Kiss of Danger (The Dragon Legion Novellas) (9 page)

BOOK: Kiss of Danger (The Dragon Legion Novellas)
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His entire body stiffened in alarm. His eyes narrowed as he scanned the valley and she saw that faint shimmer of blue around his body.

“What is it?”

“Terror,” he said softly. “Danger.” The blue shimmer brightened and Katina knew what was going to happen.

She tightened her grip on his hand, not wanting to be left behind. “Take me with you.”

His expression turned stubborn. “I won’t endanger you...”

“You said there’s always a choice,” Katina said firmly, interrupting him before he could say more. “I’ve made mine, Alexander. Take me with you.” She stretched up and touched her lips to his, tasting his surprise.

Then he smiled, his eyes glowing. She had a chance to smile back at him before he took a deep breath. She wasn’t surprised to abruptly find her fingers locked around a dragon’s claw. His wings stretched high overhead, he tipped back his head and roared with savage power.

Then Alexander swept her into his embrace and leapt into the sky, his wings beating hard as the ground fell away. His every move was filled with urgency and she guessed that he feared they would arrive too late. She knew he wouldn’t drop her, but she held him tightly all the same. The wind whipped around them and the night air turned cold.

It was when she moved to lean against his chest that she saw the gap in his armor. One scale was missing from the mailed splendor of his chest, leaving a tiny increment of skin exposed.

Katina touched the spot with her fingertip and felt an involuntary shudder roll through Alexander’s body. She looked up to find his gaze locked upon her, his expression all the more intense when he was in this form. She smoothed the spot with her fingertips.

“Does it hurt?” she asked, thinking her words would be snatched away by the wind. To her surprise, Alexander heard her—but then, he had admitted to his sharper senses. He shook his head, so dismissive of the idea that she feared he suddenly had the power to hide the truth from her.
 

What did the missing scale mean?

 

* * *

 

Alexander had smelled
Slayer
.

Just one tantalizing whiff, as if someone had lifted the lid from a fine hot stew and let one breath of its scent meander into the room. It was a tease and a temptation.

Again.

It made no sense, but the scent was unmistakable. Alexander knew to trust his nose over his mind—he’d made the mistake of ignoring the information from his senses once already since his return.

Worse, ripe on the scent of
Slayer
was that of human terror.

What had the darkfire crystal done? It was a source of unpredictability, a connection to chaos, but Alexander couldn’t guess how much power it truly had. Could it rouse dead
Slayers
? Could it cast all of the
Pyr
into other times and places than their own? Could it change the future as well as the past? He wished he knew more of what opponent he faced before he lunged into battle.

“What do you sense?” Katina asked, and Alexander wasn’t surprised that she wanted to know the worst of it. She was clever and might be able to help him to figure out what had happened. He needed to take advantage of all the advantages that came to him.

“I smell
Slayer
,” he said tersely. “That’s one of my kind who has turned against humans.” He shook his head, knowing her had to tell her the rest. “I had a whiff of it earlier, when Cetos returned, but ignored it.”

“Why would you ignore danger?”

“Because it made no sense. There aren’t any
Slayers
...here.”

“Yet there is one all the same,” Katina said matter-of-factly, much to Alexander’s relief. “What do you know of them?”

He considered her, trying to recall all he knew of them. He’d had precious little contact with
Slayers
in the future, by his own choice. Their scent repulsed him, and he had no interest in being tainted by their evil. “He’s revealing his scent at intervals, then disguising it again.”

“Like a taunt.”

“Exactly like a taunt!” She was right. All
Pyr
taunted each other before battle. He was glad to know what this
Slayer
wanted, if not why. He’d get a fight from Alexander if he was tormenting a human.

“How does he do that?” Katina asked. “I’d think a scent would be constant.”

“It should be. Only those
Slayers
who have drunk the Dragon’s Blood Elixir have such power,” Alexander explained. He knew of two surviving
Slayers
who had consumed that vile potion. Assuming that the darkfire crystal hadn’t roused the dead—an assumption he couldn’t rely upon—it must be Jorge or Chen cast into the past with him.

Or perhaps one of them had pursued him. Chen had released the darkfire in the first place. Was it under his command? Was that why so much was going wrong?

Katina was watching Alexander closely, waiting for him to tell her more. Alexander wasn’t sure how to easily explain the question of passing through time, so stuck with the essentials. “And I smell a human who is terrified.”

“You have to save him,” Katina said immediately. “Put me down anywhere and fight the
Slayer
. I’ll help as much as possible.” Her practicality made Alexander remember just how much he loved her.

Perhaps they could work together, as some of the modern
Pyr
worked with their mates. Alexander flew at his quickest speed, easily following the scent. It was to the south of them, toward Sparta, which wasn’t encouraging at all. That it was being unveiled just for him was an unavoidable conclusion—which made it a lure as well as a taunt.

Lysander was en route to Sparta!

He had time to feel a pang of fear before he saw the blaze of dragonfire on the ground.

“There!” Katina said and gripped his arms.

She’d seen the flame, but wouldn’t discern the detail as well as he did. Alexander could see the dragon battling a Spartan hoplite in full uniform. He saw the dragonfire reflected in the warrior’s greaves and chest plate.

The
Slayer
was brilliant yellow, a dragon the color of topaz tipped in gold. There was something serpentine about this one, for he was large and powerful, but sinuous and sleek, too.

The color of the scales told Alexander the truth. Somehow, Jorge was here in his own time. That wasn’t the best news as Jorge was vicious, but at least he didn’t control any old dragon magic.

Chen would have been worse. Alexander had no understanding of magic, be it that of dragons or others, and Chen was a master at dragon magic.

There was no time to be relieved, though. The hoplite slashed at the
Slayer
with his sword, so much smaller than the dragon that the fight could have only one outcome. The hoplite was valiant, but doomed. Alexander saw that the hoplite defended someone smaller than himself.

A boy.

Alexander prayed it wasn’t the boy he feared it was. “A hoplite fights the
Slayer
,” he told Katina, then breathed deeply. “There’s a boy. There might be another. His scent is odd, if so. It’s mingled with that of the
Slayer
in a strange way.”

“Great Zeus, no,” Katina whispered. “Pelias was wearing his hoplite armor when he came for Lysander.”

Alexander inhaled again, only recognizing the half-forgotten scent of his mentor when she supplied the name. “All paths lead to the same place,” he muttered, hating that she was right.

He flew to the far side of the fight, staying low against the ground. He doubted that he could surprise the
Slayer
if Jorge had invited him, but it was worth a try.

“We’ll appear suddenly from the far side of that outcropping,” he advised Katina softly. He hoped he wasn’t overheard, but there was no other way to communicate with her. “I’ll be downwind and he might be surprised. If so, seize the moment. Take Lysander, then run and hide.”

“And Pelias?”

“I’ll defend him as best I can. You won’t convince him to run.”

Katina nodded, her gaze locked upon the scene below as they came closer. “I’ll hide somewhere too small for a dragon to follow. Somewhere with water.” She pointed to the valley filled with large rocks where there might be water. “Down there.”

It would be a good start, although Alexander was skeptical that any woman could hide from Jorge. He decided not to frighten Katina and merely nodded. “See yourselves safe. I’ll find you wherever you go.”

Katina cast him an unexpected smile. “I know.”

The look in her eyes warmed Alexander’s heart, but there was no time for more discussion. He held her tightly and dove behind the outcropping, like a spear falling out of the night.

The
Slayer
meanwhile seized the hoplite’s sword and flung it aside, then breathed a long stream of dragonfire at his opponent. Pelias held up his shield to defend himself. The red plume in Pelias’ helmet caught fire, and he bowed low as if injured. Jorge leapt forward to snatch at him, clearly hoping to triumph.

But Pelias straightened abruptly. The dagger in his hand flashed even as he lunged at the
Slayer
. He covered his eyes, leaping through the dragonfire with incredible valor. Alexander caught a glimpse of the determination in Pelias’ expression and the fear in the eyes of the boy who lingered behind him.

A boy who looked much like Alexander. Terror for his son was a cold weight in Alexander’s gut. He put Katina down without landing, glad to hear Jorge snarl in pain.

Any weakness would help.

When he rose higher, he saw Jorge’s black blood spill and heard it hiss as it hit the ground. Only
Slayers
had black blood. Were the
Slayers
who had drunk the Elixir really immortal? Did they actually heal with unholy speed? Alexander tried to remember all the stories he’d heard about them, none of the details reassuring him in the least. He faltered slightly when he caught the scent of death on Jorge, the scent of Cetos’ death, and knew that his mate was reliant upon him again.

Even though he could guarantee her so little. He didn’t dare rejoice that she was a widow, not yet, when she could become a widow twice over in one night.

Alexander refused to despair in the face of the unpredictability of darkfire and the malice of a
Slayer
. He focused on the task of defeating Jorge.

Jorge roared with fury and slashed at Pelias with his claws. Pelias leapt backward, snatching up his shield in the nick of time. Jorge’s stream of dragonfire was reflected by the shield and turned back on the
Slayer
, who roared in fury. Alexander leapt over the rock and struck the
Slayer
in the back of the head with his tail while he was distracted. Jorge stumbled then turned with a snarl, leaping into the air to fight.

Pelias had fallen to his knees. Alexander caught a glimpse of Katina running toward Lysander, then locked claws with Jorge, intent upon drawing him away from the humans.

He noticed immediately that the
Slayer
’s wings weren’t as large or as strong as they should be. He beat his own wings hard and drew Jorge high into the night sky. He wound his tail around Jorge’s yellow one and tightened his grip, wanting to squeeze the life out of this evil dragon. He saw the glimmer of malice in the
Slayer’
s eyes, even as he bent forward to bite at his opponent’s chest.

The hoplite had managed to wound Jorge, no small feat, his dagger blade having slipped between two scales on the
Slayer
’s chest. Black blood still oozed from the wound, dripping over the golden splendor of his scales.

“Sure you want to take a bite?” Jorge drawled, his modern accent startling Alexander. His eyes gleamed. “I’ve drunk the Dragon’s Blood Elixir. One sip and you’re hooked forever.”

“I’d think you wanted more immortal
Slayers
.”

“But there’s no more Elixir. I don’t need the competition. Find another snack.” Jorge moved suddenly, lurching sideways and tearing one claw out of Alexander’s grip. Alexander slashed at his opponent’s chest with his free claw, and the
Slayer
arched his back with the pain. Three long lines were torn in his scales, the black blood running freely from the wounds. Alexander dug his talons in deep, ensuring that he made the blow count. The
Slayer
’s eyes flashed, then he ripped his tail free, striking Alexander hard across the back.

Alexander spun, putting the weight of the blow to work, then seized one of those small wings. It felt fragile and weak, so he ripped it from the
Slayer
’s back.

He knew the other wing wouldn’t be robust enough to support the
Slayer
’s weight and Jorge clearly knew it, too. He became vicious in his attack, but Alexander flung him into the sky. The
Slayer
swore eloquently as he fell, flailing as he tried to slow his descent with his one small wing. Alexander flew after him and roasted his back with dragonfire. The second wing began to burn and become smaller, even as Jorge screamed and swore.

He twisted to face Alexander, then exhaled a long plume of dragonsmoke. Alexander knew exactly what the
Slayer
was trying to do. Dragonsmoke could act as a conduit, stealing energy from its target and feeding that strength to the dragon who breathed the smoke. Alexander evaded the tendril of smoke, flying farther and farther from the
Slayer
to do so.

BOOK: Kiss of Danger (The Dragon Legion Novellas)
11.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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