“Who the fuck is Magic Mike?” I question, crossing my arms, and Ellelin jumps out of her skin. They both giggle, and I’m pretty sure I missed the joke somewhere. Ellelin looks up at me with her beautiful, clear blue eyes. Her eyes remind me of the blue sea at Lysander’s home. It’s so crystal clear that there isn’t anything you can’t see. Fire is my element, my home, but I will admit sea blue is calling to me recently. I flick a bit of her dark purple hair. I even enjoy the purple hair. It’s a strange colour to have chosen, but I like it, and I assume she doesn’t like her natural hair colour for some reason I’m yet to find out.
She frowns at me as I breathe in her scent. She smells like jasmine night flowers that my mother used to have in her room. I never knew which court they came from. “You’re done with training already?”
“Unless you want to spar with me,” I suggest, offering her my spear.
Her cheeks go red and it’s cute as fuck. “No, after watching that, I’m good.”
Emrys comes out of the tunnel and walks over to us. Hope and the others are leaving, and she waves at us. I know she doesn’t get along with Ellelin, but I believe it’s because they are more alike than they want to admit. Lysander doesn’t make it better, blowing hot and cold with Hope like he has done for years. We all know he doesn’t love her, and he won’t have her as his queen unless he is forced into it. The only one who never sees that is Hope. She has loved him since we were kids and he saved her from drowning. He found Hope as a kid, floating in the sea, with no parents to be found. His mother took her in as her ward, along with Emrys’s mother, who had her half the year. Hope said she doesn’t remember where she is from, but I think she is lying. She came from the West.
The fucker leans over and kisses Elle on the cheek, and fury burns in my chest. My dragon’s all ready to rip out of my skin and tear my friend to pieces for just kissing her cheek. I have to physically hold myself still, tell myself that he’s my friend and that we don’t rip our friends to pieces because we’re jealous over a girl. Even when she looks at him like that. She likes Emrys. I’m certain of it, but I’m not sure how he feels. Emrys has always been hard to read. I thought for maybe a moment that she likes Grayson, too. They’ve been having these weird private lessons together. I look between them.
Yeah, I’m wrong. He glares at her like everyone else.
Emrys touches my forearm. “I need to speak to you, mate. Alone.”
I nod. What the fuck has happened now? I turn to Elle, kissing her forehead. Emrys and Grayson watch me kiss her forehead like I’m stealing her from them. We have a big fucking problem brewing here. “I’ll catch up to you later, and we can have dinner together if you want?”
“I’d like that,” she replies, looking at Gray. “You could join us, if you want?”
“I will,” Grayson replies, moving to her side. They walk off together, and I frown at their backs. Grayson…wants to eat with her? He hates eating with people.
When we are alone, I turn to Emrys. “What’s the matter?”
His voice is quiet. “My court’s been attacked again. I can’t stay here much longer. It’s getting ridiculous. There were reports of them using lightning, and they have taken twenty of my people.”
“Must be a rumour. It’s impossible,” I mutter, rubbing my face. The dragon riders of the West are a real fucking big problem. For years, they never had a leader, and they wouldn’t dare attack our shores, but in the last three years, a new leader has appeared, and they are attacking. Our spies are dead, and we have no idea what is going on over there now. They are mortals who ride dragons that are trapped in shifter form. Since this race began, they are attacking more and more. They know we aren’t there to defend our people. “I’ll send more of my fighters to help your court. If any court falls, we are all fucked.”
“Thank you, friend.” Emrys pats my shoulder. His people are not fighters, and the dragon riders know this.
The longer we stay here, the longer it takes us to get a bride to keep our magic, and the more danger our people are in. The West is coming for us, and we are at war.
“As you know, the rules of my training session are simple,” Xandry begins, pacing in front of our group as he always does. “I’ll choose two of you to come into the ring. Fighting dirty is allowed, but try not to break any bones, with the final race coming up. I would suggest no hitting between your legs, but you are all girls, and I don’t think you play that dirty.”
I ignore Xandry’s terrible jokes as some of the girls laugh, not me though. I glance at Arty, who hasn’t spoken to me since yesterday. When I got back to my room, she was sleeping, and she didn’t come for breakfast. I don’t know what upset her about my questions, but I want to ask more. I need to know why she is being like this. Arty looks my way and quickly looks back at the tutor.
“Can we get on with it?” Hope deadpans. It’s been two weeks since the air test, and Hope still hates me, even though I saved her life. It didn’t surprise me she didn’t say thank you, but she’s more of an ungrateful cow than I realised. It’s becoming personal for me to beat her in combat, and I haven’t been set against her in a few days. Now all I want to do is beat her. It’s all I think about. I’m avoiding Arden like the plague after our kiss yesterday because I feel awful. I asked the castle to take me to Lysander today after Grayson didn’t show for training, but the castle didn’t want to help me. Maybe it knows about our deal and how much of a crappy person I am to Arden.
I need to make a new deal with Lysander. I need to make sure he doesn’t hurt my grandmother. I feel terrible letting Arden that close to me, because I’m doing exactly what Lysander wanted me to do, but at some point, it was no longer about Lysander’s threat. At some point, I didn’t want to play his game anymore and it just became about wanting to be near Arden. I haven’t felt like this before and it’s confusing, as much as it scares me. Grayson and I barely talk during training anymore, but the tension is thick between us, making it worse with every lesson, and I was almost glad he didn’t show this morning. He is making every lesson that we have worse. Sometimes I see Emrys around the castle, and I swear he is looking for me. He asked me to come to the balcony the last time I saw him, but I didn’t trust myself to go. Because the truth is I have feelings for them, feelings for them that I shouldn’t have. I can’t have a life here and one back home. It doesn’t work like that.
I didn’t choose this, and having feelings for them isn’t what I want. I refuse to admit I care about the dragon kings. Caring would be the end of my freedom.
“Fine, Hope, you’re up first,” Xandry bites out. Hope is the only one who seems to piss him off in class. He looks around, settling on me. “Ellelin, up you come.”
Hope grins at me like she has already won as she goes to the middle of the circle. Xandry comes over to both of us. “Let’s make this more interesting. Don’t stab deep.”
He hands Hope and me silver daggers. Fuck. I haven’t trained in daggers. My hand feels sweaty around the handle of the blade as I take it from Xandry. Hope looks like she has won the lottery as she spins her dagger around in her hand. “Today is going to be a good one.”
“You’re as psychotic as your boyfriend,” I mutter.
Hope shrugs. “I like to think of us as engaged, considering our wedding won’t be that far off now. Shame you won’t be around to see it.”
I snort and laugh. “Aww, did he get down on one knee and everything? Did you blush as you accepted his ring?”
Her eyes angrily narrow on me. “I might not have a ring, but I’m in his bed every night. You’re one to talk with a Fire Court ring on your finger. Did Arden get down on one knee too?”
There are hushed whispers around the group, who are watching intently. “It’s not an engagement ring!”