It wasn’t long before we made it to the gym, but the silence was deafening.
I finished the last of my coffee as we made our way through the large entry doors, and instantly caught sight of Roman talking to Callum and Declan in the center.
“Nice of you to warn me that I was going to have an audience, Roman,” I said sarcastically, throwing my cup in a nearby trashcan and setting my jacket on the ground near the entrance before making my way over to him and the other heirs.
Roman just gave me a scathing look as Callum and Declan made their way over to the seats next to Lachlan near the wall.
“Warm-up and stretch,” he said, beginning to do the same himself.
“You sure do have a way with words,” I stated, beginning with some light stretches to get my muscles limbered up.
There was no reply, and we continued to stretch and warm-up in silence until he finally deemed us ready to train.
“Alright, we’ll start with some basic combos like you saw us doing at the beginning of the last training section with the guards. Focus on form and correct technique before anything else.”
I nodded my head and got into a general fighting stance as he began to call out combos and other basic movements. He stopped me once or twice over the next half hour to make some small corrections to my form, but overall, it was pretty uneventful.
I had broken a light sweat as we finished up the combos, but I was nowhere near tired. I could feel my runes fueling my muscles under my long-sleeve shirt, even though I hadn’t called them.
They never really quit lending me strength, and because of that, Knox used to find it exceedingly difficult to wear me out once I got into the rhythm of training.
Most of the time I loved the extra boost since it was really handy in a fight and allowed me to train for much longer periods of time than a normal person, but right now I just wanted to fly under the radar.
Roman looked me over and finally decided I was ready to move onto the next section of training.
“How good are you with weapons?” He asked. It seemed like an innocent enough question, but I hadn’t forgotten our audience, and I was not about to give them the full scope of my abilities.
“I’ve had a little practice,” I started, not really wanting to explain the full extent of Knox’s training yet. “Show me what you have and we can go from there?”
“Alright, come on,” he conceded, leading me over to a large wall on the other end of the room.
At first sight, it looked like any other blank wall, but there was a small keypad near the corner. Roman headed over to it and typed out a short code and I watched as the wall transformed right in front of my eyes.
The front panel that had looked like a wall only a few seconds ago slid up slowly, revealing rows upon rows of weapons. I was in freaking Heaven.
Not that my runes couldn’t produce these weapons on their own, but to see them all lined up like this with so many different sizes and types I was very impressed.
“Like what you see?” Roman asked with a small smirk.
I nodded, not bothering to hide my interest, and walked up to a pair of push daggers that caught my eye. Without thinking twice I reached out for them.
“Wait, no! Don’t-”
But it was too late. I heard Roman’s warning from behind me, but my fingertips had already closed around the daggers and I smiled as I pulled them off the wall to inspect them closer.
The blade looked deadly sharp, and the engravings decorating it were intricate and beautiful. The swirling lines and beautiful patterns drew me in, and I could tell the daggers were handmade.
The handle, inlaid with red rubies and covered in even more beautifully intricate carvings, fit perfectly in my hand.
Upon closer inspection, I noticed there were words also engraved in the blades within the other swirling lines and patterns, but I couldn’t read the language.
“What does this say, Roman?” I asked, having heard him come up behind me as I admired the daggers.
“In the darkest of night, the light will shine bright.” There was a somber tone in his voice, and I found myself looking behind me to meet his eyes.
“Addie, you aren’t supposed to be able to touch those,” He stated, and as I looked in his eyes, I saw a mix of wonder, curiosity, and, was that fear?
“Why not?” I asked.
“Every other person who's touched them has been burned. Badly. Addie, that line is from a prophecy. Those daggers were made for the Queen during the war. They were her favorite pair right up until the moment she died. They were lost after her death until about a year ago when they showed up on this wall. No one knows how they got there, and no one has been able to touch them since,” Roman explained.
“Does that mean I can keep them?” I asked. I couldn’t figure out what it was, but I was deeply drawn to the daggers, and I found myself not wanting to let them go.
“I guess I can’t stop you. I can’t physically get them out of your hands, so for now they’re yours,” he stated reluctantly.
I smiled and made my way over to where I had laid my jacket on the ground. As I tucked them inside, I noticed they fit perfectly, almost as if the pocket within the jacket had been made specifically for them.
Before I had any more time to appreciate the new weapons, I heard the wooshing of air behind me and turned around just in time to catch a practice sword flying at my head.
“Thanks a lot, jackass. You could’ve warned me,” I spat, getting up to walk back over to where Roman stood waiting in the center of the room.
“You any good with the sword?” He asked, apparently not thinking my comment worth replying to.
“You didn’t care to ask me that before you threw one at my head?” I hissed, getting into a basic fighting stance to ready myself for his attack.
“Would've ruined the surprise, now wouldn’t it?” He teased with a small smirk.
Did he just make a joke? A very odd, and potentially painful joke, but a joke nonetheless. Apparently, we were crossing into unknown territory now.
I smirked back at him and shrugged my shoulders. “Fair enough, but now you’ve opened the field to sneak attacks. Don’t think I’m not going to get you back for that one.”
He chuckled deeply at that, and a whole new round of heat made its way down to my core. What the hell was it with these guys that made my libido go into overdrive?
I shook my head slightly to clear it and raised my practice sword. “Are we gonna chitchat or fight?”
Before I even had the chance to finish the full sentence, Roman rushed me. I knew it was a test, so I made sure not to show my full skill set while still passing as a good enough fighter to be in the guard.
Roman struck hard and the force it took for me to block it reverberated all the way up my arms.
Damn, he was strong. Without my runes to lend me arm strength I could get tired way too quickly if I let him get on offense.
But I was faster than him. The sword wasn’t my strongest weapon since I liked to get in close with my daggers during most fights or just use throwing knives to keep my opponent out of arms reach, but I was still stronger with it than the average guard in Roman’s troops.
I had watched during the training session, and they all had a very specific style. It was beautiful and finessed and it took an extreme amount of skill to battle as they did, but it lacked the grit and the creativity you learned when you fought on the streets.
I planned to use that to my advantage.
Before he had a chance to strike again, I swung out of his range and maneuvered myself to his side, hoping for an opening. He didn’t give me much at all, and I had to applaud him for it, as the position he had struck me in made it hard to defend his offside.
I wasn’t about to let the small advantage I had slip away, though, and before he had the chance to maneuver into an offensive position, I swept my sword towards the only spot on his side that was partially vulnerable.
He brought his sword down to meet mine just in time, and instead of taking the brunt of his block, I let it sweep my sword to the side and used the momentum to turn myself into a new position.
His eyes widened a little at my adaptation to his style. By not taking the block with brute force, I protected myself from him using his strength against me.
It wasn’t a tactic I could use every time, as it was harder to protect myself throughout the movements, but it allowed me a little more time in the fight without the help of my runes.
We continued sparring for quite some time when at one point the movement of one of the other heirs to the side caught my eye. The momentary distraction was all it took for Roman to find an opening and I dodged his sword strike too late.
I knew the moment it hit I would have a nasty bruise on my ribs from the amount of force he used, but it never ended up touching me.
“What the hell was that for, Roman?! You pulled back!” I exclaimed, looking up to see confusion in his face before he blocked it off and returned to wearing his cold mask.
“What do you mean what the hell was that for. Of course, I pulled it back. The weight I had behind that blow would have seriously hurt you. You knew I had gotten you and I knew it too, so there was no reason to hit you.” His expression stayed locked down, but I could tell he meant what he said by the weight he put into his words.
“You hit me because it teaches me not to do it again. It teaches you how to fight through the pain. The fight wasn’t over, Roman. I dodged in time for the hit to have only done surface damage, and although it would have hurt, I would have still been able to finish the fight. Fighting through the pain is a necessary skill. Next time, don’t pull back.” I put my free hand on my hip and attempted to get in an intimidating position to prove my point.
The room instantly charged with tension. Now that I knew what he was, I could tell that he was trying to bring his animal to the surface to demand my submission.
Like hell. No way I was backing down on this one.
“I’m not going to hit a girl, Addie. No matter how much you think it’s necessary.”
“Bullshit. You won’t hit me full on because I’m a girl?! I made a mistake, Roman. A mistake that in a true fight could’ve seriously cost me. You’re telling me that if one of your guards made that mistake you would pull back?”
His lack of answer told me all I needed to know.
“If you won’t treat me like any other opponent, then this isn’t going anywhere. I can train on my own from now on or find someone else to spar with.” I refused to drop eye contact with him, and I could tell it was getting to him.
“Fine. You don’t want to train with me, then that’s on you. You won’t ever be worthy of training with the guard anyway. If anything, today just showed me that.” His stare burned holes straight through me and I tried not to let him see how much his words affected me.
It wasn’t long before he looked away and stomped off. I didn’t even give any of the others a chance to comment before I grabbed my jacket with the two daggers still inside and made my way out the doors.
Fucker. What right did he have to tell me what I could and couldn’t be. I was a motherfucking girl, yes. But that didn’t make me less. I guess I would just have to work a little harder to show him that. He had no idea who he was dealing with.
I would take his attempts to break me down and use them as fuel to get better because this fire inside me was only getting stronger, and Roman was going to have to figure out just how hot it burned.