Vixen, page 1
Dragon Eye series
BOOK FOUR OF THE
DRAGON EYE SERIES
The books in the Dragon Eye Series:
This is a work of fiction. It is not meant to serve as an argument that dragons either do exist, or have existed. All references to historical events, real people, or actual events are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, events, and locations are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual places, events, dragons or persons (living or dead) is entirely coincidental.
Copyright 2014 by Finley Aaron and Henry Knox Press
Cover Design by www.designbookcover.pt
While the previous books of the Dragon Eye series have each been written so a reader could pick them up, enjoy them, and more or less understand what was going on without having read the books that came before, by this point, too much has happened. To sum it all up would be dull and wordy. So for this book, I highly recommend first reading the previous three books, because otherwise you will be confused since I am not explaining everything again. Also, at the end of Phoenix is a bonus section. Read that, too, or you won’t know who Zhi is or where she came from.
You’ve been warned,
AUTHOR’S SECOND DISCLAIMER:
I’d like to believe I don’t have to say this, but there’s always That One Person who’s going to push and make things difficult, so I’m saying it (my apologies to all those of you who don’t need to hear—blame it on That One Person.) Here goes: Zilpha is a dragon. That means she can do things mere humans can’t (or shouldn’t), like take iron supplements in an amount that would painfully kill a human, or visit an older man alone in his house even after her parents have specifically warned her he’s dangerous. I mention this because I care about you, Readers, and I don’t want to get angry notes from your parents informing me you jumped through a skylight wearing inappropriate footwear just because Zilpha did it (not even if you’re going to land on the back of a yagi—especially if you’re going to land on a yagi!). Part of the reason why I write these stories is so you can enjoy these wild adventures without any risk of harm to yourself, but if you go out and imitate everything Zilpha does, you’re going to get hurt. So just don’t.
You’ve been warned a second time,
Doubt thou the stars are fire,
Doubt that the sun doth move,
Doubt truth to be a liar,
But never doubt I love.
—William Shakespeare, Hamlet
“It’s too dangerous. I don’t think you should go.”
I stop in the middle of tugging on my cardigan sweater and stare at my friend Jala. “Don’t think I should go?” I repeat, unsure what she could possibly mean. “Not go, when? Tomorrow? You think I should hold off a day or two?” I shove my arm through my sleeve and wait for her answer.
Jala’s making this lip-chewing, scrunched-nose face that says she knows exactly what she wants to say, but she knows I don’t want to hear it. Or maybe I’m just projecting.
Yes, hopefully that’s it.
Jala takes a deep breath. “I don’t think you should go, ever.”
“But that’s the whole reason I’m here—”
“I know! But it’s too dangerous.”
“We talked this over last summer. You agreed to help me then. What’s changed?”
“Honestly, Zilpha?” Jala shakes her head regretfully. “I thought you would come to your senses and change your mind. I agreed because it was a year away, and I knew if I argued with you, you’d only dig in your heels that much more—”
“Dig in my heels?”
“You are a dragon. The most notoriously stubborn creatures on earth, which only still exist because they were too obstinate to die off with the dinosaurs.” There’s half a good-natured smile on Jala’s face, so I know she’s only teasing me. But the rest of her expression says she’s scared. Scared of my plan, of what might happen to me—scared of admitting she doesn’t want to help me out, after all.
I’ve got my sweater on, the belt tied snugly against the Siberian cold. It may be summer again, but it’s still Siberia. I haven’t been here since last summer, when my sister’s now-husband defeated the mutant water-yagi, and my brother met his now-wife. Amazing how much the world can change in a year.
But Siberia is still cold.
And I haven’t changed my mind about my plan to seduce Ion—although seduce isn’t technically the right word for it. That makes it sound like I know what I’m doing, like I’m some kind of seductress, which is laughable. But what other word is there? Woo? Flirt with?
I plan to do something between flirt with and seduce. I am not a seductress. I am a...vixen. Yeah, a flirty, woo-some, dragon woman. And I am here to somehow convince Ion that he and I need to be together.
I mean, Ion may be my family’s arch-enemy, and there was that one time when he almost killed my father (yes, on purpose) but he’s also the only single male dragon in the world who I’m not already related to.
I have no other option.
Sitting opposite Jala at the small table in the cabin she shares with her grandfather (though he’s back in Azerbaijan for a few weeks right now), I give her my most rational smile and try to speak in a voice that says I’m not a crazy person, and I actually know what I’m talking about. “It’s going to be far more dangerous for me to go in there if you don’t help me.”
“B-but,” Jala stammers. “You can’t do it if I don’t help you.”
“I’m less likely to be successful without your help, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try. Come on, if you’re worried about my safety, then come with me so I’m not alone, at least.”
“You don’t even know what you’re doing.”
I bite back the words that’s never stopped me before, and try to think of the thing that’s most likely to convince her to go along with her part of the plan. “My family will be forever grateful to you for the role you played in helping me find a mate.” Not that my family even knows what I’m up to. They think I packed warm clothes because I’m going skiing with college friends.
“Your family will forever despise me if anything bad happens to you.” Jala buries her head in her hands. “Your mother saved my life, you know. When I was only a very little girl, and the yagi swarmed the village square—”
“Nothing bad is going to happen to me.” I cut off Jala’s story because I’ve heard it a dozen times already and to be honest I don’t believ
Nor am I going to be in that much danger, but I’ve got to convince her of this. I stand. “Let’s go.”
“We’re not going now! You at least have to wait until three o’clock tomorrow.”
“We’re not going, going now. I just want to peek at his castle, like we did last summer. Come on. It’s perfectly safe.”
“It’s not perfectly safe,” Jala pouts, but she stands, anyway.
“I’ll let you ride on my back.” I know Jala can’t resist riding on a flying dragon. Who could? Besides maybe breathing fire, flying is our most awesome feature.
And Jala hasn’t had a chance to ride on a flying dragon in almost a year, not since early last summer when most of my family came to Siberia and a bunch of crazy things happened. In the midst of those crazy things, when everyone else was distracted with destroying the water yagi and discovering the yellow dragon, Nia (who ended up marrying my brother), Jala and I sneaked off and I got to see Ion for the first time.
I haven’t been able to forget him. Honestly—Jala thought I might change my mind? If anything, I’m more determined now than ever. I can’t wait to see him again, even if it’s from a distance, spying on him from the Siberian woods.
Is he as handsome as I remember, or did I embellish my memories because of my longing? Has he changed? Will I still feel what I felt when I saw him the first time?
I peel off my sweater, clutch it tightly in my right hand so I’ll have it when I turn back human, and step out onto the porch.
“Be careful. You don’t want to be seen,” Jala reminds me, as if I could ever possibly forget that I can’t allow anyone to see me in dragon form. “Eudora’s still dangerous. I don’t think she’s happy about having her water yagis destroyed, and her yagi population decimated by your brothers’ volcano antics, or whatever that was.” But even in the midst of her protests, Jala climbs onto my back the second I turn into a dragon and crouch low.
Once she’s holding on, I bound forward into the evening sky in the direction of Ion’s castle.
I’ve been looking forward to this for almost a year. Okay, yes, it’s probably dangerous. Ion is supposedly in league with Eudora, who’s been trying for centuries to kill off all the dragons in the world (or maybe just control them—my brother Felix has some interesting theories about this). And I know Ion very nearly killed my father, but there were a lot of extenuating circumstances that don’t apply right now.
But besides all that, there’s this feeling I get when I look at Ion. I can’t explain it. I’ve always had a picture in my head of what I wanted my future husband to look like and be like. Cultured. Sophisticated. Handsome. Articulate. Not a half-mute muscle-head like my dad and brothers (they’re great guys, don’t get me wrong, and I love them to pieces and all that, but seriously, my father’s almost completely non-verbal. It works between him and my mom because they can practically read each other’s minds or communicate with nose-twitches, or something like that, but that’s not what I want in a mate).
When I saw Ion last summer, it was as though everything I’d wished for had materialized before my eyes, only better. Jala and I saw his castle (which is itself an amazing piece of architecture and I’ve been wanting to explore it since the moment I saw it) and there’s a big balcony off the main ballroom, with these enormous arched windows and a concert grand piano inside. And Ion sat down at the piano and played.
He played the piano!
We couldn’t hear him, or anything, on account of the windows all being closed, but it was beautiful to watch. He closed his eyes and got caught up in the music, and I knew.
I just knew.
This man. This dragon. The only single male dragon in the world I’m not already related to—he has to be the one for me.
There’s just that little part about how everyone in my family hates him, and he might secretly want us all dead, and that. Don’t think I haven’t weighed the pros and cons here. I know it’s complicated. I’ve told myself for the past year my plan is crazy and I should probably just forget about him.
But I haven’t been able to forget about him.
And now I’m here.
I set down in the woods behind some trees, in a spot near the one we observed him from last summer, with a clear view of the ballroom’s high arched windows.
The castle is still, with no signs of life. I don’t see Ion, but the castle is even more gorgeous than I remembered. It’s nestled among the silvery stone mountains, with turrets that jut up like so many mountain peaks. And it’s all silvery green like aged copper. I’ve heard Ion has pale silvery-green eyes, but I’ve never been close enough to him to see them.
I bet they’re beautiful.
“Okay, you saw it. Can we go back to the cabin now?” Jala asks.
I’m human again, wrapped in my sweater (which is thick and goes almost to my knees). I’m pressed against a boulder as big as a car, my knuckles white with excitement as I grip the cold rock, watching, studying the castle windows for any sign of movement, any indication of whether he might be home and what part of the house he may be in.
“I want to see him,” I whisper, willing him to appear. Come on, Ion. Walk in front of a window. Look outside. I just want to catch a glimpse of you. It’s been a year. Just a glimpse.
“You know this guy is dangerous, right?” Jala leans against the boulder, her back to the castle, her arms crossed over her chest. “I mean, he’s a dragon, for one thing.”
“Yes, he’s a dragon, and so am I,” I remind her. “But has he ever done anything to you, specifically, to make you think he’s dangerous?”
“He almost killed your father.”
“I know.” I’m sick of hearing about it. “But that was a long time ago, and they were fighting. I want to know—has he ever done anything to you. Any violence? Threats?”
Jala makes a grumbling noise. “He’s always very polite, but he has these looks, you know? These intense looks, with his eyes. You just know he’s dangerous. He could turn into a dragon at any moment.”
“Are you scared of him?”
“I’m there for a reason. My grandfather and I, we do his back adjustments and massages. He has a lot of tension. He needs us.”
“But are you scared of him?”
“I respect him. I respect that he’s a dragon. But I’m not his arch-enemy, or whatever your family is. I’m not there to trick him.” She uncrosses her arms and gestures to me.
“I’m not going to trick him. I’m just going to win his affections. I’m not a threat to him.”
Jala crosses her arms again. “Just what, exactly, are you planning to do?”
“When you go in tomorrow for his chiropractic massage appointment, I’ll go with you. We’ll explain that I’m the substitute—that I’m going to learn how to do his adjustments since your grandfather is getting old and you want to go home and visit your family from time to time. It makes perfect sense. It’s a great cover.”
“And then I learn how to fix his back.” I stop studying the lifeless castle long enough to look at Jala and see if she’s getting any of this. “I’m a dragon. I know what the issue is with our backs, where our wings grow out. The bones get out of joint sometimes. My dad has the same problem. My mom fixes it by plowing her elbow into his back like a pile driver.”
“Ion’s not really the pile driver type.”
“I know. But I can fix his back for him.”
“And one thing will lead to another.” I go back to studying the castle.
“I’ve been fixing his back for years. One thing has never led to another.”
“You’re not a dragon. I am.”
“You have no idea what you’re doing, do you?” A note of realization hits Jala’s voice.
“I know exactly what I’m doing.” I try to sound like I know what I’m talking about, never mind that I’ve only ever been on a few
“You don’t know what you’re doing.” This time, the tone in Jala’s voice is conclusive. She’s made up her mind. “Have you ever even kissed a guy?”
“Ion is a dragon.”
“Not relevant. You have no idea what you’re getting into.”
“Shh! He’s there! That window, third turret from the left, two down from the roof.”
“Probably where he keeps his prisoners. You know, the ones who show up to seduce him.” Jala makes a face, but looks where I’m pointing.
“Shh!” I insist again, not that he could possibly hear us, but just because I don’t need her arguing with me when I’m trying to focus. He’s there. Right inside that castle turret. So close I could see him if he would just look outside.
The curtains move—just those curtains, not any others, so it’s not as though there’s a surprise breeze blowing them, unless that window is the only one open. But why would it be open unless someone opened it? Either way, there is almost certainly something on the other side of the window. As a dragon, I have super-sharp vision, even when I’m in human form. But I can’t see through curtains.
Fingers grip the fabric and move it to the side. Another hand appears, this one working the window latch, and I realize what looked like a big arched window from this distance, is actually a casement door, with a balcony.
The glass pane swings outward.
A man steps out.
He’s even more handsome than I remembered him. His dark hair hangs loose nearly to his shoulders, and his goatee is trimmed in a crisp anchor shape, which accents his jawline. He is tall, his slim waist emphasized by the cut of his coat, a classic smoking jacket like out of an old movie. He is so classy, so sophisticated.
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