Authors: Avril Sabine
Dragon Blood 5: Mage
Broken Gate Publishing
PO Box 6241
Maroochydore BC 4558
Genre: Young Adult Urban Fantasy
Copyright 2015 © Avril Petersen
Cover design by Caitlyn Petersen
All rights reserved
Just like the others, it’s for you three again.
Amber wants to take back control of her life. She’s fed up with assassins, death threats, unrealistic expectations, nightmares and secrets. The secrets most of all. Especially Ronan’s secrets and in particular his secret that she knows will scare the hell out of her and will probably never let her have another moment of peace. Maybe some secrets shouldn’t be told.
This novel was written by an Australian author using Australian spelling.
Like many names there is more than one way to pronounce the following ones. These are the pronunciations used in this story.
Name and Place Pronunciation
Chait (single syllable, rhymes with hate)
Gair (rhymes with hair)
Amber wrapped the tiny unicorn statue in tissue paper, smiling at the little girl who bounced on the spot, her hands clasped tightly together. She looked over towards the young boy who was looking between a statue of a dragon and one of a knight.
“Can’t I get both, Mum?”
The woman shook her head. “No. If you can’t make up your mind in the next ten seconds you’re going to miss out.”
“But they’re friends. How can I take one home without the other?” the boy asked.
His mother grinned. “Nice try. Now pick one. You’re running out of time.”
Amber was tempted to tell him that dragons and knights weren’t friends. All they wanted to do was kill each other. Instead she kept her smile in place and took the dragon statue the boy handed her, wrapping it in tissue paper before ringing up the purchases.
When the family left the shop, she sighed, her smile fading. It was probably the worst job she could’ve taken, but there hadn’t been many choices and out of all the ones she’d applied for it had been the only one that had accepted her. If it hadn’t been for all the dragon statues constantly reminding her of how much she missed Kade, working in the gift shop would have been a breeze.
Amber spun at a sound behind her. When she saw it was her boss, Monica, coming out of the staff area, she was relieved she’d finally learned not to raise her hands to attack. She smiled slightly and started to turn back to the front of the shop.
“Amber, do you have anything planned for late this afternoon?”
She shook her head. “No. Why?”
“A shipment I was expecting to arrive before five won’t be here until nearly six. If it was any other day it wouldn’t matter, but it’s my niece’s tenth birthday and I can’t be late to her party. She might forgive me, but my daughter never would. That pair are inseparable.”
Amber shrugged. “I guess so.” Once her and Crystal had been inseparable. Now she couldn’t even bring herself to ring Crystal. There were so many things they couldn’t talk about.
“Are you certain? It won’t be difficult. All you’ll need to do is sign for the shipment and show them where to put the boxes in the storage area. We can unpack them tomorrow.”
Six would be fine. It was still bright enough for her to walk home at that hour. And it wasn’t like she had anything else planned for her night. Once Friday night would have meant doing something. Not anymore. “It’s not a problem.” The overtime would be good. She hated having to use the money Rian had put into a bank account for her. It felt like cheating.
Monica grinned. “There’s no one you have to check with? A boyfriend maybe?”
She managed to keep her expression neutral. When would she stop feeling this wrenching pain every time she thought of him? It had been nine weeks and five days. Surely it shouldn’t be so bad by now. At least she’d stopped counting the amount of hours. “I’ll send my house mates a text to let them know I’ll be late.” Elliot wouldn’t care, but Cooper would panic if she didn’t turn up on time.
The shop door opened and three girls walked in, talking and laughing. Monica nodded towards them. “I’ll take care of this lot while you send that text. And thanks. I don’t know how I’d ever manage without you.”
Amber watched Monica weave her way through the display shelves, cheerfully greeting the girls. Escaping to the staff room, she dropped onto a chair at the small round table in the cramped kitchenette, taking her phone from her pocket. She stared at the blank screen, tempted to ring Kade, or even Crystal. But she couldn’t. Not without becoming the killer Ronan had been trying to force her to become. Before she gave in, she quickly sent both Elliot and Cooper a message telling them she had to work late. Only Cooper replied.
Do you want me to pick you up?
She sighed heavily, wondering when he’d stop mothering her.
. She’d have plenty of time to get home before it was dark. Three quarters of an hour. And she would have been home long before dark, but the delivery was even later than expected. It wasn’t until seven that she was locking up the shop and striding towards home, wondering if she should call Cooper and tell him to come and pick her up.
Turning down a side street, she decided it wasn’t that far. Ten minutes walk. What could happen in ten minutes on quiet backstreets? Nothing. There was no one around. She resisted the urge to mentally search the area. That wasn’t her. This was her new life. How could she expect to make a go of her new life if she automatically kept trying to use the skills of her old one?
She ignored the hollow feeling and the little voice that told her it wasn’t much of a life. So she was still sorting it out. Her job was okay. The house she shared with Elliot and Cooper wasn’t bad, only a short walk to the beach, and who could complain about living on the Sunshine Coast? Probably her grandmother, but she wasn’t going to think about her.
Thoughts of Kade crept in. Or think about him either. They were all part of her old life. The one that wasn’t hers. She turned into yet another street, freezing when she heard a woman scream. Halfway down the street she saw two men, a woman almost hidden by their figures. Adrenaline and instinct kicked in and she raced forward, the men spinning to face her.
A gun was aimed directly at her and she saw the woman backing away. “Run!” Before the man with the gun could turn and stop the woman, Amber covered the last of the distance between them, her fist connecting with his jaw, the gun going off. She twisted to the side, the bullet flying past her.
The other man attacked and she blocked, spinning around behind him, punching him low in the back, remembering how once there would have been a dagger in her hand by now. For a moment she thought she caught the scent of a dragon, then it was gone. She mentally searched the area. The woman was nearly at the end of the street. A few of the houses nearby had people and she hoped none of them called the police.
Her fists flew as she dodged, spun and resisted the urge to change her form. The last thing she needed was to be standing naked in the street when she became human again. Her heart raced, her senses were all alert and neither of the men could touch her. They weren’t fast enough. Then it was only one of them. And shortly he was lying on the bitumen, not far from his companion who was sprawled half on the grassed footpath and half in the gutter.
Amber stared at the two men. “What the hell was I thinking?” She’d left Kade to escape this. It was all around her. All she’d done was stop fighting for the weak. Stopped looking out for those she loved. This was the first time she’d felt alive in nine weeks and five days. The first moment in all that time when she’d felt like herself.
In the distance she heard sirens. How on earth was she going to explain this? She pulled out her phone and dialled Ronan’s number. Her call was sent, mid ring, to his message bank. Was that it? Had she left it too long to ring him? Relief rushed through her when he stepped out of the Void in front of her.
“Nice work.” He nodded towards the men lying at her feet.
“What am I going to tell the cops?”
“Nothing.” He grinned. “You won’t be here to tell them anything.” He raised his voice. “Chait. Daray. Get out here.”
The two Golds stepped out of the Void, both nodding towards Amber in greeting before they turned their attention on Ronan.
“Dump these men somewhere else and see the area is cleaned up.” Ronan held out his hand to Amber when the two Golds disappeared with the men.
“Daray came out of the Void when I was fighting.” She took his hand, letting him take her through the Void and to his rooftop water garden. It almost felt like coming home. How crazy was that?
“I dragged him back into the Void. He’s yours by the way. Your second warrior. He’s useless to me. No matter what task I sent him on he always had to check that you were okay. It was easier just to set him to watching over you rather than wasting the time of the other Gold I had watching you from the Void.”
“I don’t need a second warrior.” The protest was automatic.
Ronan laughed. “Still playing games, kitten?”
She stared at him, meeting his gold eyes. Everything else about him looked the same. His hair was darker than the white blond she knew it to be, he was taller than his real height which was only a little above her own height and he looked to be in his thirties rather than barely twenty. “Looks like I’m not the only one playing games. Only your eyes show what you truly look like.”
Ronan’s predatory smile formed. “They know what I look like. They’ve seen my true colours.”
“Really? Your true colours? Which true colours? The ones that somehow you’re Gold or the ones that you’re a bastard who’s only out for themself?”
Again Ronan laughed. “I’ve missed you, kitten.” He held up his hand, palm out to the side of him and Anrai stepped out of the Void, giving Ronan a small bundle of dragon-leather before he disappeared.
Amber’s eyes narrowed as she realised it was her daggers and their sheaths that she’d shoved in the back of her wardrobe. “I hope Anrai didn’t upset Cooper by turning up like that.”
“Cooper wouldn’t have known he was there.” Ronan held out the daggers. “Are you going to take them?”
She continued to meet his eyes. “I’m not yours to order around.”
“But are you mine?”
She hesitated. She checked the link she’d created to make sure she’d always be able to find him. It was as strong as ever. Her automatic response was no, but instinct overrode that and prevented what she guessed would have been the worst mistake she could have made. “A better question to ask is, are you mine?” She had to be smarter this time. It was going to be on her terms. No one else’s.
“It’s certainly an interesting question. Probably has the same answer as the question I asked you.”
She racked her brain for an answer. Not once in the past nine weeks and five days had she been forced to think this carefully about a decision. She grinned, surprised at how much she’d missed it. “I must be crazy.”
“That’s never been in doubt, kitten. What is in doubt is if you’re mine.”
“It’s such an awful term in my world. And we currently are in my world. It speaks of ownership and slavery.”
“Should I take you to my world and ask you again? In my world it speaks of who you’ll protect, who you’ll stand by. Who you won’t go against. More than an ally. More than family and more than a lover. Last time, Amber. Are you mine?”
She’d never seen him so serious. Not even those times when he was close to death. She took the daggers he still held. “I am as much yours as you are mine. I won’t go against you, Ronan. Not because we’re allies, not because we’re something that is neither friends or enemies and not because you’re the oldest dragon in existence and could probably teach me everything I ever needed to know about surviving.” Still holding his gaze, she slid her hands into the dagger sheaths and tightened them around her wrists.
“Because I’m human and we tend to have these irrational emotions that make no sense. And I trust you with me. No one else, just me. I trust that for some reason, which would probably make no sense to me at all, that you will protect me, that you will stand by me and you won’t go against me. And not just because you gave me your word.”
“You’re right, you wouldn’t understand why.”
“Are you going to tell me?”
He stared at her for a minute.
“I had begun to think I would outlive everyone.”
He held out his hand. “Time to go.”
Amber took his hand, knowing better than to ask him exactly what he meant. He had obviously told her as much as he was going to. And far more than she’d expected. “Where are we going?” They came out of the Void into a modern bedroom and after a quick mental search, she realised they were still in Ronan’s house. “I want to see Kade.”
“Eventually.” Ronan gestured towards the dragon-leather clothes on the bed. “Get dressed. I’ll be back in ten minutes.” He vanished.
A search showed he’d returned to his rooftop garden. Amber sighed. This wasn’t exactly taking control of her life.
“Don’t think you can always tell me what to do.”
“You’re wasting time.”
Muttering under her breath about dragons, she changed into the black dragon-leather trousers and vest. The clothes felt so familiar and as comfortable as her own skin. She closed her eyes, her hand going to where a sword should hang. Breathing in she smiled slightly at the familiar scent of dragon-leather.
She’d needed the time away. Needed to get some perspective after all that had happened. There was a lot she hated, so much she never wanted to relive, but so much more that she loved. Things that made her feel alive, that made her blood sing in her veins. She lifted her hand, opening her eyes to watch a fireball form in her palm. Her smiled widened as she closed her hand, extinguishing the flames. This time was going to be different. She could handle it. The alternative wasn’t acceptable. The pain she normally felt when she thought of Kade was pushed away by anticipation.
“I’m ready. I want to see Kade now.”
Instead of answering, Ronan appeared in front of her, grabbing her hand and taking her through the Void.