“She said she’ll be right there Avalon,” Kiran pulled me closer to him, blocking me with half of his body, and took an equally defensive pose. I could see Talbott out of the corner of my eye begin to make his way over from where he had been waiting for Kiran in the doorway.

“Let go of her,” Avalon nearly growled.


“No,” Kiran growled back and Talbott took his side, clearly protective.

“Alright, everybody just settle down.” I made my voice light, trying to soften the mood. What was going on?

“Back off Avalon. I wouldn’t do anything that would get you into trouble if I were you,” Talbott tried to step in front of Kiran but Kiran didn’t let him. He stepped forward as if he to challenge Avalon. Avalon mimicked his movement and stepped forward too.

“He’s right Avalon, you wouldn’t want to get into trouble.... again,” Kiran mocked him.

“Are you sure about that?” Avalon threatened in a deep, growling voice.

“Alright, I’ll see everybody tomorrow,” I dropped Kiran’s hand and headed for the door quickly. I was not going to get in the middle of some ridiculous boy fight.

I could feel Avalon’s presence behind me, but I refused to turn and acknowledge him. I headed straight for my car as fast as I could, hoping he’d get the hint.

He didn’t and continued to follow me, but he also didn’t try to say anything until we reached my car. He never even tried to walk beside me, although his long legs could have easily outpaced mine. He stayed behind me almost as if he was protecting me from whatever else was back there. I became even more irritated.

“I’m sorry about that Eden,” Avalon finally broke the silence as I searched for my car keys deep inside my book bag. “He just, ugh, he’s just so infuriating,” Avalon punched one of his fists into his other hand and I watched him clench his jaw.

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“Well, he’s not the only one,” I gave him a fierce look and dug deeper in my bag for the keys to my Land Rover.

“Why do you even bother talking to him? I thought you weren’t allowed,” he looked at me with an intensity that I didn’t understand.

“It’s not like I try to talk to him. He is just always there! What do you mean I’m not allowed?” I defended myself, but wondered at Avalon’s use of the word “allowed.” I searched through my memories, trying to remember a time when I had been outright forbidden to talk to him.

“Oh nothing, I mean, it’s just that, like the whole betrothal thing,” he blurted out and I didn’t know what he was talking about.

“What do you mean?” I repeated.

“The betrothal between Kiran and Seraphina. I thought everyone knew. They are engaged to be married,” I stared at him confused until he continued, “I thought that was the whole reason he was at this school; he’s like supposed to get to know his future wife.” And then the meaning of the word “betrothal” sunk in. Kiran was going to marry Seraphina; no wonder she thought she was his girlfriend: she was. In fact she was more than his girlfriend, she was his freaking fiancée. Freaking Monarchy with their freaking tradition. What century did we live in? Betrothal? Out of control.

Talbott’s warning suddenly made sense, in fact, a lot of things suddenly made sense and I felt like such an idiot. He really was just using me for entertainment this entire time. I felt sick; how could I have not known.

“Oh,” was all I could manage, and my lips stayed formed by the word. But my heart dropped into my stomach.

“Hey were you planning on going to the Fall Equinox dance?” Avalon asked out of the blue, changing the subject quickly.

“Not anymore,” I reminded myself to breathe and willed myself to forget the nauseous feeling rising in my throat. “It’s not really my thing anyways.” I said softly, hoping I wasn’t letting him down. My mind was still reeling from the wedding news.

“Oh good…. Yeah, those things are dumb anyways,” his face looked visibly relieved and I didn’t understand why.

“We could hang out though; you could come over tomorrow night and we could like rent a movie or something,” I said, not wanting to sit at home, alone on a Saturday night, when the guy I had kind of liked or kind of hated or whatever I kind of felt was out having a great time with his future wife. Ugh.

“Oh no, I can’t, sorry, I already have plans. But you should definitely stay home and not go to the dance,” his expression was completely serious, and I was completely confused. “I hear it’s going to be really terrible. See you Monday, Eden,” Avalon turned and walked away to his car, leaving me standing alone, completely baffled. Boys could be so confusing.

Chapter Twenty-Five

“Eden…. Eden,” A gentle voice encouraged me to wake up and I tried, but I found myself in a very heavy sleep.

“Eden, come with me,” I grudgingly opened my eyes slowly and took in my surroundings. I was in the middle of a forest, unlike any forest I had ever seen before, although vaguely familiar at the same time. Tall flowering trees surrounded me; all unique, all yielding a distinct, but beautiful blossom of every color imaginable. The forest floor was covered in wild flowers as unique as the blossoms on the trees. Butterflies and dragonflies buzzed energetically around me, never intrusive, but fun to watch.

I found myself sleeping on a long boulder, but I was not uncomfortable, in fact I was very relaxed and felt slightly sedated. A carpet of vibrant, green grass surrounded me, layered with the petals of flowering trees. The petals in all different colors floated tenderly down to the earth like a beautiful and colorful snow. The sun shone brightly above me, warming my skin and casting rainbows on the rock. I felt completely at peace.

“Eden, come with me,” the voice beckoned to me again and I forced myself to stand, legs unsteady and my head somewhat dizzy. I did not want to leave this enchanted place. However, I followed the voice into the trees, searching for the body it belonged to. I noticed I was wearing my pajamas and felt faintly out of place in a black tank top and plaid, baggy bottoms.

In the trees it was slightly darker, the blossoms blocked out the light of the warm sun. The petals continued to fall around me, tickling my arms as they made their way to the plush ground. Bursts of light shone their way to the forest floor through gaps in the trees, illuminating the way for me. I heard a stream nearby and the sound of the water rushing over rocks gave a soothing lullaby to this perfect place.

I wandered aimlessly, forgetting about the voice. This place seemed familiar, but new at the same time. Vaguely I realized that I was dreaming, but the magic still rushed through my veins awakening my mind more and more.

I walked through a patch of flowering trees and found the stream. The water was breathtaking. The aqua river glistened and sparkled as it flowed over rocks and a shallow bottom of golden sand. The stream itself wasn’t very wide, but created a treeless path that allowed the sun to freely shine down. On the other side of the brook were more glorious flowering trees and behind them I could see the beginnings of foothills.

I dipped my foot into the cool water and let my toes sink into the sand. The sand glistened like diamonds over my toes. I thought about crossing the river to wander among the trees on the other side, but got distracted by a butterfly that landed on my hand. It floated effortlessly from my fingers to my shoulder and then back into the trees; I contemplated following it, but was interrupted.

“There you are,” Kiran stepped out of the trees and approached me. He had never looked more beautiful. His dirty blonde hair glistened from the sunlight and his perfect blue eyes were clearer than the water. He stood tall against the background of the forest. He was wearing a t-shirt and athletic shorts and his muscular build was clearly defined. I smiled, taking him in and realized that I was not at all surprised to see him.

“Where were you?” I asked as if he should have been here all along.

“I was looking for you,” he smiled, taking my hands. “Should we go for a walk?” he asked, pulling me along, intertwining our fingers.

I leaned close to him, stepping out of the water and laid my head on his shoulder. I inhaled his scent, sweet yet masculine, and felt as though this were the most normal thing I had ever done. He wrapped his arms around me tightly, pulling me even closer. I heard him sigh sweetly; the same sigh I heard during our kiss.

“What are you hiding from me Eden?” his voice was sweet, almost laughing.

“I’m not hiding anything,” I replied without emotion. A feeling of paranoia crept up my spine sending the magic shivering through my veins. But I refused to leave his embrace. Whatever his question meant was not important enough for me to let go of him.

“Hmmm…” he sighed, contentedly, pulling me away from him so that we could continue to walk.

We moved silently through the trees; I allowed him to lead as he seemed to be walking in a specific direction. His fingers tightened around mine and I felt his body stiffen. My magic became more and more alert, awakening my senses and sending suspicion through every blood vessel.

“Where are we going?” I tried to keep my voice even, but it cracked with anxiety.

“We haven’t got much time,” Kiran replied breathlessly. “Eden what are you hiding from me? Quickly, I need to know,” he stopped moving and faced me, taking my other hand in his. His sapphire eyes searched mine, looking for the answer to his question.

For a few seconds I pondered his question, deciding what to tell him. With my hands in his I began to feel a sense of calm wash over me. My magic slowed down to a normal rhythm and my suspicion began to fade. My senses seemed dull and slow and I couldn’t think of a good reason not to tell him.

I opened my mouth, not sure of what I would say, but nothing came out. I didn’t know what I was hiding; I could feel there was something that I shouldn’t tell him, but I had no idea what it was. His cobalt eyes gazed into mine intently, willing me to speak, but I remained silent.

“Eden, what is it? You have to tell me so that I can keep you safe. I need to protect you, Love.” He begged quickly.

“There’s nothing to tell you,” I stepped back from him, trying to free my hands from his grasp, but he held on tightly.

Suddenly my senses were clear again and the magic pulsed through me at an alarming rate. Instantly I became ready for battle; my muscles flexed and I tore my hands away from Kiran’s. A hooded and cloaked figure stepped through the trees and I immediately was aware that he meant us harm.

“I am stronger than you in this place,” Kiran spoke calmly and measured, but I could hear the underlying current of rage in his tone. At first I thought he was speaking to me, but when I looked up at him, he was facing the masked man, arms stretched out as if shielding me.

“It doesn’t matter; I’m not here to kill you; only to protect her,” he nodded with his chin in my direction and a surge of magic rushed through my veins.

“I should kill you,” Kiran growled while stepping in front of me and blocking my body almost completely from the other man’s view.

“Don’t touch her,” the dark figure lunged forward, but caught himself before he was within Kiran’s reach.

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