It’s nearly midnight when I reach the antique bookshop where I’m meeting Bastian, commander of the Nightfury dragons. There aren’t any lights on inside, and as I cup my hands to peer through the window an October breeze teases the underbelly of the tattered awning above my head. I glance up. Yup, I’m at the right place. The signage above the wide blue door reads, Periwinkles: a Treasure Trove for the Distinguished Mind. Which is funny because Bastian doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who hangs out at bookstores, never mind one called “Periwinkles”.
But a deal’s a deal, and I’m holding up my end by showing up tonight. On a dead-end street. In the middle of the night. Without back-up.
I know what you’re thinking, but I haven’t lost my mind. Far from it. I’ve been waiting for this meet and greet—been pestering Bastian about it—for a while. But as I knock on the door, I’m having second thoughts. Maybe agreeing to meet him in a less than public place isn’t the smartest move.
I raise my hand and knock anyway.
The door swings inward. Eerie, especially considering there is an empty spot on the other side where a person should be standing. As the old fashioned doorbell tinkles, I get a case of the chills, but cross the threshold. I’m a writer on the trail of a story. No way I’m backing down now.
The door clicks closed behind me, cutting off the soft glow of streetlights. I strain to see in the gloom, searching for the subject of my interview. A second or two passes before I give up and call out, “Hello?”
“Back here.” The voice is low and deep, rumbling on the scent of musty paper as it drifts between tall bookcases packed to the gills with leather bound books.
Putting my feet in gear, I move past the checkout counter toward the back of the store. As I round the last shelf an overhead light flares, and I get a snapshot of an open area with leather club chairs. A second later, I see Bastian. The instant I do, I’m back to wondering what possessed me to come alone. Cuz, man, he’s enormous, and so flipping hot he oozes sex appeal. . .six and a half-feet of streamlined aggression and hardcore muscle. Dark hair cut military short, he’s handsome without being pretty. Lethal appeal tempered by grace, and 100 percent deadly when he chooses.
Decked out in leather, he’s slouched in one of the chairs, head resting comfortably on the backrest, army boots planted on the coffee table. His shimmering green eyes narrow on me. I get tonguetied. He raises a dark brow.
Bastian: You wanted the meet and greet, kazmea. You gonna
waste my time, or are you gonna talk?
C.C.: Sure. (clearing my throat). Right. First things first, then.
Thanks for meeting me.
Bastian: (he shrugs) You’re a pain in the ass, female. Figured the
best way to get you off my case was to agree to meet you.
C.C.: (Some of my tension eases. He’s just paid me a huge
compliment. Tenaciousness, after all, is a valued trait
among Dragonkind warriors. His eyes spark with
amusement. A good sign, an amused dragon-shifter
is better than a pissed off one. I take a seat opposite
him in a matching chair.) So, how’s it going?
Everything all right?
Bastian: I’m up to my eyeballs in crap. . .like always. Every night
has FUBARed written all over it.
C.C.: I heard about the trouble. How’s Myst doing?
Bastian: Good. Adjusting. My mate is resilient. . .thank God.
(silence descends as we both think about how badly Myst
could’ve been hurt if Bastian hadn’t pulled her away
from enemy claws in time.) The Razorbacks didn’t do
any lasting harm. But another female’s missing. Not
good news. Rikar’s on search and rescue, but so
far. . .nada. Which means, I gotta go.
C.C.: So soon? (I try not to sound disappointed, but fail
miserably.) Just a few more questions?
Bastian: A word to the wise, kazmea. We do this when and
where I say. My way, not yours.
C.C.: Another time, then?
Bastian: (his lips twitch) Yeah. I’ll even give you the green light
with the others.
C.C.: Really? (I try to be cool about the offer, but honestly?
I’m dying to meet the other Nightfury warriors too).
Bastian: (laughs and gets to his feet) Up to them, and only if
they want to.
C.C.: Kill joy.
It’s my turn to laugh. He grins and heads for the back of the store, toward the red glow of the exit sign. As he reaches the reinforced steel door, Bastian glances over his shoulder and tips his chin in my direction.
Bastian: You’re all right, you know that?
C.C.: I try.
Bastian: (shakes his head) Don’t worry about locking
up, kazmea. Be safe getting home.
I nod, and then he’s gone, leaving me to wonder when I’ll see him next. Soon, I hope. I have so many questions. Chief among them? What the heck does kazmea mean?