Noah’s Boy – Snippet 12
For a moment Tom thought she was going to bluff him. He could see the thought passing behind her jade-green eyes. Unusual eyes in an Asian face, but Asian was only her predominant look. Beneath it, she looked as exotic and unplaceable as Kyrie.
Then she sighed. “My name is Beatrice Bao Ryu. Bea to my friends. I am…” Deep breath. “I was an art student at the University of Georgia, but –”
“You shift into a dragon.”
“Oh, yeah, since I was about fourteen. But it seems, because my parents aren’t shifters– Because they don’t– It took them a while to find out what I was and that I was…”
“My parents and… and whoever it is, who works… the Great Sky Dragon’s people. My parents only found out I shifted over Christmas. And I think… There started to be trouble at dad’s business. Dad is a vet. Veterinary. Clients would get anonymous calls saying that he was mistreating the animals when he boarded them and that he… well… bad stuff. And the animal hospital got broken into twice, and everything… what wasn’t stolen was smashed. I didn’t know why, though I knew dad was worried, and well… that we were having money trouble.”
She looked up and must have met with Tom’s blank look. “I know, it sounds unrelated, but it isn’t. I heard my parents talk, and I found out that — you see… my dad was being blackmailed. He had to send me… send me here. Send me to the Great Sky dragon, or they were going to bankrupt dad. I didn’t like the sound of that.” She made an airy gesture. “So I came out to see who this Great Sky Dragon, Ancient One person was, and to tell him what I thought of what his triads were doing to daddy.”
“Oh, I’d have paid to see that,” Tom said, and grinned. “I think I was the only one to ever defy him before.”
She shrugged nonchalantly. “I went to see him where his letters to my dad said to meet.” She waved her hand again. “At the Three Luck Dragon.”
“Yeah, he likes that place,” Tom said. He had his own memories of the restaurant, his own reasons to stay away from it. For one, he’d got eviscerated in its parking lot. Fortunately dragons weren’t that easily killed. In fact, short of cutting the body into two or more pieces or separating head from body, they would come back from about anything.
Still Tom remembered dying, and knowing the Great Sky Dragon had considered that a gentle spanking, made him very careful about the creature. He took a sip of his coffee. “So, what did he want with you? And did you say no? Is that why two dragons tried to roast you?”
She covered her face. When she looked up her cheeks were glowing red. “No. Yes. I mean… I said no. But then… but then I don’t remember anything. I woke up in that room, and… and I couldn’t shift.” Her last words came out in a near-whine.”
As Kyrie approached, Tom extended a hand to touch her. He needed the reassurance of her proximity, the comfort of knowing that whatever madness was about to engulf them — from feral shifters to whatever it was the Great Sky Dragon’s people were cooking now — they would face it together.
“I think they knocked me out,” the girl said. “I have a lump over my ear. I think they knocked me out and…”
Kyrie looked at Tom and he looked back at her. Married-feeling extended beyond sharing the same bed and kissing without worrying about morning breath. Kyrie’s glance said as clearly as it was possible, You have to tell her the truth. She has to know what she’s up against.
Tom didn’t know how much of Bea’s story Kyrie had heard, but he knew she was right. He took a deep breath. “No. I think he killed you.”
The girl blinked, looked startled. “I — I beg your — pardon?”
Tom took another deep breath, feeling like he was diving into freezing waters. Kyrie kissed him and patted his shoulder as though to give him courage, before going off. “Sorry. I don’t know how else to say it. The Great Sky Dragon doesn’t think it’s a very bad punishment… He…” He paused and took another deep breath.
“I’m not dead,” Beatrice said, her voice just a little too loud.
“No. Of course not. The only way to kill a dragon is to separate the head from the body or cut the body in two. And even that, I’m not sure about, if the two halves are brought together immediately. I’m also fairly sure you can’t come back from burning to cinders, but I might be wrong. You’re not dead, but my guess is that the Great Sky Dragon gave you a killing blow and did it on purpose, so you were temporarily dead. The tell tale is that you can’t shift. You usually can’t shift for about a day after you recover… come back to life. Whatever. And he probably had someone else check in your place, because the owner of the B & B sounded all confused about your checking in, and you don’t remember it. You must have been dead some days… Usual is three days, of course.”
“Dead? I… what day is it?”
“It was Sunday.” She put her head in her hands.
“Yeah,” Tom said, as gently as he knew how. “That would… well… Usually it takes a few days to come back, and I’m going to guess he knew exactly where to put you and… I have bad news — I heard two dragons were seen setting fire to the tower.”
“He– He wanted me to burn?” She looked almost wooden, her face unnaturally immobile, but she’d gone very pale. And before Tom could answer, she added, “I’m sorry. Where is the –”
He pointed her to the restroom and she went. She came back minutes later, looking composed, but faintly green.