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For a moment, he stared at me, disbelieving. For a moment, I thought he would let this go. But then, I saw the instant his expression changed, cold anger and loathing flashing through his eyes, before he went for his sidearm.

I was already moving, grabbing his wrist as the pistol came up, forcing the muzzle away from me. Tristan dropped his rifle and lashed out with his other arm, throwing a fist at my temple. I raised an arm to block it, then brought my knee up, striking him in the stomach.

He grunted and bent forward; I wrenched the gun from his hand and brought it smashing down to his skull, hitting him right behind the ear. Tristan crumpled forward, collapsing to the rocky ground, and didn’t move.

Stepping over my unconscious partner, not daring to think of what I’d just done, I grabbed my M-4 and ran for the beach, the roars of desperate dragons ringing out behind me.

Ember

I opened my eyes as gunfire boomed over the sand. Lilith shrieked, and the weight pinning me down vanished, the claws around my throat jerking away.

Panting, I rolled to my side, staring in amazement. Lilith was backing toward the ocean, shaking her head, blood and sparks erupting along her side and armored chest. Walking down the beach toward us, his gun level and firing short, controlled shots as he came, was Garret.

At the sight of her most hated enemy, the Viper screamed. Opening her jaws, she sent a line of dragonfire roaring at the human coming toward us, and Garret dove away before the flames could engulf him. Rolling to his knees, he fired at her again, but Lilith was already moving. Lighting fast, she darted to one side, then the other, racing in a zig-zag pattern up the beach. The soldier tried following her with the gun, but her quick, frantic movements were difficult to track, and she drew ever closer to the lone human, jaws gaping to bite him in two. Horrified, I struggled to my feet, shouting a warning to Garret, knowing I’d never reach them in time.

And then, a scaly blue body flew at her from the side and slammed into her ribs, knocking her off balance. Lilith stumbled and nearly fell, as Cobalt spun, hissing and snarling, to stand between her and Garret. Lilith roared and turned to face him, but flinched back as a storm of bullets sped through the air, some sparking off her horns and chest plates, but some hitting home.

Ignoring the pain in my side and neck, I charged my former trainer, leaped at her back, and sank my claws into her flank. She shrieked again and kicked me in the stomach with a hind leg, sending me tumbling through the sand. Winded once more, I still bounced to my feet, ready to continue the fight—

But it seemed the Viper had had enough. Now faced with St.

George, as well as two stubborn dragons, she crouched and leaped skyward, her wings blasting us with sand as she rose into the air. I watched her go, meeting her gaze as she soared overhead, seeing the acid green eyes narrow hatefully.

“This isn’t over, hatchling,” she warned in Draconic. “You cannot escape Talon. I will return for you all, soon.”

With a few strong downbeats, the Viper rose up the cliff wall, shoved off the rock face, and glided away over the ocean. Within moments, Talon’s best Viper assassin became a distant blur against the night sky and disappeared.

I exhaled and sank to the cool sand, feeling like I’d been run over by a herd of elephants in cleats. My ribs throbbed, my side burned, and my throat ached from where Lilith had tried to rip it out. I was bruised, battered, and bloody, and wanted nothing more than to go home, take a long shower, and curl up in my bed.

Only…I couldn’t do that. Ever again. Dante was home. the brother who’d abandoned me, who’d turned his back on his twin in favor of Talon. He was part of the organization now. And I, especially after tonight, was most definitely a rogue.

Sick and disheartened, I slumped even further, wishing I could bury myself in the cool sand until I figured everything out, but a sudden, angry growl made me jerk up. Cobalt was on his feet, body tense and lips curled back from his fangs. His eyes glowed, and he took a threatening step forward.

Glaring at the soldier a few yards away.

Garret

By far, that had been the stupidest thing I’d ever done.

I should be dead. By all logical statistics, I shouldn’t have survived that fight. Challenging even a single hatchling, alone, was a good way to get yourself killed. You might get lucky, but even the small-est of Talon’s offspring were quick and dangerous, armed with fire and claws and teeth. You could kill them, but they could tear you apart just as easily.

Taking on a full-grown adult dragon without an entire squad backing you up was suicide, plain and simple. There was no way around it.

Adults were far too powerful for a single human to challenge alone.

Even with a pair of dragons on my side, I’d gotten very, very lucky.

If it hadn’t been for Ember and the other juvenile joining the fight when they did, I wouldn’t be breathing.

Although, I reflected, as the adrenaline began to wear off and the full realization of what I’d done hit me full force, I probably won’t be breathing much longer.

I’d betrayed the Order. Disobeyed commands, struck down my partner, and charged the enemy without backup, which had allowed it to escape. Reckless and undisciplined, but not the worst thing I’d done. If that was my only crime, I could be court marshaled and thrown into St. George’s prison for a few months, even years. but my betrayal went far deeper than that.

I’d helped the enemy. I’d knowingly engaged in battle with the sole purpose of aiding the fiery red dragon who’d spared my life. I’d fought with them against their enemy. It didn’t matter that their foe was another, more powerful dragon, and I had no idea why she was trying to kill her own. My interference had probably saved their lives.

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