Chapter 1: Council Meeting
Derek had to focus all of his energy on sitting up straight as he waited for the council to gather in the Spokane council chamber. He was exhausted. His Queen dragon Jettie had only finished laying eggs a couple of hours ago and he had barely gotten a nap before his mate, the Elder, had woken him up and coaxed him out of bed. The Elder sat beside him now, not touching him even though Derek wouldn’t have minded the extra strength. Still, he had to be careful not to appear weak in front of the council and he couldn’t rely on the Elder for anything more than was absolutely necessary.
Jamie stood to his right and slightly behind him and Scott beside him. Scott’s arm was around Jamie’s waist but they didn’t have to worry about people thinking Jamie was weak or that Scott had too much influence; Jamie’s role as the first Queen was unquestioned and Scott’s role as his mate was established. Derek was a little jealous, but not as much as he would have been even a few days ago.
When he had rescued Scott’s memories, he had seen into Scott’s soul and seen exactly how much Scott loved him, and how much Scott loved Jamie. And while Scott loved Derek quite a bit, his very soul was built upon his love of Jamie. Jamie was his life. Derek might keep flirting with Scott, and he would always love the man, but now he knew that they could never really be together. Oddly, the thought wasn’t as upsetting as it might have been.
The councilmembers already in the room were looking mostly at Jamie, not at him, and he knew there was plenty of confusion. Marisol had only told this campus that Scott had been attacked. Nothing else. Jettie had laid her eggs a few hours later, adding excitement but not clearing up any of the confusion. He saw Mike slip in the back of the room.
Mike had come to him immediately after Marisol’s brief message. Ethan and the Elder had been with him when he returned to his senses after saving Scott, and Mike had been waiting outside for any news. Derek knew that Scott held an important place in Mike’s heart and was pleased to be able to let Mike know that he was fine. This was the first time Mike had actually seen Scott and he looked immensely relieved.
Finally, Ethan came up to Derek.
“Everyone is here, Queen.”
Derek nodded and gathered his strength to stand with his usual confidence. He couldn’t afford weakness, especially not with another Queen on campus. The talking among the councilmembers died down as usual and everyone focused on him. He hadn’t been nervous in front of the council in a long time but he was now. He imagined his pride at Jettie’s eggs and let a smile cross his face. He would start with that.
“Jettie has laid her eggs,” he announced. “There will be room for forty-three students in the fall, plus four extra.”
There was excited murmuring throughout the room with an edge of disappointment. He knew the disappointment came from those who had just lost enormous amounts of money in the betting pool the councilmembers had going estimating both the time of Jettie’s nesting and the number of eggs. He wondered if anyone had guessed forty-three. He was tempted to ask, but that would validate the betting and he didn’t really want to encourage it.
He glanced over at Jamie and Scott. Jamie was beaming as if he had something to do with the eggs. Well, Marisol was Jettie’s mother so he sort of did, but Derek suspected it also had to do with the fact that the university could save the lives of forty-three more people. He caught Jamie’s eye and Derek realized that a large portion of his happiness was also just happiness that Derek was happy. He was a little surprised by that, since their relationship, while no longer bad, wasn’t exactly good, but then again Derek had saved Scott.
Derek returned his attention to the council. He wasn’t exactly sure what to say to the council about Jamie’s presence here. He hadn’t had a moment to talk to Jamie or even the Elder to figure out what was appropriate to say.
“Queen Jamie and his mate Scott will be staying here for a while, with Narné,” he said.
Immediately the council started murmuring and he knew he couldn’t leave it at that. He glanced at Jamie, wondering what to say, when Jamie stepped forward. Everything seemed to zoom in on him and everyone went silent. Jamie seemed to fill the room even though nothing had changed but Jamie’s posture. Derek could almost sense how he was doing it. It seemed like a way of channeling Marisol’s power to focus attention on him. He wondered if he could do it with Jettie. This wasn’t the time to try.
Jamie smiled at the room. “An enemy within the Portland council attacked Scott and has made it too dangerous for us to remain,” he said calmly. “The rest of the council is safer waiting and doing nothing until we are prepared to return. You are safer not knowing who it was. You are also safer if you do not tell anyone of our location.”
He came to Derek’s side and took Derek’s hand.
“Derek is your Queen, of course, and I will be second to him while we are here. Scott will be second to the Elder while we are here. We will take on as few or as many responsibilities as they desire.”
Jamie pressed against Derek’s hand and knowledge of how to bend the room passed between them. As Jamie loosened his control over the room, Derek strengthened his. It was a little unnerving having everyone looking at him in awe, even the Elder to some degree, but channeling Jettie’s energy gave him strength.
“Thank you, Queen Jamie,” he said, smiling at Jamie. “I will be sure to let you know when you are needed.”
He realized too late he had left the Elder out of that comment but maybe that was better. He looked out at the council.
“Thank you for coming, everyone. If you have any further questions, please let Ethan know and he will pass them on to me.”
He let go of Jettie’s power slowly and the room seemed to return to normal. The council dispersed, all except Jamie, Scott, the Elder, Ethan, and, oddly, Mike, who approached them. Scott stepped forward and smiled, extending his hand to Mike. Mike took it and pulled Scott into an embrace, kissing him. Oddly, neither Scott nor Jamie looked upset. Scott allowed Mike to kiss him and when they broke apart, Scott stroked Mike’s cheek and whispered something to him. Mike grinned.
Mike then went to Jamie and hugged him. They exchanged whispers as well, and then Mike nodded to Ethan and Derek and left. Derek knew that Mike was very close to Scott and Jamie, but he hadn’t expected that kind of greeting. He thought back to what he had seen of Scott’s soul. He had only really noticed his own place in Scott’s heart, but there had been several other threads. Mike must have been one of them.
Derek swayed slightly and a hand on his shoulder stabilized him. It was the Elder but he couldn’t show how grateful he was for the support because they were in public. He glanced up at the Elder, then back at Jamie and Scott. He had no idea how to handle them being in Spokane. He didn’t know what their role would be, or what they would do. It was summer, so they didn’t need to go to classes, but what would they do? Jamie seemed to pick up on his distress and took Scott’s hand.
“Scott and I were planning on a low-key summer,” he said. “I don’t know if we can risk returning to Portland until we have Marisol, so we’ll be here a while. We’ll stay out of the way.”
“Thanks, Jamie,” Derek said. He still didn’t know what they would do with their days, but at least he wouldn’t have to entertain them. After all, he would be in classes. A wave of exhaustion swept over him and he leaned against the Elder.
“I think I need more sleep,” he said. “Ethan, can you show Jamie and Scott around?”
Ethan agreed and the Elder escorted Derek out. Derek was careful not to lean on him too heavily until they were in the apartment building, but once they were in their apartment, he collapsed into the Elder’s arms. The Elder picked him up and carried him to the bed, laying him down and taking off his shoes and socks, then helping him take off his shirt. The Elder kissed his shoulder. He smiled but didn’t pull the Elder closer as he would have done if he had the energy for more. He loved sex with the Elder, but not now.
“You must really be tired,” the Elder said with a laugh. Derek laughed, too, and curled up around him as he sat on the bed. The Elder stroked his hair.
“Jamie shouldn’t be doing that with his dragon so far away,” the Elder mused. “And he shouldn’t have shown you to do that. He knows Jettie is as exhausted as you.”
“What was he doing?” Derek murmured.
“Mesmerizing the room,” the Elder said. “I know you noticed it, since you managed it yourself.”
“It was odd,” Derek said. “But why shouldn’t we have done it?”
“It draws on your Queens’ strength. Normally that’s not a problem but with Marisol so far away and Jettie with so little strength, neither of you should have done it.”
“I don’t think Jamie knows that,” Derek said sleepily. “He wouldn’t put Marisol or Jettie at risk.”
The Elder stroked his hair again. Derek reached his arms around the Elder and pulled him down until they were laying together, facing each other. There was a gentle expression on the Elder’s face.
“Was there a Queen egg?” the Elder asked.
“No,” Derek said, a little disappointed that he couldn’t share the truth with his mate. But Jettie wanted the first nest secret so he would obey. Hopefully the Elder thought his disappointment was because of the lack of a Queen egg.
“Perhaps that’s for the best,” the Elder said. “We couldn’t handle a third Queen.”
“Maybe someday,” Derek murmured, shutting his eyes. Thinking of another Queen dragon brought the cats to mind, for some reason. Maybe because Jettie had emphasized them so much. The Elder seemed to know everything. Maybe he understood why they were important.
“What do you know about the cats?” Derek asked, opening his eyes again and trying to look determined so the Elder would know not to avoid the question.
“I would have to see them up close and preferably hold them to see if my suspicions are true,” the Elder said thoughtfully. “I doubt Jamie or Scott would allow me.”
“Why not? They let me handle both cats and the kittens.”
“They trust you,” the Elder pointed out. “If Margot came after the kittens, they might be afraid I was coming after them, too.”
“Why does Margot care about them? And why is the council afraid of her?”
The Elder kissed his forehead. “I have to see the cats to be sure why Margot cares. As for the council, well, you don’t know what Margot’s dragon’s ability is, do you?”
Derek shook his head. Although he had spent time on the Portland campus, it had been so chaotic and he had been so focused on impressing his father Ashton that he hadn’t bothered to learn other dragons’ abilities. Jettie hadn’t shown her ability yet and that had been one of his main concerns. He knew Margot was head of the women’s council, but that was all he knew about her.
“Her dragon Yasmina can erase people’s memories,” the Elder said. “Margot has to be close enough to touch the person. She can choose how much they forget and if they fall asleep after.”
Derek gasped as Jamie’s words suddenly made sense. Margot had tried to erase all of Scott’s memories. When Jamie had said it last night it hadn’t really made sense but nothing had made sense so he let it pass. Now he understood Jamie’s panic when summoning Derek and he realized what the mist was that threatened to choke Scott. He had known that he was saving Scott, that Scott would die without his help. He hadn’t realized that Scott wouldn’t physically die but instead be drained of everything that made him who he was.
“So you see why the Portland council won’t act,” the Elder continued. “They’re afraid she’ll attack them as well. Of course, if they all acted together and were willing to sacrifice one or two of them, they could take her out, but they’re far too selfish for that and Jamie clearly knows it. He seems to have some plan to retake the campus, but hasn’t shared it yet.”
“How did Jamie escape?” Derek asked.
“I don’t know,” the Elder said. “Perhaps he’ll tell you. He’s stronger than he appears.”
Derek huffed a little, his usual resentment returning for a moment. He knew everyone thought of Jamie as the first Queen, but his mate at least should side with him. The Elder laughed and kissed him.
“He’s no comparison to you, my darling. The difference is that he looks weak but is strong, whereas you look strong and are strong. I prefer strength.”
Derek snuggled against him, mollified. He and Jamie were different that way. He never would have survived in Jamie’s place, and Jamie never would have survived in his. They were too different, but they shared their love of Scott and their loyalty to their Queens. He would ask Jamie about Margot, and about the cats.
“Sleep, my Queen,” the Elder whispered. “I’ll keep you safe.”
The Elder held him tight and he relaxed. He would worry about Jamie and Scott and Margot and the cats later. He could sense Jettie sleeping sounding by her eggs and he sent her a beam of love, hoping to give her good dreams. Then he let himself drift into his own dreams.