Draekon Abduction(9)

By: Lili Zander & Lee Savino

Then again, maybe I’ve judged Dariux too harshly.

I took everything I could find from the ship on the principle that any technology would make our life on this harsh planet easier. Rummaging through the pack I’m carrying, I hand Dariux a translator. When he sees it, his eyes snap to me. “How much?”

“Consider it a gift.” Not everything needs to be bartered for. There were many spare translators on the wreck, and I’m happy to share. It will ease the women’s transition.

Belfox and Herrix push their way through the other Draekons. “She’s our mate,” Belfox roars, his hands clenched into fists. “Put her down, Zunix.”

“Make me,” he replies calmly.

“Enough,” Dariux snaps again. He bows to the women. “My apologies,” he says smoothly. “This must all seem very confusing to you.”

“Why did he call Olivia his mate?” This is one of the human women, the one with the broken hand. Her voice has a definite quaver in it. “What’s going on? He said,” she points to Zunix, “that we’d be safe.”

Actually, what he’d said was that they wouldn’t be taken by force, which is a very different thing.

Dariux gives Zunix an amused look. “Did he?” he asks wryly. “How very gallant of him.” His eyes soften somewhat when they rest on the clearly terrified women. “Allow me to explain. We are Draekons, men with the ability to become dragons.”

Zunix rolls his eyes. “I told them that already,” he says impatiently.

“But you didn’t mention the mating bond,” Dariux guesses, his eyes taking in the protective way he’s cradling Olivia. “You didn’t want to frighten her? That’s rather considerate of you, Zunix.”

My hands clench into fists. Dariux is deliberately provoking us, but I need him alive. The med-kit is keyed to him, and he’s the only one who can operate it. The effects of the rubra leaves are wearing off, and Olivia is pale again, her face pinched with pain.

She is our mate, my dragon growls. Help her.

She taps my shoulder. “Liorax,” she murmurs, “the effects of the magic juice you gave me are wearing off. You wouldn’t happen to have any more, would you?”

A sudden surge of sympathy runs through me. She’s badly hurt, but she hasn’t voiced a single complaint as we trekked through the woods. I fish another bottle of the rubra and hold it to her berry-red lips.

Belfox and Herrix see the intimate gesture, and both men step forward aggressively. “She’s ours,” Herrix insists. “We turned into dragons when we saw her. Isn’t that what the legends say? When a pair of draekons first sees their mate, it brings forth the transformation.”

The others nod. “We did too,” Rezzix says. “When we saw that woman.” He points to a different human. “We demand a chance to claim our mates.”

“Are you animals?” I snarl, rage coursing through my blood. “You stupid fools. Their ship has crashed on this planet, and they’ve just learned that they’re stuck on the prison planet for the rest of their lives. They’ve lost their homes. Their families. Do you remember what that feels like?” I glare at them in turn—Belfox, Herrix, Rezzix, Magnux, Luddux, Yasix, Thesix, and Xanthox—and they have the grace to look ashamed. “Give them some room to breathe.”

Belfox takes a deep breath. “Very well,” he concedes. “Let the women rest tonight. But in the morning,” he glares at Dariux, “I expect this matter to be resolved.”

Dariux gives them a cold, quelling look. He turns to the frightened women. “My ladies,” he says quietly. “Our rudeness is unforgivable. Please, let me show you to my dwelling. You may sleep there tonight. We will discuss your role in our community in the morning.”

“Tell us what’s going on,” Olivia insists. Her face is still pale, but her voice is steady.

“Very well,” Zunix agrees. “Draekons gain the ability to shapeshift at will when they are mated. When a pair of Draekons shifts for the first time, it is because they have sighted a potential mate.” His lips twist wryly. “That’s what just happened.”