The Dragon King(6)

By: Candace Blevins

No matter how powerful I was, helping her hide from her father could very well be signing my death warrant. I’d have the Swans and Eagles against me for sure, and quite possibly every wolf aligned with the North American Alpha.

But there was no question I’d help her, and for two reasons. I kept telling myself it was because of my grandmother’s last words, instructions she tried to give me with her dying breath. “Aery, make alliances with the Swans, keep them close, make them trust you. The princesses may be the Dragons’ only hope.” I’d had no idea what she meant, but over the centuries I’d researched every library known to man. I even managed to get into the Vatican archives in the eleventh modern century, and found mention of an ancient Dragon King and Swan Princess married and ruling both species. Sons and daughters were mentioned, so I had hope of eventually having children. Maybe.

But I had to admit to myself it wasn’t entirely because of my grandmother’s last words. Sophia was special. Her smile, her laughter, the intelligence behind her eyes. The fact I believed I might be the only person in the world she could be herself with.

Yes, I’d be helping her even if I didn’t think she might be the only hope for my species.

Thinking of my grandmother took my mind back to the grief I felt when the European Knights’ huge purge took out all but two male shapeshifter Dragons who survived by sheer luck. Within forty years I’d closely aligned myself with the Swans, hoping against hope my grandmother’s words meant there was a chance for our species. My best friend and I survived by staying human almost all the time, only changing into our dragon form during terrible storms, when it was so dark no one was likely to see us, and when we wouldn’t block out the light of the stars or moon as we flew overhead. With all of the true Dragons dead, and only the two of us left, there was no hope for babies. We can’t breed with humans, and Dragons can only be born, not turned.

We later found a third Dragon shifter still alive — he’d been in on an island near Russia at the time of the purge, but unfortunately, he was also male.

By birthright, I was royalty. I’d been trained to one day take up the banner, and my two kin had no desire to fight me for the title, which didn’t mean much anyway when there were only three of us. However, the crown gave me respect amongst the other species’ Kings, and since I was the oldest of all but a handful of vampires, my knowledge and counsel was often sought.

Swan royalty lives a long time, and each King has ruled from two hundred to sixteen hundred years. Some were killed for the crown, others garnered enough love and respect to die of old age, or voluntarily hand it over to their sons when they knew it was time. I’ve personally taught the oldest Swan lore to the past seven kings, and had a hand in training the past four. And now, I’d taught the first Swan Princess I’ve ever known to exist without brothers.

I’d been in love before, many times, and recognized the signs. I loved her, and now she’d come to me for help. This was going to get complicated.

I called Nathan and told him, “I need to go off the grid to handle something. You’re in charge until I get back.”

“Tell me you aren’t helping her.”

I needed to walk a fine line between not lying to him while not giving him the truth. Nathan needed plausible deniability, and I needed to not break trust with my best friend. “I told the truth this morning, when they told me. I didn’t know.”

“You didn’t know this morning.”

I stayed quiet and he muttered “Fuck,” under his breath, and then said, “Okay. Be safe. See you on the other side.”

I turned my phone off, removed the battery, and slid it into a sleeve that would make sure no cell signals reached it. I pulled my emergency burner phone from the glove compartment, removed it from the sleeve, put the battery in, booted it, and opened the app that would allow me an encrypted conversation with the President of the Atlanta chapter of the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club.

Bud answered with, “Give me a second to step away from this crowd. Since you’re using the app I’m assuming you want privacy.”

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