Notes from the Author (will change):
This book came from a dream about a white dragon chasing people down a mountain. The dragon could change into a human. It’s not fully formed yet, so there’s no blurb, synopsis, or outline to speak of. Just three chapters that demanded to be written. They’re completely unedited, so there are errors all over the place. Watch your step. Here are the first two chapters.
~~~~Chapter One & Chapter Two~~~~
The Fellowship Protectorate had its share of dragons although they rarely appeared in their true forms, so it was a sight to see then, on one blustery, winter night, when none other than the infamous Master Seaglaze emerged from his mountaintop mansion as a white dragon to chase down his latest companions.
“We should’ve waited,” Thea said, clutching a stitch in her side as she and the other two women made their way down the mountain path as quickly as possible. “I told you he’d come looking for me in a few hours.”
“We would’ve been long gone by now if you’d hurried up. That car won’t wait forever,” the hooded woman said.
“I’m his nurse. I had to make sure he was comfortable.”
“You should’ve drugged him. Then we wouldn’t have to deal with this. Here he comes!” the third woman said.
The dragon flew toward them, awkward because of the high trees, but still beautiful with white scales that stole the moonlight and golden eyes filled with hurt and loneliness that only Thea saw and understood on a different level than her friends. The dragon landed and changed into a thin, young man in his early twenties with golden eyes and long, white blond hair. He was naked and shivering from rage, cold, and, Thea knew, anxiety.
“Wh-what are you three playing at?” he asked.
“Here, Master Seaglaze. Take my coat,” Thea said. She put it around his shoulders, but he didn’t stop shivering.
“Answer me!” Master Seaglaze said. He grabbed Thea’s arm.
“We’re leaving,” the hooded woman said. “All of us.”
“You can’t leave. I won’t permit it.”
The hooded woman drew back her hood, revealing three cuts on her right cheek from where Master Seaglaze had slapped her in a fit of rage. Thea bit her lip, remembering that she had to trim the young master’s nails yesterday morning. “We’re leaving,” the woman repeated.
“No!” Master Seaglaze said.
Thea saw tears start in his golden eyes, but it could’ve been the moonlight. She shivered, wanting her coat back, but too concerned about the young master’s health to ask for it. She knew he was a vicious, little brat; intolerable at the best of times and downright impossible at the worst, but she’d seen other sides of him. He’d never been cruel to her. “Master Seaglaze, we’re sorry, but she’s right. We have to go.”
“You just wanted the money. The whole time,” he said. “None of you ever cared.”
Anger warmed Thea. “Now I’m definitely leaving.” She turned away from him and walked to catch up with the other two.
Thea nearly did as he said when she heard the tears in his voice, but hardened her heart and kept walking. He wouldn’t follow them far if he followed at all. The young master had severe anxiety attacks if he strayed too far from the mansion. If they could just make it to the city below, they’d be free of him forever. Then she heard stumbling footsteps.
“Nurse. You have to stay.”
Thea looked back in alarm. The young master took tentative steps toward her. His pale skin had gone nearly translucent and his eyes were glazed as if he were starting to lose touch with reality. Thea turned away from him again and willed her tears not to fall. It wasn’t the other two women that he wanted to stay. It was her. Could it be that he actually tolerated her or was she just a security blanket he could cling to whenever the pain grew too hard to bear? Would staying be so bad? The money was more than she could hope for. She could live long and well off of what she’d made in the past six months, but was it worth it to be stuck with the young master forever? She and her friends had made a pact. They’d work there together and they’d leave together if it got too bad for one of them. She had to keep her end of the deal.
“St-Stop,” he said weakly.
“That’s about enough, Master Seaglaze,” said a new voice.
Thea recognized the butler’s voice and walked toward the pair. The butler was also a dragon, but he was taller and more muscular than Master Seaglaze with the same albino-like skin, golden eyes, and white blond hair. His hair was in locs that trailed down to his waist.
“We have to go,” Thea said. “I’m sorry.”
The butler inclined his head. “Who do you think called the car for you? Thank you for staying as long as you did. Six months is the longest we’ve ever had a group.”
“They can’t go, Travis,” Master Seaglaze said. “She can’t go.”
“I’ve brought your coat. Now give Thea back hers,” Travis said. “Let her go.”
“No! She has to stay.”
“It’s fine,” Thea said. “He can keep the coat.”
Thea walked away. This time the tears did fall. She heard someone running behind her.
She looked back to see the young master freeze and look around. She looked back at her destination. Her friends were getting into the car at the bottom of the mountain. The city lights welcomed her with its normal homes and businesses.
“I’m sorry, Thea, but we need your help one last time,” Travis said.
Thea gasped when the young master fainted.
It took an hour to get back up the mountain and to get the young master comfortable in bed again. This time they gave him sleeping pills. Travis himself accompanied Thea down to the car and saw her and the others off with a substantial bonus check.
Sex, blood, cigarettes, and desperation scented the brothel where Travis Moon found the young master’s next companion. It’s a perfect situation, really. Travis thought, walking past a police officer and into one of the private rooms of the brothel. The room was spacious, but windowless. Blood spattered, beige, silk draperies adored the deep red walls. Accent lamps on either side of the huge, plush bed gave the room a warm glow, although one lay on the floor, its shade askew. Two men completed the room. The dead one was sprawled on the bed with a bullet between his eyes and several bullet wounds on his torso. A tattoo of a crow on the man’s inner wrist indicated that he was part of the Bryant crime syndicate. The live one stood in the corner of the room, still naked save for the blood spattered on his body, chain smoking. The gun was within his reach, but Travis, having counted the wounds in the dead man, knew the gun was empty.
“A dragon,” the young man said flatly. His hands shook as he dropped the cigarette butt, took another out the pack, and lit it. “You’re the reason the cops won’t arrest me?”
“Would you like them to?”
“Then I’d suggest you come with me, Mr. Maniatis,” Travis said. “Leave the gun. You won’t need it.”
“What the fuck did you just call me? Who the fuck are you?”
Travis smiled when the young man pointed the gun at him. He still shook too much to fire accurately. Travis plucked the gun from the young man’s hands, pointed it at the ceiling, and pulled the trigger. It clicked. Empty. Just as he’d known. “I’m your bodyguard and employer if you play your cards right.”
The young man’s courage withered and he shrank away. “Who are you? How do you know that name?”
“Come with me and I’ll tell you.”
How does this dragon know my real name? Who is he? His huge enough to be a bodyguard, but my employer? What’s that supposed to mean? What does he want from me? Luka Sebastian watched the man from the corner of his eye. So far, nothing shady had happened, but that didn’t mean anything. Nothing shady had happened the day he’d nearly been killed the first time. This dragon had already done as much for him as the witness protection program had when he told them what he knew, but he’d just killed a man. There had to be some consequence for that. Why was he given a shower, new, strangely well-fitting clothes, and a ride in a fancy car up a mountain?
“Evan Maniatis,” the dragon said. His voice was a smooth, deep baritone that would’ve been nice if Luka didn’t feel so suspicious.
“H-how do you know that name?”
“Would you prefer I call you, Luka Sebastian? That is your new identity in the Fellowship Protectorate.”
“Why do you know so much about me?”
“I do a thorough background check on all potential employees. With my employer’s connections, finding out about you was simple.”
“The young master, Zephyr Seaglaze. Have you heard of him yet?”
Luka shook his head and then thought about it. There were rumors of a reclusive dragon living in a lavish mansion on top of the mountain. He hadn’t paid it much attention. “I’ve heard rumors, but I haven’t paid much attention to them.”
The dragon smiled. “That bodes well for you.”
“I wish to hire you, Mr. Sebastian. The young master is lonely and in need of a companion. His personality is an…acquired taste…but the pay is phenomenal. You won’t want or need for anything. The Bryant family won’t be able to touch you while you’re under my protection.”
This was too good to be true. “I just killed a man. Why are you helping me instead of turning me in?”
“You killed a man who was sent to kill you. He was a part of the Bryant crime syndicate. I know that. You know that. Please don’t play ignorant, Mr. Sebastian. They’ve found you. You need protection. I’m providing that.”
Luka looked away out of the tinted window at the passing winter scenery. The dawn sun sent beams of light through the trees and made the snow sparkle. He turned back to the dragon. “But why?”
“You witnessed the Bryants greatest crime against a dragon and told the proper authorities. That’s why they’re after you. That’s why you’re in the witness protection program.”
“I didn’t mean to see anything. I didn’t want to see what they did.”
“No one wants to see another being caged and burned alive.”
Luka shuddered as the memory replayed in his mind. He’d been painting in his apartment when he heard screaming and struggling. Thinking it was his kinky neighbors at it again, he’d gone to knock on their door when he saw the men dragging a woman down the hall. His first instinct was to grab his cell phone and call the police, but one of the men saw him and came for him. Luka had put up a decent fight until something jabbed him in the neck. He came to in an abandoned building. Someone had tied him up and taped his mouth so he couldn’t move or speak. The woman lay nearby, naked. She had white blond hair and golden eyes. A dragon in human form. It was obvious she’d been raped multiple times. Another jab in the neck and he was gone again. This time, when he came to, the woman was in small cage. She was also bound and gagged. One of the men lit the cage on fire and the woman’s screams and the smell of burning flesh filled the building.
“I didn’t mean to see anything,” Luka repeated.
“I’m sorry you had to see that, but I’m grateful that you were brave enough to say something.”
“It didn’t do me any good. I had to leave my home. I’ve only been here for three months and I had to become a whore to make ends meet.”
“That part of your life is over now. The only part of this job you may not enjoy is that you can never leave.”
As they pulled in front of the mansion, Luka’s dour mood lifted slightly. “Why would I want to?”
“I’ll leave that up to you. My name is Travis Moon. I’m the butler here. I’ll show you to your room and then you’ll get to meet the young master.”
He knew what people said about him. The nicest word was “brat” but he’d decided long ago that he didn’t care what anyone thought. At least not that much. Zephyr Seaglaze shivered in the drafty room and put a thick robe over his pajamas. It was four in the afternoon. Early that morning, exactly twelve hours ago, his three companions ran away from the mansion. He hadn’t meant to scratch the one who made his clothes, but she’d stabbed him with a pin. Hard. It felt like she’d done it on purpose, so he’d slapped her. Now he was lonely again. He hadn’t particularly liked the seamstress. Her friend, whose attempts at cooking made him gag, wasn’t much better. She left shells in the eggs. Again, he suspected, on purpose. He did almost like his nurse though. Thea had seemed to understand his needs and wants. She had least kept the pain in his leg at bay and taught him some exercises to keep the muscles strong. He rubbed his leg through his pajama pants, feeling the puckered, raised scar tissue on his thigh. The injury was fourteen years old, but it still ached when he touched it. Right now, the pain was so bad he wanted to climb back into bed, but he heard Thea’s voice admonishing him to keep walking around the bedroom until the stiffness went away. As much as he hated her for leaving, he had to admit she’d been right about exercising. He completed the third circle around the room and saw the car driving up the mountain path. Had Travis found someone new already? Perfect. Now I have to get used to someone else. Wonder how long this one will last.
Travis opened the door for the person and Zephyr was astonished to see a human around his age get out of the car, looking around skittishly. Most of the time, his butler dug up people twenty years Zephyr’s senior, who had ideas of putting the “vicious brat” in his place or kids fresh out of high school who’d heard about the “asshole dragon” living on the mountain and wanted to see him for themselves. Zephyr shook his head. It wasn’t as if dragons were rare. The Fellowship Protectorate was one of the few places where humans and dragons were in equal numbers. In fact, some of his companions had been dragons, but none had ever stayed despite the large amount of money Travis had paid them. All of them blamed Zephyr and his personality. Why should he respect anyone who stayed around only because someone paid them to do it? Why did he need a companion anyway? He’d gotten along for twenty-two years just fine without one. Zephyr stepped away from the window when Travis pointed toward him, drawing the other man’s attention. Why did Travis point him out? He and the human would meet soon enough. Zephyr circled the room again, passing by his walk-in closet; a wall of music and movie posters; a bookshelf full of comic books, manga, and books; his computer desk and schoolwork area; three huge windows-he closed the blinds on each one since the human was still peering up at them-and limped to the bed, which was across from an entertainment center with a television and a huge collection of DVDs.
The muscles in his leg ached and burned. He’d overdone it this time. He pushed the intercom on the nightstand to call Thea and then remembered she wasn’t there anymore. Anger and disappointment coursed through him and he flopped onto the bed and massaged his thigh until the pain dulled a little. He could tolerate that amount of pain. The front door beeped, letting him know that Travis and the human had come in. Nervousness made his stomach flutter and he wanted to feign illness so he didn’t have to meet anyone new until morning. He opened one of his textbooks and waited for Travis to message him on the intercom. He wasn’t going to come until he was called and then he’d make them wait. There was no reason to jump at the chance to meet someone who’d end up leaving him again. Zephyr took a deep breath and thought of the best way to demean and insult the human when they met. That usually covered his nerves.
Whoever this “young master” was liked to take his sweet time. Luka looked at the grandfather clock near the grand piano. Travis had called the man on the intercom two hours ago. In that time, Luka had taken a short tour of the downstairs west wing, eaten dinner, and used the toilet. His nerves had settled a bit from killing the man from the crime syndicate earlier, but waiting set them a jangle again. He got up to pace the room, his slippers whispering on the hardwood floor. He paused at the huge floor to ceiling window that took up one entire wall. The view was breathtaking. Now that winter’s icy grip had loosened its hold on the Fellowship Protectorate, the days had grown longer. The setting sun painted the sky indigo, blue, and orange. The pine trees stood black and proud against the background and a few early stars twinkled in the sky. Luka squinted wondering if he could see the city below, but the trees blocked his view. Maybe he could see it from upstairs. Not that he could return to it. Not that he wanted to.
“Quite the view, isn’t it?” Travis said.
Luka hated himself for starting. Travis had shown him nothing but the utmost kindness. He’d also shown him the security system. There was no way the Bryants could get to him and Travis was six foot eight inches of muscles in addition to being a dragon. He appeared to have brains to go along with all the brawn as well. He was more than capable of handling any sticky situation and most of all, of protecting Luka. If only Luka could bring himself to let go and trust and stop being so skittish. He was finally safe.
“Yeah, it is,” Luka said. He examined the sheet music on the piano. He missed music the most, but that was what Evan Maniatis had done. He’d played guitar and keyboards in a local band that had just started getting regular gigs. His hand ghosted the ivory keys and he pulled back as if they’d stung him. No. No need to dig up another painful part of his past.
Travis said something Luka didn’t digest.
The butler continued his patience infinite. “The young master is on his way. He doesn’t sound like he’s in a good mood, so brace yourself.”
“Wait. What?” Luka said.
“Mr. Luka Sebastian. I present to you the young master, Mr. Zephyr Seaglaze,” Travis said.