The Ice Twins by Nikki Jefford

CHAPTER ONE





Reed

Rain pattered over the rooftop while I tossed and turned, throwing in an occasional grumble. My twin slept soundly on the opposite side of our shared bedroom.

Ronin could sleep through a thunderstorm or a train wreck . . . or a train wreck in the middle of a thunderstorm.

So annoying.

If anyone ever tried to murder him in his sleep, he’d be lucky to have me nearby to freeze the last breath from their lungs before they ever got within an inch of his lazy ass. Not that assassins were interested in a couple of young halfling princes.

I rolled onto my back and stared through the murky darkness at the ceiling.

Restless. Always restless. I’d tried everything to curb my unrest: swordplay, jousting, archery, horseback riding, and sports in the mortal realm. Mom encouraged Ronin and me in our weapons and elemental magic training. Our birth father, Ryo, had convinced us to run marathons with him. My father Lyklor gave me a guitar, but I’d gotten fed up with how long it took to learn. I’d passed the guitar on to Ronin, who had way more patience than I did and had managed to get pretty far on the thing. Lyklor bought me a drum set next, which had been a better fit, though my interest had waned there too.

I needed to get laid. No. Been there, done that, and gotten bored.

I needed a girlfriend. Yep. Hard to believe I was ready for a relationship, but there it was. I was tired of dicking around and living at home. Tired of being treated like a child when I was in my twenty-first year.

I tossed my covers aside, got out of bed, and stretched my arms high above my head with a yawn.

With heavy steps, I tramped from the hall to the kitchen, where my dads sat at the table engaged in debate over a tournament Lark wanted to hold in Dahlquist. Steam rose from their coffee mugs.

“It’s too public,” Lyklor said. “He should stick to throwing balls at the castle.”

“Lark can look out for himself. Besides, the citizens have accepted him—unlike you.” Ryo smirked.

Lyklor grunted. He lifted his mug, took a sip, and winced. “Pit! I just burned my tongue.”

“Here. Let me help,” I said.

Lyklor’s eyes widened. “Reed. That’s okay. I can wait.”

In my hurry to assist, I intensified my efforts and accidently froze Lyklor’s coffee solid. The jolt of power left tingles on the tips of my fingers. Lyklor sighed and turned his mug over. The frozen beverage didn't budge. Not so much as a drop fell onto the newspaper.

“Sorry ’bout that,” I said as Lyklor took his mug to the kitchen sink.

When I looked at Ryo, he quickly put his hand over his mug, as though that could stop my magic if I really wanted to use it.

“Mine’s fine,” he hastened to say.

“Cool.”

“Yep, perfect temp. No cooling needed.” His forced smile came out as a grimace.

“Well, I’ll just jump in the shower before Melody wakes up,” I muttered.

The door to the bathroom, however, was locked. Maybe Ronin had dragged his ass out of bed. I pounded on the wood.

“Dude,” I called out.

“Go away!” my twelve-year-old sister yelled back.

Oh, crap bag of pits. She was going to be in there for hours.

“I need to take a leak.”

“Use Mom’s bathroom.”

Like hell. Mom’s bathroom was in her bedroom, and she might be changing.

“You use Mom’s bathroom.”

“I’m already in my bathroom.”

“Our bathroom,” I countered.

“Can’t you just freeze your pee inside your bladder or something?”

“Seriously?” I slapped a hand to my forehead.

Melody huffed out a sigh of exasperation. “Fine. I’ll be out in like five.”

“Hours?”

“Ha ha. Go away, Elsa.”

I gritted my teeth. Melody was obsessed with all things Disney, including Frozen. Her closest friends were all humans. Her favorite phrase had become, “That’s not how they do things on Earth.”

Ronin was still dozing away when I returned to our bedroom. He slept on his side, facing the wall with the blankets tucked up to his chin.

I tugged open a dresser drawer and selected a pair of black jeans, donning them in place of my cotton sleep pants. Next, I pulled a hoodie over my head. Still having to pee, I slammed the drawer in frustration.

Ronin gave a slight jolt. He turned to face me and blinked. “What’s up?” he asked.