Logan: Skyborn prequel

Posted by | December 20, 2017 | Uncategorized | No Comments

Some readers are having trouble finding it for free on Amazon. So here it is! Enjoy.

 

Chapter One: Logan

 

THE SNOW WAS falling in soft white clumps, barely any light out yet on the dark winter morning. I took another sip of my black coffee and stretched my neck. For a little over one hundred years I’d never had a problem with sleeping and now … tossing and turning every night this week.

Because of the dreams.

God, the dreams seemed so real that I awoke so restless, nearly on the verge of shifting. It had been over a century since I last felt like I wasn’t in control of my dragon, but now … now I awoke and my first instinct was to shed my human form and take flight, to soar the skies, breathing fire and looking for … for her … the woman from my dreams, that bright red hair, those soft yet terrified green eyes. My body ached just thinking of her small pouty mouth. I’d been alone for so long, the only dragon left, that even a dream of another dragon was messing with my mind.

Maybe I need to see a shrink.

I chuckled at the thought. Even if I did ever go talk to a professional, which I wouldn’t, there wasn’t a human alive that could help me with my problem: last dragon shifter alive, in and out of superficial relationships and at risk of going extinct if I didn’t stay under the radar and away from the hunters—and the druids who sought to kill me and steal my magic. Keegan might understand, but he had enough on his plate with so many shifters under his command—all of them duty-bound to protect me.

Something had to change. I couldn’t keep living this life, day after day … alone. I’d heard rumors about what happened when immortals lived too long, and now I was witnessing it firsthand—affecting me so badly I was dreaming up another dragon, as if that would make her real.

I shook off the final remnants of the dream and crossed into the bathroom to brush my teeth. After removing the taste of coffee from my mouth, I took a swift glance at the mirror. I had looked in this mirror for the last century to see a twenty-five-year-old looking back. Not a wrinkle around my green eyes, not one gray hair in my trimmed beard; my hair, black and thick, would never bald or recede.

I should be grateful. Many would love to be gifted with immortality, but it was starting to wear me down. The endless years, the lack of purpose—and if I was being honest, the loneliness. Keegan had the pack; he was in charge of them and that was his purpose. They protected me and that was their purpose. What did I have? What was I doing? I knew I had a purpose, a big one. Without me, humanity would fall into disease and chaos; they needed my magic to survive. But I just didn’t know how much I cared anymore. I wanted something else to live for.

The moment I had that thought, guilt crashed over me. Ah man, maybe I was finally having that midlife crisis? Unfortunately, I didn’t think a new sports car would cure it.

“Same shit, different day,” I told the mirror. My own voice haunted me; it had changed over the decades. I’d become bitter, cynical. I was mad at the world. Why was it left up to me to keep all of humanity alive? To keep my half-human shifters alive? I knew the “why me?” argument was petty, but I didn’t give a shit. I wanted to go back to the old days where hundreds of thousands of skyborn roamed the Earth, bringing dragon magic to the human race and keeping the balance between the magic and non-magical beings.

As I stepped out into the living room, I saw Mittens, my orange tabby kitten, staring at the corner of the room with her fur on end. She backed up two steps, her body in a high arch, and then hissed.

“Get it, Mitsy!” I encouraged her, and she leapt up into the air, coming down hard on a chunk of fuzz and shredding it to bits.

I chuckled, feeling genuine happiness spread throughout my heavy limbs. God damn I loved that silly cat. Best thing to have come into my life in a long time. If she hadn’t showed up on my door a month ago, I don’t know what state I would be in. She appeared to be a stray, but when I took her to the vet he said she was recently spayed and seemed to have had all of her shots. I think Nadine left her for me; she knew I needed something to pull me out of this funk.

As Mittens tore through the chunk of fuzz like it was a deadly rattlesnake, my cell rang. I pulled it out of my pocket to see Keegan’s name flash across the screen. He was rarely up this early. As alpha, he usually slept in and made the rest of the pack get up early and do the grunt work. Not that there was much grunt work nowadays. We only had a run-in with the hunters a couple times a year, when a druid happened to scent me out. Not like in the old days.

“What’s up?” I greeted one of my oldest friends. “Hell must have broken loose to get you up before the sun.”

“Pretty close. Half a dozen hunters just walked into Eva’s bar,” he said in his typical no-nonsense tone.

Every muscle in my body clenched. Hunters worked for the earthbound. The druids. If they were here, they were looking for me. Wiping the last dragon from the face of the Earth would complete their sick pureblood race plan, and take all of humanity with me.

“Are you sure? We’ve been careful. I haven’t shifted. I—”

Keegan cut me off. “Danny texted me. He’s sure. But they aren’t looking for you. They’re asking about a girl. A redhead.”

The room spun; adrenaline rushed through my body. Danny was Keegan’s recent ex-boyfriend. He was a solid guy and I trusted him. He didn’t know what I was, but he wouldn’t lie about this. Any time hunters showed up anywhere, it was the gossip of the supernatural community. We all knew what they were looking for, the last dragon. Just no one knew it was me. To their supernatural noses I was a wolf shifter in Keegan’s pack and nothing more—thanks to Eva, a powerful witch who was an expert with this type of spell craft.

“Bring the pack over,” I told him. He agreed and we both hung up.

Holy dragon shifter. The girl from my dream. Was she real?

*

The moment the pack stepped inside, Sophie bee-lined it for me, tossing her blond hair over her shoulder to expose her perky cleavage.

“Do you really think there’s another one? A female?” She said the word “female” like it was a disease; jealousy rolled off of her in waves. I never should have dated Sophie. Keegan told me not to, but I went against my better judgment and did it anyway. We’d been a pack for about twenty years, and Sophie had joined more recently. She had been new, fresh, and the physical attraction had been undeniable. Unfortunately, it stopped there. There wasn’t much beneath Sophie’s surface. She was too catty and didn’t have an altruistic bone in her body. It made her a good hook-up, but I needed a woman with something more than epic cleavage and a venomous personality.

“I hope so,” I told her honestly, and her face fell into a mask of anger, and then detachment. She hadn’t taken the break-up well, even though it was over six months ago.

Nadine, my little sister for all intents and purposes, came up and gave me a side hug. I’d opened up a little to Nadine about my loneliness and loss of enthusiasm for life, but it only made her worry, so I never brought it up again.

I’d met her ten years ago; she’d been rummaging for food behind a supernatural bar. She was a twelve-year-old runaway then, broken free from a possessive and abusive pack. Orphaned. I’d brought her home and Keegan took her in and trained her. She’d flourished and grown up to be quite the little protector with quite the tattoo collection.

“If this is real, and not some hunters blowing smoke, then this girl might need our help,” Keegan told the group. We were seven. Six shifters of various animal races and me. Together we had killed dozens of druids and hundreds of hunters. All in the name of keeping me alive, and therefore the human race.

“It’s real,” I told them and Keegan looked over at me with confusion in his eyes.

I took in a deep breath. Dragon magic worked in mysterious ways, and it wasn’t unheard of for us to have prophetic dreams. I’d had a handful in my lifetime. I just thought I was dreaming about a hot redheaded dragon shifter because I was lonely, not because she was real.

“I dreamt about her. The past few nights…” I cleared my throat in embarrassment as Sophie’s jaw hit the floor and Nadine grinned.

“Holy shit, another dragon.” That comment came from the world’s most unlikely source: Dom. Dominic Rossi was the most quiet, mysterious person I had ever met. I nearly asked Keegan to kick him out of the pack the first year he joined because he was so private; it made me not trust him. Once I learned that he had been a slave to the underground fighting ring, I understood his silence all too well. That would make me stack brick walls around myself and never let anyone in too. A rare lion shifter, his captors had pitted him against hundreds of other shifters in a bid to make millions. Meanwhile, they’d half-starved and magically tortured him. He had turned out to be, hands down, the strongest fighter among us, and the most loyal friend.

I nodded. “If it’s the same girl … she’s a dragon.”

My mind went to my dream, seeing her small red dragon combing the skies, looking for safety—shifting into her petite nude form and running through snow and trees in search of clothes.

“How do we find her?” Keegan’s eyes were glowing yellow. Keegan was descended from a long line of skyborn protectors. His great-great grandfather had been around for the druid-dragon war of 1918 that wiped out most of our population. Keegan was a diehard dragon protector. I trusted no one in this pack more than him. He would protect me and this girl with his last breath if it came to it. They all would, but Keegan took it the most seriously.

I didn’t realize my hand was shaking until I brought it up to brush my hair away from my face. I couldn’t believe this was happening. “I’ve never sought out hunters before. Always ran from them. It would be easier to try and track her.”

Keegan nodded. “So … there’s a way?”

It wasn’t pretty but there was a way. Back in the beginning, before Keegan or any of the pack, I was on my own, too scared to tell anyone what I was. Only Eva knew. I was too scared to even look for a protection team. I still believed there would be more of me out there. That if I could just find another, we could band together. That’s when Eva taught me the dangerous art of “glimpsing.” I did it for years trying to find other dragons, but always saw nothing. Eva said in order to glimpse another of my kind, I would have to be near them.

So, I traveled the world doing the spell and never saw anyone. That’s when I knew I was the only one left. Nearly killed myself the last time I did it too, so I decided to stop, but if it would lead us to this girl, then it was worth the risk.

“I can’t detect the hunters, but I can detect the girl. It’s dangerous though. It can lead the druids to me.”

Keegan knew me, and knew I didn’t say “dangerous” unless it was damn near suicidal. Bringing the druids to us was damn near suicidal. Cooper gave a low whistle, his long red beard bobbing as he reached out and put a hand on my shoulder. “Whatever it is, I will help.” It was a nice offer, and I didn’t correct him, but this wasn’t something the pack could do together. It was all me.

Sophie was lingering close to me, trying to make me take notice of her perky chest, while Nadine was staring at Gear, probably unaware that we all knew how in love with him she was. He had a silly mohawk, but he was a good guy.

“We all will,” Nadine said, stepping forward, and the others nodded. Sometimes I forgot how much I loved these people. At times Keegan would call me, tell me hunters were in town and I needed to go into isolation and hide. Those periods, not seeing them for a week or more, were so lonely that I really missed this crazy bunch. We were family.

“Let’s do it,” I said.

In order to glimpse, I had to output such a large burst of magic that I passed out. It was only in that semi-conscious state, mixed with the magic floating around me, that my awareness superseded all possible laws of nature, magic, or physics. For a tiny second I became God. But the earthbound were always watching; the powerful druids had their magical hooks into everything.

Well, I had woken up this morning wanting a change. I hadn’t been expecting this. But if the beautiful woman from my dream was real, then anything was worth the risk to find her.

 

Chapter Two: Logan

 

WE ALL jumped into the back of Keegan’s pickup truck and he drove us twenty miles south to Kachina Village. I didn’t want to lead the druids to my own back yard, but I also didn’t want to drive too far; otherwise I might not be able to connect with the redhead from my dreams. If the hunters were at Eva’s bar, it was because the girl was in Flagstaff. Keegan pulled over onto the side of the road and drove about a half mile into the thick forest. The last thing I needed were some humans seeing my green dragon magic and calling the cops thinking they were illegal fireworks or something. Wouldn’t be the first time.

Keegan and I had an interesting pack hierarchy. He was the alpha and was in charge of the pack. He gave them orders, broke up fights, and dealt with their issues. I, however, at times gave Keegan the orders, paid the pack’s salary, and made all of the important decisions. I had never pulled rank on him, but if need be, I could. Dragons were … above shifters. I hated that type of purist bullshit thinking, but it was true. If Keegan and I ever went into a dominance fight, I would be the one walking out. Shifters were half human after all, and dragon shifters were not. Thanks to Fae magic, I was one hundred percent supernatural no matter how many times I wished I wasn’t.

But a dominance fight between us would never happen. We both liked our place and things ran smoothly that way. I was happy to stay out of the way while he ran the pack, and he was happy to have me pipe in when I wanted too. Keegan and I were a team and I was damn lucky to have him. He had saved my life more times that I could count, and vice versa.

He and I huddled at the back of the car while I told him my plan.

“I want Gear in the sky just in case the hunters are closer than I think. Let’s definitely get Dom to shift, and maybe Nadine too. I need you and Sophie human so you can watch my back while I’m out.”

Gear was a falcon shifter, and Dom was unmatched in his lion form. They would be good ground crew if this went south. On the way over, I had roughly explained that I might zone out or lose consciousness, so Keegan knew I would need protection in that case. Keegan nodded, rubbing the tip of his chin, lost in thought. “I think Coop should shift too. He’s fast, and if the girl is nearby he could get to her on foot before we could.”

I bobbed my head in agreement; he was right. Cooper was a red fox shifter and lived for the snowy winters of Flagstaff. He could pounce through this snow faster than any of us, save for Gear in the skies. Me shifting was never an option. I only shifted in a life or death situation. My shift left a magical trace that drew the hunters right to me.

Keegan called out the orders, instructing Sophie to load up with weapons as she would be the only one staying human with him. The rest of the pack slowly peeled off their clothes, standing naked in the freezing snow, and started their shift. No matter how long I lived, the sound of cracking bones never ceased to shock me. Nadine was the fastest. Her all-black wolf was beautiful and deadly. Dom’s cat chuffing behind me always elevated my heart rate a little. His sable and orange lion was littered with scars, and every time I saw them I wanted to kill the bastards who’d held him hostage. I made a promise to him once, that if we ever happened upon his captors again, they would die in a gruesome fight.

Cooper’s little red fox always made me smile, because out of all of us Cooper looked the most like his animal while in human form. He peered up at me now with silver eyes and that fluffy red fur that reminded me so much of his beard. Once I heard Gear’s cry from the sky, I knew we were ready.

As a pack bound in magic, we could speak to each others’ minds while in animal form. We rarely used it because it was rude and an intrusion, and we couldn’t read each others’ thoughts or anything, but when we were hunting druids or running for our lives, we used it constantly. I was the exception. Since I rarely ever shifted, and because the pack was bound to me as my protectors, I could communicate with their animal forms while I was still human. So if Gear saw something in the skies while I was doing this spell, he could let me know through our link. Not all Shifter packs could communicate with each other like this. Only those with very powerful sorceress friends like Eva.

“Let’s do it!” I clasped my hands together to pump myself up. What I didn’t tell the guys was that this spell was extremely painful. Expending enough dragon energy in one burst, all in an effort to make yourself pass out … it hurt like hell.

Keegan strapped two blades across his chest and holstered his weapon of choice, a sawed-off shotgun. Keegan didn’t mess around. If you went after the pack, he blew your head off first and asked questions later. That’s why I initially hired him. Sophie stepped forward then, holding her harpoon gun. Hunters had shot her with one once and now she tried to get them with it every chance she got.

“Be careful,” she told me in that whispery, have-sex-with-me voice.

I tried not to roll my eyes, and nodded, ignoring her half-lidded gaze. I thought sleeping with Monica from Eva’s bar would give Sophie the message that I had moved on. Instead, it only served to make her come after me more aggressively. Standing in the snow, holding his sawed-off shotgun, Keegan just gave me that look, that “I told you so—you never should have dated within the pack” look. I asked him once if being gay made relationship problems easier, because, ya know, you didn’t have girly emotions to deal with. He had laughed and laughed and told me there was nothing worse than dealing with a pissed-off male lover. I didn’t understand it. But now was not the time to think about that. I needed to know—to confirm that I wasn’t alone anymore.

That the redhead from my dreams was real.

I shook off thoughts of Sophie and walked over to a flat rock, mercifully covered by trees and so snow free. There, I placed my focus right where it needed to be—the girl—those piercing green eyes, wide with terror, her pouty mouth and that unforgettable fire-red hair. She was real and I was going to find her. Protect her.

Getting myself comfortable on the rock, I sat cross-legged and began the process of glimpsing. I arched my back and squared my shoulders, preparing my body for the onslaught of dragon magic. Magic was a wild thing. It reminded me of fire; if you let it get out of hand, it would burn all in its path. I’d had over a century to train my magic, so I felt for that deep humming in my gut, near where my dragon rested, coiled and content. I prodded it, making my dragon stir. He hated when I awoke the magic like this. The buzzing feeling intensified, making my skin tighten as I took a deep breath, forcing my dragon not to shift. Then I set the magic free. I tore at it like a wild beast and my dragon awoke fully within me, roaring in anger at what I was doing.

I didn’t necessarily talk to my dragon. We were one; he knew what I knew, but I sent him thoughts now, of the girl, another dragon. She needed us, and if I was being honest, I needed her too. I needed to know I wasn’t alone, needed to help settle that terrified look I’d seen in her eyes. My dragon relaxed then, and I let the rush of magic consume me, the green fire erupting from my palms and out of my mouth with a scream.

“Jesus Christ,” Keegan said.

I ignored him, keeping my eyes closed, feeling my temperature rise, feeling the magic looking for that outlet, that place to unleash. Eva told me that when I did the glimpsing, it was like watching the aurora borealis consume a human being. That’s sure as hell what it felt like too.

My dragon helped push the magic harder and faster; a wave of dizziness consumed me, magic searing along my every nerve and fiber. It was too hot—I was going to burn up if I didn’t stop.

The green fire scalded my throat and singed my arms as it made its way out of my body. Come on, you bastard, take me, I told the magic. Eva also confessed once that magic was conscious, and I was banking on that now. It was my magic, and hopefully it would do as I pleased. I hadn’t glimpsed in forever, and I was afraid if I didn’t pass out soon, I would burn up and die.

Killed by my own magic.

“Logan!” Sophie’s emotional plea came just as the blackness took me. My back arched and weightlessness took over my body. In that one moment before losing consciousness, I honed my intention, put all of my focus on the girl.

Sloane…

Her name came to me as if it rode on the wind. I was in the otherworld now, the place where you go when you are no longer in your body.

I was glimpsing, high in the sky above Flagstaff, looking around for that sign that there was another of my kind nearby. My body was still down below, lying awkwardly half on the flat rock and half on the snow. As I expanded my awareness and looked around, I could see humans as dark blobs of energy, witches barely a glow, shifters nearly nothing but, there … to the north … a red glowing ball of fiery dragon energy.

My breath caught in my throat as I looked at the evidence of the end to my loneliness.

She is real.

I focused my awareness there, and within seconds I was hovering over a cabin on Ash Lane. I knew this area; it was near Gear’s motorcycle shop. Surrounding the cabin were three deadly hunters, armed with magical weapons and intent to kill. She didn’t know yet. I could see her glowing energy inside; she was upset, crying, trying to control her shift. She probably didn’t know that’s what brought them to us.

But how could that be…?

“Watch out!” I shouted, unsure if I could do anything from the place I was. Her energy inside of the home stiffened, and that’s when I felt the druid nearby hone in on my location. His dark energy washed over me, trying to pin me to the spot.

Shit.

I’d seen enough. Zooming back above my body only took seconds. I had to only think my intent and it was made manifest. Like I said, when I was here, I was God.

Sophie was freaking out, pacing over my body, while Keegan sniffed the air, no doubt already on the trail of that druid.

There was melted snow and scorch marks around my body where the magic had concentrated the most, but the majority of my body was unharmed. I focused my energy on my physical body and slammed back with the force of a bullet. It was weird, coming back from unconsciousness. It was my sense of smell that always came back first, and then the loud popping noise in my ears. I groaned, feeling every muscle in my body ache as I sat up and opened my eyes.

I didn’t hesitate for a moment. Gear, she’s real. She’s in a cabin on Ash Lane, by your bike shop.

I’m on it! he called back through our bond, and I knew he would get there in time. He had to.

I stood with a wince, waiting for my dragon healing to kick in as Keegan tossed me a gun. “Smell that?” he asked.

I nodded. “The druid that’s after her saw me. He’s coming here now, but he left his hunters with her. We need to finish him off, and then save her from those hunters. He’s going to try and get both of us today.”

Sophie looked absolutely aghast at the proclamation that there was really another dragon, but she snapped out of it quickly, tightening her grip on her harpoon gun. Keegan stood there for a second, thinking.

“I fear it could be too late,” he said. “I don’t think the girl has any training. She wouldn’t be on the run like this. Leading them to her so easily.”

He was right. She was doing some rookie stuff, but that didn’t make sense. There couldn’t be any new dragons, and if she was twenty-something years old, like she looked in my dream, then she had been shifting for twenty years and should know better how to control her dragon. Something didn’t add up.

“We need to lead that druid away from her,” I told Keegan. He would be here any minute, I could smell him. He’d left his hunters to take her and now he was after me.

He cocked his gun. “Leave that to me. Let’s save this girl.”

It was decided. Keegan gave the order for Sophie to shift and for everyone else to haul ass to the cabin on Ash Lane. I just hoped my dream girl could hang on until we got there.

 

Chapter Three: Logan

 

SOPHIE TOSSED HER harpoon gun in the truck with her clothes, lingering for a moment to see if I would glance at her naked form, and then when I didn’t, she shifted into her coyote shape. I needed to do something about her advances, but now wasn’t the time.

The second I jumped into the truck, Keegan peeled out, leaving the pack in animal form behind. They would travel on foot and meet us at the girl’s cabin. Hopefully the druid wouldn’t find us until we killed his hunters and saved the girl. Either way, splitting up was a good plan. Keegan and I could take care of the druid; the pack could take care of the girl.

Keegan kept a detachable police siren for moments just like these. He pulled it out now and stuck it on the roof of the truck as we hauled ass onto the I-17.

I see her! She’s in human form, but the hunters are chasing her, Gear reported to the pack.

Help her! I commanded, as if I needed too. I knew Gear would do everything in his power to help the girl, but I couldn’t just sit there and say nothing. Gear was a good guy, and his falcon was useful, but not usually in the sense that it could take out hunters. He was our tracker, but not one of our best fighters. Keegan pushed the truck harder, tapping her out at the max speed. If we blew a tire at this speed, we would be ground meat.

My hope was that the druid was going to my glimpsing location. That would give us time to get to Sloane. Her name … it did something I couldn’t explain to my insides.

Our exit came then and Keegan took it, barely slowing to make a left at the light, tires screeching as he careened onto the main road. We were minutes from her, but if the hunters were good and she was as rookie as it seemed, she could already be dead. Keegan flipped the siren off and weaved in and out of traffic—no use in letting the hunters know we were coming.

What’s happening? I shouted to Gear.

His reply was delayed; no doubt he was trying to fight and help her. She shifted to her dragon form. They’ve harpooned her wing.

My eyes nearly bugged out of my head. She’d shifted in broad daylight!

We’re here! Nadine told me just as Keegan pulled the truck down Ash Lane. I saw the tail end of Sophie’s coyote disappear into a walking trail between two houses, and Keegan pulled over.

Without waiting for the car to fully stop, I grabbed Keegan’s sawed-off shotgun and leapt from the car, crossing into the woods at a full-on sprint.

I’m going to shift, Keegan yelled behind me. I could smell the druid nearby, so it was probably best that Keegan did. Then we would be at our strongest. Keegan’s wolf was nearly as large as Dom’s lion.

It was still early in the morning, and I needed to try my best to keep the humans from seeing this. As I burst deeper into the walking path and through the thick trees that led to the community park, I skidded to a stop. Sophie, Cooper, Nadine and Dom were stalking towards the hunters. The hunters were surrounding a beautiful red dragon—the dragon from my dreams.

I let the shotgun hang loosely at my side and tried to mask my shock. She was real. I wasn’t alone. And the goddamn bastards had harpooned her wing! I cocked the shotgun and stalked forward.

The hunter with the harpoon faced Nadine. “We don’t want trouble with your kind. Get out of here!”

Not on a cold day in hell. The girl’s dragon was covered in blood—too much blood. Why wasn’t she healing? As I thought it, I could see her shifting back to human form. Bad idea, I wanted to tell her. She had to be new at this—but that wasn’t possible—she looked to be in her early twenties. Dragon younglings started shifting right after birth…

The girl collapsed into a heap of blood and my dragon coiled inside of me, rattling my skin like a cage, dying to get out and pick her up and fly her to safety. Seeing her delicate naked form, vulnerable and bleeding … it tore me in two.

“Keep the shifters out of my way while I finish her off!” one of the hunters yelled to his buddy, who looked to have been burned. She could breathe fire? That was an impressive skill that took practice.

Or a life or death situation would do it also.

Kill them, I commanded, just as Keegan’s gray wolf walked up behind me to join the hunt.

Dom leapt for one of the hunters, knocking him down quickly so Nadine could go for the kill. I could see that the burned hunter just beyond the girl had collapsed; no doubt the dragon fire had finished him off. With one hunter left, Sophie and Keegan took him down quickly.

The girl … Sloane … was panting and looking around with wide, terrified eyes. I didn’t want to spook her walking at her with my shotgun, so I told Nadine to shift and approach her.

Nadine left the hunter’s dead body and walked slowly to where Sloane lay. She was dying, dammit! Why isn’t she healing? As Nadine got closer, Sloane grabbed the arrow that was once in her shoulder and held it up, thinking Nadine was a threat.

“Stay back.” Her voice warbled. She was fighter; even in death she held that harpoon arrow with an iron grip.

Nadine quickly shifted, shedding her wolf form for her lithe human body. Sloane’s mouth popped open and she dropped the arrow. “What the fu—?”

She didn’t finish; she passed out into Nadine’s open arms. Her head lying limp to the side, her crimson hair matched the pool of blood at her feet. She had looked at Nadine shifting like she was surprised … like she’d never seen a shifter before. What the hell was going on?

“I need help! She’s lost a ton of blood!” Nadine shouted behind her, and I spurred into action.

I was stalking towards Nadine, to help her with Sloane, when I sensed the druid almost a second too late. I spun quickly, bringing my shotgun up just as the druid skidded to a halt before me. Without question I pulled the trigger, blowing a hole in his chest and dropping him to the ground like a bag of bricks. By the look of his three hunters and how simple his fighting tactic was, he wasn’t a powerful druid. Maybe a novice, one level up from an apprentice hunter, barely into his entry-level training. He should have thrown a shield over himself before approaching me.

“We got lucky,” Keegan said over my shoulder, observing the dead druid on the ground. The earth had already begun her job of disposing of his carcass. All earthbound were exactly that, bound to the earth, and when they died she took their burden. It was a good thing too, because with how loud that shotgun blast was, cops would be here any minute. I didn’t need a body to explain.

I handed Keegan the gun and ran to help Nadine and Dom, who were now both stark naked and carrying a pale and bleeding woman through the woods. If the humans saw this, we were screwed.

“Give her to me.” I hadn’t meant to sound so growly, but my dragon had taken over. Nadine and Dom obliged, setting a limp Sloane into my arms. The moment my skin touched hers, a bolt of magic ran through her and right into my gut, shaking my dragon awake. It saturated every fiber of my being, making my body hum with ecstasy. I stood there trembling, staring at her pale lips, her limp head flopped over my arm. The magic climbed from my gut into my chest and a tingling spread throughout my limbs. My dragon was roaring now, desperate to shed my human form to better protect her. Recognizing the burst of magic for what it was rocked me to my core.

Holy Shit.

Sloane was my mate.

*

“Why isn’t she healing?” Nadine asked as she held gauze over the wound in Sloane’s shoulder. We didn’t have a pack doctor, but Keegan had some EMT training, and Nadine usually assisted as his nurse. She did some community college classes to get her nursing certificate, before dropping out and declaring her desire to become a tattoo artist.

“Something’s wrong with her magic,” I stated, rubbing the scruff on my beard. On the exterior, I was relatively calm and in control; no one in the pack knew what was going on. Internally, I was freaking out. Sloane was my mate. How was that possible? How was she even here? I didn’t understand it and I wasn’t sure I fully believed it. I couldn’t tell the pack, and if she survived—which she needed to; I wasn’t sure I could live the rest of my life knowing I had met and lost my mate in the same day—then I couldn’t tell her either. Dragon mates were rare—hell, dragons were rare—and telling anyone would just freak them out and make everything too weird.

She’d be no one’s mate if I couldn’t keep her alive.

Keegan looked at the blood pressure cuff on her arm. “We’re losing her!” he growled.

Everything within me jacked up a notch. “No, we’re not! Do something. Take my blood.” I offered my arm, blurting out the first thing that came to my mind. Sloane’s body was draped limply over the bed in my guestroom, sweat beading her brow, her breathing shallow. Keegan had hooked her up to an IV of fluids, hoping to wait out her healing, but it wasn’t coming. Something was broken.

Nadine and Keegan shared a look.

“It might work,” Keegan said. “Dragon blood, in a dragon that isn’t healing, might jumpstart her powers or something.”

“Well, hurry up, then!” I stepped closer, shoving my arm in his face. The worst possible thing I could think of in the world would be to meet my mate, after so long of being the only dragon left, and then have her die.

Keegan fumbled with a blood-draw kit, and then asked me to sit down. Taking the chair next to the bed, I let him take my blood as I kept an eye on the slow rise and fall of her chest. Once he was done, I stood and we both approached the bed. This had to work. It would be beyond painful to watch the first dragon I had met in decades die of a shoulder wound.

My mate.

I let that last thought slide away. I still wasn’t sure what I thought of that, or if it was real. Maybe it was some weird connection I felt because she was dying or whatever, not because she was my mate. I had been feeling pretty desperate lately, so I had probably imagined it.

Keegan loaded her IV line with my blood, and I leaned closer, watching for any reaction. Nadine was at the foot of the bed, fiddling with some monitor that measured her oxygen.

“Here goes…” Keegan said, hanging the bag.

I watched as the blood slowly flooded the IV line. It made its way into her arm and I held my breath. Dragon scales were one of the most healing things on earth, but dragon blood … nothing rivaled it. This would work.

Almost a full minute after the blood had reached her arm, I had to remind myself to breathe. Finally she stirred, moaning, and then moving her legs.

“Calm down. You’re okay, you don’t need to be afraid,” Keegan said in a soothing voice.

Her eyes snapped open and she bolted into a sitting position, before I reached an arm out to gently push her back.

“Hey, hey, relax. You’re injured,” I told her, careful not to press on her too hard.

She looked at me panicked, then pain exploded in my face as in one blurring motion her left fist came up and clocked me in the jaw. She fell backward into an unconscious heap.

Ow! Jesus. My hand came up to rub my jaw. Keegan and Nadine were both looking at me wide-eyed, biting their lips to keep from laughing. She’d punched me in the freaking face! Unbelievable.

“Oh shit! She’s shifting,” Keegan muttered. Sure enough, she was moaning and her skin was breaking out in red scales.

“No! Stop that! You’ll lead the druids right to us,” I told her. But she was too out of it. Clearly unaware. She was turning out to be a major pain in the ass that was going to get us all killed.

“What do I do?” Nadine asked, bouncing on the balls of her feet.

“Tell Gear to take to the skies. The spells around my house should hold so long as she doesn’t do a full shift.” I didn’t know if that was true. It had been years since Eva had put protection spells on the house. I forgot what they were all for. I knew they kept hunters and human eyes away from the house, but I was so in control of my dragon that accidentally shifting wasn’t even a possibility for me.

Her hands were lengthening to claws and Keegan’s eyes were bulging. “What do we do?”

Sloane’s eyes snapped open again and she kicked out at me, connecting with my ribs. Pain exploded beneath my breast bone and I growled. This woman was going to be the death of me.

“I’m going to have to knock her out!” I shouted, at a loss of options. If she fully shifted and brought druids here, I couldn’t fight and protect an unconscious dragon shifter at the same time. People would die. I brought my hand up to her face, the dragon magic pulsing from my core up into my chest and down my arm. The bluish green hue shot from my palm and I focused it on her face. She bucked and tried to snap her head forward in a head-butting motion, but Keegan shoved her shoulders down, as careful as possible not to injure her further.

My dragon magic covered her face, and as she breathed it in I leaned forward, whispering softly: “Sleep…” It had been decades since I’d put another of my kind into a dragon sleep. I was surprised it worked. Her face crumpled in frustration for a moment, then she slipped into unconsciousness.

We all collectively released the breath we had been holding, watching her scales retreat and turn back into pale skin.

Nadine stepped forward and peeled the bandage on Sloane’s shoulder back. She chewed her lip in an act of frustration. “She’s healing, but not as fast as I would like. We may need another pint of blood,” she told me.

“At least she’s alive,” Keegan said, running his hands through his short-cropped blond hair.

I chuckled. “Alive but a major pain in the ass.” She was like a toddler, hitting, kicking, and shifting! This is not what I had expected when I found out there was another dragon.

Keegan grinned. “Agreed.”

How was she possible? It seemed like she hadn’t ever shifted before … but dragon shifters began shifting at birth as a youngling. Something wasn’t adding up here.

I sat down as Keegan took another pint of my blood. The sudden loss of so much blood was making me lightheaded. I needed to eat, to rest. But something told me I wouldn’t be sleeping well for a long time. I had a brand-new baby dragon to watch over, and she was my freaking mate, feisty and full of fire.

Just how I liked them.

***

-If you enjoyed this glimpse into Logan’s story read what happens next in Skyborn available on December 26th. SmartLink: http://smarturl.it/LeiaStone

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