"No knights today, King Arthur?"

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The next day is awful.

The first thing Eli sees when he walks into Rosemont High is Yvonne Lacroix. She's standing there with her two lackeys, Fargo and Brooklyn, and for one, heart-stopping moment all Eli can think is:

Morgan told!

Which is irrational, of course. Even if Morgan had told her mom she'd spent yesterday evening in the forest with a dragon, why would Lacroix think that dragon was Eli, of all people? Unless Lacroix has some kind of magic dragon-sniffing mojo but . . . but surely Widow Adeline would've mentioned something like that, right? For being pretty, yanno. Life-or-death and whatever? Eli would totally text her to ask except Widow Adeline is like a thousand years old and still has a phone with a cord and a dial on the front. And not even in an ironic way.

Yvonne Lacroix, as it turns out, does not appear to have magic dragon-sniffing mojo. She does, however, give Eli a very tight smile when she sees him, accompanied by a slight incline of her head.

"Mister Drake," she says. "My daughter, Morgan, explained our little . . . misunderstanding. I must extend my apologies, for everything that's been done to you. Rest assured, such injustices will not happen again."

"Um," says Eli. "Yeah. Sure. Don't worry about it." He edges away from Lacroix and around the corridor before he lets himself slump down hard against a bank of lockers, hand coming up to grasp around the dragon-scale pendant, hidden safely beneath his hoodie. He knows, down in the depths of his flaming nebula dragon-heart, that he absolutely cannot allow Lacroix to see the pendant. Or know where Eli got it from.

He's so busy being paranoid about the pendant that Lacroix's actual words don't start making sense to him until third period. It's Economics and he's supposed to have it with Zoe, and by the time he's sitting at his desk he feels like he's run a marathon, what with all the sweating and heart-pounding.

He hasn't seen or talked to Zoe since the Bathroom Incident yesterday. He caught a glimpse of her, briefly, this morning in the hallway so he knows she's here. Their eyes had met, kinda, and Eli had been about to step forward and say something when Zoe had looked down and changed directions, hair falling in front of her face like blue-black GAME OVER screen.

im not mad, Eli had texted her. just wanna talk.

He's pretty sure it's true. Like, maybe 86.53% sure it's true. Even if he is mad, he wants to hear Zoe's side of the story. Dad had always been big on that; not judging until you'd heard both sides. Because maybe Zoe did some bad magic but maybe also Morgan was lying about the whole love spell thing. Morgan who, Eli now knows—or, rather, "Íl'iàn" now knows—has all kinds of reasons to lie about Zoe, at least where Eli is concerned.

Except, if Morgan had been lying, why is Zoe now avoiding him?

God. Why is everything so difficult? Being a teenager sucks. And that's not even counting all the monsters and dragons and the pop quiz Mr. Raddatz has decided they're all doing. Or all of them except for Zoe, who still hasn't appeared.

She hadn't been in cosplay, Eli had noticed. When he'd seen her in the hall, earlier. Just jeans and a plain black knit jumper. Eli hadn't even really known Zoe owned outfits that didn't relate to fictional characters in some way. Even Zoe's pajamas were character-themed.

Eli blows through the test pretty easily, despite not really being in the game. Economics is just math, mostly, so it's not that hard. Afterwards, he finds Jake in the corridor, outside his locker, and is about to try and ask him about Zoe when the dude slams his door near-hard enough to bend it.

"Hey, Jake, have you seen—?"

And that's when Eli's life goes totally inside-out nuts, because Jacob "Sliced-White" Smith, totally bodychecks Eli with his shoulder. It isn't very effective—Eli is strong now he's a dragon—but Jake more than makes up for it with his snarled, "We have nothing to talk about, Drake."

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