Read Dragon Fire Online

Authors: Dina von Lowenkraft

Dragon Fire (7 page)

BOOK: Dragon Fire
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There was an uncomfortable silence in the room as Ulf walked in with his gym bag. “Hello darling,” he said to Ingrid, giving her a kiss. “Good afternoon, Anna. Any plans for the evening, or would you like to join us?” he asked as if he hadn’t overheard the end of their argument. “I have three VIP passes for the music festival.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful,” Ingrid said. “What a nice idea. Don’t you think, Anna?”

“No. I don’t. And I’m not going.”

“Anna, what did we just agree—”

Ulf put a hand on Ingrid’s shoulder. “It’s okay. If she has other plans, she doesn’t need to come with us. It was just an offer.”

Ingrid looked up adoringly at Ulf. “You’re so understanding.”

Anna snorted and stomped out of the room, blocking out their murmurings while she flipped open her computer in the little office space that no one else ever used. She scanned her e-mails, hoping that June had changed her mind and was staying in town for the weekend. But deep down Anna knew her friend was desperate to see her boyfriend even if she tried not to talk about it too much. Being apart from him was killing her.

“Here,” Ulf said, catching Anna off guard. He dropped a VIP pass on the keyboard. “You can come join me after Ingrid goes to work at 11:00. The party won’t really start until then, anyhow.” He leaned against the desk, nearly sitting on her laptop. “And then I can begin your introduction to the wonderful world of nightlife. I have so much to teach you, my sweet little Anna. And it will be such a pleasure to do so.” He reached out to touch her cheek.

Anna flew back, knocking the chair over. “Get away from me,” she hissed.

“So much passion,” Ulf said with an appraising glance up and down her body. “I can’t wait to show you a better use for it.” He flashed his wolf-like smile. “See you tonight.”

* * *

Rakan paced back and forth in their living room. “No.”

“You don’t have much choice, unless you want to go against Yarlung’s orders.”

Rakan stopped pacing and growled. Dvara was enjoying the situation a little too much.

“You read the minds of our herds all the time,” Dvara said. “What’s the difference?”

Rakan exploded. “She’s a human. The herds are animals.” He took a deep breath. “When we read their minds it’s to help the herd as a whole. But if I were to read Anna’s mind it wouldn’t be to help her. It would just be to get information. And I’d have to pretend to have a relationship with her to get close enough to do it. It’s not like the herds whose minds I can read from far away. They project everything to each other. I just listen in. Humans aren’t like that. I’d need to…”
get close enough to smell her skin, to taste her lips and to feel her energy pulse under my hands…
Rakan turned and pummeled the punching bag that they had hung for training. The real problem was that he wanted to get closer to Anna. But humans couldn’t mind-speak. All they could do was be close physically. And that wasn’t what he wanted. It wasn’t enough.

“Why are you so uptight?” interrupted Dvara. “She’d be willing.”

“I’m not uptight.” He trembled with the effort it took to keep from yelling. “Using humans like that is wrong. It’s a violation of their being. It’s demeaning. And I won’t do it.”

“Rakan,” Dvara said gently, “what if you could do it without sleeping with her? I mean… maybe if you just start talking to her and see if you can lead her to answer your questions, see if you can read the images she’s remembering while you’re holding her hand or something? Would that still seem like something unethical to you?”

“I don’t know.” Rakan sank to the couch. “Do you really think it could work?”

Dvara shrugged. “We’ll never know unless you try. But she seems more sensitive than most humans, so it might. Especially if the memory was a strong one – and seeing June manipulating matter or shifting would be for a human. If she’s seen her.”

“What if she wants more? What if…” Rakan trailed off.
What if I want more?
His desire to take Anna in his arms was so intense that he’d probably lose control of his rök and explode in an involuntary morph if he did. And he didn’t want to imagine what would happen then.

“Where is she, can you tell?” asked Dvara, softly interrupting his thoughts.

Rakan shut his eyes and ran his mind over the maze of trails he knew by heart. His mind-touch ran up the hill behind the school, to where Anna lived on the top two floors of a three story building. She was running down the front stairs, agitated and angry. Something had happened. His eyes flew open as he jumped up, ready to fight.

“Okay,” he said, unclenching his fists. “I’m going.”

Dvara was silent for a moment. “Good luck, Rakan. You’re doing the right thing.”

Rakan nodded and hoped he was.

* * *

Anna hadn’t planned on where she was going, she just knew she needed out when Ulf had gone up and joined her mother in the shower. She sat at the counter in the window of Helmersen’s café and flipped through her contact list, wondering which of her friends wouldn’t already have plans for a Saturday night. If June had been in town, it would have been so much easier. June’s boyfriend played in a band and Anna was always welcome to come with.

“May I join you?” asked Pemba.

Anna almost knocked her coffee over before she realized it wasn’t Ulf hunting her down. “You surprised me.”

“I’m sorry.” He hesitated. “Do you want to be alone? You seem upset.”

“Yes. No. It’s okay,” she said. “Do you come here often?” she asked as he slid onto the stool next to hers.

“It’s on the way to school.” He pointed at her phone. “Were you waiting for someone who’s late?”

“No.” She tucked her phone away, hoping he hadn’t seen her searching her contacts. “You can take your coat off,” she added, noticing that he was still bundled up.

“You’re letting me stay?”

“No, I’m chasing you away,” she said, laughing.

“Are you?” Pemba unzipped his coat, revealing a body hugging black tee-shirt that molded to his chest. Anna hadn’t realized that he was in such good physical condition since she had always seen him wearing baggy sweatshirts.

“No, I guess not.” Anna forced her eyes back up to his face. But she got stuck on the pear-drop piece of coral that he wore on a black chain. “Where’s your necklace from?” she asked before realizing that it was a bit direct. “I mean, it’s pretty. I like it.” But more than that, it was the same color as the stone that had marked her hand.

“You’re curious.”

“Sorry,” she said, looking away.

“It’s okay. It was a gift from my parents. Dawa has one, too. It’s called a Maii-a.”

“It’s beautiful,” she said. She wanted to touch it. To know if it felt like her stone.

He took it off and handed it to her. “Here.”

She hesitated, wondering if it would react like her stone had. But when she saw that he was looking at her questioningly she braced herself and took it. It throbbed wildly in her hand. It was her stone. Only stronger. “It’s the same.” She smiled and closed her eyes. She had missed being able to hold onto it, even if she still felt its trace in her palm.

“The same as what?” asked Pemba, eyeing her with curiosity.

“As the ones that June and her boyfriend wear,” she said quickly. She didn’t want to reveal what had happened with her stone. “It feels alive.”

Pemba sat perfectly still, his eyes riveted to hers.

She handed back the Maii-a with her unmarked hand. “Did I say something weird?”

“No,” he said, looking away.

“Maybe it’s not the same. It just looks similar.” She hadn’t actually ever touched June’s necklace. Anna glanced at his again. “Is it from Tibet?”

“The Maii-a?” asked Pemba looking at her sharply. “No. Why?”

“I don’t know. Just wondering.” Anna squeezed her left fist over the star. How could it feel the same as the stone she had found in the mountains? “Are they common?”

Pemba faced her. “How many have you seen?”

“Not many.” Anna fiddled with her empty cup. “How do you like it here?” she asked, trying to break the uncomfortable silence that had settled between them.

“In the café?” he said with a smile. “Not bad.”

“You know what I mean,” she said, returning the smile. “Here. In Tromso.”

The smile slipped from his face. “I don’t know yet.”

“Why did you come in the middle of the year?” she asked before realizing that it might sound rude.

Pemba didn’t answer right away. “My parents have a research project here.”

“Oh.” That didn’t sound too permanent. “How long are you staying?”

“Don’t know,” he said, examining his cup.

Anna just sat there, watching him.

“What?” he said, finally looking up.

“Is that why you act the way you do at school?”

“What do you mean?”

“You pretend to be… I don’t know, different. You hide behind the image of someone who doesn’t care about what’s happening. When you do.”

Pemba looked away and Anna rubbed her Firemark, worried that she had offended him. “Pemba?”

He didn’t answer. He just sat there, frozen in place.

“Are you okay?” Anna asked, leaning closer. A faint smell of incense clung to him. She closed her eyes and breathed the smell in, letting it wrap around her. She felt a sudden urge to bite him and pulled back, shocked by her reaction.

“Anna,” he said without looking at her. “I need to go outside.”

Anna felt her heart beat wildly in desperation. “I’m sorry,” she said, wishing she had never said anything. Wishing she could control her bad habit of just blurting things out.

“Come with me.” He stood up abruptly without looking at her. He grabbed his coat and walked out the door.

Anna scrambled to her feet and put her coat on. She hurried to catch up with Pemba as he walked across the street and headed towards the fjord, his coat still in his hand.

Chapter 5
Getting Closer

R
AKAN WALKED AS FAST AS HE
thought Anna could go, wanting to get away from the town that pressed in on him. He needed to find a little more self-control. He could feel the shield that Jing Mei had placed on Anna. And it annoyed him. When they got to a relatively isolated spot on the fjord he stopped. He let his mind-touch wander out, breathing in the calm of the ocean as it rippled against the mountains.

“Aren’t you cold?” asked Anna after a while, looking at him with concern.

“No.”

“But it’s ten below. You should be cold.”

“Haven’t you heard of the Tibetan monks who can control their body temperature?”

“No. But you’re not a monk.”

Rakan laughed and put on his coat. “No, I’m not. But it is also a lot colder up on the Tibetan Plateau than it is here.” Although even there he didn’t need a coat. No dragon did.

“Oh,” Anna said, sounding surprised. “So how do you do it?”

“It’s a question of mind over matter.”

“Can you teach me?”

Rakan searched her eyes. How much did she already know? “Maybe. But I’ve never taught anyone before.” She had reacted so strongly to his Maii-a that he had felt a connection to her in spite of the shield that Jing Mei had placed around her. And he had been surprised by the strength of her energy. “Let me think about what to start with, okay?” He needed time to figure out how to do it without triggering Jing Mei’s shield.

Anna smiled and his blood thickened. He felt the throbbing need to morph. But he’d never be able to show her his true shape. Humans just couldn’t deal with it.

“Are you hungry?” Rakan asked, harnessing his desires.

“Um, sure.” She turned away abruptly, sending a thrill along his spine that already ached to expand and flesh out. He clenched his jaw and braced himself against the urge to morph.

“Aunegarden is nice…” she said, her face still turned to the fjord.

“Okay.” He’d stay human. They’d just talk and he’d see if he could read anything through the shield.

As they walked back into town, anger replaced the need to morph. No matter what happened or who Jing Mei really was, he’d free Anna from the shield. No dragon would be allowed to keep her in a cage. Whether she knew it was there or not was irrelevant. It wasn’t right.

* * *

The waitress at Aunegarden smiled and led them to an isolated table upstairs. They were seated on a balcony overlooking the indoor alley of the restaurant that sprawled chaotically through several attached houses. It reminded Rakan of some of the human dwellings that the Old Dragons had carved in the Fragments, the moon-sized clumps that orbited the gaseous mammoth that was once the Red Planet.

Anna settled into her chair and Rakan watched as she redid her ponytail. Her fine blonde hair slipped through her fingers and sent his blood racing. Even though he knew humans didn’t attach any significance to letting their hair down, the sight of hers, even briefly, flowing around her face and down her back was so provocative that he didn’t dare do anything for fear of losing control and taking her then and there. Whether she wanted him to or not.

BOOK: Dragon Fire
2.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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