that?”
“Much better. Now I’m just tired.”
“That I haven’t figured out yet. That’s what the coffee is for.”
I laughed and took the coffee from him.
“Get ready. We have a day filled with fun.”
“Awesome, I can’t wait.”