Burn From Within

“You have no idea who you are messing with!” Kelsey slammed the door, the resounding boom shaking the walls. A flier fluttered from the hallway message board to the floor. Kelsey cursed as she slipped on the small sheet. Her arms cartwheeled uncontrolled before she caught herself. Her hand hit the wall and she shook it out.

A giggling brought her attention to another student resting on a nearby bench. With one sharp glare, the young girl paled then buried her face in a book. 

“How dare that pompous, worthless, piece of…” Kelsey mumbled under her breath. Her shoes clacked on the tile floor, loud and echoing.  

Kelsey pushed the door open and stepped out into the cool air of morning. Normally, a day like this would have been heaven to a girl like her. Fresh air, the crisp bite of approaching snow, and the heavenly lack of stench. Yeah, it was perfect. Later she’d regret not being able to enjoy it. There were few days where the Animal Science labs didn’t reek to high heaven and taint this side of campus. She hated it over here, but most of her classes were in the building near the fields. She should have chosen a different major. 

Fists clenched and head down, Kelsey stalked across campus. She needed to get home. With the way today is going, it’d be better if she hid from the world. There was no way she was going to lectures. If she did, her anger would only make more crappy things happen. Nine A.M. and she had already spilled two cups of coffee down her shirt, screamed at her teacher in front of two hundred students, and hit someone. If her luck continued, she’d probably fall down the stairs or start a riot in the mess hall. 

No, no she was not doing this. She would hide in her dorm until the day was over and her rage quieted.

She turned a corner, hoping to sneak between the buildings and along the bike path. No one would be down here this time of day. Anyone on campus would already be in class, so her anger wouldn’t leak on them damaging their day as well. Her murmurings continued, the fury causing her fingers to tingle.

“Lack of inspiration? A mockery of mythology?” She ranted to herself. “How dare…”

The breath was knocked out of her when a wall had appeared in front of her. No, not a wall,  a hard gigantic body of a man. More than twice her size, she had no chance of keeping her feet. 

Luke’s fingers wrapped around the arms of a slight girl. The soft fabric covering her small frame slipped through his grasp as she bounced off him. He moved quick, stepping forward to wrap his arm around her waist and keep her form falling.  Her honey blond hair flitted across her face hiding her features. Laughter filled the air as his friends watched the exchange.

“Hey, watch where you’re…” he started. He trailed off as a set of ice blue eyes met his.

“What the hell?” she snapped. The fire in that gaze would’ve made a lesser man squirm.

As she pressed her hands against his chest to push him away, the hem of her shirt lifted. His skin brushed against her lower back and she sucked in a breath. Heat, fire rushed into her at the touch. 

Luke heard the inhale, but it was the shift in her eyes that stopped him cold. From one second to the next, they lit from within. The red flame started small then extended out from the pupil to over take the white of her eye. Luke’s stomach dropped and fear filled him. This couldn’t be happening.

“Dragon Heart!” Luke yelled. Just like that, his thunder-mates encircled them. A deep guttural hum, not quite a growl began to reverberate from each of their chests. With it, the power within them lifted, a wave so strong the trees nearby shifted as if from a strong breeze swept through the area. The shield stood just in time. 

Luke’s breaths were heavy, his heart rate picking up. “I’m sorry,” he whispered to her as the flames spread.

She screamed. Her head flew back and fire erupted outward in every direction. It hit the shield and his friends braced themselves. He watched as one second the flames filled her eyes, and the next she it spread over her face, down her arms, and across her legs.  Her fingers dug into his skin, sharp pricks as her nails elongated into something closer to talons. Another wave of heat exploded from her slamming into the shield they’d erected. This time, the shield didn’t even wobble.

His heart broke as another, deeper scream filled the air. He pulled her to him, pressing her face to his chest. Luke held on for dear life. He closed his eyes and waited as she burned from the inside out. He felt her tears as they hit his skin burning deep. They would leave scars, marking him forever. That was fine he deserved them. This was his fault. 

Sucking in a breath, Luke felt as his own fire escaped to dancing with hers. Blue flame mixed with yellow swirling higher and higher.  The roar increased as they melded. He groaned.

“Help me!” she screamed, voice cracking. Her legs gave out, but he held her upright.

He knew what he needed to do. They had all been taught about Dragon Hearts as children, though few believed they existed. It was up to him, her match. If he didn’t stop this, she would burn away. If he didn’t save her, he would be alone forever.

“I’m sorry Dragon Heart. I did not mean it. I can help, but you need to trust me.” 

She blinked slowly up at him, her eyes filled with fear. 

“I will fix this,” Luke whispered. He lifted her face and pressed his lips to hers.

Kelsey jumped at the contact. For what seemed like forever all Kelsey had known was pain. Her body felt as though every molecule were on fire. That it was changing, a violent and permanent shifting deep within. But then the man pressed his lips to hers. 

No, it was Luke. Not “the man.” How did she know that?  She went to pull away. Some guy she didn’t know was kissing her. She had to get away. But, that wasn’t right either. 

He was Luke. Second of the Dragon Thunder of Hoard. Honest. Kind. Loyal. Guilt – he felt guilt. Fear for her. She felt that too. And the fire… it was shifting with his touch. Wherever his skin touched hers, the pain lessened. Kelsey pressed against him, lifting her hands to his neck.

Luke shuddered as even more of her fire flooded into him through her touch. Dark and seductive, it filled his blackened heart, sparking a light he never thought possible. He could hear her. Her brilliant mind calm even in the chaos. He saw her heart, her dreams. He felt her kindness and even her feisty nature. And he realized this had been coming for months. He remembered her now. Walking through campus, glaring at them as she passed. He thought back to his interest in her, the need to watch  her. He had been drawn to her from the moment he’d heard her berate another student for not watching where he was going. Luke grinned. Sam had noticed his interest, but never commented. 

Kelsey deepened the kiss, the need for the flames to subside a desperate need. Somehow she knew he was the only way to do it. He was the one who could control this and help her. His arms ran up her back as he responded in kind. She opened for him and when her tongue touched his, the world exploded. She broke away, a shattered scream filling the air. Then the world went dark.

The girl, Kelsey, went limp. The fire all consuming was sucked into him from instant to the next. Luke grunted in pain then caught her, sweeping her up into his arms.   His panting breaths were loud in the sudden silence. He pressed his forehead to hers.

“Do not worry, Dragon Heart. You will be okay. We will take you home. Mother will know what to do.  Just stay with me,” he whispered into her hair.

The shield of power dropped, a pop as sound returned. Luke glanced to his friends – his family – shock lining their faces. Their eyes glowed with their dragons; blue, red, green, and purple.  He had no doubt that his glowed gold, his dragon peaking out too.

Darren ran a hand through his hair. “So…it looks like you found your matched. A Dragon Heart no less.”

Luke swallowed hard. “So it would seem.”

Sam, Darren, Ezequiel, and Thorin closed ranks, awe and hope seeping from them. Luke brushed back Kelsey’s hair to expose her high cheekbones and pixie nose. Her small frame nestled perfectly against him. She was beautiful.

Sam chuckled, “and a strong one at that.”  He leaned in closer. Luke growled. Sam grinned, stepping back slowly. “If she makes it through transition, she will be a force like none other. One to rival you.”

“I’ve never seen power like that,” Thorin said. “The others will be full of surprise.”

“That we found a Dragon Heart, or that Luke has a girl?” Ezequiel asked. Sam snorted and Darren laughed.

“Definitely the girl part,” Darren teased.

Luke rolled his eyes. He scanned his friends. Underneath the shock and fear, he could see the hope which flickered within them. Dragon Hearts were rare. Matches were rare.  To find one now, when their thunder of dragons was so unstable, it could fix everything. If she shifted and became her truest form, then he might still have time to fix the rot infecting his home. And he had felt her. She was strong. Maybe stronger than Arthur. With her help, he might be able  to prove his suspicions – to save the wing and take him down. 

“We need to get her back to Mother,” Luke said. They all nodded. “She isn’t safe yet and if she lights again, I do not know if I can pull her free.” 

With a quick look around, wings appeared on each of their backs. Flying would be quicker; safer should she alight. He hated flying only partially shifted, but Luke knew it was the best way to get her home. With one last look down at her face, he propelled himself upward, his golden wings carrying them easily.

Published on OBW Blog December 18, 2020 © Tracey Canole 

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