The first time she had seen him, she was only six years old. He had been sitting in a tree and had jumped down when she wandered away from her parents. He had ushered her back, a bit irritated, but hadn’t laid a hand on her. She hadn’t gone far, but he seemed to want to keep her away from the woods. She remembered telling her parents about the man, but they had found nothing and for awhile she had thought it was nothing more than a small child’s imagination. She was seventeen now and hadn’t seen him since, but she often felt another presence close by. She sighed as she walked, getting so lost in thought she didn’t even notice the wild dogs gathered around the deer carcass at first. It had not been there when she had gone to visit her grandparents. The dirty, scarred hounds noticed her presence and turned hungry eyes on her, growling as blood and saliva dripped from their jaws. She swallowed, taking a step back and then another as they started towards her. What was she supposed to do? One lunged and she screamed, turning and running. She could hear them behind her, barking and snarling as they chased her.
She heard the snap of teeth at her heel and veered off, heading for the woods, hoping to find safety in a tree. She felt teeth clamp down on her ankle as the made it to the treeline and screamed as she was dragged back, her fingers digging in the dirt and grass in hopes she could pull herself away. They surrounded her, taking small nips at her, trying to find the best place to attack. She guarded her head and face as she kicked at the one holding her and it gave a shake of annoyance, sending more pain lancing up her leg. Another started for her and she squeezed her eyes shut, but instead of sharp teeth, she was met with the sound of yelping. She opened her eyes and they widened in shock when she saw him.
She fearfully looked to see what was going on and there he was, the man she had seen when she was a little girl. It had been years but apparently he was still looking out for her. He helped her up once the wolves were gone then began checking her for wounds, genuine concern on his face. He lifted her up “you shouldn’t walk on that…I’m so sorry it got as far as it did…of course on one of the few days I wasn’t following from the start”
“One of the few days?” He sighed, he never bothered with lieing and she was practically an adult, undoubtedly knew that her parents gave her up as offering to a bastard of a man. He had been trying since then to grow as a person, to be better so he wouldn’t cause such a terrible thing again. “I am the reason your parents gave you up…I’m that bastard” he admitted, obviously ashamed.
“What do you mean? I don’t understand.”
“I am sure you have asked your parents about the circumstances surrounding your adoption.”
“I am also sure that they told you were to be tribute for a…man.”
She swallowed. “But…then why are you here?” That came out meaner than she had meant and she quickly backpedaled when averted his gaze. “I mean, it’s just why then and why now? It really doesn’t make any sense. I’m not your responsibility.”
He huffed. “You are when I say you are and right now you are lucky I decided to hang around. If I had not come when I did, those hounds would have ripped you apart.” He sighed. “Sorry, I don’t mean to take such a tone with you, it was unkind. Let me get you home so that leg can be cleaned and healed.”
“Do my parents know you’re here?”
“No, at least I would have kept it from them until now. They don’t like me, but even so, at least you are safe.”
“My parents can be incredibly forgiving, I mean you really did just save my life” He took her up to the door of her home and knocked. He couldn’t set her down, not with her wounds. Her mother obviously recognized him when she answered the door “what have you done to her?” she asked accusingly “Mom he saved me, he didn’t do this.”
“he saved you?”
“yes so please be nice”
“I’m sorry…I guess come in” he walked in and set her down on the couch. Her father was now in the room and had heard everything. Luthais tried leaving but Saskia called to him, a call that tugged at his heart so he couldn’t ignore it “don’t leave’
“why would you want me here”
“you saved me and I remember you from when I was little, you stopped me from wandering off. You may have saved me then too”
“The forest can be dangerous for a child, it was nothing. Just don’t walk alone anymore.”
“Would you at least stay for dinner.” She looked at her parents. “He can stay for dinner right? As payment for saving me.”
Ediva and Chapin shared a look and Luthais chuckled. “You two don’t have to pretend around me, I know how you feel. I don’t blame you, I wouldn’t trust me either.”
“She’s right, stay for dinner, it’s the least we can do.” Chapin said. “Thank you for looking out for her.”
“Yes, thank you.” Ediva looked at her daughter. “What happened?”
“A pack of wild dogs brought a deer down in the road and I surprised them, I guess they thought I looked better than carcass.” She swallowed. “I…I thought I was going to die, I’ve never been that scared in my life.”
“It may be best if I hunt them down after dinner. You may be the first victim, but you won’t be the last and next time it might be someone without me watching over them.” Luthais said.
“Do you really have too?”
“He’s right sweetie, if they’re wild that means they’ve been that way for awhile and it would be extremely difficult to tame them, if at all.” Ediva said. “Just relax baby.” Ediva went and got a wet rag and Luthais finally sat down, but decided on the chair rather than the couch next to Saskia.
Chapin was actually a little impressed Luthais managed to watch her all these years without any of them noticing, especially with her grandfather Zane. He was even more relieved he gave Ediva no repercussions for slapping him back when they first met. He was obviously an incredibly talented being. Chapin decided to ask this time around “do you sorta smell like a demon but I can tell there’s something else. What are you?”
“what you’re smelling is beithir. It’s a sort of serpentine dragon with potent venom”
“so a lot like our biological children, half demon half dragon”
“Yes, but I’m not nearly as beautiful or as elegant.”
“I be that’s not true.” Saskia said. “I would love to see you some time, if that’s okay.”
“You won’t like it, but if you really want to then I’ll show you.” He rubbed the back of his neck. Why was he feeling so self conscious. Before he would have use that form to terrify people. “So, what about you? I haven’t sensed much magic on you.”
“I don’t really have much that I’ve noticed. I can call butterflies. It’s actually really cool. I can show you when my leg is better.”
“Alright. Anyway, Chapin, the beithir helps me hide my scent. I can pretty much sneak up on anyone. The only exceptions would be Zane and any of his children and grandchildren he has trained. They don’t always tend to use their noses.”
Saskia enjoyed getting to know Luthais as they waited for dinner to be ready. She felt so comfortable with him but she guessed that mostly had to do with the fact he had been hovering around all her life. When dinner was on the table her mother came back into the room “come on Luthais, you can sit by Saskia” He followed them into the kitchen, still unable to shake the nerves he felt. It was a relief to be told where to sit this time. He took the seat directly beside her but moved it just a little bit away. He wasn’t used to feeling this way and he knew Saskia was the cause
“This is really good, thank you.” He said after the first bite.
“Do you not cook?” Saskia asked.
“Nothing like this. I catch wild game and put it over a fire, there’s not much love put into it.”
“You don’t have a mate or anything who knows how to cook?”
His heart did a flip and he kept his eyes on his plate. “No, it’s just me. I’m not exactly a people person and there’s no way a woman should have to put up with me. I’m too ill tempered and selfish.”
“I don’t call watching over me my entire life selfish, it’s actually pretty sweet. You should give yourself more credit.”
He huffed out a little laugh. “Perhaps even that was for my own selfish reasons, but thank you all the same.” He cleared his throat and went back to eating.
Chapin and Ediva still couldn’t believe this was the same man they had met all those years ago. He had a bit of a grumpy air about him, but he definitely wasn’t the way he was before. He even treated Saskia with an uncharacteristic gentleness.
They let him stay even after dinner was over. He only ended up leaving when he did because he was concerned about taking care of those wild dogs that attacked Saskia. He played it as concern for others but he mostly want them taken care of to be sure they couldn’t hurt her again when he wasn’t watching out for her. He was just out the door when Saskia came after him, grabbing his hand so he felt tingles run up his arm, seemingly straight to his heart “will you come see me tomorrow?”
“what would you like to do?”
“I really wanted a walk today. Maybe with the dogs taken care of tonight you and I could walk tomorrow?”
“when is a good time to come for you?”
“Lunch? You can eat with my family again and then we can go”
“you don’t have to ask your parents first?”
“No, I’m seventeen, they tend to let me do as I please now”
Still, you should ask them first. It’ll be better that way, there’s no reason to cause drama if we can help it.” He gently pat her head. “Get some rest alright? If you’re not in top shape tomorrow, we’re not going.”
“Alright, stay safe.”
He gave her a ghost of a smile. “There’s not much that will give me trouble. Sweet dreams, Saskia.” She stood in the doorway until he was out of sight, a frown pulling at her lips. It wasn’t fair he had to stay out there all alone.
“Come on sweetie, you should get to bed.” Ediva said when she closed the door.
“Yeah, I guess.”
“You want to be able to go on that walk tomorrow right?” Chapin added and her eyes lit up.
“Really? You don’t mind?”
Chapin rubbed the back of his neck. “Look, you’re my daughter and I probably won’t trust any guy until you’ve found a mate, but he seems to have changed so we’re going to let you go. Just stick with him and stay safe.”
“I will, I promise.”
Luthais put the beasts out of their misery as quickly as possible, glad that Saskia wasn’t around to see him dispatching of them. Once they were dead, he buried them then went to clean himself of their blood. He found a river and stripped down, letting the icy water wash away every drop of blood. Once out, he shifted and shook the water from his scales then changed back and pulled his clothes on. He climbed up the nearest tree and lay there staring up at the moon. He didn’t think he would sleep tonight, not when he had practically promised to see Saskia again. He didn’t know what he was thinking, why he had grown so fond of her, but he couldn’t help himself. Even though he knew he was bad news, he couldn’t help being drawn to her.
Saskia woke happier than normal the next morning, her mother knowing right away when Saskia joined her in cooking breakfast “You like him that much already?” Ediva asked with a grin “I like having a new friend and I feel close to him”
“how’s your leg?”
“I promise it’s not bothering me”
“at least while you aren’t that powerful you heal well”
“I’m really excited mom, thank you guys for letting me go”
“You’re a woman as much as we wished you would always stay little and he does seem completely different from when we last met him. Plus he was angry at your parents for what they did, he went to their home and punished them for it. That tells me we don’t have to worry about him kidnapping you or anything. Then of course I did slap him and he did nothing but walk away so it’s not like I have to worry about him hitting you”
“I really love you and dad so much. Thank you for raising me and for making me feel no different than your other children”
“You aren’t, you’re our baby. Whose blood you have couldn’t matter less to us Saskia”
Luthais felt a tingle of nervousness as he headed for Saskia’s that afternoon. What were they even supposed to talk about? He wasn’t that big of a conversationalist and he didn’t have a lot of happy memories to talk about. He sighed, how could she even want to spend time with him? He worked himself into a bad mood as he walked and knew that he should probably tell her they could go out another time, but when he got there she was waiting for him on the front porch and jumped up, smiling happily. “You made it.” She said and he took a couple of deep breaths to calm himself.
“I said I would be here. How’s your leg?”
“It’s fine, I promise.”
“Really or are you just saying that so I’ll take you?”
“I mean it. Besides, if I was still hurt my parents would make me stay.”
“Well if you feel at all like you can’t walk then tell me, I can carry you if your leg starts to hurt.”
Her smile grew “and you call yourself selfish. Thank you, I’ll let you know but I should be fine” she lit up so much, even chasing away most of the mood he had put himself in. She stepped off her porch and began walking at his side, taking the same way she had yesterday. “did the dogs give you much trouble? Did you make it quick for them?”
“They didn’t give me trouble and I didn’t make them suffer. It was as fast as I could make it”
“thank you for that”
“its amazing you care so much about a group of animals that hurt you”
“they were wild dogs, I can’t hold it against them but I do understand the need to keep people safe” He glanced at her leg, still worried about her even though she insisted she was fine “hey, none of that” she said noticing. He actually blushed “what?”
“I’m fine” she said with a little giggle.
He crossed his arms, giving a little huff. “Fine I guess.”
She hooked her arm around his. “Awe, did I embarrass you?”
“That’s not possible.”
She just smiled, deciding to lay off for now. He was actually being incredibly sweet even if he was a little rough around the edges. “So, do you keep in contact with your family?” She asked.
“No, we’re not close like you and your’s.”
“I see, bad life?”
“I survived it, that’s all that matters. Not that it did me much good I guess, it turned me into the biggest as…jerk around.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Sorry, let’s not talk about it. You wanted to have fun and my past wasn’t exactly wonderful.”
“Alright? Did you know you have really pretty hair? It’s so long and it looks really soft.”
He chuckled. “You’re teasing me, your hair is far more beautiful than mine. I mean look at it.” He raised his hand and tugged on her bangs. “It suits you.” She blushed and her heart skipped a beat, making him pull away, but grin. “Now look who’s embarrassed.”
She looked away but smiled as well. She didn’t seem to mind being embarrassed as much as he did. When her gaze returned to him he was still smiling which made her happy. She hated he hadn’t had much of a family. She knew how lucky she was to be so loved and could understand how someone without any love growing up could turn out like he did. She felt that maybe, if they kept hanging out together he would be sweet all the time and lose those rough edges. Luthais was surprised as they walked at how well Saskia could keep their conversation going. He had never talked with someone this much and even if he had nothing to say she could easily fill the silence with a story.
“Hey can you shift for me?” She suddenly asked and he felt his heart give a little jump.
“I told you I’m not as pretty as you and your family.”
“Please, you said you would if I really wanted you to.”
He cursed himself for running his mouth. Of course he had told her that, he was finding it hard to deny her anything. “Alright, but not here, we should get out of sight.”
“Okay.” She grabbed his hand, sending warmth coursing through him as she pulled him into the woods. She took him far enough in that there was no chance of someone seeing then let him go and turned expectantly.
He sighed and let go of his human form, shifting into the long serpentine dragon. Saskia stood there, eyes widening as she took him in. He was more snakelike than any of her family, a long lean body extended out between his front and back legs, a triangular head hovered just in front of her, red eyes staring at her as his tongue flicked out to taste the air. She reached out, touching his nose and running her hands up to the top of his head. “Wow, your scales are gorgeous.” They were a pearly white and banded with the most gorgeous stripes. “And you’re so warm.”
He felt happy listening to her. He could tell she meant what she was saying and it also felt nice to be touched by her like this. He wasn’t used to anybody being so kind to him or touching him this way. Even the occasional woman he was with wasn’t like this. Saskia had a softness to her, a softness he could get used to. He knew he’d probably ruin things between them but he wanted to be near her as much as he could while this friendship lasted. He didn’t shift back until Saskia stopped petting him “thank you” she said after he had his close back on and she could look at him again. “You’re welcome, normally that form scares people though”
“When you’re grandpa is Zane Koopman and you spend your whole life around dragons and demons, you don’t tend to be scared of people who are different.” She reached up and placed her hand against his cheek. “You’re perfect the way you are.”
“You’re too kind.” He slid his hand over hers, holding it there for a just a moment before finally pulling it away. “So, you said you can call butterflies, that sounds interesting.”
“Want to see?”
“I would love to.”
“There’s a grove, it’s beautiful. We might be able to go faster if you carry me.”
He couldn’t help the way his heart leaped with joy at the prospect of having her that close and he lifted her up, making her giggle. “Uh, where to?”
“It’s on the other side of the road, just beyond the tree line, you’ll love it.”
“I’m sure I will.” He took off running and she held tightly to him, laughing happily at how fast he was. As he raced back through the woods, she noticed some black markings peeking out above the collar of his shirt.
“What are those?” She asked as she pulled his shirt down a little further, causing goosebumps to form on his skin as her fingers brushed over his tattoos.
“They are given to beithir when they come of age. It’s like a right of passage. Even though I’m only a half breed, it’s still part of a long upheld tradition.”
“can you take your shirt off so I can see them better? I promise to do the butterfly thing right after” He took off his shirt, studying her face as she admired them. She started tracing the lines of his tattoos with her fingers “these are seriously cool Luthais” He had always like them too but he liked them even more now since they were causing her to touch him. Her finger tips were so gentle as they glided across his skin. He was honestly a little disappointed when she stopped. He tugged his shirt back on, assuming he should. “I made a promise so” even as she said the words she was calling them, all the beautiful butterflies around. They came to her, fluttering around. Some even landed on the two of them.
“So, what do you think?” She asked shyly.
“Your gift is truly beautiful.” He replied, smiling warmly at how cute she looked with all the butterflies on her. “It’s even more magnificent than mine.”
“You really think so?”
“Yeah, it’s soft, calming magic. I can feel it flowing off of you. It’s so warm.” He closed his eyes, savoring the sensation.
“You have quite a way with words.” He looked down at her, his heart hammering loudly in his chest. Could she hear it? Could she see the effect she was having on him? He had the sudden urge to kiss her and touch her, he craved her. He hadn’t even realized he had moved closer to her until they were practically touching. He quickly jumped back, swallowing.
“Perhaps I should take you home.”
“Why?” She moved closer and he took a step back so she grabbed onto his shirt. “Hey, please don’t run from me.”
“I’m not running.”
“Then please stop pulling away.”
“You’re far to trusting, Saskia, what if I wanted…” He let his fingers slide over her hand, stroking her skin. She was so soft, he could easily get lost in her.
“what if you wanted what Luthais? You’re not as bad as you think you are. I know I don’t have to be afraid of you”
“but I want to kiss you…”
“then kiss me”
“That would really be okay?”
“see? an absolute sweetheart, Just kiss me” He moved in slowly. He was scared and he wasn’t quite sure why since she had just told him to kiss her. He felt maybe it was because he knew getting close to her was selfish. She hadn’t known him long enough to know how selfish he could be, she hadn’t known him long enough to know the funks he got in that had him treating everyone he saw like crap. He didn’t think he could treat her like that, not with how he felt about her but still. So much was on his mind but not enough for him to resist pressing their lips together.
He felt a jolt of electricity run through him, his heart thumping excitedly in his chest as he found himself pulling her tightly against him. One hand pressed against her lower back while he tangled the fingers of his other hand in her soft hair, knocking her bandanna off in the process. The feel of her made his knees weak and he pulled her down with him, holding her in his lap as his lips moved down to play over her delicate neck. “Luthais.” She said breathlessly and he pulled back, shocked.
“Saskia I…I’m sorry, I…”
“Shh, it’s okay.” She was red and embarrassed, even nervous, but she comforted him.
“It’s not.” He rested his head against her shoulder. He could feel himself shaking. “I feel like some sort of wild animal. What’s wrong with me?”
“Nothing, you’re perfect. Please don’t be upset.” She took his face in her hands and lifted his head. “I was surprised, but I’m happy. Aren’t you happy?”
“Very…as long as I didn’t go too far and mess this up”
“You stopped as soon as I asked so of course you didn’t. You can’t know what I’m okay with psychically” He looked into those beautiful amber eyes “Maybe I should take you home for now”
“you’re trying to push away again”
“I was going much too fast, I’m…” he deeply sighed “you’re amazing and I’m a mess Saskia”
“I mean it, I want you to stop putting yourself down. I like you and that kiss was earth shattering. It seems like it was for you too”
“there’s no getting you to let me walk you home is there Saskia?”
“I don’t think you actually want to walk me home”
“You just make me feel things I’ve never felt. It’s nice, you’re so sweet and beautiful and..over the years I’ve grown so attached to you. I started coming to watch over you more for me than you once you began looking like a woman” she actually noticed him blushing now.
You really are very sweet.”
“I’m not, I get jealous and can be very childish at times. I’m prone to bouts of anger and I push people away. One moment I might be close to someone and the next I might snap at them. I’m moody, and melancholic.”
She leaned forward and gave him a kiss, making his entire being tingle. “I’m not afraid, Luthais. Would I have come out here with you alone if I was scared? Would I be trusting you if I was terrified? I know how demons and dragons can be. My uncle is the great Irim, he wasn’t exactly a teddy bear when he met my aunt, but she was and still is patient with him. He’s so serious most of the time, especially when it comes to magic and using it, but he is truly kind and gentle, just like you. You have such a loving heart, even though it’s been hard, I can see how wonderful you are. I hope you will too, no matter how broody you get.”
“It’s my choice, Luthais.”
He sighed, it was so hard to fight her when she wanted to give him precisely what he wanted. He wanted her more than anything. “could I kiss you again? I wont do anything else” she smiled “I’d enjoy that” They began kissing again, him keeping to his word. They stayed out the rest of the day, just enjoying each others company. When he returned her home she let her parents know they were together now. She could tell her parents weren’t completely comfortable but they were very accepting and willing to give the relationship a chance before worrying about it. Among their first questions was if she was moving out but she assured them she wanted to stay at home for awhile and if things advanced to the point of her wanting to move out she would but for now they weren’t going to rush anything. Things were perfect as they were and while they were going to take their time Saskia saw an amazing future with Luthais.
~ The End