Mage's Fire

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Thirty-Five: Riley

I was wrapped up in warmth from both Nadia and Kai. She sat on my left, while Kai pressed himself against my right side. Eddie and Drew sat right in front of us, with Sheriff Belmont and Nadia’s grandmother next to her, and Kate right next to Kai. We were all smiling as we watched the graduates march across the stage as their names were called.

For the first time since I killed Jeremiah, I felt truly happy. My friends and I were in a good place, and two of them were currently graduating. Jack was the first to be called out of him and Sierra since his last name was before hers in the alphabet. My pack and I cheered, practically howling as he strutted across the stage, his head held high. He accepted his diploma, smiled for the photographer, and then proceeded to the end of the stage.

When Sierra’s name was called, we cheered and howled as she stepped delicately up the steps. She grinned and flipped her hair over her shoulder, coming right up to the principal. He smiled as he handed her the diploma, and when she turned to the camera, she gave the photographer such an I’m so great smile and pose, I had to laugh.

I hated her before, but after she came to me and pleaded her case, I couldn’t help but feel grateful for her. Sierra was still a pain in the ass, more so than Drew could ever be, but she was a good wolf. I couldn’t help but feel like I had made the right decision letting her join my pack.

After the ceremony was over, the pack and I made our way down to the bleachers, right to where the seniors were gathering. I held onto Kai’s hand, pushing my through the crowd with him as we struggled to get to them.

When we finally reached Jack and Sierra, I smiled and approached them. Jack smiled and held his arms open, and I stepped into them. I hugged him fiercely, laughing when he rubbed the top of my head. I pulled away and gave him a brief kiss on the cheek before turning to Sierra.

She and I smiled at each other, grasping each other’s forearms. She and I weren’t anywhere close to braiding each other’s hair and making friendship bracelets with each other, but we were friends now, and I knew that if it came down to it, then Sierra would be there to protect the rest of the pack.

Nadia laughed as she wrapped her arms around Sierra, hugging her tightly. Sierra sighed heavily, burying her face in Nadia’s hair.

“Congratulations, you guys!” Sheriff Belmont boomed as he and the other adults joined us. He laughed and clapped Jack and Sierra on the shoulders. “Why don’t we head back to my house and celebrate, huh?”

Everyone heartily agreed, and we all started to make our way to the exit. As I followed behind the others, I suddenly stopped, the hairs on my neck standing on end. I glanced over my shoulder, eyes narrowed as I scanned the crowd. I couldn’t see anything.

“Riley?” Kai asked, suddenly by my side. He gently took hold of my arm, waiting until I was looking at him before continuing. “Are you okay?”

I blinked, frozen in shock for a moment before I nodded. “Yeah,” I said. “Yeah, I’m fine. I thought I saw something, that’s all.”

He nodded and pulled me closer, pressing a kiss to my temple. “Let’s go,” he murmured. I nodded and let him pull me along. On instinct, I glanced over my shoulder again. There was a figure standing at the back of the crowd, hidden in the shadows of the bleachers. I shuddered and turned away, hurrying to keep pace with Kai.

We spent the rest of the afternoon eating and hanging out, just spending time with one another. I tried my best to join in as well, but it was difficult. I couldn’t get the image of the man standing at the edge of the crowd out of my head, and thinking of him made me think of Jeremiah and Ariana. I thought of their claws slicing into my skin, of her claws buried in my chest…

I growled and shook my head, pushing those images out of my head. Kai glanced at me out of the corner of my eye, but he didn’t say anything. Instead, he took hold of my hand underneath the table, squeezing gently. I squeezed back, smiling softly.

My eyes strayed over to where Sierra and Nadia were sitting, laughing and talking to each other. I saw Delta’s head poke up over the edge of the table, his paw resting on Nadia’s leg as he begged her for food. She tore off a piece of her beef sandwich and handed it to him, laughing when he disappeared back under the table to munch on his snack. Sierra laughed as well, throwing her head back.

Feeling my gaze on her, Sierra turned her gaze towards me. I jerked my head to the house, and she nodded. She turned and whispered something to Nadia, then stood and followed me as I stepped inside.

Once I was in the kitchen, I stopped and slowly turned towards her, crossing my arms over my chest as I leaned against the counter. Even though I was mostly healed by now, I still felt weak at times, and my chest still hurt.

“What’s up?” Sierra asked, leaning against the counter across from me.

I jerked my chin outside, to where the sounds of laughter and celebrations were still going strong. “Nadia,” I said. “You like her, don’t you?”

She bit her lip and nodded. “Yeah,” she said.

I nodded. “She deserves the best, you know,” I said. “She’s my best friend, my sister. I don’t want her getting hurt.”

Sierra nodded. She stared at the tiles of the floor for a moment before looking back up at me, saying, “I’m not the best, I know that. But… I’d still like to try. For her, if anything.”

I peered at her, contemplating. Despite her flaws, she was honest. And she was trying. After a moment, I said, “You said that after we killed Jeremiah, you still wanted to run with me.”

She nodded, almost fervently. “I do,” she said.

“Okay,” I said. I pointed a finger at her and said, “You only get one chance. You hear me? I don’t want you pulling anything.”

She nodded again, her eyes nearly rolling with the force of her nods. “Okay,” she said. “I promise.”

I stared at her for another moment before nodding. “Good,” I said. “Good.” I smiled and pushed off the counter, wincing only slightly in discomfort. “Come on,” I said. “Let’s get going.”

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