Authors: D'Elen McClain
Yes, I’m being punished. The Goddess must be dancing with glee at my predicament. I want Pepper so badly it hurts. All the hand jobs in the world won’t take care of my erection. I recite the reasons why I cannot have Pepper and “I want her” replaces each one. My want is not important. Pepper is.
She’s not Sarn’s wolf shifter. They suffered for love and their pain was unavoidable. I’m not Sarn. I would never give up my dragon and I’m not in love. I’m infatuated and turned on. I’m dragon and these are things I can control.
There is a solution to this dilemma. It pains me greatly and I grind my teeth, but my decision is made. We’ve been back from the lake for an hour and Pepper is in the library reading. I send a telepathic message, “Mikael, Betty, come to my rooms immediately.”
I pace while waiting for their arrival. The longer I wait the more my irritation grows. I kick the chair and watch dispassionately as it topples over. I glance up and Pepper is standing in the doorway.
“I’m glad you’re here,” I tell her and before I continue, Betty and Mikael enter. I look at Mikael and try to keep the fire pushed down my throat.
“Pepper is yours. You will move with her into the couples ward and the two of you will stay away from my tower.” I glance at Betty and see relief on her face. That just makes me angrier. I take a step back. If I’m within reach of Mikael, I will kill him.
The crash against my head sends me to my knees. Pepper stands above me with a solid gold lamp held tightly within her fist. Fuck but that hurt. I get to my feet and grab the lamp from her fingers as she draws back to clobber me again. The damned thing is dented. “You brought this on yourself,” I yell at her even though I know that it’s a lie. I’m losing control and I’m seconds away from breathing fire.
She slaps me and the fire pushes back a bit. She’s glorious in her anger and I can’t touch her or I’ll never let go. I glance at Mikael. “Control your woman and get her out of here.” Pepper tries to run, but Mikael grabs her. Just seeing him touch her pushes smoke from my nostrils and small sparks shoot from my mouth. “Take her away,” I roar as I head for my perch where I can release the flames.
Her anguish resonates with mine, but I will not stop Mikael from taking her. He’s shocked, but he follows my command. He wants her; I’ve seen it in his eyes. Like a bride, she will settle into her life. This is what’s best for her. It’s one of the most unselfish things I’ve ever done. I will not put her through the pain of losing me even though she would make these next years bearable. I owe her more than that.
I turn after I expel a blast of flame and look into the room I just left. Pepper shrugs Mikael’s hold aside. Without glancing my way, she marches from the room with Betty close behind. Mikael is the only one who looks at me. He lifts his hands and signs, “I only want her happy. Not this.”
“She cannot be here,” I tell him. He nods and seemingly understands. I enter the room and start breaking the furniture into small splinters of wood. It does nothing to assuage my grief.
It’s long after midnight and I’m unable to sleep. My hands are balled tightly into fists as I think of what Mikael and Pepper are most likely doing at this moment. If he’s smart, he will take care of her virginity tonight. It’s what a dragon would do. Well, fuck me, who am I kidding? We brag to our friends, but the first weeks with our new brides are no fun. Tears and hysterics are the norm. Who of us really wants to have sex with a snot-nosed female? And yes these thoughts are cruel. This is a cruel world. The curse is the fucking cruelest thing of all.
An alarming thought enters my mind. I didn’t tell Mikael to tie her to him at night. Shit. I don’t like what I must do, but it can’t be helped. I could send the thought into Mikael’s mind, but I won’t receive an answer. I must know she’s safe. I climb from my bed and stomp out to my perch.
That’s when all the air escapes my lungs. In the distance, I see Pepper standing at the edge of the perch on the human tower. She’s naked. Mikael, fully clothed, is standing several yards away.
“Grab her,” I yell into his head. He gazes at me from the distance but doesn’t immediately move closer to her.
My scream echoes throughout the night at the same time Mikael makes a grab. Pepper jumps and he’s too late. I can only watch as she falls to her death. She doesn’t fight it and dives head first in a graceful display of insanity. I can’t look away because I’ve done this. I’ve killed her.
I’m brought to my knees as a strong wave of magic rumbles from somewhere above. Mikael is thrown back as the sky explodes in shifting colors of light. It’s so bright I can’t see, but I can hear a sound like no other. It’s thunder, lightning, and the full power of a Goddess combined. I pull my legs beneath me and stand against the powerful force. I shake my head because my eyes are betraying me. There is a dragon flying over my lair. I rub my eyes wondering if I’m actually dreaming. “What the fuck?” I can’t help but glance down at where Pepper’s body should be broken on the ground. She’s not there.
“No, I’m not there, you damned dragon. I’m up here where I belong.”
I know that voice though I never suspected it was Pepper because of her inability to speak. She somehow whispered Meagan’s name the night I took Pepper from the dungeon. A blast of fire shoots from the dragon’s mouth and Pepper’s laughter invades my soul.
She did it.
Or I guess the Goddess did it. That matters not. Pepper is my mate—the woman destined for me according to the curse—she must be.
So why the hell is my mate who I have not yet claimed a yellow dragon!
My anger burns deep. How dare Tahr give me away? Mikael trailed behind me and Betty until I made it very clear that if Mikael touched me again, I would cut off his thing. I pointed right at it so he understood exactly what my hands were saying. I meant it too. And after I cut his thing off, Tahr’s would be the next one on the chopping block.
The damned dragon.
I didn’t even want Betty touching me and I shrugged her off when she tried to comfort me. I went to my old, empty room and sat on the bare floor while I stewed. Within a very short time I had a plan. My stubborn resolve kept me from returning to Tahr and removing his thing anyway. If I died this night, the dragon could live with the guilt. He deserved it for being so stupid. And to think he once called me an idiot. He loves me, he just doesn’t deserve me. The Goddess has shown me the way and this will prove it.
All noise in the human tower stopped an hour ago and still I wait. I’m not afraid. If I die, so be it. Death is better than living without Tahr. When I feel it’s time, I stand and slowly remove my dress. I walk through my door and Mikael is resting in the hall. His eyes widen when he sees me. I can see that he wants to stop me, but my nakedness throws him off. I point my finger toward his thing and bare my very human teeth. He follows but not too close.
I walk up the stairs past the men’s rooms and out on the upper tower perch. I hear movement behind me as I near the ledge and I bat Mikael’s hand off my arm when he tries to grab me. I take a last look across the castle at Tahr’s bedroom perch. As if I’ve conjured him, he walks out on his ledge. I see a silver spark and know he’s aware of what I’m doing. He’ll never reach me in time.
He yells and I smile. Whatever he says, it’s too late. I dive. The wind slides over my flesh and the burning sensation takes hold of me again. It builds and it feels as if my entire body is eaten by flames. The pain stops my breath. I’ve almost died of cancer, crossed realms, and been cast aside by a dragon. I can handle pain.
The clap of thunder in the sky is deafening and my body is ripped apart and reformed. It hurts, but I extend my newly formed wings and stop myself from crashing into the ground below the tower. With unstable exertion, I flap my wings and rise higher. I point my elongated nose into the air and shoot upward.
You only had to believe
,” the Goddess’s voice whispers into my head.
I laugh and expel fire from my nose and mouth. And not just fire… sound. I roar with my amazing abilities and glory in my new form. Then, I remember Tahr. His thoughts connect with mine and I see him gazing down, most likely looking for my body.
“No, I’m not there, you damned dragon. I’m up here where I belong,” I bellow telepathically.
Our gazes lock. He’s not worthy of me and I spew flames into the night sky. “You gave me to another, you miserable excuse for a slimy, silver lizard,” I shout into his mind. I turn toward the closest moon and fly away from Tahr and his stupid castle.
“Pepper,” he yells. “Where are you going? Come back here at once,” he demands.
“If you come near me, I’ll bite off your cock, spit it out, and burn it with dragon fire. Stay away from me… forever.” I don’t need him. I am dragon. I have a voice and I am free.
“You can’t leave me; you’re mine.”
“If you crawl on your belly and beg, I still won’t have you.”
“No,” he thunders.
I don’t even bother replying. I charge through the night seeing everything in a new array of color. I’m actually surprised Tahr doesn’t follow. I’m so angry with him. Truthfully, I have nowhere to go and that only makes me angrier. So, I fly simply for the joy of flying. It also occurs to me that I don’t know if I can change back to human. I’m afraid to think about it too hard or it may happen while flying. What triggers it? I need a dragon handbook.
I turn my neck and sway slightly because I’m unaccustomed to my size. I gain my balance and try again. I’m surprised to see my scales are yellow. This makes me laugh. I’m a yellow dragon—the color of the sun and also daisies. I’m beautiful. I raise my front leg, tilt slightly as I do it, and examine my black talons. They’re long and sharp. I whip my tail around and it smashes upside my head. Yep, it’s there and I need to learn to control it.
Within another hour, my wings tire and my back muscles ache. I refuse to return to Tahr’s lair. I slow down and try catching downdrafts to keep from having to work so hard to stay in the air. The sun rises and I realize I have no idea where I am. Out of nowhere, a blinding pain hits me. My body seizes and there’s a very real possibility I’m going down. The pain ends as suddenly as it began and I know I’ve crossed a realm. This is something else I know nothing about and it would all be much easier if I had a way to get answers.
I continue flying and notice two large shapes looming in the distance. They’re dragons. As I draw closer, I see the larger one is red and the smaller blue. I believe the red dragon is the young one who came with his parents two weeks ago and wanted to know what made me so special. Perfect. They turn their attention my way and follow me as I head for a large field below me to land.
Unfortunately, I’m clumsy and end up skidding several feet with my nose in the dirt. I dig my talons in to finally stop myself. The damage is done with dirt filling my nose and mouth. Coughs and sneezes escape my large jaws which causes smoke and fire to shoot from my throat and that only causes more coughing. The laughter of the two young dragons doesn’t help in the least.
“See, Cantor, I told you she can’t hurt us. She doesn’t even know how to land without skinning her nose,” the larger red dragon says to the blue one. “Who are you?” the red dragon asks with an air of superiority.
“I’m Pepper,” I finally say after another fire-breathing cough.
“You are Uncle Tahr’s mate?” he asks in disbelief.
“No, not his mate. I’m just a dragon. A very special dragon,” I say because I remember what he said the first time I met him.
“Hmm.” A thin trail of smoke leaves his nostrils. “I am Ashrac and this is Cantor. Our fathers have gone to Tahr’s because they felt the presence of a new dragon and they think Tahr has mated. That is the only way for a female to transcend, so I think you have your facts wrong.”
Oh really. “I am not mated to Tahr and I don’t even like him. I’m sorry that he is your uncle, but he’s a jerk and don’t wish to ever see him again.”
The younger dragon peeks around Ashrac. “Why is she so ugly? She should be silver like Uncle Tahr.”
I don’t allow Ashrac to answer. “I’ve said I’m not Tahr’s mate, and yellow is not ugly, it’s beautiful like the sun and certain flowers.”
“If you say so,” Cantor replies and I wonder if all male dragons are this rude.
Yes, they are. They’re all the same.
“It is a rather strange color for a dragon,” Ashrac adds.
I can’t believe I’m standing here defending my color to two boys. “I will ignore your rudeness and the insult you’ve given me if you tell me what I must do to change to human.”
“You don’t know?” Ashrac asks with an arrogant huff.
“If I knew, I wouldn’t ask. If the two of you handsome dragons would be so kind and teach me, I would appreciate it.” They roll their eyes and I guess they aren’t as gullible as I suspected.
“You’re in Uncle Sarn’s realm,” Cantor replies. “We fly here because Uncle Sarn lives in the earth realm with his mate and his castle is haunted.”
“Shh,” Ashrac snaps. “It’s not truly haunted.”
“You said it was,” Cantor replies sullenly.
“I was only teasing.” He glances at me and shakes his large head. “It would be best if you went back to Uncle Tahr. He will teach you what you need to know.”
Heat rises up my throat at the mention of returning to Tahr. “I do not belong to your Uncle Tahr. I am my own dragon and will go anywhere I choose. If you won’t help me, I will find someone who will.”
Cantor steps forward and puffs up his chest. “My mother will burn you with dragon fire if you get close to her nest. She’s very cranky right now and it would be a shame if you sizzled on your first day as a dragon.”
That makes me laugh, and fire mixed with black smoke pours from my nose. The two dragons jump back. “So sorry,” I cough. I breathe in too quickly and it’s having a domino effect as I sneeze and release more flames and smoke.
Ashrac and Cantor start laughing again and when I can finally breathe; I join in, which makes my smoke thicker and my fire brighter. Another coughing fit takes hold.
“He can’t breathe fire yet,” Cantor says when I’m finally able to stop hacking.
“I’ll be able to very soon,” Ashrac grumbles and then he sighs. “I guess we can teach you a few things. I would hate for you to burn off your tail.” He ducks as my uncontrolled tail flies at my head. “Think of your human body and pull in your magic. It’s easy, and that’s how you shift.”
“Yes, it takes magic to be dragon.”
I think about that. I can feel the same tingling awareness that I got from touching Tahr. It’s all around me now. I do as Ashrac suggests and the next second I’m human. And naked. I quickly turn my back to the boys and feel heat creep up my neck when they giggle. I pull the magic in again and return to my yellow dragon form. “Thank you for that lesson, but I need clothes before I try it again,” I say quickly trying to cover my embarrassment.
“You’re funny,” Cantor laughs. “And you sound like Ashrac’s mother.”
“My mother and her rules,” Ashrac grumbles and rolls his large red eyes. “Uncle Sarn’s lair has clothes. The castle is pretty much a mess, but his bedroom isn’t too bad. Would you like us to show you?”
Ashrac and Cantor call out instructions, so my launch is slightly better than my landing. The three of us fly to Sarn’s castle. I’m exhausted by the time we arrive and my entire body aches. I refuse to complain, especially to these boys. We enter Sarn’s room from his tower perch. Most of what I’ve seen of the castle is a crumbled mess, but when I peek inside the room, it’s intact just quite dusty.
Ashrac gives me a flash of his amazingly large teeth. “There are some of Uncle Sarn’s old clothes in his garment room. I don’t think they’ll fit, but you can try. I must return Cantor to his father’s realm or we will be in trouble and his mother will come after us with her battle ax.”
Surely he’s joking. “Oh… okay. Umm, thank you for your help. I’ll stay here if you don’t think your Uncle Sarn will mind.”
“I don’t think he’ll mind.” They launch gracefully from the perch and fly away after I thank them profusely for their help.
When they’re completely out of sight, I shift and enter the room. The clothes are covered in dust too. I shake out a large shirt and put it on. It doesn’t smell too bad and it hangs to my knees. Next, I shake the dust from the top cover of the bed and lie down. I’m tired but I want to try something.
“I am dragon,” I whisper into the room. I hear my stilted throaty words and I say it again louder. Then, I close my eyes, too tired to even think about speech or my empty stomach.