The burn of rage in my chest starts to spread, searching for an outlet. My palms are no longer sweaty but warm, and then hot. Lexan sucks in a breath as the heat grows, but he just squeezes my hands tighter, trapping the power in our fingers. A bit of wind swirls around us, lifting the heat from our palms, and I grin at this feeling of subtle power, turning my cheeks up toward the sun’s orange light, trapping it behind my closed eyelids.
A sudden crackle behind me breaks my focus and I twist to see a figure step from behind a tree.
“What are you doing with him?” Stian asks in a dangerous voice.
“It…nothing! How…what did you see?” I stammer. I rip my hands from Lexan’s and step toward Stian, guilt and dread coursing through me.
He glares at Lexan, then stalks back into the trees without another word. My stomach is churning with nerves. I thought we’d been so careful: finding an isolated spot to practice our silly games, telling Stian we were going to train, taking our bows and knives.
“Do you think he suspects anything?” I whisper to Lexan, remembering how Stian had already gone through the passage when the power of Justice finally slipped into my hands. He really shouldn’t know any of this. Could he have felt the heat in the air?
Lexan looks down at me, his eyes thoughtful. “I believe he thinks we were kissing.”
“What?”” My stomach drops into nothingness as I recreate the scene in my mind, from Stian’s viewpoint: joined hands, smiles, my upturned face and closed eyes. A hot flush creeps into my cheeks.
“Because I’m pretty sure I was thinking about it,” he adds with a slow smile, catching my elbow as I try to turn after Stian. His fingers slide down to my wrist.
“Just because you think something at me doesn’t mean I have to let it in,” I answer, jerking my hand from his. I’ve glimpsed a few of Lexan’s ideas throughout our training this morning, and an uncontrollable ferocity washes over me.
“I trust you to be a friend, Lexan – not try to sabotage my shot at happiness!” I yell, yanking away again as he tries to grip my fingers.
“Trea, just wait a minute! I’m sorry – I’ll talk to him.”
“Just stay out of it! Out of everything!” I stumble backwards as a fierce wind pulls my curls across my face. I throw my hands up to block the swirl of dust and leaves when suddenly a burst of flame shoots into the air, buoyed upwards by the cool gust.
It burns out as quickly as it appeared, leaving me gaping up at the trees. Sunlight streams in a thick shaft through a neat, new hole in the canopy, and wisps of smoke swirl lazily around us.
“About time,” Lexan smiles halfway, his hands propped on his narrow hips. Suddenly he looks just like his brother Aitan, standing triumphantly in the classroom after tricking me to get what he wanted. Everything is too clear, and I feel ill.