“Gorgeous Biker Boy,” Lexi replied, as the strange dragon continued to stare at me, almost challenging. “No one knows who he is.
He showed up a few weeks ago, and has been coming around all the popular hangouts. He never talks to anyone, just checks the place out, like he’s looking for somebody, and leaves.” Her knee bumped mine under the table, making me jump, and she grinned wickedly.
“But it seems like he’s found what he was looking for.”
“Huh? Who?” I tore my gaze from the strange dragon as he revved his bike and cruised out of the parking lot, vanishing as quickly as he’d appeared. “What do you mean, he’s found what he was looking for?”
Lexi just giggled, but I suddenly caught Dante’s eye over the table and burger wrappings, and my stomach dropped. My twin’s expression was cold, dangerous, as he glared at the spot the other dragon had been moments before. His pupils contracted, shrinking down until they were black slits against the green, looking inhuman and very reptile.
I kicked him under the table. He blinked, and his eyes went normal again. My stomach uncoiled. Geez, Dante. What was that about?
“We should go,” he announced, standing up. Lexi made a disappointed noise and pouted, but he didn’t relent. “It’s our first day here, and our uncle will worry if we’re not back soon. We’ll see you around, right?”
“Dude, it’s cool.” Calvin waved him off. “We practically live on the beach. Ember, meet us here tomorrow afternoon, yeah? The waves are supposed to be sick.”
I promised I would, then hurried after my brother.
“Hey,” I whispered, lightly smacking his arm as I caught up.
“What’s with you? You nearly went psychopathic lizard on me, right in front of two very normal humans. What’s the deal?”
He shot me a guilty look. “I know. I’m sorry. It’s just…” He raked a hand through his hair, the salt making it stand on end. “Do you know what that was, in the parking lot just now?”
“You mean the other dragon? Yeah, I kinda noticed.”
“Ember.” Dante stopped and met my gaze, grim and a little frightened. Which in turn, scared me. Dante was always the calm, collected one. “That wasn’t anyone from Talon,” he said solemnly. “That was a rogue. I’d bet my life on it.”
My insides shriveled.
The stranger was a rogue. A dragon who, for reasons beyond comprehension, had broken away from Talon, severing all ties and going on the run. This was the one unforgivable crime in the eyes of Talon; dragons who went rogue were immediately pronounced traitors and criminals, and offered one chance to turn themselves in. If they refused, the infamous Vipers were sent to bring them back, to whatever punishment awaited them for such betrayal.
A rogue dragon, hanging around Crescent Beach. Staring right at me. Like he’d known I would be there.
“What do we do now?” I asked. “How long do you think he’s been out of Talon?”
“Probably not long,” Dante muttered, watching the last of the humans on the beach with an intensity that wasn’t there before. “I can’t imagine he’ll be around much longer. Ember, don’t tell Liam and Sarah about this when we get home, okay?”
Puzzled, I frowned at him. “Why?”
“Because they’ll inform Talon,” Dante answered, making my stomach clench. “Because the organization might call us back if they suspect a rogue is in the area.” He must’ve seen my look of horror, because he placed a hand on my arm and smiled. “It’s all right. Let me handle this. I’ll take care of everything.”
I believed him. Dante always accomplished what he said he would.
He had a knack for getting exactly what he wanted, no matter the circumstances. Teachers, strangers, and friends alike: all Dante had to do was smile, turn up his considerable charm, and they were like putty in his hands. I should’ve been relieved.
But I remembered the strange dragon’s eyes, the look on his face as he’d stared at me, the way my blood had warmed at the sight of him. I remembered the heat of his gaze, the instant awakening of something fierce and primal inside me when our eyes met.
The rogue dragon was trouble. Plain and simple.
And I was intrigued.
The next day started off perfectly. I slept in for maybe the first time in my life, waking up close to noon to find Dante had already gone down to the beach. I found him with several of our new friends from yesterday, and we spent the afternoon talking, swimming, playing volleyball, and eating more junk food from the Smoothie Hut.
It was easier this time, to mingle, fit in and be part of this group, though some of their mannerisms were strange. Touching, for example. Lexi was very touchy-feely, and the first time she grabbed my arm, I had to force myself not to pull back, hissing. She and Kristin giggled a lot and talked at length about subjects completely foreign to me. Clothes and shoes and shopping and boys. Especially boys. It was baffling, this obsession with other humans. Clothes I could understand; shoes seemed to be the humans’ equivalent of shiny things and treasure. Maybe they hoarded boots like we did gemstones. that was something I could comprehend. But every time Lexi snatched my arm and pointed to some random human on the beach, I would nod and agree that he was “gorgeous,” as she put it, but I couldn’t see the attraction.
By the end of the day, however, the ebb and flow of human conversation was starting to sink in, and I felt I was starting to “get it.”
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