Trial By Fire (Going Down in Flames)(6)

By: Chris Cannon

Not sure if it was the right move or not, Bryn embraced her grandmother and was relieved when she hugged her back.

“I’ll miss you.” Bryn meant it.

“Let’s plan to have lunch this Saturday,” her grandmother said. “I’m sure something in Dragon’s Bluff will be open.”

“Sounds good.” Bryn stepped back. “Someone better keep an eye on Lillith now that Jaxon is gone.” God knows Ferrin, Jaxon’s father, wouldn’t be much comfort.

“I’ll check in on her.” Her grandmother cleared her throat. “I should go. And I think I’ll use the terrace exit.”

Classes the next day were oddly normal. If you didn’t count the guards posted at the front door of every building and the undercurrent of animosity toward the injured students who’d returned to school.

“Is it me,” Clint said as they walked across campus to the dining hall for lunch, “or do the guards seem a little tense?”

“They’re supposed to be on guard,” Bryn said. “It’s part of the job description.”

“On guard is one thing,” Clint said. “I sneezed when I walked out of the restroom, and the guard in the hall shifted and growled at me…because I sneezed.” He emphasized that last part like she might not have gotten it the first time.

“The solution is simple,” Ivy said. “Stop sneezing.”

“I’ll get right on that.” Clint slowed as they reached the steps to the dining hall. “In my head, I thought, ‘wouldn’t a pizza from Fonzoli’s be good right now.’ Then I remembered about the attack on Dragon’s Bluff. Every time, it’s like a smack in the face.”

“I know what you mean.” The attack on Dragon’s Bluff had come in the form of fire. Bryn and many other Blue dragons had tried to beat back the fire by combatting the flames with ice. Still, damage had been done. None of the attacks made sense. If the enemy wanted to overthrow the Directorate, then they should attack the Directorate, not everyone else. Bryn trudged up the steps and nodded at the Red guard who opened the door for her.

Ironically enough, the buffet was loaded with Italian food. Bryn inhaled. “Hey…that smells like Fonzoli’s.”

“It should, since a Fonzoli made it.”

Bryn whirled around. Valmont Fonzoli, her knight—a human who’d been bound to her when a dormant spell in his blood had been activated by an act of chivalry—stood there smiling, wearing a pair of dark jeans and a white shirt with Fonzoli’s Catering stitched across the pocket.

She dropped her book bag and threw her arms around him in a hug. He laughed, wrapped his arms around her waist, and picked her up off the floor.

There was that happy warmth again, which she associated with him. He set her down. “And here I thought you might not be happy to see me.”

“What? I’m always happy to see you.”

“As heartwarming as this is, you’re blocking the line for food.” Jaxon’s voice came from the small crowd gathered behind them.

Reluctantly, Bryn released Valmont and grabbed her book bag. “Can you stay and eat lunch with us?”

“Planned on it.” Valmont gave a small bow. “After you.”

A part of her brain knew the joy she felt when she was with Valmont was a side effect of the Knight-Dragon bond but who cared? He made her happy. She made him happy. It was a win-win situation.

After filling their trays, they joined Clint and Ivy.

Ivy opened her mouth. Clint cut her off. “You have thirty seconds to tell Ivy what’s going on between you two before she explodes with questions.”

“Hey.” Ivy whacked her boyfriend on the arm.

“Am I right?” he asked.

“Yes. But that’s beside the point.” Ivy rearranged the pepperoni on her pizza in a symmetrical pattern. “So what’s new with you two?”

Valmont shrugged. “We spent time together over the holiday break, and now we’re closer than ever.”

“That’s the boring version.” Ivy pointed at Bryn. “Show him how it’s done.”

“Well…” How much should she say? “We did spend a lot of time together over break, and we fought together when Dragon’s Bluff was attacked, so I think our bond is stronger now.” She glanced out of the corner of her eye at Valmont. She couldn’t read his expression. “But it’s more than that. He makes me happy, and he’s incredibly handsome.”