A week had passed since we’d traveled to the sub-levels of the Aviary. A week since Warrick had been horribly injured. His injuries were so severe that even his magical blood could not speed his healing. He’d been recovering very slowly, one day at a time.
But his wing was not. Sure, the wounds had closed... But the webbing between the framing was, so far, not growing back.
I hadn’t seen him since it happened... I’d tried. But every time I stopped outside the infirmary doors, I found myself scurrying away. I just couldn’t face him... Not yet. Not after what he’d sacrificed because of me...
I’d hardly left the training rooms this past week. The only time I was not there was when I was eating, sleeping, or bathing. Dristan was beginning to worry about me. Every time he would try to get me to come home, or take a day off, I would lash out at him.
I knew that he meant well. He could see the guilt eating away at me each day. He could feel the anger, the regret, the sorrow that tortured me. The bond between us made sure of that. And even though I knew that he was only looking after me, I snapped at him every time he tried to get me out of the training rooms.
I couldn’t help it.
I was tired of having no control over my magic. I was tired of other people getting hurt because of me. I was determined to train as hard as I could, every day, every moment that I could spare, to ensure that no one else would be at risk due to my lack of experience.
Each day, I grew a little bit stronger. Each day, I could feel the pool of magic within me growing deeper, and wider. I trained both with my magic, and with my body. Marrok sparred with me nearly everyday, and when he wasn’t there, I trained with Torryn or Andi.
When I practiced my magic skills, either Ronan or Dristan would train with me. Usually it was my mate, but he wasn’t always available to me. He had people to look after, issues to resolve within the Aviary. He worked nearly nonstop.
At first, when I’d mentioned training with Ronan, he’d furiously refused to allow it. But, after his overprotective instincts simmered down, and we’d had a long conversation about the pros and the cons, he’d finally agreed to let me train with Ronan. After all, who else was going to teach me about runes if not Ronan?
Ronan had been perfectly appropriate with me. He was polite, comfortable, and very instructive when we trained. It was a huge relief for me. If he had behaved in a way that made me uncomfortable, Dristan would not only have no longer allowed me to train with him, but he would probably have kicked him off the council, and maybe even out of the Aviary.
I think that Ronan knew this. He was not a dim witted man. He had no intention of pissing Dristan off. He had no intention of being removed from the high council, or leaving his people here without him. He was on his best behavior, and I was grateful.
Over the last seven days, I’d read nearly the entire Rune Book of Shadows. I spent hours memorizing the Rune alphabet, and now, I could easily recognize words without having to look in the book, as long as they were short. Longer words were harder.
I’d successfully made several rune charms. Each one was as small as my thumbnail. I had carved them into whale bone fragments that Ronan had given me.
One gave me better balance. Another made my reflexes faster. The third boosted my dexterity. I wore each of them on a small charm bracelet that I made out of braided leather.
I had quite a knack for making runes. At first, Ronan called it “beginner’s luck”, but by the third successful rune that I’d made, he stopped commenting on it.
Sometimes, I caught him staring at me. His eyes held admiration, and sometimes even disbelief, but those emotions would instantly leave his eyes once he realized I was looking at him.
I had also spent a lot of time reading and memorizing spells from my Elemental Book of Shadows. Seeing as I was the only Elemental left, I had no one to help me train with them. Ronan tried, but the magic on the pages of my books was foreign to him. He had no idea how they worked, and was not of much help. But he did supervise, and made sure that when I practiced, it was safely.
So far, I could only preform the spells from the book that had to do with fire. When I’d tried to use the other elemental spells, it hadn’t worked out very well. I did not have enough control over the other elements yet to do much with them.
Somehow, when I’d touched the flame rune in the sub-levels, it had locked my power over fire into place. Before, I had to concentrate very hard in order to manipulate the fire. But now, I hardly even had to try. It felt as if it was a part of me, like an invisible appendage.
And I was not limited to only being able to manipulate pre-existing flame. My powers had evolved a step beyond that. I could now create fire in the palm of my hand, out of thin air. That had been a very interesting development...
As well as the discovery that I could no longer be burned by fire. Not even my hair. It was strange, to say the least, but it was also empowering in a way that I’d never known before.
Along with rune magic, and practicing my control of fire, I’d also been studying and practicing with general magic. I was now able to easily levitate objects and move them without much effort. I could paralyze people for long periods of time, even while not being in the same room, and on top of doing other spells at the same time.
I was improving quickly.
Dristan and I were currently working on teleportation. I hadn’t been successful so far. He’d explained to me that not everyone was able to do it. And those who could do it had worked at it for a long time. It was not a skill that was learned in a week. And even those would were able to teleport could only travel short distances. Long distances used too much magic, and could quickly drain you if you weren’t careful.
I envied him for his ability to teleport, though he rarely used that ability. In spite of how much I’d improved in the past week, I still felt rather useless.
In what little spare time I allowed myself, I studied the flame rune and the scroll of paper that had been with it. When I’d broken the glass ball, I’d found a small scroll encased in it, along with the flame rune.
It was another riddle.
Dristan, Andi, Torryn, Ronan, and myself had all taken turns studying the riddle, trying to make sense of it. So far, none of us had any idea what it meant. It was even more cryptic than the last one.
“In plain sight, yet out of reach.
None may see, though all beseech.
Only those to gain our speech,
are those who practice what we preach.”
The sketch of the rune had been easier to decipher. I’d figured it out in five minutes. It was the riddle that was the problem.
I had spent hours upon hours staring at the riddle. I’d studied it until my eyes had gone crossed. Until the words all melted together, turning to mush in my mind, and losing all sense of meaning. And still, I couldn’t figure it out.
Useless. I felt so damned useless...
Which was why I’d been secretly working on creating a spell to help Warrick recover faster. It was something productive. Something to keep me from losing my mind...
The idea had come to be a few days ago, when I was refilling my coffee cup one morning. I remembered when Dristan had bitten into an apple, waved his hand, and somehow replenished the bite he had taken, making the apple whole again.
After the idea came to me, I had immediately begun reading about similar spells. Although, none of them said anything about replenishing the flesh of a dragon’s wing. But I was determined to figure something out. How different could an apple’s flesh be from a person’s, anyway?
The Rune Book of Shadows was filled with runes, and instructions on how to create them. But none of the runes in the book had healing power, or replenishment power.
Ronan had vaguely explained to me that original runes could be created, as long as the user’s magic was powerful enough. However, creating original runes was risky. If the spells were not fused with the runes correctly, it could be dangerous.
Dristan had forbidden me from creating original runes until I’d mastered the runes that were already in the book. Even with my improvements, he still wanted me to proceed with caution.
I’d already worked my way through half of the book, but he wouldn’t budge until I was done with the entire thing.
Which was why I was working on it in secrecy. Waiting until my powers were more developed would take too long.
If we were going to face more danger in searching for the other runes, we would need Warrick’s help. But if he couldn’t fly... How could he help? Warrick’s healing couldn’t wait. He needed help, now.
Ronan said that only very powerful Rune Fae could make original runes. Well, power wasn’t the problem. I was the daughter of a Rune Queen. I knew I had enough power to create an original rune.
The problem was figuring out how to successfully apply a spell to a rune without harming myself in the process. And so, the past three days, after training, I had been sneaking away to the library to study.
“I’m famished. I’m going to grab some food. You probably should do the same, Brenya.” Marrok said, snapping me out of my day dreaming.
I glanced over my shoulder at him briefly, and then turned away and kept swinging my weapon. I’d been beating a straw filled dummy senseless with my sword for the last twenty minutes.
Strike. Duck. Twirl. Slash.
Strike. Duck. Twirl. Slash.
I’d been in the training rooms for over half of the day, sparring on and off with Marrok. He was the only one who never gave me grief for training so much. But even he had to make sure that I was eating and getting enough sleep.
“Brenya... You’ve been here for six hours straight. You need to go eat something.” He pressed.
I didn’t want to leave, but he was right.
My stomach was beginning to growl and grow painful with hunger. I needed to take a break from training. I also silently reminded myself that I needed to go to the library and continue researching replenishment spells.
Sighing, I hung my sword back on the wall and made my way toward the door.
“Will you be back today?” Marrok asked, slipping through the doorway.
I followed behind him. “No, I need to...Er- I have plans.”
He gave me a quizzical look. “Okay...”
“How is your sister? I haven’t seen her in awhile.” I asked, feeling guilty for not mentioning it sooner.
His eyes softened as he stopped and turned toward me. “She’s doing better... Thanks to you.”
I smiled gently up at him. “And you. She’s lucky to have such a caring older brother.”
He shrugged, still smiling. “Thanks. See you tomorrow, then?”
“Tomorrow.” I answered, waving a hand at him.
He nodded, one of his ears twitching with the motion, and then he turned and disappeared around the corner.
Slowly, my legs aching from the long run I’d done this morning, I made my way to my rooms. I wondered if Dristan would be finished with his work for the day. I missed him. We’d both been so busy lately, I had hardly seen him.
My heart sank with disappointment when I entered the rooms.
He wasn’t here.
I sighed and trudged toward the kitchen. I didn’t care what I ate, as long as it didn’t take too long. But a cup of lavender tea sounded nice.
As I sat at the kitchen island, a familiar popping noise briefly interrupted the silence. I looked down at the space in front of me and found a large bowl of pumpkin squash soup, a hot butter roll, and a steaming mug of lavender tea.
I ate quickly in the still silence. I hardly even tasted the sweet flavor of the soup. I didn’t care how it tasted, as long as it filled me quickly. I needed to get to the library.
After I ate, I swiftly showered and changed into a thick sweater and leggings. I was just about to rush out the door when I noticed a note lying on the table in the foyer.
I felt a small smile spread over my lips. I hadn’t smiled all day. I reached for the note, and gingerly opened it.
I will be working late tonight. Andromeda, Torryn and I are in the council room if you need anything. We are working on assigning permanent quarters for all of the wolves, and recruiting qualifying soldiers from their pack. I have a surprise for you, later. Be home at sunset.
Missing you and your smart mouth,
-Your beloved mate”
His penmanship was wispy and masculine. So different from my own, messy handwriting. I read the note twice, running my fingers over the deep, angry indentations that his pen had made. Even from a note, I could tell that he’d been irritated while writing this. He’d been so stressed out with his responsibilities lately. I smiled at the note before setting it down.
I didn’t like surprises... Detested them, really.
But surprises from Dristan weren’t so awful.
After being in the library for three hours, I could hardly keep my eyes open.
I’d searched book, after book, after book, and still found nothing on replenishing flesh. There were plenty of books with healing spells, but those wouldn’t work.
Warrick’s body was mostly healed. And the wounds on his wing were getting better. But the fleshy webbing of his wings had not regrown. There had to be a way...
I felt my throat thickening and hot tears pricked the back of my eyes as I slammed another book shut. I had to find something... soon.
If Warrick never flew again... Because of me....
“Gods damnit!” I stood angrily from the table, swiping my hands across the desk as I did. Stacks of books and papers went flying, scattering noisily across the marble floor.
I buried my face in my hands, desperately trying to keep the tears at bay. I was so sick of crying. So damned sick of it...
“That wasn’t very lady like.” A familiar, male voice said, slicing through the silence like a blade.
I snapped my head to the right, my eyes wide with alarm.
“Ronan!” I gasped, running my hands over my hair. I tried to compose myself as I blinked the tears away. “W-What are you doing here so late?”
Slowly, he walked toward me, his hands tucked into his pockets. “I was going to ask you the same thing.”
His eyes drifted the floor, and as he read the titles of the various books lying around, his brow furrowed. His gaze slid back to mine. As his eyes narrowed, I tried to keep my face as blank and unreadable as possible.
“Just reading. I’ve been trying to familiarize myself with as much material as possible. Nothing in particular, really... Just working my way through different subjects.” I lied.
He stared at me a moment, un-moving. I stared back, wearing a mask of calm indifference.
Eventually, his lips curled up into a sneer. “You couldn’t lie your way out of a paper bag, Princess.”
He stooped down and picked up several of the abused books. He began listing the titles, throwing each one at me as he did.
“Novice Healers...” I barely reacted in time to catch the book before it hit me in the nose.
“Incantations for the Ill...” I fumbled with the next one as it hit me in the chest.
“Elijah’s Elixirs... Replenish and Restore... Healthy Hexes...”
“Oof!” I grunted as the last book hit me in the gut, knocking the wind out of me momentarily. “Ronan! Knock it off!”
He set the last of the stack onto the desk. “Tell me what you’re up to, and I will.”
I glared at him, wishing my eyes could shoot arrows. “I told you. I’m reading.”
“I’m not a fool. You’re trying to find a way to heal Warrick’s wing. And with the way you’ve been sneaking into the library every night, I’d wager that you’ve got something naughty up your sleeve.”
I planted my hands on my hips. “Have you been spying on me?”
He shrugged. “Yes.”
“Why, you slimy, two-faced-”
“Calm down, before you get your tiara all crooked, princess.” He interrupted, crossing his arms and leaning against the desk.
I scoffed. “Why should I calm down? You’re a stalker!”
His eyes grew serious. “Because... Whatever it is that you’re doing, whatever you’re planning... I want in.”
I blinked at him. “What?”
He stared at me, his face like stone. “I... want... in.” He repeated slowly, as if speaking to someone who wan’t all there in the head.
My eyes narrowed. “Why?”
He smirked. “Because... Unlike everyone else in this hunk of rock, I know that you can handle your power. You are being held back, treated like a child, and I don’t like it. You are capable of so much more. You’ve already been making runes. When I turned 18, I had to train for five full years before I was able to make one. You’re special... I want to see what you can really do.”
I hadn’t known silence could be so loud as we stared at each other through the candle lit library. Shadows danced across his face, hiding his eyes in their darkness.
When a full minute passed without a response from me, he spoke again.
“Tell me what you’re planning.”
My gaze lowered to the many books scattered across the desk. Should I tell him? What if he didn’t want to help me once he found out what I wanted to do? What if he told Dristan?
“You can trust me.” He added, seeming to read my thoughts.
I lifted my eyes to meet his again, still unsure. But something inside of his shadowed, blue eyes had me opening my mouth and speaking.
“I want to make an original rune. One that I can fuse with a replenishment spell.”
He cocked his head to the side. “Replenishment? Why?”
I chewed on my lip. “I want to find a way to replenish the webbing in Warrick’s wing.”
He lifted his head as he inhaled in understanding. Then he nodded slowly, a wide smile spreading across his lips. “I see.”
“Is it possible?” I asked, taking a small step toward him.
He rubbed his hand over the stubble on his jaw. “I believe so. But magic like that is complicated. It will require alchemy.”
My brows knit together. “Alchemy?”
“Yes. There must be balance. You can’t just summon flesh for a dragon’s wing, or any other kind of body part, and not expect it to cost you. For magic like that, there is always an equal cost for the reward.” He explained.
“What are you saying? What cost?”
“If you can create the rune... I’m saying that when you use it on Warrick, it will take payment from you, the user.” His tone darkened, sending chills down my arms.
“Flesh.” He said, his voice like ice. His eyes sparkled in the dim lighting, and I could not read the emotion inside of them. “You’ll be stripped of part of your own flesh as payment for replacing his. Are you willing to make that kind of sacrifice?”
My throat felt very thick suddenly, and I struggled to swallow the lump that had developed there. My eyes stung.
Yes... Yes, I was willing. If it meant that Warrick would be able to fly again... I’d sacrifice an entire limb if I had to. As long as I didn’t have to live with the guilt of what he’d lost in order to save me.
“Absolutely.” I said, my tone strong and unwavering.
His eyes flashed with admiration and approval.
“Will you help me?” I asked, taking another step toward him.
His eyes grew serious as he assessed me. “I will always help you. Always.”
Some other, unnamed emotion flashed within his eyes and I had to look away. My cheeks heated at the intense way he’d looked at me. It felt wrong. But I tried to ignore it. I needed his help...
“Thank you.” I said softly.
“I assume you want to keep this from your mate?” He asked, tucking his hands into his pant pockets.
I felt a stab of guilt. I was doing it again... Going against Dristan’s word. Ignoring his warnings.
He would be furious if he found out I’d risked my safety making an original rune, even if it meant helping his first in command. And he’d be even more furious if he found out that Ronan had helped me do it.
But I had to help Warrick. If I didn’t do this, he would never fly again. And what was a dragon without his wings?
Warrick’s words came floating back into my mind. “Some things are worse than death... ”
“Yes... But you should know... If he finds out that you helped me, he’ll probably kick you out.” I said glumly.
He smirked. “Don’t worry about that. I’m not afraid of your Dragon Lord.”
You should be...
I shifted awkwardly from foot to foot. This felt so wrong... So, so wrong. I almost felt like I was cheating in some way. Not physically... I would never bed another man. Still, I felt like I was betraying Dristan in some way.
But I had to help Warrick.
This was the only way.
“Shall we get started now? I can help you find a spell to use, to bind to the rune. You’re looking in all the wrong books.” He said, nudging one of the books with his finger.
“I want to...” I groaned in frustration. “But I can’t. I was supposed to leave twenty minutes ago.”
“The future queen has a curfew?“” He chuckled in a low voice. “That’s just sad.”
I glared at him, irritation boiling my blood. “I don’t have a curfew.”
“He really does treat you like a coddled child, doesn’t he? My, my... And the fact that you allow it... Truly disappointing.” He shook his head, a small smile still adorning his shadowed features.
I gritted my teeth. “Do not speak about things you know nothing about.”
He chuckled again, lifting his hands in surrender. “Apologies.”
I tore my eyes away from his mocking face, fighting the urge to send a chair flying at his head.
“Go. I will stay and look for the spell.”
I lifted my eyes back to his, a bit taken back by his eagerness to dive in. “Really?”
He smiled gently and nodded. “Of course. I told you, I’ll always help you. You’d do well to remember that, princess.”
I smiled, forgetting my irritation almost instantly. “Thank you. I really appreciate it, Ronan.”
“Bah...” He waved a hand with nonchalance. “It’s no trouble. Can you meet me here again, tomorrow night? I should have a spell picked out by then.”
“The sooner the better.” I answered.
He nodded with a satisfied grin. “Perfect. I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”
“Tomorrow.” I agreed.
I stood in front of the doors to my chambers, feeling ashamed and guilty. For a moment, I feared Dristan might sense this, and grow suspicious.
But that fear was quickly diminished when I realized that I’d been feeling this way all week, anyway. Ashamed and guilty that Warrick had been injured so severely when he’d saved me... Dristan would never know the difference.
Sighing, I pushed the doors open and strode inside.
As the doors clicked shut behind me, I froze in place. Every light was off. There wasn’t a single sound. And yet, I did not feel alone.
I could sense someone else here, with me. But why would Dristan be waiting for me in the dark?
I took a cautious step forward, scanning the room. “Dristan?”
I felt the hair on my arms stand on end.
I jumped backward, nearly tripping over my own feet, as Sylvie and Andromeda jumped out from behind the couch.
“Rutting hell!” I shrieked as the lanterns and candles suddenly flickered to life, lighting the room and chasing the darkness away.
I blinked at the two females, realizing after a few moments who they were and what was happening. Only when I recognized them did I realize that both of my hands were each engulfed with blazing balls of fire.
I’d gone straight into defense mode and was crouching, ready to spring, my flaming palms both aimed at my friends.
“Sylvie? Andi?” I gasped, straightening my spine, and immediately extinguished the balls of fire.
“Oh, gods, sorry Brenya!” Andi laughed, covering her mouth with her hands. “We didn’t mean to frighten you!”
“She was going to roast us alive!” Sylvie giggled, maneuvering around the couch and rushing toward me.
I grunted as she slammed into me, wrapping me in a giant bear hug. “Brenya, it’s so good to see you!”
She smelled of sweet bath salts.
I laughed, wrapping my arms around her slim back. “It’s good to see you, too! What in the world are you two doing here?”
Andi made her way toward us as Sylvie detangled herself from me. “We’ve come to cheer you up! Dristan thought it would be a great idea to have a girls night. We’ve been planning this for two days!” She said, smiling widely.
She moved around Sylvie and hugged me around the neck. “Lovely to see you, darling” She added, pecking me on the cheek.
I have her a gentle squeeze. “That’s so thoughtful... I suppose I have been a bit down...”
“A bit?” Sylvie interjected, rolling her eyes. “You haven’t left the training rooms all week! You look like you’ve gained ten pounds of pure muscle!”
I blushed, glancing down at myself. “Is that bad?”
She shook her head. “Not at all, you look amazingly fit. I’m jealous... Your ass looks like it’s lifted half a foot! Maybe I should train more, too...” She pushed her lower lip out into a pout as she stared at my backside.
I laughed wholeheartedly for the first time in days. “Sylvie, are you flirting with me?”
She slapped me on the arm. “You dog!”
“Technically, you’re the dog...” I said, raising a brow at her.
She gaped at me, almost offended, but then her face broke out into an ear splitting grin. Andromeda giggled, and soon, we were all chortling with amusement.
“We brought wine. Lots of wine.” Andi said, tugging me toward the kitchen.
“Thank the gods...” I groaned.
Once we all had a glass full of sweet, berry flavored wine, we migrated to the living room and each sprawled across the couch.
I waved my hand at the fireplace and a massive, crackling fire instantly ignited among the wooden logs inside.
“Wow... That’s impressive.” Andi swooned, gazing toward the flames. She sipped from her wine as she turned her hazel eyes toward me.
“You seem to be doing well with your training. A few days ago, you could hardly light a candle that way.” She pointed out.
“It’s getting easier. Just the fire, though. I haven’t been able to do much of anything with the other elements. I’ve tried everything...” I sighed.
“But your manipulation over fire came easily after you found the flame rune, right?” Sylvie asked.
“Yes. It was strange...” I said, swirling my wine. “As soon as I touched it, I felt something inside of me snap into place. Ever since then, I’ve been able to control fire with very little effort.”
“So, maybe that means when you find the other runes, it’ll solidify your power over the other elements, too?” She asked, raising her brows.
“I think so.” I nodded. “Hopefully...”
“I wonder why the runes affect you like that.” Andi mused.
“I don’t know... Maybe it has something to do with the other half of my bloodline?”
“It makes sense. The elemental runes hold both rune, and elemental power. Their magic is very connected to you.” Andi nodded.
“If you can’t control the other elements yet, then how did you do it in the forest?” Sylvie asked quietly.
I chewed my lip as anxiety settled into my bones. I didn’t want to talk about that if it would upset her...
“I don’t know... I was very angry. Sometimes, when my emotions get out of control, my powers come out too strongly. I can’t control them when it happens like that... It just happens. Like in the sub-levels... I was desperate to get to the rune so we wouldn’t waste more time. I think my determination was so strong, it allowed me to control the lava. Every time I get a rush of adrenaline, I feel my power taking over.... I just wish people would stop getting hurt because of it...” My voice trailed off.
It was silent for a beat.
“Warrick really wants to see you, Brenya.” Sylvie said gently.
I lifted my eyes to hers and found her expression soft, and caring. I felt my heart fissure a bit.
“I...” my throat bobbed. “I don’t know if I can look him in the eyes...”
“He doesn’t blame you for what happened.” Andromeda said softly.
“I know... That’s what kills me. He’s so kind, so understanding... But it was my fault.” I said, shaking my head slowly.
“It wasn’t.” Andi said, her voice more stern. “And any of us would’ve done the same to get you out of there.”
My eyes suddenly burned. “I-I know... But his wing... He won’t fly again, will he?”
I looked into Andi’s eyes, searching for the truth that I already knew existed. She held my gaze, not responding.
She didn’t need to answer.
We all already knew.
The answer was no.
I let out a long breath. “How can I ever face him again? How would you feel if him, or Dristan, or Torryn lost their wings because they were helping you?”
She flinched, averting her eyes toward the fireplace.
“See?” I said sadly. “You’d feel the same way...”
She sighed before draining her glass. “That’s true... But Brenya, I wouldn’t avoid them afterward. I would know that they’d need me. I would know that they needed support.”
I was silent as I considered her words.
She was right...
“You should visit him.” She coaxed.
I drained my own glass. “You’re right... I will. Tomorrow morning, I’ll go see him.”
She beamed at me. ” He’ll be thrilled to see you. He asks for you every day, non stop.”
“It’s quite annoying, really.” Sylvie added. “I’m in the infirmary three times a day, keeping up with my counselor appointments, and every time I walk through the door, he’s jumping down my throat about you!”
I laughed. “Sorry.”
She smiled and rolled her eyes. “It’s alright... I don’t mind talking to him, really.”
There was something in her tone that made me pause. I stared at her, lifting an eyebrow.
She blinked at me, her cheeks growing a bit pink. “What...?”
Andi turned toward her slowly, her own, perfectly groomed brows ascending toward her hairline.
Sylvie glanced between the two of us, her cheeks growing more red by the second. “What?!”
Andi and I met eyes briefly, our faces both growing into knowing smiles, before we returned our gazes to Sylvie’s blushing face.
“Why are you looking at me like that?!” Sylvie shrieked, throwing a pillow toward my face.
I caught it easily as my jaw fell, hanging in stunned excitement.
I let out a shocked laugh. “Sylvie!”
“What?!” She picked up another pillow, readying to chuck it at Andromeda’s grinning face.
“You fancy him!” Andi announced, pointing her slim finger accusingly at Sylvie.
“Don’t be absurd!” Sylvie complained. She threw the pillow at Andi, which she easily dodged.
“Liar. You’re as red as a beet!” I chimed, bouncing excitedly in my seat.
“I am not!”
“Don’t be shy, Sylvie. Warrick is a perfectly attractive male.” Andi said, refilling her glass.
Sylvie scoffed. “I don’t believe that I’ve had enough wine to have this discussion with you two.”
“I can fix that.” I said, leaning forward to snatch the bottle from Andi’s hands.
“Hey!” She whined.
I tilted he neck of the bottle toward Sylvie’s empty glass and filled it to the brim. “There.”
Andi snatched the bottle back, grinning.
Sylvie rolled her eyes and took a long sip. “You two are ridiculous... Who ever heard of a dragon and a wolf? You’re both insane...”
I shrugged, still smiling, as I took the bottle from Andi and filled my own glass. “Who ever heard of a dragon and a Fae? No one. And yet here I am, a Fae, mated to a Dragon Lord...”
Her cheeks grew pink again. “Mates are different.”
I shook my head. “I disagree.”
She peeked at me through the veil of silver hair she was currently hiding behind.
“When I’m queen...” I mused, pausing to drink deeply from my glass. “Everyone will be free to be with whomever they please. We will be a unified kingdom. The old ways will be dead and gone. I think it’s time to evolve, to move forward... It’s time to throw out old traditions and make room for new opportunities. Don’t you agree?”
Andi raised her glass. “Cheers to that.”
Sylvie blinked at me in stunned silence. “You’d really allow such a thing?”
I gave her a quizzical look. “Do you think me a hypocrite?”
She shook her head quickly. “No! It’s just... I thought that mates were the only exception...”
I smiled at her. “Love is love, Sylvie... Man, woman, human, Fae, Dragon, Wolf... It doesn’t matter. Love just is. It doesn’t follow rules, so why should we?”
She gaped at me for a moment, before a small smile blessed her lips. “I suppose we shouldn’t have to...”
“So, when are you going to tell him?” Andi said suddenly, wagging her eyebrows suggestively.
“Would you hush?!” Sylvie laughed. She slumped back into the cushions, smiling faintly.
I laughed, my cheeks aching with the constant smiling I’d been doing. “Dristan was right... I really needed this.” I said sincerely. “We should do this more often.”
“I agree.” Andi said, nodding. “It’s nice... having girlfriends. I haven’t had any in such a long time.”
“I’ve never had friends...” Sylvie admitted, smiling at both of us in turn. “I’m glad that you two are my first.”
My heart warmed as we all lifted our glasses, clinked them together, and then continued to enjoy our conversation.
We’d chattered into the late hours of the night, and by the time the bird bottle of wine was bone dry, Andi and Sylvie were both snoring. Sylvie was spread across the loveseat. Andi had slid to the carpet, her legs still sprawled across the couch above her.
I gazed at them lovingly as I turned out the lights and padded quietly into the bedroom.
I didn’t think my heart could’ve grown anymore soft that night, but when my eyes fell upon Dristan’s sleeping form in the bed, I realized I was wrong.
A single candle lit the bedroom.
His wings weren’t out tonight, nor were his horns. He was in his human form. That must’ve meant that his dragon had been giving him a hard time... It was easier for him to ignore his dragon when he was in human form.
He was sprawled on his back with one of his arms tucked under his head. He wasn’t under the blanket. He was still fully dressed. Even his shoes were still on. His hair was a mess, standing up in all directions, a sure sign that he’d been frustratedly running his hand through it all night.
There were books and scrolls scattered across the bedside table, along with a half drained bottle of whiskey and a half eaten sandwich.
My mate... Overworked, stressed out, and doing his best to make everyone around him happy. But so often, he forgot to take care of himself.
He snored softly as I stood in the doorway, gazing at him through the dim light.
Gods, I missed him. I didn’t even realize just how much, until now.
Quietly, I stripped out of my clothes. I was a bit drunk, so it was difficult to remain quiet, but somehow I managed. When I stood naked before the bed, I yanked my hair out of the tight bun it had been in, letting the soft waves fall down my back and shoulders.
Gingerly, I crawled onto the bed, and settled down by his side. I watched in silent admiration as his chest rose and fell. He looked so young when he slept...
So badly, I wanted to straddle him. I wanted to see the slow grin that would spread across his bow shaped lips as he opened his eyes and found me on top of him, naked and wanton.
But he looked so peaceful...
I didn’t have the heart to wake him.
I watched him for an hour or so, quietly admiring his otherworldly beauty, before I finally fell asleep.