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DRAGON LUST - SNEAK PEAK

Chapter 1

I am soaring, my golden wings stretched out to capture the currents as I ride the cool black velvety night air.  Stars twinkle across the sky, a full moon edging over the tops of tall pines laid out below me and reflecting off of the ocean water lapping the shore.  The moon is a dark red, caused by the pollution still being pumped into the atmosphere despite the Elves’ best efforts.  Humans will never learn. 

The feeling of freedom is incredible, and I twist my body into a spiral, looping several times, the tips of my wings just missing the treetops. I can feel life everywhere.  A family of fat gray squirrels stirs in their nest as I pass.  Off to my left a herd of deer freezes, alert to my presence, their hearts accelerating and fearful as I, a hunter, pass over their heads.  But tonight I only need to fly, to throw myself across the sky and taste the scents on the damp night air. 

And then I am not alone.  Looking up, I see a dark shadow plummeting down from above.  Fear clenches at my heart and I veer sharply left. The shadow is closer now, dropping from the sky like a stone heading straight to me. Black wings, black body, cloaked in night, its size eclipsing me.  An anguished cry escapes my throat as I plummet to the ground.

Silver arms reach out to catch me, cradling me against a muscular chest.  Multi-faceted eyes gaze down at me from a sculpted face.  I am no longer in Dragon form, my golden body and wings having shifted.  Above us the black beast bugles an angry scream which splits the night and chases gooseflesh across my naked skin.  I feel its anger pressing down on me, pressing in on me, invading my mind.  I close my eyes and bury my face against my protector’s chest, breathing deeply of his sharp musky scent, letting him fill my nostrils and sooth my burning throat and lungs. 

I open my eyes and I am in a cavern.  I can feel the weight of the Earth pressing down on me from above, comforting.  The clean smell of rich dirt fills my senses.  I am surrounded by Dragon, cradled gently against the soft belly of a huge silver beast.  I can feel its warmth pressing into my back.  Turning my head, I gaze into his huge silver eye and thoughts of love and caring overwhelm me.  A golden tear slides down my cheek and is flicked away by the beast’s tongue.  In my mind I hear him speak my name, telling me I must go. Turning, I wrap my arms about his body, clinging to his strength.  No! Please don’t send me away, my mind screams.  Yet I am torn away like a leaf in the wind.  Golden crystal tears cover my pillow as I wake sobbing in my bed.



“Did I disturb you?” I asked once I could speak, my red rimmed eyes blinking in the first rays of morning light seeping in under the blinds of my first story apartment window.

Sherry eyes, ringed in long silky grey lashes blink back at me from amidst the fluffy down comforter on the other side of my queen sized bed.  A soft rumbling purr the only sound in the stillness. “I moved when you began flapping your arms and I can do without another puffy eye, thank you.”

“I’m sorry; perhaps you should sleep in the other bedroom.  That way, at least one of us would get some rest.”

A delicate snort was all the reply I received, but then Merecats seldom listen to reason.  Or was it just Mi that is difficult?  I honestly couldn’t say, having never met another Merecat.  Rising out of her warm nest of covers, Mi stretched her sleek mottled grey and tan body, sat down, wrapped her tail about her front paws, and stared back at me while I finger combed my long golden red hair. 

Golden red… again!  Damn these dreams kept stealing my shimmer!  A low growl rumbled up from my chest.  Holding my arms out in front of me, I stared unhappily at the sun kissed golden toned skin.  And I bet that if I checked in the mirror my ears would be pointed too! 

The process of shimmering isn’t easy; it requires major concentration for me.  Keeping shimmer requires little or no effort, unless I’m distressed or excited.  But acquiring or dropping shimmer is darned difficult.  Yet walking around all golden hued hadn’t been allowed since I was two, when my Mother finally taught me how to shimmer for safety’s sake. 

Taking a deep breath, I closed my eyes and reached down into myself.  Relaxing was a requirement, and I’d trained myself to reach deep mediation quickly through martial arts and recently, yoga.  Pushing up into a sitting position, I dropped my mental shields and felt the world around me expand.  Another deep breath and I pushed the picture of what I wished to see in the mirror out from my mind, down the center of my body, then outward toward my skin.  Muscle shifted like water flowing around a pebble in the stream, and I felt my breasts become smaller, my hair shorten to shoulder length.  Sweat dotted my forehead and my muscles quivered slightly.  Letting out the breath, I flopped back on my pillows and lay there while small tremors racked my body. 

I knew when next I looked in the mirror all that would look back at me was shades of boring brown, muddy brown hair and light brown eyes.  A slender body with high small breasts, about five foot five, with normal ears.  A nobody to draw anybody’s attention.  A plain Jane. 

It was a disguise, and everything except my height hid the real me.  Oh, I’d tried different heights, but found I had troubles with bending over and banging my head on desks and counters, or hitting the floor too fast when I reached for things.  It just wasn’t worth the extra effort it took to remember to adjust.  So I didn’t bother.  Besides, no one except Mi and my Mother had seen the real me in years. 

“Well that’s that then,” Mi interjected firmly. 

In a smooth motion the feline jumped across me and onto the floor, padding toward my small kitchen.  A sigh of relief escaped me when she cleared my body and landed safely at the edge of the bed on her way to the floor.  Having 35 lbs of cat using you for a spring board was never much fun. 

“Hey, can you start the coffee, please?” I asked softly.  Raising your voice to a Merecat was both unnecessary and unwise.  Mi might be trapped in cat form as she had been for nearly a thousand years and therefore smaller than I, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t and wouldn’t knock me around if I mouthed off.  I’ve never been certain if that wasn’t why my Mother left her with me.  Though she claimed it was so I wouldn’t be lonely.  However, I secretly suspected it was because the two of them had already spent over two hundred years together and my Mother was simply tired of being bullied. 

Soon the rich smell of French Roast coffee wafted through the doorway, teasing my nose and making my mouth water. 

In the past six months my system had literally gone haywire, and I’d developed two overwhelming vices… sweet light French Roasted coffee, and fantasizing about men!  Most days I wasn’t sure which addiction was worse, but so far coffee was the only one being satisfied.  I was hoping to fix that very soon.

According to Mi, that’s why I kept having these dreams.  Something about unexpressed passion, coming of age, growing into powers.  Blah blah blah.

I was much too exhausted to think about it at the moment, maybe after I’d had my first cup of coffee.  To do that, I’d have to get out of bed.  And while Mi could make the coffee appear from thin air, I preferred the old fashioned method, which is why I prepped the coffee pot every night before bed.  That and I just loved the smell of fresh grounds.  Beside, Mi’s telekinetic skills freaked me out a little.  Does anyone like seeing their coffee floating at them through mid air? 

Pushing back the covers I swung my legs over the bed’s edge and rested my forearms on my thighs.  Shimmering took a lot out of me, but lately my recovery was improving by leaps and bounds.  Six months ago I would have been flat on my back for another hour.  Happy freaking twenty fifth birthday to me!  Sighing heavily, I reached for the mint green lacy robe I’d left at the end of the bed, and staggered toward the kitchen, making a quick detour to the bathroom on the way.

Mi was at the window seat staring out through the early morning fog at the limited traffic passing on Pacheco Avenue, mostly quiet at this time of day.  The inhabitants in my neighborhood primarily worked nights and slept days.  I just happened to be one of the few exceptions, the past six months having turned my regular schedule upside down. 

My apartment was situated between Golden Gate Park and the Zoo, right near the Sunset Reservoir in the Sunset District of San Francisco.  It was an area that had been developed from 1920 to 1950 and for twenty years or so had enjoyed an all American, all human population.  That is, until the summer of 1972 when a young scientist purchased and illegally imported rare South American birds for the Zoo just up the street. 

The birds had been Hoatzin.  Somewhat similar to pheasant or turkey; these prehistoric looking birds came with neon blue eyes and a Mohawk, and were quite the spectacular find, since they had never been outside the Amazon Jungle and no one had ever seen anything like them before. 

The young scientist hoped the 15 birds he’d shipped into the Port of San Francisco would make him famous.  Unfortunately, for both the scientist and the two billion humans that didn’t survive the deadly virus the birds carried, it did. 

Of course, I wasn’t alive then.  In fact I wasn’t born until several decades later.  The world I’d been born into didn’t resemble the pre-1973 world much, primarily because as the viral plague spread unfettered across the United States that summer, non-humans figuratively stepped out of the shadows and into the light for the first time.

And in an effort to save not just the human race, but also many non-humans primary food sources, Elves and Shifters worked together with Vampires and Weres to assist Humanity fight the spread of death.  As it crossed the country, it was carried by the insects who feasted on dogs and cats, cattle and birds.   And by infecting these new carriers, they in turn helped infect other insects and spreading the disease ever eastward.  

By fall more than two thirds of the domestic human population was dead and the country nearly ground to a halt.  It would take the cold, putting the insects into hibernation and every scientist left working through that winter, to come up with a vaccine.  The sheer number of dead hindered efforts to inoculate survivors, so pixies and demons were enlisted to distribute the drugs cross country, since both races still had access through the Everlasting and could travel great distances faster than any other human or non-human. 

Secondary plagues spread across the landscape as entire towns died off and in many places the deceased were left where they fell.  As payment for their assistance, demons were allowed to release the Nameless from the depths of the Everlasting and these minions swept the country, gathering up any dead not already burned or buried. 

Millions and millions of bodies disappeared in a blink of the eye and entire sections of the US became virtual ghost towns overnight.  Necromancers, who had had little to offer, stepped forward and assistance to those that could or would cross over was offered.  Some spirits refused to depart, however.

During the worst of it, very little help came from other countries.  Officially, America was an infectious wasteland that no one wanted any part of.  Unofficially, non-humans began streaming in from England, parts of Europe and Australia, most willing to assist in any way just for the chance to live openly.

Canada and Mexico slammed shut our common borders and huge barbed wire fences stretched across all points of entry. 

While America lost two thirds of its population, we managed somehow to survive.  And some fifty years later the humans were still trying to adjust.  For some it was a matter of just going back to work.  For others after the shock wore off, it was like awakening to a world both scarier and less real.  Yet still the day to day life went on.  Farmers and ranchers returned to their fields and herds.  Businessmen went back to the business of business.

Food and fuel was plentiful, as our stockpiled supply far exceeded the demands.  However given our now relatively limited work force, and our need to travel greater distances between towns as people gravitated toward the major cities, our dependence on outside countries for fossil fuels became a pending concern.  Once again the Elves were the first to step forward to work with the humans as they began developing other sources of energy. 

Elves had fled to Earth from the Everlasting two thousand years earlier, and had been forced to withdraw as humanity spread like wildfire across this world wreaking destruction.  In the past century most had retired to their mounds to escape the increasing pollution of the land above.  Consequently, their numbers began dwindling, and births were nearly non-existent. 

When those Elves left living above brought news of the death decimating the human population, there was a huge rift between those that wanted to let the humans die out and those that would save them. 

Shaylee Helyanwe is my Mother, an Elf born on American soil over two hundred years earlier.  As with the majority of Elves brought into this world, she has special abilities.  Abilities that many elders believe are a weakening or a bastardizing of the true Elfin blood.  Shaylee is a healer that can shift, and one of the few that had argued to save the humans.  In fact, she disobeyed her Queen to do so.  And in the end she and nearly a hundred others had been banished to the land above, their fates destined to be directly entwined with the humans they sought to save. 

It was while these refugee Elves were busy sharing new technologies with the Humans that the third plague hit us.  Unfortunately the last plague was man himself and not so easily inoculated against. 

Two years after the first plague swept the US, just when we were starting to get back on our feet; criminals began invading our country in droves.  Overnight, holes began appearing in fences stretching across both the Canadian and Mexican borders.  Into these breaches slipped the worst elements the world had to offer, mostly, but not entirely, all human. 

At first the influx was just a trickle, and then a steady stream, and finally they came in such numbers that entire cities along the borders were overrun.  Gangs began spreading inward toward other cities, preying on survivors and stripping towns like locusts during a drought.

Fearing the country itself would be lost, Congress and the Senate convened special sessions and in complete agreement with the President, ratified new laws designed to ensure our continued safety and freedom.  

Non-humans were officially recognized and granted all rights and privileges.  Special law enforcement units were created to police and maintain the rights of all US Citizens.  Along the borders, elite units run by the military, and comprised of the most vicious non-human races, were deployed.  No prisoners were taken, nor were any spared.  Within weeks the flood of illegal immigrants was stopped and our borders were once again a no-fly, nomad zone. 

Within a year, many of the towns that had been overrun were starting to become empty, as the criminals that held them were systematically hunted down and permanently dealt with. 

Yet some of the smartest and most vicious criminals survived to spread inland, managing to lose themselves in the larger towns as they slowly spread their webs of crime into the heartland of our nation.  Deals were made with the less trustworthy non-humans, and some became very powerful indeed. 

Many were still around and working hard to stay that way.

For the past forty years or so, the biggest game in town was the successful pursuit of gene-splicing.  After all, a little Elf or Vampire gene therapy could extend a human’s life indefinitely.  Perhaps some Were to add strength, or how about mixing just the best of everyone and making yourself invincible?   Several species of non-humans had faded back out of public existence, concerned their powers would be too tempting to the humans.  And there were others that secretly worked against the humans efforts, attempting to slow the spread of knowledge they felt was too powerful to be trusted in the hands of mankind.  

Nearly everyone still human wanted a piece of the action. 

And many non-humans had their own reasons for wanting to unlock the codes.  The Elves, for instance, had lost their ability to conceive.  For them, gene splicing might mean the survival of their species.  And for those that had succeeded, guarding their secrets became the ultimate game of life and death.

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