Apricum (Apricum Kingdom #1)

Orphaned and in charge of keeping her young brother alive, Helga survives by using her powers to kill for hire. But, when she is kidnapped by people wanting to exploit her, Helga's life changes drastically. No longer sure who to trust, she escapes and goes looking for her brother Finn. But she's been keeping secrets even from those closest to her, and secrets have a way of finding you, in the end... [PG-15 for violence and language - keep in mind that the protagonist kills for a living. Some references to sex.]

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17. Sixteen

Eight years ago

 

“Papa says I need to start taking an invested interest in politics, but it’s all so boring.”

Freyja giggled next to me. “You sound just like Regina,” she told Lucas. As I was preoccupied jumping the hopscotch, I couldn’t turn around to check, but I had the impression she batted her eyelashes at him.

Facing away from them, I let myself grin widely. So much for he’d never go for me, Gina, I thought, amused.

“Well it is!” he exclaimed. “It’s all about who might invade where, when and why. I don’t understand, why does anyone have to invade ever? Can’t we just stay where we are?”

As I reached the end of the hopscotch Freyja had drawn, I turned to the two. “Mama says it’s because men have big egos, and that makes them want to prove that they are stronger.”

Lucas cocked his head to the side, considering this. “But I’m a boy, and I don’t think I have a big ego. I don’t want to invade anywhere, anyway, and I don’t want to prove anything to anyone.”

“Sounds like you’ll be a just King, ruling during a time of peace,” Freyja told him, lightly touching his arm.

I shot her a look, and she rolled her eyes at me, as if to say she couldn’t help it. I smiled at her, and winked. She stuck her tongue out at me.

“Do girls always communicate without speaking a word?” Lucas asked, watching us.

Freyja turned ten shades of red, and mumbled something too softly for me to hear, but I laughed.

“I apologise, Prince Lucas,” I told him. “I was teasing Freyja. She likes to tell me that I wouldn’t be a very peaceful Queen, because I take offence too quickly,” I shrugged, smiling. “I hope she’s wrong, but still, when she said pretty much the opposite about you… it was an inside joke.”

He nodded. “I think you’ll make a very imposing queen, Lady Regina. Anyone who choses to go against you would be a foolish person.”

I clapped. “See, Frey? I won’t have any trouble at all, they’ll all be too scared that I’ll burn them to a crisp to do anything!”

Freyja’s eyes widened, and I realised my mistake one second too late. While the Royal Family’s ability to wield fire magic wasn’t exactly a state secret, it wasn’t something we just divulged willy-nilly either. I wasn’t sure if Lucas could know about it, since Papa always told me that, when dealing with neighbouring kingdoms, it was sometimes prudent to keep some secrets close.

Lucas’s eyes lit up, however. “So it’s true? Papa told me, but I thought he was joking.”

I relaxed, and Freyja stopped chewing on her lower lip worriedly. “You know about our magic?”

He nodded. “Papa told me before we came. Said I should take care not to anger any of your family.”

I smiled at him. “We’ve all had good training, we’re very unlikely to lose control just because we’re angry.”

“Can - can I see?”

I hesitated, but his excited expression made me cave. It was so rare that anyone actually wanted to see my magic. And if he already knew about it, surely showing him something simple wouldn’t do any harm. So I shrugged, and snapped my fingers.

A dozen tiny little specs of fire floated around the air above our heads, too high to singe our heads, but close enough that if we reached up with a hand, we’d be able to touch them. Which was what I did.

“Hey, what -” Lucas started, but Freyja shushed him softly.

She loved watching me do magic, ever since we were young. We’d have sleepovers on the floor of my room, and I’d conjure up a little fire in my hand so she could roast s’mores and sausages. She smiled at me now, content.

I smiled back at her as I took hold of one of the specs and took it into my hand. Lowering my arm quickly, a burning trail followed my movements as I then shot my arm up, throwing the spec high into the air. All the other specs followed, reaching the sky and exploding into flame-coloured fireworks.

Freyja sidled up to me. “Those are beautiful, Gina. Are you sure you’re not trying to impress him?” she asked, poking me playfully in my ribs.

I turned and mock-punched her. “Don’t be silly. I’ve just always wanted to try that. It looks cool, right?”

She nodded. “So cool.”

Behind us, Lucas stared up, eyes wide, mouth hanging open.

I nudged her. “Not so handsome now, is he, our mr fish-mouth?” I whispered. 

Freyja dissolved into a fit of giggles, which finally made Lucas look back down at us. When he saw us in hysterics, he smiled, confused.

Up above us, the last of the specs exploded into a stunning display of blue, orange and yellow, and I couldn’t help wish that every day could be like this one

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