Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Short Story: J.F. Jenkins

This is the second installment in our short story series from our authors. Be sure to check back every day to see who's up next!

Normally, Orion did not enjoy tuxes. They were thick and stuffy, but when he saw how Esie's eyes lit up at the sight of him, he was willing to make an exception for the night. He'd never seen her gaze wander over him so much. Perhaps she'll finally come around and accept me. This could be the start of a real relationship for us. And she looked absolutely gorgeous in her dress. The blue, purple, fabric especially brought out the color of her eyes.

He walked her into the ball, enjoying having her decorate his arm. The stares he received from his cousins added on to the fun. For so long they had thought less of him despite being the son of the Great Dragon Lord. Most of them made it clear they expected more from him, though there were a few on his side. No matter what he did, it would never match up to those expectations. He'd gotten a business degree from the university, and had plans to invest in all sorts of new technologies. But that wasn't good enough for them. They didn't see a point in putting so much into a potential product that might not pan out. Automobiles would never replace horses, and electricity wasn't as reliable as a fire. In Orion's eyes, they still lived in the stone age. Because he'd rather read than participate in sports, that made him weak.

Showing up to the Ball of Saints with a beautiful wife proved something at least. Of course, they would give him a hard time for still being pure, but he wanted to make sure things happened the right way. The ritual of the sacrifice was always unpredictable. For some, they had an instant moment of love. Others, a relationship grew over time. It was far more respectable of him to wait than force her into something neither of them was ready for. He wouldn't be the only newly wed man who still maintained his purity there, anyway. At least they could all say he had good taste.

Esie's gaze wandered over the room and settled on something toward the back. “Excuse me, I see some punch.”

“Would you like me to get it for you?” Orion asked.

“No, it's fine. I shouldn't be too long. I'm more than capable of getting it myself. How about you find us a table to sit at. Those seem to be few and far between,” she said and leaned up to kiss his cheek.

He smiled down at her. “Of course.” He watched her go, disappearing into the crowd. The night would be perfect.

* * * * *

Esie made sure she left Orion's side as casually as possible. She didn't want him to follow her around the whole time, and she had to make sure she could get lost in the crowd. When she arrived at the beverage table, she glanced over her shoulder to see if she could spot him and smiled when he was no where to be found. They were both lost in the sea of people.

The Ball of Saints was unlike anything Esie had ever been to before. Women in beautiful dresses sashayed around the room and handsome young men in tuxedos escorted them. Everyone laughed, and seemed to be enjoying themselves, yet there was a strange kind of tension in the air. She noticed the men all had the strange disease in their fingernails that made them black, and she couldn't help but wonder if that meant they were actually dragons rather than men after all. A fact about Orion she was still having a hard time processing.

I have to find Timothy. She scanned the room, looking for the one friend she had left that could hopefully do something for her. It took some time, but she found him lingering toward the back not too far away. He leaned against a door frame and it relaxed her when she noticed he looked bored. That would help her cause greatly.

Taking in a deep breath, she walked over to him. He was just as handsome as ever in his tuxedo. Certainly, Orion was fabulous in his as well. In some ways even more so than Timothy, which startled her to even think. Each step she took closer to him, her heart started to race all the more. From fear or attraction, she couldn't quite figure out, however. Because while he was indeed handsome, she was terrified. And when her gaze met his and he did not smile, her confidence wavered. Timothy was different than the last time she'd seen him, and she couldn't quite figure out why.

She swallowed and walked up to him. “Fancy seeing you here.”

“Yes,” he said dryly. “What are you doing here Esie?”

No, “I'm glad you're alive and okay”. In fact, there was no joy present at all in his voice. He knew what had happened, and that confirmed it all for her. Timothy was a dragon.

“I'm here as a guest,” she said flatly. “And yourself?”

“Same, just as I am one every year. I meant, what are you doing here talking to me?”

“I think you know.”

He shook his head. “Go back to your husband.”

She recoiled at the word. “I don't love him.”

“You don't love me either.”

“Yes, I do.”

“No,” he stated. “You don't.” He glanced around him and sighed before grabbing her arm firmly and pulling her outside to the balcony with him. Few guests were out that way. Though it was a little on the cold side, the moonlight and stars made it worthwhile. It was romantic and beautiful, and she loved having to use him for warmth. If only he'd stop moving away from her, so she could enjoy it more.

“You have to stop this,” he said once they were alone. “You need to let me go.”

Esie shook her head, confused. This was not how she imagined their reunion happening. He was supposed to be happy she was alive and well. He was supposed to save her. How could he not care at all? When he tried to leave, she grabbed his arm and pulled him to her body.

“Tell me I've always meant nothing to you. Our relationship has always been special to me. I care for you because of who you are, not because of your family or anything else so superficial. We've had a lot of fond memories. Tell me it all meant nothing and I'll let you go,” she pleaded.

Timothy's blue eyes met her own and he averted his gaze away. “He's my cousin Esmeralda, and on top of that the son of my Great Lord. I can't. I have always thought you kind and beautiful. Things any man would want in a future bride, but if you are looking for me to take you away from him, I won't. It's not right. Besides, I have found another to be my wife. It just wasn't meant to be. You'll understand that some day.”

Tears pooled in her eyes. “I don't understand, you're right about that much. You haven't wed this other woman yet, and I haven't consummated mine. Doesn't that mean we could make something work?”

“No, it doesn't.”

“But I don't love him.”

“Have you even tried? Because when it comes to my family, Orion is probably the best husband material you'll find -- especially when it comes to meeting your needs. You're so stubborn.” He shook his head.

“Why should I try? He took me away!” She folded her arms in front of her and she shivered from the cold.

His eyes closed and he exhaled slowly before opening them again. “Regardless of how we feel, I won't betray my kin. My people believe in divine appointment, destiny. The ritual of the sacrifice has its purpose. It's not fair to you, I do understand that, but there is a reason you were chosen for him. Your paths were meant to cross some how. God puts people in our way every day. The smallest of strangers in the simplest of interactions can turn into a huge impacting moment for either one of you. If I try to stake a claim on your heart, I do believe I would be thwarting His plans. Orion is like a brother to me, anyway. He picked you, so he must think you're special too.”

“The priests picked me,” she said.

“And he agreed. For some reason, he wanted you to be his wife.”

She laughed. “He said it was because they told him I had a brain.”

Timothy nodded. “So use it. Don't hurt him by doing this. You're only going to make things harder on us all.”

“Then I suppose I'll have to run away,” she whispered.

“Don't. Please, don't.”

“I will not be a wife to someone I barely know – to someone I don't love,” she said firmly. She picked up the skirts of her dress and turned to leave. Orion stood in the doorway, his face solemn and pale. One look at him and she knew he had heard more than she wanted him to.

* * * * *

Orion stormed back inside, pushing his way through the crowd. My cousin! She wants to be with him! Has that been her plan all along? Because they act as though they've met before. He sighed. Timothy lives near where she grew up. Just my luck. He couldn't decipher just what he was feeling. Anger, jealousy, those two were certain, but there was something else gnawing at him on the inside. His heart was racing, but his stomach was sick and cramping. Was his heart breaking? Did he actually love her? Esie had caught his eye, intrigued him, and he knew she was a woman he could love someday - but had that someday come sooner than he anticipated?

A hand gripped his shoulder, jolting him out of his thoughts and back to reality. He'd been expecting the hand to belong to Timothy, but it was Esie who was touching him.

"If you're going to apologize and try to make up with me, save your breath," he said. Bitterness filled his heart and he hated it. He hated loathing someone as greatly as he did her. In that moment, all he wanted to do was make her regret everything she'd done to cause him pain.

Esie played with her hands in front of her. Why did she have to be so beautiful? That was her weapon against him. She took in a deep breath, then spoke.

"I'm sorry you were hurt by all of this, though I know it would have been impossible to avoid. You're a good man, and you deserve far better than me."

He laughed sourly. "You're right about that."

"I pray you can forgive me some day, but I do mean what I said. I do not wish to be wed to a man I do not love."

Taking her hand firmly in his own, Orion dragged her to the dance floor. When she opened her mouth to protest, he placed a finger to her soft lips. He put a hand on her waist and then raised her right hand with his left. They would share in one waltz. He would have one magical moment with her. With a slight roughness, he pulled her in closer to him, staking his claim upon her in front of everyone, one last time. He gazed into her deep purple/blue eyes and saw the tears pooled in them. The scent of lavender, salt, and plumb mixed inside of his nostrils. Good, she should be sad.

And they danced. Gracefully, he led her around the dance floor, not once looking away from her eyes. Her cheeks flushed, the plumb and lavender started to fade and transform into a rich, potent, cinnamon. When the song ended, and the band began to play another, he let go of her as if she were some kind of a poison. Esie held herself, the tears in her eyes spilling down her face.

Orion leaned into her ear. "Go, and do not show your face to me again. Have the freedom you so desire."

* * * * *

Esie couldn't stop crying. I've really made a mess of things. She should have never thought of doing something so stupid. Of course Timothy wouldn't help her. He was one of them, a dragon, and she imagined his loyalty needed to stay strong with his kin. After all, with such a great secret as being a human as well as a dragon, why would he choose her over his family?

She didn't understand dragons and their politics. What if she'd caused some kind of great rift, or a war? Would Orion really let her go? Wouldn't she be considered a liability?

A handkerchief dropped in front of her face. "Dry your eyes," Timothy said. His voice was much more gentle than she expected.

Taking the handkerchief, she did as she was told, not wanting to cause any more problems. The ball must have just been ending. She had spent most of her night hiding by the entrance. Ideally, she would have left, but she had no where else to go. It was too cold for her to wander the city on her own, and she was terrified of getting lost or hurt. So she stayed at the ball until she could figure out some kind of plan, secretly hoping Orion would return and help her.

"He's gone," she said in-between sniffles.

"I know," Timothy said. "I still stand by my statement of not pursuing this. However, it would be wrong to leave you on your own to fend for yourself. I know a woman who is in need of a live-in maid. She doesn't pay much, but she will provide a warm place to sleep at night. It'll be enough to help you figure out what to do with yourself. She's not far from here, actually. I shall walk you over."

"T-thank you," she whispered.

He nodded and escorted her to the door, keeping himself at a distance. When they were outside, he let out a long breath. "According to the laws of my people, you should be executed before you have the chance to tell of our secret. You have rejected the man who has claimed you. It's happened before. There have been other women who have left their husbands before the consummation of their marriage. These women are easier to hide. A woman who has mated with a dragon goes through a number of changes. To another dragon, they stick out like a sore thumb."

She glanced up at him, shivering, but not from the cold. "So are you going to--"

"I meant what I said about taking you to live with this woman, but no one must know that you are married to Orion. To one of us."

Us, meaning dragon. She nodded. "No, of course not. I will not breathe a word of it to anyone. I swear."

Timothy's blue eyes fixated on her intently. "Keep it and your vows. He may have told you, you were released, but you are still technically his until he formally declares otherwise. Which he won't do because then you may very well be hunted. He will have to wait until the timing is right. Do you understand?"


"Keep your vows. Promise me."

"I promise," she whispered. The wrath of one dragon had already been ignited; she didn't want to fan the flames any higher.

* * * * *

Orion watched Esie get settled into her new home, gazing at her from the outside. He could see her upstairs, basking in the orange light inside of the house where she was safe and warm. His heart still ached, but he knew he had to let her go -- for her sanity as well as his own. Time apart would help both of them to sort through their own feelings. He would let her think he was gone from her life for a little while before approaching her again.

The door to Mrs. Pinkerton's home opened, and Timothy stepped out. He crossed the street, joining Orion under the overhang of a pastry shop. It was closed, and dark, and provided for a nice shelter from the cold wind.

"Did she agree to your terms?" Orion asked.

"You mean your terms disguised as my advice?" Timothy raised an eyebrow.

Orion shrugged. "They aren't a lie, you know this. Did she agree?"

"Yes, she agreed. She will remain pure until you decide her fate."

Orion nodded. "Thank you. Had I escorted her to this arrangement, I fear she would have tried to talk me out of it. Simply out of duty if nothing else. She needs to want me again on her own terms, not out of fear. It hurts, but I respect her desires. I don't want a loveless relationship anymore than she does. I only wish she was more honest."

"I hope you know what you're doing," Timothy said.

"I do, and I will watch her and protect her just like I promised," Orion vowed. Everything would come together at the right moment. Until then, he would watch her and keep her safe from afar.


  1. Oh, I loved this part of the story even though it was so sad.

  2. For those of you reading this for the first time. There's more to the story up at: :)

  3. Oh, wow, this is a really interesting twist on things! I'll have to check out more.

    I think I might have to try and find more of these books, too, because I like the view of the world that I got from this.