Authors: D'Elen McClain
She’ll return soon. She is mine and will not be able to stay away. Plus she has nowhere to go. I will give her this time of adjustment because I need time to think too.
I’m still in shock that she transcended. Even more so that she’s yellow. It makes no sense. She should be silver like me—majestic silver to represent the royal silver dragons. Bastian’s mate is red and Laryn’s is blue—end of story. Or it should be. My mate is yellow.
An hour later, I haven’t rationalized what has happened and I’m still waiting. I sense when Bastian and Laryn cross my realm and hope they are able to supply answers.
“Where is she and who is she?” Bastian asks as soon as he’s within telepathic range.
“Tahr, you sneaky devil, you did it,” Laryn adds.
They will have a field day with this, so I wait for them to land. I beckon them inside with a wave of my hand and stomp angrily into my room. I look back and forth between my friends and grit my teeth as I explain, “Pepper left me as soon as she transcended.” I sit down and they both take large chairs across from me. The entire story pours out, though a moment later I’m up and pacing unable to keep still.
“She’s yellow,” Bastian and Laryn say in unison.
They are stuck on the same fact that I am. “Yes, yellow.”
Laryn thrums his fingers on his knee for a moment before he looks up and asks, “Is it at least a pretty yellow?”
Beautiful, gorgeous, and sexy are more apt descriptions. “Of course she’s pretty, but the fact remains she isn’t silver. What the hell does that mean?”
Bastian looks thoughtful for a moment. “You have bedded her, right?”
That pisses me off. And the fact that he’s the one who warned me away. I fist my hands at my sides to keep from wrapping them around Bastian’s throat. “I think you’re forgetting that you not so nicely reminded me that she’s forbidden.” I kick a table I knocked over earlier. “It was damned hard to keep my hands off of her… well, my cock out of her. But I did and I’m such a fool.”
“She’s not your mate,” Laryn whispers.
It’s the thought that’s been running through my mind since she left me. How could she transcend and not be my mate? I just can’t speak the words aloud. This can’t be happening.
Bastian’s eyes glow red and I can tell he’s disturbed. “Do you love her, Tahr?”
“Hell.” I begin pacing again. “I think I do.”
“Then you don’t truly love her,” Bastian replies. “Love is not a thinking matter, it’s one of the heart.
Well, I need to think about it! “Meagan has only been gone seven and a half months.” I lower my head and look at my feet. “I still miss her. Arrgh,” I yell and practically pull out a chunk of my hair. “My mate is yellow.” I plop back down in my chair and rest my elbows on my knees holding my head in my hands. “What have I done to deserve this?” For some reason it becomes clear.
The silver dragons are damned. Of course Pepper isn’t silver. She is good and kind. Funny and witty. She doesn’t deserve the tarnished stain that comes with my royalty.
“We need to find her,” says Laryn. “What if she goes near Roxy?”
Bastian stands up and looks at me. “Do you think she could travel that far on her first day as dragon?”
I jump to my feet. “We can’t chance it,” I yell as I run outside and launch from my perch. The three of us head to Laryn’s realm while so many thoughts swirl through my head. I truly care for Pepper, but never saw her as a bride much less a mate. She passed the time and kept my sadness at bay. She deserved someone who loved her, so I gave her away to another man. What the hell is wrong with me? My silver scales make me the biggest fool. I’ve wrapped my royal lineage around me like a cloak for so long. Even when only four of us remained, the pride that was instilled in me as a child persisted. Now my mate is a yellow dragon. Can life be anymore fucked up than this?
We see Ashrac and Cantor first. It’s been more than a year since I’ve seen the young, blue dragon. He’s growing quickly. And Roxy is having another. I envy Laryn so much it hurts.
“Father, Father,” Cantor shouts as we draw closer. “She is an ugly, yellow dragon and she doesn’t know how to land or launch or shift or…or.... We taught her how to shift and it’s not fair that she can breathe fire on her first day as dragon. I want to breathe fire too.”
“Where is she?” I demand more sternly than I meant to.
“Watch it, Tahr,” Laryn utters.
“Sorry,” I mumble under my breath.
Ashrac answers, “We took her to Uncle Sarn’s castle. She wanted clothing and she was very tired. Why is she yellow, Father?”
“We aren’t sure,” Bastian replies. “She didn’t try to harm you boys, did she?”
“No, she was very nice, even when we laughed at her. She’s quite funny, though strange looking. Do you think she’s a mutation?”
Bastian wallops Ashrac with his tail. “No. And you read too many horror novels. She’s a yellow dragon, a new color. She’s… special.”
“Special and ugly,” Ashrac whispers, but we all hear him. His father growls and Ashrac is quiet after that.
At least I know where she is. “I will go retrieve her and take her back to my lair,” I tell them.
“You might try asking her,” Laryn says. “A female dragon is not someone you want to boss around. I’ve discovered that the hard way.”
“I agree with Laryn. You need to ask her and explain how things are. Don’t make her angry.”
How the hell do I not make her angry? It’s what I’m best at when it comes to Pepper. I leave them and fly to Sarn’s lair. Somehow I will convince Pepper to be my mate. Even if I don’t love her, I care for her and she is mine.
Claws scraping against the outer perch wake me from dreams of kissing Tahr. I can feel his magic and know he has come for me. Tahr’s magic is slightly different from Ashrac’s and Ashrac’s is different from Cantor. There’s no time to process my feelings right now because a large silver head pokes through the window.
I have a voice now, though I’m not yet ready to communicate with croaky words while I learn to use it properly. Telepathic words are much easier. “What are you doing here, Tahr?” I manage to keep my tone level without strong emotion coming through.
His head disappears and I feel a more intense burst of magic as he shifts. He enters naked. I can’t talk to him this way. I crave touching him. I want to throw myself into his arms. I do exactly the opposite and jump from the bed and march into Sarn’s garment room. I storm out and toss a dusty pair of pants at the wide-eyed dunderhead.
“You’ve seen me unclothed,” he says in consternation while his eyes travel over every inch of my legs that the shirt doesn’t cover.
“That doesn’t mean I want to,” I snap into his head.
Tahr pulls the pants on and winces when he covers his burgeoning cock. I hope it hurts. He hurt me. Goddess, he is so damn beautiful. It’s hard to hold onto my anger with him this close and his magic wrapping around me making my flesh shiver. I tug on the hem of Sarn’s shirt and wish I had something else to wear.
I place my hand out when Tahr moves toward me. “Stay where you are,” I demand and ignore the silver flash in his eyes. I’m not afraid of him and I will not give in no matter how difficult it is. If he won’t leave me alone, I’ll find another place to hide.
“You are returning with me, Pepper.” I’m about to sizzle him where he stands when he rephrases, “Umm, will you return with me… please?”
He’s so egotistical and the “please” comes out as a whine. “I’m not going back with you, Tahr.”
He starts pacing but thankfully stays far enough away that I can think somewhat clearly. What he did hurt me deeply and it’s so much worse because I love him. Holding onto this pain is what’s keeping me sane. No, that’s not true; I’m insanely in love with him. My fingers itch to glide over his chest and ignite the magic that resonates within him.
He stops pacing and runs his fingers through his hair. It took me only a short time to realize he does this when he’s nervous or perplexed. “This is ridiculous. You’re a woman and cannot be alone.”
My insanity raises a notch. There’s a large statue within reach, so I chuck it at his head. He blocks it, but not my scream inside his head. “You gave me away. You have no right to tell me what I will or will not do. Leave now and stay away from me.”
He’s looking at me as if I’ve gone mad. He pulls me in so the top half of our bodies touch and takes my lips in a heart-shattering kiss. I sink into the feel of him—his magic, his warmth, his strength. My back hits the soft mattress and Tahr follows me down. One hand moves to my leg to skim across my flesh. Everywhere his fingers move an arc of light spikes between us.
“You’re mine,” he breathes against my lips.
I want to be. His hand goes to the front of his pants and the fog in my head lifts.
“Do you love me, Tahr?” I question breathlessly into his mind. Please, please, please give me the answer that will make the pain of what you did to me fade.
He freezes and combined with the sadness I see in his eyes, I have my answer.
With strength I didn’t know I had, I push solidly against his chest and send him flying to the floor. I peer over the side of the bed, open my mouth, and let loose with a blast of fire.
“Owww… fuck… stop that,” he yells putting his hands up to block the flames. I tear off the shirt I’m wearing, sprint from the room, and dive over the edge of the perch. It’s a few seconds before I remember to pull in the magic. But does it really matter? I thought I would give anything to be a dragon, but I would give it all back for Tahr’s love. My dragon bursts free and more flames shoot from my throat.
Why would he love me? It doesn’t matter that I’m now a dragon, I’m still me—a human, a servant, a lesser being. I fly in circles around the castle. I refuse to leave and just wait for Tahr to go. A few minutes later, he does. His silver eyes flash from his soot-covered face when he storms to the edge of the perch.
“When you grow lonely and hungry, I will take you back,” he shouts as he shifts and flies away.
The next day my anger hasn’t diminished, but my hunger has doubled. I’ve searched Sarn’s castle, but there is no food. To take my mind off my aching belly, I shift and fly around in circles practicing my dragon fire without scorching myself. In the distance I notice movement and feel two distinct magic signatures and know it isn’t my young friends from yesterday. The females have come to make my acquaintance, or at least I hope that’s why they’re here.
I’ve met Acasia, though we weren’t properly introduced. The other must be Roxy, the mate of Laryn. I head to the perch and land with a bit more grace than the previous day. My dragon form still feels awkward, but I’m learning to control it. I shift, pull on my discarded shirt, and wait for them to come closer.
“May we visit?” flows into my head and I smile with relief at Acasia’s graciousness.
They land and immediately shift. “Do you have clothing we could borrow?” Acasia asks.
I nod and they follow me inside and wait as I shake out two more shirts and hand them over. Roxy brings it to her nose and sniffs. “Hmm, this smells like Sarn. My mate will hate it.” Her smile turns mischievous.
They pull the shirts over their heads. Acasia gives me a grin. “Your dragon form is a lovely shade of yellow.”
Her assurance has me bursting into tears. Tahr is right. I’m not just hungry, I’m lonely too. I want so badly to return to his castle. He can’t re-break a heart that is already broken. All my defenses are down and I just want him to hold me.
Roxy and Acasia wrap me in their arms and it’s almost enough. They lead me to the bed and Acasia holds my hand while Roxy keeps one arm around me.
Acasia wipes a trail of tears from my face. “You must tell us everything so we can help.” She squeezes my hand a bit tighter. “We’ve both been where you are, so dry your tears and start talking.”
I do. I tell them everything. All my anger and hurt pours out. I cry and even laugh a bit as I recount the events that brought me here. More than an hour later, I’m hiccupping through more tears and end with, “I’m so hungry I could eat an ox.”
They laugh and I join in. I choke on the smoke that drifts from my nose. I make a very bad dragon and tears again replace the laughter.
Roxy bumps me with her hip. “I couldn’t control my fire when I first transcended either. It’s actually quite irritating.” She smiles gently. “We will help. First food, though. I don’t have much time because Laryn is guarding our egg and I get antsy the longer I’m away.” She stands and pulls the shirt over her head. “Acasia will stay here while I find something better than a tough old ox to eat.”
“I should help. I must learn to find my own food.”
Acasia tugs me back down to the bed and stops me from following Roxy. “Not this time. You need a long bath and some time to adjust. Please don’t be insulted by my next question, but can you speak aloud?”
A garbled sound comes from my throat. Acasia smiles gently as I try again. “I can.” It sounds strange, but it’s the same voice I hear in my head when I speak telepathically.
“With practice you will sound lovely.”
For now, I’ll continue telepathically and practice when no one is around. “Thank you for saying yellow is lovely too. Roxy’s son told me I was ugly.”
Acasia rolls her eyes. “So young and he already has the arrogance of a typical male dragon. I work very hard with Ashrac, but it does little good.” She tips my chin up. “I think lovely is too tame a word. Your eyes have turned a stunning, sparkling yellow and the same color as your dragon.” She sighs and rubs her other hand over the top of mine. “Male dragons are very slow to change. They’ve come so far since I arrived in their realm. That doesn’t mean Bastian doesn’t need a nice bash on the head now and then. Sometimes that’s the only way to get their attention.”
“I agree,” I answer sardonically as I remember the satisfaction of knocking Tahr upside the head when he gave me to Mikael.
“Tahr loves you, he just doesn’t know it. Dragons fight love. They don’t handle loss well and guard their hearts against intrusion. He also loved Meagan and his feelings are confused. Time, a few knocks over the head, and a bit of gentle feminine persuasion will set things right. Roxy and I will help you settle in here and teach you what you need to know about being dragon. We’ll also impart what we know about loving one.”
My world is no longer as bleak and maybe… just maybe, I’ll have a chance with my dragon.