Kiss of Danger (The Dragon Legion Novellas) (10 page)

BOOK: Kiss of Danger (The Dragon Legion Novellas)
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“An interesting strategy,”
he taunted in old-speak.
“You ensure that I can’t save you from a fatal fall.”

“I’ll ensure that I survive it on my own.”

“Your plan doesn’t seem to be working.”

Jorge laughed.
“Only because you mistake my target.”
He turned then and directed his long trail of dragonsmoke toward the earth. The smoke turned and dove downward, as sinuous as a snake. Alexander had never seen dragonsmoke change directly so adroitly.

“Stand up,” Jorge roared aloud even as he fell, and a small boy stumbled to his feet. This was the scent that had confused Alexander, the human scent that had been submerged beneath the
Slayer
’s own scent. Did that mean that the boy was in Jorge’s thrall?

How? Why?

The boy was pale and thin, as if he had lost weight and health recently. His eyes seemed to be too large for his face and his submissiveness was unnatural. He obediently stood and turned his face upward, then closed his eyes to wait. Alexander was struck that the child moved as if he were in a dream.

The dragonsmoke plummeted toward the boy and shot directly at his chest, like an arrow driven deep. The boy staggered at the impact, but didn’t appear to be surprised by it. He straightened and braced his feet against the ground, as if preparing for a familiar ordeal. Alexander watched the line of dragonsmoke and thought of a viper burying its teeth deep and drinking of the boy’s essence. Sucking him dry. The line of dragonsmoke became thicker and less ethereal, even as Alexander watched, and he was horrified that he might be right.

He looked back at Jorge to find that
Slayer
grinning. His wing had already grown stronger, because he was able to slow his descent. There was a nub already growing where the other wing had been torn away. Alexander could almost watch the new wing forming.

Jorge’s eyes shone as he landed beside the boy. The boy was wilting visibly even as the
Slayer
regained his power. Jorge took one last deep breath, then broke the line of dragonsmoke with obvious regret. His scales shone more brightly, as if they had been polished, and the blood had stopped flowing on his chest. Even those wounds seemed to be closing already.

“A wonderful discovery,” Jorge said in his gloating tone. He patted the boy on the head. “I fed him the Elixir, knowing that a rapidly growing boy could only make more blood and thus more Elixir for me. He’s already repaid me ten times over.”

Alexander landed warily, pretending not to see Pelias—or be aware that the warrior was still alive. He could hear Pelias’ pulse, slow and steady, and his breathing. The older man was injured but not dead. Alexander wasn’t sure he could save either Pelias or this boy, but was glad that there was no sign of Katina or Lysander. He assessed the scent of the boy carefully, and didn’t completely hide his surprise.

“Yes,” the
Slayer
agreed. “He is
Pyr
, or he would have been.” He smiled down at the boy. “Theo, say hello to one of the Dragon’s Teeth Warriors.” Theo just blinked slowly. “This is one of the men commanded by your father, Theo, unless I miss my guess.”

This was Drake’s son! Alexander couldn’t completely hide his surprise or dismay, and the
Slayer
chuckled at the confirmation of his guess. “What kind of vermin takes advantage of someone weaker than himself?” he demanded before he could stop himself.

“What kind of fools leave their sons undefended?”

“Those who serve for the good of all.”

Jorge smiled. “How many boys did you all leave behind?” he hissed, clearly not expecting an answer. “All those young
Pyr
, devoid of fathers and training and protection.” He was gleeful at the prospect. “I intend to find them all and put them to work, creating Elixir and energy for me to heal. I’ll get all my power back!” His grin broadened. “And if there are mates to sample along the way, I assure you that they won’t be overlooked.”

Alexander felt sick. “What happened to Cassandra?” he demanded, referring to Drake’s wife.

“Tell him, Theo,” the
Slayer
invited, his jovial manner completely untrustworthy. “What happened to your mother?”

The boy shuddered from head to toe. He lifted agonized eyes to Alexander. “She’s dead, sir.”

Alexander was glad that Drake wasn’t present to see the devastation in his son’s eyes.

“I’ve discovered a taste for mate,” Jorge said, his voice so low and silky that Alexander couldn’t suppress a shudder. He had no sooner hoped that this fiend was oblivious to Katina’s presence than the
Slayer
turned to scan the rocky hilltop, his nostrils working. “Where have the other mate and young
Pyr
gone? Is she yours?” Jorge grinned. “Maybe I’ll let you watch.”

Never!
 

 

* * *

 

Katina had urged Lysander into a low and rocky place, one that was dark and wet. She could smell the water there and felt safer in the shadows.

Her son didn’t share her view.

“I want to see!” Lysander protested, when Katina would have made him duck low in their hiding place.

“We have to stay safe,” she insisted. “I promised your father.”

“My father! Is that who the dark dragon is?” At this news, it was even harder to hold her son back. “Pelias said that my father had a gift and that I might have it, too.”

“What did Pelias tell you?”

“That my father was Spartan, which I knew, so that I needed to go to the
agoge
and train to be a warrior. But he said that my father was an elite warrior, and that he would watch me to see if I had my father’s powers.”

“Did he tell you what those powers were?”

“He said that my father was
Pyr
, and that the
Pyr
are charged with the task of defending the four elements and the treasures of the earth, which include mankind. He said that the
Pyr
can change shape, that they are touched by the grace of the gods, and can become ferocious dragons.”

It was clear that Lysander aspired to this ability, but Katina was more surprised by how much Pelias knew and had told him. Even so, she was glad to learn more about Alexander’s powers. Had he married her because he was supposed to defend the four elements? “He knew all this? He told you all of this already?”

“The very first day,” Lysander said. “I was sad to leave home, but he told me I had responsibilities.” Her son’s eyes lit. “Mama, I have to see! I might learn something.”

“You should stay here and be safe,” Katina said sternly, even though she was curious herself. Lysander wriggled out of her grip and crept to the lip of the cave she’d chosen.

“Pelias is injured!” he whispered in horror.

“No!” Katina crept to her son’s side, holding him back even as the two dragons fought in the air high above.

“And there’s a boy.” Lysander pointed. “He looks sick.”

Katina squinted at the darkness and could barely discern the silhouette of a child’s figure. She couldn’t have said whether it was a boy or a girl.

“I wonder what that silver thread was.”

“What silver thread?” Katina couldn’t see a silver thread. The child was wavering on his feet, even as the yellow dragon landed beside him. She could see that Pelias had fallen and that Alexander had positioned himself between the hoplite and the yellow dragon.

“I can’t quite hear what they’re saying,” Lysander murmured in obvious frustration.

Katina cast a glance at the sky because she heard the distant rumble of thunder. The sky was cloudless, though, which confused her.

“That boy’s Theo, the son of father’s commander,” Lysander whispered.

Katina looked at him in wonder. “How do you know this?”

“They said so,” he informed her with disdain, as if she hadn’t been paying attention. Lysander suddenly ducked back into hiding beside her, his face pale. “The yellow dragon wants to capture all the sons of the elite company.” His voice dropped to a whisper and he huddled against Katina. “Like me.”

She held her son close, fearful that the
Slayer
would do as he threatened. The yellow dragon lifted his head and surveyed his surroundings, his gaze landing precisely on their hiding spot. Katina had the definite sense that he could see her, even though she was far away and well hidden.

She ducked down and hugged Lysander close. “Would his hearing be sharp enough to hear us?” she demanded, barely giving breath to the words.

Lysander met her gaze in horror. “He already knows where we are,” he said, then his features set with resolve. “I need to see.” He crept up to the edge of the cave to look again. “More silver thread,” he whispered. “But this time, the dark dragon is making it. It’s like a noose of starlight.”

Katina had to look then, but she still couldn’t see any silver thread.

“He’s got a scale,” Lysander murmured as the yellow
Slayer
displayed something to the dark dragon. Katina looked at her son, awed by his keen vision.

He was
Pyr
.

Before she could say anything, Lysander winced then, burying his face in his knees. “Papa,” he murmured when Katina bent over him. “Oh, Papa!”

What was wrong? Katina peeked over the lip of stone to see that Alexander was writhing on the ground. The amount of blood running from the wounds on his chest was frightening, and he seemed powerless to stop himself from changing from human to dragon form.

What had that fiend done to Alexander? She was so horrified that she was barely aware of Lysander peeking over the lip of stone beside her.

“Papa!” Lysander cried. He leapt over the lip of stone and ran toward the fighting dragons.

“Lysander!” Katina gasped, then raced after her son.
 

Alexander had wanted to keep them all safe, but she was sure they’d all be lost.

 

Chapter Four

 

When Jorge glanced over the hillside, seeking Katina and Lysander, Alexander took advantage of the
Slayer
’s moment of inattention to attack. He leapt at the other dragon, using his own trick against him. Alexander breathed a stream of dragonsmoke and latched it on to the
Slayer
’s throat, letting the smoke squeeze even as it stole power. Alexander’s dragonsmoke tightened like a noose, surprising Jorge, who stumbled backward. He slashed at Alexander then seized Theo, holding the limp boy before himself. Alexander continued to tighten the noose of dragonsmoke, even as he smelled the
Slayer
’s scales beginning to burn.

The
Slayer
faltered and clearly weakened. Alexander breathed with greater force, thickening the line of dragonsmoke. He thought about choking the life out of this evil creature, imagined what he must have done to Cassandra, and fueled his breathing with his determination to ensure that Katina never suffered the same fate. The
Slayer
stumbled and began to sway, as if dizzy. The blood flowed from the wounds in his chest with greater force, and Alexander dared to hope he might win.

Then Jorge laughed. He displayed a dark dragon scale to Alexander, turning it so that it caught the light. It was the same color as Alexander’s scales. He remembered his sense of something falling when he was making love to Katina, and fought the urge to raise one claw to his chest.

She’d asked him about the gap in his armor.

He’d lost the scale when he’d returned home and realized that he loved her even more than he’d believed.

And now he was vulnerable as a result.

“Look what I found tonight when I went to collect the boy I’d bought,” Jorge crowed. “Did you lose something?” The
Slayer
grinned, obviously knowing the source of the scale. He deliberately snapped the scale in half, the break making a loud crack.

Alexander fell to his knees at the violent stab of pain that shot through his body. He couldn’t catch his breath, couldn’t think of anything beyond the excruciating pain. His line of dragonsmoke broke, because he couldn’t control it any longer.

Jorge laughed. He stepped out of the noose of dragonsmoke, then strode to Alexander. He smiled, then broke the scale again and again, each snap escalating the pain that Alexander felt. Alexander writhed on the ground, feeling consciousness slip away.

“That will teach you to challenge me,” Jorge said, casting the pieces of scale over Alexander’s body with disdain.

Alexander closed his eyes, assessing the damage to his body but knowing the injury would kill him. He tried to close the wounds on his chest, but the blood flowed warm and thick over his hands. He knew he was losing too much blood, just as he knew he couldn’t do anything about it.

So, he had returned to his own time just to see Katina, realize they couldn’t be together, lose his son and die.

It was far far less than what he’d hoped to achieve

“Papa!” a young boy shouted in the distance. “No!”

Alexander was consumed by pain, but that cry gave him new strength. Lysander! No, the boy couldn’t come close to Jorge!

“Stay back!” Alexander cried.

“By all means, come right to me,” the
Slayer
said, then his voice dropped low. He breathed steadily, exhaling a stream of dragonsmoke. Alexander saw a young boy running toward him, a young boy with
Pyr
blood in his veins, and knew his son would be the
Slayer
’s next victim. Behind Lysander was Katina, running after her son.

BOOK: Kiss of Danger (The Dragon Legion Novellas)
7.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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