Story Prompt. They Dared me for a few minutes- this is a seed of a story…

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Honey enjoyed the party, Halloween this year proved more exciting than in previous years. Her freedom grew while she attended college at Ocean Bay University. The characters of her dorm were such insane women, she was both alarmed and laughed until her sides hurt every weekend.

To Keep her grades up was the greatest struggle, but doable.

This Halloween party was just what the doctor ordered. Mid term testing had driven her dreams and now she was at a party with more booze than she ever seen in one house.

Rebecca, already braless with a white t-shirt was dipping her head into the pool, making the opaque material of her shirt transparent.

Then she dared act all embarrassed when she walked around with puckered nipples.

Honey enjoyed the drinks when she met Zac, a criminal justice major and his friend Dorian who studied chemistry.

The party moved from innocent to adult with a blink of an eye when the school jokesters showed up as strippers. Robert, Dean, Joseph wore fake boobs and G-strings and walked around and rubbed on everyone.

The night wore on, the more people drank, the more clothes fell off.

Honey thought she had consumed too much ethanol and the ground began to spin and move while she danced in Robert’s arms.

Except he looked around, too, tension on his face.

“It’s an earthquake.” He said. “It’s Only a 3.5…”

Then the power went out.

Screams and laughter echoed around the party house.

It would not be many minutes before “Oooh’s and ah’s!” became screams of horror and terror…

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Married by Mistake Chapter 51. Watching the Bay

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Chapter 51. Watching the Bay

*Homework!*

*Ugh!* She had cottonmouth from the awkward sleep position on her tablet. In a moment she laughed when she sat up. She left a face print on the smooth, high gloss finish of the computer’s screen. *So much homework! Not enough coffee!*

Every night. Kaylee had not taken time to smoke even one bowl in two days. She sketched every day and, after the first few days, it brought her no joy. A still-life of the bay from her balcony, then she went to the beach and painted there.

One late afternoon the memory of Glenn returned in a blast of fury, in a heated moment of inspiration she threw sand on the paint, before it dried, unable to rework the image, she displayed it in class.

She expected Doctor Fayse to reject the sand-textured painting out of hand, but he instead gave her extra points for the painted colors and strokes of the brush and sand effect, giving the feeling of emotion of anger and rage that she had created.

Rage?

Yeah. Oh yeah, she was angry. She kicked Tom out of her life in favor of Glenn.

And then Glenn screwed the pooch on that subject. Samantha, too for that matter, and his life.

That he could not see his way to keep his DNA in check, really did not hurt.

*It’s that he is, rather was, supposed to be my best friend, too. He should have talked to me, not just give a half-limp kiss and never say a word about a pregnant wife.*

*Yeah, he screwed his life up, all right.* She kicked an innocent stick of wood on the ground hard enough that the little driftwood twig skipped across the parking lot. *But so did I.*

Tom was overdue in the bay and she was unable to keep away from his website. It was no help, just an information page, no “Contact Me” information, there was no way for her to email him.

Georgia closed his email that she had in her phone, after he dealt with that agent, it looked like he signed with another company and there was no direct contact with him through that web-site either.

Never in the news and the events on his web page were out of date and ended with Doctor Manga’s installation at Cambridge University in the UK.

Still, everyday she went to the beach with an occasional drive past the airport, but the closed football-field sized hanger doors looked as if they had not been used and there was a noticeable lack of activity around the building.

Another week dragged past and the wet season was coming, she would go home for Christmas soon and Tom’s plane still had not returned.

Early Saturday, Kaylee was in a deep sleep and the sun had not yet come up. She had spent her Friday night in deep study and memorized her half-dozen assignments and typed her class reports on each with an original point of view as required by the professors.

Seven hours a day in classes, another four-hours at home on her computer, another shift at the beer and ribs cook-house. She felt overwhelmed, as so many college students do.

She had nightmare dreams of the reports when her phone rang, saving her from being attacked by a anthropomorphized, giant report on an artist that she could not recognize. She was thankful for that save.

It was Melanie. She loved her sister more than anyone in the world at that instant.

‟Mmph. Hel-” Kaylee yawned and dropped her phone on her face. ‟Lo? Melanie ?”

‟Tiny! I found him!” Melanie was wide awake. ‟I know where Tom is!”

‟Whath timeish ish it?” Kaylee was almost incoherent. She had not slept well, then it had hit her in last night’s studies and she slept like the dead without any sleep aid or to cook hash-brownies to assist in her stress. “Tom? Who’s you talkin’ ’bout?”

‟It’s quarter of three. Why are you sleeping? You are always up at this time.”

‟Not th’ last four days… Mel, I was asleep, issa ya drunk?” Kaylee slurred her words as if she had was drunk herself. “Wha’ di’ you say about who? Wha’ Tom?”

‟No! Noooo…I have been on the hunt for Tom.” She sounded like she found a gold nugget after a long search. ‟You know I had Steven check some things for me?”

‟Sheven? Ahem..Steven? Th’ Stalker?” Kaylee interrupted. “Wonder” *yawn* “Ful. C’n I g’back sleep now?”

‟Not a stalker.” A pause as her sister contemplated the conversation. ‟Okay, well, maybe I am. But it’s for a good cause!”

Kaylee laughed while she balanced the phone on her head and pulled her arm under the blanket while her younger sister babbled news about a guy named Tom and his travels.

‟Did you hear me? He is in Australia.” Mel said to her sister in a sad tone of voice. ‟Aw. Kaylee, I think he has moved there.”

‟Moovmmph… Moved there?” Kaylee ‘s brain did not register the conversation still.

Then she blinked and stared into the dark.

She was wide awake with a sudden rush of thoughts.

“You mean TOM? My Tom?” She said loud enough and had to grab at the phone. ‟Tom has children’s books published there. Southern Oz.” 

‟Where?” Melanie did not catch what her older sister said.

‟Australia, he called it Oz a lot.” She did not want to wake up this much, but now she was awake and not happy. ‟Can I sleep? I need to sleep. I’m too awake, I don’t wanna be awake.”

‟Well, you need to stop by that hanger and go ask. Not just drive by.”

‟I won’t stalk him.” Kaylee said, she struggled to dive back into sleep and try hard to forget that screwed up chapter of her life.

‟You’re not a stalker if you’re worried about him.” Melanie said in conspiratorial tones. ”I was worried. You remember the look on his face when you and he were here?”

‟I remember you squeaked like a mouse and fell off of the sofa.” She grumbled and snuggled back under the blankets.

‟That never happened. He startled me.” Her sister was defensive. ‟But he did have a big smile. Tiny, you made a happy man.”

‟You just want me to hook up with him again.” She mumbled. “Melly, I’m going back…”

‟If you don’t, I will.” Melanie interrupted.

“…to sleep.” Kaylee finished.

‟If you keep on that subject, I’m going to hang up on you.” Kaylee twisted the phone around so the light from the screen didn’t bother her.

‟Okay, I’ll let you go.” Melanie said.

‟Good.”

‟You need to get some sleep, you are a bitch at night.” Younger sisters, sometimes, annoy and Melanie was making it her number-one trait as far as Tom was concerned.

‟Good night, Mel.” And she broke the connection, laughing herself to sleep.

*When she gets older, she will be the most famous busy-body in our family.* Was Kaylee ’s last thought before sleep reclaimed her.

The morning after the phone call. Kaylee walked around in the apartment, off in her emotional bubble. It took two-hours for her to figure out what was bothering her.

That phone call at zero-dark-thirty by her over caffeinated sister who was more insane about Tom than cats were about laser-pointers.

She made coffee in an old-school way of heated up water in a pot, then she poured the scalding liquid over Kona coffee grounds in a single-cup filter.

Not for the first time, she drank her coffee on the balcony and looked towards the picturesque bay.

And not for the first time, she saw only beautiful blue water and boats.

And not for the first time…

She wept.

Married by Mistake Chapter 50. Back To The Bay

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Chapter 50. Back to the Bay

The flight south to the college town was decidedly longer than the flight from the southland to north. The commercial jetliner was slower in the air by nearly a third. It was comfortable, but although it was a larger aircraft, the comfort was not nearly the same as when she went north with Tom and the other authors.

Tom. The memory of the name made her sigh and the thought made her wonder if he might be at the Charthouse where he liked to spend time before they met.

*No, he was in England by now, attending Dr. Manga’s installation.* She rubbed her temples. *I’ll have time alone with no temptation to see him.*

The arrival and collection of her bags took a little longer than during the summer trips on the private and chartered planes, when she traveled with Tom. It made her laugh at herself, she was quick to spoil.

The student-artist laughed. The party girl laughed. Most of all, Kaylee laughed at herself.

*‟Spoiled” indeed!* On the south-western coast of the United States, where the sun shines more than not, it was easy to get spoiled, she reminded herself while she walked out of the airport terminal.

A short walk to the nearest taxi, the ride was less than half the distance than the cab-ride when she went home. This time she did not wait to have her door opened, though the driver did motions to open the door for her.  A young man who smiled at her a lot, giving furtive glances and an attempt at a seductive smile.

If she was in the mood, she might have flirted back. But she still wanted to punch someone.

Hard.

And she needed to head back to the martial arts academy for a workout to sooth her stress levels.

She had not been there for over a month, worried that the Guro would forget who she was.

She stretched on the sidewalk in front of the apartment, it had been three hours in seats that moved over the ground or through the air without much room to stand up and get the blood to her legs.

She looked forward to the walks up and down the hills and stairs of the university and then a workout at with hand to hand and sticks at the Serrada academy.

A familiar voice screamed her name as Melanie came flying out the door of the apartment.

‟RING! Tiny! Ring, I want to see it!” Melanie the Monster, kid-sister, excited muppet of Kaylee’s childhood danced on the balls of her feet. Her Taekwondo skills showing. ‟Ring! Now! Woman!”

‟Sorry, no ring.” Kaylee said and told her the story while they walked up the stairs to her home for the last year.

‟What!” Melanie lost her composure when she learned of Glenn’s life-changing event.

‟Tiny!” She used her pet name for her sister. “You dumped Tom for Glenn and then Glenn does that? Did you kick him in the head?” Her eyes sparkled with fury for her sister being wronged. Worst of enemies when they were little, they were the best of friends now. If someone ever made one sister cry, the other sister was like the Erinyes of old and become a sister’s mission to cut the offender’s good life into confetti of wept for distant memories.

‟I did better than that. I made friends with his wife. He will have to become the speaker of the house to make up for it all.” Kaylee laughed. ‟He has a laundry list of makeup chores for the next twenty-years.”

Melanie laughed at this image. Glenn was now a slave to his own life that he had prearranged with a spectacular exercise in carelessness and neglect.

‟What about Tom?” Melanie asked. ‟You, I don’t know what you call it. You…”

“I unmarried him.”

“Ha! That’s a good one. Does he know what has happened? He is going to flip when he finds out.”

‟No, he is in England by now giving a speech.” Kaylee frowned as she fit the key into the lock. The lock felt stiff as if it had not been used enough since she had left for home and the Pacific Northwest.

‟When does he come back?” Melanie smiled, her imagination operated at full speed. ‟I want to talk to him more. Maybe he will teach creative writing at the school? I would so take that class.”

‟What about your boyfriend, David? He’d get jealous if you drool over some old rich man who lives on the ocean and teaches your class.” Kaylee smiled. “Besides, Tom is gone for at least three more weeks.”

‟Yeah! In that float plane!”

‟Flying-boat.” Kaylee corrected. ‟Actually a yacht. You should see the inside of it.”

‟You were married to that! Oh my god, and you gave it all up to be with Glenn and he… and he… Oh my gawd!” Melanie covered her eyes with her hands. ‟I could have had a brother-in-law…”

‟That was almost as old as dad. Pops would have had a stroke.”

‟You don’t know that. I’m serious Kaylee, you gave up a lot to find that Glenn would have cheated on you with some crony.” Melanie sounded exasperated. ‟When I go home for Christmas, I am so gonna kick Glenn around the block. Stupid, stupid boys that walk around with one thing on their minds.”

‟How about having a bowl full?” Kaylee was getting tired of Melanie’s venom towards Glenn.

‟Full?” That turned Melanie ’s attention to another subject. ‟Is it Schroder’s sinsemilla?”

‟Of course!” Kaylee held up a bag. “Fresh from Mr. Schroder’s greenhouse. I couldn’t find my other stash while at home, I think I left it here.”

‟Bummer, it’ll be all shake. Then light the new up, what’s keeping you?” Melanie laughed. ‟But you are still not off the hook for Glenn’s screw-up.”

‟What? Why am I blamed for Glenn’s pinhead problems?” Kaylee laughed. “Besides, I had half-kilo because we don’t get back home enough.”

‟Tiny, welcome home.” Melanie smiled. “You have to pay for the choices you make. Glenn should have done it with you in high-school.”

“We’d all be screwed then.” Kaylee nearly choked on the pipe when her sister suggested that it was a good idea to have gotten pregnant so early in life. “And he still would have gone off to D.C. and knocked her up. If not her, someone else. Glenn is a horn-dog and a pig.  Okay! No more talking about him, we’re finished.”

Laughing, the sisters smoked late into the night. They ordered a party plate from the deli down at the corner and carried the plastic tray back to the apartment and with giggles, smoke and a view of the bay from Kaylee’s balcony.

They caught up on all the tears, laughter and news only the way two sisters could while eating exotic cheeses from the far away lands called Wisconsin and Tillamook.

Married by Mistake Chapte 49. The Good-Bye Girl

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Chapter 49. The Good-Bye Girl

Fourteen days at home flew past with a blur.

Kaylee in the meantime recharged, recovered from her shock at Glenn’s immature life choice, was packing for the return to Ocean Bay University.

Her dad made her laugh. She had sat with him on a home-made bean bag chair while she smoked a pipe for the first time with the man she always thought was without a clue about life for the young generation.

The old man had more on the ball than Kaylee ever gave him credit for. She always thought of him as an IT nerd-tech that was only involved with himself.

Instead, dad liked Steampunk music, knew a thousand things she never thought possible of his generation.

Funny, it seemed the older she got, the smarter he was. In fact she viewed her father, Charles Achilles “CAG” Grant, as brilliant, funny, talented and wise.

She didn’t tell him about Tom, however. She started a dozen times and Dad shushed her each time.

‟Your past is in your behind.” He said softly.

‟What?” Kaylee looked up at the man who was the standard she held all other men to. ‟Dad? What?”

‟Sorry, that’s good weed.” He gave a crooked smile. ‟Put your behind in your past, you don’t need to talk about it just now.”

‟You mean that I should put what on my butt?”

‟No.” Dad was trying for a serious moment but giggled. ‟What is done is history. Leave it there for now.”

‟Okay.” Kaylee smiled and took another hit off the pipe. Her parents always dealt with Anders Schroder with his home-grown. It was the best weed in the area.

Mr. Schroder grew enough of the best cannabis to sell to the retail outlets, but little more than that. Fully licensed and inspected, Mr. Schroder kept the businesses going with only enough income to keep his bills paid. The old man just liked the beauty of the plant and wished to make clothes out of the hemp fiber he grew from other species. Often telling Glenn and Kaylee that it was better than cotton.

The weed relaxed her and made the heartache of Glenn seem so much smaller than it was.

*At least I’m not pregnant! Pretty sure.* She laughed to herself.

She began to think of that last time on the plane after she came home.

Tom was weak from spending so much time in the hospital bed, she had grown protective of the soul that thought he was her protector. He cautioned her heart to avoid what Tom said in gentle words, ‟Complicate things”.

Another few days home.

An argument over who’s toe-sock was left out on the porch with her brother ended with mom telling them to go put on their socks.

Kaylee came out wearing hers and Mike, with one bare foot and looking sheepish.

While the kid-brother learned to do his own laundry, at dad’s insistence to prepare him for college. Another requirement of the patriarch of the family.

Dad did not care what each of the children wanted to do, but he did require that they earned the highest degree of education available for that interest.

A strong preference for a doctorate, and no one dared defy dad on this point.

Kaylee worried a lot about trying to earn a doctorate in fine arts, a tall order. But dad was motivational and insistent.

That afternoon, while she packed to return to Ocean Bay U., Glenn pulled up in his car.

Alone.

He walked up to the door, intercepted by Kaylee .

‟Don’t you have a life to attend to? Does Sam know you are here?”

‟Yes, she knows. Our mom’s were talking and she found out you were leaving today, she sent me with this.” Glenn held out a small gift, a compass with an email address taped to it.

“Sam wants to pursue a friendship with you.” Glenn’s voice was almost a whisper.

Kaylee was still unsure, her heart still ached after that day. She had found a kindred spirit in Samantha Schroder, but still envious at the same time.

She took the offered present with a smile that she did not feel in her heart.

‟I know I hurt you, if I say it was an accident, it would be an insult to everyone. But it was not planned, I wanted to stay with you.”

‟Do not tell me that, do not let Sam hear you say that.” Kaylee on the verge of rage shook her finger in his face. ‟You want to work as a member of congress élite and a senator’s aide? You put on a face of a happy husband and proud father. You did this with her without thought or precaution, now you have a child. You had better love that baby, or I swear I will kick you so hard you it will take a year for your breastbone to heal. And you know I can. If you ever break up with Sam, I will use you for my flow-drills. You don’t get a stick, you just have to stand there and take it.”

‟Then I’ll send my dad after you, he’s pissed at you as well.” She added.

‟I can see that. He’s standing in the window, looking at me.” Glenn voice trembled with more than a little fear.

Charles Grant stood in the picture window with his arms crossed, a stare like a cougar lining up for a kill for a full minute then stepped out of sight.

For a single moment of shining terror, Glenn thought the old man was coming out.

‟I’ll keep in touch.” He told Kaylee. ‟Maybe we can get together then.”

‟No.” She shook her head. ‟We have our own lives, lived our own way and our own adventures. Good-bye Glenn. I’m sorry this is how it ended.”

She hugged him awkwardly and walked back to the house and closed the door quietly behind her.

And leaned up against it and caught her breath. It was the single hardest thing she had ever done in her life.

And she was still standing strong.

‟Everything all to rights, sweetheart?” The measured tones of her dad entered her world, the old man was sitting in his chair. Two glasses and a bottle of his favorite fifty-year-old rum sitting on the end-table.

‟Oh. Daddy…”

She sat in his lap for the first time in over a decade, the twenty-something woman left the room while the broken-hearted child wept on her father’s shoulder.

Pouring a splash of rum in each glass, he handed one to his sniffling princess.

‟A toast to accidents. Without them, we’d never know where we are in life and where our strength lies. Some are happy, some are sad, a toast to them all.”

‟A happy accident?” Kaylee said after she took a sip of the spiced amber liquid and coughed. The ethanol burning her throat.

‟Yes, if it was not for an accident, I’d never have met your mom.” Her dad said with a wink.

‟She said she met you standing in line at a store.”

‟Pharmacy, for pain medication.”

‟Same thing.” She sipped more of her dad’s treasured rum.

‟Who do you think gave me the pain.”

‟What?”

‟She worked as a bookkeeper at an office and I was running cable for a network. Wireless networking was unheard of in those days. While I crawled by a desk, she opened a drawer over my head.” He rubbed his head of the memory of it. ‟I broke the drawer when I stood up, scalded myself when a coffee cup on the desk spilled down my back.”

Kaylee broke out laughing.

‟Oh my god. She never told me that.”

‟And I wished he never did either!” Mom hid her face in her hand, she had walked in from the back of the house. ‟I nearly killed your dad with a concussion and wrecked our new computer system at the same time.”

‟The coffee went into the server.” Her dad added. ‟It was awful, blood and coffee everywhere.”

‟It looked like someone got slaughtered by a coffee machine.” Mom admitted.

‟I was talking about my shirt.”

‟I was, too.” Linda laughed.

Parents and offspring talked for over an hour, mom and dad told secrets on each other from the time before children while they shared the bottle of rum until it was all gone.

It was a good end to an otherwise miserable day. With three hours to go, the Grant family took their eldest princess to the airport to return to her life back in Ocean Bay University.

Not for the first time in her life, she was looking forward to seeing her sister.

*Wait until Melanie hears the news of how Glenn really changed his life up, never to return to the house without a wife and child in tow.* She shook her head.

During the drive to the airport, Kaylee spent most of the trip looking out the window of the car to the trees that lined the highway. Lost in thought over the last two-weeks.

She wondered if she could just take double classes and never leave the school. It would take a meeting with her mentor and class coördinator.

The world was rainy when she arrived, but it was a rain of promise and excitement, it washed away her doubts from the summer.

Now, it was just grey and wet.

Married by Mistake Chapter 26. Papers

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Chapter 26. Papers

Kaylee left the medical center after they settled Tom back his room. He had been in a bit of pain as the nurses bathed him and gave medications to help him sleep.

She walked across the macadam surface of the airport to the hangar where the Flying Sea Dragon sat, she could barely keep from sobbing the trip from the hospital.

It hurt so much to even think of those papers that sat somewhere inside the plane, waiting.

She rode in silence in a taxi she caught at random to the airport, she did not want to ride with anyone who knew Tom, knew of Tom or had even heard about his books.

She had a serious need to sit and drink wine and smoke a bowl with her sister and talk.

She missed the afternoons with Melanie like they had in their teens. They had barely graduated from high school, but as the best of friends and the worst of enemies, they would be in a furious scream-fest fight for minutes, then would be the best of friends as they settled down for a toke.

But no outsider dare make either of them cry.

Woe be unto the person that faced the wrath of the Grant sisters. It would make for an epic bad day when both sisters would turn on the offending person with fury that only sisters, family, and those of the same heart and soul have.

As they grew older, and although they took different classes and their lives were on different paths, they became closer still.

Opening the door of the big jet, she looked down at the broken glass that still lay on the floor.

And blood! Everywhere, large black clots that cemented fibers of the carpet into a mat with choking copper-smell. It surprised her the amount that soaked into the carpet on the floor. A body-trail in the glass where he crawled to the door and yelled for help at the plane’s technicans and engineers.

She stepped past the gore and glass that almost ended Tom’s life and perhaps did end his life as a writer.

She sat at the chair and looked where the papers in the manila envelope waited, filed in the cubby-hole that Tom told her about.

She thought of Melanie and all the fights they had while she sat in the Flying Sea Dragon and held the annulment papers in her hands.

*Tom said I just had to sign on the lines in the document and mail it with…*

With…

She slumped in the chair and a wept.

*It’s strange, this is just what I wanted four-weeks ago! Now I have a serious temptation to put it in the washing machine, somewhere on the plane. Except, damn, I’m not sure where it is, hidden behind some cabinet door.* Kaylee took a heavy breath, *I’m not sure if this is wise.*

Her hands trembled when she found the place to sign in the back of the document.

She slipped the papers into the manilla envelope they were paper-clipped to, she closed and sealed the package and walked out the door of the big flying yacht.

*The Flying Sea Dragon is not as big as the Pacific Wizard is inside, it’s more cluttered with furniture, bulky items to make it feel close. Still, a comfortable plane to live in.*

*A flying yacht.* She reminded herself as she walked across the airport to the main offices.

She nearly didn’t get to mail it, the woman behind the counter almost gave it back because of Kaylee ’s facial expressions and the slumped-sad way she carried herself.

“Miss, I don’t know what you have in this, and it’s not my place to say. But do you really want to send this?” She looked as if she might have known Ben Franklin when she started for the post-office. Not a trace of color in the great-grandmotherly hair.

With the postage stamped on the envelope, the woman gave Kaylee one more look, a last chance to change her mind, then slowly it into the slot behind her and it was in the US mail with a required a signature on delivery at the court.

Once the clerk of the court received and signed for the papers, in the eyes of the government, it never happened.

It would be as if she was never married.

While Kaylee walked out to the sidewalk she dialed the number on the business card that the Chauffeur Kaikane had given her and told her to call anytime she needed a ride. This time it would be to the hospital. She would tell Tom that she signed the papers, but she was not sure about how she felt.

After breaking the line with Kaikane and his peaceful voice, she hit speed-dial and called Melanie .

‟KAY!” Melanie was always excited to hear from her sister. ‟Where are you?”

‟San Francisco. Tom has had a good run of luck with the doctors since his accident.”

‟You need to come home quick as you can. Glenn is here and he has asked for you, he said it’s important.” Melanie said in a conspiratorial tone. ‟I think he is going to ask the question.”

‟Oh.” Her heart finished the phrase. *Damn.*

‟You don’t sound excited.” Melanie became quiet, shocked at the response. “This is what you have waited for since you were kids.”

‟I just signed the papers and sent them off to Nevada. I stop being married and never was according to the state once the papers arrive.”

‟Oh sis. But this is what you want, right?”

‟I don’t know. Tom needs me.” Kaylee was quiet as she waited for the limo. “You should see his eyes. Mellie, he is a good man, he cares for so many things and he’s in pain because of me.”

‟But he was alone before he met you, and it’s only been a month.” Melanie said helpfully. ‟And you said he nearly crashed the plane with you in it.”

‟He showed the wine country off to me from the plane.” She was defensive all of a sudden. “Melanie , it was beautiful, right up until we hit the birds, scared me so bad I think I nearly peed myself.”

At the other end, her best friend and sister laughed, knowing Kaylee the way she did, for her to say something like that was funny.

They talked as sisters do over the phone. Switching to video chat while she waited for the contract limousine to pick her up.

‟Why don’t you take a cab?” Melanie asked as Kaylee sat on a bench and waited in the shade of a tree.

‟No. If this is my last limo ride I don’t have to pay for, I want to enjoy it as much as I can. Besides, there is a hot Hawaiian that drives it. You’d love him. Surfer type, intelligent as any professor, knows more about sensemilla than a DEA cop.”

Melanie laughed so hard she snorted, then held her hand over the lens while she composed herself.

‟Stringbean? You know I can still hear you.” Kaylee took her turn of laughter, using the nickname that they worked out as children. This only made Melanie laugh that much harder.

Melanie Grant was the only person in the world that could make Kaylee laugh when things were at their darkest.

Kaylee hated her for that…

Which made her laugh all the harder, she loved her sister more than anyone else in her generation. They were, after all…

Sisters.

Married by Mistake Chapter 25. Month’s End

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Chapter 25. Month’s End

Kaylee walked slowly with Tom as while she pushed him in a wheelchair towards the ‟Garden of Healing”.

Reaching the trees, native redwoods that bounded the half-acre garden full of native coastal plants.

The garden grew rich with beautiful colors of life, a peaceful location in the middle of the huge facility of intense emotions where hearts and souls healed from having their bodies repaired from different trauma and illness.

The couple enjoyed the sunlight until they came to the natural ten-century old Cathedral Tree where Kaylee parked Tom in his wheelchair, talked and held hands like the lovers they had become.

The Cathedral Tree, a half-circle of redwood trees that grew in a large open area on the campus of the medical center. Kaylee smiled at the smells that reminded her of home. She could feel the power of the Earth that lived here. In the middle of the healing professionals, medicine and sterile atmosphere, the Gods of Old, of life and sky sat in watchful gaze over the modern lives that began, ended and healed in the nearby structures of doctors, nurses and patients.

Except for one stubborn area of his arm, Tom’s condition improved faster than predicted, he impressed the team of surgeons, one suggested that part of the healing was the hand holding by the young wife had a positive effect.

“Attitude accounts for much of the recovery.” A journeyman surgeon said during an exam of Tom’s arm while waiting for Doctor Tribbing.

Fortune had it that the wound made by the glass in the tissues was smoother than even they could do with their surgical steel scalpels. Even obsidian or diamond bladed edged instruments could not have performed a cleaner, smooth-edged incision.

The wound, they said after surgery, was perfect for them to repair. Flesh and even the ends of the bone that were cloven so smoothly that the ends matched up precisely.

The only failure was the annoying lack of healing in one deep area in his arm. A drainage kept coming from the tubes they put in to help his wounds to keep fluid from building up.

Tom had stopped eating for fear of gaining weight and lost weight, despite the IV that ran into his arm constantly. Kaylee nagged him to eat, and when he did, he would only eat the most minute of portions.

Once again she could not help but think of more than three weeks ago. The summer was an adventure in ways she had never dreamed.

They sat in the filtered sun of the Cathedral Tree. The perfume from the tree made Kaylee think of camps and a campfire, she took deep breaths and images of fire-roasted cornbread, and foil-wrapped baked potatoes danced in her head. She could feel the power of the earth coming from the ancient species of tree dance with her muse.

Even obnoxious, bored children that made noise and were under the constant shush of nurses and parents, whispered in the natural wood enclave saved by some genius architect. Such was the power of the Cathedral Tree.

Small crosses with names – people who committed to each other here –  tucked in the small areas between the trunks of the trees. Momento’s of weddings and thanks for the peaceful place in the middle of a medical center.

It promised of a time she looked forward to when the hospital released Tom and they would spend an evening on the beach.

In the quiet of the shade, Tom had slipped into a soft sleep, caused by the residual effects of heavy medications. She sat and held his hand, waiting for him to drift awake again when they would talk more. A conversation between the husband and wife, lovers and friends that could continue after a nap as if it never stopped.

In this quiet moment, Kaylee ’s phone chimed an alert to a text message. As she read her phone, it was a class synopsis that her education mentor suggested for the upcoming year.

Scrolling through the pages, the mentor reduced her class schedule. The math showed she had enough extra credit she had done the year before. She could do one less class this year, two less in her senior year if her grades qualified.

*I might do post-grad credits before I graduate! I like extra credits.*

‟Kaylee ?” Tom was awake! ‟Damn, how long have I been sleeping?”

‟Tom! How do you feel?” It was her standard question. The arm would sometimes cause him in agony. Then she smiled and gave him a synopsis. “Oh. Today or total? You woke up for a half-hour this morning, but you have been pretty groggy the last seven days. They don’t want you to move the tendons just yet.”

‟It has been a week?.” Tom had lost time during his stay. It was a regular start to all his conversations of late.

‟Yeah, a lot has happened and everything has been on hold.”

‟Let me get my mind around this. I’m still fuzzy.”

The drugs they shot Tom up with during the last week faded quickly in the sunlight and redwood perfumed air.

*The nurse had said this would happen when they discontinued his medications that kept him from moving much.* She smiled.

Even in his induced sleep, he was incredibly uncomfortable. A stomach sleeper and the doctor wanted him to keep the arm above his heart.

‟We need the annulment papers signed. We can file them tomorrow or the next day. I’ll have Robin, my lawyer, do it. You just need to sign the papers, they are on the Flying Sea Dragon.” Tom said quietly. His voice much improved since the first night when the nurse said it was a side-effect of having a tube pushed past his vocal cords.

‟What about your signature?” She frowned. This moment took a sudden turn to the sad-side.

‟I signed the papers weeks ago, a night you were crying in your sleep.” Tom said quietly, a shot of pain ran across his face. ‟You whispered Glenn’s name in that dream.”

‟Omy god, I’m so sorry.” Kaylee doubted that the pain was from his arm.

‟Don’t be. You said from the beginning, we weren’t supposed to be married. And really, you did not have to come here, either. You are a good person, but I am almost twice your age, I have all I have, but I lack one thing.” Tom moved a bit and groaned in pain and whispered a profanity. ” A future.”

Tom looked up at the big tree and gave a big sigh.

‟Like this young tree, your future is still bright and lays ahead of you with your Glenn. Get the papers and walk them over to the offices at the airport. Send them registered mail so it’s a required signature. That way it is the soonest it will be over, and you won’t have to return from your days back home to here and deal with this mess.”

‟Tom, I…” She couldn’t talk, her throat had tightened up like a knot. It was what she had wanted all month, why was it that it seemed to hurt, now that the time was here.

When this mess started she wept for the loss of her single-ness.

She loved with him.

She had fought with him.

She raced to his side in his time of need.

She spoke with the doctor about him and his arm when they thought that they may have to amputate.

She had fought for him with that witchy-woman who would demand he write while he recovered from having his arm, his future, hung by a thread of flesh.

She still felt like he told her to abandon him.

‟Tom, I…” Damn, there goes that knot in her heart again. ‟I will stay until they send you home, there are days I can catch up.”

‟You have to sign up for the classes, I’ll be discharged to attend Doctor Manga’s installation and make a speech. I can do that with only one arm.”

‟Tom, Honey, maybe you and I can get together after you get back from, Cambridge is where it is?”

‟That would be nice, but when I get back from Cambridge I’ll head to other places for a while.”

‟You think you might move?”

‟I am never in one place for long, you know that.”

‟Well, I thought. I mean, I just assumed that you stayed there.”

‟No, I was in Ocean Bay to meet with Dr. Manga and make a few donations and write. I would have been long-gone if we never met.” Tom groaned as he shifted in the wheelchair. “I just couldn’t fly away.”

‟And how do you plan to fly with that arm.” Kaylee was a little taken aback at her effect on his life. She and Tom worked well as a team and she kind of wanted him to grieve. It stung her that he had planned on moving on already. ‟You should be with someone to help you heal.”

‟I’ll hire a nurse, if need. But I think I am okay with flying on a wide-body jet in first-class. I can even buy tickets for four seats so I can spread out.”

This was all twisted, she was about to get what she wanted and he acted all matter-of-fact about how he would return to the world that he lived in.

*It feels like he woke up only to stab my heart.* Her heart and soul had a hard time with this.

*No. This,* she made a choice, *Is an opportunity. My life can get back on track, I’ve had an adventure. Me and Melanie can share this and still be friends with Tom. I can still go live my life as I meant it to be.*

But why did she feel as if she was about to lose a piece of her heart. If Tom wasn’t so badly hurt, she’d break his arm.

*And I can do it, too.*

*Ugh!* She clenched her teeth.

Even if it was right, this was so wrong.

*So damned wrong.*

Married by Mistake Chapter 9. Posing

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Chapter 9. Posing

 
The University of Ocean Bay.

A well-known center of learning, early in the history, endowments and grants that committees created to keep the costs low enough for the talented, but struggling students to afford to attend.

First established in the early 1800’s, it began as a private school for sailors who would be hired by the ocean-going vessels straight away as officers. Later in the nineteenth century, other schools of discipline evolved and the College of Ocean Bay became the University in the same year as President Abraham Lincoln died, leaving the country mired in hatred and anger.

In the chaos of the country, the west coast school built up with donations and funding from the state. Buildings evolved with a function followed form design. The first to use natural processes to warm and cool the buildings. 

It became an artist’s school in the end, starting in the years after the War to End All Wars, then war that followed after that.

By the time Korean Police Action slowed into a cease-fire, the University at Ocean Bay became renowned for the artists that it produced.

Other schools expanded on campus that now covered nearly five-hundred acres of rammed-earth construction for buildings, pioneered from nearly the beginning, the three-foot thick walls kept the buildings cool in summer heat waves and warmer in the chill winter storms coming off the ocean with winds coming out of the Gulf of Alaska.

A labyrinth of stars and vista points, balconies of open hallways, long corridors that felt like one would be walking through solid rock.

Standing even after several earthquakes, maintanence crews repaired cracks in the walls by using a high-strength epoxy under great pressure to force into the smallest of voids. It was an on going perpetual nightmare, always using the latest of technologies.

Kaylee walked up the stairs, eschewing the elevators and walked along an open air hall, alone. It was slightly eerie. There were no students around in the normally busy walk-zone, and now her steps of her beach shoes echoed off the walls like a sandpaper as she headed to the studio-classroom on the third floor.

Trying the door and finding it locked. Sighing, Professor Billings was not in. She was going to lose the opportunity to take her final art test of the study of human form. She was about to turn away when the door rattled and opened.

Professor Billings stood in the doorway.

“Come in! You are on time, excellent.” He nodded and made a sweeping motion with his hand. “I’ve been setting up.”

“Setting up?” She asked. “This is a class?”

“Oh no. I am painting. You can do your final while I work.”

“I’m…” Kaylee put it together. “I’m posing for you alone?”

“Yes, that was what we agreed.” He nodded, leading her in. “I needed a subject, you need a grade.”

“This is not proper, Professor. You can’t do this.” She had that creepy feeling in the studio alone with the professor. Alarms were going off in her soul. The kind one gets when there is danger and no escape. But she needed that grade.

“I can and you will pose naked laying on that stage while doing… things.” He said as he closed the inner door of the studio.

“What things? I believed we were having a class.”

“Well, it is your final, you missed it last week and you agreed to do a little extra credit instead of taking the supervised exam and this is it.” He stood there with his arms crossed. “If you don’t care about failing the class, you are welcome to leave. But you can’t readmitted into this class for the upcoming semester, it is already full.”

Her heart fell. Kaylee looked around, she was alone, no one expected her for hours still. A quick prayer in her heart for anything, anyone to come and help.

She would take an earthquake, even.

“Go big, or go home. I understand you lost your job last Friday, too. It would make life difficult if you had to do night class to catch up and work for a living at the same time.” The Professor shrugged. “Your studies might suffer, this is only for an hour, it would save you a great deal agony in the coming year, perhaps keep you on track for graduating on time.”

“I need a room to change.” She said in a small, resigned voice. “Is there a robe?”

“You may use the changing room the other models have used.” The Professor pointed to a door. “I will set up the stage out here.”

He began to set up an easel and his brushes.

She closed the door behind her and began to weep. If she walked out, two semesters would be wasted. Pulling off her top, she proceeded to undress. Pausing for a moment and looked at her hands, she pondered and then left her wedding ring on.

*I wonder if he notices or if it will change anything.* The concept bounced around in her head and made her feel cold.

She got fully undressed and wrapped a towel tightly around her, really it was too small, barely larger than a hand-towel. It might be better for her to just walk around naked, that is what he seemed to want.

Timidly, she stepped out of the changing room and on to the stage that had set up a couch, chair and desk…

And a bed.

“You want me to use the couch or the desk?”

“Lay on the bed with your exam paper please. Like you would at home.” The professor said. His eyes twinkling with obscene pleasure.

“Professor, I’m not comfortable with this stage and furnishing.“ She was trembling as if it were cold.

In fact, he had the temperature cold. Her skin puckered and the hair on her arms stood out.

“It’s up to you. You need the final done, this is your last chance. I need a subject to pose.”

“Okay.” She let out a long breath and turned her back, there would be no rescue, she was alone. Pausing for a moment, she began to unwrap the glorified hand-towel when she heard him move behind her.

“Professor?” A baritone voice came from the far side of the room.

Kaylee turned around in surprise and saw the Professor was standing behind her, within arms reach.

And he was naked.

Across the room at the door stood Tom and another man. A man taller than Tom, and by the accent, he was British, but of African descent.

“What is going on, Professor? Why are you nude?” The voice was like a small earthquake, and it was full of shock and growing rage.

Gathering up his clothes quickly. The Professor paused for the briefest of moments.

“Thank you for your assistance Miss Grant. This will be a beautiful work of art.”

“You were working on an art project?” Tom said. “I thought you said it was a class. Kaylee? What is going on?”

“She is a student and we are working on a… on… Wait. You know each other?” The Professor asked.

“Yes, she’s my wife.” Tom slightly puffed his chest up while looked the Professor in the eye.

“What? You’re married? When? She started this! She enticed… It was her idea!” The Professor’s voice was high and tight.

“Professor, dress yourself and please come to my office in ten minutes. I would suggest you also use that time to contact legal counsel.” The President of the University said without humor.

“You son-of-a-b…” Kaylee felt a rage creep up her spine. She was going to break something, preferably the art professor’s testicles.

“Kaylee, shh…” It was Tom, guiding her to the open dressing room so she could put on her clothes. “You should not say anything just now.”

“Tom! You don’t think?” Kaylee had a panic on how this might affect her scholastic career or her future relationship with this man who had treated her with such kindness. “I mean I did not do what it looks like. I did nothing, you don’t think I did anything?”

“No. I think that twit that put you in this position and has a lot of issues to work out.” He kissed her and whispered. “I know you are telling the truth, no one doubts you. Get dressed.”

For the first time, she did not believe him. This man, funny, smart. He who was her accidental husband, told her that he believed her.

She could see it in his eyes, something she did not want to see again.

Hurt.

*I hurt him.* And she was hurt that he denied it.

Married by Mistake Chapter 8. In The Apartment

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Chapter 8. In The Apartment

Kaylee walked softly up the stairs of the building, the well-worn stairs showed glints of steel polished to a sheen by countless footsteps.

Curious she had not noticed that before, the webs in the corner and the way the stairs vibrated with each step, sounding vaguely like an out-of-tune violin with the cacophony of squeaks.

Opening her door. The familiar creak of the door announced her presence to the empty room sounded louder than the last time she was there.

Kaylee stood before stepping over the threshold, it felt different. Like a stranger in her own apartment. It was weird, as if something changed in how it smelled.

The odors of paint, chalk, her watercolor art hung on the walls that she created when not studying the masters.

The charcoal sticks sat patiently by a covered canvas that she had sketched on just five days before, but smelled… Lonely.

She walked to her bedroom, the blankets pulled up in the OCD way she liked. More of her art adorned the walls of her room, this was her inner sanctuary.

She allowed few people inside this fortress of her soul, those that did she chased out quickly in the morning before they could take in the emotion and pain she put in these images of charcoal, oil and watercolor on canvas and paper.

She pulled out the same suitcase she had used on her move in at autumn start of the school year, she packed her clothes carefully, and snapped her fingers with a sudden memory and put her phone charger in the side-pocket.

From the front room, someone knocked at the door.

*Not now!* Kaylee did not want the landlord to remind her that rent was overdue.

Not that she was broke, but she had no job now. So what savings she had, she was stretching out to the collector that called her the worst names or threatened her the most until she got a new job.

Instead, to her relief it was her sister Melanie . Also attending the university, she majored in computer-graphics design with a minor in architecture.

“Tiny! Where have you been?  You worried me to death, I almost called the cops!” Blinking at the activity going on around the room and all the tossed drawers. “Why are you packing?”

Kaylee hugged her sister and pulled her in.

“Oh my gawd!” Melanie gasped as she saw the ring on her sister’s finger. “How? When? Who? Talk!”

Kaylee laughed.

“I was a little wasted and we took his jet to Vegas and I woke up married to him.”

“But. But… Butbut…” Melanie was speechless for, perhaps, only the second time in her life while her mouth opened and closed like a fish without words coming out.

“But what about Glenn?“ Melanie finally was able to speak.

Glenn, the casual boyfriend who attended Mt. Mazama University. Kaylee and Glenn stayed together every time they were at home the same time, they were inseparable.

Kaylee told Melanie that she and Glenn had talked about getting married and it would be nice to have a baby, and this was not in her plans.

“It just happened, I got baked and did a little Zee. I woke up Saturday wearing this ring.” She held up her hand. “He is quite wonderful.”

“Jesus, Sis! Who is he?”

“You know that big airplane floating out in the bay?” Kaylee said, Melanie nodded her eyes grew big.

“That’s where I have been. I married that guy that owns that plane.”

“Oh. My. God!” Melanie’s eyes wide as plates. “You married the author, Thunder Harte? Who wrote “Steamland” the book and the movie?”

“He did…” Kaylee gasped, froze in mid-fold of a pair of patched jeans and struggled to find a word. “He did …W-WHAT?”

“NO! No. Oh no.” Kaylee denied this news. “He said he wrote children’s books that sold in Australia and some in the United States.”

“Well, yeah, he does that, too. You remember we saw that movie three times last year? It’s still in the theater downtown for five-dollar-Friday matinée. My fave movie! And you married the writer!” Melanie laughed and sat down. “You gotta tell! Talk! TALK! Say what you did! Where did you go? What did you do? How did you get there?”

The sisters talked as sisters do, Kaylee told the story to her sister and best friend about the cut tires, the failure of doing finals, the teacher and his offer for a chance to make up the score.

An alarm tone went off on her phone, she realized that they had talked over the sound of the alarm in two earlier chimes. She was on her third chime in fifteen minutes.

“Oh my god! I Gotta run! He said I could do my finals if I posed for a class. I need to run!”

“Sissy! Please! I want to meet him! Please? I’d die for a chance to talk to the writer of my favorite movie!”

“Thank you for the compliment.” It was Tom, he was standing at the door.

Melanie turned around, squeaked once and fell off the couch where she sat next to Kaylee.

“Ohmygod!” She said it as one word.

Tom laughed softly and Kaylee had to hang on the television while she laughed until her sides hurt.

“Sorry. But you left the car keys and your driver’s license.” He said to Kaylee after she was able to catch her breath, pointed his thumb at Melanie. “Is she okay?”

Melanie just sat on the floor with her mouth open, his green eyes and red hair looked the same as when had performed the cameo in his own movie.

“She looks like she’s had a stroke.” Tom smiled, that made Kaylee laughed and Melanie punched her in the thigh.

“Oh my god. He startled me.” She squeaked out. She still had not blinked, looking at the new, no longer mythical, husband.

“Thomas Harte, this is my sister Melanie Grant.” Kaylee introduced them. “Thomas is who I married on Friday. If you both would excuse me, I need to change so I can leave to take my finals.”

“I wish she could remember it, it was fun.”

“She, what?” Melanie asked. “You don’t remember?”

“She took a pill and smoked a full bowl and a chub during the night. I had some wine and one conversation led to another as we joked. It became a dare and then we jumped on my plane and took off to Vegas. She picked out the number one, single most expensive ring she could find on the walk to the chapel. She has worn it ever since.” Tom smiled. “She won’t take it off.”

“Oh my…”

“God. Yes, you have said that a few times now.” Tom chuckled and winked.

“Well, I’m heading to school and do my finals.“ Kaylee said as she came out of the bedroom wearing a pull-over black shirt with blue jeans. Her hair pulled back into a bun.

“I’ll come, too.” Melanie said. “I need to talk with Professor Ostrogoth about changing my major to architectural engineering. Not that I want to, but she says that I have an eye for it. She’s been sending me links in my email.”

Tom nodded, taking his clue that the sisters wanted some alone-time to talk.

“I have some business to do in town as well. I need to meet with someone, he asked me to do a keynote speech.”

“Wait, how are you getting around?” Kaylee stopped with her hand on the doorknob.

“I rented a car.” Tom smiled. “A few quirks about owning a flying boat. I need to rent land transport.”

“Well, you head on. I’ll call you when I’m done.” Kaylee said softly as she kissed him goodbye.

“Monster, will you be around here later?” Using an old, sister shared nickname. “I want to have this done as soon as possible. When I come back, I’ll show you the floating plane!”

“Flying boat.” Tom corrected, smiling.

Married by Mistake: Chapter 1. Broken Morning Breaks

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Chapter 1: Broken Morning Breaks

Beep! Beepbeepbeep. Her phone squealed to life, cacophony of lights and alarms to alert that her day had begun.

Annoying damned electronic, cruel, noisy gift from her sister.

She already had a headache from her studies until well after midnight. She even studied in her dreams with books and notepads that chased her.

Frustration.

This was today’s name for Kaylee Grant.

Then, her day went from bad to worse.

“Oh, god.” She was out of coffee. No tea, either. What a miserable day.

But then, she hated all mornings that started before noon.

Next experience part of the pre-coffee day, a broken shoelace.

She retied the lace on her work-shoe took more time than she had allowed and was now late, Kaylee stumbled to her car with a loose shoelace and discovered that someone had gone down the block and slashed everyone’s tires.

Vandalism that included her tires.

Two flat tires! Twenty minutes drive, no car and now she was late for work.

Even Melanie, her sister who lived in the apartment below her had already left for school. Finals week, and Melanie ate breakfast at school while she studied up to the last-minute.

Kaylee had final scheduled before noon and needed to go to work to get a few hours on the clock.

Even when she called in, the manager told her that there was no one to cover her tables for the breakfast rush and she had to make it – or else.

Even if she showed up late, was not enough, he paid her cash and invited her to find employment elsewhere as a waitress, barista and bartender.

Being fired just Set the mood for the day, and Melanie still did not answer her phone, so she needed to walk the five miles to class at Ocean Bay University for the Arts and was unable to focus on her finals, time and again she tried to name off the six traits that identify the Severe Style and only sigh. It was a lost cause, she could name off the pages and chapters of the book where the traits where documents, even the paragraphs. But the traits were a blank spot in her memory.

Of the two pages of essay test, she could only answer half of them. The Professor walked slowly around the room and watched the students write – and professor became curious to her anxiety and told her to put the test down and to see him later.

*Yeah, later.* She hated that thought.

In his office he would grant that she passed the test, but only after she agreed to pose for him.

“To paint you.” he said.

*Oh, Yeah. I bet.*

A nude pose, while she held a phallic symbol of a banana was the probable setup.

She passed on that offer.

Early in the day, it was still before noon, so she chose to take her frustrations out at the academy of martial arts and get some time in practice for her Guru Level in Eskrima Serrada.

While she warmed up, she dropped her rattan stick three times, fell twice and tossed the weapon across the room once. The Guru of the school gave a gentle laughed and worked out with her.

The flow drill was awful. She could not get the speed at first, at last she achieved what she considered a proper workout, and she disarmed the Guru after an hour. Still and all, her performance was below her level and she was not able to focus.

“Go home and relax. You are way off today.”

His words, meant to comfort her, only served to enrage her soul further.

“To hell with it, I’ll go to the beach!” She said to herself and took her bag with towels and swimsuit out of the closet and a bottle of water to drink from the fridge.

One job termination, one failed test at the university that her parents paid a hefty price for and now the Guru all but patted her on the head and told her it would be all right.

THAT pissed her off.

Patronized by the Guru that she respected above anyone in the academy, well, except for the GrandMaster when he came to town.

She hiked the two miles to the beach and she moved through the angles of her martial art in her thoughts. Angry as she was, she imagined using her bare hands to beat someone into submission for a change.

She should beat anyone who took advantage of her unfortunate moments.

Sitting at the top of the to-do list, she wanted to find and beat the dirt-bag that cut her tires.

Everyone’s tires and left her with no one to even ask for a favor in that early hour. It promised to be a lot of money she did not have to replace those tires, now without a job, she would have to call dad. Not even her sister had money she could borrow to buy tires.

She took a deep breath and let it out in a slow controlled exhale. Maybe she could buy used tires? At fraction of the cost of new treads on the car, it still took a bite out of her budget.

And budget woes brought her back. Back to the thoughts to inflict pain on selected people.

Pain to people who cut the tires of her car, pain to professors that wanted little more than to have her stand on a stage, naked.

She wanted time with the Guru who – Well, she liked him, he always treated her well and she did not want to cause pain to him. Still, she wanted to disarm him and toss him around the padded floor for a change, like he had done with her at the Academy of the Filippino Martial Art.

Kaylee Grant, waitress, barista, bartender, sun-worshipper, peaceful college student wanted to beat someone with her fists, sticks and feet until they cried.

She walked along the sidewalk to the beach more than ten-thousand feet distant. Her mind worked out the math, while her artist’s soul sought the beauty in the world while she thought and measured of how she might draw or paint this tree or that mall.

The walk to the beach had the effect to sooth her spirit and gave her time to become introspective, she pondered about a change in her major. Three years in this school and change?

*Unwise.* She shook her head. *Better to stick it out, now. If I have to tell Pops that he was up for an extra couple years of tuition for studies? That would create a family storm I have no desire to cause.*

Dad, a good man, but she had seen him lose his temper with people over the years. A rare occurrence, but even the mayor of her home town backed down at a council’s open forum while her dad (Then the city manager.) and the mayor clashed.

Kaylee walked on, her white-knuckled hold on her beach-bag slowly relaxing to something less than a death-grip, the sunshine and beach already having the effect of calm and relaxation she needed.

And she did not even have her toes in the sand yet.

Reject! Reject! Reject! If you so much as say “huh?” yer alone.

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Once again I screwed up the courage to do something new. The last time I was turned down, it took me a year to try again.

Married by Mistake was deemed to be intriguing but unworthy, but worry not, I am not tossing this into the trash, it will be polished (again) and a home found for it.

*Sigh*. Chaotic is how I write I guess. I developed it to a failure on “Flee” (currently being rewritten as well to shine the way it should), and the style may have spilled over into the romance story.

I don’t know. But it is back to the manuscript and trying to polish a..ermm… dirt clod. Something I thought was polished enough, had enough humor in it, a touch of sex, some chocolate (Same scene), fun and adventure, heartbreak, drugs, Mom’n’Dad and an idiot boyfriend. (I’m a dad of 2 princesses, all boyfriends are idiots until proven otherwise).

Perhaps I may need a critique team?  Someone, when I have been up late at night too many times I have gone blind to using ten-dollar words and going off into the land of confusion, will send back “Huh?”

Seriously, I do know I get a bit blind after the second or third edit, perhaps I am not that great of a storyteller- except I have so many stories to tell and they demand to be written.

If I don’t?

I pace, get grumpy, I live in the world anyway.  I shoot my bow and have conversations with the characters that want their story told.  Sometimes they stand in line.

Sometimes they argue.  Ever see a pre-teen child pirate from the 17th century argue with a 21st century college student and have the 24th century captain-paramedic want to talk about his patient that fell off a roof?  I have.

Even now, they are waiting – impatiently – while I look Married by Mistake over and over, while re-writing Shock and Awe.  (And writing this in the meantime.)

At any rate, test audience, anyone interested? Get the chance of an assembled and proposed for submission.  I know often the stories I post here are so raw as to reek, then, of course, they tend to go away after a bit as the chapters are re-written and assembled (Some deleted) and the pattern as a whole changes, including sometimes the names of the protagonists or antagonists. *shrug* Such is the world of editing. Right?

Ah well, back to re-writing, reading and editing, trying to figure out how to make a romance of a college student that is facing how to explain to her parents 1. That she got drunk, then married during the party that she does not remember.  2. How to deal with the situation of a fiance back home (Actually goes to Mt. M University) 3. Should she introduce the husband-by-accident to her parents.  I have alluded to, but i don’t think, he is older than the parents. 4. Should it have more sex-and-chocolate scenes?

*Sigh*

Anyone interested in having a chance to read before-the-submission manuscripts?

The more the merrier.

Back to editing Married by Mistake, needs the hooks polished…or written in.

Valley of Fear Chapter 3. A Meeting

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Chapter 3. A Meeting

Standing in the bright early afternoon sunshine on the vista point when a trophy class condition WWII era Willy’s MB drove up and pulled into the parking stall next to the students and the professor.

“Who is in charge?” The dark eyes glinted with high intelligence and a kindly turn to his lips, it was obvious he was on a mission.

“I am, I am professor Ng.” And he shook hands with the new arrival.

“I’m Richard Aikin, my grandfather said you would be here.” Richard smiled as he shook the Professor’s hand.

“He…” The Professor’s eyes opened wide. “Who is your grandfather? Do I know him?”

“No, but, in fairness, he did not name you, but you are the only group with an Asian teacher with two white students and a black female student here.” Richard looked around. “And you are the only ones here, for that matter.”

Richard pulled his ear and laughed.

“In any event, when your experiment comes to an end, he invited you to follow me up the hill to the next valley, where my family lives.”

“How did your grandfather know we were here?” The Professor asked.

“I don’t know, I know that when he says something like that, I do it straight away. He asked me to bring you to the house, so, please, accept the invitation.” Richard nodded. “Grampa does not invite people in general. Outside people especially, but he wants to talk to you.”

“Another fifteen minutes, we have three quad-copters out in the valley, scanning the area for wildlife.” Gil said as he worked the controls, watching the video display on his laptop.

“I don’t think you will find any animals in the area, there is something, that Grampa says, has not happened since the old times.” Richard told the Professor.

“What does that mean?” Professor Ng asked.

“I don’t know, just when Grampa says something, it is just best to do it.” Richard nodded.

“Professor, infrared is not picking up anything along the river, there are normally at least some fresh scat or other animal waste that I can pick up, even during the day, but nothing.” Reedah growled at the display, flipping between screen resolutions. “White-hot, black-hot. There are no hot points where elk, deer or a bear have taken a dump.”

“Well, bring it back. Gil, you too.” The Professor instructed the doctor-in-training Gil.

“I am closing in on something odd. It looks like fire damage on a mountainside. It’s all blackened.” Andre interrupted the discussions.

“I’m zooming in on the area. It looks like polished rock.” Andre reported as the quad-copter sailed over the treetops at a thousand-foot altitude. “I can get to it in a couple of minutes.”

“Professor, I don’t want to pressure you, but Grampa is waiting.” Richard looked at his watch.

“Andre, please recover your toy, more important things are requiring our attention, we can return tomorrow.”

“Yes, professor.” Andre sounded crestfallen, he was enjoying the images and the virtual tour of the valley with his hands at the controls. Pressing two buttons, he locked the camera on the glass-like surface of what the GPS listed as Misty Mountain before returning.

The camera recorded, even though Andre missed on his screen, movement along the ground. Recorded on the removable memory in UHD (Ultra High Definition), Andre would not see what he captured for two-weeks as he studied each previous frame with meticulous detail.

The three students brought the survey equipment back to the cars, following GPS planned routes and landed them on the pavement.

“That was the damnedest thing to see.” Richard laughed. “So you kids pay a hundred-kilobucks a year to the INUTS University and you get to fly these toys?”

“A hundred-what?” Gil asked.

“Hundred-thousand dollars.” Richard defined the term.

They strapped the remote-controlled vehicles down to the top of their utility vehicle and clambered inside.

“Professor, do you think it’s safe to follow someone we don’t know?” Reedah asked. “We could go in there and we could be lost.”

Professor Ng smiled.

“I know him, seen him around with the police. He’s a detective. Sargent, I think.” The Professor nodded.

“Then why did he introduce himself?” Gil asked.

“I don’t know him personally, Mr. Van Zant, I know who he is from his lectures on security and previous investigations he has performed in the area.” The Professor tone was as a father explaining to a child missing a point.

“Besides, I think I know who Grampa might be. He used to work as a professor at the university until he retired five years ago.” The salt-and-pepper head of hair nodded.

“He would be Doctor Clark Johnson, unless I miss my guess.” The Professor looked around. “He is the local expert on pre-Columbian history.”

They drove up the highway and pulled up to large wrought-iron gates that opened when Richard pressed his remote control, pulling over immediately inside the gates to make sure the following students and their leader made it through. Nodding at the driving Professor.

Waving at them, Richard pressed on the throttle and pulled out in front of them again.

The small convoy pulled into a parking area of a two-story office building,  built as if it were part of the earth itself, buried half-into the hillside and a sod-roof, LED lighting and quadruple glazed windows, solar panels hidden on the tops of the outbuildings, the compound of offices used less energy than most single-family dwellings.

Completely owned and operated under the control of the Kootenay Tribe, standing in the main door, only slightly shorter than Richard, but powerfully built.

“Professor Ng?” He walked up to the Asian instructor, smiling and held out an open hand to shake. “I’m Doctor Clark Johnson.”

DragonMaster U Chapter 36. Spring Breakthrough

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Chapter 36. Spring Break

“Kolo?” Jona tapped on her door and slowly opened it. It was dark in her room, that alone was unusual, she disliked the dark. “Kolo?”

“Jona, she left.” It was Professor Vale. “There was an emergency call to her and her brother. It came by way of Dragon Corps.”

“What was the news?”

“I’m sorry Jona, I do not know, even if I did, I would not be at liberty to divulge the information.”

Jona sagged a little. The Professor was correct, he could not tell Jona anything.

But Jona could ask. First, he needed to change his clothes to rider uniform. Get a little riding practice in, maybe find where she lived at the same time.

Walking to the door that led to the long curving stairs, he saw a note on his bed when he walked by the open door.

Breaking the seal and unfolding the neatly folded parchment, he read in the swooping quill-style that was uniquely Kolo’s.

”I am sorry I did not get to say good-bye. I will be back soon. There was a family event that the leader of our clan called all the swimmers together. I will watch for your name in the race postings for the school newsletter.

I will be back before you graduate.

I am joking. I will be back in two weeks on the first of the month.

Keep studying!

Kolo”

She knew she would alarm him with the first part.

He would pay her back for that little trick and started to set up the payback.

Walking out into the courtyard, he found his normal ride had failed finals and was on Academic Probation, including sports, until she made the test up and the grades improved and considered worthy of a dragon of her age.

Not wanting to try to connect with another, he turned and walked back to the common area, wearing his armor, to look for his ride and give Eva a little abuse, his first year he had all the tests taken care of, he never thought he would outshine his ride.

”Eva?” he spoke to a familiar shape, but the face when the dragon turned around was not her.

“Oh, excuse me.” Shaking his head. He was getting too distracted and did not recognize his own friends.

“Eva is in the caves, studying, she is not taking visitors, especially your kind.” A wyvern hissed. “She failed because of you. She should have been flying with a dragon rider. Not a pink-skinned biped-human.”

Derisive laughter followed him when Jona walked away. A small, green pine cone sailed past him. When he was fifteen-paces away.

“Hey!” Jona turned around, but the dragons were all engaged in conversation with their backs to him.

Not seeing the culprit, he walked off with the sounds of subtle snickering and comment of “Human” following him.

Humiliated, he just walked to the student store, a couple of half-dragons were inside buying snacks nodded at him.

“I saw what happened.” The one called Summer looked down as she spoke. She was a pretty girl who often hid in the library and read every chance she had, her golden eyes blinked in bright light when she had to focus on distances greater than her arm’s length.

“The one with the silver rosettes threw the pine cone at you from his far side.” She blinked behind a set of glasses. “They are not dragons of honor like they say they are. They would not pass any test if they are ever investigated for their contempt for humans. I know, they don’t like me either.”

“Why don’t they like you?” Jona blinked. “You are pretty.”

“They are racers, and don’t think anyone is worthy unless they are riders or rides.” She looked at Jona. “Like you. But you talk to me. Why?”

“Because I think you are nice.” Jona said. “I have seen you in the library helping others.”

“That’s because they asked. I don’t go outside much. I don’t ever know what to say to people.” Summer looked down. “I am not as pretty as some girls. Like Kolo, I have seen you hang around her. Are you mated to her?”

“ME? Hah… no. I have to study in school, I have a few studies to catch up on. My mom and dad are off in trade somewhere. My dad is an artisan of iron and copper, they are in another country getting trade.” Jona said. “I am going to stay here for the spring break and study and practice racing.”

“Eva has been grounded for grades by Professor Vale. She has to study her human history.” Summer giggled. “Humans have a short history, too.”

“Can you help her study? I would study with you, she is my ride and I need her to race after spring break.”

“You would study with me?” Summer gasped. No one ever asked her. “Why would you study with me?”

“Well, the last time, Kolo helped me study, another dragon friend in my dorm helped point me the right way to study for Professor Krular and his tests.”

“Was that Obon?” Summer smiled when Jona nodded. “I like him, he cuddled with me once when I had a bad week. He is studying for a healer’s title, you know.”

Summer blushed lightly.

“No, I didn’t. But, yes, it was Obon who helped me.” Jona smiled. “I never thought a dragon could blush.”

“I am not all dragon.” She looked down. “I am neither human or dragon according to some of the clans, except my mom and dad.”

Summer Set, the part-human, part-dragon, looked at the floor as if the tile would do something.

Jona pondered a moment, the way his father treated other people, strangers that came into his shop, people from far places.

Tall, short, thin as blades of grass or as stout as a barrel, Aed Samhain believed they were all worth to pay the best attention he could give.

Jona knew that was the right thing to do. And Summer had fallen to the crime of the family that told her she was worth less than that.

“Summer,” Jona smiled.  “Kolo and I are not mates.”

Jona paused and thought a moment as she looked at him.

“You are as bright as the sun in the sky and twice as warm. I think I would like to be your friend.” He said.

Summer smiled widely, something Jona would remember for years later. The day he made a friend who had a deep fear of others.

Together they sat, she told him of the guides to study for the different professors.

“In here, this library, all the answers to all the tests of all the professors are just sitting here to be looked at.” Summer smiled. “This is where they store past tests and get the questions for the next ones.”

They studied for weeks, Jona and Eve sat with Summer and studied with the shy student, and Professor Vale nodded each time the pair came in late, almost on the last grain of the hour-glass before curfew.

Each test that followed in the spring, Jona remembered. He had just seen the answers, talked about them with Summer and Eve.

His grades became the pride of his house, Professor Vale wrote his parents who sent care packages with letters of pride and toys for Sprite.

Kolo wrote, saying she was proud of him as well and would be returning within the week.

For the first time in his life, Jona felt he had something to make him happy.

The Green Man sat one afternoon and poured Jona a large ale of the newest vintage, giggling slightly.(He had already consumed two bottles himself.) Pointing out something to the young DragonMaster.

No one just gave the happiness to him, Jona did it for himself.

Dragon Master University Chapter 31. In The Showers.

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Chapter 31. In the Showers.

Sprite was laying against Jona’s back, stealing the blankets like all girls everywhere do. Jona woke up cold.

But he had time for a shower in his new semi-private room, the only problem was the lack of privacy between human and dragon and genders.

His first experience with this upper level shower room was when his hair was full of soap when someone came in.

This alone was not out of the ordinary, the bathrooms were huge and built to fit all sizes of beings.

But the voices nearly made him slip on the smooth, snowflake obsidian floors.

“Can I use your hair soap?” A female voice said.

Two female dragons had walked in and were showering and talking together.

“Careful, human-boy.” The gold dragon said, she smiled. “I know you. You’re in the Dawn Room alone, which is very cool in my opinion. But a lot of students hate being alone here.”

“My name is Starr, my parents are Polaris ice-dragons. But I am a kind of throwback, I don’t like the cold, I like warm showers.”

The redheaded human girl who stripped down had put golden scaled boots next to her clothes and stepped into the shower, borrowed Starr’s shampoo.

“This is my roommate, Beulah Kate Archi Baker.”

“Call me Kate.” She said dangerously. “I don’t know why you introduce me like that.”

“It’s that or as Boots. You wear that collection of footwear you have all the time.” Starr said.

“I just like my shoes.” Then turning to Jona. “You can stop looking now, yes, I am human, yes, I am redhead, yes, the water is cold. Make no mistake, I am willing and able to throw you out of here.”

“Kate is a member of the Wild Witch Warrior club. They perform caged magic battles.”

“Caged ..what?” For a moment, Jona forgot he was standing naked in a shower in front fo two girls. “I don’t understand.”

Starr sighed happily as she let hot water flow over her head of fine golden feathers and down her armored back. The scales she had here fine, almost skin-like on most of her body, but the dorsal scales were overlapping armor, each scale the size of his thumb with, what looked like, dentations that interlocked, giving her a silvery metallic stripe down her back.

“That’s unique coloring you have on your spine.” Jona became more comfortable with being naked in front of the girls. They paid him no mind as each one went to the job of preparing for the day.

“It is my adult scales coming out, it starts on the spine and eventually I will have all these covering me. My mom is the color of the moon. Dad looks like a setting sun. He is all copper.”

“They look smooth.” Jona said.

“Do you want to touch them?”

“Careful, what is your name?” Kate asked, leaning back to rinse out her hair. She had freckles down her body that looked like she was the victim of someone with a small marker and put dots all over her body.

“My name is Jona.”

“Jona! Don’t stroke her back, you will lose whatever dignity you have. She likes humans.” Kate winked.

“He won’t lose any dignity, he will know what dragon loving is like!” Starr said with a wink.

“As I said.” Kate laughed.

Jona felt his ears burn at the flirty women as he dressed.

The two girls finished while he was dressing and he could understand why Starr called Kate “Boots” for the colorful footwear she pulled on.

Starr did not get dressed, just wrapping up in a towel then stepping close to Jona.

“She is right, I do like humans, males and females both.” Starr winked. “I’m quarter-human myself.”

Before Jona realized it, Starr’s prehensile tail slid up the back of his leg, touching every part of his back and shoulders.

“Mmm. Nice.” Starr winked a jeweled eye at him. “Come see me if you ever cannot sleep.”

“Jona, take my word, once you do ice, nothing is never as nice.” Kate said. “And you can call me Boots.”

“Thanks, Boots.”

“Byeee.” Starr whispered as she slipped out of the room.

“Sorry about her. She has a heat cycle, when she needs to take hot showers, no one is safe.” Boots smiled and waved as she left.

Jona laughed and walked back to his room. This floor was far different from “The Mine”.

Cellular Justice Chapter 9. What Price Justice

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Chapter 9. What Price Justice?

“Lethal.”

Stephen Pelon’s only comment to Rachel Mendez, the senior lab tech that had been there longer than the rest of the crew. Any of them.

“This damned thing is a personal killing device. You dial the number, whoever is holding it, has a very bad day, becoming an obliterated red-stain instead of a human.”

“What makes it so dangerous?”

“If this thing had not been damaged from being dropped and then immersed in oil contaminated with metallic shavings and who knows what all, it is a broken bit of electronic artwork.”

“Artwork?”

“Oh yeah. Even the battery is unique, I have not got it figured out just yet, but it is heavy. Like a chunk of steel.” He nodded. “But I got the wiring in a mass spec and I got copper-two. Copper acetylide, conducts electricity like a champ, but once detonated, all this becomes a bomb.”

“Can you disassemble it?” Rachel asked.

“Without blowing it up? Maybe. But we better not take it out of the containment box. If that goes off, anyone in a meter circle is in danger of being shredded.” Stephen said. “I want to cut off a small bit of the case and put it in the spec-analyzer, but we need to cut it carefully, if any part of this phone-looking thing goes off, it all will poof.”

“Or bang?” Rachel laughed.

“Don’t laugh, but yes.” Stephen sipped coffee out of a steel-and-glass cup designed to look like a test tube.

“Stephen, who would build something like this?”

“Not my concern, I can tell you, this is a fricken work of destructive art?” The scientist said as he looked at the mounted phone under the thick ALON blast shield. “I am afraid to even clean it off. Without the battery, I still worry about a backup detonator. This design means to hurt, a lot. But why only one person? The person that would be holding it would be the sole victim, is someone out for revenge?”

Rachel looked at a screen on her handheld gauss meter.

“It doesn’t have any measurable current that I can pick up, there is no field.” She observed. “It looks inert.”

“Everything is inert until it kills you.” He said. 

“You’re a cynic for a surfer.”

“I’m not the surfer, that is another novel by the writing god of this world.”

“What?” Rachel looked confused.

“Never mind, just talking while I’m thinking.” He pulled at his left ear. “The destruction of the flesh and bone in the reports shows that the range seems to be about the length of an arm in the air, much shorter if it hits any solid object, up to and including drapes, leaves of plants and heavy cloth, it is an expensive way to kill someone.”

“Could it go through the transparent aluminum?” Rachel said. “if it’s designed to kill, maybe it could blow a hole through the glass.”

“This stuff? Nah. We’ve tested this to the best of our ability. As this as this is, it would stop five pounds of C4. The floor, not so much, it would blow a big ol’ hole there.”

“What about it flying across the room?”

“Well, yeah, that would go into the bad-column.” Stephen chuckled. “Well, let’s shave a bit of the case off and do a scan in the mass spec.”

“Okay.” Rachel nodded.

“We can use the cheese knife and scrape it a bit.” Rachel smiled, referring to a flat, diamond bladed tool for scraping surface samples. She was enjoying this little puzzle. 

“Good, make it so and let’s get the test done.”

Dragon Master University Chapter 30. New Year, New Session

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Chapter 30. New Year Session

Tired, sore muscles, a continual headache from boggling at history, teamwork and predicted future, not counting the lessons in magic taught by Cranndair the Green Wizard, the students walked, crawled and a few fluttered back to their rooms in the various houses they belonged to. All were bone-tired.

If anything, the Green Wizard taught with the students in a practical application, humans and dragons and those that had a bit of both, hugged and smiled as they parted company, instead of being in separate houses, they all knew they were of one house.

The House of The Green Man.

Sprite had grown even longer, although she had gained some length, her weight had not increased, she continued to grow longer but, like all children, she started to stretch out into a willow of a creäture.

Back in the house of Garnet, Jona walked to his room and found Sam-Sam had already returned and unpacked.

“Hi Jona! Are you back, visiting the lower side a bit with us? You don’t have a room on the brown garnet level, anymore. You have gone up on the scale. They should place you at least in blue, if not green, I’d say. You spent winter’s break with the Green Man. So you would have a room there.”

“I didn’t know. Where would I have found that change?”

“Professor Vale posted it on pillar by the front door.”

“Oh, ugh. I was too tired, the Green Wizard is about killed us all.”

“Yeah, he does that. He is spry for an old guy, a thousand years old and he can move a mountain with a finger. Not even Professor Vale is more powerful.” Sam said.

“That is because the Green Wizard lives with Nature.”

“Yeah, always in that mountain.” Sam nodded. “He has more power from the trees and rocks that he cares for.”

“No, it’s not that, his mate is Nature.” Jona laughed. “She is his spouse.”

“What?”

“Dude, didn’t you go to study with him once?”

“No, I was more interested in racing and never went, I learned all I wanted about him from those that have went there and came back all broken down and dirty.” Sam shook his head. “Teamwork, what good is that in a race with one-on-one paired rider and ride?”

“When the world has floods, fires, or earthquake, how do we help each other?”

“Well, how do…” A familiar voice interrupted Jona.

“Well, I thought you might be lost.” It was Kolo. “Well, sexy human, you do not live here anymore, your room is in another level, since you came back from the Green Man’s mentor program. Did you learn a lot?”

“Oh HI Kolo! Oh wow, did I ever!” Jona said.

“You lost weight.” She traced her finger over Jona’s left shoulder. “You look good. You could be ridden, looking like that. You would be a good training for a racer girl.”

“What?” Jona boggled.

“Never mind. You are sexy looking, just saying.” Kolo winked. “Come with me, we need to find your new room.”

“Okay.” Jona was still trying to get his mind around the flirt he had just gotten. Dragons were a strange group. They loved like no other, but loved one after another.

“Sam.” Kolo turned to Jona’s ex-roomie. “Come with me, you are on the Blue floor. It appears you did not check either.”

“I did! The color was brown.”

“You did not have a color until this morning. Your grades have improved and the professors were talking about keeping you and Jona together. Jona is a good influence on you it seems.”

“He just showed me around.” Jona said.

“Jona, you got him to attend class. Attendance is the single most important thing in school, even if you don’t work, the professors feel that you absorb information by sitting there with your eyes open. Sam has been at ever class last session.”

“Well, I’ll have to pack.”

“I’ll send Wynter for you.”

“AH! I’ll be packed in two minutes! Don’t send the Wyvern for me!” Sam jumped up and was immediately stuffing clothes into a pillow-slip and wrapping the rest up in his big wool blanket he brought from home.

“Why is he worried about Wynter?”

“Wynter is a wyvern, and he has no patience for lower level students. He is especially angry with Sam-Sam, they’re related and he bragged about Sam being smarter than most everyone around before this little hatchling arrived.” Kolo laughed. “I think Wynter would roll Sam up in the blanket and play football down the hallway with him.”

“Football?”

“Yeah, you kick it, until it gets to where you want it to go.”

“Ooooh!” Jona laughed, imagining Sam-Sam the Dragon, already in hot water with his family, being used as a sports toy.

“Here we are. Green level.” Kolo said, her tail swaying in a more serpentine way when she was walking in front of Jona. Jona could hear the other men whisper to each other when they walked in.

“Kolo, why is he here? This is a Brown Level Garnet.” A red dragon with vestigial-black wings and eye-brow scales said. Chain mail that glittered in the light when the dragon moved, they had arms like some other people had legs.

Very muscular legs.

“Mars, this is Jona, he just came back from winter break with the Green Wizard. He passed with the wizard giving him a pat on the back and an invitation to come back.”

“Well! That is different, welcome Jona. I am Mars, the senior leader of the game-players club. Do you play Drake and Hunter?”

“I never heard of it.”

“Awesome, you are human? If you get to enjoy this and want to play a lot, you can join our club. The only requirements are good grades and play at least a bit every day.” Mars nodded, his scales glistened like polished jewels. If one did not know that he was a dragon, one would thing he was human dressed in fine scale armor.

“Mars,” Kolo smiled and traced her finger over his ear (Mars’ eyes dialated and Jona swore he could hear the scales shake.) “Would you ask that Jona have a tutor to keep his grades up? Professor Vale has requested that Jona keep his studies going from the Green Man. Jona is a racer and a good one at that.”

“You do can keep doing that, Kolo, but so that you know I’d do it anyway.” Mars laughed. Turning to Jona. “She is the one that keeps Garnet house going. And she is cute.”

Mars shook his head to clear his vision.

“You know how to touch my feelers,” Mars sighed and Kolo laughed softly.

Jona laughed awkwardly as the pretty girl dragon flirted with the brawny leader of the Green level.

“Where is my room?” Jona asked.

“This way,” Kolo smiled. “You have a choice, Green Level has had a change in tenants here. A few have not kept up their grades, another has aced her studies and has moved up from Emerald to Gold level.”

“What is Emerald level?”

“This one. We call it green informally, but the official term is Emerald. Blue is Sapphire, Brown is Rough.”

“Rough?”

“As in unpolished and dirty.”

“Oooh!” Jona said as Kolo led him to his room.

“Here is where you will stay. Mars’ is at the end of the hall, he has a private room, most of his club members meet there. You will have no one else in this room for a while. So I will check on you from time to time to make sure you are keeping your studies up.”

“Mars will, too?”

“Yes, it is important to the house that we keep our ratings up. It is a contest between each house who has the highest ranked students. It will also give you a chance to study with the Green Wizard once again.”

“I’m not sure I can survive another round with him.” Jona laughed.

“It will do you good. You will find studying here is easier than with that old man.”

A soft voice behind Jona, a human girl with tight curly hair and dark skin whispered to the new arrival.

“That is for sure, the Green Wizard made me want to come back so much, I made sure my grades were high enough I could go again.”

“I did not see you there.” Jona said.

“Part of my skills, I’m a member of the Fae.”

“The who?”

“No, that is a music group in about a hundred centuries, I am fae.” She smiled, probing eyes looked into his eyes to see if he understood the joke. “My family are more magical than dragons.”

“A fairy?”

“No, well, in a stretch of the sense, I suppose, I can change size.”

“You can get bigger?”

“Ohh, no. I am at my largest now, I can get smaller, a lot smaller.” She smiled. “My name is Retta. This is my last year.”

“Pleased to meet you.”

Watching her walk away, she wore her armor like it someone painted it on and then oiled over the leathery parts until she shimmered when she walked.

Kolo laughed.

“Human boys are so much fun. Brain damaged since puberty and it takes years to have enough blood to run all your parts at the same time.”

Laughing at himself, Jona moved into his new room that he had no one to share with.

The second session in the main school of Dragon Master University was going to be fascinating.

Instructive, anyway.

2 Seconds… T-Minus 2,775,168,000 Seconds

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T-Minus 2,775,168,000 Seconds

 

LucilleMay Adler born to George and Ethel grew up in Chicago on the poorest side of town. George was a warehouseman and had never had much time for his family. A heavy drinker by the time that Lucy was in her mid-teens. He died when he drove into a tree on his way home. Ejected from the overturning car, the intoxicated father struck his head on the hard ground and never woke from his injuries.

Lucy and her mother moved to California on suggestion of her aunt Lewellyn where she became involved with a young man who went to school. He impressed Lucy with his clear blue eyes and aspirations. The young man often would take Lucy on rides in the country as they sat with picnics under his favorite trees along the Marin headlands.

Trying his hand at farming, Joshua Sprecks was a failure. Buying the land around the hills in the southern bay area, they fought and struggled for years until a builder spoke with them about selling land so a home could be built.

Pausing to think, Joshua refused the offer. Instead, he spoke with an employee who helped him and in turn they looked into building a few houses which sold quickly.

In the years that followed, Joshua found he had talents in the business of home and subdivision design. With a good relationship with the local inspectors, Joshua Sprecks made his life comfortable for his growing family. His plans for schools that the children would attend were set as father blazed the trail by going back to school himself, becoming an architect of some renown in the area.

Shortly after the first of Lucy’s four children were born. Lucy developed an addiction to Valium, a common problem in the early years of the drug. Most of the women in her church were very much addicted to the Valium family of medications, and an active trade developed within the group as the hoarders would sell among the women that needed it at the moment.

One springtime afternoon, everyone had arrived at home from school and after finishing chores. The day was warm and beautiful and a wonderful time for the young. Joshua Junior promised he would be careful, Lucy’s smiled and allowed her eldest son to take the family car and drive his younger brother and two sisters to the store for sodas. Joshua Junior was always very careful at the wheel of the car, Lucy was always careful to teach him of his responsibilities. Teachings that he took to heart, always.

Alas the drunk driver that collided with them had no such guidance.

The light in Lucy’s eyes dimmed as she never quite recovered burying four of her five children. The only survivor of the accident that took the lives of all the children was the youngest who had to stay home to do homework.

Josh Sr. took the next offer of his three-hundred acre ranch and bought land in the Lake Tahoe area away from the metropolitan growing around their orchards. Houses built haphazardly without the plans that Joshua tried to include with his developments, and the effect was, to him, untenable.  

It was not fair to Joshua Sprecks, who had no wish to stay in the area where his children died at the hands of a man who paid only a month’s worth of salary in fines.

And the patriarch of his surviving family could not suffer living in the shadow of the four headstones that marked the graves of his children, moved to the mountains, never to return willingly to the lands of his shattered dreams.

Dragon Master University Chapter 12. Class Schedule

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XII. Class Schedule

“Here you go, Professor Vale’s office, each student’s schedule is on the door. He’s a red dragon and rumor has it that he was once a human. He had a magic spell go as wrong as it could possibly go wrong, now he can’t turn back.” Sam said, then added with a tinge of fear in his voice, ‟His wife is the Red Witch. So don’t try to cheat on anything, those two will KNOW.”

Jona pulled a folded parchment from the door with his name scribed on the folded-over flap and opened it. “Dragon lore and law, dragon speak one-oh-one, basics of flight, mathematics— MATH?” Jona gasped, “Math was not my best subject, why do I need math here?”

“They always stick me in math. Hate it, but it has to be passed.” Sam shrugged.

Jona kept reading.

“Health: Pathogens of Dragons and Humans, Communicable  Diseases and Interspecies Transmission. I do not even know what the title MEANS, how can I even pass the class if I cannot understand even the title?” Jona had a note of panic in his voice.

“You’ll learn.” Sam laughed, “As a dragon, I have had classes that instruct about the jealousy of humans, ‘human emotions’ that is a class that is a real pain. All the mammal humans I know are okay. I have considered that they’re talking about old humans.”

Jona smiled and kept going down the list.

“Fundamental relationships of rider and ride”, Jona blinked “Rider and ride? Like horses?”

Sam laughed again as they walked down the stairs.

“No, some dragons you ride. NOT like horses, they give rides if it is a bond of trust or friendship between the human and dragon. Like your baby dragon that rides on your shoulder and head. Someday he’ll become large enough to give you rides.”

Jona thought of sprite, had not seen him in a while and was being a little worried.

‟Well, right now, the little guy wouldnt’ be much of a squish if someone stepped on him.”

Back in their rooms they settled in for the night, Professor Vale, on the main floor, called that lights out time was nearly upon them, now the sun was down. Classes started early in the morning and all were to be in bed.

“Good night, students.” The voice was like soft thunder that echoed in Jona’s head long after he settled into the soft bed.

Dragon Master University Chapter 11. Introducing Dragons

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XI. Introducing Dragons

In the center of the school, a large open rotunda, taller than the tallest dragons that stood under the polished stone cupola, a soft rain that fell from the mouth of extinct volcano, guided off the roof and channeled to giant cisterns the shape of beer tankards sold in pubs throughout the world.

The students stood in a circle around the instructors and professors. Each professor standing on a level of a circular stage, looking outwards from the center, appearing like decorations on a cake.

Several of the professors were missing Jona noted. Looking around, all the dragon professors were missing. Then the voice of the professor that Jona had met a few weeks earlier, Melian Jewell began to speak from the middle of the circle. Standing on a platform higher than the rest, she addressed the newest students. Several of the older students had stopped and watched.

“Students, your journey begins here, learning what you have before, you must put behind you. You have all been appointed, have applied or been chosen. From now on your home is this university, here you will learn to go past the legends and mythology, to know the relationship between earth and sky, of water and air, you will know that the family that has raised you is larger and more complex than anything you have ever imagine. Here you will learn how to teach a dragon the most basic parts of survival, how to hide.” She took a breath. “here you will learn how to mentor and be mentored by Dragon Masters.”

At the last, a dozen dragon professors soared down from niches in the sides of the neck of the volcano and landed, encircling the human and elf teachers facing the students with their wings outstretched and tip to tip, the dragons of all sizes looked down on the screaming students. Keva stood behind Jona and buried her face in his back.

“These are your mentors!” Her voice boomed around the school center, “You will know them all in time. Ice, fire, air, water, earth. I bid you all, welcome to Dragon Master University of Higher Learning.”

“Who are the Dragon Masters? Us or them?” A dark-eyed girl whose eyes seemed as big as saucers as she looked up at a dragon that stood three times her height.

“Everyone who graduates here is a master. Some are Dragons, some are elves, some are humans. All are masters and will guide the survival of all the races.” A familiar and beautiful voice sounded behind Jona.

Kolo was smiling as she was handing out room assignments.

“Your bags are already being moved as we speak. Jona you are in Garnet Dorms, your first year mentor has been a special request by our own Professor Vale. You will meet him later at the dorm common room. You will find the room number assignments from him.”

Kolo reached up and tickled sprite under the wings while it clicked happily at the touch of the female dragon.

Trying to think of something to say, Jona flogged his brain.

Finally, it seemed like weeks he stood there asked Kolo “Did you do something to your hair? It looks nice.”

Kolo laughed and walked away.

“Silly boy, dragons don’t have hair, these are feathers and no, nothing has changed. You will have to try better than that.”

Jona turned away and cursed himself.

“Stupid, stupid, stupid. Next time think of something intelligent…”

Walking along the path to the Garnet House, Jona approached the dragon that he had met weeks before, the old professor.

“Do you know where I might find Professor Vale?” Jona inquired, “I need to meet him for a room assignment.”

The dragon looked at Jona and chuckled, “Yes, I know where Professor Vale is, he is very close by.” The dragon leaned close “He is me, I am Professor Vale.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I did not remember your name. I’m told to report to you for a room assignment in the Garnet house?”

“New student, go through the door, turn right, go down the stairs, room fifty-six, it has your name on it.” the Professor nodded without even looking, turning to an older student “Sixth floor, room nineteen. You know the drill, you have a good room this year, your mentor will have easy access to you for early training. Just a warning: Do not fall off.”

The student left and Jona followed the other boy, as they entered the Garnet House, a Purple Dragon statue stood out front. Orange eyes and wings extended, it looked much like the one that gave him a ride to the school the first time.

Reading the plaque at the base of the statue, “Skittles the seeker” on the surface of the plaque, the rest of the writing was in a language he could not understand.

“Jona!” It was Rameses, “You are in Garnet? that is a good house to start in. They follow the lead of Skittles, the best student they have ever had. He was a great seeker of knowledge about humans and dragons.”

“Oh! Thanks! I could not read it past the name.” Jona said

“There will be a test later. ” Rameses said as he left “Gotta go, I have to move into my room, see ya!”

“Bye!” Jona walked in and turned right, walking down a circular-staircase covered with a luxurious a maroon carpet. Down he went, light for the stairs came from a tube of light that hung from the ceiling and down the core of the circular stairway. At the bottom of the stairs, Jona walked along the wide polished floor of snowflake obsidian while Jona shuffled with dozens of other students who read the gold plates on all the doors.

Finally room fifty-eight, Jona Samhain, Spirat Oillín, Kola Dragoneye, Sam Sam were the names engraved in the gold plate.

Walking into the darkened room, Jona paused for a few minutes until it was light enough to see.

“Touch the wall to get some illumination.” A voice from the darkness sounded, “But be gentle.”

Jona touched the wall and the ceiling began to glow.

“Sun tubes.” A man-sized dragon sat on a chair that looked like polished stone. “They store and use the light down here. We are the bottom of the pile.”

“I’m Jona”, he said. Looking at the blue tiger-striped dragon reclining on the seat. “It’s my first day.”

“I’m Sam, It is my second year, but I bombed badly last year so I have a do-over. Never did turn in my work on time after I got assignments. I did it, but kept forgetting it.” Sam looked down and sighed. “My Gram about gave birth to a polar bear when she got the report. Now I am back down here.”

“It is not bad down here. We’ll be protected from bad weather.” Jona tried to look at the bright side.

“Hardly, summer is too hot down here, spring it is humid, best times are now and winter.” Sam said and added, “Have you got your class assignments yet?”

“No, I just got here.” Jona was looking into separate rooms as Sam watched him move around.

“You better find your home-room teacher and get the schedule. Some instructors are evil. There is one elven chap that does Dragon Lore– you do not want to get him on your trail. His sister is a Bowheart and he really hates anyone who fails to measure up to her.”

“Bowheart?” Jona asked. “What is a Bowheart?”

“You are new at this! You need to get studying history and read last year’s story.” Sam said. “But no matter, you need to get your schedule, I will help you along. But you have to get the studies down. This place can be savage with no one to have your back. That is why they roomed us together.”

“Where would I find the home-room teacher?” Jona asked.

“Office is main floor, you will have to look hard for your name. They try to write them in your native language for the fresh faces that come every year. Then switch to the common language that we all talk, but you have that down already. You are one of the few humans I know that already have skills in understanding of common language of all the students” Sam smiled. “It’s good to have that advantage.”

‟Let’s go get your stuff in your room or you will get your bed taken.” Sam said, jumping up.

Running up the stairs after putting his clothes away, he donned his leather vest that had silver rivets but no rosettes like some of the other older students. Even Sam had an iron rosette at each leather joint of his vest.

“What do the rosettes on your vest mean?” Jona asked Sam as they climbed the stairs. “I have seen some that are gold, some are silver, some look rusty or even made of wood.”

“Classes they have passed.” Sam grinned, “I did the triathlon ride last year. So I got an iron rosette. You will get them as you get along in your schooling. There are so many I don’t know what they all are made of or what they are for. There is gold, silver, copper, bronze, iron, emerald, diamond and other gem types, many of silk, some of a white marble, others of black. Just depends on what you do.”

“Wow, well, let’s see what classes I have. Then I will try to get some on my rivets.” Jona laughed.

‟Good luck, first year. You might also get used to being called an egg or hatchling.” Sam nodded The scales of his head glistened in the light, like the polished walls of the school.

”You won’t get respect this year, no matter what you do.” Sam snorted a secretive laugh. ‟Just so you know.”

Dragon Master University Chapter 8. The DragonMaster University

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VIII. The DragonMaster University

Jona looked at the lady, she had beautiful eyes, her ears were elegant with a slight point to them, elf for sure! Jona had never met an elf, but he was sure this was one. She was not nearly as old as his parents.

“Professor, this is our son, Jona, he has been chosen by the dragons, one follows him still.” Mother Samhain said softly. “Jona, this is Professor Melian Jewell, she is one of the senior teachers here in the university. She teaches dragon language, the only person I know that speaks all the known dialects of dragons, including the dead languages that no one speaks even now.

“She, I mean, you ma’am speak all dragon languages?” Jona followed his mothers finger as she pointed to the professor, to who he was to address the question.

“I was around when the dragons first encountered men, I helped set up the school, many winters ago.” Melian stated with an air of simple fact. Jona was getting the ongoing feeling that his school back home might be over, learning how many bushels would fit in a cart to today of dragons, elves, snow. His education was about to start. All that he had learned before was to practice for what was going to come now.

Professor Jewell looked up and down at Jona and nodded, “You have a dragon upon your person now, he is sleeping in the fold of your cloak. You may name him if you like because his real name would take you years to learn how to say it correctly.”

The professor was correct, the little dragon had found a loose fold in his sweater and was no longer moving, instead, it had warmed up and gone to sleep against the skin of Jona’s arm. If Jona did not know any better, it felt like the little dragon was purring.

The professor nodded curtly and excused herself as the Samhain family walked to the office, men and women walked by in many kinds of armor, many were gold, some were obviously a gray metal of iron. Dozens of beings, of humans and species that Jona had never dreamed of that existed passed him wearing laminated leather and metal decorations passed by every minute.

Jona began to notice that there was a subtle meaning to all the different types of decorations all over the leather that in many cases was a heavy weave of strips held in place by the metal rivets engraved into various flower shapes, then gilded with different colors.

He assumed that each color and shape meant something. Flowers, hands, what looked like ropes, crossed knives and either feathers or leaves, Jona could not tell which, embellished the shoulders and chests of humans, elves and— someone who looked like human, but was not.

Jona walked behind his parents looking about when a larger youth with raven-black hair collided with him, knocking Jona sideways and making Jona stumble and bump into another student who was gazing at the sky.

“You be careful! I am a DragonMaster.” The youth shoved back and growled at Jona.

The color of the jerkin was thin and worn, well used or poorly made, Jona could not decide. The aggressive stand of the student, however, flamed anger in Jona.

“Stop killing people for once, do not pull out your gutting knife just now. Let him live and come with me, please.” Aed turned and called to Jona. Shocking the other youth with the deadly reputation that the older generation recognized.

The other boy stood wide-eyed and looked on as Jona walked to his father, smiling to himself and in a way that no one else, but his father could see.

A wink the elder gave his son as the boy caught up and they walked off together.

“Thanks, Da'” Jona whewed quietly, “He’s bigger than I am. I did not want to have a fight so soon after getting here.”

“A father’s skill, I got you out of a fight without needing to raise my voice or get involved directly. But, be warned, it may just have put off what you will need to do later. He’ll want to test you.” Aed told him. “I recognize the forged flower on the leather vest he has on. A good family that has fallen on hard times. His own father suffered an attack by a dire wolf and nearly died. That boy’s father is now touched. Sometimes I find him in my shop wondering over common items. They live on the coast and are good people.”

‟Does the pirate king know him?”

‟Oh yes. Keegan O’Danu has gone out of his way to take care of the family. That is why the boy is here. The O’Danu scholarship, designed just for him. No one else can qualify, all Kacra had to do was apply”

‟Kacra?”

‟That’s the boy I warned you not to kill.”

‟Oh.” Jona thought about Kacra’s father wandering around the countryside.

From the coast to the shop would be at least a full days ride, two days to walk. How would Jona’s father get him home?

“Wagon mostly, and using an apprentice. Sometimes, I have given him a ride home on the dragon.” Aed leaned in whispering “I think that is why he keeps coming back.”

“So he takes it out on me?” Jona asked “I will have to avoid him or beat him.”

His mother shook her head at the her men talking.

“You will teach him how to teach dragons. By teaching you will learn, by learning from each other, you will teach.” She said.

”I do not want you to be fighting, I will be sorely upset if you get in trouble and I have to come by way of dragon— and I will come by fast dragon— to get you out of trouble from the school.” Her eyes flashed, “Then you will be in trouble with ME!”

Jona shuddered, somehow trouble with his mother, against the trouble in school? He feared his mother far more than anything the school might throw at him, including dragons.

Walking by a large door, several staff were moving bucket of fish in front of a large door to one of the dragon’s rooms. Barely they had time to get the door open when a tongue snaked out and wrapped itself around the leg of one of the faculty. Screaming for help, several of the bucket movers fought with the tongue until it let loose and returned inside the room— but only for a moment.

Out snaked the tongue again, finding the bucket, it dragged the container inside the room where a sound of sloshing could be heard.

Then the heavy bucket was airborn out and bounced off the door with a loud BONG. Jona could make out the shape of an armored dog, more than twice his height, possibly bigger than even the dragon that had brought them here.

Jona shook down to his bones when the bucket, big as ten men standing shoulder to shoulder, bounced as if it was the ball that Jona had seen the red-headed merchant had thrown for his son, Dana.

Jona looked up, it seemed like spires of a castle towered overhead on the inside of the old volcano, the heat and smoke that came from the bottom of the hole warmed the buildings, the fires were great stones that were heated by fire-breathing dragons that were being taught how to use their powers without burning things down. Jona was not sure who were teachers or who were students.

It seemed as if there were dragons that were professors as they ambled by with great medallions around their neck and others would bow to the dragons.

“The Dragons teach?” Jona could not stop his mouth from echoing his thoughts.

Aed chuckled and nodded, “Yes, you don’t find many students that daydream in those classes.”

Jona gaped at a red dragon that sat before an old lady professor. Her hair was blood-red, salted with white hair. Around the neck of the graceful, scaled neck of the dragon hung a medallion, battered and scarred, was a medallion engraved with runes around its edge, dwarfed by the size of the dragon, it seemed to be meant for someone of a different size. The dragon bowed it’s great head, as the professor kissed the scaled head and hugged (as much as she could wrap her arms around the huge head) the dragon.

Dearbhail looked at her son as he looked at the odd couple while they walked.

“Careful you will bump into a column.” She laughed quietly, “Those are the two most senior professors here. She is a witch, half-elf and her husband is a powerful wizard that gave up his human form to save her life, once upon a time during a battle with invading barbarians. But he did it in a way that no one can ever turn him back to his old shape. Someone has to say the proper spell, the proper ways with the proper words. No one knows how he did it and he cannot say how it was. He speaks rough human language, but not enough to undo the spell he made.”

Jona thought about this as they walked on, looking around. “Is this a castle?”

He looked around. “It is so large!”

“No, this is a village,” Aed laughed. ‟Really, a collection of schools that have banded together to make a more protected place to teach. This old volcano is long stopped being a danger, the only heat comes from deep underground or the dragons themselves.”

“We lived here a long time before you were born.” His mother added.

“Hatched, is better said. We found you under a rock.” his dad laughed as they walked. “Watch it!”

Jona nearly walked into a tree trunk sized leg as he was looking around, the dragon looked down and sounded like it snorted angrily at him while it moved past.

“She apologized,” Dearbhail translated for him. “This school was built inside the this old volcano, it can storm outside with a blizzard and all you will get in here is a soft rain.”

“Unless he has a class in the outside area” Aed added. “You will need to learn how to ride on dragons as well. It takes practice and a bit of luck— and a lot of understanding on how a dragon moves, thinks and lives.”

“This way,” his mother said as they turned into a beautiful building. A column of dragon images, each with a name under it.

“Puff?” Jona read, “What kind of name is that for a dragon? That seem silly.”

“Heh,” His dad laughed softly. ‟He was a legendary dragon that made one of the first contacts with humans that did not end in one or the other being killed.” Aed nodded, “It was the beginning of understanding between dragons and other creatures of the world.”

“Where do we go from here?” Jona asked

“Inside, come.” His parents escorted him in and he met the second smallest dragon he had seen so far.

Jona watched her as she moved around, she had a short tail, and she was in a same moment, color shifting from sky blue to forest green, performing complex paperwork quickly as she concentrated. She was so pretty that the young man nearly forgot to breathe.

Jona’s mom smacked him in back of the head and brought him out of his own little world of fantasy as the girl sized dragon smiled and looked down at her work.

“Happens all the time with new students.” She said with a musical voice. “It happens with dragons, elves and humans all the same.” She sighed and went back to a folder and opened it, pulling out several documents.

‟Clan Samhain, one child, Jona” She looked up at the gape-mouthed teenager “That must be you.”

Aed chuckled as his mom hid her face in the palm of her hand as she tried to stifle a laugh. Jona continued to stare, compared to the other dragons he had seen in the school, there was nothing like her.

“My name is Kolo and you can stop staring now, I am here to help you get through your first years, I will be your mentor and teacher of language arts of the first order. I also teach sports, I am a swimming dragon, but I also can fly. Do you swim?” Kolo looked at Jona with a soft smile and a wink.

Jona only made a momentary sound and then Kolo tapped him on the forehead.

“Are you okay? Did you eat a sleep berry?” Kolo giggled, “Here, just give these to you folks and then come back when you have your brain in your head instead of my shirt.”

Walking away Kolo looked over her shoulder at Jona who was being led out of the room by his father as they went to the desks to fill out the proper paperwork.

Dragon Master University Chatpter 4. Dragon Master

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IV. Dragon Master

His father, a Dragon Master, laughing as he took a seat on the mandrel that he used to bend large metal objects to shape that he had wanted, suddenly became serious.

“You will be going to a school in the fall, after you learn a few more things on how to teach that new puppy to behave.”

“Why the puppy?” Jona asked

“Puppy dogs and baby dragons are similar in attitudes, but dragons are much more intelligent as they grow. Kind of like human babies. We all start out as drooling little lumps, but we get a bit older and then we pass the puppies on what we can think of. Dragons are the same way.”

Jona gaped at his father, his dad kept it quiet all these years. He never knew that his dad would be such a quiet legend.

Aed laughed again, “You know, ’tis where I met your ma.” he chuckled with glee at his son’s gape and shock. For a father, he had a great deal of good humor when it came to making his son learn.

“M-ma? You met ma at this school where you became a DRAGON MASTER AT?” Jona’s voice was getting louder as he spoke. “Does she know what you where there for?”

“Shhh…. our society is a quiet one. Not all of humanity is willing to accept that there are Dragon Master’s that teach dragons how to keep a low profile– and YES, your mother is also a Dragon Master. She’s licensed to teach baby and adult Dragons, just like me.” Aed smiled and cleared his throat proudly “And soon, you will too!”

“Now close your mouth before you catch a moth and get packed.” Aed said to Jona who stood there with his mouth hanging open.

“Heh, Jona my son, tomorrow we take you to the new school to find out your class schedule. With the fact you already have a dragon looking up to you, you will probably get into the training cycle first, rather than starting with the classroom teachings. I hope you get Melian Jewell, she taught me long ago. Very good with hands on– if you can keep your fingers attached.”

Aed stood up, Jona’s mouth once again was hanging open like he had something that had numbed his brain.

“Oh.” Was all the noise the teen could make at his father. “Oh.”

Aed was out of earshot by the time that the mouth was catching up with his brain as he staggered back to the wagon and climbed up. While he sat in the seat holding the reins, Jona tried to think for a minute, the information that his father had just told him was making him dizzy still.

“Jona, go home, your mother will know what to do, just tell her what we just talked about. Get a move on son! You have a lot to do!” Aed laughed, “You have time to act like a turnip later!”

Jona rode down the street when the dumb ox snorted out both ends again. the smell of flatulence brought him out of his reverie as he drove the wagon back to the house. His mom met him out in the yard, and she was smiling. “I have heard your father had spoken to you?”

Jona boggled, not for the first time in the recent past.

“How, who..where?” At least now his mouth was functioning with his brain, even if only in single words.

“You will need some good boots, lucky we had some on order for you from the cobbler. That you are of age and out of basic life school, now you learn how to truly learn how to live in the world. To keep the animals in it, not to do as some have in the past, exterminated simply by the rage of man and weapons.” Dearbhail said.

She shocked Jona with  the tone and style his mother used.  She was reciting all of history of barbaric treatment of the earth. She was a teacher and Dragon Master.

‟Mom, you are a dragon mistress?” Jona was able to get his first coherent sentence out since his father talked to him.

‟Dragon Master. There was some question, years ago, that mistress seemed to subordinate what we are. The female teachers outrank the males, regardless of how the word sounds. Dragons cannot be subjugated, but you will learn these things, women are the leaders in the dragon world. So it is with humans in their eyes.”

Aed came home, a sumptuous meal, grilled over the fires outside, filled the house with mouth-watering smells. Aed poured Mead for everyone. Father toasted son as Jona’s mother, though not sad at her son moving out, showed signs of being a mom for a change. The hard spirit of the Queen Boudica that lived on in his mom had softened at the thought of her son now going to her old Alma Mater.

“I never knew you were a Dragon Master, ma, you have never taught any dragons, have you?” Jona asked between mouthfuls of potato, boiled and then roasted with sea salt. “You have never spoke of it.”

“Well, we never would, would we?” She laughed, rolling up her sleeve. Her a tattoo graced her upper arm where a torque normally resided, often she wore the copper band, so Jona had thought over the years it was the green that had rubbed off into her skin, now as she had pulled off the copper torc, the tattoo moved and glistened as if made from real dragon scales. It looked as if it were several dragons holding each other by the tail in a complex, never-ending knot that was so intricate that Jona could swear it was alive.

“Only the alumnus of the university wear such tattoo’s.” Aed said in admiration, while Jona was looking closely at his mother’s body-art, his father pulled out his arm and presented the son with a view of his own tattoo. The count and the kinds of dragons were different, and somewhat darker.

“Your mother earned better grades than I did, but I was in a more challenged class of dragons. We had the dragons that would be considered difficult to teach, males normally, fire breathers.”

Jona laughed for a moment, then paused as he though of a question.

“Is that how you took to being a metal worker?”

Aed nodded. “Your mother came up with that idea, it makes a good cover story for the burns I get now and again when I have to teach a short-tempered dragon how to keep in hiding and not burn a house down that annoys him for one reason or another.”

Jona’s mouth dropped open again. Many times his dad came home with singed hair and had blisters on his hands, complaining that he had to get new gloves for the shop. Little did he realize that it might even been due to a fire-breathing dragon that the patriarch of the family had to teach.

Looking at his mother. “Why did you wear copper then? I mean, with all that you were doing, you should wear a gold torc.”

The smiling auburn haired mother sat down and looked first at Jona, then at Aed then back to Jona.

“Our goal was never to bring that much attention to ourselves.” She said with a soft smile. ”Yes, I could wear gold, but it would never explain the tattoo underneath. This way the copper would cover the tattoo, I could take it off as I wished and when teaching, like now.”

Jona suddenly realized that his parents were more than the quaint old folks from another generation who had no idea how the youth of today thought. Young people had greater challenges, he thought, it was they who would take the world next and make it a better place. But his parents— His, the mind reeled with the thought of what kind of changes they have done in the world.

His ma and dad had changed the world, saving the dragons from dragon slayer’s and their weapons.

Jona went to bed that night with a numb mind, school was starting in a few months and the old folks were just going to sign him up.

In the morning, the sun had not even illuminated the sky in the east when his dad woke him in the dark.

“Up! We have a lot of traveling to do. Get your breakfast in, yer ma has eggs cooked with shredded ‘taters. Up boy. Time is wasting!”

Staggering up, he pulled on some clothes, his mother had a great breakfast of three eggs and a potato fried on a griddle he had never seen in the house before. Barely stained, the yellow pan looked like brass.

“Gold, Jona, this is the traditional breakfast for first time visitors to the university, gold is the dragon’s vanity and gift. One reason they have had such a time just trying to exist, for people covet the yellow metal as much as dragons do.” Mama Samhain said gently. “Our guide brought the griddle to us just this morning. You get one more after this, after that, you are back on iron cooking.” his mother laughed quietly. “They draw you in by making you feel special, then beat your brains until you learn the lessons for that time when you serve both man and dragon and save both from obliterating each other.”

“Ob…oob ..What?” Jona could not get the word out of his mouth.

“Obliterate. Just think of if your uncle Rón when he sat on you when you were but ten-years-old.” Aed said with a crooked grin.

“Ach! No! I understand now. That is the last thing I want.” Jona gasped.

The breakfast continued with animated discussions on different dragons, dangerous kinds, water dragons, air dragons, fire dragons. Jona was beginning to have a headache. Care and feeding of each dragon was far different from the next.

Finally they finished breakfast, Aed washed the griddle while Dearbhail washed the other plates separately. The discussion between them was rapid and animated, the pride in their son was obvious.

Jona, stunned at the clothing that his máthair put out for him. Leather jerkin with iron studs, heavy leather gauntlets with oddly shaped finger coverings, boots that came up to his knees with chaps that fitted on his legs and clipped to the top of the boots. There were other rings on the jerkin and boots he wanted to ask about, but his mother and father disappeared up the ladder to the loft to change clothes. The sound of a slap and a mild threat was more information than Jona wanted to know about what his dad might have done.

Climbing down, the two elder Samhain clan were clad in leather and metal armor, his mother’s was decorated in gold and green rivets, his fathers was in silver, yellow and red-gold engraved metal flowers over the tunic, with iron and leather scabbards that held two short swords that crossed on his back. His mothers weapons, shorter and slimmer, much more pointed to the touch, had handles made of some creature’s tusks, as they were bone-white.

Pulling one of her swords, the light reflected over the mirrored surface of the blade. The metal rippled like water in the light and the edge was wavy, like the edge of a leaf.

His father drew a sword and set it on the table next to his mothers’ blade. Longer, more massive in construction, a blade for smashing through heavy objects, while his mother’s was one that might cut through the smallest weakness of opposing armor.

“These are the tools of Dragon Masters. Sometimes one must have the skills to fight either man or dragon and earn the respect. These weapons have different designs, each has a specific use and need when called upon. Where your father’s are for one kind of warrior, mine is for another. But each is not perfect, the two blades cover each other’s shortcomings of design.”

Jona stood slack-jawed as he watched the two most mundane, boring, simple folk that he’d ever known. He could even call them “quaint” by the past years he knew them. Now, the arms of his father, from years of swinging a hammer, the sinuous arms of his mother stuck out of the leather and steel armor– he had no other thought but that one moment he had come to realize most about his “mundane, quaint” old folks were members of a group that Jona never dreamed they could belong.

Unbeatable in the normal sense, mysterious— he never, ever knew of their second life.

His father was pulling on leggings that shimmered like water in a stream, on closer inspection they were fine scales, interlocked like fingers of two hands.

Mom and dad— they were awesome!

They were warriors.

They were Dragon Masters.

Dragon Master University Chapter 3. The Road Home

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III. The Road Home

Rumbling back over the road, the sun was no longer right overhead, quartering behind him, his headache was gone, no longer the flatulent ox made his belly flip-flop in his throat, he had began to look around more. Often the look around at the small birds now that flew from tree to tree and wheeled overhead.

One bird, fell from a tree, landing on the ground and Jona laughed slightly feeling sorry for the bird, but had no time to deal with the plight of the flying critter.

Jona trundled past the young bird, it made an odd noise, but then took wing, and Jona saw its shape appeared like no other bird he had ever seen.

It disappeared into a tree once again, Jona shook his head at the ugly bird, it must have been the power of the distilled spirits still messing with his eyes as he rode on in the wagon, the smell of the peat as he bounced down the path no longer bothering him as much as the time wore on.

Jona was feeling more like a person instead of the underside of the ox-hoof and promised himself no more drinking before finding out what the next day would bring. His ma and pa were known to have had tremendous parties and had a whole next day to rest— but had planned it far in advance.

A touch of wisdom, Jona nodded and heard a familiar sound. Turning his head, he saw that oddly shaped bird again as it flitted by, but Jona lost it in the sun as the erratic flying creature zipped past as he approached the harbor where the black ship docked.

The red hair of the captain was visible as it poked out from under a feathered cap as the blond-headed boy was standing on a pallet of goods, the crews used pulley’s and rope lifted into the ship. Oxen and men pulled on lines as Dana was making sure that the materials where staying on the platform. A netting, used to secure all the crates, while the captain stood below with his arms crossed and shook his head as he spoke to the raven haired woman standing next to him. She had secured the delivery and supervised the lading of the ship.

Looking over his shoulder, freedom of the sea seemed that it was an outstanding life. Positive that the boy, Dana, knew more and saw more than Jona ever would, stuck here on land with no prospects but to tinker on the metals. Even if it was a successful business, suddenly he wanted another life where he could make a change, effect something! Jona wanted a life that was greater than his dad’s.

Flitting by, the tiny bird once again drew Jona’s attention. He was positive it was the same creature, it had a pendulous tail and curious wings, longish neck.

But was fast!

Extremely fast!

Again, Jona lost it in the glare of the sun, it seemed to fly in big circles around the peat loaded wagon.

“Probably the bugs that seem to follow the smell, it’s catching and eating them.” Jona thought to himself. “At least there would be fewer flies when I offload this at the smite shop.”

Suddenly a sound behind him made him turn around. Pulling up on the reins, he stopped the ox which took that moment to rattle out its backside again with gas. Stupid ox, it snorted as much out its backside as it did out the nose.

Turning to look closely at the bird, it had its back to him. It was oddly colored, almost a purple-black color. Abruptly, It turned and looked at him. It had a lizard kind of face. Cat eyes that looked at him curiously.

It was a tiny DRAGON!

Jona stumbled backwards and fell off of the wagon and down into a puddle where the ox had just finished urinating. “UGH!” Jona yelled, the urine smelled worse than the gas that the ox put out. The ox snorted as if it knew and was laughing in the way that only an ox could.

The little dragon gave a squawk and took back to the air, munching on a beetle it found in the peat and sped off behind a bush.

Jona shook his head, distracted now as he scrambled away, once an ox urinated, the other was coming soon and Jona wanted no part of that on him. The urine smell was bad enough as he stood on his feet and shook the moisture off his hands and looked around. The little dragon was gone. No longer visible to the blinking Jona. How was he going to explain what he had seen to his parents?

“Maybe I will just not say a word, they will send me off to talk with the Draoi of the village. Ugh.” Jona commented to himself.

The Draoi were known to cure people from visions and bless things like crops. But it would always take days, often consuming bitter herbs to cure anything from constipation to diarrhea to people with headaches to swelling of feet.

Clambering back into the wagons bench seat, Jona kept an eye out for the little dragon, seeing it every once in a while, it was not bothering the ox or him, precisely, but it was very definitely following him. It was not a chance meeting, the dragon was just a baby, it looked like, but was not near a mother.

“MOTHER!” He gasped in panic. Oh no, if the baby dragon had a mother, Jona was in dire trouble. All they might find of Jona and the ox would be charred bones or might not even find them at all. The boy began to look around rapidly for the telltale signs of impending attack. Birds taking wing or no sounds in the world as the lesser animals would hide from an attacking dragon.

Jona had never seen an attack, only in stories and legends were they told about. His dad, Aed would tell of how the dragons had nearly been driven into extinction by openly living with the humans who would hunt many for the actions of a few.

“Dragons are intelligent” Aed would tell Jona, “They learn and know, they are by and large, peaceful, like a raptor of the sky– they will eat fish or, in the cases of large dragons, oxen or whales of the sea. They had to learn to avoid humans, thus some needed teaching. It was humans that helped teach dragons of how humans lived and how they can see. These men and women became known as Dragon Masters.”

Jona once dreamed of being a Dragon Master, but in time grew up and figured out that all that his dad told him were stories to entertain a child. He had even stopped believing in dragons. But here, a small one was following his very steps as he made his way back home.

Jona took a moment and thought about heading back to the harbor and the black ship for protection, but that would have taken nearly as long as the remaining trip back home. Nowhere was there a sign of a mother dragon to follow the baby or make an attack. People worked in the fields, birds were flitting behind them, eating worms that would be tilled up or to eat the bugs on the grain.

As he entered the home village, he kept an eye out for the small dragon, he had not seen it for nearly an hour, the sun had angled down and the shadows were long. He could hear the hammer blows of his dad’s shop as he drew closer. Curly reddish hair, two bright blue eyes that looked out from a soot smeared face as Aed laughed as Jona made his way to the back of the shop. Always happy to see his son, the smiter directed the apprentices to continue the rough work of the current project.

“Da’, the seller says he owes you two more loads, it would be ready when you are to pick it up.” Jona told his father. “There was no problems, but ma was not in a good mood this morning, she woke me up too early”

The senior Samhain laughed, his hair shook with the good humor of a father with his only son learning how the world really works with the mother in charge.

“Okay, let’s off load the peat over there, Jona, I will send out the apprentices to help you, I have a gold torque to make for someone and I trust no one to do it, I have the idea what they want on the band.” Aed said as he turned away to go back into the shop.

A flit across the sky, Jona decided now was as good of a time as ever.

“Dad, I have seen something you need to know, I think it is serious.” Jona said loudly after his father.

Aed motioned to the junior apprentices who mounted the wagon and began offload bricks of the fuel and walked over to his son and sat down on a mandrel he had made years before. Motioning his son to sit, the elder no longer laughed, taking in his son’s look as a young man with something that was serious in his mind to tell his father.

“I am kind of afraid to tell you, but..” Jona trailed off.

“Spit it out boy, I have known you all your days, you never tell me to wait unless it is serious and important to your heart.” Suddenly a concerned father than a laughing friend.

“Dad, on the way back, I think I saw a dragon– a baby dragon. I’m worried that the stories you told me of the mother dragon that might attack for stealing her baby might come true.” Jona said quietly, he did not want to let the other boys hear him and laugh.

Aed looked at him for a moment, then with wide-eyed concern his father asked. “What did the dragon do?”

Jona, shocked that there was no question of whether he had even seen– just what the actions of the baby did.

“He, well, he ate some bugs as we traveled, took them out of the load of peat.” Jona said slowly.

Aed Samhain began to smile. “Jona, you may not know what this means, but by the good grace of fates, you are going to have a life that you never dreamed of! The dragon chose you to go to a school I once went to.”

Standing up and walking to a bucket of water, his father washed his arms clean of soot and sweat. cleaning the tattoos that entertained him as a boy were still in bright relief.

“These are the marks of a graduate of the school of dragon masters.” Aed told Jona who gaped at his dad’s words.

His father was a Dragon Master!

A teacher of dragons, a group of storied and legendary people who hid and protected dragons since the dawn of stories. Who had taught the dragons how to hide, how to tell the difference between those that would help and those who would harm or seek to harm any of their kind.

They were the go between’s of the world of dragons and the world of man.

“You?” Jona had trouble getting his thoughts to gather in one statement. “You? Taught? Dragons?”

He shook his head at the thought of his dad as a Dragon Master?

Wow.