Taulan (Dragons of Preor Book 2)(9)

By: Celia Kyle & Erin Tate

She lifted her head once more and saw that less than ten feet separated her from the child. In a blinding rush, she put all her strength behind the next stroke and the next, and then she held the girl close, soothing words leaving her lips in a panting rush.

“I’ve got you. Hush. I have you. Rest easy. Relax,” she babbled, syllables tripping over themselves between heavy gasps as she sought to calm the toddler. When her pulse slowed, so did her breathing and that was when other things became obvious to her.

Such as the skin—scales—beneath her palms. Like the fact that a child’s legs didn’t encircle her, but a fluttering tail brushed her thighs. Or the knowledge that others slowly popped above the water’s surface in a loose circle around her. Others that were covered in scales that glistened in the light, and she had no doubt that if she could see into the cool waters, she’d notice they had tails as well.

Oh shit. What did she just walk into?

The youngling in your possession is—

That weird thing again. Lana didn’t have time to play with some idiot who thought it was fun to toy with her.

She shook her head, pushing that voice—those imaginings—away once more. The toddler clung to Lana, rubbing her tear-stained cheek against Lana’s shoulder. Lana ignored the others and simply sought to soothe the girl, brushing her hair back and whispering against her temple.

“It’s okay. I have you. Are you okay, sweetheart?”

The girl hiccupped, lifting her head to meet Lana’s gaze, and that plump lower lip trembled. “S’unged my tail.” She lifted said tail up and out of the water, pointing at a web of red lines crisscrossing the sparkling scales. “D’ere.”

“It’s okay, we’ll get some…” Some something. How did Ujal treat jellyfish stings?

“It would be best if you released Theresa to us,” a green Ujal spoke over her, drawing both Lana and the child’s attention.

“Nooo!” No one could wail like a kid.

“Shhh…” She glared at the green male while she stroked the girl. Theresa was hurting and crying, obviously scared, and this massive Ujal wanted to take her away from a source of comfort. Lana understood the race didn’t care for humans and were worried about Lana’s intent, but she was the one who’d swum into the middle of the ocean, wasn’t she? She wouldn’t have come out to save Theresa if she meant to do harm.

That weird thing in her mind tried to push forward, and she shoved it back. If she resisted his attempts at emotional manipulation and control, she could resist some aliens.

Fatigue slowly inched its way into her, the waning of adrenaline leaving her exhausted. Her strength gradually flagged the longer she held Theresa while treading water. She wouldn’t last too much longer, not against the gentle unending battery by the currents. Then she wouldn’t have a choice but to relinquish the girl.

“Theresa,” the green male growled, the sound threatening. His glower sent a small shiver of worry down her spine.

“No!” Theresa clung to her even tighter and she could tell that further arguing would just make her dig her heels—er, tail—in even harder.

Lana would try to reason with the green male.

“Look, I swam out to save her because—” Lana ignored the snorts and didn’t let her focus waver. “—the guy on the beach…” She tipped her head toward the pale sand and then glanced at that male as well. He prowled the beach, striding back and forth. Fury and worry filled his form, making each step heavy and brisk. “Just let her swim on her own and didn’t come after her when she yelled for help.”

The stranger stopped and cupped his hands before shouting, “Bikk!”

The green guy—Bikk?—sighed and shook his head before turning his attention to another male—this one pink. “Go tell Taulan that all is well. We will escort—“ Bikk glanced at her, a single brow raised.

“Lana Cob—“ She really needed to get used to her new name. “Cooper.”

“Lana Cooper to the station.” The male swam off and Bikk’s attention remained locked on her. “We will bring you with us. You can obtain new clothing and speak with security personnel.”

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