Read Dragon Deception Online

Authors: Mell Eight

Tags: #Gay romance, Paranormal, Supernatural Consultant

Dragon Deception (9 page)

BOOK: Dragon Deception
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Her son had bitten his teacher, Mercury remembered. "If you need to bring him here…" he began.

Daisy laughed. "Not a good idea." Her words were punctuated by a crashing noise from the nearby bathroom followed by the laughter of a number of Mercury's kits. "I'm worried they'll get along a little too well. Have a good night."

"You too," Mercury called as she swept past him gracefully. He heard the front door close a few minutes later as she headed down the drive towards the transportation circle those who didn't have personal magic to transport them needed to use.

Mercury put Alloy down. "Why don't you show Valerie where to sit and then go wash your hands?" he told Alloy and Nickel. Alloy smiled eagerly up at Valerie, grabbed her hand, and dragged her off towards the dining room. Mercury found some oven mitts and began pulling dinner out of the oven. He put all the heavy dishes onto one big tray and carried it out to the dining room.

They didn't eat at the dining room table often; the kits were far too messy and destructive for it and it was easier to deal with them in the confines of the kitchen. Still, they ate formally often enough that everyone had an assigned seat. Dane sat at the head of the table with Mercury to his right. Nickel usually sat across from Mercury, but he had surrendered his spot to Valerie for the night. He sat on Valerie's left and Zinc sat on his other side. 'Ron sat next to Zinc, and the final chair belonged either to Lumie or Alloy depending on how they were feeling that day. Copper sat next to Mercury with Chrome on his other side, followed by either Alloy or Lumie. Tonight it was Lumie. Alloy slid into his seat across from Lumie, his hands still dripping wet, as Mercury set the dishes on trivets on the table.

Copper and Nickel helped pour water into the younger kits plastic cups while Mercury dished chicken, potatoes, and tarragon green beans onto each plate. He did remember to let Valerie take her own food, but it was a near thing. Half of his attention was on his kits chattering about their day. The rest was focused towards the rest of the house for the first sign that Dane had finally made it home.

The kits asked Valerie all sorts of invasive questions, which made Mercury grin involuntarily.

"What about your boyfriend?" 'Ron asked eagerly. She had turned very girly-girl as she grew up, indulging in dresses and dreaming of the day Mercury allowed her to try make-up, but aside from Daisy and Becky, she didn't really have any adult female role models in her life. She was milking Valerie for all the information on what being an adult female was like, including the mysterious concept of wanting a boyfriend. At nine years old, 'Ron was just starting to figure out that boys weren't necessarily an 'eww' concept.

"I don't have a boyfriend," Valerie replied. Mercury caught Chrome's eye and pointedly held his fork in a proper grip. Chrome grumbled and rearranged his fingers around the utensil so he was no longer eating like an uncultured caveman.

'Ron gasped in shock, a piece of chicken falling off her fork and back onto her plate as she stared incredulously at Valerie. "No boyfriend? Why not?"

Valerie shrugged. "I haven't found the right one yet. I don't want a boyfriend just to have a boyfriend. I want a man who means something to me."

'Ron cooed. She had put down her silverware in order to clasp her hands under her chin cutely as she gazed in wonder at the mature woman who didn't need a boyfriend to define her life. Which meant, of course, that now Mercury was going to have a feminist dragon haranguing Chrome for being such a slob instead of an empty-headed teenybopper haranguing Chrome for being such a slob. Neither were necessarily a bad thing for 'Ron to be, but she excelled at being annoying at whatever she did. Mercury was looking forward to 'Ron being finished with puberty immensely, although the flip side was that when 'Ron began to grow out of puberty, Lumie would be starting it—and that was a basket of eggs Mercury really didn't want to drop. Ever.

As dinner progressed and his kits took seconds and thirds, Mercury reserved a piece of chicken and a scoop of all the sides for Dane on his plate. Dane could heat it up whenever he got in. When everyone was finished eating, Mercury supervised the kits clearing all the dishes. He would clean the kitchen later, but first Lumie toddled into the dining room with the basket that contained dessert inside. He already had a cinnamon bomb in his mouth, stretching out one cheek. The basket was passed around and everyone took their favorite candy. Valerie hesitated when the basket reached her and glanced up at Mercury for advice.

"Take whatever you want. The basket gets refilled regularly." Mercury reached across the table and took one of Nickel's blue rock candies.

Valerie took a cinnamon bomb, which made Mercury wince—he hated the things—and Lumie giggled happily. It didn't take long for the candy to vanish. Mercury tried not to glance at the door while everyone happily got sugar high. It wasn't like Dane to be so late, especially when he had told Nickel he'd be home before dinner. Maybe he had found the mother dragon and was having some trouble getting her settled in to the dragon village, but he would have called to tell them he would be late if that were the case.

Mercury was very worried that something else had gone wrong. But Dane was the son of a god. His magic was unbelievably powerful. It did take a while to amass for larger spells, but there were very few creatures on Earth that could match him or keep him confined. There was no reason he shouldn't have been home on time.

Still, Mercury didn't want to worry his kits. He caught Lumie's eye, then Copper and Chrome's. "Bath time," he insisted. Lumie groaned and Chrome rolled his eyes. Copper would stoically obey, although he didn't like the water any more than Lumie did. The other kits would bathe themselves without issue, even Alloy who sometimes hated the water as much as Lumie and other times loved it as much as Nickel.

With dinner over, the kits all ran off in different directions. Mercury did hear water start to run upstairs in at least one of the bathrooms, so someone was obeying him. Probably Zinc or Nickel. Hopefully one of them had grabbed Lumie or Alloy to take a bath together. His two youngest kits were capable of bathing themselves, but it was usually a messy process without supervision.

Mercury headed to the kitchen with Valerie to clean up.

"I'm sorry I can't drop you home right away," Mercury apologized as he pulled open the dishwasher to begin stacking the dinner dishes inside. "I don't want to leave them alone right now and with Dane not home…" He shut his mouth quickly before his worry could leak out, but Valerie caught it immediately. She was a good investigator and he had little doubt that she hadn't missed the few times he hadn't been able to stop himself from glancing towards the door during dinner.

"Where is Dane?" she asked. Her tone was gentle instead of sharp. The kits had done a number on her permanent scowl, easing it into a mere frown as she studied him.

Mercury leaned his weight on his hands where they were pressed against the edge of the counter. "I don't know," he forced out. "We've been helping dragons together for five years now. The enemy is still capturing dragons for their cruel experiments, so whenever we hear about one under attack, we respond immediately. A male dragon sent a message to Dane a few weeks ago saying his family had been attacked. He had held the enemy off while his mate and their three kits escaped, but he was badly injured. He couldn't look for them, so Dane promised we would instead."

"So Dane was out in the woods tonight searching for those missing kits?" Valerie gasped. Her eyes were narrowed in thought. "These are the same guys who placed the trap in the paint? They must be," she continued, answering her own question before Mercury could speak. "They were trying to draw you out at the crime scene, maybe catch you and Dane and keep you both from interfering with their dragon capturing."

"We found the kits this afternoon while I took my long lunch," Mercury explained. "They're safe, but their mother was still unaccounted for, so Dane went back to the woods this afternoon."

"He had one more place to check," Valerie remembered, echoing Nickel's words prior to dinner. "Since he's not back yet, it might be safe to assume his one last place was the right one and that he might have run into some trouble." She paused to look at Mercury as he continued to stack dishes. "You need to go after him, just in case. I'll stay and watch your kits."

Mercury looked at her in shock. Valerie's personality was so grating at times; he didn't think she was capable of handling any of his kits should they get in a snit. Yet, at the same time, he wanted to run after Dane to double check that he was safe.

"My sister's got a set of rambunctious triplets that I babysit for. I can handle a few hours with your kits, especially when they'll all be in bed soon. Go."

Mercury took her at her word. He gathered his magic and directed it into a transportation spell. The kitchen vanished around him, replaced by the familiar clearing. Mercury hurried over to the bush where Dane had found the kits and then paused. Dane would have left magical markers for himself to show where he had already searched. They were keyed only to Dane so no one except Dane could read them. Mercury knew enough to be able to find them and he knew Dane well enough to be able to tell which markers were positive indicators and which were negative.

It took a few minutes of searching with his magic before Mercury found the first one. It was high in a tree where only the birds and squirrels would ordinarily find it, but once Mercury located it, the rest almost blazed against the touch of his searching magic. Each marker felt subtly different as Mercury followed them through the forest. Some simply indicated that Dane had travelled in this direction while others told stories of failed searches off to the west and his eventual return to the original path.

Mercury was walking south. Every once in a while, he saw what Dane must have been looking for: the scratch of scales or claws against the bark of a tree, the disturbed leaf litter where the kits had stopped to play or nap. The markers flashed by as Mercury increased his speed. Every moment he dawdled admiring how much difficult work Dane had accomplished in one short afternoon was another moment that might mean he was too late.

Mercury's stride ate up the miles quickly. He knew where the clearing was on a map, northeast of Dane's office in the Berkshires, and that he was paralleling Route 87 south towards New York City. The spot where the mother dragon was separated from her kits couldn't be much further. The kits had been alone for not even five hours and they hadn't been walking steadily for the entire time.

When Mercury finally reached the marker that felt like a stopping point, he paused to catch his breath. This was where Dane had paused in his search to go pick up Nickel from the office; Mercury could sense the remnants of Dane's transportation spell as he left and then returned again shortly after. Mercury was still in the middle of a forest with only trees and the deepening twilight surrounding him. The sounds around him were normal as the creatures of the day bedded down and the creatures of the night woke up. Dane had gotten Nickel just after five o'clock and dinner had been served at six. That gave Dane an hour of time before Mercury was certain something had happened, then an hour while dinner had been eaten, and forty-five minutes of Mercury following Dane's trail. So Dane should be within a three-hour radius of the point Mercury was standing at. Mercury would continue to follow Dane's trail until he found Dane or found traces of another transportation spell, at which point he would regroup.

Mercury proceeded at a slightly slower pace, double-checking with each marker that he was on the right trail. He was still moving faster than Dane must have been since Mercury didn't need to search the ground for minute clues of a dragon's passage. Mercury also didn't need to divert from the path to run off in one direction or another to check over a ridge or under a fallen tree for more clues, which saved him a lot of time. Within fifteen minutes of walking, the forest began to quiet around him. The hoot of waking owls and the scurry of squirrels and mice as they found their nighttime dens faded away, replaced by an ominous air.

There was a strange sort of weight to the wind as it rustled the leaves around him. It was tainted in the disgustingly familiar way of stolen dragon magic. Mercury called on his own magic and weaved it into an intangibility spell. True invisibility was impossible—someone would notice the strange distortion around him as he moved—so he instead used a spell that kept people from looking at him at all.

Dane's markers faded away, but Mercury didn't need them any longer. He followed the tainted magic until he found the source.

Two trees had been utterly shattered. Splinters poked threateningly out of the ground and were imbedded in nearby trees. The air smelled faintly of smoke and some of the splinters had charred ends, but over all of that was the stench of tainted magic.

"Can we get a helicopter here or not?" a voice snarled. No one answered, but a second later the voice continued. "Tell them we're transporting an elephant that escaped from the zoo!"

Mercury peeked cautiously around a tree, trusting that his spell would avert anyone's eyes from him. An adult red dragon was lying on the ground only a few feet to Mercury's left. She was alive, but she had been liberally wrapped in heavy iron chains and then covered in dragon's bane. The flower was similar in size and shape to wolf's bane, the petals an odd mix between a bell-like shape and a wing-like shape, but these flowers were the pearlescent white that was poisonous to dragons instead of the lavender colored kind that hurt werewolves. Mercury didn't doubt that this was the mother dragon Dane had been searching for and that without the dragon's bane holding her immobile she would still be destroying trees.

Dane was lying unmoving next to her on the ground. For a heart-stopping moment Mercury was afraid that Dane was dead. Mercury clutched at the tree he was hiding behind and forced back a whimper so he didn't give himself away. Then he saw the slow rise and fall of Dane's chest and he sagged in relief. Mercury wiped a stray tear away and took a few deep breaths to slow the shaking. Dane was unconscious, or he was pretending to be. Mercury caught the gleam of one blue eye peeking out from underneath its lid and felt the wind blow past him. A handful of the dragon's bane flowers blew off the mother dragon, vanishing harmlessly into the forest behind them. Dane was okay, Mercury reminded himself, so it was time to refocus on saving them all from the enemy.

BOOK: Dragon Deception
4.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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