Chapter Five

I knocked on the door of the hotel room that I had quietly left more than twelve hours earlier. Cali opened the door and looked at me for a few seconds. I saw anger and then hesitation in her eyes as I smiled. She finally opened it wider and granted me access.

“You just left.”

I didn’t really know what to say. “I’m sorry. Last night was … I don’t know …”

“Well, I’m glad you’re here. I need to pack and so do you.” She was still talking but I had stopped listening at ‘so do you’.

“What do you mean I need to pack?”

“We’re bonded halves. Daddy has the King’s ear so you don’t have to worry about being called up. Daddy will find you something to do in the company. We’ll sort everything out once we get to France.” Disbelief were etched onto my features but she didn’t notice as she continued to pack.

“Cali, I’m not going to France with you. My family’s here.”

“Did you think I was going to stay in Hartwell with you? I can tell that you’re not even a future Sire. You should feel lucky that I even want you to go to France with me. It’s fine if you don’t have money. I have status and money. You’ll work for Daddy in France. That’s what it means to be bonded. You have to make me happy and this is what I want.”

Realization struck me hard. Future Sire … money. She was unbelievable. “Cali … you don’t understand why I’m here, it’s not for this.”

“What else is there? You’re good looking Wynter and you can hold a decent conversation. That’s why I don’t really care about the money.”

“I see.” I saw everything clearly for the first time since I met her. “I need to speak with my father … say goodbye.”

“It might seem hard now but trust me Wynter, once we get to France, you’ll never want to come back.” She looked so certain of her words but I couldn’t see past that one fundamental flaw. She was shallow.

“Come with me. We’ll have dinner at my house and you can meet my family.” Cali smiled at that and she took my hand as we left the hotel and I sped back to the farm on the bike.

I could hear the sound of laughter coming from the kitchen as I stopped on the porch for a few seconds and took a deep breath. Echo had been silent for a while now, ever since Cali had started speaking in the hotel room and I had no idea what he felt.

“I brought a guest.” Ryder was seated at the table with Shae on his lap. Milo sat next to Mallory with his arm around her shoulders while Abigail, Alexis and Nova were busy getting cutlery and plates in the kitchen.

Nova smiled pleasantly as she looked at Cali. “The more the merrier.”

“Everyone this is Cali and this is everyone.”

“Hi.” Cali smiled confidently at them and they all introduced themselves to her as we sat down.

I caught the look in Ally’s eyes as she looked at me and for a fleeting moment I saw confusion and pain in her eyes. Echo perked up and reached out to her and I could feel her relax as her eyes softened and then she quickly looked away.

I was quiet during dinner as they all asked Cali questions and Milo watched me intently, his eyes searching for something in mine. I didn’t show him anything because I was having an internal battle with Echo.

It was his nature to want his bonded half, to protect her and to love her. We rarely disagreed but we were still two separate beings, with our own separate ideas and feelings. For dragons though they wanted that bond and heirs, it was how they were built.

Even though this was Echo’s default setting he was battling it out with me. He agreed with me and that gave me the confidence to push forward and do what I had to do. There really was no other choice, maybe if Cali had been more like Ally things might have been different.

I tried to hide my own surprise at thinking of Ally in that moment. Why was I comparing the two of them? I had no idea why Echo kept reaching out to her either. For all intents and purposes, she was my sister and I had to stop thinking of her as more than that.

“You must have awakened something in Wynter because he never brings girls home.” Nova smiled as she spoke to Cali and I could see that Cali liked that idea.

“There’s some really strong feelings here.” My expression was neutral and Ryder’s head snapped towards mine with those words. He knew she was my bonded half.

“What are your plans?” Ryder had always been direct and he didn’t need to beat around the bush when he wanted to know something.

“I’ve asked Wynter to come back to France with me.” Cali sounded confident and I could see emotion swirling in her eyes every time she looked at me.

“You’re going to France?” Abigail asked me.

“That brings me to the next part.” I turned in my seat to face Cali and I took her hand in mine and smiled for the first time that night. “We only met last night and I know you’re not really expecting this ..”

“Wynter.” My name was barely a whisper on her lips as I pulled the knife from my pocket.

“The sooner we do this, the better it’ll be.” I turned her hand over and made a cut on her palm.

“Are we …” Her voice trailed off as I made a cut on my palm as well and clasped our hands together.

“Cali Knight … with the mingling of our blood, in this realm and the next, with my family bearing witness, I officially reject you.”

“What?” Her voice was barely audible now as I felt the bond lessen. Pain etched across her face as the fragile tether of our bond snapped and she inhaled sharply. I could feel that same pain searing across my chest, lasting for a total of five seconds.

“You can’t reject me! I’m Cali Knight!” Her anger was evident now, her cheeks red and her eyes glaring at me.

“I just did.”

I didn’t feel regret or emptiness, just elation and freedom. Echo didn’t say anything and I wasn’t sure how he felt about what I had just done even if he had agreed with me earlier. Everyone looked at us in shock and Milo was the first to react as he stood up.

“I’ll call you a cab.” My ears buzzed suddenly and I couldn’t make out his voice and Cali had trouble breathing. She looked pale as she leaned sideways and vomited.

My senses returned and I saw Nova next to Cali with a bucket in her hands. “Don’t try and help me now you cow!” Cali slapped Nova’s hand away and Alexis was next to them before I could even react.

“If you touch my mother again I’ll break your arm off and beat you with the bloody side until there’s nothing left to recognize.”

“Who’s your Daddy?” Shae said loudly and Ryder was the first one to start laughing. Cali looked at us as if we were insane as we joined in the laughter one by one.

I didn’t notice Milo herding Cali out of the house or putting her into the cab. I had tears in my eyes from laughing and Nova gripped my hand as she looked sadly at me. “Why did you reject your bonded half?”

“Because there’s someone I love more.”

“Wynter can’t go to Romania if he’s bonded.” Nova looked at Ryder and I realized that he hadn’t told any of them about the notice he’d received.

“It’s time to tell them Dad.” Silence followed my words and Ryder leaned forward and put his elbows on the table, his hands clasped in front of him as if in prayer.

“Dragonkin men and women between the ages of seventeen and twenty-five are being called up to report in Romania. There are rumours about Royal Guards and so forth and so far it’s only dragonkin being called.”

“That means I’m going to Romania too.” Abigail’s voice held fear and unease.

“You’re not going alone Abby and I won’t let anything happen to you.”

“What’s going on? You’re scaring me, why would something happen to me?” she asked.

“Your dragon,” Alexis said with wide eyes. “They’ll want you for your dragon!”

“You rejected your chance at happiness for me?” Abigail had tears in her eyes as the realization of her own future settled in her. It hadn’t been a difficult choice, not for her. There wasn’t anything in this world that I wouldn’t do for my family.

“It wouldn’t have worked out in the long run Abby. She’s too shallow, worried about titles and power, besides, choosing you, any of you, I’d do it in a heartbeat.”

“Can’t you decline to go?” Alexis asked.

“It wasn’t a request.”

“Is Abby going to die?” Shae asked innocently.

“Nobody’s dying Shae.” I smiled at her and winked and she gave me a smile back.

“When?” Nova looked like she might burst into tears at any moment. She had raised Abigail as her own since the girls were five and she’d always been a good mother to all of us.

“Two weeks.”

Milo hadn’t said a word and I looked at him now. He looked almost confused as he frowned and our eyes met. “You kept it from me.” He nodded his head and stood up, not looking at me once as he walked out of the kitchen, his mouth in a tight line.

“Go talk to him.” Ally’s voice was barely a whisper as I looked at Ryder. Nobody was smiling anymore and I knew that Ryder would also get the third degree from Nova.

I found Milo down by the dock. His shoulders were squared and his fists were clenched by his sides. It was a stance that I knew. He was pissed off and gearing up for a fight. “Milo.”

His arm swung around with him and his fist connected with my jaw as he growled low in his throat. His eyes had turned black and his fangs had elongated. He was beyond pissed off. “You’re a bastard!”

“Breathe through the rage Milo otherwise we can trade hits.” I was pissed off too. Life wasn’t fair but me not telling him about Romania was because it wasn’t my place to tell it. I knew that Abby didn’t know anything, so I waited for Ryder to do it.

“Piss off Wynter! I’m your brother, we share everything!” His fist came swinging again and I ducked my head out of the way as we started trading hits. He grunted a few times as I connected with his ribs and I knew this was him getting rid of his anger. He couldn’t hurt me even if he tried.

When his knuckles broke his arm fell to his side and he sat down on the grass, breathing hard. “Shit.”

“You’re not really pissed off that I didn’t tell you.”

“I’m not?” He seemed more like himself now and I smiled.

“You’re pissed off because you can’t come with me.”

“Wouldn’t you be if the roles were reversed?” He was right, I would be pissed too. We’d always done everything together, our whole lives and except for blood, we were brothers.

“I get it Milo but I always have a plan.”

“What plan? You don’t know anything yet, where you’ll be, what’ll happen.” His eyes had turned back to their original colour and he rubbed his hands over his face.

“Once I’m there and I know what they want, you’ll be in Romania too.”

“Don’t get caught Wynter. I’m not burying a brother.”

“It doesn’t matter what they do, King Florin will die by my hands and you’ll share that with me because he’s the man that took our family from us.”

“Screw treason, this is revenge.” Milo’s hands clenched in fists again as we stood up from the grass and made a silent vow to each other.

“We still have two weeks so don’t get stuck on revenge right now. It might be weeks before I know anything.”

“I just can’t imagine a world where you’re not in it, with me.”

“I’ll ask Winston to send you some dick pics to keep you occupied.” Milo laughed as he punched my arm and we headed back to the guesthouse, smiling.

If it were up to me I’d be leaving in the morning, two weeks was a long time to wait but I could be patient. I could wait for that perfect moment to strike, and I would. King Florin was a dead man.

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