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Her Elemental Dragons: Stroke the Flame: Chapter 24

KIRA

When I returned to camp I told the guys about my strange visit from Enva, but none of them had any further insight into what she’d said or who she was. For now, she remained a mystery.

And thanks to her, I was stuck with four overprotective men who kept telling me not to wander off by myself again. The tension between them was still there, but they were united under a new purpose: keeping an eye on me at all times. Needless to say, I wasn’t thrilled.

“Where are you going?” Slade asked me the next morning, as I walked toward the forest. He was already jumping to his feet and grabbing his axe as if to follow me.

I gave him an exasperated look. “I need to relieve myself. Could I get a tiny bit of privacy?”

Jasin looked up from where he was sharpening his sword. “You shouldn’t go anywhere alone.”

“For once I agree with Jasin,” Auric said. He was jotting notes down in his journal, likely recording everything that had happened yesterday. “One of us should be with you at all times.”

I propped my hands on my hips. “Seriously, I’m fine. First of all, I wasn’t even in any danger last night, and second of all, I can protect myself.”

“We know you can, but it’s our duty to protect you,” Slade said, his brow furrowing.

Auric nodded. “Exactly. We don’t know who or what Enva was. Your encounter with her proves there are forces at work we don’t understand, whose interests might not be aligned with ours. We won’t know until we learn more.”

“Don’t follow me. I mean it!” I snapped, before storming into the forest without looking back to see if they listened. If my infuriating men wanted to chase after me, that was their problem. I couldn’t live my entire life making sure one of them was guarding me at all times.

I took care of my business quickly, just in case they were watching, then headed back toward camp. I caught sight of Reven standing in front of a stream, making the water rise and fall in front of him, almost like it was dancing.

I sighed. “Did they send you to keep an eye on me?”

“Hardly.” The water stopped moving immediately as he turned toward me with a scowl.

I gestured toward the stream. “Good to see you’re practicing. You should train with the others too sometime.”

He gave me a scathing look. “No thanks. I have no interest in keeping these powers.”

I blinked at him. “Are you still planning to leave?”

“I am.”

I’d thought he had changed his mind after all we’d been through. And with everything else already frustrating me, this was the last straw. I gestured into the forest angrily. “Why don’t you go then? No one’s stopping you.”

“None of you would survive a day without me.” He shook his head with disdain. “Besides, I can’t leave. The Gods saw to that. But I’ll find a way.”

“Good luck with that,” I tossed over my shoulder as I stomped off through the woods, even more annoyed than I’d been before. I didn’t even glance at the other men when I entered camp again, just grabbed my bow and quiver and stalked back into the forest. Target practice. That’s what I needed.

Once I was in place, I pulled the bow taut and released an arrow. It flew true and struck the tree in exactly the spot I’d intended, a little round knot in the trunk. As the arrow vibrated against the wood, I drew another one and prepared to shoot again.

‘Not bad,’ Jasin said, as he approached me through the trees.

I arched an eyebrow at him, then released my arrow without even looking at my target. It struck the tree in nearly the same spot. ‘Not bad?’

‘You’re definitely good, I’ll give you that.’

‘You think you can do better?’ I asked.

With a cocky smile, he pulled his own bow off his back and drew an arrow. With lightning fast movements, he fired into the tree, his own red-tipped arrow nearly on top of mine. As I watched, he fired three more times, forming a circle around my own arrows. What a show off.

Not to be outdone, I released my own volley, splitting each one of his arrows in half with my own. I turned to him with a wry smile.

‘Let’s call it a draw,’ he said, with a wink.

‘If you insist,” I said, shaking my head.

He gestured at my waist. ‘How’s that new sword? You any good with it?’

‘Getting there.’ I put my bow down on a tall rock and drew my blade. It fit perfectly in my hand and the weight was ideal for my size, although it was much smaller than Jasin’s.

He drew his own sword. ‘Let’s see what you’ve got.”

I lunged for him, but he was fast, even with his heavier weapon. Our blades clashed, the ringing of metal echoing through the forest as we exchanged blows. I was sure he was holding back, especially knowing how strong he was, but it was good practice for me anyway. And as we fought, my tension and frustration slowly melted away.

‘You favor your right side,’ he said. ‘Be careful of that.’

I nodded and made a mental adjustment, then slashed out at him. He did a quick swirling maneuver and the next thing I knew my sword was sticking out of the ground a few feet away. Then he grabbed me from behind, his free arm across my chest, holding me tight against him. I nearly fought back, but then his lips were on my neck, and all the fight left me.

‘So easy to let down your guard?’ he asked, as his teeth nipped at my earlobe. ‘Or maybe you wanted me to catch you?’

I stomped on his foot and pushed away from him, but all he did was laugh. Breathing heavily, I used his moment of distraction to knock his sword away. Then we were fighting hand to hand, blocking each other’s blows, although he was so much more experienced than I was that it was hardly a fair fight.

He knocked me off my feet, but I brought him down with me onto the forest floor. We tumbled over until I found myself on top of him, staring down at him as he laughed again.

‘If you wanted to get on top of me, there are easier ways,’ he said, as his hands rested on my waist.

I gazed into his eyes, my heart beating fast, and not just from our fight. ‘Don’t read too much into this.’

‘No? This is the second time we’ve been on the ground together. Although last time I was on top. You’ll have to tell me which position you prefer.’

I pushed on his chest to stand up, but he caught my wrists and pulled me back to him. The anger from before quickly turned to passion as our mouths found each other for a smoldering kiss. All I could think about was his firm body beneath mine and the way his arms circled my back to hold me against him like he never wanted to let go.

‘Kira?’ Auric called out from somewhere in the distance.

Jasin broke off our kiss and released me. ‘As much as I’d like to continue this, I think our companions are calling us.”

Reality came crashing back in and I sat up, feeling dazed. I brushed leaves off myself. ‘Right. We should get going.’

Jasin rose to his feet and offered me a hand, then pulled me close for one more kiss. ‘We’ll continue this later.’

The other three men were already on their horses and gave us looks that showed they knew exactly what we were doing. I tried not to let it get to me. Jasin would be the first to have me, and there was nothing I could do about that. Only Auric was even trying to stake his claim, so what did Slade and Reven have to be upset about?

I decided to ride with Slade, hoping it would stop some of the jealous looks. As usual, his quiet, calm strength made me feel better, as if just being near him soothed all the anxious thoughts swirling in my mind. I also found it easy to talk to him, much more so than any of the others.

“Slade, is there a magical bond tying you to me now? Or could you leave if you wanted?” I asked, as I remembered Reven’s words.

“I don’t know,” he said, in that low, grumbly voice I found so sexy. “Originally, we had this overwhelming urge to find you, but that passed once we met. I suspect any of us could leave now, but maybe not after we’re officially bound together.”

I nodded slowly. If Slade was right, then Reven could have left at any time. He was simply using the magic as an excuse. Maybe a tiny part of him wanted to be here after all.

As we rode, the landscape began to change. The forest thinned out around us, the trees becoming sparse and the ground becoming harder. I’d heard much of the Air Realm was a desert, but we wouldn’t go very far into it, luckily. At least not yet.

To avoid the border crossing—where the Onyx Guard soldiers might give us trouble—Jasin had us go out of our way over some steep hills that our horses were not happy about in the slightest. The off-road terrain slowed us down and it felt like we were making no progress at all, until we were officially in the Air Realm.

Slade’s horse threw a shoe only a few minutes later, and we were forced to stop at the first village we found. None of us thought it was safe to do so, but we didn’t have much choice, and luckily the place was small enough that there were few soldiers in it. Slade immediately took the horse to the local blacksmith, while the rest of us went to find rooms for the evening.

The inn was mostly empty and much smaller than the one we’d stayed in the other night, which suited us fine. The fewer people who saw us, the better.

‘We’d like a room for the evening,’ Jasin said to the innkeeper, a stout man with a moustache.

‘Of course. We have many rooms available. How many will you need?’

Jasin glanced back at Auric, who said, ‘Two, I think.’

The innkeeper nodded as he scanned our group. But then he paused and his eyes widened. He suddenly dropped to one knee, bowing his head. ‘Your highness! I’m sorry, I didn’t recognize you at first. Please forgive me, Prince Tanariel.”

I stared at him in confusion, until I realized who he was addressing.

Auric.


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