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No one really knows who Leif is. They know the man he portrays and the things he has done, both good and bad. He was a boy that came from nothing and grew into a man full of rage that almost killed the one person he set out to save. He roams the realms waiting for death. Waiting for an absolution that doesn’t come. Then a rumor surfaces. A threat has been made against Sunny. Leif sets out to try to right the wrongs of his past. He sets out to do what he was meant to do from the beginning, save the queen. Can he do it alone or will he have to do the one thing that is hardest for him, which is: Ask for help.
"I have been looking for you."
I opened my eyes, turned my head, and stared up, way up into a pair of big brown eyes fringed in long lashes. Eyes so dark they looked almost black.
"You're a hard person to find."
That was the point. I didn't want to be found. I liked my hermit existence. I didn't have to see anyone or talk to anyone if I didn't want. I liked to roam the realms and see what I could find. There were so many things we didn't know about the four realms. It wasn't so much as fun, as it was time consuming. That was what I wanted, though. The sooner time passed, the better off I would be.
"You look like crap, Leif," she said when I didn't respond.
Her voice, although lowered in disdain, was soft and feminine. If I weren't waiting for death, maybe I would have cared more. I tried not to notice her creamy, pink tinged skin. I tried not to notice her high cheekbones, and lush lips. I tried not to, but I did anyway. How could I not? She was beautiful. Not that I cared.
"Man, and you stink. God, when was the last time you shaved…"
I lifted a hand up to my face and felt the length of coarse hair that covered the bottom part of my face. How long had it been?
"…or taken a bath for that matter."
A bit longer than I had realized apparently. "What do you want, Cinder?"
She was silent for a moment. Was it my voice? It was gravelly with disuse, but the tone was indifferent, not aggressive.
Finally she said, "I came to bring you this." This, being a sunshine yellow envelope with my name written in bold calligraphy on the front. She held it down to where I lay on the rocky red ground.
I hesitated a moment before I took the proffered envelope. I didn't open it. I could only stare at the writing. I knew the writing and, therefore, who it was from without even having to open it. What did she want? What did it say?
"Why are you here? Why are you laying down there on the ground like that?" Cinder asked.
I used her questions as an excuse to put off the inevitable and said, "I like it down here." I lay sprawled out on the rocky red dirt that made up the Fire Realm. The air was hot, the sun even hotter. If I lay there long enough, maybe I would just evaporate and be gone. No more Leif. No more running. No more hiding. Just gone. Finally.
"Yeah, but why?"
I didn't answer, instead my attention returned to the yellow envelope. I lifted the unsealed flap, and slid out the thick ivory card with silver writing.
I slipped the card back within the envelope and dropped it down next to where I lay. One grain of the red clay had found its way on top. My eyes fell to that red dot.
"So, what?" I said still focused on the grain of clay.
"So, are you going to come?"
I stayed silent. Everyone knew why not.
"She's not mad at you. In fact, she misses you. She talks about you all the time," Cinder said.
She did? Did she talk about how I tried to kill her? What about how I used her?
"She really is hoping you will come. That's why I'm hand delivering your invite. She wanted to make sure you got it. Saw it."
Did she really want me there? Was it all just a joke to get me back for all I had done?
"Will you at least think about it?"