Home > Elven Doom (Death Before Dragons #4)(3)

Elven Doom (Death Before Dragons #4)(3)
Author: Lindsay Buroker

Despite his words, he loped over to stand beside me, and we faced the dragon together. She hadn’t moved since she’d landed, and an uncomfortable scraping feeling raked at the mental barrier of my mind. Was she trying to read my thoughts? The way Shaygor had?

I suggest you be very polite and acquiescing. Sindari must have read the same anger in her eyes.

“Hi!” I waved my sword. “I’m Val. This is Sindari. We didn’t catch your name. Who does your scales? You’re a less gloom-and-doomy shade of dragon than most. Is it natural or kind of like dying your hair?”

Sindari looked at me.

What? That was polite. And friendly. Girls like to talk about fashion.

I have never heard you discuss such things.

Well, I’m not a typical girl. I can fake it though.

The presence in my mind faded, and the dragon shifted form, melting down into a human woman. A human woman with purple hair—no, lilac hair the same color the scales had been—black leather pants and jacket, and two silver rings in each of her outer nostrils.

“Oh.” So that was who’d stolen my file from Mary.

How could some strange dragon from another world have known about my therapy? Or where it took place? Or anything about me at all?

She walked slowly toward us, her violet eyes narrow.

My phone buzzed. Normally, I would ignore it when a dragon was stalking toward me, but I pulled it out, having a hunch. It was my general practitioner, Dr. Brightman.

“This is Val. Are you reporting that someone came in and stole my file this morning?”

After a startled pause, he said, “Yes.”

“Purple hair? Nose rings?”

“Yes. We couldn’t stop her. She had some kind of power.”

“No kidding. I’ll update you later.”

I hung up, stuffed my phone in my pocket, and leaned Chopper’s tip against the rooftop beside my foot. Zav’s sister stopped in front of me, ignoring Sindari altogether. I lifted my chin and met her hard gaze, refusing to appear intimidated.

“Is there a reason you’re researching me like an obsessed stalker?” I asked when she didn’t speak. “Are you a fan of my work? Maybe we could get coffee and I could sign a napkin for you. Do dragons drink coffee? I haven’t seen Zav do so.” Maybe bringing up Zav’s name would be helpful here. “I’m not sure he needs caffeine though. He’s a little high-strung already.”

Sindari swatted me in the back with his tail. A warning to be more polite? What was I supposed to do? Prostrate myself in the puddle between us and kiss the tips of her pointed boots?

“Zav,” she spoke her first word, which was followed by a lip curl. “You disrespect him by not using his proper name.”

“I can’t pronounce his proper name.”

“That is pathetic. At least the elf princess used his full name.”

“The elf princess who tried to assassinate him? Yeah, I’m sure she was a big step up from me.”

Her eyes flared violet, and I braced myself for magic that would fling me off the rooftop—or incinerate me.

“My name is Zondia’qareshi, and I will not allow you to harm my brother.”

Oh, good. Another name I couldn’t pronounce. Someday, a dragon named Bob would introduce himself, and I would fall over in surprise.

“I hadn’t planned to, so we’re good.” I smiled and leaned casually on Chopper. Showing weakness only got you in trouble with predators. “You can go find someone else to stalk. And if you wouldn’t mind returning the records you stole, that would be fabulous. I’m a deeply layered and complex individual. Without my medical history, my providers will be flustered and helpless.”

“You have little wealth as your world measures it, mediocre health, and no power in your society. Your ruse is clear to all those who are not smitten by human female attributes.” She curled her lip again and waved at my chest.

“My ruse?”

“To pretend loyalty to my brother until such time as you can coerce him into a compromising position and murder him. Then you will have power and fame among your people.”

“My people don’t know dragons exist, so that can’t be true.”

“Impossible!”

“Look, Zav is the one who claimed me. Not the other way around. I don’t—” I caught myself before saying I had zero intention of obeying him, having sex with him, or anything else that being claimed entailed. If I let any of the dragons know that Zav had only claimed me to protect me, and that we weren’t actually rutting like rabbits, I might yet end up in front of their Dragon Justice Court. “I don’t plan to kill him. I’m pretty sure he would laugh at the idea that I could.”

“Males often let their egos put them in danger.”

“Oh, you’ve noticed that too?”

Her eyes narrowed further. “Shaygorthian did not get all of your thoughts.”

“No, and that’s fine with me.”

She—Zondia, I decided to call her—strode toward me, lifting her hand toward my face. Sindari growled and stepped between us. She flicked her fingers, and a burst of power hurled him across the roof.

Snarling, I dropped into a fighting stance and whipped Chopper up, but my hand froze before I got the blade fully pointed at her. Though I gritted my teeth and tried to use my weak half-elven power to break the hold, nothing happened. My entire body froze. I couldn’t even move my eyes.

“I will take your thoughts.” She lifted her hand, and this time, her slender fingers, cold and damp from the rain, reached my temple.

I seethed inside, tired of dragons doing this to me, but a part of me wondered if it would be for the best if I let her have whatever thoughts she wanted. Then she would know I didn’t intend to betray Zav. So far, Zav was the only dragon I’d met that I didn’t detest. Why would I hurt him?

But she would also see that Zav’s claiming had been a ruse and wasn’t anything I’d agreed to. Could that get him in more trouble with his people?

Glaring into her eyes, I willed my mind to stay away from those thoughts and tried to keep her from digging in.

She lowered her hand. At first, I thought I’d done something to convince her to leave me alone, but she sighed and gazed off toward the west, toward the sky above the downtown skyscrapers. Dare I hope that her mother had stuck her head out of a portal and was calling her home for dinner? If her human form was anything to go by, Zondia was young. Like a teenager.

I sensed Zav flying this way from the west, and triumph and relief flooded through me. But only for a second, until I remembered that the female dragons ruled their society and the males served them. At least that was what Zav had hinted at. Whether that was because the females were more powerful or that was simply how their society had developed, I didn’t know, but it might mean that his lilac little sister was stronger than he was.

He came into view, powerful wings carrying him toward us faster than a car would have ripped down a speedway. As he dipped toward the rooftop for a landing, Zondia stepped back and propped her fists on her hips.

A flutter of anticipation teased my stomach as Zav’s gaze met mine. Not, I told myself firmly, because I hadn’t seen him for several days and missed him. But because he had put a stop, at least for now, to his sister’s machinations.

Sindari returned to my side. That was embarrassing.

Being thrown across a rooftop by a dragon? That happens to all of us. Thank you for trying to stop her.

Zav was arrowing down at me, not his sister, and even though I trusted him not to accidentally send me flying off the roof as he landed, I braced myself.

He seamlessly transformed into his human form and dropped down at my side, his shoulder touching mine as he faced Zondia.

As usual, he wore his silver-trimmed black robe, but vibrant yellow-, pink-, and green-colored sneakers poked out from under the hem. Later, I would ask him about them, but now, I merely looked at his sister with him and hoped he could handle this.

“You will speak out loud so she can hear you,” Zav said, making me realize their discussion had already started. His violet eyes were hard, his strong jaw set. Power radiated from him, crackling over my skin with its usual intense energy. “And you will not attack her, threaten her, or touch her without my permission.”

I lifted a finger. “Ideally without my permission.”

Which I would not give.

“I will communicate with you as I see fit.” Zondia’s lip curled again, and she ignored me as she glared at her brother. “How can she be the daughter of a powerful elf king and not be able to grasp a telepathic conversation going on around her?”

“She is half human and does not know how to employ her elven power.”

“Are you sure about that? Maybe that’s what she told you, so you’ll think she’s helpless.”

I lifted my finger again, irritated that they were ignoring me. “I’m not helpless, and your mom knows more about my elven heritage than I do.”

Something that I was starting to resent. If some of this elven power I had supposedly inherited could be used to keep dragons out of my mind, I would love to learn how to use it. But so far, I’d only met one light elf and only in passing. My elven father had left Earth long ago.

“If her feminine wiles sway you when you are in human form,” Zondia went on, still ignoring me, “then remain yourself for a time. You will forget that she interested you.”

“It is not her wiles that interest me.” Zav wrapped an arm around my shoulders.

Though I hated being the recipient of the this-female-is-mine behavior, I didn’t move. He was risking his reputation and more to make his people believe we were an item and all to protect me. Besides, even if it wasn’t wise, I didn’t mind his touch or having the magic of his aura running over my skin and sparking my nerves. The electric presence of other dragons never felt appealing to me. I didn’t want to think too much about why Zav’s always had.

“Val has battled at my side several times now, and she has proven her loyalty to me.” Zav’s voice was fierce, almost a growl, and it sent a little shiver through me. “She vexes my enemies and pleases me. That is why I have claimed her.”

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