Home > Storm Forged (Death Before Dragons #6)(13)

Storm Forged (Death Before Dragons #6)(13)
Author: Lindsay Buroker

She gazed at me again, a dismissive gaze, and flicked her tongue at me. What a strange, pathetic creature you have claimed.

She is a brave warrior.

If the wind blew, she would fall off that tree.

If you attacked her, Zav said, she would drive her sword into your heart, as she has my other enemies.

But I do not wish to be your enemy, Zavryd’nokquetal. I am here to offer to let you hold my tail and to unite our clans so that we will both be more powerful. Together, we will maintain control of the ruling council for all eternity.

I am not interested. I have a mate. As the queen should have told you.

For the first time, a twinge of uncertainty ran through me. Even if this dragon seemed like as much of an arrogant shit as every other dragon, maybe an alliance between clans was something Zav should consider. He’d admitted his people weren’t as powerful as they’d once been and that others were plotting against them. If he married—or mated to—this female, could he change the fate of his family?

The dragon political scene made my head hurt, and I was glad when the female sniffed disdainfully and sprang into the air. Once again, the trees parted so she could fly up between their branches.

You will see the error of your ways and come to me, Zavryd’nokquetal, her parting words entered my mind as well as his. And you will realize that I am what your clan needs. It does not need some short-lived verminous mongrel who isn’t of our species. The embarrassment for one of your stature! You will see.

Fortunately, she was flying away as she dissed me. Unfortunately, she didn’t simply make a portal and disappear off to some other world. Did that mean she planned to stick around on Earth? To what end? Wooing Zav?

I curled my lip. If he ever did decide that he should make a sacrifice for his family and mate for an alliance, I hoped for his sake that he could find a dragon with a halfway pleasant demeanor.

But I would prefer he stay here with me, hanging out on the couch, watching movies, and gnawing on piles of takeout barbecue ribs. I snorted at myself. I was starting to sound like an old lady. Maybe after we watched movies and ate, we could rub liniment into each other’s joints and get out the cribbage board.

Zav shifted into his human form. I returned Fezzik to its holster as he climbed toward me, hopping up onto the massive trunk, aided by a magical burst of wind. It ruffled the hem of his robe and put some of his leg hair briefly on display.

“Did the patch you shaved ever grow back?” I waved toward his leg.

He gazed at me. “I was about to express my appreciation that you stayed nearby and were willing to endanger yourself to fight a female dragon if I needed assistance.”

“I’m sorry. Did my leg hair interest derail you?”

“Yes.”

“You know I’m not very good at wrangling my tongue to stick to proper topics.”

“I know this. I was hoping you would vex her.” Zav arched his eyebrows as if to ask why I hadn’t flung insults about the size of her butt and called her a grotsky little byotch.

“She seemed dangerous. I didn’t want her to come back when you’re not around and pulp me.”

“Ah. You’ve grown wiser when it comes to dealing with dragons.”

“Yes, I can be taught.” I jerked my thumb toward the sky. “Any chance she’s leaving Earth forever?”

“She has not left yet. I do not know what she plans next.” Zav sighed and gazed sadly at me.

His earlier anger had bled out of him—his aggression worn off by the battle, perhaps. I didn’t like that he seemed resigned.

“To woo you, it sounded like.” I raised my eyebrows.

It wasn’t so much that I wanted an explanation—I’d gotten the gist—but I wanted to know if he found the idea completely deplorable and wasn’t remotely interested… or if I should brace myself for him ultimately giving in because it would be best for his family. He’d told me before that he supported his mother. Would he walk away from his lowly half-elf to do what she wished?

“I was hoping she would find the queen’s suggestion unpalatable,” Zav said.

“But she doesn’t.”

“It seems not.”

“She only finds me unpalatable?”

“Because you are an obstacle and not a dragon.”

“Grievous flaws I’ve tried often to remedy but alas failed.”

His eyebrows twitched. “You still are not properly respectful of dragons.”

“I know.” I lifted a hand and rested it on his cheek, not sure what I should say but needing to say something that wasn’t sarcastic or a joke. But I wasn’t sure what. Mary could have suggested something appropriate, but Zav would think it weird if I texted her for a suggestion. She would want me to be honest instead of nonchalant, to let him know I cared. Why was that so hard?

His gaze turned toward my hand and then my eyes.

“I know you came up with this whole mating scheme to save my butt, but I do like you Zav, and I would miss you if you left to marry a dragon.” There. Honesty. If he proceeded to tell me he had to leave me, I’d fire rounds into the nearest tree in a huff, but at least I wouldn’t have driven him away with flippancy.

“A dragon does not leave his mate for another. The queen knows this. She is being…” A muscle in his jaw flexed. Like he wanted to deliver an appropriate insult, but he also didn’t want to be disrespectful to his mother. “Overbearing.” He clasped my hand.

I squeezed his. “Mothers are difficult.”

“Yes.”

“Are you going to tell me if you got that patch of hair to grow back?” Normally, I would have assumed it had, but he’d told me his hair and beard always remained the same.

“Perhaps later when we are truly alone, I will let you check.”

I offered a flirtatious smile, but that when we are truly alone put me on edge. The female dragon had flown out of my range, but I had a feeling his words meant she was still within Zav’s. What did she plan to do? Spy on him from a mountaintop? Fly down and throw a few trees at me if I kissed him?

“I’ll look forward to that.” I pointed past the road toward the forest Freysha and Gondo had disappeared into. “Do you want to help me find a plant?”

I expected him to ask why, but, still clasping my hand, he said, “Yes.”

We clambered down from the log and headed after the others.

9

“You seek another plant for the princess to grow in your house?” Zav asked as we maneuvered our way up a fern-crowded slope toward the sanctuary.

I couldn’t sense its boundaries, as the old elven magic had been designed to keep outsiders from finding their home, but I’d been there before and remembered the way. Mostly. A couple of times, Zav steered me in one direction when my feet tried to take me in another.

“No. This is an ingredient Zoltan needs to make a healing formula. Nin’s gnomish grandfather showed up, chased by orcs from another world, but he’s unconscious and dying from an infection so we can’t ask him what happened.”

Now that Zav was back, I was tempted to ask him to open a portal to the elven world and help me find the plant there, but as long as we were this close to the sanctuary, I figured we should look here first. Freysha might have already found it.

“I am frequently capable of healing unconscious and dying beings.”

I glanced at him, though he was looking toward the sky to the south instead of at me. Why did I have a feeling that dragon was still lurking nearby? If I kissed Zav, would she swoop in to object? We were still holding hands—Zav seemed reluctant to let me go, even when we maneuvered around bushes, trees, ancient stumps, and over logs. A few times, he incinerated stumps so our route would be easier.

“I would appreciate it if you’d be willing to try healing him.” I squeezed his hand. “But we might as well look for the plant since we’re already here.”

If Zav could flick a finger and heal the gnome, that would be fantastic, but I didn’t want to come back out here again if it turned out he couldn’t.

My phone buzzed. Willard.

The reception was weak, but I answered and hoped for the best.

“Dr. Walker got one of his people to come into the lab and run the test this morning,” Willard said, the words broken up but not so much that I couldn’t piece them together. “He also found evidence of some weird bacteria cavorting through his bloodstream.”

“Thanks for verifying that.”

“Walker was irked when he found out we already knew. I think he pulled in favors to get someone in there on a Sunday, because he wanted to show off that he could get results faster than your vampire.”

“Is it my bad connection, or do you sound tickled that he was irked?”

“I’m not that immature, Thorvald.”

“I’ve seen your cartoon mug collection; I don’t believe you.”

“This is why I don’t invite subordinates to my apartment.”

“Except to help you move in. Please let Walker know that he was useful. I doubt Zoltan would have been able to set up an IV or a catheter.” Not if it involved leaving his dark basement anyway.

“No? Vampires should know how to puncture people.”

“With teeth, not needles.”

“Are you out at that sanctuary now?” Willard asked. “Your reception is horrible.”

“Walking to it now, yes. I left Sindari back at the house in case the orcs show up again.”

“Let’s hope they don’t. I received reports of suspicious activity in a neighborhood in Green Lake.”

I grimaced. “They popped out of their portal somewhere else?”

“No. The suspicious activity is centered around your house. Your neighbors noticed the glowing portal on your roof yesterday and reported noises from a fight.”

“I’ll try not to invite any more bad guys to the house for a brawl.”

“Good. It would be awkward to send you to investigate yourself. Keep me posted on the gnome.”

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