Dragos Goes to Washington (Elder Races #8.5)

Dragos Goes to Washington (Elder Races #8.5)
Thea Harrison

Chapter One

Dragos’s denim-clad, hard thigh slid against Pia’s as he sprawled back in his seat.

She wasn’t wearing jeans. She wore shorts, and the small abrasive friction on her skin sent a frisson of sexual awareness thrumming through her body.

It was always that way between them. Heat shimmered whenever they were near each other, invisible yet intense. He burned up her world, until there was nothing else, nobody else but him.

The dragon would have been pleased to know it. Probably too pleased. He was demanding and possessive at the best of times, so she had no intention of telling him. He was in danger of becoming too complacent as it was.

The thought made her smile to herself. They must look very prosaic as they sat in the bleachers, just like the other parents, watching Liam practice on the football field with his teammates.

The kids were so adorable. Still in elementary school, their helmets were too big, their slim bodies undeveloped. Most were boys, but there were four intense girls on the field as well.

Other people were present and watching, several parents along with some of the other schoolchildren. Pia’s heart constricted as her gaze lingered on one mother with two preschool children.

The mother handed a portable container of yogurt to the oldest, a delicate girl around three years old, who twirled to make the gauzy skirt of her sundress flare as she sucked on the mouthpiece of the container. She wore sparkly pink heart-shaped glasses. The smallest was a cheerful, fat baby in a stroller, wearing a floppy sunhat. Around six or seven months old, the baby gnawed busily on a teething biscuit.

The other parents were present to support the earnest players on the field, as they waited for football practice to end so they could take their children home.

She and Dragos were watching the practice to make sure they hadn’t made a mistake in letting Liam join the team.

Since the school year had started, he’d had another growth spurt. It wasn’t unusual for predator Wyr to grow at a faster rate than herbivores, but Liam’s growth rate went far beyond that of a normal predator Wyr child. To minimize the strangeness of the situation for both Liam and his classmates, they had changed schools when they moved him up from first grade to fifth. The new elementary school was farther from home, but Pia didn’t mind the extra driving time.

Sometimes she sent Eva ahead with the SUV, let Liam shapeshift into his dragon form, and rode on his shoulders as he flew the route to school. It was exactly as they had once said to each other—as soon as Liam had grown too big to ride her Wyr form, she could ride his.

The morning flights were their little secret. She was certain Dragos wouldn’t approve, but Liam was so nervous at having a passenger who couldn’t fly on her own that he flew slowly and with extreme care. Also, between the two of them, they had serious cloaking skills, so she always felt quite safe.

Once they reached a prearranged spot where they met Eva, behind a sheltered copse of trees out of sight from the road, Liam landed and shifted back into a boy. Pia would take the wheel and drive sedately the rest of the route, just like a normal mom taking her normal child to a normal school. They often giggled about that together.

Liam appeared to have adjusted well to the change in schools, and was so excited about the thought of joining the football team, that Pia hadn’t had the heart to say no, even though she knew, watching him, that he was much faster and more powerful than any other child on the field.

That didn’t dim his transparent joy at playing the game. She noted with approval how carefully he paced himself to match the other children’s abilities.

“I think he’s going to be fine, don’t you?” She turned to Dragos.

“He’s fine, as long as he doesn’t lose his temper. He could hurt one of those other kids all too easily.”

Dragos’s voice was logical and matter-of-fact. He sounded like he was discussing the relative strengths and weakness of one of his sentinels.

She frowned at him. He had stretched out his long frame so that he sprawled over three aisles, leaning his elbows on the row of bleachers behind them with his boots propped on the row below.

The afternoon was bright and hot for early autumn, but Dragos never wore sunglasses as protection from the sun. He only wore them when he wanted to put a barrier between him and other people. They sat some distance from everybody else, so he had folded his sunglasses and tucked them into the pocket of his shirt.

Dressed in a plain gray polo shirt and jeans, his silken black hair and dark bronze skin appeared more burnished than ever. His gold eyes gleamed thoughtfully under straight, lowered brows. The only part of him that did not tan was the pale, thin scar that slashed across one brow.

The dragon was a creature of fire, and Dragos never burned, no matter how long he stayed out in the sun, while Pia had to constantly wear sunscreen on her pale skin, along with a baseball cap and sunglasses.

Suppressing an envious sigh, she said, “I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t think it’s fair to judge him on what-ifs. He’s a good, careful boy. If he says he can handle it, I think we have to believe him. We can’t give him the experience of a happy childhood, brief though it may be, if we’re always limiting what he can have or do. He would only grow to resent us, and rightfully so.”

Dragos remained silent for a long moment. As usual, it was impossible to tell what he was thinking by the impassive expression on his hard features. After a time, he said, “He’s advancing faster than we thought he would.”

Thea Harrison's Books