paranormal hunter 04 - dark flame, p.4Gena D. Lutz
Her family looked worried, Bane above all else.
Poppy—I already told you, my name is Poppy!
She did a backflip for redirection, and then shot like a bullet through the air in the direction of the woodlands that bordered the outskirts of town.
The ground trembled underneath thick, sharp claws as Poppy landed in the middle of the woods, in a grassy clearing large enough to accommodate her length and girth. As expected, the other dragon followed suit.
Taking a deep breath, Poppy shifted back into her human form, as did the second dragon, almost at the same.
Poppy blinked in surprise at her mother’s outward appearance. Long red hair, purple eyes that sparkled underneath a set of thin eyebrows, high cheek bones, sharp nose; Poppy was almost the spitting image of her birth mother.
Suddenly, the woman’s eyes gleamed with curiosity, and a visage of long-awaited joy reflected in her features and in her beautiful smile. “My name is Mauramaze, and I am your mother. I’ve finally found you, Ai—er, Poppy—my heart is now complete.”
“I’m sorry,” Poppy replied with a shake of her head. “But I’m not looking for another mother. I’m fine with the one I have. You had your shot but chose to abandon me to another dragon clan. Now can you please just leave here, go somewhere else, a place where you’re not wanted for murder, maybe?”
That was the best she had for the woman who was a stranger to her, but not.
The dragoness stepped forward a few paces, and Poppy held up her hand to halt her. “Please, don’t make this any harder than it has to be.”
Her head fell in defeat. Long silken tresses spilled forward as Mauramaze took a step back. “I can heal the hunter. Will that make you happy?”
Poppy’s brows slid together. “You can do that? How”
Then she felt a power build around her mother, an influence that pulled at something deep inside her very core.
Mauramaze’s head lifted, and she smiled once more, but with a thin-lipped grin that wasn’t welcoming—it screamed confidence, pride and supremacy.
“We are of the Dark Flame clan, our fire is more powerful than any other. Our flame not only burns, it can heal.”
“Our flame heals…mm-hmm, you really expect me to believe that?”
Mauramaze’s words were hard to swallow. A dragon that could heal? Poppy had never heard of such a thing. Granted, she was the only other dragon-shifter residing in Phantom City, and only had what she’d read and the word of her family to rely on when it came down to the brass tacks of her true nature. All of it she took as gospel, because her family was honest, and had been very forthcoming with her about all they knew about dragons.
And then there was the fact that she could research like a sonofabitch. And within all the information she’d dug up about her kind, she’d never once heard of a dragon’s flame healing a single soul—other than a dragonling’s first fire. But even then, the healing power wasn’t infinite.
Mauramaze nodded emphatically. “It’s true. I can heal her.”
Poppy shifted her stance, kicking her leg out and crossing her arms defiantly. “If what you say is true, and our bloodline can heal the wounded, then why would I need any help from you?”
Poppy saw features that mirrored her own fall in contemplation.
Mauramaze let out an exhausted breath before she said, “Because, dear, you have been away from me your entire life, so I haven’t been able to teach you how to use, let alone control, your most powerful magic.”
Poppy’s chin jutted. “And whose fault is that? You didn’t want me, you abandoned me…remember?”
Mauramaze didn’t respond to Poppy’s outburst right away, instead, she inhaled the night air and stared out into the dense forest that surrounded them. Something out there had her lavender eyes shifting to red, and her hand jumping to a short metal staff that hung by a leather loop at her waist.
Mauramaze took a quick look at her daughter, and said, “I’ve always wanted you, Aisha. I left you with the Blackstone clan to keep you safe. And as far as I can tell, it worked.”
“Exactly who were you keeping me safe from?”
She didn’t answer. Her red eyes shifted back to the perimeter. “We have company.”
Poppy turned to get a better view of what Mauramaze was freaking out about, but saw nothing. And then, she too, picked up the distinct scent of wolf.
She turned back around. “There’s nothing to worry about. It’s probably just a Woodland pack member. All of them know me, and my signature scent, they won’t harm us.”
“They couldn’t even if they tried.” Mauramaze said the words with a menacing growl.
Dang, Poppy thought with a building sense of respect for her birth mother, she’s pretty bad-ass. Cool. The sentiment was quickly followed by a pang of guilt and a quick reminder, lest she let it happen again. Remember what she did to Sonnet.
In the next second, she felt the presence of a familiar werewolf as he slipped from the cover of trees and into the clearing.
Quinn, in wolf form, slunk slowly forward, his belly almost touching the ground. She’d never seen him in his true nature, and his beast was remarkable, covered mainly in white fur with patches of black that made his left ear look like the tip of it had been dipped in ink, and his left paw the same. He watched her, his golden gaze cautious and powerful.
Poppy blinked slowly as her heart rate picked up speed. “It’s Quinn.”
What is he doing here?
Mauramaze watched her, confused. “The wolf is a friend of yours?”
Good question. If she’d asked Poppy as early as yesterday if Quinn was just a friend, she would have said yes without hesitation. But now, after all the feels had pummeled her insides like a prizefighter going for the belt, all she knew for certain was that she now felt more.
It took her a second of mind shuffling to figure out how to answer. “Yes, he’s a close friend.” There, that was easy.
The sneer that followed was unexpected. “Werewolves are mindless beasts that are worse than scum. You need to stay away from their ilk!” She reached for Poppy’s arm, but pulled her hand back at the last second. “Come now, with me. We’ll go someplace safe.”
One dark red brow arched, and a teenage attitude that could rival the biggest diva that ever lived came alive within Poppy. “If you think even for a second that I’ll go anywhere with you, well then, you need to get your head checked. That wolf over there,” her arm swung around and she pointed at Quinn, “he’s smart, kind, pretty much the opposite of what you think of him,” her fingers went up in quotations, “and his ‘ilk’.”
Mauramaze’s free hand turned into a white-knuckled fist at her side, while the other remained on her weapon. Poppy could tell that it was taking everything the dragoness had to rein in her temper. “If you only knew what they are capable of.”
Quinn slunk closer, but still maintained a safe distance.
The shakiness in her voice caught Poppy off guard, and at the same time, softened her resolve. “Then tell me. Why did you leave me at the base of Blackstone Mountain, even before my hatching?” She took a step forward, her voice lowering. “Who are ‘they’, and what did they do to you? Whatever happened, I need you to tell me.”
The look that came over Mauramaze’s face was heartbreaking. She hesitated, but then cleared her throat. “It happened about a decade ago. Two wolves from the Wildlands cornered me, and your father, while we swam in human form at our favorite lagoon within the realm of dragons. We were both young, naive, and caught up in the moment, so we didn’t notice that we were being stalked…”
A long howl tore through the cool night, jogging the dragoness out of her thoughts and throwing her right back into attack mode.
Quinn lifted his muzzle and answered the wolf call.
Mauramaze’s jaw tensed visibly and she backed up several paces. “They’re coming!”
Poppy shook her
But it was too late; Mauramaze shifted into creature form in an instant and threw a look over her shoulder at Poppy. Come with me.
“I’m safe here. It’s you who needs to stay and make amends with my mother, and Phantom City. Please, turn yourself over to the police. I’ll go with you and stand by your side, come what may, I promise.”
And she meant that promise.
The dragon thought about Poppy’s offer for a moment, but then her anxiety visibly got the better of her after another howl sounded. She lifted her snout and let out a mighty roar of her very own, complete with a long stream of fire that crackled through the wind.
Mauramaze blinked at Poppy, and then leapt high into the moonlit sky.
Sonnet brushed a thick strand of damp, dark hair off her forehead and let out a painful breath. “Where is Poppy?” Her voice came out with a hitch.
Bane was seated next to her bed in a chair, elbows balanced on his knees. He lifted his head from his hands at the sound of her voice. “You’re awake. Thank God!”
She swallowed hard, glanced over at her arm and scowled. “That fire-breathing bitch…just look at what she did to me.”
The two glanced at each other.
Sonnet saw heartache rush over Bane’s features, and she didn’t like the fact that she was in any way responsible for it. “Don’t worry, love, I’m okay.” She lifted her injured arm, and after covering up a wince with a smile, she continued, “It’s nothing a few days of rest won’t fix.” Her eyes moved over the room. “Where’s my daughter?”
The fact that Poppy wasn’t there with her during her convalescing struck her as odd.
He finally answered, “She flew off toward the woodlands about twenty minutes ago. Emely and Remy went after her. I stayed behind to take care of you.”
She sat up, the tiny intravenous tube pinching her in the process. “Why would Poppy go on a joy ride right now? And why on earth would Emely feel like she needed to chase after her? Is everything okay?”
Sonnet supposed Poppy could be flying off some stress and frustration after hearing about Sonnet’s injuries, but she hadn’t died or anything, so there really was no reason for everyone to act like she had.
He frowned. “She didn’t go alone. The red dragon was with her.”
His words caused her heart to spasm in fear. On a gasp, Sonnet ripped the tube from her arm and shoved the covers down her body. She pointed toward the light wood wardrobe in the corner of the room. “Get me my clothes and weapons, now, please.”
Bane jumped up. “Get back into bed, little fox, you’re not well enough to stand, let alone fight a dragon.”
She stumbled from the bed, the meds they had her on making her lightheaded and woozy as she tried to gain her footing.
Bane eased his arms around Sonnet to help steady her. She leaned into him for a moment, but then pushed out of his hold and spun on him, her eyes glistening with tears.
“How could you!”
“You’re mad at me because I stayed here with you, instead of running after your daughter.” It wasn’t a question, but a dead-to-rights statement.
Her glare intensified. “Fuckin-a right, I am. You know the rule, Bane. If it ever comes down to saving me, or someone I love, you are to always choose the one I love. And that goes triple for Poppy!”
With wild eyes and unsteady strides, Sonnet made her way over to the wardrobe. Once there, she swung open the wooden door and yanked out her belongings.
All of a sudden, the Earth rocked and the room began to spin. Her shoulder slammed into the cupboard, the side of her head quickly following.
“I’m going to need your help with this,” she said with a voice softened by pain and disorientation.
Bane rushed to her side. “Of course, let me do it for you.”
He held her in one arm while he pulled her clothes off the shelf with the other hand.
Sonnet nodded lethargically into his chest. “I’m still mad at you, but thanks for helping.” She blinked down at her hospital gown, and then gazed up into Bane’s eyes and slurred, “This is going to be tricky.”
An innocent smile spread his lips. “I can handle undressing you. Trust me.”
She nodded and then leaned heavily against him. There was no doubt in her mind that Bane would need to do most of the work in dressing her. She was going to need a lot of help—that was, until she could get ahold of something to counteract the drugs in her system.
And she knew exactly how she was going to accomplish that. But she had to admit, she wasn’t looking forward to the pain that would inevitably occur after she flushed her system.
Her breath left her lungs slowly, and she concentrated as hard as her muddled mind would allow, sending out a psychic call to her best friend, Anya, using the preexisting connection that they’d established between each other a long time ago.
She-devil, can you hear me? I need you.
It worked quicker than Sonnet had expected.
Anya’s voice speared through her mind. I’m right outside. See you in less than a minute.
She turned at the sound of a chirpy but lush voice echoing out in the hall. “Get out of my way, peckerhead.” There was a pause, then… “Oh yeah, well screw you too, buddy!”
Then the door to her room flew open, and Anya strolled in.
Sonnet’s brows scrunched together in confusion. It was the first time she’d seen the she-devil walk on two legs.
A mischievous smile slid across her face. “Who the fuck do I need to kill?”
With a sigh, Sonnet tried her hardest to maintain eye contact with Anya. “I’m feeling a little wonky at the moment. Got anything to sober me up?”
Anya pursed her lips determinedly as she watched Sonnet struggle to speak.
“Not on me. But I’m sure I can scrounge something up.”
“Or,” a new voice entered the space, “she can hop her stubborn ass back into bed where she belongs.”
If there was one person on this earth she couldn’t persuade to help her escape the hospital, it was the man walking into her room.
Everyone went quiet.
Remy smiled at Sonnet. “Get back into that bed, sweetheart. I have everything under control. Poppy is safe.”
Her eyes widened with hope. “You’re not just saying that, are you?”
He solemnly shook his head. “I wouldn’t lie about something so important.”
And then it was as though all the fight and adrenaline in Sonnet’s body left her all at once. She slumped over. “I think I’m going to be sick,” she said.
Bane hefted her limp body into his arms and carried her across the room. After tucking her in, he said, “I’ll go get Poppy and bring her back here to you.”
“That’s not necessary. She is already on her way.” Remy added.
Sonnet’s lashes fluttered softly. “Wake me when she gets here.” And after releasing a few weary breaths, she was out cold.
Anya jumped into the air and flew over to Sonnet. She hovered a few inches from her face. After staring at her closed eyes for a minute, she zipped backwards. “Do you think she still wants me to get her that potion?”
Bane and Remy shook their heads at the same time. It was Bane who said, “No.”
“Alright, then. But just so you know, if she wakes up all pissed off and whatnot, that shit’s on you.”
After Anya left the room, Bane walked over to stand in front of Remy. He paused to look over his shoulder at Sonnet, checking her breathing and heart rate with his preternatural hearing to make sure she was indeed fast asleep, before saying, “Did the other dragon harm our girl in anyway?”
Remy eyed him with sincerity. “Last I saw of her, not even a hair on her head was out of place.”
Bane nodded, and with the movement, stray locks fell into his face. He pulled out a leather strap from his pocket, scraped all his hair back tight, and then tied it off. “Did Emely stay behind with Poppy?”<
Remy shook his head. “We kept watch from the forest. Poppy never saw us, never even knew we were there, or if she did, she didn’t let on.”
“I see.” He turned to walk back over to the chair he’d practically made his home since Sonnet was admitted to the hospital. “Wait,” he said, turning back around. “You left her alone then?”
Remy was almost out the door, but stopped. “No, her friend was with her. You know, the one she calls teen-wolf.”
Bane bit his lower lip to keep from yelling, and scowled. “You left Poppy with a teenage boy, alone, in the forest without supervision?”
He shrugged. “He seemed harmless enough.”
Bane’s mouth dropped. “Name one harmless teenaged boy you’ve ever met in your life. You may as well have thrown Sonnet’s daughter to the wolves. Oh, wait. You did.”
Remy’s lips spread into a smile as he watched the fuming vampire for several heartbeats.
His face reddened and his scowl grew deeper. “What?”
“Don’t let this go to your head, but Sonnet couldn’t have picked a better man to help raise that girl of hers.” He glanced down at the floor and then back up. “Thanks, man, for taking care of Poppy, and my sister.”
After a quick glance at Sonnet, Remy left the room.
Bane shook his head. “Well I’ll be damned.”
As Poppy watched her birth mother fly away, there was a subtle twisting in her gut that left her feeling as if something inside her was missing. The pain was unexpected; after all, she hated the she-dragon for what she had done to Sonnet, didn’t she?
Poppy shook out of those thoughts. They were the kind that made her feel as though she was being disloyal to her mother in some way. Which was absurd; she loved Sonnet.
She turned around to see Quinn moving in her direction. He stopped next to a tree and began to paw at the earth at its base. After digging for a while, he shoved his nose into the newly turned earth and hauled out a knapsack, securely gripped between his fangs. He paused, and then the space around him shimmered, leaving a naked young man kneeling next to the hole. He looked over at Poppy and winked at her.
paranormal hunter 04 - dark flame by Gena D. Lutz / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes