Authors: Jodie B Cooper
Tags: #dragons, #adventure, #short story, #love story, #destiny
Not a single minute passed that he didn’t yearn for his beloved. He never stopped searching for the woman he called best friend. They grew up next door to each other. Then, for the next two thousand years, they loved, played, and even worked together. She was his entire life. The day she had disappeared was the best and worst of his entire existence.
After all those years, he still remembered the exact moment the synth in his blood named her as his destined mate.
He had rolled over in bed and pulled her close, inhaling her luscious scent of jasmine. In that moment, he had known he would forsake his own destined lifeMate for the woman curled lovingly in his arms. He whispered as much in her ear. At that very instant, the synth crystal in his blood sang an urgent harmony that shook him to the depths of his soul.
The Song of the Sídhí blared through his body, beautiful and eerie. The harmony clearly marked Lizzie as his mate. But as all Sídhí, his instinct warned him against telling her. He knew she had not heard the mate song, at least not yet.
The synth in his blood acknowledged the two of them as perfect soul mates. She was destined to be his, just not at that moment. The mate song was a fickle Sídhí attribute, notorious for not singing at the same time between lifeMates.
Remaining silent hurt, especially when he wanted to shout his joy from the highest mountain. Seeing her happily wave goodbye to him, as she ran to complete an errand, nearly destroyed his good intentions to remain silent.
His mind returned to the present. Grief choked him, clenching a razor sharp fist around his heart. His beloved Lizzie never returned from her errand. The agony of losing her had nearly destroyed him. Only the haze-shadowed mate dreams kept him from complete despair. He knew she still lived. Every spare moment he had, he searched for her, leaving no stone unturned in his desperate attempt to find her.
Joyful laughter pulled his mind from the aching hollow of his heart.
Leah raced through the garden.
Derek, the girl’s bonded lifeMate, grabbed her around her small waist, tumbling them both to the ground. The girl shrieked in delighted laughter.
Alex’s lips twitched as Derek reversed their positions, rolling on top of the girl. Even five stories above them, it was apparent how carefully the hulking young man pinned her to the ground.
He was glad a friend, and an ordained man of God, was on his way to bless the youngster’s union. Anyone with eyes could see how much the two loved each other. Alex had already ‘accidently’ interrupted their horseplay three times. One more time and he figured Leah would plow into him like a bulldozer, exactly as her mom would’ve done.
The hum of a portal broke through his thoughts.
His lips curled in anger. Only the Khr'Vurr would dare open a portal within a guardian’s home. The question of how the Khr'Vurr gained the knowledge – or the incredible power necessary – to open a portal in the first place burned through his brain. He had always thought only his grandmother, the eldest of all dragons, had that knowledge.
Alex quickly moved to the darkest part of the room, beside the thick drapery hiding the gray stone of the turret’s wall. A dangerous anger filled him. No one, not even his most trusted staff ever dared to enter Lizzie’s favorite place, the single room in his entire fortress that she had claimed as her own.
The turret had been Lizzie’s place to paint and dance under the high skylights. The room had become a place of comfort throughout the years without her.
He reached over his shoulder and pulled his ever-present sword from its sheath. Anger burned through him like a fire amid a drought-stricken forest.
A loud thump sounded behind the curtain. The sound was quickly followed by a second thump and scuffling of feet. He heard a hissed growl. The harsh sound raised the hair along the back of his neck.
The curtains swayed. A slender, pale hand appeared, pulling the dark green curtains apart.
Recognizing the intruder’s scent, he stifled a growl, and slid the keen edge of his sword against the teenager’s neck.
Lady Sarah aka Chi’Kehra – essentially the deadliest Sídhí alive – froze in mid-step. He listened, but the girl’s heart never increased in alarm. Her aristocratic features remained unmoving.
“Alexander, unless you wish to lose your head, you will remove your blade,” she said in a deadly calm voice, one soft as butter and frigid as ice.
Alex refused to let the slender, long-legged girl intimidate him. He was a dragon guardian, not some wet-eared cadet.
He moved forward, keeping his sword firmly at her neck. She was the intruder here, not him.
Her vivid blue eyes drilled into his pale blue ones. Death glared at him through her young eyes, eyes that echoed an ancient power. He tried, but couldn’t control the shudder that rippled down his back.
Sweat popped-out on his forehead, and he jerked the sword from her neck. Turning, he stalked away. Knowing in that instant, if Sarah wanted him dead, he would die. He sucked in an unsteady lungful of air and turned toward her.
She crossed the room silently as a ghost, moving with ethereal grace.
The curtains flopped apart as Nick, her future mate and another teen fought their way past the dark barrier.
A girl, with short blonde hair, dashed across the room. Eyes wide, she pointed toward the curtained wall. “Worms!”
Worms? Was the girl touched?
“I believe Brianna is speaking of the synth worms that were chasing us,” Sarah said calmly, glaring a murderous hole through her mate as the dark-haired teen stalked toward her.
The screech of an angry synth worm shrieked from behind the curtain. The curtain crashed to the floor. The worm’s milky white body, ringed with poisonous, red tipped spikes, struggled under the thick curtain, half in, half out of the open portal. The front of the worm’s long length whipped back and forth, trying to dislodge the curtain. A hole appeared in the cloth as the creature’s long teeth ripped through the fabric.
Alex growled, distantly wondering why Sarah had originally left her mate behind the curtain. The girl was rabidly protective of the young vampire.
Sheathing his sword, he rushed forward.
Grabbing the ends of the curtain, he twisted them around the snapping head of the foot-wide worm, and shoved the flopping serpent backward through the portal.
Several more worms appeared, each bigger than the first. Mouths, full of sharp teeth, aimed for the open door of the portal.
Not pausing, he jerked his knife out and cut his hand. Slapping his bleeding hand against one side of the portal, he mentally touched the synth within his blood to that of the portal. The portal glowed. With a mental murmur, he ordered the portal to close, locking it in place.
Turning toward the three teens, a snarl covered his face.
“So,” Sarah said softly, the promise of death hovered in her eyes, “you do know how to close an open portal.”
“Portals are not in question,” Alex said firmly, intentionally glancing at Nick then Brianna. Leave it to Lady Sarah to drop a mess in his lap.
“Whatever,” Sarah said in low, curt voice. She turned, giving the group her back as she looked out the window.
“You kids are supposed to be on a hike. Where’s the rest of your group?” Alex questioned.
The Khr'Vurr had already targeted this group of teens. He was rather ashamed, but he wasn’t going to throw away his best chance at catching part of the Khr'Vurr. So he had intentionally set-up the teens as bait, believing that with cadets watching them – and the presence of Lady Sarah – the group would be safe.
He didn’t know how in the world three of the teens managed to slip under his radar. But when he got his hands on the cadets responsible for watching the teens, he’d rip them up one side and down the other.
He growled in frustration; he had to stop the Khr'Vurr. Their killing spree and overall reign of terror was going to end. And whether Lady Sarah knew it or not, she was going to help him destroy the Khr'Vurr.
Lizzie woke blinking back tears.
She’d dreamed of Alex. At first, he had curled around her, whispering his love to her, telling her about his day. He said her baby girl was with him and safe. After a while, he faded away. She thought she was waking up, but instead soared into the sky with Alex at her side, laughing at his attempt to dance in midair. The dream had been so real. She hurt so badly, she feared her chest might cave in.
She jumped as the metal door of her cell slammed open. The bare skin of her scalp scraped the floor. The guards routinely shaved all prisoners, insuring instant recognition of all prisoners in a single glance.
Lifting her gray eyes, she hissed in fury.
A woman dressed in tight black slacks and a short-sleeved red sweater stood in the doorway. Long, golden hair curled around the woman’s arm. Dark humor lurked in her hazel eyes. Taking in Lizzie’s unwashed appearance, her face twisted in disgust.
The traitorous dragon guardian laughed. “Well, now, I see they kept you alive for me. Lord PhñDick promised you’d live, but I know how hard his
appetites are on his bed partners.”
Lizzie didn’t comment. She refused to let the traitor benefit by seeing how badly the words hit her, because even after all the years that had passed just mentioning Lord PhñDick’s name made her sick with fear.
“I was delighted to see your daughter in Dragon Valley. The council put together a little peace camp and she was one of the campers.” She curled her nose in distaste and stepped farther into the dingy cell.
Lizzie’s heart stopped at the mention of her only child, a child taken from her moments after birth. She had never seen her daughter, but for Leah’s first few years, they had maintained a tenuous mental contact. That mental link had been broken when her jailors administered her first dose of mite poison and moved her to TèVarrn prison. Racked with uncontrollable spasms, she had remained in a painful haze for months.
When she woke, she could no longer speak to Leah. The loss overwhelmed her. It had been one of the hardest moments of her captivity.
“My partner sends his regards. He was terribly upset he couldn’t come, but he was rather busy cleaning up my mess. Children are so easily broken.” The dragon guardian shook her head in false sympathy. “Leah was no different, but Alexander kissed me and promised to find me another play toy.”
Lizzie tried, but couldn’t stop the single tear from dripping down her face. Leah and Alex were the only two reasons she hadn’t died from despair. Her baby couldn’t be dead. She simply couldn’t. And she knew Alex, she knew him better than she knew herself. He would never betray her with another woman, and never harm a child.
The traitorous bitch was lying.
“Alex would rather lose his head than kiss a venomous snake like you,” Lizzie rasped past a throat too dry to move properly.
“Lie?” A cold, calculating look appeared in her eyes. “Then you won’t believe my warning about Lord PhñDick coming to visit you later tonight. Have no fear I’ll let him know how much you’ve missed his attention.”
Lizzie glared at the woman, trying to maintain a false bravado when, in all honesty, it was sheer terror that kept her silent.
“Unless, of course, you’d like to share a little secret with me then I’ll make a deal with Lord PhñDick to stay away from you.” Blonde hair swirled around her shoulders as the woman circled the little stone room. “All I need is the location of Alexander’s bolt hole. I’m sure someone like the famous Dark Guardian has a secret way into his fortress.”
Coasting on a warm updraft, Alex searched the forest. They’d been searching for hours.
He – with Sarah, Nick and Brianna riding on his back – had been circling the area where the other teens had last been seen. From Sarah’s explanation, the group of teens had split up while searching for a missing member of their group.
Alex’s eyes adjusted to the moon filling sky, turning the landscape dim, but no worse than a stormy day. Night sounds, from the forest below caressed his sensitive hearing. Crickets chirped and morags buzzed, but no mattered how hard he listened he didn’t hear the young voices he hunted for.
A ripple of uneasiness flickered through him. Before he started searching, he tried contacting the cadets on duty, but they did not answer; there was no sign of them anywhere.
With the cadets missing and without Sarah in the group, the teens were sitting ducks. They didn’t have a prayer of surviving a confrontation with a single member of the Freedom Fighters much less an organized attack.
Shame surged through him. He should have never used the teens to bait the Khr'Vurr. He’d never forgive himself if one of the children came to harm.
Far below, above the thick foliage of furble and pine trees, a flock of hot pink fluttle birds suddenly took flight. They circled above the tall blue trees, before flying to the south.
He flew closer.
A high, shrill scream pierced the night.
He drifted within feet of the treetops. The girl’s voice ranted about trolls.
Within a few minutes, he found a small clearing. He hovered, slowly sinking closer to the ground. Had he been a thousand years younger, he could never have landed in that small an area without dumping his riders.
He shifted to his human form and they quietly followed the girl’s shrill voice as she berated her companions.
Single companion, he corrected himself as he peered through the thick tree branches.
“Just look at my beautiful face! It’s ruined!” Clarisse, one of the missing teenagers, was shaking her finger at a suspected member of the Khr'Vurr. “My father, high councilman MuskLeke will demand compensation.”
Harry, blond and handsome in his human form, sneered at her. “Be glad the trolls just clawed up your face. They could’ve eaten you. Anyway, the marks will be totally gone in a few days.”
The teen’s face puckered in fury. Her short red hair, matted with what smelled like fairy water (a pungent fire extinguisher created by the fairies) quivered as she stomped her foot. “You hideous creature, I’ll rip your wings off myself!”