They didn't stop until they were as far from the Temple of Valoria as possible, in case Princess Amara had stationed any of her guards in the area. Although they were dressed for the Limeros cold weather, the after effects of the disaster surrounding the temple created a cold front. Icicles cascaded from rooftops in deadly shards of ice for miles; they were careful to avoid being impaled. It also didn't help that the adrenaline from the fight had worn off and now Magnus felt all of the pain from his broken arm.
The merry band of three stopped to catch their breath. Magnus's gaze slid over his companions. Cleo still had her arms wrapped around Nic like he was a child that needed coddling. Magnus didn't like the sour taste that entered his mouth. Was it jealousy? How could it be? Magnus knew full well that Nic harbored romantic feelings for the Auranian princess but Cleo was adamant that he was like a younger brother to her. Still, the way she held him... Magnus found himself wanted to be held by her, for her to fret about him. The idea was ludicrous. He shook his head to rid himself of the thought.
Suddenly she approached him. "How's your arm?"
Magnus had it held to himself tightly. "It's broken, no doubt." At her touch, he let her take his arm into her gentle hands for inspection.
Despite the cold chill in the air, her hands were warm on him.
"We need to get you to a healer," said Cleo.
"Everyone knows my face, it'll be hard to find someone who doesn't or will hold their tongue when my father's men come to question them." He wouldn't be surprised if his father, the King of Blood, didn't already have men scouring the land looking for him.
"Where can we go?" Magnus looked back to Nic, whom he had momentarily forgotten was there.
"There's little we can do to hide with Cleo and myself so easily recognizable. If it hadn't been for you and your loose tongue, we could have gone to the temple and retrieved the crystal ourselves." He didn't even dare mention Lucia or what fate could have befallen her. He shut the door in his mind to such thoughts.
Nic's face was instantly red. "If it weren't for me, they Kraeshians would have killed you in that villa long before you made it to the temple."
"Is that so?" Magnus growled. "If I remember correctly, no one knew where we were headed and certainly no one other than you could have told them about the Kindred."
"It turns out that Princess Amara had a guard in her pocket that alerted her to your departure. If Ashur hadn't brought me along, she would have killed the two of you and taken the crystal."
"She's got the crystal, you idiot. The best thing you could have done was to not reveal yourself." Magnus cried out in pain suddenly and looked down to see Cleo squeezing his broken arm.
"That's enough, both of you! Or would you like to alert all of Mytica to our presence?"
Nic went quiet and turned away like a child that had just been scolded at by his mother.
Magnus looked down at Cleo, who had released his arm but remained next to him. They were quite a pair; he with his fair skin and raven hair and she with her sun-kissed skin and golden locks that reached her waist. Together or apart, they were two of the most recognizable people in the land.
Magnus couldn't help himself and reached out to touch one of her golden locks. The pain in his arm was dulling, allowing his mind to wander. He thought back to the kiss they shared in Lady Sophia's villa. He'd never wanted anything so much in that moment, not even Lucia. When his lips crashed together with Cleo's it was like a release; everything, all the tension that had been building between them culminated in that very moment. What had once been mutual hate turned into something quite the opposite. But he couldn't help but wonder how she truly felt about him. Magnus had come to terms about his sudden realization that he had fallen in love with her. Cleo on the other hand was so adamant about her undying hate for Magnus. How could it be possible that any of that could change. She'd said that they were even when she slit the throat of the guard to save his life. Magnus couldn't help but wonder if there was some underlying meaning in her words.
In that moment she turned to look up at him, realizing that he had twirled a lock of her hair around his finger. But when his gaze slid over her face, it wasn't hate that he saw.
He would kiss her again if he could; if that idiot redhead wasn't sitting only a few feet away. His gaze flicked to the boy and back.
He couldn't help himself after all. Without intending to, his hand moved from her hair to rest upon her cheek. Her skin was warm against his palm. "I thought I'd lost you when your head hit the stair." Magnus couldn't stop the words until they'd already left his mouth.
Cleo reached up and touched her head, wincing from the pain. Her hand slid down to rest over his hand.
A long silence stretched between them. They continued to stare at one another. Magnus felt his body shift to lean closer to hers. And then there was the intrusive sound of someone coughing. Cleo pulled away and Magnus turned to see Nic glowering at him.
"We really should be going," Cleo said without looking at him.
Magnus nodded to himself. "Yes. If we can make it, we can find a healer in Paelsia. That's our best bet to travel unseen but we can't continue to travel on foot." He fingered the purse of gold at his waist. "I know just the redhead to buy us some horses."