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Dragon Trust

E J Marrick

Editor: Sally Fisher

I always hesitated before knocking on the door to The Commander’s office.

I’ve been working at high command for three years but I still get nervous every time I have to come face to face with him. It doesn’t help that he’s drop dead gorgeous with long black hair and a body that seems to be made entirely out of muscles, but he sets my heart fluttering and my insides trembling whenever he so much as smiles at me.

Commander Kolrynn singled me out a year ago when Yanis came crashing down onto the landing field. He was thrashing around in pain and I was the only one who could get close enough to help. For some reason Kolrynn seemed to think that merited promotion and his personal attention, I was only doing what anyone would have done, but he’d insisted that I had a rare gift. So now I can’t hide and watch him from afar, I have to meet with him at least once a week.

I took a few more deep breaths, trying to psych myself as best as I could. I can do this, I can get through this meeting without behaving like an infatuated schoolgirl, honest I can but it doesn’t help that he keeps flirting with me. One day, I swear I’m going to let my guard down and leap on top of him and I’m not sure that’s acceptable behaviour – even for dragons!

* * * *

Yes dragons! It’s still difficult to believe it, but four years ago a portal opened in Ireland belching acid clouds from who knows where. There was nothing we could do to stop them until the dragons came streaming out of their hibernation cave under Alderney Edge to burn the acid with their bright fire and it changed everything!

I love being close to the dragons but I’m terrified that they’ll find out my secret. For my whole life I have been dreaming that I am a dragon flying alone in the night.

Now, when I fly through the night sky I’m not on my own, I can see the other dragons up there with me and one of them comes to find me. He’s big, he’s black and he looks like Commander Kolrynn. I can’t decide if I’m more scared to find out that it’s only my imagination or to find out that it’s true and that one day Kolrynn will find out it’s me that he comes to see.

I raised my hand to knock on his door but I could hear voices inside and I stopped to listen, because I didn’t want to interrupt if it was something important.

“Kol, if we can’t close the portal soon the shadow dragons will cross.”

“I know that Thann,” Kolrynn snapped, “it’s the same every cycle. But until we can find the anchor you know we can’t close the portal.”

“What if we kill Shyamal?”

“Oh why didn’t we think of that before?” Kolrynn’s voice dripped sarcasm, “I’m just as fed up as you are, but you know we can’t! He won’t leave the portal and we can’t get in. We’ve been trapped by this curse for thousands of years and it’s the same thing over and over again. Shyamal opens the portal, we try and stop the acid from destroying everything then, eventually, we find the anchor, destroy it and the portal shuts down. But there is never any sign of the queen so Shyamal won’t come out to face us and it’s back to hibernation until the next time.”

“What if there is another way?”

“Well there hasn’t been so far! You know what happened when Zerrynn tried to go into the portal and our scientists haven’t made much progress since.”

“So we just have to go through the motions and hope one of us finds the queen this time?”

“What else can we do?” The Commander asked wearily, “Tekrynn delayed destroying the anchor last cycle and, if that portal hadn’t been on the steppes, the whole world could have been destroyed.”

“I know Kol, but he thought he’d found the queen and when she disappeared it drove him insane.”

“If we could have proved he’d fathered a child it would have be different.”

“Yea, but no one could find the woman so you had no choice. You had to depose him and destroy the anchor.”

“Thanks Thann, but that doesn’t make me feel any better about it. The humans kept looking for the woman and her descendants while we slept and there was no sign of anyone. So let’s just enjoy the wind under our wings and help these people while we can.”

I could almost see Thann stomping around the office before he finally admitted defeat, “I just wish there was something else we could do.” he grumbled.

“I know Thann. I agree, I really do.”

I quickly knocked on the door to hide the fact I’d listened for longer than was strictly necessary.

“Well it’s my turn to hunt for her at the party tonight.” Than grumbled nearly running me over when he stormed out of the door. His piercing blue eyes, a perfect match for his dragon’s scales, glared at me as though it were my fault and a small puff of smoke came out of his mouth. I don’t think he was angry with me, but he was certainly angry.

“Hi Alexa, what’s the situation in the infirmary?” Commander Kolrynn was trying his best to be cheerful but I could tell he was still mulling over his conversation with Thann because his gaze followed him down the corridor.

I sat in the chair on the other side of the big glass desk, “All good. Laeg was discharged last night, but you still need to keep him out of combat for a day or so.” I paused, “I just wish dragon blood wasn’t so corrosive, we have another two healers out with mild burns. Even the new gloves your techs sent over didn’t hold up.”

“How did you calm Laeg down? He was in so much pain that I could feel it from the summit in Zurich. I was hurrying back, but you’d healed him by the time I got here.”

He was looking me intently up and down as though, if he only looked hard enough, he could read the answer in my soul.

God he was handsome! I felt an almost overwhelming urge to smile and to flirt with him. I clamped down on it and tried to hide my attraction behind my professional manner, but it’s so difficult when he smiles at me. Something inside quivered under his gaze and I was glad I was sitting down or my legs might wobble. Dragons are like that, they’re supposed to be irresistible to human women, but either he hasn’t seriously tried or I’ve managed to resist – so far!

“I must just have the knack.” I replied dismissively. I couldn’t have him pry too closely into my knack, because I’d asked my dream dragon to read Laeg’s body language and tell me what to do to calm him. “Once you get that healing gel onto the bit that hurts they calm down instantly.”

“I’m amazed you can reach the parts that hurt.”

“Well a cherry picker would help. We tried scaffolding, but no one was obliging enough to land next to it.”

Although Kolrynn chuckled briefly he asked, “What’s a cherry picker?”

He has been hibernating for about two hundred years, the internet and modern technology is all new to him. Dragons have their own technology but our words and inventions must still be strange to him because the last time he was out of hibernation steam power had only just been invented. Even so he only rarely misses a reference, “A moveable platform on an extensible arm,” I explained, “we would have tried it earlier but I’m worried they aren’t going to stand up to thrashing tails and wings.”

“Why don’t we test it with an uninjured dragon?”

“Because they’re always off ‘partying’” I shot back sarcastically.

To be honest, all of us in the medical wing gossiped that the dragons were either playboys or that they needed ‘virgin sacrifices’ because they spent so much of their time picking up women. It’s only those of us who are on base that seem to be off limits to them.

I frowned inwardly, that snippet of overheard conversation suggested there might be something more to the partying than just the hot and cold running sex. But before I could think too deeply, Kolrynn replied with a practised seductive smile, “Can we help it if human women find us irresistible?”

I knew he was only teasing, but I still felt my stomach flip flop and my breath caught because all the air seemed to leave the room. I was acutely aware of my body’s response but I forced myself to meet his eyes and reply “Can’t think why, you’re just a bunch of overgrown lizards!”

I don’t think I’d ever heard him laugh before and it lightened his whole face. For a brief moment, the stern Commander was gone and a younger, carefree Kolrynn took his place. His laugh was deep and rich like his personality but it seemed to reach into me and awaken something inside. Instantly my heart lifted and I smiled back.

For a moment I saw his eyes narrow, he looked intently at me and he scented the air, suddenly intrigued by something.

I didn’t find out what it was, because the door was thrown open and Thann raced in yelling. “Kol! Kol! Asha’s down! He can’t make it back!”

I got up to leave but Kolrynn waved me back to the chair, “Where is he?”

“He’s still in Ireland. There was no sign of the shadow dragons when they started the last sweep, but there was an unexpected acid storm. They were looking for the anchor but they were too close to the portal and Oran reported that the acid clouds came out too quickly.” the words were tumbling over themselves in Thann’s haste to give his report.

“Asha was closest, he tried to roll away but the acid caught one wing and he fell. He landed on the other wing Kol!” Thann’s distress was filling the air, “It’s broken so there’s no way he can fly and he can’t change back. They couldn’t even go back and check on him because a shadow dragon arrived.”

My professional instincts surged to the fore. “What happens if you splint it? Will it support his wing after he changes?”

“No Alexa, once we change form we leave everything behind.” the Commander explained, “Though if he shifts we can carry him back here and he can try to change back to heal, but he’ll never be able to concentrate on the shift when he’s in that much pain.”

“So if we can splint it well enough to kill the pain he could shift?”

Kolrynn and Thann nodded.

“Then you need to get me over there.”

Kolrynn looked at me as though I’d grown three heads, “He’s in Ireland close to the portal and the first of the shadow dragons have come through. I can fight them but I can’t do that if I’m carrying you. So we’d have to land near the coast and walk in. It’s going to be hard marching and we could get hit by acid or a shadow dragon could find us. It’s almost certain suicide.”

“When do we start?” I didn’t know Asha very well, but something inside me rebelled at the idea of leaving a dragon to die in agony.

“Are you mad?” Thann asked, “Didn’t you hear Kol say it was suicide?”

“I can’t leave him to die in pain.” I said simply.

Kolrynn buried his head in his hands, “She’s right Thann, we can’t leave him and the only other option is one of us burning him to put him out of his pain and we can’t afford to lose any more of us.”

“Then send in a whole squadron, at least give yourselves a chance.” Thann said desperately.

“If we send in a squadron it will advertise our presence you know that.” The Commander replied patiently, “We’d never make it, we’d just be swamped by acid clouds. You said the shadow dragons have arrived so you know the clouds will be more organised. Besides, even if we made it through all of that, Asha would be a sitting duck.”

“Then let me go instead.” Thann was pleading with him.

“Thann you know it has to be me, I’m big enough to carry two and Asha’s your age so I’m the only one who can command him.”

Thann looked defiant but it was true, only an elder could command a pain maddened dragon. Kolrynn looked at Thann for long moments until eventually he nodded, accepting defeat.

The Commander turned to me and said brusquely, “You’ve got 20 mins to get everything you need into a pack and I’ll meet you at the landing field.”

* * * *

I nodded to him and headed back to the infirmary. When I was half way there I came to a crashing halt in the middle of the corridor and I had to grab hold of the wall. The sudden panic when I realised what I’d done had made my knees go weak.

I had just signed up for three days alone in The Commander’s company. What had I done? What if he finds out?

I have spent my whole life hiding my dreams. When we thought dragons were a myth I hid them because I didn’t want to be labelled crazy. When they returned, anyone who had an affinity for dragons was taken away and they never came back.

That’s why I’ve never dared to so much as flirt with them, the sex was supposed to be out of this world but the gossip columns never said what happened to the women afterwards. All I can be sure of is that none of the dragons were settling down and playing happy families at the base.

Shit! I’d taken far too long panicking, I’d never be ready in time. I ran the rest of the way to the infirmary and began scattering assistants and healers everywhere while I stuffed healing gel and collapsible splints into a pack. Angela shoved food and water at me and Kevin fussed around like a mother hen but he made me pack a sleeping bag and a change of clothes. I don’t know where they got the flying jacket from but I was probably going to need it. They even made me change out of my bright pink scrubs. Then they shoved me toward the landing field with barely a minute to spare.

Kolrynn was already there with Thann who was still grumbling.

“I don’t like it Kol!”

“You don’t have to like it,” he snapped back, “but there are too few of us left to risk losing another. So you’re in charge until I return.”

Thann nodded accepting defeat.

Kolrynn nodded brusquely then he spotted me trotting across the grassy field and he broke into a wide grin. The pack was heavy, but I didn’t want to look like a liability so I struggled as best as I could trying to avoid toppling over and landing flat on my face.

“Alexa, I wasn’t expecting you for at least ten more minutes.” The Commander said smiling.

“Well if there’s something you need to finish I’ll wait here.”

“No, I’m just pleasantly surprised. By the way can you ride?”

“I rode a horse when I was a kid.”

“Good I’m told that being carried isn’t very comfortable, it’s going to be easier if you ride. Just climb up my leg to the base of my neck and stay out of the way of the wings.” I must’ve looked a little scared because he looked at me kindly and said, “Don’t worry, it’s going to feel as though they’ll hit you but they won’t.” He lent closer still, holding me with his eyes; I could feel my breath stop and I suddenly longed for him to kiss me. “I will not let you fall!” he breathed.

I’ve never felt dragon pheromones at this intensity before and I was fighting the urge to throw myself at him. I didn’t trust myself to say anything so I forced myself to nod. Thann eventually nudged me, breaking me out of my paralysis, “Put your pack into this net so it’ll be easier for Kol to get a grip.”

By the time I’d done that, Kolrynn had changed and I was standing next to the biggest dragon I’ve ever seen. I’d never been close to him in this form and he was massive; he was far bigger than any of the other dragons, even his head was larger than me. If I hadn’t spent the last two years working with dragons I might have run away he was so awe inspiring.

He was beautiful in his dragon form and I couldn’t help admiring him. I spend most of my working life up close and personal with dragons but none of them have affected me like he did. I was drawn to his scales and I had to fight the urge to stroke him. I’d been expecting him to be a pure matt black but his scales reflected all the colours of the rainbow like an iridescent oil spill. I smiled up at him, he really was beautiful and just being close to him was filling me with a sense of euphoria. If I didn’t know better I’d swear he could tell what I was thinking and he felt like he was smiling too.

He was holding out his leg so I gingerly began climbing. Even though I’d climbed injured dragons hundreds of times before, that was in the heat of the moment and this was so much more nerve wracking with Thann looking on critically. I was afraid I would do something silly and slip, or worse, that I might accidentally damage The Commander, but I made it safely and as soon as I was settled on his back we were airborne.

* * * *

Flying was as magnificent as it was in my dreams. His huge wings beat the air either side of my head and he was right, I would have been frightened of getting hit if he hadn’t warned me. It would have been all the more terrifying because I know how much damage a thrashing wing can do, there have been scores of healers sent to the infirmary by flailing dragon wings. However, I trusted The Commander and he’d promised he wouldn’t hurt me. So I had a huge grin on my face and I had to force myself not to bounce up and down with joy.

I swear he could tell how I was feeling because he seemed to be laughing, but he made a huge circling loop letting me look down at our base. I’d seen the hills of mid Wales hundreds of times in my dreams but I can’t believe that looking down on them now was exactly the way I’d dreamed it would be. When he swooped down low coming within a few feet of the top of Plynlymon I shouted in pure joy.

“Wooo-hooo! Commander, that was awesome!” I yelled hoping he could hear me.

I’m not sure but he seemed to be showing off for my benefit. He turned his head to one side and belched out a huge fireball, then he angled himself to fly through the edge so I could feel the heat.

I couldn’t help crying out it was so magnificent. This literally was my dreams coming true, I just wished I could have used my own wings to fly alongside him. I stroked his scales softly, wondering if he could feel it. He’d just given me the best treat of my life and I wanted to let him know how much I appreciated it.

As soon as I touched his scales, I was drawn to the feel of them under my hand. Yes they were hard, they were his armour after all, but they had a silky satin feel to them as well and a thought popped into my head faster than I could stop it, ‘I wonder if that’s what his human skin feels like too?’ Desire pooled hard and fast in my belly and before I could think I was pressing myself against his neck. I couldn’t be sure, but I think he noticed, so I stilled quickly, trying to force my mind away from the way his scales felt.

We’d been flying for an hour, straight and true over the Irish Sea when I caught my first glimpse of the dragons patrolling the coast. When they’d first arrived, the dragons had warned us that Ireland would have to be evacuated. They’d said they couldn’t burn the creatures coming out of the portal and the acid they created without hurting the people on the ground.

As usual, the authorities were dubious until the news showed us the realities of a dragon battle. At first the army and the whole of NATO had tried to help but they had nothing hot enough to burn the acid and they were just getting in the way, so eventually they were called off and all our resources went into supporting the dragons.

There was now a permanent blockade around the coastline supported by warships of all nationalities, making sure nothing could escape. Even so, before we found out how to configure our weather satellites and radar systems to detect the acid clouds some had escaped. Three years ago a huge cloud swarm had reached Paris and they were still working out how to repair the Eiffel Tower. Almost half of it had been dissolved before the dragons had managed to destroy the acid swarm. The news had shown parts of Paris still burning two days later and it was only luck that had saved the Louvre and the Arc De Triomphe.

I remember being glued to the news because Kolrynn had been one of the dragons. They were darting and weaving through the sky in intricate formations, but I always knew which one was him. I could recognise his shape instantly and his flame had seemed to burn brighter than anyone else’s. Who would have thought I’d get to experience it first hand.

I looked around the sky, it was lit up in shades of red and gold because all the dragons were flaming in recognition of each other and their Commander. It wasn’t a language per se, it seemed to be more of an emotional expression with concepts conveyed faster than speech would allow.

They converged on us and they seemed to be questioning The Commander but more than anything they seemed surprised that he was carrying someone. I was imagining the conversation in my head, first was the astonishment, then the attempts to change his mind, but The Commander was unflappable and refused to be dissuaded so then, much like Thann, they grudgingly accepted the necessity and we sailed past the patrols and headed around the coast to the south.

* * * *

I could feel Kolrynn getting tense when we neared the coast and, unconsciously, I began stroking his scales again. He was intently focussed, scanning for shadow creatures and for acid clouds. As soon as we were over land he tilted to one side and we started losing altitude fast. I’d be thoroughly enjoying this if his wariness wasn’t spilling over to me, so I stayed quiet and scanned the skies too.

We were skimming low over some mountains, flying along in a deep sided valley, I wanted to say ‘may the force be with you’ but I didn’t think he’d get the reference. The vegetation all along the valley sides was patchy. Most of it was scorched and burned from the acid, with dark brown and black scars interrupting the green, but we were flying too fast for me to really get a good look. I was looking everywhere and trying to see what I could because this was my first time seeing shadow damage up close. The dragons had been really good at keeping it contained to Ireland so the whole war was a bit surreal at times but seeing the devastation at first-hand was overwhelming.

Suddenly I saw a small acid cloud coming up behind us and I panicked. I’ve seen the damage the acid does to dragons so I hoped he had noticed it too or it would kill us. There was no way I could warn Kolrynn, we were flying so fast that even if I yelled he wouldn’t hear me. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the cloud and I was fighting the scream that wanted to rise up inside me. We were down in the valley, it was gaining on us and, if it caught us, there was nowhere for us to go, it would rain its acid down on us and we wouldn’t be able to stop it.

I sagged in relief when I felt him turning and gaining height to head back toward it. His huge wings were beating at the air as he climbed, the sound reverberating off the valley walls while he fought to get us high enough not to be trapped. Once we were in the open air again he could turn, I felt his chest expand and he breathed the most intense flame I’ve ever seen. It was almost too bright to look at but he angled it carefully and precisely so that first the acid dripping from the cloud and then the cloud itself vaporised. He still took great care not to fly anywhere near the area, being caught by only one of the tiny acid droplets had caused dragons to end up in the infirmary before now.

After one last check, Kolrynn turned calmly back to our original course and I was left breathless and in awe of his skill. I know it was born of long practice, but it was still impressive to see.

That had only been one small cloud, so it was no wonder my poor dragons came back scorched and maddened with pain when they had been fighting hundreds of them. While they concentrated on burning one, it would leave them open to attack by the others and I was filled with admiration for their determination and dedication. But I think Kolrynn is trying to tell me it’s going to be alright, protecting us is what they do.

His powerful wings were beating hard again, we’d passed over the mountains and he was coming to land in the foothills on the other side.

It was eerily silent when his wings stopped beating. I couldn’t believe how softly he’d landed, he simply hovered for a moment before touching down then his massive legs absorbed all the shock. If it weren’t for the fact he was folding his wings I wouldn’t have realised he’d touched down at all.

I sighed, it had been a beautiful flight but the idyll was over and I could only hope that he hadn’t found out about me.

* * * *

He was holding out his front leg, a clear signal that he wanted me to get down but there was something so comforting about being close to him. I’d never had the chance to touch him before and I doubt I would ever get the chance again but, if I was being honest with myself, I was going to miss the feeling when it had gone.

I may as well have some fun while I can. I unhooked my leg from his neck and literally slid all the way down his foreleg. I swear he was laughing at me but to be honest I was having too much fun to care. I slid off his claw and for once I landed gracefully on my feet. When I turned back to him I couldn’t help myself I was as giddy as a child. Even though a part of me remembered that we were in danger, I just knew that at that moment I wanted to stay as close to him as I could and my face was hurting because I was smiling so much.

He was so big that I could only see one eye, but it was suddenly focussed on me and he was clearly considering something. That brought me up sharply and I became my usual serious self wondering what he was thinking.

I couldn’t ask him about it while he was in that form but he changed back and it seemed as if it was in response to my thought.

I forced my mouth to close. I’d never seen him naked before, every muscle was sharply defined and there seemed to be far more of them than usual. Ok that’s not possible, but his broad shoulders and strong pecs seemed more prominent than I’ve seen even on the dragons recuperating in the infirmary. I couldn’t stop myself, my eyes were drawn downwards to his six pack and then I tried to pretend to myself it was only his strongly muscled legs that I was looking at.

My subconscious knew that I was lying and the butterflies in my stomach easily proved me wrong but I dragged my eyes back to Kolrynn’s face trying to ignore my dry mouth and inability to breathe.

His knowing smile made the colour surge in my cheeks, “You like what you see?”

“You wish!” It wasn’t my best comeback but I was flustered, “I think you might have to manage without ‘partying’ until we get back.”

“You can always change your mind.” He snapped back, then he paused looking at me seriously, “There’s something different about you. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear you were talking to me up there.”

I shook my head unwilling to go there because it was far too close to my dreams.

He wasn’t giving up on it though, “Seriously,” he said frowning at me as he pulled on his clothes, “I didn’t see that acid cloud.”

I was shocked, “You didn’t?”

“Nope,” he said picking up his pack and starting to walk away.

I grabbed mine and struggled to catch up, “So why did you turn around then?”

He looked over at me appraisingly “Because I could have sworn you warned me about it!”

I was so stunned that I couldn’t say anything and my mind was reeling. I couldn’t believe what he’d said; if I believed him it might just mean that my dreams were real after all and I wasn’t sure how to deal with that. So, I just looked down focussing on the path ahead, or on his arse, depending on whether or not it was my subconscious doing the looking.

* * * *

We walked in silence but I could tell that he was still thinking about whether he’d imagined it or whether I was hiding something. But he was striding ahead and I was stumbling and trotting trying to keep up so I couldn’t even spare a thought to find a way to keep him from discovering my secret.

I hoped it was simply a coincidence but he turned back just when I was thinking about how horrible he was and how he could at least look like he cared that I was being bent double under the weight of my pack when the super strong good looking dragon was just going for an afternoon stroll.

It didn’t help that when he turned I did a particularly ungainly stumble and nearly ended up flat on my face. I could feel the laughter bubbling up inside him but at least he didn’t let it show. “Let me have a look at that pack.”

He took us into the lee of a hedge and began unpacking everything I’d brought. He transferred some of the heavier items like the healing gel and the splints into his own pack. The tent he threw away completely.

“Hay, what am I going to sleep in if it rains?” I asked indignantly.

He laughed and again it unlocked something inside me. It sounds silly but when he does that, it’s as if my heart is open to the skies. He looked at me speculatively but all he said was “Wings remember, you’ll be toasty warm and dry.”

I grinned, “Who’d have thought you had so many uses.”

He finished packing my backpack, “Oh I have so many more uses than that.” he flashed back.

I tried not to notice his seductive smile, but he was looking at me so closely that I don’t think he missed my instinctive reaction, so “Oh yea name one!” was all I managed to come back with.

I stood up, it was much better now that my pack was balanced, so I was about to move off when he leaned forward and breathed, “You know at least one of my uses.”

“Yes you can light the camp fire!” I shot back trying to ignore the sudden sharp stab of desire.

He grinned at me, but he took my hand in his and started to walk. I could barely concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other, all I could think about was his hand in mine.

“So does my skin feel like my scales?”

I dropped his hand as though I’d been scalded, “What?”

“I’ve been thinking over that flight.” he said, watching me while he walked, “Wasn’t that what you were thinking?”

I didn’t know how to reply so I settled for a very unconvincing, “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Somehow I think you do.” He deliberately walked up to me and sniffed my neck, “Hmmm you are a very intriguing woman Alexa Samuels. I know you desire me.” I was about to protest, but he shushed me, “I have a very acute sense of smell and I’ve been smelling it for months now.” I couldn’t help my blush of mortification or my memory flashing back to him naked in front of me.

His wicked grin told me that he had probably listened in on that thought. There was no way I was on an even playing field in this conversation, but I didn’t want to open my thoughts up enough to listen to his or he would find out the truth and I didn’t want to be taken away to goodness knows where.

He was still walking around me appraisingly, even though I was marching as fast as I could hoping to put him off. “I know how much you desire me and yet you still resist,” he mused, “No human woman has managed that for a very long time.”

“Maybe you’re getting old?” I said in an attempt to discourage him.

He laughed, “I could try harder, but I’m more interested to know why you want to resist.”

“Isn’t it obvious?” I said, “Dragons take women, use them once and then spit them out and move on to the next one. No matter how good you are in bed that’s not what I want.”

We crossed a deserted road, the acid burns on the tarmac making the whole conversation even more surreal. He fell silent and I had the feeling that I’d touched a raw nerve. We walked on and he was slouching, head down, hands in his pockets, lost in his thoughts and not responding to anything.

* * * *

His silence gave me the chance to observe the extent of the destruction for myself. There were patches of acid burns and scars from dragon fire everywhere. Evacuating the country had indeed been the most sensible option even though a lot of the people were still in refugee camps all over Europe. There was a village on our left and I could see where the acid had burned through several roofs and the church tower was in ruins. I shuddered. If it weren’t for the dragons the whole world could look like this.

The Commander led the way onto the main road, it was quicker than walking through the rocky, grassy hills, but the ruined buildings all around us reminded me what was at stake if the dragons failed.

Walking was easier on the road but we still had to slow down when we came to the holes the acid had made or the piles of rubble from damaged buildings.

The Commander hadn’t said anything more and it had been nearly an hour. He would hold out his hand to help me around the more tricky obstacles but that was all.

I don’t know if it was his sadness or the devastation, but I was feeling as though there was a weight on my shoulders that wouldn’t lift. I couldn’t help myself, I reached out to touch his shoulder, “Commander Kolrynn, are you ok? I didn’t mean to upset you…” I petered out unsure what to say to make it better.

He shook himself, “No it’s ok, but stop with the ‘Commander’ can you at least use my name?”

“Ok, Kolrynn.”

He smiled ruefully, “No my name is just Kol, rynn is just another way of saying Commander.”

“Oh so that’s why Thann calls you Kol?”

“Yea, he’s about the only one that does any more.”

“I get the impression you didn’t want to be the Commander.”

“No I didn’t, Tekrynn was my friend and a good Commander, I never expected to have to take over.”

Kol was looking at me with a question in his eyes, I think he knew I’d been outside the office while he was talking so I decided to be honest and admit it, “I heard you talking this afternoon before I knocked, Thann said something about deposing him?”


Kol broke off, his attention suddenly focussed on the sky. I followed his gaze and there was a dark spot in the clouds. He pushed me to the side of the road and shoved me under a bush. Then he took his pack off quickly and started to undress. The acid cloud was clearly heading toward us, but Kol still hadn’t changed form.

I looked at him wondering why and he answered my unspoken question, “If there is only one I can get rid of it but if there are too many and I try to fight some will get away. They will send reinforcements and I don’t want to end up in a big fight or run into a shadow dragon.”

He was still scanning the sky but that was the only acid cloud I could see.

“Stay hidden! Do not get close, they’re attracted to body heat,” he cautioned as he changed and launched himself into the air in one fluid movement.

Feeling the downdraught from his wings was a lot different like this, he was so powerful that the rushing air knocked me over and I couldn’t see for the dust and dirt that was kicked up. When the dust cleared, I could see that he was working hard, fighting to climb high enough, quickly enough to stop the cloud from getting above him to rain acid down.

I was holding my breath hoping he could get there in time. He still wasn’t high enough but his fire lanced out vaporising the acid heading toward him. He circled away and the cloud followed, a trail of acid hitting the ground in its wake. I could hear the vegetation sizzle and acrid smoke rose into the sky. I cowered under the bush hoping the acid wouldn’t come this way because the bush wouldn’t be able to protect me but it was the only cover I had.

Kol swept back, higher this time, and he came at the cloud from above. His flying was spectacular to watch and he looked so beautiful with the sun glinting off his scales. But beautiful though it was, it was a deadly struggle and I just wanted him safe.

He was breathing his hot fire and vaporising the cloud when I saw something else in the sky heading toward him from behind; it looked like one of the acid clouds but it was in the shape of a dragon. I tried to warn Kol as I had earlier. This time I didn’t care if he found out about me. I could feel how dangerous it was and he had to stay safe!

He wasn’t turning and he obviously hadn’t seen the shadow dragon so I tried harder, yelling in my mind with all my might.

He still hadn’t turned but his wings beat hard so that he could gain speed and then he folded them diving toward the ground before snapping them open at the last minute and climbing high, taking the creature by surprise. He circled around behind it and swooped toward it.

All I could do was watch with my mouth open and my breath held. I’d never seen anything like this before. The creature was black, but not like Kol, it seemed to be made of shadow and smoke. This could only be the shadow dragon that Thann had talked about. I could almost see the sky through it in places and when Kol came down from above and ripped at it with his claws it seemed to drift apart like smoke on the wind. But the smoke didn’t drift away it coalesced back together and its teeth and claws reached out to Kol.

Kol’s claws were ripping chunks out of it and at the same time he was flaming the drifting pieces. Over and over they rolled in the air fighting for supremacy, but Kol was winning. He kept clawing at it until the thing had been reduced to half its former size and then Kol let go of it only to flame the remainder into dust on the wind.

* * * *

When the fight was over, he did one last sweep of the area and came down to land next to me. Even before he landed I could tell he was in pain from where the dragon had caught him so I scrabbled in his pack for the healing gel. I was waiting for him by the time he came in to land, but this time I remembered to brace myself so that the downdraft didn’t send me flying again.

He was smiling when he landed and he folded his wings looking at me curiously. I waited for him to unfurl his wing but he didn’t move he just kept looking at me with the same curious gaze.

“Kol, I need to see that injury!”

I wasn’t going to leave him like that, even a small amount of acid can eat into a wing membrane so although he was being big and brave, I’d rather be sure he was ok. So I asked again, “Kol please, I need to be sure you’re ok.”

He still didn’t move and I was getting impatient so I stamped my foot, before demanding, “Kol, your wing. Now!”

He was still acting like he was waiting for something but I didn’t know what. I was too busy thinking that I needed to see that bit on the leading edge of his wing near the claw. The bit which the shadow dragon had bitten. I could see in my mind’s eye the part I needed to see and as soon as I had pictured it, he opened his wing just enough so that it was directly in front of me.

I know I said I didn’t care if I was found out, but I did! All of a sudden I was terrified and I couldn’t breathe. I had no idea what would happen to me when we got back to base, they would probably take me away to wherever they had taken the others but as I’d never managed to find out where that was, the thought still scared the heck out of me.

I was terrified and I wanted to run, but there was nowhere to run to so, for now, I concentrated on being professional and applying the gel to his wound. It really was a small wound, only about the size of an egg, but I could tell it had hurt by the way he relaxed when I rubbed the gel into the wing membrane.

I jumped backward. Kol was making a sound I’ve never heard before, a low deep rumble like a cat’s purr. As soon as my hands left his wing the purr stopped so I tentatively went to touch him again.

He began to purr immediately I touched him. It was so beautiful that I didn’t want it to stop so I kept massaging as much of him as I could reach. His purr grew louder and I wished I could climb on his wing to get as much of me in contact with him as I could. A wing is too fragile to risk standing on so I tried to hide my longing but he scooped his wing around me and pulled me against his side.

His whole body was rumbling with the force of his purring and I just wanted to plaster myself against him and feel the vibrations. I knew there was no sense in hiding it any more so I gave into the sensations and pressed myself as close to his body as I could.

It was the most amazing feeling, the vibrations filled me from my head to my feet and all I wanted was to be one with them. I don’t know why but I was trying to reply. Every cell of my body wanted to purr back to him but all that came out was a sort of breathy “hurrrrrrr”

As soon as he heard it his head snaked around and pushed me against him and I felt the most complex emotions I have ever felt. I couldn’t even separate them all, I know there was ‘wow!’, there was ‘at last!’, there was ‘is it truly me?’, there was ‘I will protect you with my life!’, and above all there was a bone deep sense of happiness.

I think we only stayed like that for a few seconds, but it felt like everything in my life changed in that one moment.

* * * *

He hadn’t seemed to move but he changed back and he was holding me in his suddenly human arms. His mouth was on mine and he was kissing me with a hard and fiery passion. No wonder they say dragon sex is the best, he was literally taking my breath away but I was mesmerised by his skin, it really did feel satiny like his scales.

I was getting lost in the sensations, I wanted to feel him touch me and I wanted to feel him inside me, then I felt his arousal hard and heavy pressing between us and it snapped me back to reality.

I jumped backwards gasping for breath.

He was coming toward me again and I wanted to give in, I really did, it was as if every cell in my body was screaming for him, but I daren’t. He must have found out that I could communicate with him, but that didn’t change anything and I still don’t know whether I will get sent away as soon as we’re back at base.

I could feel his confusion, so I tried to put my thoughts into words, “Nothing’s changed Kol, dragons have sex and then leave the humans.”

“No, everything’s changed. You aren’t like the other humans.” he said desperately.

All of a sudden I was exhausted, the events of the day catching up with me with a vengeance, “There’s so much I don’t understand,” I paused, trying to be practical, I was pushing him away and it might be for good, but I don’t think I could survive loving him and having him leave. So I took refuge in professionalism. “but shouldn’t we be finding somewhere to camp for the night?”

He sighed, looking at me as though his heart was breaking, but he nodded, “You’re right and I should have been the one telling you that.” He pulled his clothes on as fast as he could. “We need to talk, but let’s find a camp site first.”

He took my hand and led me on down the road. I tried to pull away but this time he wouldn’t let me. I tried a little harder but he still wouldn’t let me pull away. “Alexa, I know you don’t understand and I know there are things you’ve not been telling me, but can you believe me when I say that I need to keep touching you?”

Oh I could believe him alright, I’d felt as though I’d been dying when I pulled away from him. My whole body was screaming for me to touch as much of him as possible but holding his hand eased the feelings enough that I could breathe and think again. It wasn’t helping me keep my distance, but he was right, I had to keep hold of his hand.

I squeezed his hand and I could see his body relax, “I don’t understand any of this Kol, but let’s find somewhere to stop and we’ll talk, OK?”

I hadn’t realised he’d been holding his breath until after he relaxed, “We do need to get away from here in case anyone saw me, but it’s been a long day so we shouldn’t go too far.”

“That suits me, I’m suddenly knackered.”

He grinned, “I don’t suppose you get to do much walking, lots of climbing but not much walking.”

I grinned back, he was even easier to talk to now that there wasn’t any point in trying to hide anything, “We do a fair bit of jumping about too.”

“What about foot stamping? Or is that something you reserve for me?”

I laughed all constraint forgotten, “Oh just you, none of the others are as stubborn.”

He looked slightly embarrassed, “I just wanted you to ask me properly.”

“Oh!” I said hanging my head when I realised what he’d meant.

He wasn’t upset or anything, but he was fitting pieces together in his mind, “So that explains how you managed to calm Laeg. He’d never have been able to argue with you in one of your moods.” He said smiling.

“I don’t have moods!”

“You do so have moods. Every time I flirt with you.”

“Oh well that’s different!” I grinned at him.

He grinned back, but then he suddenly pulled me behind him and he began growling loudly, I didn’t know dragons could growl like that when they were in human form, but he was radiating complete and utter protectiveness – of me!

I couldn’t tell what danger he had sensed, but he’d obviously sensed something, so I let him take charge. He made sure I was safely behind him and he watched the hedge intently following something moving, ready to pounce on it in my defence.

I burst out laughing when a cat leaped out chasing some kind of rodent. He had the grace to look embarrassed, but it didn’t stop him standing between me and the cat until he was sure it had left and he was still on the alert even after the cat had gone.

We were starting to come out of the foothills and into what was once lush farmland. Acid burns were scarring the landscape but I could see how the fields would once have been a luxurious deep green, it’s no wonder Ireland was known for its 50 shades. But I didn’t have time to marvel at the ravaged beauty, because I was being drawn onwards by Kol’s hand in mine.

* * * *

We kept on walking until we found a small stone outbuilding at the foot of the hills and Kol guided me inside. It had obviously been used for animals in the past and although it was old and falling down there were two walls and a good portion of the roof left so it would still hide us from the air. I went in gratefully and I was so exhausted that I could only collapse on the floor, too tired to move.

Kol didn’t say anything he just sat next to me, making sure a part of him was always touching me. I would have pulled away, but I couldn’t bear to stop touching him either.

He rummaged around in his pack pulling out supplies; there was an awful lot of meat so I watched with detached professional interest while he prepared the meal. Dragons need a lot more protein than we do but they still need a balanced diet so I was relieved when he pulled out some carbohydrates and vegetables as well.

He’d obviously packed better than me, I’d just stuffed ration bars into my pack and I’d only remembered those because Angela had insisted. He put everything into a metal cup, added water and then he breathed on it.

“I didn’t know you could breathe fire in that form.”

“We can’t make it anything like as hot as usual so we don’t normally bother, but you must have noticed Thann smoking when he left my office.”

“Yea but I thought that was all you could do.”

He handed me my stew and started to make one with more meat for himself, “We’re already so different that we don’t want to frighten the humans any more than we have to, so we don’t advertise everything we can do.” he said with one of those winks that set my heart aflutter.

I tasted the stew, “Wow, it’s delicious, maybe you really do have your uses.”

He grinned, “I would make the obvious comment,” he said with a flash of the smile that always made my stomach flutter, “but although I know you feel it too you won’t act on it and, right now, I’m more interested in finding out why.”

“Is it so difficult to believe that someone can resist you?” I asked sparring for time.

He’d already finished his stew and I was still waiting for mine to cool. His arm slid around me and I almost relaxed into his embrace before I could stop myself.

“I know there is something you’re not telling me,” he said, “I wish there was a way I could convince you to trust me enough to tell me what it is. But know this, I will protect you with my life and I’m not going to go away.” He added reflectively, “I don’t think I could even if I wanted to.”

I could feel the sadness radiating off him and I wanted to open up to tell him everything but my mother had spent my whole life telling me how dangerous it was to admit my secret to anyone. She had been even more adamant since the dragons had returned. She kept checking up on me, insisting I should be more careful than usual especially with anyone who had anything to do with the dragons and Kol wasn’t only the man I’d been secretly in love with for the last year, he was their Commander. But I had already admitted enough to get sent away so I decided it was safe enough to ask him, “Kol, can you tell me what will happen when we get back, where will I be sent away to?”

“What? Who’s going to be sending you away?” I felt complete and utter bafflement coming from him, “I’ve been trying to tell you that I don’t think I can live without you. If anyone is going to be sending you anywhere they’ll have to go through me first!”

It was my turn to be baffled, he turned me to face him and I could see the sincerity in his eyes when he said, “I know there is something worrying you, but I can’t help if you won’t tell me.”

I was still struggling with the idea of telling anyone, it went against everything I had been conditioned to do. I used to love talking about my dragon dreams, but ever since my mother heard me telling my friends at school, she’d been impressing on me how dangerous it was to admit it.

I don’t know how much of my internal monologue he picked up on but he gave me space to process everything. He was right we’d come too far so I decided to admit the truth. “Kol, when you first arrived you took everyone with an affinity for dragons. They were never heard from again and no one knows where they went.” I looked him in the eyes, I needed to know the truth. “Are you going to do the same to me?”

I wasn’t expecting him to burst out laughing.

My obvious puzzlement was what stopped him, “Oh Alex, I’m sorry, but I think I know what you mean and you’re working with most of them.”


“Alex, I organised it all! When we came out of hibernation we didn’t have any infrastructure set up so we asked for volunteers. We picked the ones that seemed to have an affinity for us and weren’t scared when we transformed. They’re all on the base, you can ask them when we get back. I think Angela was one of them and Kevin was too, you know full well where they are and what happened to them.”

“I don’t understand. That’s not what my mother said and I have no idea why she’d lie.” I was reeling, everything my mother had said for my whole life seemed to be wrong and I didn’t know what to do.

“I don’t know either, but please talk to me, tell me the truth so I can help. I know you can speak to me when I’m in dragon form so I’m sure there’s something else you’re not telling me.”

I was still in shock. I’d believed my mother! She’d sworn it was the truth, she worked for the police and said she’d had to help bring people in to be tested and she only drove a few of them back again. She swore they were taken against their will so I didn’t know what to believe any more.

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