Dance of the Dragon Sorceress:Tangere Tales 3

By: Heather Rainier

Tangere Tales 3

Dance of the Dragon Sorceress


Prologue




Mount Rainier National Park



Elaina White balanced on the cusp of a dilemma. In the pitch-black cave tunnel in front of her, she heard sounds of certain distress. On the other hand—literally—her vintage Timex Indiglo told her that it was now five minutes into this excursion and time for her to head back to the mouth of the cavern she stood in.

If she continued forward, she had no idea how long the flickering LED lightbulb in her tiny flashlight would hold up. She’d gotten it, along with a couple of others, as freebies at a writer’s convention, from one of her favorite authors, Veronica Benedict, along with her autograph and a nice long gander at the hot cowboy who’d been hanging out with her at her table. Not a model but one of her husbands—

“Mmmm-mmmeee!”

Scoffing, she whispered, “Head in the game, toots. This is not a time to be thinking about hot cowboys in denim, leather, Stetsons, and boots, and Lord have mercy, is it hot in here or is it just—”

“Mmmm-mmmeee!”

“Okay, I hear ya. The girls will wait an extra few minutes for me. Hang tight, pussy, I’m coming in!”

That is so wrong, on so many levels. You should be ashamed of yourself.

She held the flashlight up, trying to maximize the scant illumination. It flickered, and she bopped the end with the palm of her hand.

“Ms. Benedict, honey, we gotta talk about your promo suppliers,” she muttered, as bopping the flashlight only succeeded in making it go out completely. “Well crap. Don’t worry, sweetie! I’ll save you. Just don’t move. I’ve gotta feel around for you.”

“Mmmmmeee-mmmeee!” The distressed call tugged at her heart. Maybe it was afraid of the dark. I thought cats could see in the dark.

She and her best friends, Angel Hunter and Caresse Baker, had decided they needed a girls’ camping weekend away. Away from a cheating ex-fiancé, in Angel’s case, away from work, in her case, and, in Caresse’s case, the somewhat insistent need for an excursion into the wilderness.

Their families had been friends for a long time, and they’d grown up together going on camping trips, and the spot they’d set up in had long been the favorite. It’d been especially meaningful to Caresse’s adoptive parents since it had been the spot where they’d found her, abandoned as an infant.

Angel, Caresse, and Elaina had barely gotten the campsite put together when a large white cat had flitted past, looking like dinner for some hungry predator. The cat appeared as though it was used to living the high life, and the girls couldn’t stand the thought of it possibly being hurt or killed in the forest.

They’d followed it to the entrance of a cave she couldn’t recall ever having seen in all the years they’d been camping in that spot. Predictably, before they could get a hold of the animal, it’d slipped inside the cave.

Now here they were searching three separate tunnels. Caresse loved camping, but she was deathly afraid of dark enclosed places, and Elaina had sent her friend into the dark with a potentially defective flashlight.

“I’m almost there, baby. Just…” She felt around in the dark and thought she touched the tip of a tail, but it slipped away.

Making a kissie sound, she murmured. “Come here, sweetie. I know you’re scared.”

A humid breeze suddenly rushed past her, stirring her hair back, and sent a soft tingle down her spine. A vibration caused the ground to tremble, similar to when a large truck drove past the window of her basement apartment. Whenever that happened, in theory at least, she knew she was safe but was always aware that something large was moving past.

For all she knew, the sound might’ve been in her head, like her pulse or the sound of her breathing.

She heard a soft noise, almost like a purr, and crouched down, thinking she might be doing more harm than good by looming over the poor little beast. She could practically sense the cat just up ahead and inched forward.

“Mmmm-mmmeee?” It sounded as though it had retreated a little.

“I’m right here. Maybe you could meet me halfway? Psss-psss-psss, come here, sweetie.”

The sound of a slight shuffle was followed by a sudden thump and squeal.

“Mmmm-mmmeee!” The broken, crackling sound of its cry tore at her heart.

“Stay there, I’m coming. I’m coming.” On hands and knees, she spread her arms out and slid her hands across the dusty ground, searching for the kitty, hoping it hadn’t seriously hurt itself.

“You okay?” Only silence. “Hey, you okay?”

“Mmmm,” came a whimper, and she felt decidedly guilty at the sound.

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