Authors: Astrid Cooper
Tags: #Adult, #Erotic Romance, #Gay, #GLBT, #Paranormal, #Shapeshifter, #Dragon
A fireman’s courage and a dragon’s magic—
fire and rescue
takes on a whole new meaning.
The Adelaide national park is ablaze and fireman Ben O’Reilly is r
unning for his life. When he is saved by a dragon and flown to a sanctuary of shapeshifters, Ben’s world is changed forever. Darren is no ordinary dragon and when he reveals his human form to Ben, the two men are instantly attracted to one another. Fire and rescue is Ben’s life, but how can he accept a man who is also a fire-fighting dragon?
The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.
Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Angel in Yellow
Copyright © 2015 Astrid Cooper
Cover art by Martine Jardin
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
Published by eXtasy Books Inc or
Devine Destinies, an imprint of eXtasy Books Inc
Look for us online at:
www.eXtasybooks.com or www.devinedestinies.com
Angel in Yellow
To the men and women of the Australian emergency services.
In particular the County Fire Service—volunteers who risk all to help save property, and life—the real angels in yellow.
I also dedicate this work to the numerous animal welfare agencies who respond to emergency events to rescue and treat animals, and those who nurse all creatures great and small for months after the emergency is over...more angels in yellow.
The severity of a bushfire, raging out of control, is unimaginable. Fire generates massive winds, and walls of flames, often over a hundred metres in height, so the inferno which my fictitious characters face in this story is no stretch of the author’s imagination.
During the writing of this story, Katie, my 14 year old tortoiseshell cat crossed to Rainbow Bridge. She is now with her mother, Blaze, and sister, Peta, and all my other rescuees.
The fire truck rattled and bumped over the corrugated terrain. Six months before, the track had been washed away in a flood, now, Ben thought grimly, it was about to be incinerated.
Shit. Shit. Shit.
With heart hammering, he urged the truck faster. He and the crew would die if they couldn’t out run the fire. Too many had perished in the fires ravaging the national park, two hundred kilometres north of Adelaide. Hell, no way he wanted to be a statistic on the night’s news.
He clung to the rear of the vehicle. Acrid smoke burned his throat and lungs. He was combusting in the heavy protective gear. He dropped his helmet and poured a bottle of water over his head, the moisture barely registering as scorching wind whipped across his face and hair, stinging his eyes. His vision blurred and he blinked furiously, eyelids gritty.
Explosions, like thunder. Crash. Boom. The deafening roar of fire behind him as the forest was consumed. He glanced back.
On either side of the track, thirty metre high eucalypts became giant torches, shooting flames another thirty metres into the sky as fire leapt from tree top to tree top. The wall of fire was closing in. He gripped the truck harder.
Move it. C’mon.
Tom, the driver, was pushing safety to the limit—to go any faster would run the risk of overturning the truck, and then they’d be toast. On foot, they couldn’t outrun the wall of flames bearing down on them. They’d be lucky if the truck beat the fire to the creek, a half kilometre away. If they could make it there, they might survive.
A pine tree exploded nearby, sending flaming branches and embers across the track. The truck slewed to a halt, backed up, revved hard and pushed through, dodging around the obstacles.
Beside the truck, rivulets of fire, like lava, raced over the paddock. From the corner of his eye, Ben saw a horse pressed against the barbed wire, unable to escape.
He thumped the hood of the truck. His CO, Gary, poked his head out the cabin window, his face sooty, his hair grey with ash.
“Gotta get off. Stop.” Ben tugged on his helmet, reached for his bolt cutters and leapt down even before the truck rolled to a halt. He’d seen too many burnt animals over the last three days, he sure as hell was not gonna let one more perish—not on his watch. “Get going. I’ll meet you at the creek.”
“Get in this truck, O’Reilly! Now!”
Ben ignored him, scrambling down the embankment. He reached the horse, set the cutters to the fence and furiously sliced through wire like it was butter. The split sharp ends reared up scraping his helmet vizor. With a scream, the horse bolted, running through the opening, disappearing down a narrow track.
Ben struggled up the hill, sliding on the loose shale. He flung the bolt cutters away and crawled on all fours, breathing hard, chest burning, but feeling as cold as ice, as adrenaline kicked in. Another explosion nearby flung him backwards. The ground he had gained was lost in a moment. The fire truck was enveloped by swirling, flaming debris.
Ben turned and ran, following the horse. Seconds later, blinded by smoke, he crashed into another fence line. Tugging free, he flung himself through the wire, running towards the farm shed. He skidded to a halt as he heard animals bleating, baying, yowling.
He ran into the shed, reached the first pen, tugging it open. All the while he heard the roar of the approaching fire, feeling it through his clothes, burning his skin. His gloved fingers fumbled with chains. He tore off his gloves and flung more pens open. Two pigs, a goat, and three kelpies all raced past him, disappearing into the surrounding bush.
The last animal—a tiny kitten—cowered in the back of a small cage. He grabbed the kitten, avoiding flailing claws, and stuffed it down the inside of his coat. Ben turned and ran, heading downhill towards the creek—a small opening in the fire wall was now his only hope in hell.
A shadow dipped across the ground. Ben kept running, hoping it was the fire bomber. Odd, that there was no engine noise, only a slow
He glanced back, saw the fire and then... He was jolted off his feet, his helmet dropping to the ground.
Holy fucking hell.
His gut flipped, left behind as he was yanked upwards by the scruff of his neck, something slicing his flesh as it caught hold of his jacket collar. He was airborne ten metres above the yard, and climbing. He dangled like a fish on a hook and then something hard supported him under the stomach—something looking very much like forearms—green-gold scaled.
He stared up and around and saw a reptilian body, more green-gold scales and massive green wings.
That’s it, I’m dead.
An angel’s winging me to heaven. Hey, wait! Don’t angels have white wings and diaphanous gowns?
Hysteria rose like a bubble. He bit down on his lip, the pain bringing him back to reality. Except reality was... Jesus what was happening?
The creature holding him wasn’t an angel. He was flying through the air, held tightly by a four metre long dragon, its talons piercing his protective gear.
As Ben stared up, the dragon’s emerald eyes returned his gaze, black slits reflecting the flames below.
The dragon laboured over the tree tops, fiery embers in pursuit. The dragon’s muscles bunched and strained, body elongating as it outflew the fire.
Over the next ridge, Ben saw the creek. Thank God! There was the fire truck, its rear end burnt, paint blistered. The hose was melted. It must have been a close call. His crew, his friends, sheltered in the water, along with animals he’d liberated from the farm. The horse was in the middle of the creek. Looked like Gary had hold of its bridle. At least some had survived the inferno—but others earlier that day in the boarding cattery and shelter had perished before his crew had reached the building. He could still hear the sickening screams as trapped animals died... The stink of burned fur and flesh. He shook his head, fighting the images. He’d never forget... never... Never forgive someone who saved his own skin at the expense of the animals in his care.
The dragon banked, skimming low. Ben saw a wide expanse of manicured lawn surrounding a large colonial mansion. Beneath the return verandah he saw cats, rabbits and other animals in cages, dogs and horses tethered to the posts, all attended to by several men and women dressed in dark overalls. Other creatures sheltered under trees, confined in pens, while an adjoining paddock housed sheep, cows, horses, two alpacas, and even chickens, as well as ‘roos and wombats. A colony of bats hung upside down in the dark canopy of one oak tree. A few koalas were clinging to tree trunks, drinking water from silver goblets held up to them by children.
What the heck is all this? He peered closer at the animals in the paddock. Was he seeing things? Was that a lion? And a tiger?
That’s it—hallucinating because he’d been fighting the fires for days, running on little sleep, and a lot of bad coffee and adrenaline.
The dragon veered to the right, and with a massive back-fanning of its leathery wings Ben was gently dropped to his feet on the edge of the lawn. He staggered, legs wobbly from fatigue and fear. He righted himself only to come eyeball to eyeball with the dragon’s glowing eyes.
The dragon reached out with its snout and whuffled, its breath washing over Ben. He smelled of fire, and musk. The snout pushed his chest. Then with a flap of wings, the dragon launched into the sky and joined six other dragons circling overhead.
Remembering the kitten, Ben dug into his coat and gently pulled it out. It yowled and then convulsed. Suddenly it wasn’t breathing, lying rigid on his palm. He closed the tiny mouth and carefully blew the smallest puffs into the nose.
C’mon, damnit, don’t die on me...not now!
“Let me,” a darkhaired woman said. She lay the kitten on her palm, placed her other palm over it.
Ben stared as golden light flowed from her fingertips to engulf the kitten. Her frown of concentration grew as the kitten struggled to live. Minutes later, she smiled as it purred.
She looked at Ben, tears in her brown eyes. “Thank you. You saved this little one.” She walked away, taking the kitten to another woman who had set up what looked like an infirmary underneath the verandah.
“Hey, wait.” That kitten was his responsibility. Ben went to follow, but two men blocked his path. The taller man held his arm in a hold that would have been painful if he resisted.
“Here it comes, Darius!”
The man who held Ben nodded. “Yes. Prepare.” His grip fell away as his attention diverted.
Ben pivoted. In the distance he saw the flames leaping high above the tree line, a ring of fire surrounding the homestead. He and the animals had been saved, only to die here. He glanced around. There was no place to run. No shelter.
Overhead the dragons screamed, circling. The lion and tiger roared. Other animals added to the cacophony. Ben frowned. Screaming at the fire wasn’t gonna do a damn thing. The only option was to defend. Ben grabbed Darius’s arm. “You got firefighting equipment?”
“Yes.” He pointed to the dragons.
The man’s amusement faded. “Stay here and watch. Do not interfere, or you will be put in a cage.”
Ben hardly had time to register the threat, before the dragons bellowed—a sound of challenge, and anger.
The dragons screeched and dipped, wheeling in the air like birds, but their movements were slow and cumbersome. For the first time, Ben noticed each dragon had a rider sitting in the V where shoulders met neck. Five riders were men, the other a woman, all wearing black overalls. A seventh dragon, the one that had carried him to the homestead was riderless and appeared to be directing the manoeuvre—whatever it was. What the bloody hell was happening here? The riders held aloft blue crystals, and each dragon also clasped, in its talons, a boulder-sized crystal that glowed with all the colours of a rainbow.