“You said this would be fun.”
Elron kept leading me deeper into the woods. “It will be fun. Give it some time.”
“I’m cold already.”
“Be patient, Michelle. You will be comfortable when we get into the tent.” Elron smiled at me over his shoulder.
That was supposed to be an encouraging smile, but I couldn’t get excited about camping. I sent a longing look at the lodge, which was rapidly fading into the trees. My apartment was back there, and I couldn’t think of a good reason to be sleeping in the woods when a real bed was close at hand.
Instead of being inside, which was where all the sane people were on this frigid early-spring day, I was in the woods with a crazy elf. Well, a determined elf. When Elron had first asked if I would go camping, I’d flatly refused. Two months of persistence had paid off for him though, because I had finally given in. I’d figured if I went camping with him this once, we could call it good. Seeing him out here was making me doubt that evaluation. There was an eagerness to him that made me think he would be begging me to do this again and again.
A cool wave of air drifted over me, ruffling my hair. I paused, letting Ty, my pet T. rex, draw even with me. For being a magical construct, Ty felt real enough when I patted his side. A while back I had freed him from some nasty spells, and he had been with me ever since. Size-related problems aside—it wasn’t easy to house a full-grown T. rex—Ty was the perfect pet, with the personality of a well-trained guard dog. Ty would keep me safe even if I was forced to endure a night in the woods.
“Welcome to camp,” Elron said, breaking my thoughts.
I stopped at the edge of the clearing and tried to see this as a fun night rather than a miserable one. The tent was large enough for the two of us to fit comfortably, but it didn’t look like it would keep us warm. On the bright side, we were camping next to Ty’s shelter, which should help block the wind.
As Elron walked over to the tent, I gave Ty a wide-eyed look. Ty nosed me, forcing me several steps closer to the tent. The traitor.
Elron unzipped the door and motioned for me to enter. Inside the tent, a small lamp was hanging from the peak of the dome roof. It emitted enough light for me to make out two sleeping bags, complete with pillows.
“Are you sure about this?” I sent a longing look in the direction of the lodge. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Ty head to his shelter. “We could wait until late spring or summer when the weather is better.”
“We will be fine. It is not going to be that cold tonight, and if something unexpected does happen, we are close to the lodge.”
“But we could be in the lodge.”
“You agreed to this.”
“Fine.” I plopped down in the door and pried off my shoes. “But this one night is all you get.”
“Perhaps.” Elron slipped out of his shoes as he stepped into the tent, quickly placing both pairs in the corner of our temporary dwelling. “However, you might enjoy the experience and wish to do it again.”
“I wouldn’t bet on it.”
Elron shook his head, his waist-length silver hair swinging enough that his pointed elven ears showed. “Considering all the time you have spent in the woods in recent months, it would be prudent for you to develop some skills to aid you in those situations.”
Shrugging, I shimmied into my sleeping bag. There was nothing like the feeling of being surrounded by cold fabric and knowing that it was supposed to keep you warm all night. Most of it would warm up, but I knew the foot area was a lost cause. While Elron was arranging his sleeping bag, I risked a tiny spell to heat up my feet.
After mouthing a few runes, I sighed as warmth began to seep through by socks. This was one of the times I was glad I’d been born a witch. You couldn’t learn how to be a witch, just as you couldn’t learn to be an elf or a shifter.
“You agreed no magic.” He glared at me. Elves couldn’t use magic the way a witch could, but they had their own powers and, when in close proximity, could sense some types of magic. Drat him. “If you’re working a case or being attacked by other witches—”
“Hey,” I objected. “I took care of that problem. No one is going to be hunting me.”
Elron ignored my protest. “—you will not be able to spare the energy.”
“My feet were cold. That’s it. I was just warming my feet.” The spell ended, having accomplished its task. My feet were now warmer than the rest of my body, but I had a feeling that would change if this argument continued.
He continued glaring at me and motioned to the camping equipment. “The tent and sleeping bags were a compromise. Any more magic and we will be spending the night under the stars without these aids.”
“I’m sorry.” There was more than a trace of shame in my voice. “I shouldn’t have done that. I won’t use any more magic.”
He looked at me.
“No more magic.”
“And you will agree to survival lessons?”
I swore. If I’d realized he would use that little heating spell as leverage, I would’ve suffered through the night with cold feet. “I’ll think about it.”
“You did break your word. I am owed reparations.”
And that was the problem with a modern girl dating an elf who’d been around for more than a thousand years. “I said I was sorry.”
He was still frowning. “Are you sorry for using magic or for agreeing to this little adventure?”
I was tempted to break my long-held belief that honesty was the best policy, but he knew me too well. “Both?”
“Then you owe me an additional lesson.”
“You got me to go camping. Isn’t that enough of a win?”
The look on his face clearly said no.
Closing my eyes, I knew I was going to regret this concession. “An afternoon. No more than five hours of whatever outdoor lessons you think I need. Deal?”
“That is satisfactory.”
I nodded and sank farther into my sleeping bag. It was finally warming up, and I wanted it to be good and toasty when we went to sleep.
“Would you like a game?”
Rolling over, I saw a deck of cards in his hands. “What game?”
Elron’s eyebrows pulled together. “What is slapjack?”
Sometimes being young had its advantages.
Copyright © 2016 N. E Conneely