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Her Elemental Dragons: Stroke the Flame: Chapter 15

JASIN

I coaxed a small flame to life on each of my fingertips. Even after a month with these powers, they never ceased to amaze me. I doubted having magic would ever get old. After all, who wouldn’t want to be able to control fire?

The sun had only just breached the horizon, its light filtering through the thick trees around us. My companions were still asleep, but it was my turn on watch and I’d been passing the time playing with fire. Literally.

I’d moved to the other side of the stream, far enough from the camp that I wouldn’t spook the horses or accidentally set fire to anything important, but close enough to keep an eye on my companions and watch for any threats. I summoned a ball of flame between my palms, making it hotter and hotter, until it burned blue underneath my fingers. I threw it as if it were a rock, aiming it at a cluster of large stones in the middle of the stream. The fiery ball flew across and hit the stones with a burst of embers and the hiss of steam.

A twig snapped behind me and I turned quickly, but it was only Kira. Her long red hair was messy from sleep and her eyes were huge, as if startled. I glanced around, but didn’t see any signs of danger. Then I realized she was staring at the spot where I’d thrown the fire.

“Everything all right?” I asked.

She blinked and seemed to shake herself out of it. “Fine. Just half asleep.”

I nodded, but I got the feeling there was more to it than that. Was she nervous about all of our powers? Or just mine?

“Should we wake the others?” I asked, glancing back at the other men. I wasn’t sure what to think about any of them. Slade seemed like a decent enough guy, even if he didn’t talk much. Auric was a useless nobleman who shouldn’t even be on this journey. And Reven? I didn’t trust him at all. I planned to keep my eye on him so none of us ended up with a knife in our backs.

Kira, on the other hand, was everything I could have hoped for. I’d never thought I could ever settle down with just one woman, but the second I’d met her, that worry had vanished. Sharing her with the other guys though… I wasn’t sure I’d ever be okay with that. Sure, I’d shared women with other soldiers before for a night or two, but that was different. None of those women were mine. Not like Kira would be.

She moved beside me, leaning against the same thick tree trunk that had been my backrest for the last hour. “We’ll give them another few minutes to sleep. Were you practicing your magic?”

“I have to, since my new powers didn’t come with any kind of training lesson or manual on how to use them. Good thing I seem to be immune to fire now, or I’d be dead many times over, or at least a whole lot crispier.” I flashed her a grin. “The barracks I was living in? Not so lucky. But after a lot of practice over the last month, I’m learning to control what the Fire God’s given me. Mostly.”

She shivered and wrapped her arms around herself, even though it wasn’t that cold. “Probably a good idea. Just be careful.”

“Always,” I said, conjuring another fireball over my open palm.

She flinched back, her eyes fixed on the flickering flame like it was a live snake. Maybe she wasn’t scared of our magic—she was scared of fire. I closed my hand over the flame, dousing it immediately, and her shoulders relaxed.

“You don’t need to be afraid,” I said. “I’d never hurt you, Kira.”

“I’m not afraid of you.” She tore her gaze away and stared into the forest, then drew in a breath and faced me again. “Tell me about your encounter with the Fire God.”

“It was pretty incredible. A giant made out of flames came to me in the middle of the forest and told me to find you. At first, I thought maybe I’d eaten one of those weird mushrooms in the forest again. Last time that happened I saw pink dancing water elementals for two days and had a raging headache for a week.” I winked at her and she gave me a smile that made my heart beat faster. “But there was no denying this was all real and not a hallucination—not after I accidentally set my bed on fire.”

“No wonder you’re practicing,” she said. “Is that when you left the Onyx Army?”

“Pretty much. Once I accepted that I really had been chosen by the Fire God I knew I had to quit. That turned out to be a lot harder than I expected. The Onyx Army wasn’t exactly happy about one of their finest soldiers up and leaving for no real reason.” Not when he was so good at hunting the Resistance, I mentally added. “But as the days went on, the tugging in my gut told me there was no other option. This was my destiny and I had to find you, no matter what. I escaped the army and became a deserter, even though it cost me everything. My job. My friends. Probably my family too.”

“I’m sorry.” She frowned as she glanced back at the camp. “It seems none of us want to be here on this journey.”

“That’s not true. Yes, I had to give up my previous life, but I do want to be here.”

She sighed. “You might be the only one.”

“Nah. We’ve all been ripped from our normal lives and given this larger-than-life destiny to fulfill with four strangers we’re now stuck with, possibly forever. It’s going to take some getting used to for all of us.” I reached out and pushed back a stray piece of her red hair, smoothing it on her head. “But we’ll get there, I promise.”

“Thanks. I appreciate your confidence.”

“Confidence is my specialty,” I said, giving her an arrogant grin. She laughed, and the sound was so perfect I knew I’d do whatever it took to make her laugh like that again. How was it possible we’d only met yesterday?

“You’re such a flirt,” she said. “I bet you woo all the women you meet.”

“I was quite popular with the ladies, it’s true.” I leaned against the tree and gazed into her eyes. “For good reason, I assure you.”

She cocked her head. “Let me guess. You have a lover or two in every town you’ve visited, who are now all pining away, awaiting your return.”

“Not quite. And every woman who shared my bed knew I wasn’t making any promises.”

An eyebrow darted up while her smile dropped. “Is that what I should expect as well?”

“No,” I said quickly. “My past is behind me. From now on, I’m yours and yours alone. Assuming you want me as your mate, of course.”

Our eyes locked and heat passed between us, but then she quickly looked away. “We should probably get ready.”

She straightened, brushed herself off, and headed back to the main part of the camp. I watched her go, checking out her behind in those tight hunting leathers she wore, then sighed. I’d ruined the moment with my stupid mouth, and now she doubted my loyalty. Sure, I’d slept with lots of women, but that was before I’d met her. She couldn’t hold that against me now.

I made another flaming ball, the frustration fueling my magic and making it especially large, and then I hurled it at the stones with extra vigor. Unfortunately, I missed. The fire hit the grass on the other side of the stream, instantly setting it alight. Panic rose in my throat as the flames spread to a nearby tree, but I was too horrified to do anything. Gods, what had I done?

Water leaped up from the stream and covered the fire, dousing the flames with a loud sizzle. I turned and saw Reven standing in the shadow of the tree. He gave me a sharp look, before turning away. How long had he been there, spying on us?

Worst of all, Kira stood behind him. And she’d seen it all too.


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