When Gabriel's sister, Ashley, falls ill, he is sent to the forest wise one for help. But instead of the frightening dragon he expects, he is faced with a shape-shifting, magical creature named Kym who is both kind and beautiful.
Kym instructs Gabe to bring Ashley to his canyon hideaway so that he can watch over her properly. As the two care for her, they grow unexpectedly close. But once Ashley is well, Gabriel must leave with her, and Kym cannot leave his forest...
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Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Heat Level: 3
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay, Pansexual
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: Ageless/Immortal
Tropes: Cultural Differences, Hurt / Comfort
Word Count: 45000
Setting: Fantasy Universe
Languages Available: English
I glanced around, feeling like a frightened child. No dragon. I still held my breath slightly as I backed away and turned to Dex. I quickly untied the box from where it rested on top of everything else. I lifted the lid on one end and thanked the gods of luck that the flower had not been damaged. I tied Dex to a strong branch a bit away from the boulder and carried the box to the cave opening.
I set it down on the ground, like Karen had instructed, and stepped back. I stared at the cave, then at the box. Now what? How did one politely make oneself known without knocking? I took a deep breath and moved back another step before calling out. "Hello? Wise one? I've been sent to you for help." That was polite, right? I realized I was holding my breath again, and puffed out a sigh.
A noise made me look over to the right. There wasn't anything there, unless it was small and on the other side of the boulder. I frowned in confusion. A snapping sound broke the silence. It was followed by quiet rustling above me and I looked up. Then up some more. The sounds were coming from the second tree Karen had mentioned, and it was just as large as the first. The lower branches were significantly higher than expected.
I peered at the feathered branches, trying to figure out what had made the noise. There was a soft grating sound, and more rustling. And then an eye the size of Ashley's fist blinked and I realized I was looking at a slightly serpentine face the color of the tree needles. I yelped and stumbled back a few steps. The soft rumble came again as I straightened and tried to regain my composure, and I decided he was probably laughing at me.
I looked back up into the branches. Now that I knew where his head was, I could almost see the rest of him. He was stretched out along the branch. His dark colored tail contrasted with the reddish bark, and I could see it wrapped delicately around the trunk. He snaked his head further down out of the feathered needles and regarded me curiously. I couldn't see much more than his general shape and his colors, but I thought he might have horns.
Right. Be polite to the dragon. He could eat me. He probably wouldn't, but he could. "Ah, hello?" We were both unimpressed with my greeting, so I tried again. "Karen, the healer who lives in Voxton, sent me to you to seek help for my sister." He tilted his head and blinked at me. He reminded me of the little birds some of the town children kept as pets, and I smiled despite my better judgment. It was cute. He was utterly terrifying, mind, but he was also cute.
When I smiled he ducked back into the branches and seemed to vanish. I scanned the rest of the tree and the brush, but could see no sign of him. Leaves in trees down the trail rustled and I turned toward the sound.
"How do you know Karen?"
The voice came from behind me. It was low and rough, but almost musical in its rhythms and tones. It was a nice voice, but I still screamed and spun around. I supposed that the whole seek-out-the-dragon-lair experience had me a little on edge, and also that that was probably the last of my dignity.
When I was done panicking, I found that the dragon had draped himself casually over the giant boulder. I could finally see him clearly. He seemed to be about the size of a large riding horse, with a tail that must be longer than his body. It curled around him and draped over his front legs like a cat's tail. Delicate, translucent wings were folded over his shoulders and along his back. He had not one, but two sets of horns, one larger pair behind the other, curving delicately over his head with tips that glinted golden in the sunlight. Browns and greens so dark as to be almost black patterned an extremely graceful form. I supposed he had all the expected dragon attributes; claws and teeth, horns and spikes, as well as the requisite reptilian-like face. However, his shape and the way he held himself made me think of a cat dressed up as a lizard. He was one of the most beautiful creatures I had ever seen.
He shifted, his scales-were they scales?-making a soft shushing sound on the rock. I blinked, the spell broken, and tried to return my attention to the task at hand.
His feet were crossed in front of him and he had rested his head on them while he watched me once again make a fool of myself. When he saw that he had my full attention once more, he lifted his head and gave me the little bird look again. "I asked a question, little human. How do you know the healer Karen?"COLLAPSE
Part of the For the Hoard Collection published by Less Than Three Press.