The Dragon King(7)

By: Candace Blevins

“I do.”

Sophia whispered from the back seat, “They’ll be listening. Government contacts. Be careful, Aaron.”

“I know,” I told her, our gazes meeting in the rear view mirror as I moved the phone away from my mouth and covered the microphone. “It’s encrypted, safe to talk. I know what I’m doing.”

Two minutes later, Bud said, “Okay, I’m in my room with white noise going from one speaker and music in another. I’m guessing this has something to do with the missing Princess?”

“The royal family knows we’re close. They sent an Eagle to talk to me in person this morning, I’m sure needing to smell me when I heard the news. I knew nothing of it, passed the test, but now…” I hesitated, unwilling to give him more information than he needed. Bud might need to be able to honestly say he didn’t know where she was at some point, too.

“Point is, they’ll be watching my hacker, so I can’t task him with gathering and relaying information. I need one who can stay invisible.”

“Brain grew up in the pack and was once bound. You comfortable with him?”

I’d met Brain a number of times and knew he was a strong werewolf. I was also certain he’d obliterated the pack bonds and was now what most considered a lone wolf, though I knew better. The Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club was made up of the werewolves who couldn’t handle the totalitarian aspects of living under an alpha. They had a president who acted as alpha in many ways, but the club was run as a democracy and they weren’t metaphysically bound with no choice but to obey. Legally, they were considered lone wolves, but in reality they were closer than pack-wolves, in some ways.

“Yeah,” I told Bud. “I’m comfortable with him.”

“Fair warning — I know you’re calling in a marker with me to get him, but Brain’s gonna want his own marker from you to do this. He’ll probably offer to bring Duke along, which’ll give you two wolves at your back, but those two are planning to open a chapter in Chattanooga so be prepared for them to call in their favor sooner rather than later.”

“Not a problem. Lots of spies are in the air as well as on the ground, so it’ll be better if they’re on crotch rockets dressed like yuppies trying to be badass. Head them towards Franklin, North Carolina, and make sure I can get them with this app.”

“Brain’ll set it up so if you call me you’ll get him. If you need me he can patch you through.”

When I hung up, Sophia said, “I’m dressed, we should keep moving and not look like we’re hiding.”

I nodded, put the car into gear, and pulled out. “You’ve been missing nearly twenty hours, and I’m guessing it’s been almost two days since you slept.”

“I stopped above Macon for maybe an hour, it’s hard to judge time as a swan but I was exhausted and had to rest. I nodded off, but don’t think I slept more than twenty minutes.”

She’d made it all the way with only one stop? The first time she’d ever flown? I was impressed, but we’d talk about her strength and purpose — and what she was running from — later.

“Lie down, Soph, and get some sleep. We need to talk but it can wait.”

She shook her head, her tired gaze meeting mine in the rear view mirror. “I’ll lay down, but only so I can’t be seen. I have ten or fifteen minutes of talking in me before I crash, I think.”

“Okay, what’s your plan?”

She stretched out on the seat and told me, “I have five possible plans, depending on how much you’re willing to help, and whether what I feel for you is the same now that I’m an adult.”

I knew she’d hear my heart skip a beat, but I didn’t try to hide it. “What you feel for me?”

“I’ve had a crush on you since I was old enough to have those kinds of feelings, and before that, you were the only person in my life who let me truly be who I am. Maybe it isn’t real, in which case I just need help getting to the Hawks and offering my fealty, as well as knowledge of the inner workings of the Swans and Eagles.”

It wasn’t a bad plan. The Hawks were in a bit of a stalemate with the Eagles at the moment, and taking in the Princess would mean a shift back to active war but would also give them a chance to have the upper hand over the Eagles for the first time in centuries. I had to ask, though, “And if the Hawks turn you down?”

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