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Her Elemental Dragons: Light the Fire: Chapter 8

We stopped for a quick lunch by a tiny stream that looked like it might dry up at any moment. How would we get water at the volcano anyway? People had lived there at one point so there must be a way, but it only reminded me I had no idea what to expect at the temple.

I sat with my back against a scraggly little tree which offered a tiny amount of shade. Derel sat beside me, taking the rest of the shade, while the other guys found other spots near the stream to try to stay cool. As we got closer to Valefire it would no doubt get hotter too.

“What do you think we’ll encounter at the Fire Temple?” I asked, as I ripped apart a piece of the bread my mother had packed for us.

Derel brushed crumbs off of himself. “I don’t know. Hopefully it’s still standing.”

“Were your parents upset about you leaving? They’ll have to find someone else to help run the butcher shop now.”

“Dad was upset, but luckily my cousin can step in and take my place at the shop. Mom was sad, but was also excited because I was going with you.” He rolled his eyes. “Still hoping we’ll get married and give her tons of grandkids, no doubt.”

“Of course.” Except…we kind of were getting married. Not officially, but in practice. Unless they didn’t see it the same way I did?

“Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked, trying to ignore the tightness in my chest. “I know the two of us haven’t always gotten along in the past.”

He snorted. “Only because you’re always picking fights with me.”

I turned to face him. “Me? You’re the one who is always rude to me!”

“Maybe because you deserve it.”

I threw my last piece of bread at his head. “I do not. If anyone deserves rudeness, it’s you.”

He threw the bread back at me, his brows drawn together. “Gods, you make me crazy, Calla. You’re stubborn and infuriating and so damn beautiful it nearly hurts to look at you sometimes.”

“I…what?” I’d been so ready to argue with him more that his last words made my mouth fall open in shock.

He slid his hand into my hair and drew me toward him, capturing my wordless surprise with his lips. Twenty years of pent-up frustration and desire unraveled at his kiss and I found myself pulling at his shirt to draw him closer. When his tongue slid against mine it sent a rush of heat right between my legs.

“I’m shocked,” I managed to say. “I had no idea you felt that way.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. You must know how we all feel about you.”

“No, I truly don’t.” Although I was beginning to realize it. I probably should have known all along, but I’d been worried my feelings for them were mostly one-sided. Only once they’d agreed to journey with me to the Fire Temple did I realize they might care for me the same way I cared for them.

Derel ran his fingers through my blond hair like he couldn’t get enough of it. “I’ve wanted to kiss you for years. I’ve spent long nights thinking about wrapping this hair around my fingers. And all the other things I want to do with you too…”

“If you had feelings for me, why didn’t you ever tell me?

He shrugged. “I thought you hated me.”

I softened against him and touched his face in wonder. “I never hated you, I just hated the circumstances we were in. Our mothers forced us together from the time we were born. We never had a choice in the matter and that made me frustrated. I guess I took it out on you. I’m sorry.”

“I’m equally guilty. I was pretty horrible to you at times.”

“Yes, like the time you pushed me in the ocean when we were five. Or when we were seven and you tricked me into sitting on those strawberries and ruined my dress. Or—”

He grimaced. “Okay, yes, I was quite awful. But I had to get your attention somehow.” He let out a low laugh. “Wow, I’d forgotten about the strawberries. No wonder you hated me.”

“I didn’t hate you. Well, maybe a little…”

He pulled me close and kissed me again, and every time it was like a revelation. I’d spent my entire life thinking Derel was my nemesis. Now I looked on him with a whole new light.

“We should probably get going,” he finally said. He helped me to my feet and we brushed dirt off ourselves, but then he paused. “There was another reason I was rude to you.”

“What was it?”

He glanced over at the other guys, who looked like they were trying to watch us without being too obvious about it. “Falon.”

“Falon only sees me as a friend.”

“We both know that’s not true of anyone in this group.” He shook his head. “Like I said last night, you should talk to him about that.”

With those words he grabbed his pack and walked away, leaving me with only my thoughts. I grabbed my things and hurried after him.

For the next few hours we traveled through the empty wilds, the volcano looming large in front of us. As I kicked up dirt, I went through my memories of Derel and saw everything he’d done—all the pranks, the teasing, the arguments—in a new light. It made me wonder what else I’d been wrong about all my life.

I slowed my pace to fall in line with Falon, who walked at the rear of the group. Last time I’d tried to talk to Falon about us it hadn’t gone as planned, but his being here had to be a sign he cared for me as more than a friend…didn’t it?

“I see you and Derel have worked out your issues finally,” he said with a teasing voice.

“We did.” While Derel had long driven me mad, Falon had a way of calming me. I always relaxed in his presence. “He told me to talk to you.”

He ducked his head and rubbed the back of his neck. “Me? Why?”

“He said one of the reasons he pushed me away all these years was because of you.” I glanced over at Falon quickly to gauge his reaction, but couldn’t meet his eyes.

He blew out a long breath. “What a pair we are. He wouldn’t do anything because of me, and I wouldn’t do anything because of him.”

“What do you mean?”

He stopped and turned toward me, allowing me to gaze into his clear blue eyes. “Gods, after so many years this is difficult to finally admit. I have feelings for you, Calla. I always have.”

Warmth spread throughout my chest. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You’ve been promised to Derel for our entire lives—how was I supposed to get in the way of that?”

“You knew that was what our parents wanted, not us.”

“Trust me, Derel wanted it too. He pretended he didn’t because he knew how I felt about you and he didn’t want to get in the way. Which naturally was the same reason I never acted on my feelings. Maybe one of us might have told you the truth eventually, but then you became involved with Roth and it looked like you would marry him, so we decided to keep our feelings to ourselves.”

“Yes, but my relationship with Roth didn’t last long.”

“True, but then you started seeing Blane…”

I shook my head. “That wasn’t serious.”

He arched an eyebrow. “Is that what you think? Because I’m pretty sure it’s serious to him.”

I bit my lip and looked over at Blane. I’d have to talk to him later to see if Falon was right. I turned back to Falon and sighed. “I wish I’d known the truth all this time. I thought you only saw me as a friend.”

“I didn’t know if you felt that way for me either. Not until last night.” He took my hands in his and gave me a warm smile. “I was terrified if I told you I had feelings for you that you wouldn’t return them and it would ruin our friendship. I couldn’t stand the thought of that. I tried to tell myself your friendship was enough, and that I’d be happy if you married one of the other guys, but the truth was, I was miserable seeing you with them. I wanted it to be me.”

“Are you going to be okay with this arrangement?”

“I think so. It’s the perfect solution.” He glanced over at the other three guys, who were still trudging along ahead of us. “The five of us were all so close when we were younger. We’ve each loved you for years. But we knew if we acted on it, it could tear our group apart.”

“Roth and Blane acted on it,” I pointed out.

“Roth was a selfish jerk before the attack,” Falon said with a wink. “But we would have gladly let you marry him if he made you happy. Blane too, for that matter. But you probably noticed that once you became involved with them, the group stopped spending as much time together.”

I nodded. “I know, and I realize that was partly my fault. I just hope this situation brings us closer together instead of tearing us further apart.”

“It will. We may be hesitant at first to share you, but we’d rather share you than not have you at all.” He took my face in his hands. “And now I’m going to kiss you, because I’m the only one who never has.”

“Finally,” I said.

He bent his head and touched his mouth to mine slowly, then gave me soft, teasing kisses, as though he was learning the shape of my lips. I slid my arms around his neck and pulled him closer, wanting more, but he was infuriatingly patient. I suppose he had to be, if he’d waited this long to kiss me. But then his tongue swiped across my lower lip and I opened for him with a gasp. As his tongue slid sensually against mine, he clutched me in his arms and made me feel cherished and adored, like he wanted to take his time kissing me and never let me go.

He pressed his forehead against mine. “Even better than I imagined it would be.”

“Good, now you’ve kissed all of us,” Blane called out. “We can finally move on to the fun stuff.”

I laughed. “What makes you think that will happen?”

“A man can hope.”

“That seems rather presumptuous,” I said, as I hefted my bag onto my other shoulder and continued walking alongside Falon. Gods, why had I packed so many things? With each step the bag became heavier and heavier.

“Isn’t that why we’re here?” Blane asked with a wicked grin. “To serve you?”

“You’re coming with me to serve the Fire God.” A small smile played across my lips. “And to keep me company, I suppose.”

“I think Blane has a specific way he wants to pass the time,” Derel said.

Blane chuckled. “As if you aren’t hoping for the same thing.”


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