Onyx Dragon (Awakened Dragons #1)


by Terry Bolryder

1

Zach, Isaac Morningstar III, touched the chunky iron chain around his neck as he caught his reflection in one of the dingy shop windows he passed. Anger contorted his expression as he withdrew his fingers and started again down the street of the bad neighborhood he’d been dropped in.

He was still getting used to the modern world since he’d been woken up some months ago, but even he knew this wasn’t the type of place he would ever have chosen to go back to when he had full access to his dragon powers and a massive treasure trove that allowed him to live in comfort whenever he felt like being in human form.

And yet here he was, leveled, humbled, shackled by this collar until the oracle who watched over shifters was sure he could be “trusted”, barely able to partially shift, with no money and nothing but the clothes on his back.

Despicable state of events.

Not that he blamed the oracle. In his day, hundreds of years ago, dragons had been more akin to powerful, despotic demigods who terrorized humans when it pleased them and roamed the countryside freely. In human form, they were often dukes or lords with power to match, able to hide in the countryside in a massive estate if they so chose. To hell with caves.

Here, dragons had been remodeled to become something much more civilized. Now they worked in pairs, enforcing the laws of the shifter community and protecting shifters and humans in their area.

Protecting them.

The thought was ludicrous. Zach had never in his life met someone he wanted to protect, and he doubted anyone here in the selfish, petty human world was going to change that for him.

Thunder cracked overhead and he looked up with an annoyed scowl to see dark clouds overhead. A few more steps and he felt the patter of rain on his shoulders and shook his head in disgust. He looked around him to gain his bearings and saw a shop across the street that seemed friendly.

A human woman stood in the front window, smiling as she chatted with a man in front of her in a low chair. She had long hair, a mix of dark brown and red that shimmered over her shoulders. Soft, pale skin with rosy cheeks. A sweet mouth.

She was touching her male client’s hair, and Zach felt an odd rumble of jealousy at the sight of it.

She was providing some kind of service. Zach would go over and see what, and get out of the rain at the same time.

When he pulled open the heavy glass door, all eyes turned to him. Various men and women with striking colors of hair looked up at him in shock. Their clients, all arrayed in black cloaks, stared as well.

He saw seats to the side of the door and sat in one, glaring at the humans to try and deter the stares he was receiving.

He was a dragon, a powerful one. The world could rise or fall on the whims of him and his friends. They should show him respect, not this mixture of shock and disgust.

The girl he’d seen from the window turned to him with soft blue eyes. Kindness. That was unexpected. “Did you want to make an appointment?”

He pursed his lips and leaned back in the chair. “For what?”

“A haircut, of course,” she said, a smile touching her full lips.

Zach sat up a little straighter as a little bolt of warmth coursed through him. Most unexpected. He touched his shoulder length mop, tangled from the trip here and damp from the rain. “No. I do not need one.”

She smiled and shrugged. “Okay.”

Other customers sent nervous glances around and Zach ignored them. He picked up a magazine from beside him and pretended to hold it in front of him while he studied the people.

He wasn’t wholly ignorant of the modern world. He’d been living on a shifter-only island, but they had all of the technology. Just none of the humans.

As he assessed the people around him, he realized when this place closed, it would be evening, and time to find lodgings. He’d been walking all day, and would need somewhere to stay at night. If he could still take his full dragon form, he could go out into the woods and sleep there. His dragon form was impervious to cold. But his human form would probably freeze.

Drat.

He stared at the human again, narrowing his eyes. The man in the chair in front of her stood as she removed his cloak and took him to the counter where payment was taken. On the way there, he turned to Zach with a scowl.

“You could stop staring, hobo,” he said, before turning his back on Zach.

Zach gaped. Hobo? As in, a homeless beggar? For a moment he was speechless at the audacity of it. He was the furthest thing from that. Or was he? After all, he had incredible wealth but none of it was accessible. Incredible power but no way to use it.

He was kind of a hobo, wasn’t he?

“What is he smiling about, anyway?” the man muttered.

“Shush, Gerry,” the woman said. “You know I welcome anyone here.”

Negative one point for humanity for Gerry, Zach thought. Plus one for the girl with the kind eyes. He glanced around the shop. Probably not going to be any more positive points around here.

The oracle had said she’d remove the collar when she felt she could trust him with humans. He had no idea what that meant, but probably it meant hating them a little less. Being less aghast at the thought of protecting them.

When the man had left, the girl with kind eyes removed her black apron, revealing a soft, curvy body in a short pink dress with black leggings underneath. She sat next to him, just a chair away, and gave him a kind smile. It made him tingle slightly.

Dragons did not tingle.

He shifted uncomfortably.

“My name is Erin,” she said, leaning forward with a smile.

“Okay,” he said curtly. For some reason, this little human set him off balance. He was still considering what that meant.

“Can I help you with something?” she asked. “I can call a shelter or maybe someone you know…”

He pursed his lips. “How about you just let me stay here and continue my observation? Or is that too much trouble for you?” His tone was slightly sarcastic and she raised an eyebrow in amusement.

“No, it’s no trouble at all,” she said sweetly. “You’re welcome to just stay in out of the rain as long as you like.” She looked at the clock. “Well, until we close. I was just making sure you didn’t need help.”

“Well, I don’t,” he said flatly. He was frankly a little offended that she thought he was some kind of invalid seeking help. What about him was giving her that impression?

He flinched back when she reached for a lock of his hair that was falling over his face. “At least let me give you a wash and a shave,” she said. “On the house.”