Possible spoilers ahead as this takes place after 'Rogue'.
Warning: Some people under 15 might find a few paragraphs disturbing. Rated T for violence & language.
"Hey, Riley?" I hear Ember call out my name from another room of the safe house. The new and hopefully secure safe house we'd been staying in for the past two weeks.
Wes shoots me an annoyed look from his seat beside me, very pointedly switching his gaze between me and my laptop as if to say 'Ignore her, we have more work to do. Think of the hatchlings'. With an overly exaggerated sigh for his benefit I stand, rolling my shoulders around in a motion to release any kinks. I can almost feel my currently non-existent wings cramping up in this small space, wanting to stretch out in open air and take flight instead.
I wonder out and away from Wes to find Ember, lying belly down on a plush rug in front of a very cheap heater. Her feet are rocking back and forth in a picture of mock innocence.
"Yes, Firebrand?" I reply, entranced by her feet. We dragons could be so easily distracted.
"When's your birthday? Or should I say hatch-day?"
"My birthday?" The question takes me back. Not only is it completely irrelevant to our current mission of relocating all the hatchlings from their compromised locations, but I also don't think any one has ever asked.
"I don't know," I reply simply. She pushes herself to her knees, hands out, still warming herself against the heater. Winter is a harsh time for cold-blooded dragons. It's even worse for hatchlings who don't know how to control the internal fire inside of them enough to provide their own heat. "Did you want to buy me a birthday present?"
Ember laughs softly, the sound sending a hot pulse directly to my stomach. "No, does it look like I could afford one? I just wanted to know how old you are." She looks down with a blush and the feeling in my stomach intensifies. I think I know why she's asking. She wants to know if she's too young for me, or I too old for her.
'Yes, she feels it, too. I know she does,' my other half, my real self, Cobalt, whispers to me. 'You could take her out of here right now. Fly to the cliffside, find a cave and make her ours. We can keep her there were no one can find her, and bathe her in all the jewels she may want.'
I try to push his voice and the sudden rush of erotic images out of my head. "We stop counting really around twenty. It's not needed since we're virtually immortal, and besides, everything interesting has happened by then: job assignment, integration into the human world. After that we tend to just use 'around x decades or centuries old'."
"I would have thought you'd stop at fifty. You know, when you turn into adults."
"Fifty isn't a magical number, Firebrand. It's more of a state of being, a period where you connect completely with yourself, and there's no disharmony. It can take years." She nods in understanding, her bright green eyes keeping contact with mine. It's an action I would see as a challenge in any male dragon – staring each other down is a sure way to bring on a fight, but in this case it's doing nothing but causing a painful erection that I have no intention of hiding.
Ember turns back to the heater and I take a seat beside her, touching slightly, just enough to make the point of contact burn between us. She shivers and subtly leans further into me to absorb my body's heat. I rest one hand on the side of her head, laying it against my shoulder and flushing her body against mine. She fits so perfectly, like she was made for me.
'She is,' Cobalt hisses. 'She wants you. I can smell it. She is our mate, she won't resist us.'
My body tenses, my skin suddenly feeling too tight. Suddenly, without warning, I'm close to Shifting right here, and probably close to ruining my progress with Ember. I've only had two weeks free from the St bloody George soldier to woo her, and judging from her fluttering eyes and shallow breaths it seems to be working. That will all be shot to pieces though if I Shift here and rut with her against her will. Well, it wouldn't be against her will. Once the mating process really begins there will be enough pheromones emitting from beneath my scales to kill a small horse.
Still, it's too soon. We haven't yet flown properly together to allow our dragons the chance to mark each other. There's also the chance she won't Shift with me and I lose control and mate with her human form. A human female can't take a male dragon; I don't need any experience in that department to understand that. I can't ruin this, even if she does smell so fucking good.
A moan followed by a throaty growl breaks me out of my musings. Somehow, without realising it, my face has become buried in her neck, nostrils desperately inhaling her scent. Her head is tilted to the side, her beautiful red hair hanging over her shoulder allowing me complete access to it. I lightly nip the delicate skin there and give another throaty purr of approval. She's put herself in such a vulnerable, submissive position with her neck bared, available for me to hurt, even kill her if I wished.
Cobalt rumbles in absolute pleasure at the amount of trust she has for me. For us.
The yell jerks me away from Ember's neck and I growl loudly at the sound of a male so close in the vicinity to my mate. My ready mate. Ember stutters for a few seconds in confusion and embarrassment, her wild eyes darting around, before jumping to her feet and dashing out of the room. I close my eyes for a few seconds, trying to get the sudden rage inside me to die down before I do something I regret.
"I can't kill him. He's important," I whisper over and over under my breath. It's not working like I'd hoped.
"Riley! Mate, come here! I think I've got Griffin, that bastard."
It's important. I should go back and see what information Wes has found out about the little fucker, but I can't get myself under control. Nor can I get my very painful erection under control. The smell of Ember's want in the air does nothing to help, it only makes matters a hundred times worse.
Torn between wanting to find Ember and smooth things over, and wanting to go to Wes and throttle his neck, I choose instead to sprint out the safe house's small front door. The brittle frame almost tears right off from the force I use and I quickly make sure it's fastened properly before making my way down onto the abandoned street.
This safe house is one of my newer finds – a few hours out of Las Vegas into an empty neighbourhood in Arizona. The areas around the neighbourhood weren't so deserted, this particular one, however, used to be a popular site for drug dealers and lowly criminals. As the crime rate went up the residents fled, and more unsavoury characters bought the abandoned houses for a fraction of their original price. The police soon discovered the area to be a jackpot for busts, and within a decade the criminals also fled from the routinely scouted area until no-one was left at all.
An extra bonus from having almost an entire suburb to oneself is the ability to change in the open without anyone seeing. I'm not so stupid as to do that, though. Not with Talon and St. George breathing down our scales, tracking us with all they have. The thought of them finding us again so soon after Vegas leaves me filled with weary dread.
'They won't get us,' Cobalt says in my mind. 'We're not stupid. We can outsmart and take on any creature that tries to kill us.'
'Or any that dares try to send Ember away to be a breeder with the other Dragonells,' I think in disgust, trying not to imagine the conditions the Dragonells would be in right now.
'No!' Cobalt snarls in agreement, his presence thrashing inside me eager to get out this second to face down the imaginary foes threatening his mate. 'I'll kill them all first. I'll wipe out every dragon and human until we're the last two creatures alive before that!'
My body Shifts instantly, without me even being aware of the change until my clawed feet are pounding the cement. I'm running at full speed, encouraged by Cobalt's unnecessary and sudden rage, blasting the sides of the empty buildings with bursts of fire.
The buildings quickly crumble under the power of my flame and I take to the air to get a better view of them burning. The feeling of pride I get from watching them be destroyed is primal and raw. It pumps blood to my heart faster and harder, giving me a rush of adrenaline.
I swoop quickly down the streets, lighting up a row of flames on my way. It's insane; it's suicidal. I might as well be painting a red bullseye on my blue scales, but I also can't help but feel my actions are right. The flames are an animalistic warning to intruders that this is my territory, I am King of my domain and anyone who dares step inside will be facing this power.
Circling the safe house once to make sure no-one has descended on my little pack because of my idiotic alpha male display, I lay down onto a burning street. The fire licks up my scaled body, making me feel protected even while out in the open.
Knowing I need to change back, I slowly allow my body to reshape itself into human form. Never before had I lost control so badly that I'd Shifted without being aware of it. Perhaps I'm not quite the connected adult I thought I was. Refusing to wallow in the shame of not being in control I start to head back to the safe house. First thing I'd have to do is get Wes to scan all nearby areas for threats that might have appeared because of my fire display, then I'd find Ember and apologise for the way I acted tonight. I really hope we didn't have to move again so soon because of me.
I'm almost back at the safe house when I hear his voice, straining with effort. Seems at least one St. George has found us already.
"Riley. I've been searching for you guys for over a day!"
It's Ember's soldier, Garret. He's red in the face, his blonde hair hanging limply from sweat and dirt. Panting, obviously exhausted, with his hands on his knee he looks up in disbelief.
"Are you out of your goddamn mind! You're out flying, spitting firebolts everywhere? Are you trying to get yourself killed?"
His face is an odd mixture of disgust, disbelief, and relief. No matter how much of a murderous killer he is, he still has the face of a boy. A child not yet experienced in the world. It's my turn to be disgusted; I don't know what Ember ever possibly saw in this man-child, not even an adult by human standards.
'She was young. She didn't yet know she could have me.'
"You sneak up on a rogue dragon, in his marked area, and tell me I'm out of my mind?" I ask him bewildered. I'm more stunned than anything to see him here. I know he's not going to harm me though. He wouldn't risk Ember hating him, and if I thought he'd so much as try he'd be without his head this second.
He stands to his full height – which isn't even to my chin – trying to find equal footing with me. He gives me a quick once over, his jaw dropping as he examines me.
"Can you put on some pants?" he says quickly, his eyes darting back up to mine. I smirk unashamedly. Modesty is reserved for humans, who act as if they were born with threads on their backs. Besides, I wanted him to see me in my full glory, my virile manhood hanging heavily between my muscular legs. No human could compete with a male dragon and I wanted him to know that. Understand that on every primal level.
He glances back down quickly before shaking his head. "Whatever. Look, when I left two weeks ago I tried to get into contact with some of my old squad member in the Order-"
I grab him by the collar of his crumpled shirt and lift him off the ground, bringing his face right in front of mine, shaking him. "I knew it! You fucking turncoat. Couldn't wait a whole day before running back to your precious fucking dragon-killing clique."
He tries to grab my hands to pull me off of him. "No. No, Riley. I just wanted information," he chokes out.
I let him go and he gracefully falls to his feet, taking a few short steps away to put distance between us.
"No," he repeats with a shake of his head, "I wouldn't do that. You know I wouldn't. Not after everything, not after what they did to me and Ember in Vegas. I just thought there'd be someone on the inside who'd understand where I was coming from. Someone like me. But there wasn't. No one wanted to help the dragon lover."
"Then how did you find us? You'd need a team to track us down," I snarl. I don't trust this boy, I've never trusted this boy, and I definitely do not want him anywhere near Wes or Ember. St George was better off with the humans, and Ember is better off with her mate. "You said you've been looking for a day."
"Yeah. Over a day, really. No one I thought might've helped in the Order would help, they all quite creatively told me how they planned to kill me if they caught me. One, however, mentioned that he knew where I was, that they'd found me and was on their way to gut me. That was two days ago. The place they mentioned was this area. They didn't know I wasn't with you, but they know you're here somewhere."
I snarl again, my fingernails cutting into my palms in an effort not to break the soldier's neck. If what he's saying is true then I'm wasting time by talking to him. I needed to get Wes and Ember the hell out of this city.
"Bullshit," I whisper low and deadly, "If they knew two days ago then we'd be gone two days ago. You've probably lead them straight to us with your idiocy."
Garret raises his hands in defence, perhaps only now realising he's in the presence of a temperamental dragon. "No, I swear it. They gave me a location and I came as fast as I could. I wouldn't have a trail, I know how to hide my tracks better than that."
The hair stands up on the back of my neck and my warranted paranoia about St George makes me quickly stride forward and pull the boy into one of the empty buildings I didn't demolish. He stumbles forward, catching himself on a fallen beam while I stalk up behind him taking in our surroundings.
"Speak now," I demand while he rights himself. "If what you're saying is true you've wasted our time. You could've picked up the bloody phone, you stupid boy. We have those, remember!"
"Ember didn't give me the throwaway number," he responds, "I couldn't think of another way to reach her. You should be grateful I've risked my neck to help you out!"
"You didn't do this for me," I growl. My throat burns with fire wanting to escape. "You've done this because of some misplaced affection for her."
My eyes flash in warning as Garret grinds his teeth together, the harsh sound grating on my sensitive ears. He's fidgety, like he wants to do anything but talk to me right now.
"Yes, okay. Yes, I've come back all this way, not slept for almost two days so I could tell her to keep moving." He runs a hand through his messy locks. "Everything I've done since leaving St George has been because of her. I don't want to run anymore. I want to come back and help."
'Help? He can't help. He's an enemy, a male enemy, wanting to take our pack away from us.' Cobalt thrashes inside while I choke down the unexpected fire. 'We can make him run. We could mount him, give him a thorough dominance fuck to show him just how far below us he is. How weak he is.'
"Everything you've done was for her?! What have you done for her except lie, manipulate, and unknowingly send your wolves after her! You're weak and pathetic." I want to turn away from him before Cobalt takes charge, but he's staring at me and it's a challenge I won't turn from.
"I'm weak and pathetic?" he scoffs, "Who got kidnapped by Ava? Who did we have to go rescue two weeks ago? I was with Ember, taking down dozens of humans and a goddamn viper, while you struggled to deal with one girl. I protected her then and I can do it again, but we need to leave now!"
My blood is boiling and my dragon's nictitating membrane – my third eyelid – covers my human pupils making it hard to see. It seems body parts can Shift without changing entirely.
"You can't protect her!" I roar at him, hot saliva hitting his face where it starts to sizzle, heated by my inner fire.
His fist clenches at his side and any fear he might have had for me previously is lost as anger and resolve sets in. "I can. I love her! Which is more than you can say. Human emotion after all." He brusquely wipes at his cheek to remove my spit. "Fuck this, I'm going to find her and tell her what I know. At least she's sane enough to listen to me! At least I'll be there to protect her while you're out playing with fire on the streets like a moron giving away her position."
"You don't get to see her," I tell him, my voice threatening. Cobalt waits anxiously for something, anything, to happen to his human who has broken into his territory, insulted his leadership, his protective abilities, and laid claim to his mate. "You don't speak to her, or fucking touch her. I don't trust you, you filthy dragon slayer."
"Oh, trust me," the soldier tries to smirk, but his nerves and false bravado easily gives him away, "She'll want me to see her and touch her. You can have the cock of a dragon, but it was me on her back, riding her."
My heart and breathing slows, a rush of blood fills my ears making it hard to hear anything except white noise. I didn't even realise I was in dragon form until I see the shocked expression on the soldier's face coupled with the blood pooling in the corners of his mouth.
I look down. My sharp, black claws are deep in his stomach, tearing his delicate organs from the inside. His liver and kidneys crushing under my talons like putty. I'd passed through him, beyond his ribcage, through one lung and towards the soft flesh of his back.
'Yesss,' Cobalt purrs, 'He tries to take what's yours. She's ours. No other male can touch her. Slice his manhood from his body."
I stand there for several moments, staring into Garret's eyes which are beginning to glaze over with the first steps of death. Perhaps I should feel guilt, or sorrow, for this boy's soon-to-be demise at my hands, but I think about all the dragons he's killed and my claws tighten even further into his body. The image of the dragon's hide, hung up as a trophy in one of St George's headquarters will be burned into my and Ember's memory; this boy most likely doesn't even remember it. He doesn't deserve life.
He doesn't deserve Ember. His soft, pliable stomach was so easy to tear through. He's weak. He tries to speak, the blood flowing from his mouth from the punctured lung makes it too difficult though and he slumps forward onto my scaly forearms instead, his body jerking in small twitches. Like a marionette whose strings have been cut.
I can feel his faint heartbeat so I know he's not dead. Yet.
"Just how did you think a human and dragon relationship would work, little one?" I ask mockingly. It's rhetorical though, I'm not even sure he could hear me or if he's even still conscious. "How do you think you'd pleasure my dragonell? Would she be forced to endure your pathetic attempts at mating in human form forever? Or would you try to mount her dragon as a human?"
His lack of response simultaneously amuses and annoys me. He's dead. Cobalt is preening, basking in what he perceives to be his rival's blood, wanting to rub it over his body in a show of dominance.
'I wear the blood and life of my enemy. He wears none of mine.'
I shake the human's body off my claws, taking a few seconds to dislodge him as my claws had reached his spine and had jarred in them. There is not even a scratch on me.
I Shift back into my naked human form, Garret's blood coating my arms and parts of my torso. I feel good. Energised. Running back to the safe house I wrench open the door and stalk in the direction towards the smell of Ember.
"Oh my god!" She cries out, grabbing me strong but gently by the shoulder when I enter her room. Any awkwardness from earlier in the night gone in an instant. "What happened? Are you hit?"
"St George," I reply, looking into her worried eyes. "St George was here but is gone now. There's no more hanging around so we don't need to worry, and the blood isn't mine."
She nods in relief and both Cobalt and I smile in triumph. "Stay right here, I'll grab some water and a rag."
'She does not care about St George,' he whispers to me, 'She worries only for us. Whether it is our blood.'
I practically glow at the thought. She has chosen me. I have told her about St George the soldier and she still chooses to stay with me. When she returns with a dish rag and warm water she sets them down and gently takes a bloodied hand into hers, and begins to wipe the boy's blood off. She's cleaning me. Grooming and taking care of me exactly how a mate would. The thought fills my heart with such warmth I feel like it may explode.
'Now can we take her away and make her ours?'
While I'm no where near the age of a thousand year old ancient Wyrm, the urge to whisk Ember away to a nearby cave and hoard her presence like the ancient ones used to do with gold is incredibly strong. I cannot keep her away like a treasure though. Dragons were meant to be free and independent, going wherever they please. It's the reason I've been taking so many hatchlings away from Talon. However, making her mine doesn't mean she'd need to be locked away anywhere. She can be free and mine at the same time.
'Yes, I think we can do that.'
Hope you enjoyed!