Kissed by Fire(2)

By: Kimber White


Trouble.

I couldn’t wrap my senses fully around it. I felt my dragon rise to the surface. The urge to fly made the skin stretch taut over my back. My wings hammered to unfurl. Not now. God. Not now.

As I reached for the doorknob, a scream cut through me, nearly driving me to my knees.

I don’t remember breaking the glass, but it shattered at my feet. My heart thundered inside me and smoke swirled from my fingertips. Not yet. Until I understood the source of the danger, shifting now could spell disaster.

“Hello!” I shouted. My voice sounded far away. I existed outside myself as the two halves of my nature struggled for control. I could almost hear Avelina’s voice. Stay calm. Let your blood settle. Keep your dragon hidden.

“No!” A woman’s voice cut through me. The rows of books formed a maze. I headed toward the deepest part of it, searching for a door or hallway to the back.

Darkness folded around me in inky shadows. I didn’t need Avelina’s ancient power to recognize it for what it was. Dark magic. A cloaking spell maybe. But underneath that, simmering with raw strength, was something else.

Animalistic rage shot out, slamming into my chest. The wolf’s pungent scent made me gag. There was just one door on the back wall with a crooked “private” sign hanging from it. I smashed it down and went inside. My fingers stretched to talons.

Dragonfire clouded my vision for an instant. I saw the old man first. He was backed into a corner, barely on his feet. His white hair whipped wild as the wolf’s breath blew it back.

“Shae, run!” The old man’s ragged voice cut through the chaos.

Shae. The name slammed into me at the same time as her scent. Sweet. Powerful. Intoxicating.

The wolf lowered its head and bared his fangs. His eyes blazed red with bloodlust. Five of his companions burst through the broken window to the alley. None of them felt Alpha to me. But they were fiercely strong and about to go in for the kill.

“No!” The girl burst out of the shadows. Her long, red hair whipped behind her like the flames licking along my spine. Two of the wolves broke formation and trained their blood-red eyes on her.

Instinct took over and I dove for her, shoving her behind me as I let fire shoot from my fingertips. It wasn’t enough to kill the wolves, but it drove them back, squealing. They recovered quickly and went for the old man.

In their fury, they hadn’t sorted out what I was. If I was lucky, they never would. Their Alpha sent them here for one thing. Murder. I knew he could see through their eyes. He wouldn’t know what to make of me unless I shifted. Then they would know. Within a few days, every shifter in the world would know. Dragons were supposed to be extinct.

“Martin!” The girl pushed against me. My blood turned to fire. Ancient instinct fueled me. I saw a flash of blinding white as my dragon eyes flared hot. I had my back to her still, shielding her with my body. She couldn’t see. She didn’t yet know. The wolves advanced.

The biggest one lunged for the old man, swiping a lethal paw across his chest. His knees gave out and he slumped to the floor. Shae’s scream gutted me. She tried to push against me, but I held her back. It was too late for the old man, but not for her.

When the wolves turned toward me, I gathered my fire. I straightened. The biggest wolf pricked his ears. He looked at me, but didn’t know what he was seeing. His own instincts told him all he needed to know. All the air in the room rushed toward me as I drew in the breath I needed to unleash the fire.

But it wasn’t me he was after. As the old man’s lifeblood drained out of him, I sensed the change in the pack. The girl. Shae. They had orders to strike her down too and they wouldn’t stop. They were feral, couldn’t think for themselves. This was dark magic indeed. Only the most evil of shifters controlled this kind of power. As much as I meant to save the girl, I knew this would be a mercy killing.

A heartbeat. Two. The wolf blinked. A keening wail split the air as their Alpha called them back. He sensed the threat I posed. All six wolves turned tail and ran back into the alley.

My head spun as the fire inside me gathered strength. It took everything in me to keep the dragon under control. So close. My whole body shook with the power it took to contain my shift.

The girl...Shae, ran out from behind me and skidded to her knees in front of the old man. A dark pool of blood spread out beneath him. Death clung to him like swirling black smoke. In some detached corner of my brain, I could view him clinically, like Avelina would.

Ah, so you’re really a mage after all. Sadly, the old man’s magic drained out of him along with his blood. That he could hold on to life right now spoke to his power.