She thought the Slayers were her biggest threat, but an even greater evil awaits…
Kaylee may have survived the Slayers' first attack on her life, but now the group dedicated to wiping out all dragon-kin is seeking an ancient relic far deadlier than any they've ever had before. If they succeed, it won't just be the end of Kaylee, but the entire dragon-kin Convocation.
But even while the Slayers' threat grows, the new arrival of a dangerous stranger from Kaylee's past and the emergence of deadly secrets close to home threaten to tear her friends and family apart. Soon this will be a war on two fronts.
And it might not be one she can win.
It was too cold for October, it was a school night, she had a geometry test tomorrow she still hadn’t studied for, and yet Kaylee Richards crouched across the street from the apartment complex, waiting for the monster to emerge.
“You sure Damian gave us good info?” Kaylee whispered.
“I know he runs the Slag Heap and has all this secret information, but he could be wrong. Heck, he could be lying.”
“Uh-huh? That’s all you got? Are you even—what are you doing?”
Jade, Kaylee’s best friend, sat beside her, back pressed against the tree. Her combat knife, a foot of glittering steel she normally had hidden up her sleeve, was clamped between her lips. She was scribbling furiously on a sheet of paper propped on her knee. Her fingers were stained with ink.
Kaylee leaned over. “Is that Mrs. Douglas’ Chem assignment?”
“Maybe,” Jade said. “What’d you get for number six? The stoichiometry problem? And can I borrow your lab later?”
“You’re my dragon-kin Tamer. Aren’t you supposed to be protecting me from evil stuff?”
Jade smirked. She scratched in another answer. “No one can protect us from the evils of Chemistry.”
Kaylee checked that the parking lot of the apartment across the street was still vacant. It was. Just as it had been the last three hours. It didn’t even look like normal people lived there, not to mention an unregistered magic user supposedly smuggling dangerous magical creatures.
She scooted closer to Jade and pointed to an answer at the bottom. “That one’s wrong. I think.”
Jade let out a frustrated groan and crossed it out.
“Why didn’t you just do this earlier?” Kaylee said.
“No time. The Scarsdale Convocation wanted me to get more training hours in before I came on this mission.”
“You already have plenty of hours. What do you need more for?”
“Don’t know. Something to do with prepping for the Tamer test next year.”
“Doesn’t look like we’ll be getting much practice tonight,” Kaylee said. “Surprised the Convocation even let us come along.”
“You mean let you come with me,” Jade said. “Means they’re finally letting you off their leash. Which I’m eternally grateful for. Waiting sucks, but you make it suck less.”
Yes, Kaylee was surprised Alastair, the head of the Scarsdale Convocation, had allowed her to help a couple trained Protectors nab this rogue Merlin. Almost exactly a year ago, at the end of her first semester of freshman year of high school, Kaylee hadn’t even been able to leave her hometown of Scarsdale for fear of getting attacked by Slayers.
But now the Slayers were reported to be far away, which meant Kaylee’s training as a storm dragon-kin, a half dragon/half human with the ability to control storms, could resume.
And that meant nights camped out across from dingy apartment buildings in cities far away from home. How fun.
“Is that him…” Jade leaned forward. “Nah, never mind. I think it was just Edwin. Maddox needs to keep him hidden. He’ll blow our cover.”
“Maddox is Edwin’s Protector, not his babysitter,” Kaylee said. “Besides, Edwin can take care of himself.”
Jade settled back. She brushed her black hair from her face, her skin alabaster pale in the dark, her eyes, naturally narrowed, squinting to make out any movement in the low light.
Kaylee finished checking the positions of everybody else in the stakeout. She knew Josh, a wind dragon-kin from the Northern Scarsdale Convocation, and his dragon-kin Tamer Tygus were hiding to her right, cutting off any escape to the south. Which left only the rear of the apartment building, where two fully-trained Convocation Protectors were positioned. Not that Kaylee completely trusted their skills, fully-trained or not. It wasn’t that the Convocation couldn’t protect her. If it weren’t for them the Slayers and their overzealous (and misguided) hatred of all dragon-kin would have done her in a long time ago.
But the Convocation hadn’t been there last year. They hadn’t saved Kaylee and her friends from Lesuvius, leader of the Slayers, or his plan to use the Dragon Moon to steal all the dragon-kins’ elemental magic. That had been Kaylee, barely controlling her storm powers, and Edwin, finally gaining enough confidence to cast spells, along with Jade and Maddox.
So yes, Kaylee was cautiously grateful Alastair had finally allowed them to go on a Convocation-sanctioned mission. She had to do something. She didn’t think she would be able to sit around waiting to see what the Slayers and Lesuvius were planning next. And they were planning something. Edwin had told her they were, and if there was one thing that boy was better at than being socially awkward, it was knowing his stuff when it came to magic history and what the Slayers’ next attempt to destroy them would be.
“They’re moving,” Jade said, nudging her head towards a pair of figures emerging from the darkened field at the rear of the building. “Bout time.”
The two Protectors, dressed in black combat armor, casually made their way to the front door of the apartment in question. One knocked.
“Easy…” Kaylee said as Jade leaned forward.
“You should get ready, too,” Jade said. “This creep isn’t going to come quietly.”
Kaylee breathed in, turning inward to the magic coursing just beneath the surface of her skin. This first level of magic was stable. Soothing, like a second layer of skin. Not like her other kind. The kind Kaylee hoped she wouldn’t have to use tonight.
Kaylee coaxed the surface magic to her. The dragon within answered.
The skin on her forearms shifted to jet-black scales. Jagged claws replaced fingernails. Spits of ice-blue electricity arced between her palms, sending a comforting trill through her body.
The Protectors knocked again, harder this time.
“Can you hear anything?” Jade said. “Can you shift your ears yet?”
“Sometimes,” Kaylee said. She kept her arms shifted and now directed her magic at her left ear. Not too long ago, changing more than one part of her body to dragon form at the same time would have been near impossible. It was still hard, but a second later Kaylee’s left ear swelled with sound as it changed.
“He’s not here,” she heard one of the Protectors mutter. “It’s a bust. Let’s call it in.”
“One more,” the other answered.
A final knock. A silence.
Then something else from within the apartment. Scuttling. A hundred thousand tiny legs on hardwood and concrete. A growing hum of magic, building in power.
Kaylee knew that feeling. It was the same every time Edwin messed up a spell during their lessons. It was the same when she lost control of her storms. The sensation of tainted magic. Uncontrollable magic.
Without waiting, Kaylee sprinted straight towards the apartment.
“Run! It’s about to—”
The Protectors swiveled on her, their faces shocked. They didn’t see the outline of the door begin to glow behind them. They didn’t hear the rumble.
An explosion rocked the earth as half the apartment exploded in white.