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.
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.
Two weeks had gone by too fast. Milo and I didn’t go out; I spent time with my family. Abigail was nervous and in the end Nova and Alexis had packed her suitcase for her. My duffel bag had been ready for six days. We couldn’t take any weapons on a commercial flight but Clark had already been in contact with me.He knew what I knew about Romania and he’d promised me that there would be a drop as soon as I knew where I would be staying. I had given Abigail a burner phone as well so that the two of us could share information if we were separated.I had everything under control and I wasn’t worried. Abigail though would have to calm down and stop acting so nervous. I understood her fear, not knowing what would happen, especially when they discovered her dragon, but Ryder had explained it to her.Three nights earlier we had all sat at the kitchen table after dinner. “They won’t kill you Abby.”“Your dragon is valuable.” She looked up at me as I spoke and I gripped her hand tightly.“The Ki
It was two am when we finally landed in Bucharest. We retrieved our luggage and walked towards the exit. Near the doors were a table with one man sitting behind it, there was a line of five people ahead of us. We had received instructions that we were to report to the man sitting by the ‘Winter Camp’ table.“Name?” The man spoke with a heavy accent and barely glanced at us.“Wynter and Abigail Grey.”He flipped over two pages before ticking off our names on his list. “There’s a bus marked Winter Camp just outside, it will take you to Sinaia and the camp. Keep these identity cards on you at all times. Good luck.”“Thanks.”It was a ten seater bus, very small in comparison to what I was used to seeing back home. Our identity cards were scanned and I led Abigail to the back and let her sit by the window. Twenty minutes later all ten seats were occupied and the bus started.“Hey. Gerard de Yong.” He had turned in his seat and offered his hand in greeting.“Wynter Grey.” I shook his hand a
“Good morning trainees! I trust you’ve all had sufficient rest and time to familiarize yourselves with this camp. As you will see behind us are tents with different coloured flags, please go to the tent that matches your bracelet.” The man standing in front of us was tall, muscular and had an air of authority.“Move! Now!” His voice was loud and everybody started to scatter towards the different tents. I headed towards the Violet tent. I kept to the back of the line as men scanned their bracelets to be admitted and be accounted for.Costin stood on the other side next to another man as they surveyed the group in front of them. My bracelet scanned and then flashed a blue light instead of green as with everyone else. Costin nodded his head and the second man took notice of me too.“These will be your instructors. On the far right we have Emil, Timo and Pavel. Each group will have one instructor. First group will be future Sires with Emil, the second group will be second in command with
Abigail was nervous and her hands trembled as she packed her suitcase. She hadn’t changed much in the weeks since we arrived but I could almost taste her fear. My duffel bag was on the floor near the room’s door and I pulled her into my arms as my hand smoothed over her hair and hugged her.“It’ll be okay, I promise.”“I trust you Wynter but I can’t help feeling like bait here.”“You’re not bait Abby. If I had a choice you’d never even meet the King. The plan was for you to meet him if I didn’t get a way in. I never thought he’d call for both of us at the same time.”“I’m just scared. Scylla doesn’t have a good feeling about this.”“It’s a request I can’t refuse. You don’t say no to the King. I’d die before I let anything happen to you.” I kissed her on top of her head as she squeezed her arms around my ribs once and finished packing.Two Royal Guards were waiting beside an SUV for us. Abigail held my hand all the way to the Country Palace that was a lavish estate. There were guards a
I handed Sorin the memory stick and he brought his laptop to the table nestled between the sofas. I leaned back into my seat, knowing that his life would never be the same again, not after this.The only sound in Sorin’s office was the clicking of his mouse as he looked through the files. I could see from his expression that the truth was beginning to dawn on him. “What the hell is all this?”“You’re looking at a kill order that King Florin sent to the Florida Elders. They reported me and my mother to the King. I merged with my dragon when I was five. When King Rex died my father was ordered to France. King Florin asked my father to remain as the King’s Assassin, which he declined, but the kill order had already been sent.”“That is the King’s signature.” Sorin confirmed what I already knew.“If the King ordered your deaths, how are you, your father and Abigail still alive?” Dorin was clenching and unclenching his hands.“My father was on a jet back to Florida when he realized somethi
I could hear low murmuring from the dining hall as Abigail and I made our way down the hall, across the large foyer, following the footman that had appeared at our door. I squeezed Abby’s hand and gave her a confident smile as she nodded her head and smiled back at me.The conversation hushed as the footman cleared his throat. “Your Majesty, King Florin de Haviland, King of Dragons, I present to you Wynter and Abigail Grey.”We bowed our heads in respect as the King stood up and gave us a warm smile. “Please, do join us.”“Thank you my King.”Sorin had stood up and pulled out Abigail’s chair for her as she sat between him and me with Prince Nicu, Cali, Princess Maya and Dorin on the other side of the table. The princess smiled broadly at me as I sat down and I looked her in the eye. I knew that look well too.“Mr Grey, I heard from my son that you were bonded to Cali here but rejected her.” The King’s voice carried across the large table as servants filled our wine glasses.“Yes my Ki
Maya led me to the back of the palace, through a bookcase in the library and down a dark secret passageway. I would remember this entrance at the back of the palace, hidden under a trellis of wisteria flowers. I tucked the route at the back of my mind for when I would need it in future. I was pretty sure I would.We entered the private gardens of the Royal Family and Maya pulled me closer to her as we kept walking. The moon was full and bright, looking down on us from high above. Maya stopped and sat down on a beautifully carved bench close to a wooden bridge that had a small stream flowing underneath it.“Where did you learn to fight like that?”“My father trained me from a young age and it suited me well when I joined the Unit for further training.”Maya’s eyes were a deep blue with specs of brown, an interesting mix. Her hair was chestnut brown and although she was on the short side, she exuded confidence and elegance. “The Elite Unit?”“I was there for five years, hunting everyon
We took our seats and King Florin gave thanks to Typhon for our many blessings and servants entered the room to take our orders. Cali walked into the dining room and gave Nicu a look as she took a seat next to Maya.Abigail was seated next to Nicu and he paid absolutely no attention to Cali. I caught Cali staring at me a few times but my eyes didn’t linger on her. I felt no sympathy for her, she was shallow, cruel and perhaps even vindictive. I’d have to speak to the King about what she could be capable of when she found out that Nicu planned to propose to Abigail.We had all put our orders in and a few minutes later fresh fruit and yoghurts were brought in and Nicu surprised everyone when he served Abigail a helping of each.“Thank you Nicu.” Cali’s spoon clanged against her bowl as Nicu stared at Abigail, looking like he was in love.Protocol didn’t allow for commoners like us to call any member of the Royal Family by their names. They were to be addressed by their titles at all ti