Kissed by FireBy: Kimber White
My fire coiled through me. It was always there, swirling, simmering, pulling me. The first weekend in May and the cold had finally left Chicago, hopefully for good. Runners crowded the trails along Lake Shore Drive, desperate for the bright sun on their faces after so long indoors. No one knew. No one even guessed what was inside me.
I turned away from the lake and made my way toward Seminary Street. My dragon stirred, pulled first by the sound of laughter. A young couple walked arm in arm, sipping iced coffee from the chic little shop at the corner. I stretched my reach, taking a deep breath as the man straightened his back. He was just a normal man though. I sensed no shifter blood in him. Still, he sensed something in me. He kept his smile in place, but tightened his grip on his girlfriend. I nodded as we passed on the sidewalk.
I pulled out the tiny scrap of paper my brother Gideon had given me. He’d written the address in his scrawling cursive that no one outside the family could read. I crumpled the paper again and crammed it in my suitcoat pocket. I was overdressed for the neighborhood. The Lakeview District was made up of hipsters and young people now. It thrived with new, reborn energy. I’d seen it transform from generation to generation. Thriving. Dying. Coming back to life.
I nearly walked right by the little bookstore as I scanned the other shops and people on the street. There was no reason to think anyone out here would threaten me. I knew my power. It crackled through me, coiled strength and burgeoning heat. My dragon was on edge. I’d controlled him for three hundred years. Today should have been just another day. Another dead end or wild goose chase Avelina sent one of us on.
Dragonstone. I wasn’t even sure I’d know it when I saw it. Part of me questioned whether it ever existed. I wasn’t the only one. My brothers had their doubts as well, but when Avelina wanted something, she usually got it. For the last five years, she’d been determined to chase down every lead and half-baked rumor about where to find the stuff. It was the key she said. Where there was dragonstone, there had to be another dragon.
I crossed the street and stood outside the bookstore, shoving my hands in my pockets. I drew a few more curious stares from pedestrians. No one came in or out of the store.
“Ridiculous,” I muttered as I read the faded sign above the front door. Professor Marvin’s Used Books & Baubles.
I knew how this would go. I’d walk inside and feel nothing but the dark, quiet. There would be no mystery. No ancient pull. No dragonstone. This particular goose chase seemed wilder than most. Over the years, my brothers and I had been to every corner of the earth searching for a trace of Avelina’s magic hunk of rock. What were the odds I’d find some just a few miles from where we lived?
I let out a sigh and peered through the window. I saw no customers. Just rows of books from floor to ceiling. Professor Marvin peddled worthless trinkets too, it appeared. Quite the setup. I had to give the guy credit for understanding his brand. I bet he did solid numbers on the weekends. This kind of place fit in perfectly with the artsy vibe of Lakeview.
My spine straightened as I heard a crash inside. In the far corner of the store, someone moved. I saw a swish of long, red hair and my fire swirled low in my core.
Easy, dragon. Get in. Get out. Get home.
The store didn’t open for a few minutes yet. I was tempted to open the door anyway. No lock in the world could keep me out. Just a quick flash of fire from my fingertips would get me inside. It was dangerous though. My dragon chafed to get free today. I wasn’t entirely sure I could let him out halfway. And that right there was the problem.
Avelina knew it. She wouldn’t say it. But she worried. I could see it in her face, sense it in her voice. Day by day. Little by little. She knew we were all losing control.
Not today though. Today I’d do what she asked. I’d search the store, talk to the owner, see if there was anything to see. There wouldn’t be, of course. There never was. Then, I’d go home and tell Avelina and the fire in her own eyes would dim that much more.
The minutes ticked away as I waited for someone to come and flip the closed sign to open. Five minutes past eleven and still, no one had. That shouldn’t have meant much. My cursory internet search of Professor Marvin told me he was seventy-five years old. He had a record too. Petty stuff mostly, but he sold medicinal weed when it wasn’t legal and twice got caught dealing in stolen goods. Yet one more reason why I figured this little field trip was a waste of time.