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The First Kiss, Page 1

Julie Kagawa



  No! — The iron dragon--I could only assume that's what it was—lunged at Meghan, jaws gaping, and my heart clenched in horror. I reacted on instinct. Drawing back my arm, I flung a hail of ice shards at the creature, hoping to reach it in time. The darts struck the dragon's head and shattered harmlessly off the metal skull, but I did succeed in catching its attention. It roared and turned on me, lashingits spiked tail, and I drew my sword.

  Snarling, the dragon charged. Breathing deep, I drew glamour from the air, ignoring the pain and sudden nausea that came from all the iron in the room. I would not fall. For just a moment, when the dragon lunged at Meghan, I was there again in the hollow, watching the wyvern strike Ariella down. Watching her die in my arms, because I couldn't save her.

  Not this time.

  As the dragon drew close, I knelt and drove the point of my sword into the ground, releasing my glamour in one focused burst. There was a flash, and ice spread out around me, coating the ground and turning the air frigid. I dove aside as the dragon careened past, unable to stop itself, and slammed into the wall.

  Once more, I pulled my Winter glamour to me, knowing I was using way too much power, that this spell would leave me drained and weakened. I didn't care. As the dragon thrashed and clawed at the ground, trying to get up, I took a deep breath, filling my lungs with ice, and breathed out a cone of vicious cold. I heard the dragon's metal body crinkle and snap as the blizzard swirled around it, and continued my assault, ignoring my fading strength, the way my arms started to tremble. Finally, the dragon slowed, and stopped moving, frozen to the floor beneath a layer of ice.

  I stopped, slumping against a post as my strength gave out. Panting, I bowed my head, shaking from adrenaline, from the memory that still haunted my mind, a black scar across my consciousness. I had failed Ariella. I'd loved her, and she had died. I would not let that happen to Meghan.

  "Never again," I whispered, closing my eyes. "I will not watch that happen again." Her face swam across my memory, beautiful and perfect and sad, and my resolve grew. "I won't lose another like that," I gritted out, not really knowing who I was speaking to. Ariella, Meghan, or myself? "I can't..."

  "Ash?"

  Something touched my arm, and I looked up.

  Meghan blinked up at me, her face inches from mine, her blue eyes wide and concerned. Seeing her, I was filled with the sudden, irrational desire to pull her close, feel her small body against mine, and kiss her. She wasn't Ariella, but those same feelings were there, emerging from the place I thought I'd frozen everything out. That same protectiveness, and affection, and...

  My heart went cold, and I trembled with the realization. I... was in love. With Meghan Chase. A human. And the princess of the Seelie Court. It was a cruel joke, of course. The Summer Court was my enemy, we were forbidden to love each other. I could face exile if I acknowledged my feelings; Mab would show no mercy even to her kin, and I had no idea what she would do to Meghan. It was dangerous for me to be around her. I could not love this girl.

  But I did.

  I shook my head, trying to focus. I'd figure this out later, after we accomplished what we'd set out to do. Rescuing her brother and killing Machina came first; I couldn't be distracted by thoughts of love.

  "Meghan," I began, not really knowing what to say. I was surprised she'd come back, especially with a huge frozen dragon still looming behind us. "Why didn't you run?" I finally asked. "I tried to buy you some time. You should've gone ahead."

  She frowned. "Are you crazy? I couldn't leave you to that thing. Now, come on." Taking my hand, she tugged me off the post, gazing nervously at the frozen dragon. Heat shot up my arm from where her skin brushed mine, and my pulse jumped. "Let's get out of here. I think that thing just blinked at us."

  Hell with it.

  My fingers tightened around hers, and I pulled her forward, into my arms. She let out a startled gasp as I held her close, trapping her against me, and kissed her.

  I didn't know how she would respond, but after a stunned moment, Meghan's arms wrapped around my neck and she pulled me closer, fiercely kissing me back. My heart and stomach leaped, and I crushed her to me, feeling her hands run through my hair, making me groan. This couldn't be happening. She was everything I imagined, everything I wanted. For the first time since Ariella died, I could feel again. I loved Meghan Chase... and I couldn't have her.

  I pulled away, breathing hard. Meghan didn't move, keeping her arms around my waist, leaning her head on my shoulder. I shivered, as the knowledge of what I'd just done settled on me like a stone. I'd kissed the Summer King's daughter. If Oberon found out... If Mab found out...

  "This isn't good," I whispered, wondering if she knew the implications of tonight, what it could mean for both of us.

  "I know," she whispered back, though I knew she didn't. Not really. Not like me.

  "The Courts would kill us if they found out," I continued.

  "Yeah."

  "Mab would accuse me of treason. Oberon would believe I'm turning you against him." I wondered if I was trying to convince her, or myself. Which was crazy; I knew what could happen. Why was I still debating with myself? "They'd both see grounds for banishment, or execution," I finished, and felther arms tighten around me.

  "I'm sorry."

  She sounded sad, and I closed my eyes.

  You did nothing wrong, I thought. I'm the one who knows better. I'm the one who was weak. And now I've put us both in danger.

  Sighing, I buried my face in her hair, and she trembled against me. Neither of us said anything for a long time.

  "We'll think of something," she murmured at last. I nodded. I couldn't think of consequences now, not when we still had our mission to complete. Meghan's brother and the mysterious Iron King waited for us at the end of the road. If I made it back, if I survived this encounter with Machina, I would allow myself to think about the future, and the repercussions of falling in love with the Summer princess.

  Pulling away, I started to reply, but the ground abruptly tilted and spun beneath my feet. I stumbled, and Meghan caught my arm.

  "Are you all right?"

  "I'll be fine." Straightening, I released her elbow, though a part of me wanted to pullh er close again. I squashed the urge with a vengeance. "Too much iron," I explained, to ease the worry on her face. "The spell took alot out of me."

  "Ash—"

  A piercing crack interrupted us, as the dragon freed a forepaw and smashed it to the floor. More cracks appeared as it struggled to rise, shedding ice. Still alive, and I was far too weakened to fight it again.

  Taking Meghan's hand, we fled for our lives.

 

 

  Julie Kagawa, The First Kiss

  (Series: The Iron Fey # 1.25)

 

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