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Jasmine Tyler moved along the boxes, her heart not into looking for a deal. She was
exhausted, her body hurt in more places than she could think about, and she was lonely.
With all the people around her she knew that was silly, but she missed her son and her
grannie. It had been necessary to send them ahead. Ahead to what she wasn’t entirely
sure, but they were safer there than they were with her at the moment.
While I cannot see them as yet, I know they will be safe. Jasmine told the dragon that they’d
better be. I wish that you could talk to them. At least young Gavin. I think it would do you well
to hear his voice. Him as well, I would bet. The boy loves you very much.
And I love him very much as well. But you know as well as I that I can’t chance contacting
either of them. He said that he knew, but it made it no less sad for him too. I’ll be there soon,
and when I am, I can get these earrings to the right person, gather him and Grannie up, and move
on. And if you tell me again that I can’t do that, then I swear to you that I’ll cut my own ears off
and be done with the lot of you.
So the dragon didn’t bother telling her again that it didn’t work that way. Twice now
she’d told him that if he brought up again how this man and his family would keep her
and her family safe, she would never speak to him again. And the three days that she
didn’t say a single word had made her point for a little while. The dragon, or whatever
manifestation he was to her, didn’t listen well, it seemed.
She was going to have to move again soon. Making her way to this family was costing
her so much more than just being without her family. Jasmine could hardly do any
business with the way things were going, and it was more than a little difficult to trust
anyone enough to even see if they were really a buyer for her things or someone out to
get her. She shivered when she thought of what had happened to her and Gavin to get
her moving out of their home in the first place.
They’d been headed to the post office, her and him, and they were going to get some
pizza to take back to the house with them to share with her grannie. Gavin was telling
her what homework he’d done that day and she was teasing him about working on the
weekend. The car that hit them in the rear had come out of nowhere.
Being rear-ended really hadn’t been that bad. Her truck was old and made before
plastic was a big deal, and thankfully had no airbags or they might not have been able to
get moving so quickly. For the most part they’d been all right, thankfully. But before she
could get out of her truck to see what damage, if any, had been done to her truck, the
man hit her again, then again. It was then that she realized he was pushing her into
oncoming traffic. Screaming at Gavin to lay down on the floor, she floored the gas pedal
and closed her eyes.
Still to this day she had no idea how she had managed to not only get through the
traffic, which had been very heavy and fast, but also escape who had tried to kill them.
But as soon as she got home, she realized two things at once.
The dragon had been right. They were upset about the earrings and were coming for
her. And the worse part of it was, they were also going to harm her son and grandmother.
Secondly, they had to get out now. Not just out of the house, but they had to leave
everything behind and get the fuck out of dodge.
Less than two hours after they got home, her truck was loaded and coolers packed,
then they were gone. Even as they were driving through her little town, she saw three
large black SUVs pass her going in the opposite direction from the one she was
driving…the way toward her home. There were no plates on the big vehicles, and since
the windows were so dark, she had no idea who or how many people were in them.
Probably a good thing, she realized later.
She tried to tell herself that they might have been headed in any direction other than
her house. But two days after they left the only home they’d had, she’d seen on the news
that it had been burned to the ground, as had the barn that stood next to it. Jasmine
gathered them up once again and made another long trip before she felt she needed
information from the dragon in her head.
What is it about these earrings that has men trying to kill me for them? And why can’t I take
them out now that they’re in my ears? I don’t want to hear about how I’m going to this family, I
want to know why I have to. Why me?
I can do that, my lady. There are six parts to me, a set of jewelry called a demi parure. It
simply means matching set of jewelry. Few know that it was forged by a dragon and his master.
They decided, when things were too dangerous for a dragon to be roaming the earth, that it would
be safer if he, this being a part of me as a dragon, should have his spark, his magic, put within a
special piece of jewelry. But alas, the magic was too much for a single piece and was divided up
into five pieces. The sixth was made later when a lady thought the necklace was too large for anyone
to wear. Then a terrible tragedy was bestowed upon the master and the dragon, along with all of
his estate being taken away. I know not what happened to his things; only that the spark that
creates us was no longer together. Jasmine asked him how long ago this was. I have no way
of knowing that, my lady. For as a spark and only a small part of the whole, I cannot understand
the passing of time until I have been awakened. But the ring, it has been awakened and thus, myself
as well. And now it is held in trust by Emma…I have told you about her. The rest, not including
yours, was spread out all over the world at one time, but now are close, but since the other pieces
haven’t been awakened yet, I know not where. Her next question to him was, why her. I know
not, my lady. Until you touched the jewelry that has turned out to be my wings, I knew nothing
of the holder.
So, you want me to believe that there is this set of jewelry out there that a bunch of women
will touch and bring to life…or I guess, bring you to life. Then if that doesn’t sound creepy enough,
these women have to make their way to this family of men, dragon men, and give it over to them
and become their slave of sorts. And on top of that, they’re stuck with this stuff forever, even if
they want no part of this plot. I’m sorry, but this is about as farfetched as it gets. Not to mention
sort of like slave trade for me to believe in. He asked her how she was hearing him if he was
just a manifestation. I don’t know. A tumor? Could be. I’ve been under a lot of stress lately.
You have, and I’m sorry to say that it isn’t over as yet. When those men went to your home
and destroyed everything that you had, they did a search and found enough information to find
you and your family. She asked him what sort of information. Pictures of you and your family.
What Emma says is DNA on objects left behind. They can and will use every item in their
possession to find you.
And then what? What is it they think they’re going to do to me? He didn’t answer her. Is
my son in danger? My grannie?
Yes. You all are until you can get to the McCade family. And even then, they will not stop
until they either get what they desire or they are caught by the authorities. I am sorry, my lady.
She wanted to cry. All she’d done was find a pretty pair of earrings that she wished she’d
never seen now. It would not have mattered when you saw them, my lady; somehow they would
have come to you. You are the one that needs to be a part of the dragon with one of the McCade
I don’t want to be a part of any man. Don’t you see? I’ve lost enough shit in my life because
of a man. Not all of it was his fault, but he lied to me. Over and over, and there is no reason to
think that this man won’t too. He’ll take and take until I have nothing. I am nothing. The dragon
wisely said nothing. I know; I’ll mail them to them.
You cannot remove them now that you wear them. Stomping her foot, she paced in front
of the pretty little hotel where she’d stopped to rest for the night. These terrible men, they
will not stop until they have what they want. You must understand this.
No, I don’t have to understand anything. She turned when she heard Gavin call out to
her. “I’m sorry, baby. What is it? Everything all right?”
“Yes. Why are you talking to yourself? Or it is that dragon again? Tell him that we’re
doing the best we can and to cut you some slack.” She hugged him to her and felt tears
fill her eyes. “We’re going to be all right, aren’t we, Mom? As soon as we get to this house,
we’re going to be just fine, right?”
“I hope so, Gavin, I really do.”
Then five days later, nearly two weeks ago, she’d used every penny she had and put
them both, her grandma and son, on a plane for Ohio. It wasn’t safe for them to travel
together any longer.
She was just sorting through a box when she felt something, a kind of nervous panic,
which had her snatching her hand back from the items in the box and looking around.
Christ, would she ever feel safe again, she asked herself? Then the dragon spoke to her,
his voice calm yet slightly tight sounding.
The man near the food truck. Do you see him? Jasmine looked around, trying her best to
look as if she were checking out the rest of the items. He feels wrong.
As casually as she could, Jasmine made her way to where she could get a better look
at the man. She could see him now; he stood out like a man in a tux among a room of
cowboys. At the moment he was trying to figure out how to eat a hotdog without wearing
most of it. Backing into the trees and away from the man, she watched him unobserved
for several minutes. There wasn’t anything odd about him, not that she could say, “Hey,
that’s it,” but she still knew there was something. She nearly told the dragon that he was
looking for things that weren’t there when the man shifted on his feet and she saw the
The need to flee made her feel like she was being watched. Looking around, trying
to decide what to do now, she wanted to curl into a tight ball and just cry. She had no car,
nothing to protect herself with, and not a great deal of money either. She was, in a word,
I can’t leave yet. Can I?
The dragon told her that she could not. Then he pointed out the man across the table
from the auctioneer. He wasn’t watching the items but looking around, as if he were
searching the people and not what to buy next. Jasmine went deeper into the woods and
then stood behind a tree. When the two men came together, they scanned the area twice
before splitting up and moving around. She knew they were looking for her.
What do I do now? He told her not to move, not to run. I can’t let them get to me. If they
do, you said that they’d kill me for these earrings. And as much as I hate them right now, I need
to get to my son, damn it.
Do not move, my lady. They are looking for a young boy to be with you. They are thinking
that you’d not leave him or your grandmother alone while they are out there. They know not that
you have sent them both ahead. She let out a long breath and tried to think about anything
but wanting to run. If you do, then all is lost. Just wait for me to tell you that you can go. But to
the bus stop, not to the hotel.
She knew as surely as she was standing there listening to a dragon talk to her in her
head that they’d already been to her hotel room and had figured out where she was. The
newspaper. She’d gotten one and had circled the auction for today not far from where
she’d been staying. It wasn’t as if she had any money to spend—she didn’t—but Jasmine
was bored and needed to do something that didn’t involve her thinking about how much
she missed her son. So walking to the place that was stated in the ad, she had been there
for only a few minutes when she realized it wasn’t as fun as it used to be.
He is going to go by you in a few moments, and when he does, follow him, but not closely. I
will tell you when to move to the bus stop. She wanted to tell him to fuck off, there wasn’t
any way she was going to follow that man, but the dragon spoke again before she could.
He will not expect you to be behind him. Nor will his partner. You must trust me on this. I will
not allow you to be harmed.
As soon as she was given the signal to move, Jasmine moved out from behind the
tree and right behind the man. She was close enough that she could see the tat on the
back of his neck that looked like some sort of Japanese symbol; or Chinese, she wasn’t
sure. There was also one that peeked out the bottom of his sleeve. When he pulled the
shirt up enough, she nearly stopped walking. Dragon told her to keep moving.
I’ve seen that before. He told her to turn then, and to go to the bus stop. When she did,
the bus pulled up just as the man turned to go back to where she’d been. Sitting down,
she turned on her seat and watched as both men moved around the yard again. He had a
dragon tat on his arm. I’ve seen that before. The man that tried to shoot us the day that Gavin got
hurt and I sent them away. He had one just like it.
They are all a part of a group of men out to harm you and all that help you. They have no wish
to bring me to life, but to profit from controlling me. It is them that I am trying to save you from.
Jasmine asked the dragon who they were, what the writing meant. It’s Chinese, as you have
guessed. It says Sǐwáng de suǒyǒu lóng. Its translation is, death to all dragons. I have not seen
that for many years. More than you can imagine. It, like a great many things, comes and goes as
the need arises. Today they need it to feel important. Who knows what it will be used for in the
Her mind went in a single straight line direction. A group of men. Not a man, but a
group. And they didn’t just want her dead for the earrings, but they wanted to control
the dragon himself. That meant that the McCades, the very people that she was headed
to, were in danger as well. And her son and grannie would be caught up in it because she
had blindly sent them there. Christ, she wanted to crawl into a hole and cry. To just bawl
her eyes out. But now she had to make her way to Ohio faster, to see to her family. And
the only way to do that was go get some money to get herself a car. She told the dragon
what she needed and why.
I will help you. She nodded. He’d suggested that before, him helping her, but she’d
told him that she would never cheat, steal, or lie to get what she needed. She’d had that
done to her more than enough. You will see; I’ll keep you as safe as I can.
And my family? How will you protect them? He told her that until they connected with
the McCades he had no way of knowing about her son and grandmother. And they won’t
until I get there. This is really fucked up; you know that, don’t you?
He said nothing, which was good…she wasn’t ready for him to tell her anything but
that they were going to make it. How, she hadn’t any idea, but she so wanted to hear him
say that to her. And as surely as she was sitting there, she knew that there was a lot more
shit to deal with before she got to her son.
Jorden put the last of his paints in the box and set it on the floor. When he looked up,
his entire being froze. The kid, a little boy, was standing there so still that he looked like
one of his plaster casts. Jorden started forward to find out what he wanted when the kid
lifted a gun and pointed it, steadily no less, right at him. Jorden stopped.
“I’m not going to hurt you.” The kid said nothing. There were lines of exhaustion
under his eyes, and his face looked puffy, as if he’d been crying recently. “If you’re here
to get some money or drugs, I’m afraid that I’m not going to be able to help you. I have
neither here. The doctor isn’t in either.”
“It says there is a doctor here. There’s a name downstairs on the door. It’s the only
reason I’m here. To get a doctor to come with me. It says McCade. Where is he?” Jorden
tried to think where Kenton was when the little boy spoke again. “It doesn’t smell like a
doctor’s office up here either. More like Mrs. Witt’s art class. Is he a physician or some
other sort of doctor?”
“No, he’s a physician. A general practitioner, as a matter of fact. And this is where I
work, the reason for the smell. I’m an artist. Well, people tell me I am, and pretty good at
it, I guess.” He took a step forward and the kid told him to stop. “Do you need a doctor?
I can call him here if you need him. Kenton, he’s the doctor, he’s off today with his wife
doing…. Actually, I have no idea where he is. But if he’s not here, then he’s at his home.”
“I don’t know what else to do. I’ve been…I got up and she wouldn’t wake up. So I
thought that I could find a doctor. But I know that she’s not going to be all right. My
grannie, I believe she’s died.” Jorden nodded and sat down on the floor. He wanted to
give the kid the impression that he was relaxed when he was anything but. “I need
someone to come and look to make sure that I didn’t do something wrong. We’re on the
run, my grannie and I.”
“What might you have done to her?” He just shrugged. Jorden decided to ignore the
part where they were on the run for now. “I see. So you think you killed her then?”
“No. I didn’t kill her. She and I have been…. Last night she told me she was tired. She
has been a lot lately. Powerfully tired she told me, and wanted to turn in early. So I was
really quiet and got my shower and jammies on and played on my reader before I went
to bed as well. When she didn’t get up before I did, I checked on her and her face and
neck were cold. I think she might have died in her sleep last night or sometime.” The little
boy scrubbed at his face and Jorden felt badly for him. “I can’t get in touch with my mom
either. I’m all alone, so I thought a doctor could tell me for sure.”
“Where is she…your grannie, I mean?” The kid said nothing but did lower the gun.
“I’m going to get my cell phone out and call Kenton. And when he gets here, we’ll go to
where she is and we call in the police to—” The gun came up again, this time a little less
steady. For some reason that scared Jorden more than the steady handling of the gun had.
“No, you can’t do that. If you call the police, I’m as good as dead as I think she is.”
Jorden felt his dragon move along his skin. Fear and sadness made him want to go to the
young kid and hold him. “Mom, she sent us ahead of her so that we’d be safe. And we’ve
been doing everything we was told. But Grannie was sick before. It was why we went to
stay with her.”
Jorden pulled out his phone and pressed the button to call his brother. The kid never
moved, just stood there with the 9 mm pointed at him like he would most assuredly use
it if he fucked up. When Kenton answered his cell laughing, Jorden almost wanted to
hang up and call someone that wasn’t having as good a day as Kenton seemed to be
“Did you decide that you needed some help moving out anyway? I told you that it
Jorden cut his brother off. “I’ve got a visitor.”
Kenton must have noticed something in his voice and asked him through their link
who it was. “I have to speak to you this way. He has a gun pointed at me, and I don’t
want to be shot if it’s all the same to you.”
“I’m on my way.” Jorden told him to just come alone. No police. “I’m not going to
fucking come into a situation without some sort of back-up. You want me to tell Mom
that you got us both hurt? You know how well that might go over.”
“Kenton, you’re going to have to trust me on this and come here alone. I’m talking to
him now. I would say that he’s about ten or so years old.” The kid told him how old he
was. “He’s ten. Just last week as a matter of fact. He came here looking for a doctor. A
doctor named McCade. He said his grandma didn’t wake this morning. And that he has
been sent here ahead of his mom so that they’d be safe. He said that he’s all alone in this
Kenton put together a sting of curse words that made him smile. “Dragon said to ask
him if he is Gavin. If his mom is Jasmine.” Jorden asked and Gavin said that was right.
“She’s another part. The wings. Dragon said that she’s fine, but he had no way of keeping
in contact with the boy and his mom until one or both of them found us. I’m assuming
that’s why he doesn’t want the police or the media involved. His mom is protecting him
“Christ.” Gavin lifted the gun again after having just put it at his side. Jorden had a
feeling that he was making him nervous. “Come here first and bring Mom. I have no idea
why, but I think he could use her. I know that I could right now.”
“I’m on my way. I’ve contacted Dalton as well. He’s not in uniform right now, so that
might not be so bad. Can you ask Gavin if he is hurt?” Again he asked the boy, who just
stared at him. “Jorden, did he tell you where his grandma is? Or where his mom might
“No. He said that his mom sent them ahead and that his grandma didn’t wake up.”
Jorden reached out to Kenton on their link. I think he’s hurting, but not physically. Also, he
looks exhausted, and I can hear his belly growling from here. If he’s been on the run since Dragon
told you that she was coming, then they’ve been on the run for over a month.
Poor kid. Christ, to try and stay safe like this and to have your grandmother die would be
horrific. The kid has guts; I’ll give him that. Jorden agreed, but told him he still had a gun
pointed at him. It’ll be fine, Jorden. I’m at the door now. Can you warn him that I’m here?
Jorden said that he would and the elevator motor kicked on, telling him that Kenton
must have been right in the lift when he told him. Jorden watched as Gavin lifted the gun
again and pointed it at him. It wasn’t nearly as steady, and when he lowered it once again,
Jorden realized how heavy it must have been for this kid.
“My brother. He’s coming up with my mom.” Gavin said nothing, but swayed just a
little. “We won’t hurt you, Gavin. We will protect you.”
“The dragon, he told my mom that she needed to go to the McCade family and give
them the earrings. He said that we’d be safe here. I’m not saying you had anything to do
with my grannie dying, but I don’t really feel very safe right now.” Jorden nodded and
watched his brother and mom come out of the elevator as Gavin continued. “He warned
us the night that these men showed up at the hotel we were in. I was going to the
bathroom when the door just flew open and there they were. One of them cut me with a
knife when Mom said she couldn’t give him whatever jewelry that she’d stolen from
them. My mom doesn’t steal. But they weren’t taking no for an answer. So she hit the big
one with a bat, then she shot the second guy. We got out of there right away.”
“Good for her. But men like this one, they think that if they want something that it
should be theirs. My name is Aisha McCade, by the way. And this is my son, Kenton.
You’ve met Jorden.” Gavin said nothing. “If you would put the gun down, I’d feel so
“I can’t put it down, Mrs. McCade. My mom told me that this thing might be the only
thing between her seeing me again alive or in the morgue. I don’t want her to come see
me there. I’ve had a really hard time what with missing her, and I’d really hate to
disappoint her by getting my butt shot up.” Mom told Gavin of course he didn’t want to
disappoint her. “My grannie, I think she died. If it gets out that she is gone and her name,
then they’ll know that I’m here.”
“Do you know who they are? The men that your mom is being chased by? Do you
know them? Have you seen them lately?” Jorden wasn’t sure who could be coming now,
but they’d been warned that someone would. And if Gavin had any information they
could use, it might help them. “Have you seen them since you and your mom separated?”
“No. And I can’t call her either to let her know what’s happened. The dragon, he said
that it would be too dangerous. Mom said that determined people could track a fly fart if
they thought it would give them what they wanted.” Gavin flushed brightly. “I’m sorry.
I’m really tired and hungry. Do you think you can tell me if my grannie is really gone? I
need to figure out what I have to do next. Like where to live, and find something to eat.”
“Yes, I can go now. But for as much as I’d like for you to stay here, I think it would
be better if you came along with me. Just in case the owner might question why I’m
there.” Gavin sat down, his poor little body just giving up. When Kenton went to him to
see if he was all right, Jorden noticed that he didn’t bother trying to take his weapon. He
wasn’t sure if that was smart or not, but it wasn’t pointed at any of them now, and Jorden
thought he could live with that.
The hotel was within walking distance of his building. Kenton went in first with
Gavin. Jorden stayed outside, just waiting while his mom went to get Gavin something
to eat. He wasn’t sure what to say to the kid, not having a lot of experience with them,
but when Kenton came out of the room shaking his head, Gavin simply crumbled. Jorden
was glad to have been closest to him to gather him in his arms while he dealt with his
Jorden held him while he sobbed. He kept saying he was all alone now and that he
wanted his mom. Jorden didn’t blame him…right now he wanted his own. But when she
showed up with a burger, fries, and a cola, Gavin said he wasn’t hungry.
“You have to eat, kid. You want to get sick and end up somewhere you don’t want
to be? Someplace that you can’t control? Like a hospital or something?” Gavin just looked
at him—glared was more like it—and Jorden was impressed. Then Gavin told him he
was already where he didn’t want to be. “Yeah, okay, I’ll give you that one. But eat and
we’ll get this figured out. My brother Dalton is coming by. He wants to talk to you too.”
“How many brothers do you have?” Jorden told him five. “Sheesh. I bet they’re all
as big as you and Dr. McCade are too. I guess if the bad guys are coming, it would be best
if you weren’t puny little guys like me.”
“Yes, we’re all pretty big men.” Jorden snagged a fry and ate it as he continued.
“Dalton is a cop, so don’t freak out on him if he starts asking you cop questions. To be
honest, I’m not sure that Dalton knows any other way to ask questions. Anyway. As you
know, Kenton is a doctor. Private practice now. I paint. Grady fancies himself some sort
of computer wizard, which really he is, but he works for this asshole that sort of takes
advantage of him. Lewis, the baby, is a chef…a pretty good one, I guess, since he’s got all
these awards for his cooking. He lived with me until a little while ago, so I’m thinking
he’ll be finding him a place to put his hat. And Vance is…. Well, Vance is Vance. He has
a job that pays well, but I’m not entirely sure what it is he does any more. He was in the
service until recently, and has been known to disappear from time to time.”
Jorden told himself he wasn’t babbling but biding his time until Gavin finished his
meal. Besides, he was going to be staying with them now, so he needed to have all the
scoops on all of them.
By the time Kenton had made arrangements to have the body removed, Jorden and
Gavin had moved back from the place and into the diner across the street. He hadn’t
wanted to leave, but Kenton explained to him that they were going to Jane Doe his
grandma so that her name would never come out, and he had to keep a low profile. And
if the press showed up, which was highly likely, they didn’t want his picture taken.
In the end, Jorden took him to his house. By the time they were pulling up in front,
not only had Gavin fallen asleep, but Jorden had spoken to Kenton and Mom twice about
him. Jorden was glad now that he’d hired himself a staff. The house was fucking huge
for a single man, but the kid was going to need someone to cook and clean up after him.
Jorden hadn’t the slightest idea what to do with a ten-year-old, but he liked him and
figured they could work something out.