For a minute, just a minute, I think about heading back to the school. But then Flint finishes his rules and beckons like some kind of prince for Grace and Macy to join him. They do—of course they do—and Grace reaches up and pulls on his stupid dragon hat. Flint laughs and bends his head to give her better access, and I see fucking red.
Bloodred to be exact.
It takes every ounce of control I have to stay where I am, fists clenched and teeth on edge, as I try to figure out exactly what game Flint is playing. If he’s playing a game at all.
He bends down to talk to Grace, to whisper something in her ear that I’m too far away to hear—even with my heightened senses. And when his fucking lips nearly brush the small strip of exposed skin at the top of her cheek, my fangs explode in my mouth.
I’m suddenly a whole lot closer to them without having made any conscious decision about moving, thoughts of murder and mayhem blazing a trail through my brain.
I tamp them back, shove them down deep. And pretend to myself that I’m not tracking Flint’s every move like a predator about to strike his prey.
“Chill,” Mekhi tells me from his spot behind a tree several yards away. For the first time, I’m glad he and the others wouldn’t let me come out here alone. Ostensibly, it was for my own protection—that’s how they roll—but now I can’t help but wonder if it’s for everyone else’s as well.
Fuck. I close my eyes, run a hand over my face. When it comes to Grace, I need to get my shit together…and fast. Because the universe might have decreed that she’s my mate, but that doesn’t mean anything if she doesn’t agree. And Flint comes with a lot less baggage than I do—is it any wonder she’s laughing so easily with him?
I need to move back, to give them a little more room and maybe get this damn bloodlust under control.
But then the game is on, and Grace, Macy, and Flint are running into the trees on the other side of the clearing. I let them go, determined to watch from here. But since I apparently have no self-control when it comes to this girl, my resolution lasts about five seconds before I start making my way toward them stealthily—no reason to have to explain to anyone else what I’m doing out here when I’m not even sure myself.
I skirt around a group of witches who aren’t even bothering to make snowballs. Instead they’re firing streams of snow at one another in what looks to be a wholly ineffectual but amazingly fun exercise in futility. At least until a witch named Violet manages to pick up enough snow to leave her opponents buried in the stuff.
They screech as they try to burrow their way out, and I’m left grinning as I slide by unnoticed. Looks like the snow spelling wasn’t so ineffectual after all.
Grace is several trees in front of me now, making that arsenal of snowballs I suggested. She’s laughing, and I realize it’s the first time I’ve heard her do that since she got here. It’s a good sound, a happy sound, and I grin even though Dragon Boy is responsible for it. It’s nice to hear her happy.
I grab a tree branch and swing myself up the regular way. It’s fast and a lot more fun than using my telekinesis to levitate. And when I climb up a few more branches to the top of the tree, it gives me a hell of a view of the action.
Some of the wolves are still in the clearing, knocking the shit out of one another with one superpowered snowball after another. The witches are dropping snow and icicles from nearby tree branches on every person foolish enough to walk under one. And the dragons are stockpiling, staying out of the action for now as they hoard snowballs like they do their jewels down in the tunnels beneath the school. It’s definitely the most pragmatic approach—it won’t be long before they have enough of an arsenal to take down anyone who comes near them—but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t admire the witches’ approach the most. Ambushing anyone who walks by with a pile of snow on their head is both ingenious and fun as hell to watch.
A nearby shriek in a familiar voice has me focusing on Grace with laser-like precision. And grinning like a fool as she tries desperately to wipe away a face full of snow. At least until Flint reaches over and helps her clear out her scarf, his hands suddenly way too close to the petal-soft skin of her cheeks. The same skin I’ve been dreaming about touching ever since she cupped my jaw with her hand.
And when she looks up at him with a laugh and a toss of her curls—hot-pink hat definitely included—a low growl that I have no control over emanates from my throat. Even before Flint hands her that fucking dragon hat and helps her fill it with snowballs.
The growl only gets worse when he actually puts his hands on her, picking her up and tossing her over his shoulder like she belongs there. And when he wraps an arm around her upper thighs to hold her in place, I swear I can feel his jugular beneath my fangs.
If he drops her, if he harms so much as one hair on her head, I’m going to fucking kill him. And if he doesn’t…I just might kill him anyway. Especially if he doesn’t get his hands off her in the next five seconds.
Relief shimmers through me as he deposits Grace safely on one of the lower branches, and I take my first real breath in what feels like hours.
Then I settle back to enjoy the show as Grace pelts everyone who walks by with snowball after snowball. She’s got remarkably good form for someone who’s never had a snowball fight before.
At least until a brisk wind comes up out of nowhere. Grace falters a little, and my stomach bottoms out as she grabs on to the tree trunk for support. And by the time another gust shakes the tree even harder, I’m already moving—sliding down my own tree even as I scan the surrounding area to see if the wind is natural or creature-made.
The rest of the Order is right behind me.
I’m down the tree and halfway to Grace—and about to call the wind natural despite the bizarre coincidence—when I spot Bayu several yards away. The dragon is still in human form, but he’s facing Grace’s tree with his mouth wide open. Everything between him and Grace—snow, trees, people—is buffeted with a powerful wind.
Fury sweeps through me. With a slice of my hand and a flash of my telekinetic power, I lift him several feet off the ground and send him hurtling into the nearest tree trunk.
He hits hard enough to knock himself out, and that’s all I care about. There’s a part of me that wants to stop and drain him dry for even thinking about threatening Grace, but right now I have bigger things to worry about. Namely the fact that while the wind dragon is currently incapacitated, the last of the breeze he released definitely isn’t. And it’s headed straight for my mate.
I take off running toward Grace, but, fast as I am, I’m too late. The wind has been buffeting the tree, and her, for too long. I can hear the branch she’s on crack from here. And Flint, the fucker, is doing absolutely nothing to help her.
A million thoughts run through my head in an instant. Pulling Grace off that branch and floating her safely down to the ground. Wrapping a telekinetic hand around Flint’s traitorous throat and squeezing until his fucking eyes pop out. Holding the tree branch in place until I can get there and catch her.
But as the branch gives another ominous crack, I go with the most expeditious—and easily explainable to someone who doesn’t know about vampires or dragons—solution and yank Flint out of the tree just as Grace starts to fall.
He’s a big guy—dragons usually are—and turns out, he makes a really good landing spot to break her fall.
Of course, Flint knows it’s me who yanked him out of the tree—knowledge that I am more than okay with him having. The second he hits the ground, he’s lifting his head, looking around to try to spot me. But if dealing with Hudson taught me anything, it’s the value of guerrilla warfare. Never let them see you until they’re already dead.
Today is no exception as I indulge a particularly satisfying fantasy of ripping Flint’s fucking head from his fucking traitorous body. And that’s before my mate tries to scramble off him and only ends up straddling him instead, her knees on either side of his hips.
As she tries to make sure he’s okay after he just participated in an attempt on her life.
The irony is fucking painful, especially when the jackass reassures her he’s fine. And puts his hands on her hips in a gesture that makes every cell in my body yearn for destruction. It’s a feeling that doesn’t go away, even after Grace scrambles off him and starts alternating between yelling at him and thanking him for jumping out of the tree to save her.
And when she steps forward, looking like she wants to check out up close and personally if he’s really okay, I give up any attempt at staying cool.
Screw decorum. Screw the art of surprise. Screw everything. No way is my mate putting her hands—or any other part of her body—on that jackass one more time, at least not while she’s ignorant of Flint’s part in her taking a header out of that tree.
I fade through the space between us, roughly the size of three football fields, in a flash. There are people milling around Grace and Flint, but the second they realize I’m here, they back the fuck up. Fast.
And then I’m there, staring down at this girl whose mere existence has changed everything, and wishing desperately that I had met her a year ago, before everything in my life and the world around us went to total and complete shit.
The yearning is so powerful that for a second, I’m barely aware of Flint.
Or my friends, who have suddenly lined up behind me in a very obvious show of solidarity.
Or the crowd, who’s watching every second of the drama with greedy eyes. All I can see or hear or think about is Grace.
But then Flint moves, whether in an attempt to apologize or tell me off, I don’t know. And I don’t care. He got Grace up that tree deliberately so Bayu could knock her out of it, and if he thinks I’m just going to let him get away with that, then his grasp of reality is in serious jeopardy right now.
Actions have consequences, and murder attempts mean there will be hell to pay. Even if I don’t yet know what kind of hell it’s going to be. I do know, however, that he’s going to give me some kind of answer about this debacle before we leave. Or I’ll tear him limb from fucking limb right here, right now.