Aequus (Royal Protector Academy 2)

By: Randi Cooley Wilson

For Dave–

Because when the wind rises, you always shield us.





She made herself stronger

by fighting with the wind.



Frances Hodgson Burnette

The Secret Garden





Serena

THE DARK TEMPEST LURKS ON THE horizon, casting an ominous shadow over the cloud-filled sky. Heavy gusts slice through the graying atmosphere in quick, angry bursts.

With each surge of air, the ache in my chest recedes, allowing me to breathe. To feel. To exist.

For me, the wind is the epitome of strength and power, and in an odd way, I’ve always envied the currents because they move freely and can’t be captured—or tamed.

As I’m an elemental gargoyle, air nourishes my spirit and strengthens my supernatural gifts; the currents are essential to my well-being, allowing the gargoyle vitality to flow freely within my royal protector blood. It is a strong reminder that there is more to our worlds than what we see.

The dry riverbank beneath my feet is a stark contrast to the lush forest that surrounds me. My gaze roams over the Killarney National Park and slides up Torc Mountain, focusing on the peak of the waterfall. A shudder runs through me at the thought of the entrance to the woodland realm hidden behind the cascading liquid.

Where he is.

Mere steps from me, but worlds away.

With a quiet growl, I shove thoughts of him away to focus on my surroundings and the task at hand.

I ease back into a comfortable position and calm my breathing while manipulating the wind’s speed. I strain to move the currents until I’m exhausted.

I’m hoping the directional changes will bring the Irish mist and end the drought.

The way the air floats between the clouds and trees determines if a storm will appear. And right now, more than anything, I need the rainfall.

The howling wind calms into a soft sigh as I drop my hands from exhaustion and everything around me stills.

My eyes float across the unmoving land. It still amazes me that with a simple flick of my wrist, I hold the power to create calm and peace or chaos and destruction.

I miss the days when the skies naturally became dark and the raindrops fell lazily from the sky in their gentle dance.

Three months. My heart stutters at the thought. It hasn’t rained in three months—not since Tristan left.

Tristan Gallagher.

My gargoyle protector.

And prince of the woodland realm.

When Tristan returned to his court, not only did he take my heart, but he also took the rainfall. And in its place, the angry winds arose, both in nature and in my core.

As time stands still, the ache in my chest spreads. I savor the shadow of darkness that has fallen across the land.

It’s a dark reminder of the sadness and emptiness I feel.

It was only a few months ago that, like the wind, Tristan blew into my life, bringing the storm with him and taking it when he went away, leaving me with the quiet of the curling air, devoid of the tiny drops of water.

I hate the calm. I used to love it, but now, it’s too still.

The lack of chaos provides time to think.

To remember.

To allow the hurt to seep in.

Once it had been second nature to savor moments of peace like this. Once I dreamed of being someone else—until I knew Tristan existed. Then all I dreamed of was a day when it was just me and him.

I release a throaty laugh, because that’s not likely to happen anytime soon—or ever—considering he is betrothed to another: Freya, the princess of the water realm.

Even though Tristan is half gargoyle, he was raised by his mother, Queen Ophelia, in her kingdom, the woodland realm. Months ago, Tristan killed a royal protector, an enemy who had infiltrated the woodland army and planned to murder the queen.

Though he acted in the name of protection, he spilt gargoyle blood and almost started a war between our worlds. The violation could not go unpunished by my clan, the London clan of gargoyles. The royal family.

As a favor to his old friend—and Tristan’s estranged father—Gage Gallagher, my uncle Asher, king of our race, assigned Tristan to protect me, which he begrudgingly agreed to, avoiding his sentence of stone petrifaction.

While it may seem cruel, Tristan’s severe punishment was merited in our world. Instead, he was ordered to protect me against a possible attack by the Diablo Fairies—a legion of ancient warriors who practice black magic.