TWENTY THREE

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RAVENNA SQUEEZED HER eyes shut and tried to focus

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RAVENNA SQUEEZED HER eyes shut and tried to focus. It was easier once the image of Caelan's half naked body faded from her mind. She readjusted her hands, repositioning her fingers correctly, and tried the spell again. Her ice reacted to her mental commands, shaped by the specifications of the spell. She could feel it moving in front of her, slowly lifting from the ground. It formed a circular shield in front of her and remained steady, hovering just in front of her palms.

"Very nice," she heard Caelan say and the shield immediately dissipated.

Her lips pressed together into a wrinkled line. With a sigh, she lowered her hands down to her sides and she poked an eye open. Caelan watched her, amusement swimming within his eyes. "You almost had it, anyways," he added.

"You're distracting me," Ravenna quipped. She turned her back toward him and stared intently at the cluster of trees that spread out in front of her. Sucking in a deep breath, she lifted her hands. She tried again, twisting her palms outward, and watched as the shield began to take form. She attempted to focus, to mentally force the shield to mold into a perfect circular shape. Yet the mental image of Caelan's abs crept across the depths of her mind, distracting her.

The shield started to melt towards the ground, and looked like a glob of watery blues. She lowered her hands and huffed. The mess of magic splashed against the ground and vanished.

Caelan actually laughed.

She glanced at him, jaw clenched. "It isn't funny," she snapped.

"I find it amusing," Caelan remarked, arching an eyebrow at her annoyed expression. The amusement in his expression made her hands curl into fists, and her cheeks burn with embarrassment. She watched as he ran a hand through his hair and moved closer, until he stood right beside her. "Try it again. You have to be able to create this shield, no matter what the situation is."

"I can make a shield when I need it. Just not this shield," she grumbled.

He crossed his arms over his chest. "Your magic reacts to strong, negative emotions. You shouldn't have to rely on those emotions for protection. It's not healthy, nor is it a safe practice."

Ravenna huffed. She repositioned her hands and then tried again. She watched as the ice around her feet lifted again, and began to take shape in front of her. It appeared shaky and watery. Caelan crossed his arms over his chest, and her magic seemed to shake even more. Droplets spilled out of the mess that hovered in front of her and rained down upon the earth. She lowered her hands and sent him an annoyed look. "Why do you have to stand so close to me?"

Caelan's amusement seemed to grow tenfold. "What if I enjoy standing close to you?"

Flustered, Ravenna turned away from him. The burning sensation spread from her cheeks to the tips of her ears. "You aren't funny," she snapped. "You're only making me angry. I can't focus."

"Am I?" Caelan snickered. "Maybe I was wrong then. Your magic doesn't respond to negative emotions, considering you are angry and can't successfully perform the spell."

"Imagine that," Ravenna grumbled under her breath. She closed her eyes again and tried to focus, tried to push his existence to the back of her mind.

Caelan hummed. "Or maybe I'm not wrong, and this just proves that your magic is simply unreliable when you are angry. It still lifts from the ground and attempts to form the shield. It is just unstable because of your emotions."

"I had it before," she snapped. "And then you spoke and ruined my concentration."

"That's the issue," Caelan remarked. He moved even closer to her, and Ravenna could feel his gaze locked onto the side of her face. Her eyes squeezed shut. "Nothing should be able to influence the reliability of your magic. You should be able to protect yourself despite how attractive, or infuriating, you find your opponent. This is a major flaw in your defense, and one that is very noticeable."

Ravenna folded her arms across her chest. Her eyes opened, and she tentatively glanced toward him. He stood awfully close, with his arm about an inch away from hers. So close that she could see the muscles contracted beneath his skin, and the thin lines of his veins. "Try again," he said, his voice soft.

Her nose scrunched. "How am I supposed to fix this flaw though?"

"Practice," he answered. He cocked his head to the side, watching her with piercing eyes. "The more you practice using your magic, despite the distractions, the easier it will become. Already, your shield has started to grow stronger. It doesn't completely fall to the earth now, even though my proximity and voice continue to throw you off."

She harrumphed. He chuckled. "Try it again."

Lifting her hands, Ravenna tried the spell again. She twisted her palms outward and watched as her ice reacted, lifting from the ground to form a somewhat spherical shape again. The magic was still watery, still trembling, yet it maintained its place in front of her hands. She frowned and lowered her hands. Caelan was right. Already, the shield was becoming more sturdy, despite his distractions.

A hand rested on her shoulder. "Again," Caelan said.

Taking a deep breath, she tried not to think about it, to ignore the heat that radiated from his fingertips. She focused on the spell, on the right hand positions. As she twisted her hands outward, her ice shakily lifted from the ground again. It took a few moments, but it churned into the shield's somewhat spherical shape. The shield continued to tremble, especially when Caelan's hand moved. She shivered as his fingers trailed down her spine and his palm pressed against her lower back.

"Just what do you think you are you doing?" she snapped, her cheeks burning and even brighter red.

"Distracting you," he answered. His hand radiated against her lower back, sending an army of tingles racing up the length of her spine. "Look, your shield is still intact."

She pursed her lips and turned her attention back toward her shield. It wavered and droplets of water splashed to the ground. The more that she stared at the magic, the more that she noticed its shakiness seemed to be in tune with her racing heartbeat. She sucked in a deep breath and tried to calm her heartbeat. Caelan's thumb moved, rubbing small circles against her lower back. Her heart skyrocketed and the shield vanished.

Laughter sounded from beside her. Ravenna wanted to hit him. "That's not funny," she hissed at him.

"Would you prefer that I take a different approach?" he said.

"Yes," Ravenna snapped at him. "I don't like your teasing. Anything would be better." She turned toward him, arms folded across her chest, and watched to see what he would do.

Caelan smirked, an eyebrow arched. "As you wish."

And then he attacked her.

Thank you for your patience! I apologize for being somewhat MIA, both on here and on Radish

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Thank you for your patience! I apologize for being somewhat MIA, both on here and on Radish. I am currently suffering from some CO2 poisoning and have been too sick to do much. Your support is greatly appreciated! <3

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