Dragon Wish
on
    her arms and head. Satisfied, he nodded, taking her reins in
    his free hand. “Hold on. I will go slowly, but with the rain,
    79
    Dragon Wish
    the trail will be rough.”
    The wind carried her affirmative answer to him then tore
    it away just as swiftly. He reined his dragoon’s head to the
    right, nudging its sides. The beast stepped forward, its
    footing steady and sure on the slick stone slab streets.
    Seren screamed. She scrambled to wrap her arms around
    her dragoon’s neck. “Wait. Can we walk instead?”
    “No. Sit straight. Hang on and you’ll become adjusted to
    the gait. Or if you like, I can carry you before me.” Hope
    budded in his chest and migrated to the area between his
    legs. He would like her to agree. He wanted to feel her body
    pressed against his.
    Her answer came quick, without hesitation. “No.”
    Paladin chuckled. They proceeded up the winding street
    through the city, passing the white-walled buildings with the
    palm leaf roofs, and into the dense jungle beyond Dene.
    The wind howled through the canopy. The rain thinned
    out. The jungle’s dense foliage prevented the pounding
    downpour from striking them as severely as when they were
    in the open streets.
    He leaned back in the saddle, shouting over his shoulder.
    “It is not far ahead.”
    Seren did not answer. He glanced in her direction. Her
    grip on the sinewy neck had loosened and she sat a little
    straighter.
    Even with the protection of the trees, the rain struck
    heavy blows on Paladin’s head and shoulders. After several
    minutes, he looked back at her. She slumped in the saddle,
    her head low and tilted to the right side. Worried, he leaned
    over, shouting above the rain. “Are you all right?”
    She nodded.
    Concerned, he turned to the front. He should have stayed
    on board his ship until the storm had passed, but he wanted
    her to meet with the man from her Earth. With a hard thrust
    of his foot, he urged the muscled beast forward. The
    dragoon’s wide, webbed feet with three inch claws, clung to
    80
    Dragon Wish
    the slick clay silt on the path. Step after long step, they
    moved faster.
    A throbbing fire set up in Paladin’s shoulder. Holding
    Seren’s reins, his arm was pulled back and bent at an odd
    angle. He squeezed his fingers around the leather, tugging,
    hoping the other mount would move closer to give him a
    small amount of relief. He didn’t want his arm going numb,
    causing him to lose his hold on her reins.
    Seren’s dragoon obeyed. The greenish scaled beast placed
    its tapered nose against Paladin’s knee and kept it there.
    From this distance, he needed only to reach out to touch
    Seren. A grim half-smile formed while he fought to suppress
    sudden protective instinct rising within him. She was female
    to his male. He quelled the urge to howl out his need for her.
    The rain would prevent her from hearing, even at this close
    range, anything lower than a booming shout.
    The jungle path widened at the top of a high sloping
    ridge. Three lunges and the two dragoons broke over the top.
    Small, white twinkles appeared through the thick downpour.
    He sighed in relief. Excitement raced in his veins at the light
    up ahead. The dragoons sped up; Paladin frowned at the
    change of pace. Both beasts moved without any guidance, as
    if they knew this place. The only explanation was that Largin,
    the wizard they were going to see, had sent them. No wonder
    the Felerians had no trouble finding dragoons for them to
    ride. But how had the wizard known of their arrival?
    A sprawling house came into view. One story on the
    nearest end, two on the other, the stone walls with the
    thatched roof beckoned him, offering refuge from the
    weather. Yellow flames flickered in covered sconces on either
    side of the solid wood entrance. A small window cut high in
    the door spilled light on the stone steps leading to the door.
    Paladin’s dragoon halted in front of the entrance and
    roared, its head thrown back, mouth open to reveal

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