Trial By Fire (Going Down in Flames)(10)

By: Chris Cannon


“No, I didn’t.” Jaxon headed back into Rhianna’s bedroom and grabbed a paint-splattered blouse off the floor. Holding it in his left hand, he smeared the paint on the walls to form the letters DIRECTORATE and then drew a line through them.

Garret nodded in appreciation. “Crude, yet effective.”

Jaxon tossed the blouse on the floor and then went to wash his hands in the bathroom.

Garret approached Rhianna and touched her gently on the shoulder. “You’re staying. Right?”

“Yes.”

“Good.” Garret blushed. “Those of us who were injured…we need to stick together.”

Rhianna leaned toward him and spoke in a low voice. “Your Clan-mates, how are they treating you?”

“At first, it was awkward, but then we talked science and math, and it was all okay.”

Jaxon emerged from the bathroom and caught sight of Garret touching Rhianna. “Thank you for coming over, Garret. I’d hate to keep you from whatever you were doing. Feel free to leave.”

Garret laughed.

“What’s funny?” Jaxon asked.

“The way you make it sound like you’re letting me leave and kicking me out at the same time. It’s amusing.” Garret dropped his hand from Rhianna’s shoulder. “Some of the walking wounded are meeting for coffee this Wednesday night in the dining hall, if you want to join us. It’s kind of a support group.”

“I’d like that.”

Unable to help herself, Bryn spoke in a singsong voice, “Garret just made a date with your girlfriend.”

Garret laughed again. “That’s even funnier.” Then he headed out the front door.

Rhianna blushed. She walked over to Jaxon and took his hand. “Are you jealous of Garret?”

“No,” Jaxon said, and then he kissed her.

“Gross.” Bryn covered her eyes and headed for her own room. She changed out of her school clothes into black yoga pants and a purple T-shirt. Then she sorted through her homework and laid out her clothes for the morning and waited for some sort of all clear sign so she wouldn’t accidentally see more of Jaxon and Rhianna making out.

Tap. Tap.

“Come in.”

Rhianna peeked inside. “Jaxon is gone.”

“I can’t believe he was jealous of Garret.”

A sly smile blossomed on Rhianna’s face. “Do you have any idea how often I’ve had to watch girls flirt with him?”

The concept of being attracted to Jaxon was beyond Bryn. “Serves him right.”

“He’s going to call when he has news of the investigation.” Her smile dimmed. “I guess I should go see what I can salvage from my closet.”

“Don’t bother. You can borrow a pair of my pajamas and sleep in here.”

“Thanks.”

“Did you call my grandmother yet?”

Rhianna nodded. “Jaxon spoke to your grandfather, too.”

“What did he have to say?”

“The words I heard coming through the phone aren’t words I’d repeat.” Rhianna frowned. “He was more worried about the anti-Directorate sentiment than the fact that I was targeted.”

“Sounds like my grandfather.”



The next morning, Bryn and Rhianna flew down to breakfast together. By unspoken agreement, they parted company at the buffet line, Bryn went to eat with her friends, and Rhianna went to eat with Jaxon.

Over French toast and coffee, Bryn filled in Clint and Ivy on what she’d found the night before.

“That’s weird,” Ivy said. “A Blue wouldn’t normally do something so…normal.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’d expect Blues to pull high class pranks. Like delivering expensive gifts with paint bombs inside of them or something,” Clint said. “Regular graffiti seems so middle class.”

True. “I don’t think anyone but a Blue could walk into the dorm unnoticed.” But a hybrid who could manipulate Quintessence to control their coloring probably could. She couldn’t mention that to her friends without explaining she’d seen other hybrids in Dragon’s Bluff the night it had been attacked, but sharing that information might endanger them. So she kept the idea to herself.