Maiden Flight, page 16
“I don’t want to leave you here, baby.” Kelzy paced heavily as she eyed the hut in the forest with disdain.
Jared had taken one look at the sagging roof and took off into the forest. He had come back a few minutes later with some stout branches and silently set to work making repairs while Kelzy argued with her adopted daughter about staying in the forlorn forest cottage all alone.
“I’ve lived here for years, Mama Kelzy. It’s perfectly safe, I assure you.”
“That was before that Skithdronian nutcase started riling up the skiths and threatening invasion. What can you do against a hunting pack of skiths on your doorstep, Adora? They’ll cut you to ribbons! They’re vicious creatures!”
“Some people say that about dragons, you know.” Adora’s soft voice was cajoling but it didn’t work on Kelzy in this mood.
“Don’t try to make a comparison between my kind and those spineless, stinking, soulless skiths. They are purely evil, you know. Not thinking creatures at all, which is why that so-called king can herd them about so easily into doing his dirty work. A dragon would never be so easily led. The only thing a skith cares for is blood, carnage, and its next meal.”
“And of course, how many heads they can take.” Jared came around the back of the small house toward them, shirtless.
Adora took a step back, her eyes glued to the hard male chest displayed so brazenly before her. It had been years since she had confronted her own feminine desires. Frankly she had thought she was well past such desires, but seeing Jared’s hard body, sweaty from working to fix her sagging roof and so unconsciously sexy, she felt something long dormant stir to life. In her work as a healer, she had of course seen her share of naked males, and she had been married for several years, but Jared was something different altogether.
This was a knight who trained hard and looked it. He had muscles on top of his muscles and a washboard stomach that made her long to stroke him. Adora became breathless as she watched him move casually toward her, his stride supremely male and confident. The supple ripple of his riding leathers surrounded a cock she was sure was of more than generous proportions. He was a vital male animal, totally unaware of his allure to a woman long denied the pleasures of the flesh.
“Do you like what you see?” Kelzy’s voice purred through her mind and she knew the dragon was speaking only to her, well aware of her striking reaction to the gorgeous specimen of man in his prime displayed before her.
“Hush! Please don’t embarrass me.” Adora flushed hotly, leaning close to Kelzy’s flank and speaking in a low whisper she knew the dragon alone would hear.
“It’s no crime to enjoy the look of a handsome male, Adora, and my knight is more handsome than most. Look your fill, baby, and remember that if you lived with me he would be your protector. He would keep you safe if you lived with us in the Lair. He would be your family, just as you are mine.”
“I can’t go back with you.” Adora stood from Kelzy’s side, her spoken words saying far more than the knight would know. “My responsibility is here and here I must stay. At least for now.”
“I don’t like it at all, Adora.”
“I’ll have to agree with Kelzy. Your home is livable, but in disrepair.” Jared wiped his hands on his strong, muscled thighs before stretching to put his shirt back on. Adora tried not to watch, but the sensuous ripple of each hard muscle caught her attention. “I’ve fixed what I can of the roof, but this place won’t hold you safe against one skith, let alone a hunting pack. If they come, your best bet will be to run, perhaps climb a tree out of their range. They don’t climb particularly well, but you have to be wary of their venomous spray.”
“I’ve seen what they can do. A farmer from the village ran into a feral one last season and was badly burned.”
“And yet you still want to stay here? Knowing they may come in force?” Kelzy’s voice rose in alarm.
“I must.” Adora placed a warm palm on the dragon’s knee, stroking comfortingly.
The knight strode to the small pack Kelzy had worn to carry some supplies and things she wanted Adora to have from the Lair. He pulled out a deep brown bundle and handed it to her.
“Take this then. It’s a specially treated hide. It’s what we make the battle leathers from and it will repel skith venom somewhat. Make clothing for yourself from it. Leggings would be better than a skirt. They’ll protect your legs more. Try to cover as much of your skin as you can while still being able to move quickly if need be.” He pressed the heavy bundle of leather into her astonished hands. This was a very costly gift and one she knew was not lightly given. “I tried to get some ready-made garments, but we had nothing in your size and there was no time to have them made. I asked them to pick the softest hide we had in the storeroom so it would be easier for you to sew and kinder to your skin. There’s lacing and needles inside the bundle too, in case you didn’t have what you’d need on hand.”
Tears formed behind her eyes and she choked up for a moment, unable to speak. She reached up to kiss his cheek softly, clearly surprising him. With one hand, she held the precious leather and with the other, she pulled him close for a quick hug.
“Thank you, Sir Jared,” she whispered into his ear as she pulled back, and then turned to her home quickly so she could tuck away the fabric and gain a moment to regain her composure.
When she came back out, she was more in control.
“He already protects you.” Kelzy’s voice was soft in her mind.
“Sir Jared, your gift is beyond generous. I will set to work on the garments you suggest this very eve.” She tried to make up for her loss of composure with sincere thanks to the man whose thoughtfulness had taken her totally by surprise.
“That’s good.” He nodded approvingly and held out a cloth wrapped bundle to her. “Kelzy asked me to pack these as well.”
She took the large bundle, surprised that it weighed very little. Unwrapping the cloth, the sparkle of dragon scale was bright in her eye.
“What’s this?” She looked from the shimmering blue-green scales to the dragon.
“Just a few scales I have shed over the years. We grow new ones, you know, when our scales have been damaged or worn. Our knights save the shed scales to use in shielding or armor, sometimes in weapons. If you incorporate a few of my scales into your clothing in strategic places, they may shield you more effectively.”
“Mama Kelzy, I can’t accept these. There are fighting knights who need these precious scales, your own included.” She looked to Jared who watched with grim interest. She knew he supported Kelzy’s decision to give them to her and it touched her deeply. This was a precious, personal gift. Too rare and too valuable to waste on her though.
“Let us do this small thing, Adora. If I cannot be with you, at least a part of me will be. Let me think of you, shielded at least a little by my shed scales and my love. Wear them for me, Adora, so I can fly away with at least some feeling of peace in my heart. I won’t be able to leave you otherwise.”
Adora went to the dragon, touched by her palpable emotion. Putting her arms around Kelzy’s thick neck, she hugged her, closing her eyes as Kelzy’s sparkling wings enclosed her in a warm embrace. They held each other for long, long moments.
“I love you, Mama Kelzy.”
“I love you too, child. We’ll come visit when we can.”
Adora realized that Kelzy would bring Jared whenever she found time away from her duties at the Lair to come visit her. The idea appealed to her more than she thought it should, but she let go of that thought as Kelzy pulled away.
“Watch the creatures of the forest,” Jared counseled as he prepared to leave, climbing aboard Kelzy’s back with a lithe grace that belied his huge size. “The animals will know when skiths are about and the birds will go quiet and fly away. The game animals flee and even the rodents scurry away. Listen to them and look to the trees whenever you’re outside. Know which ones you can climb high—at least twenty feet off the ground. More if you can
She took his words to heart, nodding solemnly. “I’ll do as you suggest, Sir Jared. Thank you once more for the leather and for fixing my roof.”
“I wish I could do more, but I’m not much of a carpenter.”
“You managed more in a few minutes than I could do in a year. Compared to me, you’re an expert and I thank you.” Her hesitant smile earned her a return grin from him. It lit his solemn face and made her feel good for having caused it.
Kelzy turned with him settled on her back, preparing to take off.
“Be careful, child. Your daughter and her mates will come to see you and we’ll stop by when we can, but do as Jared says and prepare. War is coming and the skiths will pour over the border first. Beware of them.” Kelzy moved farther out into the small clearing from which she would have a clear path to the sky. “I couldn’t bear to lose you again now that I’ve finally found you. Take care, and if you change your mind, come back to the Lair with Kelvan or pack your things and I’ll take you back the next time I visit, all right? Promise me now.”
“I promise.” Adora waved to Jared who held up his hand in goodbye. Kelzy flapped her great, sparkling wings and a moment later was airborne.
“I love you, Mama Kelzy.”
The clearing was empty and the beautiful blue-green dragon winged off into the sun. Adora was alone.
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