Continued…

As she watched the first fighters come out she leaned against the nearest column and listened to the crowds cheer them on. Neither looked familiar to her, but they still put on a very good show. Both lycan started out human as they prowled around each other while sizing one another up. Suddenly one charged across the arena with a snarl and jumped towards his opponent from about mid-point of the ground between them. Both snarled and began slamming each other with  punch after punch. It was brutal to watch and after a few minutes they were shifting to hybrid form to claw and bite at one another.

This was when the real bloody work began as they rolled across the sand and tossed one another against the walls of the arena. As the audience watched and cheered the gladiators would spring up on the side of the wall and bounce off at their opponent.

Ashley found herself cheering the dark brown furred fighter on. She truly was enjoying this! Soon enough the one she’d cheered on had his opponent down to the point that he wasn’t getting back up and the match was over.

Someone handed her a glass of wine and she took it without even looking at the servant as Saysha’s warrior Fenris met his opponent. He was a quick fighter and Ashley found herself drifting towards the dragoness to discuss her fighters’ techniques.

“Are they all so fast as he? I can’t believe how quick he moves around the arena!” She was grinning and her eyes were sparkling with the excitement that was rushing through her veins.

“No. And watch how he makes his moves. He doesn’t waste his energy like the others. And soon enough… oh, watch,” she giggled.

Fenris made his way around the other lycan as if they guy were just standing still allowing it to happen. He got midair, turned hard and kneed the man in the head. He hadn’t even shifted yet! The other lycan was shifted and struggling. Fenris flipped from the body as it crashed and then  hopped back on the other fighter, as if he were going on a piggy-back ride. The laughter all around the arena was contagious. He held on to the scruff of his opponent’s neck and rode that hunched over creature like a true rodeo cowboy.

“He knows how to win a battle AND win a crowd. If he’s doing this, he knows he’s going to win. It’s in the bucket.” Saysha waved over another servant. “I’m sure we’ll have a couple of losses tonight. Which is fine, we don’t want to be refused competitions from other ludus masters. But my money would be on Fenris, Herrod and your champion.” Saysha worked in Ashley’s desires to further sweeten the girl on the purchase of a sponsorship.

Ashley smiled liking the sound of that.. HER champion. She looked back at the arena to watch Fenris. He had already won. Now it was just waiting for the match to be ended and the winner announced.

Saysha would not lose. Purchase meant a slow process, during which time she could make profit – or, it meant double profit up front. And she already had her eyes on another couple of gladiators she could take on with the money Ashley could pay for Azrael. Saysha was not attached to any gladiator. They made her money and Fenris was of course, a friend – not just a gladiator. Right now they were all focused on the show.

There was a small giggle from Mira as she watched Fenris insult and humiliate his opponent. She couldn’t help but hear what Saysha was laying on the naive blonde. She smiled at the lady dragon and couldn’t help another small laugh as she saw the look on Ashley’s face in response. Oh yeah she was hooked and whatever price Saysha put on the wild lycan would be paid. Mira could see it written all over the young woman. But then the smile drifted away once she caught how intently the elder dragoness was watching the whole scene play out. Ashley might get conned by Sash but Mira doubted it would be so easy with Inea watching like a hawk. She had to wonder how well the elder dragon was doing. They had to keep their act up, but the reason they came here was for her brother. And Inea was already antsy to leave. 

Herrod was out after the next match and while Ashley watched her interest wasn’t really in the tigris. She was biding time and waiting.. patiently waiting for now.

The blonde was listening to the chatter and had turned to listen to the conversations while waiting for the big fight to begin. It was almost an hour more before the last match was fought and when the horns blew that time Ashley listened to the crowds quiet down and quickly turned back to watch for Azrael’s entrance into the arena. It was time and she was eagerly holding tight to the balcony railing.

Garaldi was in the ring, already shifted to the most useful form – hybrid. He was big and had fur and armor in the right spots – to cover vulnerable areas. He was charging around the arena so fast he became a blur sometimes. He moved to the side of the ring and turned to the entrance, waiting for his opponent.

Azrael was cautious coming into the ring and also was still in hybrid form. He moved gracefully and with intent. The wolf saw the enemy but did not run or make a show of this situation. The crowd was riled but they were confused. Before, the big wolf had put on quite the show, but now that he was free, he seemed almost docile. There were a few boos already.

“That’s okay beautiful. You know what they want but you know how to win. Winning is more important right now. Let them change their bets if they want. All the more for me when they’re shifting bites them in the ass…” Saysha was waiting.

Azrael strode on all fours to the very center of the ring. Azrael sat down and looked at Garaldi and huffed in the warrior’s general direction as if to say, “Fuck you, I own it.”

Garaldi took the challenge for what it was and came charging. He had already spent a lot of energy in working the crowd and now this. Azrael was thinking. If he won…

As the charging lycan came at Azrael, his claws dug into the ground and he was completely still. Everyone would have thought he was going to take the blow. At the last second, the point in which Garaldi could not stop, Azrael dove beneath the snarling creature, so that he missed. He turned over and held his clawed hands up digging them into quickly moving flesh. He rolled immediately and got up to sprint away from the other champion and get a good view.

Garaldi cried out in pain, but spun to try and rebound for a second attack. He was bleeding freely, the cuts in his chest and down his rib cage were at least an inch deep and cut to the bone.

Azrael was already running back to the opposite wall – past his opponent but a few yards away out of reach by the time the lycan had turned around seeking his target. The Findias champion hit the wall behind Garaldi and pushed himself off of it with all his strength. He was in the air and on the other lycan’s back, trying to get a good hold on his throat.

They went rolling, the defender trying to dislodge the aggressor. The crowd was going wild! They had not expected this at all!

Finally the lycan shoved hard enough to get rid of Azrael – but not because the angel of death had let go. No, Garaldi had succeeded because between his strength and Azrael’s strength, they ripped the back of his throat out.

“Ahhh, shit…Saysha!” Rashgun yelled at his mate. He was not pleased one bit. These were not supposed to be fights to the death.

“Healers!” she called before hopping over the balcony and shifting to the pale emerald tinted dragon she was. Several others entered the ring and either cornered Azrael or went to heal and help the downed gladiator. They had to get to him before his life was gone.

Azrael took no note of this. He had done what he was told he needed to do. Now, he lifted his snout to the air to search for the scent of the lady who had told him she would visit him and pay him for winning.

Her breath had caught the moment Azrael had pulled the killing move and her wide blue eyes had stayed on him every moment. Right up until the second Mira grabbed her arm.

“I think that’s enough, Ashley.” Mira was tugging her friend away from the balcony. The last thing she needed was for Ash to get gravely injured. She really loved her friend.   

“What… no wait! They can’t hurt him Mira! He did what was asked.. He WON!” She pulled free to clutch the railing for dear life as she watched him stand there surrounded by the dragons and the guard as if they were nothing. He was beautiful…

The healers stood back up from the lycan and the other ludus auctori had his men grabbed Garaldi and help him up. The crowd cheered, seeing the warrior was still alive and would be fine once he gathered himself.

The announcer’s voice rang out, “Winner is, Azrael! Our own Angel of Death has definitely shown his name is worthy!” The crowd roared and exactly at that moment, Azrael smelled her. He looked toward the balcony and then raised his head into the air to let out that deep, strong howl.

Ashley applauded loudly and grinned. He’d won! She’d asked him to and he had!

“He’s tracking you, Ash. He’s dangerous. If he gets to you and he’s out of control, who knows what’ll happen. This isn’t some Disney movie!” Mira tried pleading while her hand went to her friends arm again and once more tugged her back.

“No… Mira please.. he won’t hurt me.. he won’t.. stop..” Ashley was trying to tug free as Mira pulled her back from the balcony and her attention went from the lycan to the succubi pulling her.

Azrael saw the tug and growled low. His body shifted fully now, a tan and milky-white dire wolf went running at full speed across that arena to try and get to that balcony. The problem was the height. But he was not some dumb animal. He clawed half way to Ashley and then leapt down and went running to out-maneuver the dragons now after him.

They would come after to take him down, including Saysha and he would duck, roll, maneuver between their legs, and escape. As soon as he saw the correct position, he used one of the dragon’s bodies and climbed it to leap onto the balcony. Mid-leap there was a shot that rang out. He whined and hit the ground on his side.

Ashley screamed loudly as the shot rang through the air and she watched the wolf hit the ground. Jerking free of Mira, Ashley furiously rushed towards the downed feral snapping, “They shot him!”

Rashgun slowly lowered his lovely rifle and looked at the creature cautiously. His mate moved her claw to the edge of the balcony and shifted back to her human form to toss herself onto it. She looked to her mate with anger in her eyes. The announcers were telling everyone to be calm and they would have a chance at winning more with the very next announcement.

Azrael was not only passing out, he had shifted to his human form. He was a man, medium build tanned…of obvious multi racial heritage. His hair was shaved down close to his scalp. His eyes were still blinking. They were oddly enough, bright blue. But the telling features were the pointed canines that remained even though he was no longer shifted. And for Ashley, the very light patterns of tattooing on his body.

“What have you done?!” Saysha looked over at her mate.

“I just tranquilized the bastard. It’s a modified rifle. You’re lucky I didn’t put him down,” Rashgun retaliated on his mate.

“I won…come back…to me…” Azrael whispered before passing out completely.

He wasn’t full lycan.. he was half vampire too! And he understood them? He wasn’t some beast. Narrowed blue eyes glared at the dragon that now held her. “Damn it.. Let me GO!”

“Fine,” Inea growled and watched Ash go over to the unconscious warrior. He wouldn’t be harming her so long as he was asleep.

“This is sport. Never bring in an uncontrollable beast again, Saysha. You may have profited this time and not caused too much harm for future tourney – but the only further profit you’ll have of him is when you sell him.” He tossed his rifle to his kindred who had been told to bring it immediately via mental link.  The tall human took the weapon and went back inside to place it where it normally was locked up.

“Rash…” Saysha was not used to her mate talking to her this way and it showed.

“End of discussion.” he turned to the guardians in attendance. “Take him back to his cell. Clean him up and for the stars’ sakes keep him sedated until we’re rid of him!”

Rashgun turned to see his guests and bowed his head in apology. “Please forgive the drama.  I hope your appetites for adventure has been quenched for a while.”

Before Inea and Mira could respond, Ashley was making an idiot of herself.

Ashley placed herself between the guards lifting Azrael and the door. Standing before Saysha, Ashley spoke quickly before the guards could drag him too far away.

“How much? Name your price! Just tell me Saysha no games!” She looked at the downed male then back at the dragoness. No matter the price Ashley would pay it but they both knew Ashley would pay better than others would for the feral male.

“Ashley..” Mira tried to caution her friend, but was ignored.

“I said name your price! I want him leaving with me..” Ashley looked at the male that dangled between the other two now.

“Where the hell are you gonna keep him?” Inea asked quite plainly. The creature was dangerous, sentient or not! “This is not a wise decision, I’m not being overbearing here, I’m telling you so you don’t end up getting yourself killed.”

“I’m not joking and she doesn’t make decisions for me. Now are we making a deal or what Saysha?” Like her mother Ashley could put her foot down and mean it.

“Twice your winnings.” Saysha replied quickly.

“What were your winnings, Ashley?” Rashgun asked, taking his mate’s arm despite the little growl he heard from her.

Ashley licked her lips, “Just around 75,000 I believe..”

There was a pause as the two dragon mates obviously spoke back and forth to each other with mind speak. Then, Saysha changed her mind. She looked over at the beautiful warrior.

“Your winnings this day will be quite enough, so long as you’ll guarantee he won’t be harmed. I would think considering your place and your friends’ places, this is not too much to ask?”

“I guarantee he won’t be harmed.” Ashley had regained control of herself and the business person side of her showed through the adrenaline and excitement. “I just need some time to arrange transport.” Ashley held her hand out to Saysha to seal the deal and after the dragoness shook on it she turned to move to her new acquisition. Her hands smoothed over his cheeks as she said softly, “I’ll keep you safe.. I will be back for you soon Azrael, very soon and you will leave here with me I promise.”

The guardians got the unconscious lycan on a stretcher and moved to take him back to his cage. They went out the staff exit to the side so as not to disturb the guests in the banquet room.

Turning towards the others, Ashley could see they weren’t pleased. Inea had her hands on her hips and Mira? Well, she looked a bit disappointed and concerned.

“What are you going to do with him Ash? He’s not a pet you can take home to your mom and dad!” Mira just knew that this was going to go really bad for her friend and it worried her. “He’s a fighter and a killer. He’s not a bum needing saving. Why did you do this!?”

Ashley looked between the two women as she crossed her arms over her breasts. “Do you remember Mira when I told you that I have felt a pull to this world?”

There was a huge sigh from the succubus, “Yes I remember, so what?”

“He is that pull.” The blonde stepped to her best friend and her eyes were pleading for understanding. “He needs my help, just like Dante needs Inea’s and you need Derek’s. I’m drawn to him and my mind won’t be changed so either the two of you be my friends and help me with him or leave me to it.” Ashley knew it wouldn’t be easy, but she knew deep down that he was worth the work and the time.

“You need a place to keep him so he can relearn who he is. He spoke to you. I heard him. I can work on his thoughts and use magical restraints in whatever place you decide is appropriate. I’ve done so before for a lost friend.” Inea thought about the beautiful blue eyes she had not seen in a few months and scolded herself silently. “Lycan can become lost in their ferality. It is very much like PTSD. But that makes them very dangerous, Ashley. Until they find themselves again, and even when they do, sometimes things can trigger episodes…”

Ashley chewed her thumbnail in thought. “I don’t want him restrained. That’s his problem here, they keep him caged like an animal and he isn’t one. I need him to trust me and how can he if I put restraints on him like that?”

“I suggest you ask Uscias and your mother if his presence would be allowed. Maybe find out if there is a place we can set up for him?” Inea looked to Mira. This had not been the plan at all. They had been here to gather information and to get the purchase while Derek was handling some last minute business on this side before going back over.  “This has to be done before he can be transported.”

“Then I need to go talk to them..” Ashley knew she needed her parents consent and she wanted to get him back across before something else happened.

“Oh and he will be sedated for transport and restrained and that is not up for debate. You want him across and we want you in one piece to cross.” Mira could already tell that the blonde really wanted to argue further, but she was cut off.

“He will be sedated for transportation or this will not happen and I will tell my friends that they should put him down.” Inea was not joking. She did not trifle with spoiled humans. Her eyes went draconic for a few seconds as she waited on Ashley to respond in the affirmative.  This was a complication. Inea didn’t like complications when it expanded the amount of time she could spend helping her kindred’s defense.

“Just get me through the portal here and I’ll call my parents.” Ashley worried her thumbnail again out of habit. “I won’t argue over the sedation for the transport, I swear.”

“Good. I need to return immediately. I know Gabriel plans to speak with Dante and I plan to be there,” Inea turned to walk back inside.

“Better yet, why don’t we go grab Derek and go back across? We can take you to your parents and go see to things with my brother. You can make plans with your parents and then I’ll take you back for his transport over. Seem fair?” Mira was offering up a solution to the dilemma at hand. Inea was eager to return and looked like hell, Derek needed to be picked up and Ashley needed to see her parents.

“Whatever it takes,” Ashley whispered. 

 

****************

 

Mira used her own skills to get them back to the Pack grounds. The succubi stood outside the Weylyn palace and waited for Derek knowing he’d make his way out to them. His sister had not cared for their relationship and so Mira didn’t try and push herself upon them. Instead she chose to let Derek say his farewells on his own.

Derek came out and in full view of the pack and had no issue pulling Mira into his arms and spinning her around in a passionate kiss. He didn’t care what they thought. She had come for him; fought for him. She was his mate.  

“I have missed you,” he spoke with all his heart and he hoped she could feel it. He was absolutely ecstatic to have her so close again.   

Mira was all smiles for her man and breathless in away that was only for him. Her arms were around his neck as she stood on her toes in his embrace with her head tipped back to look at him. “Good, I like hearing you missed me as much as I missed you.” She didn’t care that they were being watched by his Pack.It didn’t change how she felt. “Ready to go?”

Inea smiled, happy to see how the pair fit so well. It made her long for her demon. It had only been 68 hours since they had been separated, but she was heartsick at not feeling him. Even her other kindred – who was busy with his own life at the moment – had taken time away from his human family to try and help her. He had been unable to make her feel much better.

“Well, I can get us to the portal. Mira can get us through. We can part ways from there. I can take Ashley to her father…” Inea offered.   

“Uh, just a sec,” Derek took a beat and walked to the side of the road. He whistled long and loud.  Turning he held up a finger. Soon enough, the one known as Wulf was there at the edge of the forest.  

“I know we spoke while I was setting things straight here. We’re goin’ through. Did you want me to take anything to her?” Derek had been raised by pack Weylyn as one of the alpha family, while Wulf had simply been raised by the pack – but there was a bit of a understanding between the two – that they would always be a bit on the outside of things. Now, it was more than ever, considering they both had fallen for mates outside of their same species.

Taking his Pack brothers hand Wulf placed a bead the color of Zenlial’s pretty eyes into the open palm and closed the big fingers over it. “Tell her I’m goin’ home and when she’s ready to wear that, come to me. I know she’s got things to do over there, so tell her that I’ll be waitin’ for her.”

“You have a lovely mate in Zenlial. She seemed nice and respectful, strong and … fun…” Derek hadn’t gotten to spend much time around the elf, but that was what he picked up on when he could. “If this pack won’t put together an official ceremony, I’d be happy to help put one together for you. You know Eva’d officiate and the Goddess would bless.”

“Lovely mate you got yourself, enjoy her and to hell with what any say about it.” Like Derek, Wulf could have his pick of lycan female for mate, but none stirred him like the elf. He was sure Derek felt the same about the demoness. “Safe travels until we see each other again.” Clasping forearms he tugged Derek forward and clapped his back before letting go and stepping back.

Derek did the same in saying goodbye to his friend before turning back to the others. He had been right in calling Zenlial Wulf’s mate – considering the gift he was sending the elf…

When he returned to them, Ashley looked from the male that was returning to the woods back to Derek, “Will he be okay? He’s not out there by himself is he? I mean isn’t that dangerous?”

“Wulf’s survived a lot worse than being out there on his own. He’ll be fine.” Derek was sure of it.

Rolling her eyes at her friend Mira wrapped her arm around Derek and tucked herself against him, “Inea please get us to the portal before Ash feels the need to save that one too.” Her blonde best friend just didn’t understand this world at all. Something told her that if there was one that they shouldn’t worry about it would be that lycan. She was sure he could handle himself well enough.   

“He’s not on his own.” Inea was watching the forest the younger lycan had gone into. She smirked. “He’s well taken care of. No worries.”  the dragoness pushed her power outward, though and created a simple portal for them to use to get back to the large, permanent portal the twins used for trade. It was time to get Ashley back to her parents, for her to get their information back to Gabriel and see her demon – while Mira and Derek got the businesses and Underground back on track. Everyone had their priorities. Hopefully they were all straight with those.  

As agreed upon, once through Inea’s portal Mira used her influence and got them through the trade portal. Mira said her see you laters to Ashley and then watched as she vanished with the dragoness. “Back to the club for us big guy, you ready Dare?”

“Lead the way, gorgeous.”

When Inea portaled them to the entrance of her parents’ place Ash paused before stepping over the threshold that would alert her dad. Pulling out her phone she texted him and asked him to meet her at the gate alone and not to tell her mother. That was practically asking for a miracle, but she was hoping he’d go for it. She looked at Inea and crossed her fingers, praying this went well.

***************

Nathan looked at his phone on the side of the workbench he’d been cleaning off. Picking it up, he saw the message from his eldest daughter. Officially she was his stepdaughter, but that was just bullshit. Alone?  He took a deep breath and using his teeth pulled off his heavy gloves before making the decision to go ahead with this. He knew Rose was busy by now and wouldn’t even realize something was going on. He walked away from the hired help and found a place to cast his personal portal that would lead him to the front of the long tree peppered driveway.  

There was a huge sigh of relief when  he appeared alone and Ash actually smiled a little for him, “Hello dad, thank you for coming alone. I know you don’t usually keep things from mom, but I have to ask you to this time. Before you argue please hear me out.”

“Inea,” Uscias nodded a quick bow to the Lady of one of the other clans in this realm. Now, he really was curious. “What’s this all about?”

Glancing back at her friend, the blonde returned her gaze to the man that had been like a father to her for years, even when she hadn’t wanted him to be. Now she couldn’t see him as anything but her dad. With that in mind she explained, “I went to the other world with Mira and Inea to get Derek and get some information to help Mira’s brother Dante. Things were going great right up until we got to Iona and I saw the pits. I met Lord Rashgun and his Lady Saysha..” She let him take in this bit and react before going on.

“I told you, not without me. What happened that has you in such a tizzy? Did you get hurt?”

“I know what you said dad, but I just had to go. You don’t understand something was pulling me there. I got to where I really wasn’t sleeping much the past two weeks because this need was urging me to go. Now I know why.” Her hands were gripped tight in front of her as she took a deep breath and pushed on. “It wasn’t something pulling me dad, it was someone. They have him in a cage! He was illegally bought over here and forced to cross over to there where he was sold into slavery. He’s fierce and beautiful, or he will be when I clean him up.”

Nathan took a step back, straightened and his hands went to his hips. “You’re sayin’ somebody you never met was pullin’ you to him in another realm? That’s might near impossible to wrap my head around, young lady, and I’m pretty damned old. I’ve seen some shit…”  Which made him pause because the rest of it was sinking in. In a cage? Clean him up? Fierce?

This was where it was going to get rough for her, but she really needed to win him over and get his help.

“I bought him.”

“You what?”

“If I hadn’t they would have surely killed him! He’s starving to death, because they don’t understand him. He’s lycan and vampire. He’s quite unique and amazing to watch fight.”

Nathan’s eyes got large and he turned away from his daughter to physically shake his head and count to ten.  Once that was done, he turned back around, his hand moving over his face.

“I can see why you didn’t want yer mama ta know.” Uscias’ gaze went from Ashley to Inea.

“And you and that she-devil let her get into this?”

“Well, we tried to squelch it, but your daughter has a very strong will, your Lordship.” Inea even smirked when she mentioned that. It was humorous that she was being raised by an elder of the Ancients and turned out that damned stubborn.  And even in Inea’s state, she had to enjoy the oddity these people were. “At any rate, apologies, Uscias. And good luck. I must be going.”

“Really? You’ve caused the trouble and now you exit?” Uscias gave the younger female a fatherly look of disapproval.

“That doesn’t work on me old claw. You helped raise her, not me.” Inea giggled before casting a portal.

“I’ll remember that when you have your own around me and mine. I’m of the age to spoil them like a grandfather and give them back hyper and wanting, ya know!” Uscias threatened. But he turned back to Ashley once Inea was on her way.  He huffed and scratched the back of his neck. “Let’s walk over to the shade tree. Keep talkin’. I’m listenin’.”

“Right, so I need help getting him over here and some place safe. I figured you might have a way to help us. I’m open to ideas, just don’t involve mom until absolutely necessary. Nathan.. please understand. I promised him and he upheld his part.. he won. Now I want to uphold mine. Please help me, Nathan.”

The old dragon was silent for a long time. They walked to the middle of the big front yard where there were several oaks in a grove that gave wonderful shade in the midday sun. He settled down there and patted the grass near him. His knees bent, he let his elbows rest there on them as he thought things through.  She was going to do this, with or without his help. He could see that. Whether it was real or not, Ashley had thought up this bond. She believed in it. She would not be dissuaded. So, in Nathan’s mind, as a father – he felt it was better to get involved and insure that things were done properly than to just refuse. If things went sour, at least Ashley could see it happen under the best of conditions and wouldn’t blame herself or anyone else.  And if she were correct, and this boy was hers? All the better to help him out of whatever mess he was in.

“If I help, you also have to promise to allow others to help. If he’s been in the pits and he’s a fighter, and he’s a mixed breed, him and his life are completely unpredictable. If he’s feral, or even close to bein’ feral – he won’t be able to help himself if he gets angry or even frustrated. You need to take responsibility completely for him.”

“I do take full and absolute responsibility for him. Dad, I am completely serious about this. He needs my help and I want to help him.” Ashley held her father’s gaze as she pleaded with him.

“So tell me more about him. I need an idea of what we’re lookin’ at here before I can decide how to help.”

Ashley was twisting her fingers together as she thought about her latest acquisition. “I don’t know a lot but I could tell he is actually really in good control of himself. He was partially shifted when I watched him in the pit and he remembered what I had said to him before that when I’d seen him in the cell. He understands, he’s not completely feral.” Ash smiled for Nathan, “Does this mean you’ll help me Nathan?”

“Yeah, sweetness. I can’t just leave you to it. You came to me and I feel that means you trusted me. I’m gonna help you all I can, but you also gotta listen to me, even if what I got ta say ain’t what you want ta hear, you understand?”

Ashley nodded, “Yes, sir I understand.”

“Alright, well, now tell me how he is. I need specifics on his past and his situation.”

She shrugged her shoulders and shook her head, “I really don’t know dad, I saw him briefly in the cell and when it got loud he growled and the others went quiet. He wasn’t snarling or showing aggression when he came to the door. All the violence was in the pit and then he climbed his way out of to come to me after he’d won. The dragon tranquilized him before he could reach me. He spoke English then and told me he’d won like I’d asked and asked me not to go, he asked me to come back.”

“You bought him and you don’t know anything more than you’ve told me?” Nathan sighed in an exasperated manner.

Her soft blonde hair bounced as she shook her head.

“He’ll need specialized caging and training to get him back to at the very least… partially controlled. He’ll need sedation for any sort of trips, and that’s for his sanity as well as those movin’ him.” Nathan scrubbed his silver stubble with his fingers. “Need to contact Samantha Keene over at the clinic. Her specialty is vampires and she’s learnin’ about lycan. I heard good things about her through the grapevine.”

“Okay, Dr. Keene got it. I’ll make sure he’s sedated for the transport. But is a cage really necessary?” She hated the idea of caging him again. It was as if she were treating him like some animal or a exotic pet.

“Until I know how he’ll be, he has to be in a cage. To transport him through ANY portal, he will have to be in a cage. In Colorado, I can use magical barriers and he can have a larger area to explore. But that’s not happening until I know how he is. If you aren’t good with that…”

“I…Alright, I said I’d go along with whatever you say and I meant it. I do have a cabin up in the Colorado mountains. There’s over a hundred acres with it and all fenced in with high deer fencing. I can take him there and he’ll be safe and far away from others so no chance in him harming anyone. But I could use some help getting him there..” Ashley’s blue eyes weren’t hard as normal as she looked at him, they were pleading and that had to be quite surprising too.

“Let me make some arrangements. There’s a portal in Oregon. It’s the closest you’re going to get. We’ll need to hide him or use a glamor if he can’t shift…”

Ashley quickly hugged the dragon before he could change his mind. “Thank you!  I promise to get help and let people help with him. I’m not claiming to be any kind of expert on lycan or ferals for that matter.” She was so excited and chewed her bottom lip before asking, “How long before we can go over for him? The dragons only gave me till the end of this week to get him and I really don’t want to wait any longer than necessary.”

“Soon as we get the good doctor on board, we can go. And by the way, she’ll sedate him, so he may not even remember the cage.” He hugged her back. “We’re gonna go through the proper channels. I’ll get in touch with my contacts to make it happen. I’ll go with ya.” He got up to his feet and took a step.

“What about mom, she’ll never…” Ashley knew her mother would never agree with this.

“You leave yer mama up to me. I’ll figure it out. You go make sure Dr. Keene has availability. Have her call me if you need to. And Ashley?”

Ashley had started to climb to her feet and paused when he called her name. She looked back at him.

“Come back inside with me and get yaself cleaned up before ya mama sees ya or… smells ya.”    

That made her look down at the dress she still wore from the banquet and her nose curled, “I’m a real mess aren’t I?” Once on her feet Ashley held her hand out to Nathan. They hadn’t always seen eye to gut she really was glad he was in their lives. “Shall we?”

Taking her hand he nodded. They walked back to the house hand in hand. He’d never gotten to do this with Ashley. Izzy had been the one that accepted him most. And so, it warmed his heart when Ashley had taken his hand. He smiled and took a deep breath before talking to her about something important.

“If he does anything to hurt you…”

Squeezing his hand Ashley was still smiling at him. “I know I never welcomed you to our family and I’m sorry I was so terrible to you. I really am thankful to you for being here for all of us after my father died. I’m glad mom has you and that you love her and take care of her like you do. You’ve been so good to all of us, Nathan and..” Her shoulders shrugged as she pushed her back with her free hand. “I just wanted you to know we do love you dad even if we have moments of being real snots.”

“I love you too, Ash. Never forget it.”

 

~  Rachel Diane Adams and Dawn McClellan © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2018

 

NOTE:  I tried for three hours looking for the artist of the sketch I used. Yes, googled it, too. I scoured several artist/art pages as well. This image has been reproduced so many times that the reproductions and non-credited stuff was what I found. I would love to look at the artist’s other creations and also boost them if they are still creating.  If someone could help me with crediting the artist, please leave the information in the comments section!