tendons stretched, then the change was executed in a smooth blending of form. The energy pushed and she shifted into her dragon shape with a fiery roar. Flames burst from her mouth and raged across the chamber at the people who stared in shocked amazement at her.
The two men who had held her backed away in cautious retreat from her serpentine body. She swung her head and the soft hairs of her mane caressed her jaw. It was glorious to return to her dragon shape. The power stoked through her, fulfilled her with an energy that purified her in a way that only happened when she shifted.
Now, she was in control. She had the power.
She swung her tail and smashed the pointed end against a row of seats, the hard marble crumbled into pebbles under her strength. The sound echoed through the room and she followed it with a roar that shook the very foundation of the structure.
Slowly she meandered across the back of the room, assessing her opponents, preparing for their attack. For attack they would.
She scraped the claws of her three toes over the marble and relished in the high-pitched squeal that vibrated over the space and made the others cringe and pull back against the sound.
Louk. She snapped her head to the right and crouched. He stood now, his face filled with awe. She paused and tilted her head in contemplation. She had expected revulsion, but she didn’t see any.
He approached her, slowly, cautiously. She retreated back until her legs hit against the bottom row of seats. Still he moved toward her, hands down and exposed. Weaponless.
“Airiana,” he said softly. “You are beautiful.”
She hissed a breath of fire in denial. He had to be lying, a trap.
“Stop her,” his father yelled as he lifted his hands.
“No,” Louk roared back. He turned to his father and lifted his own hands in preparation for battle. “You will not harm her. She is mine, a part of me. And I will defend her even if it means hurting you.”
Could he mean it? She blinked and swished her tail—smoke escaped from her nostrils and twirled effortlessly upward as the room halted.
“She is evil, filled with negative energy,” his father insisted. “And still you pick her over your own family?”
“She is no more evil than you are. Than I am.” Louk looked back at her and what she saw in his eyes melted the ice around her heart. “And yes, if I am forced to choose, then I’m afraid, you lose, Father.”
It didn’t matter that she was born a Shifter, that she was raised to believe what they preached. She didn’t feel it. Never had. It was the doubt that plagued her for most of her life and caused her to hide her true feelings. Her true form.
It was that very doubt that had sent her out seeking answers that morning.
And Louk recognized that. He saw her .
She watched, frozen, as Louk backed toward her until he stood next to her head. She looked at him, her breaths heavy and labored, her heart thumped against her chest.
Louk held her gaze and cautiously reached up to gently lay his hand against the cool scales of her neck. His energy flowed hot and urgent into her and warmed her blood. She turned her head into his hand and softly rubbed her nose against his cheek.
The energy hadn’t lied.
“You,” he said softly.
Her , her mind reverberated. Her. He chose her. Over his father. Over his people. Over everything else.
He saw her . He chose her .
His energy soared through her, kissed her skin and engulfed her in its passion.
Slowly, in intricate detail, Airiana revealed her shame. She let Louk see, everyone there see, the one thing that no one had ever seen before.
The one thing that could mean death.
Louk watched—stunned, immobile, in awe—as two wings slowly unfurled from the smooth sides of Airiana’s long dragon body. Two wings that had been curled around her middle, concealed and hidden, camouflaged to blend with her pearly, powder blue scales.
Two wings that stretched
Debra L Martin, David W Small