“Are you sure about this?” Sarah asked, biting her lip.
Axin came over to her, taking her hand. “One day you will trust me. I hope it will be soon, but I will say it again. I will never let anything happen to you. I swear you won’t fall off.”
She glanced over at Lexi, who stood with Jake a few yards away. By the look on her friend's face, it was clear that Lexi was having the same conversation with Jake as she was with Axin.
“I do trust you, Axin, you know that. But this is crazy. Just give me a second to wrap my head around it.”
He chuckled. “I want to catch the sun setting. That’s the whole point of all this.”
She looked over at Lexi again, and they locked eyes. Yip. She’s freaking out about this just as much as I am.
Axin stepped up to her, putting his hands on her face and moving it to look at her. “I know you want to do this. Anyone would. So just trust me, and let’s go. Our dinner is going to get cold.”
With a long sigh and a mental slap to just suck it up and do it, she nodded. “Okay. I do want to do this. I’m fine. I can deal with it. Let's go.”
He smiled with a wink. “That’s my girl.”
Axin turned to face Jake. “Are you two ready to do this?”
Lexi nodded and Jake gave him a thumbs up. Both men moved away from them, and Lexi rushed over to Sarah.
“This is insane right? I mean… we’ve totally lost our minds to do this.”
Sarah smiled. “Yup. But I can’t wait. It’s going to be scary as shit, but I trust Axin.”
Lexi bumped her with her shoulder. “I still can’t believe all of this. No wonder Jake freaked out and broke up with me. Just the thought of telling a living person about all this would make me run for the hills.”
“Are things okay between the two of you?”
Lexi smiled, looking out at Jake and Axin as they spoke to each other. Axin waved his hand in the direction of the mountains while Jake nodded.
“More than okay. Living here, with him and with you… It’s perfect.”
There’s that word again. Perfect.
“Yeah, it is.” She took in a long breath, turning to face the men. “No turning back now.”
Lexi laughed. “I’m nervous and excited at the same time.”
Axin met her eyes from a distance and she saw the question in them. She smiled at him and nodded.
Lexi took her hand and they both watched as the two men stepped apart from each other, before a dark shadow emanated from their skin. It grew larger, twisting and turning as the shape took on a longer much larger form.
From the shadow, two sets of massive red and black wings shot out, extending into the air before coming down to rest at the sides of the spiked form of two enormous dragons. They looked at each other and with a nod from Axin, they approached.
Lexi released her hand, moving towards the slightly smaller dragon with blue eyes. Axin came to her, his large red eyes fixed on her, and a momentary jolt of fear ran through her at the sight of his large, fang-filled mouth.
He lowered his head to the ground, getting comfortable on the grass and sniffed at her. Even in this form, she recognized him roll his eyes at her.
“Oh give me a break, okay,” she said, raising her hand to rest on the small space between his nostrils. His eyes softened, and he flashed his teeth with a smile.
“How do I do this?” She asked, stepping around his head to his scaled neck. Spikes lined the top of his neck, in two neat rows going all the way to his powerful tail.
He shifted, lifting one of his legs at his side to make a step for her.
She grabbed onto the spikes on his neck, like axin explained to her, and used his leg to stand on. He lifted her up, holding her there until she swung a leg over his neck and settled on her butt between the spike rows. Her legs fit comfortably between the sharp pieces of bone.
Heart pounding in her chest, she gripped the two spikes closest to her and found a foothold on the smaller spikes on his neck. Once she was comfortable, she nodded to herself, telling her mind that this wasn’t weird at all.
Axin turned his head to look at her. She gave him a smile, took a long, deep breath, and nodded.
When he moved, Sarah’s hands went white on the spikes, holding on for dear life.
Axin rose to his feet, spreading his wide wings at his side. Her adrenaline was at an all-time high, but she couldn’t wipe the smile off her face.
I’m riding a dragon. An actual dragon.
He walked slowly towards Jake and Lexi, and Sarah found her best friend sitting in the same way she was.
Axin turned to the valley, the cottage nestled below. He twisted his head to look at Sarah one more time, winked at her, then let out a loud, deafening roar that echoed off the hills around them. One strong flap of his wings and they lifted off into the air.
Sarah shut her eyes, not wanting to see them crash, or watch the ground get further away.
She could feel the power of each movement of his wings through her legs. When the shaking steadied out, she risked a peek. Axin was high in the air, soaring through the sky with ease. She opened her eyes, taking in the view. Green hills rolled in waves until they broke at the base of tall snow-covered mountains. Dense forests covered the ground below them, and on the horizon lay the blue waters of the ocean.
Sarah smiled, easing her death grip on the spikes and took it all in. Axin banked to the side, giving her a glimpse of Jake and Lexi beside them. Lexi smiled wide at her, and let go of the spikes she held onto. She extended her hands at her side and threw her head back.
Sarah laughed and looked ahead. She eased the grip of one hand, then threw both arms out at her sides. The wind tossed her hair, making her eyes water, and Sarah cried out.
“Whoa! This is awesome!”
She felt Axin’s chuckle vibrate through her legs. He moved his wings again, causing Sarah to grab the spikes. He banked to the side, lowering towards the ground.
Below them, a clearing of trees around a stunning blue lake came into view. He landed on the soft grass with a thud, settling his wings at his side and lowering his neck to the ground. Sarah climbed off with numb legs, her body still shaking from the thrill of flying like that.
A thud next to them informed her that Jake and Lexi landed, and as she watched her friend climb off the dragon, warm arms wrapped around Sarah’s waist.
“Told you it would be fun.”
A wide smile split her lips and she turned in his arms to meet his eyes.
“That was incredible. Thank you.”
He rolled his eyes, not saying a word, then bent to kiss her lips. She loved the contact with him, the feel of his arms around her, and the joy and excitement every day held with him.
She heard footsteps approaching and broke the kiss to find Lexi waiting behind her. Axin let her go and Sarah turned to her friend.
“That was the best shit ever!” Lexi squealed, grabbing Sarah into a tight hug.
She laughed. “Yip. It’s definitely something I could get used to.”
Axin led them all to a large tree standing alone only a few feet away from the gentle waves that washed onto the bank. He turned to face them with a smile.
“I thought we were having dinner here?” Lexi asked, looking around at the bare grass and bushes in the clearing.
Axin grinned wider and pulled his phone out of his pocket. He dialed, then pressed it to his ear. A moment later he said, “Whenever you’re ready.”
He hung up and crossed his arms, eyeing them all with a grin.
Sarah raised her brows, looking around.
A sound behind them caught her attention and she turned in time to see a stunning white gazebo fade into existence on the water. It floated a foot above the tiny waves of the sprawling lake with strings of flowers and lights lining the beams. Inside, a round wooden table with four large comfortable looking chairs faded in, holding a variety of food and drinks. A small bridge extended to the ground inviting them in. Like a distant wink from Nilu, the lights turned on, and the magical setting was complete.
Axin’s arms came around her waist, and she rested her head back on his chest.
“A little gift from Nilu.”
“Thank him from me, please.”
Axin chuckled, “I will. Let’s eat. I’m starving.”
He took her hand and led her onto the little bridge leading up to the table. They all took their seats and the gazebo floated off from the bank and made its way to the center of the lake.
Everything truly was perfect at that moment for Sarah. She loved how Lexi and Jake laughed at the stories Axin told them. How Jake and Axin didn’t glare at each other with death in their eyes. Even she had to admit that she no longer got that crept out feeling from being around him. They ate, laughed, spoke of heartwarming stories, and Jake and Axin even went for a swim in dragon form. Who knew dragons were so playful.
When they got back to the cottage, she curled up on the sofa, watching Axin light the fire. He came to sit next to her, pulling her into his arms, and kissed the top of her head.
“What time do you start work tomorrow?”
“I work from home. But I have to be at Mr. Takamori’s estate by lunch. The movers are coming in tomorrow and I need to be there to make sure they take care of all his stuff. I should be there for a few hours. The rest I can do from here.”
“I have a few things to take care of in Purgatory tomorrow, so I will take you to your apartment, but I might be late picking you up. Will you and Lexi be okay to wait a few hours?”
She turned to look up at him with a smile. “I think we can handle a few hours of waiting while the inter-veil express is delayed.”