The Dragon Guard's Princess: A Paranormal Romance (Separated by Time Book 5)
Half an hour before midnight, Katrina slipped out of bed and began to dress. Thonis’ heart thudded as he got up after her. He had hoped that by this time, the blizzard of thoughts in his mind would have stilled; he had no such luck. He still desperately cast about for an alternative that was nowhere to be found.
They walked silently to the courtyard, which was lit only by a crescent moon. The relics glittered as Katrina spread them out in a circle around her. He stood to one side, his part in all this unclear. He could only hope that when the ritual was complete, his presence would have somehow made a difference.
“This battery should be able to provide the necessary magic,” Katrina said, producing what looked like a cellphone battery from her pocket. “From what I understood, there wasn’t any spell needed to activate the bridge. Just the anchors, the magic and the person.”
She stepped outside of her work and stared at it for a long moment. Then she turned to Thonis and pressed the battery into his hand. As she did so, she gripped his hand tightly. In the dark, it was impossible to see the look on her face, but he knew she was just as terrified about this as he was. Once more, the urge to beg her to choose a different way pressed against his lips, but he resisted speaking it out loud.
It was too late to turn back.
“When I say the word, cut the top off the battery,” she told him. “Then just throw it into the circle. The magic should just spill out and activate it.”
Thonis nodded. As she made to step back, though, his hand snaked out. It wrapped around her wrist and he pulled her close for one last, desperate kiss. Their smokes mingled on his tongue.
“I love you,” he told her one final time. “No matter what happens, I need you to know that.”
“I do.” She glanced at the sky and let out a shuddering breath. There was a glint of light on her face as moonlight reflected off her tears. “And I love you. If we get through this, then I want to marry you. I want to have your babies, and I want to live happily ever after with you.”
Thonis had to laugh even though his heart ached. “That sounds like it would be a dream come true. So, it’s agreed. When this is all over, we get married and have a dozen kids.”
“Who said anything about a dozen?” Katrina laughed. “Ten will be fine. And at least half of them will be adopted.”
Thonis shook his head. “Twelve. I always wanted a big family.”
“You don’t think ten is big enough?”
Katrina clung to his hand. “Fine. Twelve it will be. But more than half must be adopted, then. I don’t want to get pregnant more than five times. Less if we have multiples.”
“They can all be adopted, I don’t care about that. Babies, older kids, teens, foster kids. I don’t care. I just want our house and our lives to be full of children and to have such a big family that everybody thinks we’re crazy.” His heart thudded harder and harder. Would these dreams ever turn to reality? “Just know that you are my mate.”
Katrina nodded. “But if this doesn’t work—”
“It has to.”
“But if it doesn’t and I don’t survive… then you need to find someone else. I’m not saying you have to move on right away or pretend like there was nothing here or it wasn’t real. I know this is real, I don’t care if it’s only been a few days since we’ve been together. You were my best friend for the past six years and I loved you every day.”
“Me, too,” Thonis replied, his voice thick.
“I just need you to let yourself fall in love again. I need you to find a woman who will be the mother to your dozen children. Promise me.”
Thonis’ throat was so tight he wasn’t sure he would be able to talk. But he nodded, and Katrina pressed herself to her toes and gave him another kiss. It was getting too close to midnight now; there was no more time for talk. Katrina dashed into the center of the circle and held her arms out as though to embrace the world.
Thonis jumped and whirled. Four figures dashed out of the palace and raced toward them. Flames flickered in the night, illuminating the faces of Indulf, Warmund, Volcant, and Hendric. Thonis yanked a knife from his belt as they got closer. Warmund was the fastest; he dashed right for Katrina. Thonis threw the battery and knife into the circle and tackled him. A fist caught the side of his face, making stars burst in front of his eyes, but he dragged Warmund back.
“Katrina!” Indulf shouted. “Don’t! Please! Don’t do this!”
Warmund hauled back and punched Thonis in the stomach. All the air rushed from his lungs and he gasped soundlessly, unable to draw in a breath. As Warmund tried to pass him, though, he threw himself sideways and brought the prince down as well.
“I have to,” she called back. “I’m sorry—I have to!”
A blaze of light flashed through the night. Warmund cried out in pain as Thonis’ heart lurched. He twisted to see golden flames rising in a circle around Katrina. They danced and crackled, but no heat came from them. Warmund fell to his knees, devastation written all over his face. Thonis knelt beside him, unable to make himself move. Blood pounded through his ears as he stared at the lone figure in the midst of the flame.
Katrina stood with her arms held wide. Her skin glittered like diamonds as the flames rose higher, her dark eyes turning a bright shade of blue. Her head snapped back, and she let out a gasp and a cry that had Thonis and Warmund surging to their feet.
“We can still stop it,” Indulf cried as he charged the circle.
It went against all of Thonis’ instincts to step in his king’s way. It went against even more of them to swing his fist into his king’s face. Indulf stumbled back as his nose cracked and blood spurted into the air. Then Thonis lunged sideways, capturing Warmund around the knees before he could breach the flames.
“It’s too late,” he shouted. “If we try to stop it now, she’ll die!”
Hendric and Volcant stopped beside Indulf. Their hands clenched as they stared at Katrina. The golden flames were creeping up her body, wrapping themselves around her… and with a sudden lurch, Thonis realized that they weren’t encasing her at all. Her flesh was turning to flame. A cry of horror burst from his lips and it was Warmund this time who yanked him back.
“What have I done?” he gasped, fighting against the prince’s hold. Warmund was too strong. “Katrina! Katrina!”
“We can’t stop it,” Warmund snarled. “You said it yourself. If she doesn’t survive—"
Thonis threw his head back. It connected with Warmund’s face, sending the prince stumbling backward. Hendric and Volcant both shouted. Indulf screamed an order Thonis refused to hear.
The flames didn’t scorch him until after he passed through the barrier. Then they flared to life, the golden color taking on amber hues. Heat baked into his skin, hotter than anything he had felt before. He heard the voices from outside the fire, calling to him and Katrina. He ignored them. She gazed forward, utterly still, a look of rapture on her face.
“Katrina,” he gasped out. “Look at me.”
Her eyes were unblinking. The golden flames were at her waist now, rapidly traveling up her body. Her blue eyes flamed brighter as her lips fell open. Sweat beaded Thonis’ brow and the smell of singed hair filled the space around him. The ground began to tremble and shake, a great rending sound clashing against his ears.
He still stumbled forward, reaching for Katrina. “Look at me!”
He wrapped his arms around her body, the flames searing his skin, but he didn’t care. For the first time, Katrina moved. Her head turned toward him, the blue of her eyes blazing brighter in the golden flames of her face.
“I won’t let you go,” Thonis promised. He tightened his arms even as the pain became unbearable. “I promised I wouldn’t let you go and I won’t. I won’t!”
“Thonis,” Katrina whispered. Her voice was like a snowflake on the wind, melting away almost before he could hear it. “Thonis…”
“I’m here. I love you.”
She turned her palms outward, as though catching raindrops. “Thonis, I see it… I see everything… don’t let me go or I’ll lose myself.”
His clothes started to smolder. Thonis cupped his hands around her skull and held on tighter. Flashes of white-hot agony blinded him, but he ground his teeth together and pushed through it. Blisters formed on his skin and his own fires burned low, trying to protect him from the flame that threatened to consume them both.
But he did not let go.