She searched his eyes. “Maybe.”
Her answer caused a flicker of hope in his stomach. For so long, Marco had wanted to be honest with someone, to let someone see the true version of himself. Cam had already seen more of him than he’d allowed anyone else, at least since he’d finished his training. What he said next would either bring them closer, or end up costing him his life.
He only hoped he was right about Camilla Melini’s ability to keep a secret.
Marco took a deep breath and said, “Have you ever heard the stories about the Elemental Master training academies?”
Cam stilled, but then smiled and said, “It was far-fetched, but that was one of my theories.”
He blinked. “What theory?”
“I’ve been wondering about it ever since I couldn’t break out of your ice bonds. The fog trick and ice dome only convinced me more, and I started to believe you were an Elemental Master.” He kept his face blank and her brows came together. “That’s what you were going to tell me, right? That somehow, despite the law and forced disbanding of the academies, you went through the training.”
Marco had to be an Elemental Master; there was no other explanation for the control he had over his abilities.
Cam knew the stories. But she had never imagined that the Elemental Masters, or their training academies, were still around. In the past, EMs had been heroes, defending their home territories, or helping to end conflicts. If the academies were still recruiting and training potential EMs, she wondered what they did once their training was complete. Cam had access to a lot of privileged information via DEFEND’s resources, so if she’d never heard about their actions, it was a well-kept secret.
Marco tightened his grip on her hips, leaned forward, and said, “How do you know about the Elemental Masters? Even mentioning the term was outlawed nearly a century ago.”
Okay. That wasn’t the answer she’d been hoping for. “I’m not saying anything until you confirm or deny that you are one.”
He narrowed his eyes. “Yes, fine, I’m an Elemental Water Master.” He squeezed her hips. “Now, tell me how much you know and where you heard it.”
She didn’t trust Marco enough to simply take him at his word, especially with something as far-fetched as being an EM. She wanted to see it with her own eyes. “Prove that you’re an EM first.”
He created a carnation flower out of ice and handed it to her. “Have you ever seen a regular first-born create something like that with barely a thought?”
Cam stared at the ice flower glistening in the faint light from the street lamps. “No.”
“Or how about this?”
A second later, snow started to fall, but when she looked up, all she saw was the ice dome—there weren’t any clouds.
Marco could control the weather, just like in the stories.
She looked back at him, and he raised his eyebrow. “Good enough for you? I could do this all night.”
The ice bonds, the dome, the flower, the snow—all of it pointed to one conclusion. Marco had to be an Elemental Master.
But he’d said Masters with an “s”—as in plural—so there had to be more of them somewhere. The question was how they’d managed to keep their existence secret from the AMT Oversight Committee. “But how is this possible? No one knows about the existence of EMs, not even DEFEND.”
Marco tapped her chin. “That’s what you think.”
“What the hell? Stop with the ambiguity and just spit it out already, Marco.”
“First, answer my question about how you know about the EMs. That’s only fair.”
Cam resisted a growl, but knew he was right. “Fine. My mother told my siblings and me the stories growing up. But apart from my family, I have no idea who else knows.”
His grip on her hips loosened and he said, “Which stories did your mother tell you?”
She pushed past the sadness that squeezed her heart at the memories. “She knew hundreds of Feiru legends. I think she told them to us to try to make Kiarra feel more accepted, and less like a burden. But whatever the reason, the one that reminded me of you was the story of Konrad Wolf.”
Konrad Wolf had been a strong—yet humble—Elemental Water Master from the 16th century. The story that had made him a legend was about how he’d foiled the plans of an army trying to invade his hometown of Vienna, by manipulating the weather.
Marco winked. “Glad to know you see me as a hero.” She glared and he laughed. “All right, I’ll drop the bullshit. But before I can tell you anything else, I need you to promise me that you won’t tell anyone about this—not your team or even your sister. I’m not really supposed to tell anyone, so the fewer who know the better.”
The enormity of his confidence hit her. First, he’d listened to her past with the Fed League without judgment, and now he was telling her something that could easily make him a target.