SHIFT HAPPENS SERIES
Her lips moved frantically, but I couldn’t make out what she was saying. I tried, but the ringing in my ears wouldn’t go away. As I moved toward her, her face distorted in anger and desperation. What had I done wrong? She always smiled at me—she never shouted.
Everything was red. It shouldn’t be red.
Shaking my head, I blocked out the screaming and groans of my brothers and glanced wildly around the room. It would take so long to clean up the mess, but I could do it. I was a good girl. I would make her smile—I would make them all smile. Everything would be okay.
I would pick up the pieces and put them back together like a puzzle. My brothers would be proud. They teased me because I was such a little girl, but I would show them.
“Dima,” my mother shouted. “Go. Go now.”
I shook my head no and moved towards her. She’d gotten tangled in ropes and chains. That was a silly game. I didn’t ever want to play that game.
“Listen to me,” she hissed as her eyes grew wide with terror. “You must leave, child. He’s coming back.”
I heard them gasping for air behind me, but I couldn’t look at that anymore. It was not the way it was supposed to be. My brothers were big and strong—not red and broken. This was a terrible game and I wanted them to stop.
“Mommy,” I cried. “I’m scared.”
Her eyes fluttered shut for a moment, then flew open blazing a brilliant green. “Use your gift. Use the gift I taught you and go. Go far away from here, Dima and never come back.”
“Come with me,” I begged as panic filled me. “I’m too small to go away. I want you to come—and Sean and Timothy and Matthew.”
“Your father will be back any moment,” she wailed. “You will do as I say. Now. Find your power and leave this place forever.”
“But I love you, mommy,” I choked out through the tears that had started and wouldn’t end for hundreds of years.
“If you love me, you will go,” she growled harshly.
I backed away and put my hands over my mouth so I wouldn’t beg anymore.
“I love you, my beautiful Dima. My precious daughter,” she whispered. “Please go.”
I nodded my head and she smiled. I would do anything to make her smile. I loved her.
So I did as she said.
But the horror of that day would follow me.
Four hundred and ninety years later.
“I was thinking maybe we could do something fun,” I suggested trying my best not to sound pushy or desperate.
I accidently on purpose let the strap of my very fitted dress fall off my shoulder, revealing a little side boob and a tremendous amount of cleavage. This tactic usually worked like a dream, but apparently not today.
“That sounds wonderful, Dima. What did you have in mind?” Seth asked kindly as he expertly cleaned the daggers we’d used for target practice while totally oblivious to the blatant display of my knockers.
He was perfect—kind of. Not only was the man panty-melting gorgeous, more importantly, he was good through and through. I’d never met a Dragon like him. Most male Dragons I’d come across in my very long life were possessive, perverted and violent. Seth was patient and kind and was perfectly fine with the fact I was a single mother to an active four year old. Any other scaled jackass would have wanted nothing to do a child that wasn’t his. The thought of a female Dragon having been intimate with another was too much to handle for the pea brained fire breathers even though we were a very sexual race. Not to mention, my lineage didn’t send him running for the hills. Seth was different—hence my frustration and my need to seduce.
Why in the blazes wasn’t he trying to jump my bones? Had I lost my touch? Was he gay? I’d never come across a gay Dragon in my 499 years on earth, but…
“I was thinking we could have a picnic in a deserted park. Naked,” I added for good measure to see if he was listening.
“That sounds lovely, Dima. Why don’t we bring Daniel? I can work with him on his flying,” Seth chimed in agreeably.
He wasn’t listening.
“Actually,” I said, heaving a frustrated sigh, “I’m taking him to Hung Island, Georgia. He’ll be safe there.”
“That’s an outstanding idea,” Seth replied with a genuine smile and a gentle nod of his head. “I’ll meet you there in two days. How does that sound?”
“Great,” I said with forced enthusiasm. “I’ll see you then.”
* * *
“Is there something wrong with me?” I asked as I took critical stock of myself in the mirror.
I looked like I always did. I’d done nothing to earn my looks except be born—wild red hair, emerald green eyes, slim figure, tall and nice tatas—all inherited from my mother. Most Dragons were appealing. It helped us attract prey, not that many of us lived that way anymore. Since melding in with the humans for the last several hundred years most of us had reined in our barbaric tendencies of old. Plus we ate food just like the humans, grocery stores and restaurants were plentiful. Was I missing something that made me undesirable?
“Is that a trick question?” Essie, my new Werewolf friend asked with a smirk as she looked up from the coloring book she was sharing with my son Daniel. “You breathe fire. When you shift you’re roughly the size of a freakin’ tour bus with a tail that spans half a football field and the wingspan of a couple SUV’s parked back to back. You’re going to have to be more specific with the question.”
“You’re an ass, Werewolf,” I said with a grin.
“Tell me something I don’t know, Dragon,” she shot back with a laugh and resumed coloring.
Essie’s parents, permanently stuck in their shifted Wolf form, lay under the table lightly snoring while her best friend, the filter-free and fabulous gay Vampyre Dwayne, pored over wedding invitation catalogues.
Essie was getting married to Hank and Dwayne was her Man of Honor. From what I understood Dwayne was planning to wear a dress for the nuptials. I decided not to touch that one. It was Essie’s big day and if she was cool with an undead Man of Honor wearing a gown, who was I to judge? The simple fact that they’d accepted Daniel and me as friends was mind blowing to me. Dragons were not popular with any other magical species. My father had made sure of that. But being here in Hung, Georgia under the protection of Essie and Hank’s Wolf Pack was as safe and homey as Daniel and I had experienced in his four years on earth. For that I was thankful. However, I had a date with death staring me in the face in a few months if I didn’t find a mate or kill my father.
“You’re gorge,” Dwayne announced as he pulled out fabric swatches and laid them next to the invitations and pictures of wedding cakes he’d torn from magazines. “Both you and Essie are so hawt, if I liked vaginas I’d be on you like white on rice.”
“What’s a bagina?” Daniel asked, pointing a chubby finger at the now paler than usual Vamp.
“Ohhhh, um…well, a bagina is a dance done by extinct tribes of Pygmy Goat Shifters,” Dwayne stuttered as I reluctantly gave him a chance to crawl out of the body part hole. “If we say bagina too many times the goats will magically appear and eat all the cookies that Granny made—not to mention they smell like rotting fish—so we really don’t want to use that term.” He finished on a high note and gave me a mortified shrug along with an apologetic grin.
Dwayne should not be allowed to crawl out of holes. Ever.
“A vagina is a body part of a woman,” I said as I sat down next to Daniel and picked up a crayon. “You know how you have a penis?”
“Yesssssss,” he replied with a giggle and went to pull down his pants to show us.
Quickly sitting him on my lap to end the strip show, I continued. “A boy has a penis and a girl has a vagina. No big deal.”
“Can a gurl spway peepee on the wall with her bagina?” he asked seriously as Essie shoved the page she was coloring into her mouth to keep from laughing.
“Well, I did know a…” Dwayne started.
“Nope,” I cut the Vampyre off as the wolves under the table growled at him in warning. “Girls can’t do that,” I explained to my son as I gave Dwayne the mom eyeball or momball as I liked to refer to it.
“Dat is vewy sad.” Daniel shook his little head as his blond curls bounced.
“Tell me about it,” Essie agreed with a disgusted grunt. “When I was little I had to bring toilet paper when I ran away to the woods for the day. None of the boys had to do that.”
“Why didn’t you use a leaf?” Dwayne inquired, wedding planning forgotten.
“Because once you wipe with poison ivy, you bring toilet paper,” she hissed.
I stifled a giggle and hoisted my little man over my shoulder. “He needs a nap,” I told my newly found friends. “Which room should I use?”
“Upstairs, second door on the right,” Essie’s grandma, Bobbie Sue said as she came out of the kitchen covered in flour. “Stay out of my sewing room. I’m working on Dwayne’s Dolly Parton costume. Room’s covered in thousands of sequins and I might have left the hot glue gun on. Wouldn’t want our little man getting burned.”
“Thanks,” I said as I bit back my grin. Granny and Dwayne were famous on the Shifter drag show circuit from what I’d picked up. “Daniel and I are impervious to burns, but the sequins could be a problem if he ate them.”
“Oh God,” Dwayne announced dramatically. “One time I ingested a bag of sequins by accident and got excited that my poop would sparkle, but then I remembered I don’t poop. Vampyres can’t poop.”
That statement received total silence from everyone except for Daniel who unfortunately thought it was hilarious.
“I’m not even going to ask how a blood drinker eats sequins by accident,” Essie muttered as she stood and stretched. “I’m going to have to go home to Hank in a few. Will you and Daniel be okay at here at Granny’s?”
“We’re actually going to move over to the Hung Bed and Breakfast,” I told Essie as I snuggled my sleepy boy in my arms. “Seth’s coming tomorrow night and reserved a suite.”
“Mr. Snuffleupagus?” Essie inquired with a grunt of laughter.
“I’m sorry?” I asked, confused.
“Big Bird’s invisible friend on Sesame Street,” Dwayne supplied as if that would erase my confusion.
None of my new friends had met Seth yet and apparently were doubtful of his existence.
“He’s real,” I said with a sigh. “Seth is a fine man. He’s wonderful with Daniel and he’s extremely kind and good—and um, kind.”
“He’s ugly isn’t he?” Dwayne asked as he critically eyed the pictures of the cakes next to the picture of what I assumed was Essie’s dress. “Or he has a small man package.”
“Why would you say that?” I demanded.
“Because no one describes the man they’re doing the horizontal mambo with as nice unless he’s lacking in certain departments,” Dwayne explained.
Sadly he made some sense—not about the small package. I wouldn’t know the answer to that one as I’d never seen him naked, but the rest…
“Tell you what,” Granny chimed in as she took a very sleepy Daniel from my arms and gave Dwayne a look that made even me shudder. “I’m gonna put this little bugger down for a nap before the blood sucker says something that’s going to scar the child for eternity or makes you burn him to a crisp. And if you’re gonna do that, take it outside. I like my knick-knacks.”
Granny left the room with the two wolves close on her heels. They’d taken a real liking to Daniel and rarely left his side.
“Seth’s not even remotely ugly and I have no clue what his package looks like,” I snapped as I plopped down on the couch and let my head fall into my hands. “Maybe he’s gay.”
“I have a fabu gay-dar. I can check him out tomorrow and tell you if he plays on my team in three seconds flat,” Dwayne offered as he sat down next to me.
“Have you made it clear you’re interested?” Essie asked as she flanked me on the other side.
“Yep. I’ve all but jumped him. He’s perfect in every other way. Maybe he doesn’t want me.”
“Impossible,” Dwayne snorted and Essie nodded in agreement. “He’d have to be a blind castrati to not want you. I want you and I don’t like girls,” Dwayne added rather unhelpfully.
“I thought you wanted me,” Essie said with a laugh and an eye roll.
“I want to be you,” Dwayne assured her, which caused an even bigger eye roll from Essie.
Who wouldn’t want to be Essie? She had a fabulous mate who adored her. She had a grandma and friends who would die for her. She had her parents—even though they were stuck in their Wolf form—who adored her as well. Deadly-as-all-get-out should be her middle name and she could shoot better than anyone I’d ever come across. Essie was beautiful, but what she had in love and loyalty far outweighed her looks. I wasn’t such a great deal—I had looks and very little else to offer. Sure I was just as deadly as Essie, but that didn’t make me any friends.
“I have too much baggage,” I said, revealing my biggest fear to my new friends. “Why in the world would anyone want me? My father is the reviled Dragon King. I have no family to speak of because he killed them all and I’m a single mom. Oh my God, saying it out loud is so freakin’ depressing.”
“It is kind of off-putting when you lay it out like that,” Dwayne agreed as Essie slapped his bald head.
“Dima, you’re amazing and if this Seth doucheballhole can’t see that he doesn’t deserve you,” Essie argued as she aimed for Dwayne’s head again. “Do you think he’s your true mate?”
Did I? No. I didn’t, but Dragons rarely ever got to be with their true mate.
“No. And Daniel’s father wasn’t either,” I said softly.
“Should I get you guys some Twinkies and wine?” Dwayne asked as he hopped off the couch to avoid Essie’s left hook.
“Why would you get us Twinkies and wine?” Essie asked as she closed her eyes and let her head fall back on her shoulders.
“Because this is getting good and I know how you gals like to eat and gossip,” he offered reasonably.
“Do you have ice cream?” I asked as a little grin pulled at my lips.
“Coming right up,” Dwayne said as he raced from the room to get our fattening girl-talk food.
“So, Daniel’s father?” Essie prompted me.
“Do I have to tell you without ice cream?”
“No, but Dwayne has a big mouth so anything you want to stay in confidence should be said now,” she replied as she tossed me a throw pillow to hang onto for courage.
“Dwayne’s a talker?” I asked surprised.
“Nope. He just gets excited and runs his mouth. He’d die for any of us. He’ll also pilfer your clothes, so don’t let him near your suitcases.”
“I can hear you,” Dwayne called out from the kitchen. “Supersonic Vampyre hearing.”
“No one is going to die for me,” I promised with a small grin. “And I think he’s already been in my suitcase.”
Essie laughed and then grew quiet. It was crazy, but I trusted this Werewolf more than I trusted my own people. I’d only known her a short while, but she’d stood up for me in ways no one had—as had her mate, Hank and her Granny and Dwayne. If I was going to tell my sordid tale to anyone it may as well be Essie. Besides, I had an enormous request to ask of her.
I’d been waiting for the right time…no time was the right time for this question.
“If I die, would you hide and raise Daniel?” I asked on one breath as I stared at her hard and accidentally tore the pillow in half.
“Wow. Wasn’t expecting that one,” she said as her eyes grew wide with surprise. “Wanna give me a few more details?”
“Yes. Long story short…Daniels father was a lovely man that I barely knew. He wasn’t my true mate, but he was a good man and I was attracted to him. The pregnancy wasn’t planned and he was killed by my father before he even knew about it. Any Dragon I’ve ever shown an interest in has been murdered by my father,” I said as I picked at the torn pillow feathers that floated in the air around me.
“Dude, that is some screwed up shit,” Essie said as she stood up and began to pace. “So other than being a gaping murderous assmonkey, why does you sperm donor kill all your potential mates?”
“So the line ends,” I replied.
“Not following,” Essie said as she took the destroyed pillow from my hands and replaced it with a cast iron doorstop shaped like a duck.
“I’m the next in line and he doesn’t want me to rule.”
“But if he were to have a son doesn’t that trump your right to the throne?” Essie asked the appropriate question.
“I think so,” I said slowly wondering how much I should spill. Since I’d asked her to take her life into her own hands by raising my son upon the very real possibility of my demise, she deserved to know it all. “That would be true if my father was of the Royal House of Dragons, but he’s not. My mother was.”
“And that means you and Daniel are the rightful heirs. Actually the only heirs,” Essie finished the story.
The damn duck doorstop was indestructible. I needed to destroy something or set it on fire to keep talking. Realizing my need, Essie handed me a pile of Granny’s gossip magazines. I began to tear them to shreds.
“It gets even worse,” I admitted as I tore the glossy paper head off of Brad Pitt and several other movie stars I couldn’t place. “If I don’t mate before I turn 500, I die anyway. The Royal Dragon line comes with some screwed up perks. I have to kill my father before my birthday so Daniel is safe.”
“Holy Faye Dunaway with a truck load of wire hangers,” Dwayne gasped as he reentered the room with several gallons of ice cream and two bottles of wine. “We’ve got some problems here.”
“No,” I said as I wadded up the pages I’d torn apart and shook my head. “I have some problems. Not you. The only thing I ask is that if I die and my father still lives, you would keep my son safe. He’s the only thing in the world that means anything to me.”
I wasn’t used to asking for things. It was difficult and my pride was taking a beating, but my son was far more precious than my ego.
“Done,” Dwayne said without missing a beat. “I’m clearly outnumbered with eight daughters and I’ve always wanted a son. Being gay and dead it’s highly unlikely I’ll get an heir in the usual fashion. I have more homes than I even know about. I can keep him hidden for eternity and the Cows will spoil his little fire-ass rotten.”
Tears filled my eyes and I tried not to laugh at the thought of my son being raised by a gay Vampyre with eight adopted violent, yet sweet, Were Cow daughters but a small smile made its way to my trembling lips.
“I believe she asked me,” Essie corrected her BFF.
“Please,” Dwayne huffed. “You and Hank travel too much and if you become Council members it would be awfully hard to hide a Dragon.”
“You think you’re up to raising a preschool fire-breather, Bagina Man?” Essie inquired with a smirk.
“Yes, I do I Wipe My HooHoo with Poison Ivy,” he shot back.
“Thank you,” I said quietly, not quite believing my good fortune at finding this crazy crew.
“However,” Dwayne continued as he shoved a tub of ice cream into my hands and stabbed a spoon into it. “I say you’re not going to bite it. Are you into your gay boyfriend?”
“Um…” I started.
“We don’t know he’s gay,” Essie reminded him as she dug into her mint chocolate chip.
“This is true,” Dwayne agreed as he floated to the ceiling in excitement. “I will teach you how to seduce him. You’ll be mated by the end of the week. We can then go en masse to kill your bastardass father and be back in time for me to finish planning my wedding. It’s simple.”
“First of all it’s my wedding, you undead dork. And Dima needs no help in seducing anyone. She’s hotter than hell in a heat wave. Have you tried flashing some boob?” Essie asked as she pulled Dwayne off the chandelier.
“Yep,” I replied as they both gasped in shock.
“The boob failed?” Dwayne asked, dismayed.
“He’s got to be gay,” Dwayne fretted. “Do you have anyone else in mind?”
“No,” I replied on a long sigh. “It’s kind of hard to find a Dragon when most of them know my father will try to kill them.”
“I can see how that might cause a few problems,” Essie said as she resumed her pacing. “You don’t need to mate with anyone to kill your dad. We just have to work fast. If he’s dead it will be far easier to find a freakin’ mate before you bite the big one. There are many ways to skin a cat or more accurately, kill a Dragon.”
“He has a rather large army of insane Dragons that would do anything for him,” I supplied as I pressed the bridge of my nose to alleviate the ice cream headache I’d just given myself or maybe it was Essie’s way with words.
“True, but we have Junior!” Essie clapped her hands and did a little dance around the still floating Dwayne.
“Your alpha?” I asked doubtfully.
Junior seemed like a great guy, but he was also clumsy and kind of a hot mess. His obsession with a gal named Sandy who wouldn’t give him the time of day was all he thought about. To me, he appeared to be a handsome good ole boy who ran a pack of Wolves.
“I know,” Essie cut me off before I could say anything else. “He’s all kinds of spectacularly unorganized, but the dude is MENSA.”
“Shut the front door,” I said with a surprised laugh. “No way.”
“Yes way, and he can hack into anything,” she added with an evil little smirk.
“Outstanding!” Dwayne shouted. “We can metaphorically slice your father’s financial balls into confetti with Junior’s help, and then I’ll mind meld the stinky butt jammer when his army turns on him. And then of course, we can confetti his testes for real.”
“Okay, those visuals are a little much, but the general idea is fairly brilliant,” I said as I put down my tub of frozen sugar and started pacing next to Essie. “Money is paramount to my father’s operation and I’m more than sure most of it’s illegal. Destroy a Dragon’s hoard—destroy a Dragon. If we can fracture his army, I have a real chance of taking him out. Is Junior really that good?”
“Junior is better than that good,” Essie promised. “Tomorrow morning is the beginning of the end of Daddy Dearest.”
“I think I love you,” I said as I tackled Essie and Dwayne in a hug.
“Just don’t tell Hank,” Dwayne advised with wide eyes and a barely disguised smirk. “He’s a little possessive of me.”
“Oh my hell, Dwayne, you are going to drive me to drink,” Essie griped as she giggled and punched him in the arm.
“Got ya covered,” he said as he handed each of us a full bottle of very fine wine.
It was the best damn bottle of wine I’d drunk in 499 years.
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My name is Dima and I’m a Dragon.
I’m also going to die soon. Its a battle I’ve waged most of my life, but now the odds are looking crappy. Before I go up flames, I have to find a way to save my horde and make sure my secret treasure is safe. There is one way I could stick around a bit longer, but the men I’ve met aren’t exactly lining up to save me.
What in hell does a Dragon Princess have to do to find a mate? Offing my father, the reviled Dragon King, would be one way to go. He has a penchant for eliminating any male who shows interest—not to mention he’s been trying to kill me for almost 500 years.
So my brilliant plan is to take out my father in a blaze of glory—pun intended. However, I have to suck it up and do some stuff I don’t want to do.
For example, getting along with Dragons who don’t trust me is a horrific challenge even though we share the same goal. That’s why I aligned myself with the rag tag pack of shifters who accepted me and my secret treasure unconditionally. They’re my friends now and I’m keeping them. I’ll fry anyone who dares to speak against my Werewolves, Werecows and the fabulous gay Vampyre named Dwayne.
Unfortunately the Weres who love me don’t have the kind of fire power I need to take out my father. To get that I have allied myself with a dangerous group of Dragons known as The Resistance. Staying away from the sexy, pompous, fire-breathing, blow hard of a leader is turning out to be a full time job. And no… he’s not even in the running for the mate. Mutual incineration would be inevitable—or sexual combustion.
You see… Dragons aren’t the easiest of the species to get along with. You can dress us up and take us out, but at the end of the day we’re still the idiots who like a little friendly blood shed and sex—make that lots of sex.
My life keeps getting more and more complicated, but I’ve run out of options. I’m about to run out of time too. I’m learning there’s no where to run and no where to hide from destiny.