Home > Elven Doom (Death Before Dragons #4)(15)

Elven Doom (Death Before Dragons #4)(15)
Author: Lindsay Buroker

She looked me up and down and seemed reluctant to admit, “No.”

“Right. Let’s get this over with. What should I do?”

Another neighbor with grocery bags walked past, gaped in at Zondia for a long moment, then scurried away. I wondered if someone would call the police. My break-ins had become famous in the building, and it had been a while since anyone had reported one. Admittedly, they were usually done in the middle of the night and didn’t involve my door being entirely removed from the frame.

“Cover the door so we will not be interrupted,” Zondia said.

“You’re the one who broke it. Can’t you put it back up?”

She glared at me.

I sighed, walked through shards from the frame, and picked up the door, my locks still secure. Too bad the jamb had been destroyed right around them. The doorbell camera dangled from wires on the hallway wall. I examined it, amused that it was still working—it looked like the only reason I’d lost the signal was because it had been facing the wall. I stuck the camera back on the wall and shifted the door so that it leaned over to cover the entrance. That would have to do until I could get to the hardware store. Lenny, the superintendent, had said months ago that I’d surpassed the maintenance money allotted for any one apartment, so I was on my own for repairs.

Zondia sat on one end of the couch.

“Oh, good. We get to be comfortable for this.” I sat on the opposite end.

She frowned at me and pointed at the floor in front of her feet. “Put your sword aside and kneel.”

“Kneel?”

Was she joking?

“Kneel here where I can touch your temple.”

“You were going to do this on that rooftop. You didn’t need me to kneel there.” I was certain she only wanted to show her power over me.

“You may also lie at my feet if you wish. The scouring is painful. You may black out. Would you not prefer it if you did not fall and hurt yourself?”

“I’m willing to take that chance. And why can’t I keep my sword?” It occurred to me that I had no reason to trust her. I trusted Zav, but for all I knew, everyone in his family was a dick. His mother had threatened me before leaving this world, and it wasn’t as if Zondia had been cuddly so far.

“I will be somewhat distracted by reading your thoughts. You could see it as an opportunity to strike at me.”

I rolled my eyes. “You’re all paranoid. How can people so powerful be so paranoid?”

“Because the lesser species have sought to kill us and dethrone us for countless millennia.” She squinted at me. “Do you not know what it is like to be hunted?”

I sighed. “Yes, I do.”

Reluctantly, I set Chopper and Fezzik on the coffee table and sat cross-legged in front of her. That seemed less obsequious than kneeling, but it still made me feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. This close, her power battered me like off-key bagpipe music. There was no pleasing aspect to the sensations crawling along my nerves, not like when I got close to Zav. I felt vulnerable because I was vulnerable.

“Go ahead.” I stared at her knee instead of looking up at her.

Already, I had second thoughts. If I’d wanted to do this, it should have been with Zav. He could have sifted through my brain and told her what he found. But he might not have been willing if it would hurt me. He’d made himself my protector, whether I wanted one or not, and I wagered he wouldn’t approve of this.

Zondia pressed her cool fingers to my temple, her nails painted black to match her leather. At least she didn’t turn her nails into claws and dig them into my head. Dobsaurin had done that. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. It was voluntary.

“This will hurt,” she said.

“I gathered.” I was surprised she’d bothered warning me.

For the first time for one of these telepathic intrusions, I tried to relax and open my mind instead of walling it off. I also tried not to think about the cool touch of those fingers and the fact that they could turn into claws and rip my head off.

Power wrapped around me, locking me to the floor. Fear trampled on my attempt at relaxation. This wasn’t necessary. The other dragons had also used their power to hold me in place, but I’d been trying to escape. I was voluntarily here for this.

I tried to say as much, but I couldn’t open my mouth to speak.

Another type of power flowed from Zondia’s fingers, drilling down into my brain, eliciting the pain she’d promised. Unwanted tears sprang to my eyes, and I was glad I wasn’t looking at her. I didn’t want her to see them.

Memories of Zav were wrenched from my mind. Our first meeting—she lingered on that, digging through all the feelings of anger and fear and defiance I’d experienced as he’d destroyed my Jeep and almost destroyed me. Zondia didn’t say anything, but I could guess what she was thinking. That, after that introduction, I had a reason to hate Zav.

She surfed through our following meetings, and I relived them along with her. Not only did she dig through memories of things that had happened, but she found my dreams, nightmares of being attacked or losing my family and friends.

What did any of that have to do with Zav? Did she think I thought killing him would change something about my nightmares? Or how the magical community reacted to me?

They would fear you if they knew you killed a dragon, she purred into my mind. Do not pretend you have not thought about this. Such a reputation would make you safe.

Before I could rebut, she drilled deeper.

My back would have stiffened from the pain if I’d been able to move a muscle. She scoured through my erotic dreams of Zav, embarrassing me. I hadn’t dreamed of harming him in any of them, but the lurid fantasies were filled with carnal desires. More than a few had me ordering Zav to do what I wished in bed, rather than the mindless devotion she might expect from a lesser species honored to have been chosen as a dragon’s mate.

A high-pitched squeal came from somewhere in the building, and Zondia broke the contact. Her sharp withdrawal hurt like a serrated knife being yanked out of my brain.

I gasped, wanting to roll onto my side, grab my head with both hands, and cry. But Zondia sprang to her feet, and I worried some threat was approaching. Wincing, I scrambled to the end of the coffee table and grabbed Chopper and Fezzik.

The squeal came again, like a dog whistle but worse. It pierced my ears hard enough that I worried my drums would rupture and bleed.

The rolling of the balcony door sounded. Zondia rushed outside, sprang to the railing, and leaped off. Turning into her dragon form, I assumed, and not jumping to her death.

I sensed someone with magical blood in the hallway, heading in this direction. It wasn’t anyone I recognized.

The horrible whistle stopped. I rounded the couch, so my furniture wouldn’t be in the way, and faced the door with Chopper.

The magical being halted outside. I crouched, muscles aquiver, waiting for him or her to batter the door down. Not that force was required. If someone breathed hard, the door would fall inward.

The person knocked. Softly and politely.

“Uh, come in?”

“Are you sure?” a woman asked in accented English. An accent from where, I didn’t know, but I thought I’d heard something similar recently.

“Not really.”

After a hesitant moment, long pale fingers slipped into view, grasping the door and moving it aside. A dark elf? My grip tightened on Chopper. If it was, this would be someone I could question.

With the door out of the way, I was looking at a slender figure about my height, a green cloak and hood shadowing her face. Through a gap in the cloak, a cream tunic tied with leather laces was visible, the hem fringed. She wore brown trousers and… I decided to call those moccasins to complete the outfit. She also wore a magical sword in a back scabbard, a slit in the cloak allowing access to the hilt.

The pale fingers—not albino like a dark elf’s—lifted, showing me a bone flute. My senses found it as magical and notable as the sword. When her sleeves slipped back, they revealed bracelets with charms on them. None of them were the same as the ones on my necklace, but they were also magical.

“The dragon fled,” she said, and I finally remembered where I’d heard a similar accent. Willard’s new helper, Freysha. “Was I in time to keep you from being hurt? When I was assigned to come find you, I didn’t expect you to be—” her voice changed from pleasant and curious to cool and hard, “—on the floor of your own home, in a dragon’s clutches.”

“It’s not how I imagined spending my evening either.”

“I assumed not. Dragons are arrogant and presumptuous. They believe they have the right to steal the thoughts of others, no matter how much pain they inflict.”

“I’ve noticed that. You said you were assigned to find me? By whom?”

She tucked the flute into her belt and stepped farther into my apartment. She slowly lifted her hands to the hood and pushed it back, revealing silver-blonde hair in a braid, pointed ears, and blue-green eyes.

“I am your cousin, Lirena. Your father sent me.”

11

“My father sent you?”

And she was my cousin?

I couldn’t help but stare at her. I’d always thought I mostly looked like my Norwegian mother, but both this woman—this female elf—and the quirky one visiting Willard seemed like they could share blood with me. They had finer features than I did, but our skin coloring and the shapes of our faces were similar. Did I look more like an elf than I’d realized?

Maybe my mother also had similar features to them, and that was why my father had fallen in love with her all those years ago. Or at least had a relationship with her. Since I didn’t know his side of the story, I had no idea if she’d been a true love or some exotic Earth chick he’d bagged for fun. I knew nothing about him at all, save what tidbits my mother had shared. I’d only recently learned he was some elven king.

For most of my life, I’d told myself I didn’t care that I was an only child and had never met my father or any of his family, but deep down, I sometimes felt that I’d missed out on something. Even at forty-odd years of age, I was intrigued by the idea of possibly meeting a family I’d never known. If she was who she said she was. Was she?

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