Noah’s Boy – Snippet 26
* * *
Rafiel had been asleep.Â At least, he was almost sure he’d been asleep.Â He didn’t quite know how to describe the state he’d been in.
His mother would have been deeply gratified had she known that Bea had, in fact, made such an impression on him, that he was considering a relationship.
He couldn’t have explained why to himself, much less to his mom.Â Or to Bea.Â Which was why he intended on saying exactly nothing until he found a coherent way to explain how he felt.
But the truth was, deep inside, and in a way that made no sense to him and probably would make no sense to anyone else either, he was already sure that Bea was the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.Â Which was loony, right?Â After all, she was a dragon.Â If he was going to settle with another shifter, shouldn’t it be a nice lion-girl?
The idea had made him smile sleepily as he lay there, between sleep and wakefulness, between reality and dream.
So, Bea was still in college.Â Art.Â Well, the advantage of art was that she could practice her profession anywhere, right?Â He hadn’t asked what year she was in, but she’d said she was twenty one, so it should be either her junior or her senior year.
It would be hard of course, Georgia was a whiles away, and Bea hadn’t flown here, and he wasn’t sure how long it would take her to fly as a dragon â€“ but probably too long.Â It took Tom an hour just to get to Denver, though to be honest the only time he flew to Denver was when it was such bad weather that he couldn’t drive, and his father had some sort of emergency.
Anyway, so flying was a third of driving, and that was still too long.Â Over a weekend, she’d be able to do little more than fly here and fly back.
But after all, there were airplanes, and though he was suspicious of airplanes, as he was suspicious of all forms of transportation or lodging requiring him to be compressed in next to someone else, he could manage that.Â He could fly up and visit every other weekend.Â Expensive, but doable.
Doable for a year.Â And then they could get married, and she could move here.
In his mind’s eye he could already see them married, with a few kids, bringing the kids up to the cabin on weekends, with grandma and granddad.Â They would buy a place of their own.Â Even his parents had to understand that.Â They would settle down in a routine and take the kids for the Tuesday-children-eat-free special at the George, and having Tom go all goofy as he usually did around kids, and make his special dragon-shaped fries and rocket-ship jelly doughnuts for the little ones.
In the middle of this pleasant revelry, imagining a slightly more plump Bea sitting across from him at the diner table, smiling at their kids’ antics, he heard a big crash.
It wasn’t quite enough to wake him, but it was enough to startle him.Â He was aware it came from above, and that â€¦ But he didn’t hear Bea cry out or any other sound of distress, and he assumed she’d just tripped and knocked something over.Â For him to go running to see what it was would only make her feel uncomfortable and out of place, which was not something he wanted to do.
So, instead, he stayed very still.Â But just as he was starting to drift into dream again, he heard the sound of dragon wings.
It was unmistakable to anyone who had heard it even once.Â That flap, flap, flap, might sound somewhat like sheets waved in the wind, but only if the sheets were massive and more substantial than any sheet ever was, and if the wind whipping them around were gale-force.
No.Â It was a dragon.
Rafiel sat up in bed listening, as the sound of wings circled the cabin.Â His heart was beating very fast, near his throat.
Was it Bea?Â It might be, even though they’d thought she wouldn’t be able to shift for a day.Â But why would she be shifting like this, without telling him?Â Was she really, secretly, an agent of the Great Sky Dragon or some other shifter organization?Â Had she shifted in order to take word to someone else?Â Â Or was something else at work?Â Was she uncomfortable?Â Had he made her uncomfortable?Â Had he come on too strongly?Â He’d tried to be good about it, but what if he’d hinted at his certainty that they’d end up together?Â That was enough to spook many a young woman, dragon or not.
And what if it wasn’t Bea at all, but one of the dragons of the Great Sky Dragon?Â He had to know.
Half awake, he rushed into a robe, then across the hallway and the kitchen to the back door of the cabin.Â It opened onto a covered porch, set with rocking chairs, where his parents sat on Saturday afternoons and read, while watching the wild life around.
Rafiel ran down the back steps, barefoot, thinking, belatedly, that he was going to get the mother of all wood splinters, and trying to ignore it.
He ran a little while down the back path, trying to look up, but there was no dragon in sight.
“Umph,” he said, standing on the beaten-dirt path as a raccoon came running out of the forest, took one look at Rafiel and disappeared running into another part of the forest.
“Right,” he said.Â He’d imagined the wing sound, and probably the big crash too, for all he knew.Â He would go back upstairs andâ€¦
At that moment it hit him.Â It was a smell, but it was a smell such as he’d never smelled as a human before.Â It wasâ€¦ louder than words, a symphony of feelings, of offers, of seduction.
It was, he realized, the smell of a female feline in heat.Â And as the thought crossed his mind, he had already changed, and was running, headlong, into the forest, lion-paws striking the soil so hard they brought up dirt clods. His nose followed the divine scent.
* * *
Kyrie finished counting out the drawer, and tallying everything.Â It wasn’t as difficult as it had once been, because while buying the expensive fryer, they’d chosen to go into deeper debt for a computerized cash register.Â So she had an accurate account of all the credit card purchases as well as a clear figure for what she should have in cash.Â Which she had and a little more.Â For a moment, she was confused, then remembered that Jason had told her Speaker had insisted on not taking tips.Â She sighed.Â It just made things difficult, but she imagined his intentions had been good, and it would be churlish to be upset.
The take was still staggering, particularly the profit part of it.Â Partly because most of what people had ordered was relatively low-overhead stuff like coffee and iced tea. And they’d ordered a lot of it.
She looked up to see Rya hanging around disconsolately.Â “I think they went on erâ€¦ flying business,” she told Kyrie.
Kyrie nodded.Â “I thought so,” she said, as she wrote down figures, to verify later.
Rya blinked owlishly at her.Â “How do you put up with it?Â Theâ€¦” she lowered her voice, though the diner was almost empty no.Â “The dragon thing? It seems more complicated than all the shape shifting is.”
You have no idea how complicated it can get, Kyrie thought, but didn’t say it.Â Instead, she said, “Oh, it’sâ€¦ wellâ€¦Â You cope with it.Â Everyone has weird stuff, right?”
Rya nodded, but looked doubtful.Â “It’s all the ancestral loyalty and stuffâ€¦ though I think you don’t get that from Tom.”
“You’d be amazed,” Kyrie said, then took a deep breath.Â She felt just as out of step as Rya looked.Â She’d guessed Tom and Conan had gone, as Rya put it on “flying business” but what the business might be, she had no idea.Â She did have a good idea that something had happened to Tom, something relating to the Great Sky Dragon, something she hesitated to think about too much, because every time the Great Sky Dragon came into their lives it was bad news.Â Oh, sure, the last time, he had prevented Tom from being killed — probably several times over — butâ€¦Â But — That was barely enough to forgive him what he had done to Tom before.Â And besides, it seemed whenever the Great Sky Dragon became involved things were about to get complicated.
Either it was some problem with the dragon triad orâ€¦ or one of the other older shifter organizations.Â It seemed to Kyrie, though, admittedly, her actual experience of this was limited, that all the older shifters went crazy in a peculiar way, becoming paranoid and trying to enforce shifter-law, whatever that was, with a little group of other shifters, who were the only ones in the world they would trust.Â There were the Triad and the Ancient ones, and Old Joe, the alligator shifter who often hung out around the dumpster of the diner, had hinted there were others.