The Dragon King(8)By: Candace Blevins
“Then I go to the Crows. They have larger numbers and there isn’t a doubt in my mind the King will jump at the chance to hurt my father by stealing his daughter.”
She was right, but… “How bad were things at home for this to be a better solution, Soph?”
I could smell her pain as well as hear it in her voice as she told me, “We don’t have time for that conversation right now. I’ll tell you, but later, okay?”
Nodding, I asked, “Okay, other plans? Tell me your best case scenario.”
“Oh, that’s the fantasy one, which would be plan number six, not listed with the other five because while it’s possible, it isn’t exactly probable.”
I smiled and said, “Let’s hear it, anyway. Indulge me.”
She sat up and once again met my gaze in the rearview mirror, her eyes resolute, her chin held high as she told me, “In that one, you decide you can’t live without me, take my virginity and make me yours. You’re some kind of bird species with power close enough to mine we can join our powers and become a ruling couple, and you either take over the Swans, or stand behind me and help me become Queen for real, so no one can ever own me again.”
I watched her in the mirror with respect. She’d told me this as Princess Sophia, her voice strong, not the least bit meek, and I owed her an honest response.
“I adored you as a toddler, and when it came time to teach you, my time with you was the highlight of my week. You are in my heart, Sophia, but I knew we could never be. With what you’re telling me now, I’m no longer seeing it as an impossibility, but we have hours and hours of conversation before we can make that decision. I care for you enough it’s probably safe to say I love you, though at this time it isn’t romantic love.” I shook my head. “When royalty is involved, love isn’t enough, though. You need to have strategy, Princess, and a way to convince the rest of the world to let you be.”
Sophia sighed and laid back down, and I knew she wasn’t far from sleep. Her voice was drowsy as she said, “I trust you to keep me safe until I’m rested and figure out what I need to do next. Thank you. I know the risk you’re taking.”
Sophia had been raised to be queen, and to never show emotion. I knew it’d taken every bit of courage in her to admit the things she’d told me, so I didn’t take her businesslike manner personally. She’d let me know she cared for me with words, if not tone. She wasn’t just here because of the promise I’d made, but because of the way she felt about me.
I gentled my voice and hoped to soothe her as I said, “Sleep, Sophia. We should arrive at our destination in a little over two hours. A high ranking Eagle visited me this morning to give me the news of your escape but must’ve been convinced I knew nothing of it, otherwise they’d have been watching my office and captured you when you arrived. Still, it’s only a matter of time before someone puts together my absence with yours, at which point they’ll be searching for both of us — especially if it hasn’t rained by then and they pick up your scent in the woods. No one will expect me on these particular back roads, though. They’ll search all of my known safe houses first, so we have more than enough time to get where we’re going.”
“Who did you call for help?”
“Lone wolves. One is a super-genius with crazy hacking skills, because I need someone who can keep an eye on things for me in the virtual world while I handle the physical world.”
Her breathing evened out, and she was asleep.
I awoke to the sound of Aaron’s voice ordering two café mocha drinks, but I stayed where I was and didn’t say anything. I waited until the car was moving before I asked, “How close are we?”
“We’ll be meeting the wolves in a few minutes. I thought you might like a coffee, and since I don’t know how you like it, figured I’d get you a bit of a treat.”
He pulled up to a window, far enough he almost had to reach back to hand money to the woman, but it kept me from seeing her, or her from seeing more than a glimpse of me. He got the two drinks, pulled forward, and handed one to me as he said, “I have a brush and some ponytail holders up here, once the coffee wakes you.”