Saturday, June 13, 2015 8:15 PM
Two weeks in and I was still trying to find my quarry. I stared at the picture in my hand hoping to find some inspiration of where to go next if tonight's jaunt into town was unproductive.
The image depicted a woman with obsidian skin and golden hair. She was not what she seemed. She was a dragon in human form, and there was no doubt about it; she was a beautiful creature. It was frustrating finding her trail, and then losing it just as quickly.
However, tonight was not like any other night these past few weeks. I did find myself in another rural town chasing my lady dragon. But this time, a lady in a convenient store around the corner in this podunk town just south of Apache Peak knew my lady's name. So tonight, I sit outside a bar with brown peeling paint avoiding the inevitable – going inside. But it was getting late and I was starving.
Inside made me rethink my plans. The smell caught me first thing. It reeked of stale beer and body odor underneath layers of pine scented air fresheners.
I almost turned around and walked out to find some other place to gather information but my choices were non-existent. I forced myself to walk in and made my way to the bar.
The bartender was just as rough looking as his place of employment. He rubbed his gray peppered beard while he appraised me. "What can I get you, son?" His voice was as gravely as his appearance.
"Just a beer — whatever you've got in a bottle." I flashed him my best smile.
The man gave me that look that said he didn't trust me, but he nodded his head and turned on a slow heel towards the cooler that kept their cold beverages. He called over his shoulder, "What brings you to town, stranger?"
I grinned; I did love it when people pointed out the fact that I was not from around these parts. I may have been born not too far away, but I grew up in Midtown Manhattan and I spoke like a New Yorker no matter how hard I tried to hide it.
I lied to the man, "Just some hiking."
The grisly man turned with an opened beer bottle in his hand. He slid it across the bar with a frown, "Hiking alone is dangerous."
My grin widened as I saw the fresh bottle was a Sam Adams, my brand of choice. I took a quick sip and sighed with refreshment. "Damn, I missed a cold beer."
I looked up at the bartender and lied again. "I'm not alone. I got a buddy sleeping back at camp. He’s a bit worn out." I winked at the bartender; it was always fun making people squirm.
"City slickers like you shouldn't be holed up in these woods, likely to get yourself killed."
I could almost hear the threat in his words as I chuckled to myself. "I can handle myself. Trust me, Cowboy." And I meant that in more ways than one.
He turned back to his regular customers with a disgusted look on his rugged face. I could see the hatred for my kind rolling off him in waves.
I grinned; I could have said more, but I had work to do and I couldn't play with the locals. I extended my hearing beyond my optimal range for pretending to be human and listed to the snippets of conversations around me.
The pair of men at the bar with the bartender started talking about me. "What's a queer city slicker out in the woods for? Ain't they all fancy and high priced?"
I chuckled to myself. I was hardly that type of man. I liked men, but I was not like half the gay men you see on TV. I couldn't tell Prada from Gucci even if my life depended upon it. And none of them here had to worry about me making a pass at them, but that was every straight man's fear. What if he hits on me? The easy answer – be flattered and say not interested. I hated bigots. I could turn around and flirt with the woman three stools down, but it wouldn't matter now. I was gay in their eyes. Such was life.
The door jingled its welcome to a newcomer taking me from my thoughts.
I looked up into the plate glass mirror that was the other side of most bars and saw a stunning woman walk in. My information paid off.
She walked towards the bar, and coincidentally me. She moved with the grace of a cat. The patterns were shifting around her – fire pulling in, everything else pushing away forming the shadow of her dragon shape. Each individual scale was almost visible in the pattern. She was gorgeous. It was a shame no one else in the room could see her true beauty.
I gave her a silent catcall. She was even more impressive in person. Her skin was black as night, and her golden hair looked fake but I knew it was soft and as real as the hair on my own head. I wanted to reach out and touch it. The pattern surrounding her was beautiful too. The mirror was not doing it justice. I marveled at the sight of her. She wasn't the first dragon I had met — just the prettiest.
She sat down to my left and was waiting for the bartender to come on down to her. She was staring at me with caution.
The man finally came over and spoke to her, "Your order will be right up, Naomi. Don't mind the city slicker here." He threw a nod in my direction, "He'll do you no harm."
I snickered; he thought I only liked men. I turned to face her. I already knew she'd know what I was as I smiled brightly at her and spoke, "That's right, Duckling. I'll not do you any harm." I knew I sounded like an arrogant prick — it was part of my charm.
Naomi's eyes went wide with recognition as she took in the tattoo at my right temple. The pair of crossed swords spoke to exactly what I was, and what I was there to do. She blinked her eyes sideways — a thing only a reptile can do. She was forgetting herself. She hissed at me, "How dihd you find mhee, Ferasss?"
I smiled as I lied through my teeth, "Not hard really." It had been a difficult journey. I had followed her from Denver through some backwater towns to New Mexico. I didn't even know the name of the town she'd stopped in there. She eventually hit a bank in Boulder before I caught back up with her. I suspected she'd been flying. She hit two more small-town banks before I found her here, but no, really it wasn't hard — not at all.
Her words were colorful to say the least. Savage Thing — but so very not human. "But really, Feras? Can't you think up something a bit more human to call me? Like Bastard or Asshole? You are pretending to be human. Aren't you, Naomi?"
That was when things went dangerous. Naomi opened her mouth and lunged at me.
I fell backwards landing on my back as I created a pattern of air to shield me from anything she could dish out. My instinct to protect myself was at its highest. I was grateful I had practiced that defensive move as often as I did.
But no fire erupted from the woman's mouth.
I'd learned the hard way that a dragon in human form could still breathe fire. Who-da-thunk that a man could shoot a volcano of flames out of his throat, but I bore the scars to prove it.
She leapt from her place and ran for the door. "Barry, Lex, he's going to kill me, help!"
She bolted out the door and I heard her shouting "Get that thing started, we gotta run. There's a Venatori here!"