Trial By Fire (Going Down in Flames)(9)

By: Chris Cannon


“Is Rhianna with you?”


Bryn breathed a sigh of relief. “Both of you need to get over here, right now.”

“We’re almost done with our homework,” Jaxon said. “She’ll be there in half an hour.”

Why did he have to be difficult? “Someone redecorated Rhianna’s room, and it isn’t an improvement.”

“What are you talking about?”

She slammed the phone down, hanging up on him. That should get his uncooperative butt moving.

Five minutes later, Jaxon stalked into the living room with Rhianna trailing warily behind him. He headed straight for her room. As soon as he crossed the threshold, a low growl rumbled from his chest.

Rhianna stood in the doorway, surveyed the mess and then walked over to her four-poster bed and sat on an area of the comforter devoid of paint. Elbows on her knees, she leaned forward so her long blond hair covered her face like a curtain. “Someone is trying to send me a message, and they aren’t bothering to be subtle.”

The air around Jaxon shimmered, and sleet shot from his nostrils, which meant he was about to lose control.

“Did you lock the window to the terrace when you left today?” Bryn asked.

“What does that have to do with anything?” Jaxon snapped.

Fire banked in her gut. He was being protective of Rhianna. She’d focus on that, and not get mad at him. “The window was locked when I tried to come in.”

“I didn’t lock the window.” Rhianna sat up straight. “How did you get in?”

“Once I saw the clothes in the hall, I was worried you might be hurt, so I broke the glass to reach the lock.”

“Thanks for worrying.” Rhianna stood and walked over to a splash of red paint on the wall and ran her finger through it. “This should clean up, right?”

“That’s not the point.” Jaxon waved his arms around at the mess that used to be her room. “This is unacceptable.”

“This,” Rhianna copied his flailing gesture, “is petty and stupid. In order to show the idiots who did this they can’t run me off, I’m going to make a big deal about hiring decorators to come in and redo my room.”

Jaxon looked at her like she’d lost her mind. “What in the hell will—”

“That’s what my grandmother would do,” Bryn cut him off. And then she had an idea. “Why don’t we ask her to redesign your room?”

Rhianna stood and walked to the phone in the living room. “That’s not a bad idea.”

“We need to report this,” Jaxon said. “Not cover it up.”

“The individuals who did this are cowards.” Rhianna picked up the phone. “I’d rather not give them the satisfaction.”

“I’d rather rip them apart with my talons.” Jaxon paced the room.

“If you knew who did it, you could.” And then Bryn had another idea. “Give me the phone. Let’s call Garret or Mr. Stanton. One of them might be able to figure it out.”

Garret arrived fifteen minutes after Bryn called. He took a sample of paint from the walls and then walked around the room. “Did you touch anything?”

“I sat on the bed,” Rhianna said.

“Jaxon shot sleet on the carpet,” Bryn said, which caused Jaxon to glare at her. “What? I’m trying to be helpful.”

Garret exited the bedroom and studied the window Bryn had broken. “They couldn’t have left and then latched the window.” He walked into the living room, and they followed along behind him. “They must have exited through the door, setting it to lock automatically, which means it was an inside job, and the perpetrators probably still have the paint cans in their rooms.”

Jaxon grabbed the phone and dialed. “I’d like to report an act of vandalism in the Blue dorm. Someone painted anti-Directorate graffiti on my friend’s wall.” Loud voices could be heard through the phone. “No, you don’t need to see the message. You need to find who in the Blue dorm has red paint in their room. They are the perpetrators.”

Jaxon slammed the phone down.

Garret pointed at him. “You just lied to the Directorate.”