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Her Elemental Dragons: Stroke the Flame: Chapter 27


“I’m going after her,” Jasin said, already charging forth into the field.

Slade caught the soldier’s shoulder. “Don’t. You’re the last person she wants to see right now.”

Jasin’s brow furrowed. “But why? I’m not the one who set that house on fire. I would never do anything like that!”

“She knows that, but she’s not thinking clearly right now. Just give her some space.”

“Fine,” Jasin said, slumping against a broken cart. “I just hate seeing her upset.”

“We all do,” Auric said.

While they stood around moping, I slipped between the trees, needing space of my own. Like Kira, the sight and smell of that fire, plus that cursed dragon in the sky, had brought back a lot of painful memories. Now I wanted nothing more than to get away from this place and wash the soot and ash off my hands and clothes.

I’d tried my best to put out the fire. I’d done what I could to save the people inside. But I’d failed. Just like I’d failed when I was a child and couldn’t save my family from Sark’s fire. Except now it was worse, because I could summon water. But my magic still wasn’t enough.

It was a stark reminder that I shouldn’t be here. I was no hero. Most of my life I’d been a villain. That wasn’t going to change. The sooner I left, the better it would be for everyone.

I spotted Kira ahead of me, crumpled on the ground, and found myself making my way over to her even though I knew it was a bad idea. Not only because she needed some space, but because I didn’t want to get involved with her. I had to keep my distance so I could easily leave when the time came. But I couldn’t ignore the sight of her back hunched over in the dirt, knowing she was in as much pain as I was.

She looked up with a start as I emerged from the wheat beside her, then let out a sad laugh. “You’re the last person I would have expected to come find me.”

I crossed my arms. “Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not here to comfort you.”

She wiped at her eyes. “Then why are you here?”

“I couldn’t stand to listen to your boyfriends bicker anymore so I went for a walk. I just happened to stumble across you here.”

“I see,” she said, although she didn’t sound convinced. She was no longer crying though, and instead regarded me with a curious expression on her face. “You could have kept walking.”

I gave a casual shrug. “I like this spot.”

The slightest hint of a smile crossed her lips. “Me too.”

For the next few minutes she wiped at her soot-streaked face and stared off into the fields, while her breathing slowed and her shoulders relaxed. I stood near her in companionable silence, though I had to fight the urge to wrap my arms around her and tell her everything would be okay. She didn’t need my pity or my comfort, anyway. She was already strong and brave and didn’t want someone to save her. She simply needed a few moments to remember all that.

When she rose to her feet, she was steady again. “Thank you.”

“For what?” I asked.

“For being here with me.” She moved close and pressed a hand against my black leather jerkin, looking up at me with those intriguing eyes. “For letting me have a moment to calm down while still showing me I wasn’t alone.”

“You’re reading way too much into my actions.” I should really move away. I didn’t.

“Maybe so,” she said, but then she slid her arms around my chest.

My entire body stiffened at her touch. It took me a moment to realize she was hugging me, of all things. Gods, when was the last time someone had hugged me? I couldn’t even remember. Was it my parents, before the Crimson Dragon had taken them from me? Or was it Mara, before she was killed?

My throat grew tight as emotions I tried to keep tramped down suddenly flooded me. My grief and pain at seeing the burning house and the Crimson Dragon must mirror Kira’s own, and maybe on some level she sensed that. Though I couldn’t talk about it, and wasn’t sure I would ever be able to, I understood more than anyone what she was going through.

My arms came up of their own will and circled her, pulling her tighter against my chest. She breathed out a light sigh and softened into my embrace, resting her head on my shoulder. Time melted away as we held each other, and a terrible yearning filled me as I slowly ran my fingers through her hair. For a few seconds, I imagined what it would be like if I let myself become one of her mates and could hold her like this anytime.

Startled by that train of thought, I pulled away abruptly and stepped back to put some distance between us. I’d let myself feel too much, but that was over now. I locked all those emotions away in the dark recesses of my mind, until I was calm and cool again, like ice.

“We should head back before your boyfriends start to miss you,” I said.

I turned away and began walking toward the others before she could open her mouth and make me stay with the slightest word. She made me feel too much, and that was dangerous. Caring for people made you vulnerable, and emotions made you weak.

I knew that all too well.


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