“You always look so cute when you do that.”
I paused, and the flowers stopped growing. “Do what?”
Lexa came up behind me and put her head on my shoulder. “You bite your lip when you’re concentrating. It’s cute when you’re so serious.”
I smiled in spite of myself, and the flowers perked up beside a group of crystals. “You’re distracting me.”
She feigned a gasp, pecking my temple. “Oh, I’m so sorry.” Lexa took a step back, making a show of wading back into the water.
I shook my head, chewing my lip to keep myself from smiling or laughing. “You really love to mess with me, don’t you?”
“Of course I do. And you have a lifetime of it to look forward to.” She grinned before sinking underwater.
I scoffed, turning to hide the blush in my cheeks as I got back to work. I closed my eyes, focused on the scent of roses in my mind, and willed my power to flow from my fingertips to the buds at my feet. They blossomed open, and the fresh petals waved at me, glowing with energy they’d shared with the neighboring crystals. I turned away from my work, ready to jump back in the water when I caught sight of Lexa near the waterfall. Her silhouette flickered as she stood under it and a cry echoed in the cave.
I dove into the water, hissing a chill seeped into my veins. “Lexa!”
She turned to me, and her eyes widened as she saw my breath cloud in front of me. “Stay back.”
She put her arms up, and the waterfall stopped flowing as ice clawed at it. Lexa turned, standing on the water’s surface as she stared at it. She rubbed her arms, gasping as she backed away from it, leaving pillars of ice under her bare feet. I waded through the water, trying to reach for her, but numbness took over. I collapsed in the water, flailing as the rest of my body failed me. The air froze with the scent of roses, and my ears tingled with the sound of Lexa’s scream.
A chill ghosted over my cheek, and my eyes flickered open, revealing the haze of Lexa’s face as she leaned over me. Her tears burned my forehead as they dripped from her chin, and I tried to sit up, but she held me down.
“Stay still, darling. Your lips are still blue.” Her voice cracked as tears streamed down her face.
I tried to form words, but my lips wouldn’t move. Instead, I reached up and thumbed away her searing tears. She gasped and clutched my hand on hers, breathing into it. She rubbed her thumb across my knuckles, shaking as she looked around for something to cover me.
My eyes landed a glowing rose, and I pointed. She turned her head, shifting to reach for it. The stem froze where her fingertips grazed it, and she snapped it off, pressing the rose into my hand before she could do any more damage.
“What’s happening to me?”
I stared up at her as I breathed in the scent of the petals, drawing warm energy into my lungs. My lips tingled, and my body burned as it forced warmth back into my icy blood.
“I guess I’m not the only magical one.”
She cradled my head when she heard my voice. “Don’t even joke about that.”
I sat up, shifting so I leaned against her, resting my head on her chest. “I wish I was joking.”
She trembled as she brought her hands together around my waist. “This has never happened before. How could it be me?”
I laced her fingers with mine. “Maybe Rinnelle wanted to wait for the right time.”
“Rinnelle? But she’s-”
“The goddess of water and ice among other things.” I took Lexa’s hand and led it to a crystal, watching as it glowed brighter when her fingers traced over it.
“Why now? Why me?”
I tried to stand up, unwinding Lexa’s arms from me. “That’s something you’ll have to ask her.” I offered my hand as I stood over her, but she wouldn’t move.
“I don’t want this.” She gripped her arms around herself. “I almost froze you to death.”
I knelt beside her, but Lexa wouldn’t let me touch her. “You don’t have to be afraid. I’m not going anywhere.”
She stared at me with pools of tears welled in her eyes. “I don’t want to hurt you. I couldn’t stand it if I did.”
I inched forward, keeping my eyes on her as she let me move, let me reach toward her and thumb her tears away. I winced as they burned my thumbs to touch, and Lexa’s head dropped.
“How do I make this go away?”
“That’s something you’ll have to ask-”
The waterfall shattered when she slammed her fists on the ground. “I don’t ever want to speak to her.” She scrambled up and tried to run to the ladder of vines. “She cursed me.”
I caught her shoulder and spun her around, clutching her close. Ice prickled at me as I touched her skin, and her tears scalded my shoulder as she sobbed. We collapsed to our knees, holding each other as she let herself break.
“I’m here.” I tucked the ice stemmed rose into her hair. “I’ll always be here.” I cupped her face in my hands. “I promise.”
Her eyes found mine. “How could you still want me?”
I pressed my forehead to hers, letting the chill in. “Because I know what it’s like to be afraid of myself, and I’d never let you go through that alone. I love you too much for that.”
She pressed her lips to mine, and the cold slipped away. What do we do now?”
“Simple. We go get changed, thaw out, and start from square one.”
Lexa held my hand as we edged our way to the ladder. “I hate it when you’re right.”
“You’ll have a lifetime to get used to it.”