Authors: Avril Sabine
Dragon Blood 4: Knight
Broken Gate Publishing
PO Box 6241
Maroochydore BC 4558
Genre: Young Adult Urban Fantasy
Copyright 2015 © Avril Petersen
Cover design by Caitlyn Petersen
All rights reserved
Yep, still for the three of you.
Amber is starting to feel that her list of enemies is growing longer by the minute. Those she cares about are threatened and during a surprise attack she fears one of her people is killed. Her life is spinning out of control, there are too many people she desperately wants to keep safe, but she can’t be with all of them at once. There’s only one of her and so many of them. It’s tearing her apart.
This novel was written by an Australian author using Australian spelling.
Like many names there is more than one way to pronounce the following ones. These are the pronunciations used in this story.
Name and Place Pronunciation
Chait (single syllable, rhymes with hate)
Gair (rhymes with hair)
Amber checked the screen of her ringing phone, momentarily closing her eyes when she saw it was Cooper. She rejected the call and quickly sent a text.
Can’t talk. Out to dinner with Mum.
She wasn’t quite there yet, but they would be soon enough.
“Who was that?” Donna parked the car on the side of the road, out the front of a lowset, dark red, brick house.
“No one important,” Amber muttered as she unbuckled and got out of the car. Although she’d much prefer to answer what was probably the twentieth call from Cooper than go to dinner with her mother. It was the worst way to end the school holidays. She didn’t even know these people. Why would she want to have dinner with them?
Donna joined her on the footpath. “Don’t start, Amber. I let you spend your entire holidays with those… those-” Donna broke off her sentence. “Well, the least you can do is be nice tonight.”
“Dragons. There’s nothing wrong with the word.”
“Please, Amber. I ask so little of you lately. One normal night. Is that too much to ask for?”
With the way things had been going lately, asking for the moon might have been a more realistic request. “Probably.”
“So you won’t even try.”
“I didn’t say that. I just said that a normal night was probably too much to ask for. I didn’t plan for all this to happen. It just did.”
Donna sighed. “I wish Gary could have come.”
“Mum-” she had no idea what to say. She could apologise, but she wasn’t sure what she’d be apologising for. “Come on, let’s get this over and done with. And don’t you dare organise another dinner with Wayne and Jennifer. If she wants friends she can find her own instead of letting her father choose them for her.”
“Just be nice.”
“Fine.” Amber followed her mother as they headed for the front door. She could probably dredge up nice from somewhere. Somewhere beyond battles, assassins and blood soaked dreams. Who was she kidding? She didn’t even know if nice was in her vocabulary any more. She thought of the last dragon she’d help kill. Queran. She hadn’t even known his name at the time. Queran and Paili. How many did she have to kill before it became meaningless?
They reached the front door and Donna turned to Amber and whispered, “Be nice.” She knocked on the door, stepping back to wait.
There was the sound of footsteps then Wayne swung open the door. Amber remembered him from the time they’d run into him while shopping. He still smelt strange under his excess of aftershave. Like last time, he wore a t-shirt and jeans, muscular arms making the band of his sleeves look tight. His sandy brown hair was still little more than stubble.
Wayne smiled. “I’m glad you could make it. No problem following the directions I gave you?” He looked past them. “Weren’t you bringing your boyfriend?”
“A last minute call from a patient. I’m afraid he won’t be able to make it,” Donna said.
“Maybe next time.” Wayne’s smile stayed in place. “Come in. Come and meet my daughter.” He gestured inside with a wave of his hand. “She’s nearly finished setting the table.”
Amber trailed behind them, her eyes darting everywhere. When she found herself looking for escape routes and vantage points, she immediately stopped. It was a dinner. Not a battle. She had to stop expecting something to jump out from the shadows all the time. Nothing was going to get her. Besides, Chait was still guarding her from the Void so it wasn’t like she was unprotected. He wouldn’t be game to let anything happen to her. Ronan would hunt him down and rip out his heart if he failed to protect her.
They stepped into a dinning room. Wayne, still smiling, gestured towards the girl placing cutlery on the table. “This is my daughter Jennifer.”
“Hi.” The girl had the same smile and sandy blond hair as her father. It was cut longer than his, but not by much.
“Hi.” The smile made Amber feel nervous. Or maybe it was the strange scent that both father and daughter had. She still couldn’t place it even though she was certain she’d smelt it before.
Donna moved forward, smiling. “I’m so glad to finally meet you. Your father has told me so much about you.”
“I hope it was good.” Jennifer laughed.
Amber barely managed not to wince at how fake the laugh sounded. Maybe the girl was nervous. Or maybe she was finding fault where there was none because she didn’t want to be here. And what could she say to get the meal started so they could get the night over and done with? Everything she thought of sounded rude and she was supposed to be nice tonight. Somehow.
“Take a seat.” Wayne pulled a chair out from the table, his smile widening as he gestured for Donna to sit at the head of the table. “Place of honour for our guest.”
Amber resisted the urge to gag. Could the pair of them be more pathetic? She quickly sat in a chair near her mother to avoid Wayne needing to continue with his theatrics. It was a waste of effort.
“Sweetheart, get the food from the kitchen.” He turned away from his daughter. “You wait until you taste the food Jennifer cooked for you.” He kissed his fingers theatrically. “Bellissimo.”
“I can’t wait. What did she cook?” Donna asked.
“Here it is now.” Wayne nodded towards Jennifer as she walked back into the room with two plates. “Roast beef and vegetables with a rich gravy she made from scratch using the pan juices.”
Jennifer put a plate in front of Donna and Amber, still smiling as she headed out of the room.
“Eat up.” Wayne continued to stand.
“Oh no, we’ll wait until everyone is served,” Donna said.
Amber leaned forward to breathe in the smell of the food. It smelt odd. Like Wayne and Jennifer. Where had she smelt this scent before? Then it hit her. At her grandmother’s home. As Jennifer placed two more plates on the table, Amber leapt from her seat, dragging Donna away from the table. “Dragon bone.”
“Amber!” Donna looked shocked.
“Don’t eat it,” Amber said. “There’s dragon bone in it.”
“I’m sorry-” Donna started to say, breaking off at the look on Wayne’s face.
“They said you didn’t know,” Wayne said.
“What?” Donna looked from Wayne to Jennifer. She took a step backwards.
Amber saw Chait appear out of the Void behind Wayne and his daughter.
“Not yet. Wait and see what’s going on.”
He nodded and disappeared back into the Void, but Amber felt safer knowing he was ready to help.
Wayne’s gaze remained on Amber. “But even if you did know, there’s no way you could have known there was dragon bone in the gravy. It’s too strong a scent for anyone except a dragon to be able to smell the bone through it.”
“I’m not a dragon,” Amber said.
“Then what are you?” Wayne demanded.
“What’s going on?” Donna asked.
“What are you?” Amber held Wayne’s gaze while keeping track of Jennifer’s movements. She pointed a finger in Jennifer’s direction. “Don’t move until someone answers. Although I think I’ve got a pretty good idea.”
Amber nodded at Wayne’s reply, ignoring her mother’s gasp. “Why us?”
“We need Helen to come back. If her daughter and granddaughter join us we’re certain she’ll return,” Wayne said.
Amber sent a look to Jennifer. “I’m serious. Don’t move.”
“But we already answered you.” Jennifer took another step in their direction.
“One more step towards us and we’re out of here,” Amber warned.
Wayne waved Jennifer back. “You don’t know what you’re missing. The calling that should have been yours if Helen hadn’t quit. You’ve missed out on so much.”
“I know what I’m missing and I’m not interested,” Amber said.
“This was all about getting to my mother?” Donna asked.
Wayne shook his head. “Not quite. It was about convincing her to return to the world she was born for.”
“This was all about my mother?” Donna’s voice rose slightly.
Amber interrupted Wayne. “Why the dragon bone in our food?”
“To show you how much better life can be with it. It makes you stronger, healthier, live longer. If you join the Knights you could have it regularly,” Wayne said.
Was that what it was really about? Not just killing dragons, but living longer. “Why do you kill dragons?”
“If you knew dragons like we did you wouldn’t be asking that question. They hate people and kill them for no reason at all. You’ve been brainwashed by movies and books into thinking they’re wonderful,” Wayne said.
“They’re vicious, murderous creatures,” Jennifer said.
Amber cut off her mother’s words before she said something to contradict them. “Are Wayne and Jennifer Smith really your names?”
Wayne smiled. “Almost. Our surname is Naylor.”
Amber hated that smile. It reminded her of a used car salesman and she wasn’t interested in buying anything he had to sell. “I think it’s time we left.”
“Try it. Just try a bit.” Wayne gestured towards the table.
Amber shook her head, taking a step backwards. “Come on, Mum.” She reached for Donna’s arm.
“If you tried some you’d understand what we’re talking about.” Wayne stepped around the table, slowly advancing on them. “It doesn’t hurt, I swear.”
“It’s the bones of people,” Donna said.
“They aren’t really people. They might be able to turn into people, but they’re animals,” Wayne said.
“Vicious beasts.” Jennifer advanced on them from around the other side of the table.
Chait appeared in the room, tackling Wayne. “Behind you.”
Amber spun to see an athletic looking, blond woman, her hair cut in a similar style to Jennifer’s.
“You!” Donna pointed an accusing finger at the woman.
“Let me go.” Wayne struggled to escape Chait. Jennifer threw herself on them.
“Who is she?” Amber demanded after checking that Chait could cope with the two Knights.
The woman held out a hand. “I’m Vikki.”
Amber didn’t take the offered hand, particularly since the woman’s smile reminded her of Wayne’s slick one.
The woman dropped her hand. “Vikki Naylor.”
Amber frowned. “Wayne’s wife?”
Vikki laughed. “His sister.”
Amber looked towards her mother, who gripped her arm tightly. “Mum?”
“It’s the woman your father’s been seeing.”
Amber stared at the woman in horror.
Vikki’s smile vanished. “Oh no, it wasn’t anything like that. I mean,” she gave a little laugh, “how could I help myself? I was only supposed to approach you Donna, but well,” she shrugged her shoulders, “one thing led to another.”
“You’re the woman my dad’s been seeing?” Amber couldn’t believe he’d chosen this fake woman over her mother.
“Vikki! Get this man off me,” Wayne bellowed.
“Surely the two of you can deal with a single man.” Vikki barely gave them a glance. “Incompetent.”
Amber’s phone rang and she pulled it out to see it was Cooper. “Not now!” She hung up. How had this night gone so crazy so quickly? Wayne was a Knight? Her father was dating a Knight? She shook her head. It was meant to be a simple dinner. An occasion that should have had her bored out of her mind, not warily waiting to be attacked. “We have to go.”
Vikki smiled. “Oh no you don’t. I believe you have yet to try the meal my niece spent all afternoon preparing.”
“No thank you. I’m not hungry.” Amber’s phone rang again and she saw it was Cooper. “What?”
“I really need to talk to you.”
“Not now, Cooper. I’ve got a situation I need to deal with first.”
“They found me, Amber. They’re out the front of the unit. They’re telling me that if I come quietly they won’t hurt me.”
Amber swore. “Give me a minute.” She hung up on him, dialling Ronan’s number. Her first thought had been to call Kade, but Ronan knew the pathways through the Void better than anyone. She blinked when Vikki pulled out a gun. “Ronan. Problems.”
“Hang up, now,” Vikki ordered.
“What’s up, kitten?” Ronan asked.
“Save Cooper, then I need you.”
“This better be good.” Ronan disconnected.
Amber returned her phone to her pocket. “Look Vikki, I suggest letting us go before all hell breaks lose.” She didn’t know if she could disarm the woman before she could get off a shot. And she wasn’t about to risk it while her mother was standing beside her going to pieces. Half the words Donna muttered were unintelligible and the other half Amber wished were. “We’re not going to die, Mum.”
“Vikki if you don’t deal with this man I swear I’ll get even,” Wayne yelled.
“What do you want me to do? Shoot him?” Vikki demanded.
“Don’t be stupid. You might hit Jennifer or me.”
“This is your last chance,” Amber warned.
“Or what?” Vikki asked smugly. “In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve got a gun and I will use it if you don’t eat the food.”
“Grandma isn’t about to return to the Knights if you kill us,” Amber said.
“Oh I wouldn’t kill you, just hurt you a tiny bit.” Vikki’s smile widened.
“Vikki!” Wayne bellowed.
“Try and not be so incompetent, Wayne.” Vikki didn’t even look in his direction. “Now you two go eat.”
Amber stepped in front of her mother. She could heal herself, she couldn’t heal her mother. “No.”
Vikki lowered the gun, pointing it at Amber’s leg. “I’ll give you to the count of ten.”
Ronan stepped out of the Void. “I’ll give you to the count of three.” He smiled, his predatory one.
Amber wanted to throw herself at him and thank him for coming. “What took you so long?”
“A dragon.” Vikki turned the gun towards Ronan.
“I had to knock your boy out. He was hysterical.” Ronan battered the gun out of Vikki’s hand and she threw herself towards it.
“And I had to walk some of the Void to get in the right place. Maybe in future you should let me learn the pathways of wherever you’re planning to go. Might make things easier.”
He grabbed Vikki around the waist before she could reach the gun.
Chait moved to Amber’s side.
“What happened to Wayne?” She turned around to see two crumpled bodies. “And Jennifer.”
“They’re alive,” Chait said.
Vikki struggled in Ronan’s arms. “Traitors. You’ll never be Knights if you’ve sided with the dragons.”
“You were the ones who brought us here. Not the other way around.” Amber turned to her mother. “Mum! Stop! We’re not going to die.”