My brows rose. “I’ll agree that the druids can be elitist bastards, but they would help you if they knew of your plight, that I can promise.”

Nix snorted. “These monsters have been working with some druids. We’ve heard them talk about it.”

That was a bit of a shock. I filed that away with things I needed to tell Dom the next time I saw him. Hopefully that would be very soon, like when he was busting the door down to free me. “That’s strange and disturbing information, but it won’t stop our rescue. The Arch himself is tracking me, so I guarantee our rescuer outranks whatever druids you’re talking about.”

Nix gasped suddenly, her hand flying to her mouth. She pointed at me. “You’re her. I’ve heard of you. Leona, remember the stories about the mysterious supernatural woman that the Arch is obsessed with. Everyone knows the story, how she bewitched him with some dark magic, and then betrayed him with the last Arch. She actually caused the one to kill the other.”

Leona’s lovely brow furrowed. “No, it can’t be her,” she said softly.

I sighed. I really was famous, far and wide. Infamous, rather.

“Yes it is her. You can tell, even with her all beaten up and dirty, that she’s exquisitely beautiful. Her long golden hair, and her pale blue eyes. She’s tall, with comic-book curves. I’ve heard her described tons of times. The druids hate her, every single one of them.”

Leona was still doubtful, but studied me intently. “No,” she said softly, less certain now.

“Tell us the truth. Are you Jillian?” Nix was nearly glowing in her agitation.

I grimaced and nodded. “Yes, I’m Jillian.”

Leona looked crushed and defeated at my admission. It made me feel bad just looking at her. “No,” she whispered. “But you’re…evil. The druids won’t be rescuing you. They hate you.”

“She gets off on tormenting people. I’ve heard that about her,” Nix spat. “She gave us hope, just so she could crush it.”

“Don’t believe everything you hear. I’m no angel, but I’m not evil, either. Dom put this tracker on me himself, and I swear to you that he will come here to free us.” I reached the device across the distance between our cages. It covered two-thirds of the distance, but Leona would have to reach to grab it. “Take one of these. That way, even if they separate us, the druids will still find you.” She hesitated, and my patience snapped even as the roaring in my ears grew with the huge presence trying to overtake my body. “Take it! What do you have to lose?”

My tone frightened her into obeying, but she backed away from my cage the instant she got ahold of the pearl.

“You’ll be okay,” I reassured the young girls, as well as myself. “No matter what happens, they’ll find you now.” I was folding into the corner even as I spoke, my body turning on me, as it tended to do lately.

The change started like a raging torrent in my blood. It was faster and more violent by far than any I had experienced before.

The girls looked on with horror as I lost all control of my body. I think my eyes went first, because my vision changed to dragon between one blink and the next. It’s impossible to say what changed next, it all happened so fast.

I tried to reassure the girls in the other cages. I just wanted them to know that no matter what I turned into, they didn’t need to fear me, but there was no time.

Blue flames engulfed my body, which was normal. My wings expanded in one huge flap, quick as flight. That was not so normal.

The steel bars on the cage that had seemed so sturdy just moments ago snapped like twigs.

I was suddenly too big for the oversized theatre. There was no exit that would come anywhere near fitting my full dragon form. I would have to make one.


The Return

 I landed softly on top of the vaguely familiar building. My shift to human form was more difficult than any I could remember. But also faster. I had been submerged in my other form for over six months. I had never stayed changed for such a long period of time. But I’d had a lot to do as my dragon self.

I just lay on the textured concrete pavement of the roof for what could have been hours while I acclimated to my new form. I lay wrapped around my precious burden. It was carefully bundled inside a thick leather hide that I had been clutching securely the entire flight here.

Finally, I stood on wobbly legs. My skin still glowed gold, and I could see from the strands of my hair that lay against my chest that the dragon-trance still claimed that as well. I knew from experience that these effects would last for days or even weeks.

My landing perch was the posh balcony that I knew connected to the presidential suite of the casino that was my destination.

I didn’t make a sound as I slipped in the door. The first four rooms I moved through were empty, but I followed the sounds of voices and easily found my target.

I found him holding court in a palatial dinning room. The room was dark and beautifully decorated, all dark wood and marble. Dom sat at the head of a massive table, his back to me. I’d obviously arrived at a bad time, during some kind of business dinner, but I couldn’t leave until I’d completed my mission. Dozens of druids faced me, staring with mixtures of shock and contempt. Siobhan sat to Dom’s left, obviously his hostess. Hers was the only glare I returned. She clutched a steak knife in her hand like she intended to use it on me. I half-wished she would try. The draak still held enough sway over me that I knew I would show no mercy. Consequences be damned.

Dom had frozen at my entrance, but hadn’t turned. He addressed his dinner party. “I assume by your silence that whoever just entered is posing no threat to me.” His tone was sardonic. I heard him take a deep breath. “Jillian,” he said, his voice dangerously soft. I wasn’t myself enough yet to have any idea what that tone of voice meant.

“Dom.” My voice was hoarse from disuse. I worried that the faint sound hadn’t reached his ears, but suddenly, he turned. He stood at the sight of me, and it was only as he stared at me with shock and fury that I remembered clothes. Or rather, my lack of clothes. I was nude, of course. Dragons have no thought for clothing.

“Everyone out!” he roared, his voice going from human to beast in an instant. They obeyed. All except for Siobhan. She sat where she was, as though she were immune to his order. He turned to her slowly, growling in his throat. “Did you hear me?” Menace inundated every word.

She swallowed hard. “There’s nothing you can’t say to her in front of me, Dom.” Brave woman.

Tags: R.K. Lilley Heretic Daughters Vampires