Desert Dragons, Book 4
by Julia Talbot
Ebook ISBN: 07645-02465
[ Paranormal Romance, MM ]
Coyote shifter Dan has lost his memory during a rough kidnapping. Dan is a lovely distraction, but even if coyote and raven are best friends in his people’s mythology, Kalo’s not sure he can trust a man who can’t remember anything.
Dan woke up with a low cry, a jolt of pain rocking through his body as he fought to sit up. The scents were strange, wrong, and nothing had been right for so long.
He yipped, calling for his band, his family, anyone that could help. No answering coyote cries came to him, and he panted, his head pounding because he was so alone. Okay. Okay, he needed to shift to his coyote self so he could heal better.
“Shh.” A warm hand pressed against his chest, pushing him back down on a nest of pillows and blankets. “You need to rest.”
“Who are you? Do I know you?” The scent of this other was new, strange, wonderful.
“No. No, I’m just passing through like you.” White teeth flashed in the man’s face. “I’m Kalo, and you need to sleep.”
“Sleep. Is there water, please? Something wet?”
“Of course. Stay still.” Kalo rose, the air moving, a new scent coming to him. Vaguely… he didn’t know what. Like lightning on fresh rain. Or birds. He heard a laugh, deep in the base of his skull, and it soothed him, in his very bones.
Daniel sank deeper into the blankets, his chills easing. He’d talked to Kalo before, he thought. In his dreams.
Silly. Silly puppy.
“Sometimes, yes.” Whoever that voice belonged to, it made him smile, made energy flow through him.
Our own. Our own silly puppy.
Whose? He knew he wasn’t speaking out loud, but somehow he didn’t need to. Maybe he was dreaming again.
That was probably it. He loved dreamwalking.
Ours! Laughter filled him, bubbled up inside him and seemed to heal him.
Okay. Yours. Who was Dan to argue? Dreams knew best, right?
“Here. Water.” Kalo seemed way more solid than a phantasm, kneeling beside him and lifting his head to feed him a sip of water. Goddess, it was cold, splashing in Dan’s empty belly so hard he could hear it.
“Easy now. Keep that down and you can have some more.”
“More.” Dan was all over that. The cold of it made him shiver, though, his entire self shaking.
“Not yet.” Kalo sat back and watched him carefully, and Dan made a frustrated sound.
He was burning. Hot and freezing cold.
“It’s shock. You’re healing well; your body just hasn’t figured that out yet.”
What did that mean? He needed to shift, to change, but it was as if he’d forgotten how. Dan thought hard about his coyote self, but nothing came to him.
Silly puppy. Are you going to change skins?
“That’s what I do,” he answered.
“What? That’s what you do? Be in shock?”
“No. Change skin. Pay attention,” Dan said.
“I am. You said that’s what you do, but didn’t explain. Uh, Mik says you’re a skinwalker.”
“Mmm.” Yes. That’s what Dan was. A skinwalker. An animal soul in a human body. Well, sometimes in a human body. All he could think of when he tried to change, though, was lizards.
“Dragons! I love dragons!” He was a huge geek, and the thought of pure magic made flesh was… yeah. Exciting.
“Me, too. Bipbi says you’re a little loopy right now.”
“Beepy?” Dan asked.
“Bip-bee.” Kalo chuckled.
“Bip. Bee.” Oh, that was like a chant, a children’s song meant to go faster and faster as you spun.
His head pounded and nausea rose in his throat.
“No puking, Dan. We got six people and more than a dozen dragons in here. It would be like a bad movie scene if you let loose.”
“No talking. Don’t talk about it.”
“Right.” Kalo didn’t give him more water, but a cool, wet cloth draped over his forehead.
Oh. Better. There. Goddess, yes. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. The dragons say you need to sleep. I agree.” Kalo was so… soothing. Or something. Safe.
“I like that.” The whole idea of just closing his eyes and fading away, except his eyes were already closed and he was already sinking.
“I’ll watch over your rest, ma’ii,” Kalo murmured. “Sleep.”
Kalo. What a lovely name. Ka. Lo.
Kalo and Bipbi.
Dan smiled all the way into his sleep, the pain in his head easing away as dragons sang to him about lizards and sunshine.
* * *
Kalo watched the skinwalker sleep, somehow utterly fascinated. He’d had a whole conversation with the guy yesterday, Daniel sitting up and smiling and chatting. Damned fever, coming and going. Dan had been beaten and starved by a man who was stealing skinwalkers and dragons, then Dan had been hurt in a van crash…
No wonder he was taking so long to recover.
Dan was a coyote shifter, was lean and golden, but with a smile on his face, even in sleep. Bipbi kept wandering over, wanting to touch, to poke, and the little violet dragons that hovered around Dan chittered and fussed, keeping Bipbi away.
Bipbi wanted to see Daniel, wanted to see another skinwalker. Curious boy.
Kalo understood, though. His internal raven wanted to see, wanted to know if Dan was pretty in his other skin. Traditionally in Hopi and Pueblo myth, Coyote and Raven were the best of friends, and Dan fascinated Kalo, he would admit. The fact that twin purple dragons kept trying to bond with Dan only made him better.
The littlest dragon — no bigger than a minute — was braiding Dan’s hair. There were a dozen braids in the heavy blond mass already.
Bipbi chuckled, his dragon-hawk head tilting. Wake it up, Kalo. Tell it to change.
He can’t right now. He’s hurt his head, I think.
Hrmph. The sound said everything Kalo needed to know. Bipbi had no patience with weakness.
He’ll get better soon.
Bipbi fluttered his wings, the sound restless. Hunt.
Go with Piasa, beloved. Piasa was another dragon, one who belonged with Kalo’s cousin Mik.
Home? Home soon? We go?
Yes. The elders of his People had been having visions. If Mik refused to go with him, he and Bipbi still had to defend their home.
Something was happening, something that shook the skies, the earth itself. Something was coming, the elders had told him. And we must prepare.
Bipbi bobbed and fluttered before leap-walking to the door and pushing out, soaring into the sky immediately. Kalo’s gaze followed, and he wanted to follow. He wanted out — out of this place, out of this desert and this odd house and the smells that were not pinyon and chiles.
He longed for his mountains and the sound of dragons hunting like hawks. These babies living here were… oh, they were joyful and resembled little jewels, but his people — their dragons were fierce.
Not bright little bubbles who wanted to pop.
“Bubble, bubble,” Dan murmured, still clearly out for the count.
He tilted his head, eyes flashing to Dan’s face. Did you hear me?
The bird within him fluttered and bowed, then fluttered again. This man might not know him, but raven knew coyote. Always.
A soft hum filled the air, and Dan curled against him, snuggling into his body, so close. The heat from that poor, battered body eased him right down on the pallet, and Kalo pressed alongside Dan.
Warm hands pushed against him, holding him, unselfconscious. No one had ever touched him this way. Oh, Kalo had done a lot of touching in his time, but no contact had ever soothed his soul and left him boneless and ready for dreams, for travels in the sky.
He heard a low, amused sound from Bipbi in his head. Lazy man.
Shut up, you worthless flyer, he teased.
Bipbi gave him the sensation of wind on his face, tempting him to come be a raven, to fly and wheel and call to Father Sky. Then Dan stroked his face, his chest, drawing him down.
Soon, Bipbi. He needs help healing.
You are smitten.
I am. You know you will like him once he can run with us while we fly.
“Shh. No running.” Dan patted his chest.
Kalo blinked again. “You can hear me.”
“Of course I can.” Like thinking otherwise was utterly ridiculous.
“I –” The People could occasionally hear their mates, but Dan was not of his tribe.
“Shh. Rest now. So sleepy.”
“Yes. Sleep.” Kalo knew his ancestors sang to him of home, but Dan was important, as well. He would rest and decide what to do.
That was a plan, right?
A good plan.