Home > Blackwing Defender (Kane's Mountains #1)(6)

Blackwing Defender (Kane's Mountains #1)(6)
Author: T.S. Joyce

Emma was standing on her log, too, neck craned as she watched the fight. If the human was brave enough to stay and see this thing through, then so could Winter. If for nothing else than to make sure the fight didn’t migrate this way and hurt the frail girl. Winter wasn’t as dominant as the brawlers, but she was a fast Changer, and her animal could fight well enough to protect Emma. She could at least buy her time to run.

The man who bumped her shoulder earlier Changed into a big, blond-furred grizzly and charged Kane. Two echoing clicks sounded and then fire, the shape and size of a soccer ball, struck the ground in front of the bear, stopping him in his tracks. And now Rowan, the fire-spewer, looked good and pissed. She jammed her finger at the grizzly. “You want to die today, you keep it up. You want to get into a Change-off in dragon territory, really? I’ll fucking eat you. Leave.”

The fire had brought the fight to a stop, and now the clearing was heavy with shocked silence and the scent of smoke and blood. Winter wondered how many noses Dark Kane had broken today.

The dark dragon himself stood close to the cabin, shoulders heaving, face like a beast, skin on his bulging arms cracking like concrete and cinching back together, cracking then cinching with every breath. And now Winter could see why Rowan had lost it. Dark Kane didn’t have the best control, and mass Changes would summon his hellish monster from him. Rowan had probably saved everyone in this clearing, and they didn’t even realize it.

Logan was standing closest to Kane, Beast next to him, then Dustin, glaring down the crowd. This is what happened with hordes of dominant shifters. One mistake could trigger an avalanche of violence.

Kane snarled and spun, limped up the porch stairs, and disappeared inside, slamming the door behind him hard enough to rattle the tiny cabin. For reasons unknown to her, Logan slid a lingering glance to her. His eyes were bright silver, and crimson streamed from his lip. The neck of his T-shirt had been ripped, and there was a seeping gash on his neck. He didn’t look in pain, though. He looked…concerned. You okay? he mouthed.

Winter checked behind her, but she was alone. Was she okay? She wasn’t the one bleeding all over the dark dragon’s front lawn. Jerkily, she nodded and mouthed, You?

Logan ripped his gaze away and spat red in the grass. Okay then.

Rowan disappeared inside, but Air Ryder was still leaning against the railing looking flushed. About half of the crowd was already drifting back to their cars, but to the rest who lingered, he said, “Fill out your applications, and I’ll be back out with you shortly.”

“So the crew recruitment is still on?” Dustin asked.

Air Ryder shrugged coyly. “Maybe.” Then frowned down at his phone. “Is there a Winter Donovan here?” His attention went right to her, and his ruddy eyebrows arched high. “Winter of Red Havoc?”

Winter swallowed hard under all the attention that had suddenly been cast her way.

“No,” she said, lifting her chin higher. “I’m Winter of Nowhere.”

Air Ryder’s lips stretched into a slow smile. “Good. Come with me.”

Chapter Three

What was happening? Winter’s legs were numb as she stumbled off the log and made her way toward the lair of the dark dragon. It wasn’t the cliff mansion she’d imagined. It was just a small cabin, and she was about to shove herself in that tiny space with two mother-freakin’ dragons? And Air Ryder, who was one of the most battle-proven flight shifters in the entire universe. Oh, he might joke and look relaxed, but his eyes were blazing gold, and the closer she got to him, the heavier he felt.

Logan stood tall in front of her, head cocked as if confused by her, but he stepped out of the way as she approached. The clearing was silent, as though everyone was waiting for her to make her way to a guillotine or something. On a whim, she stopped at Logan and parted her lips to say something, but what? Her brain was on shut-down mode. Save me if I call? Come in there with me? He had no reason to do her any favors. She was a stranger. Something deep inside of her, some tiny instinct, told her she should fear this man, but she could also trust him.

When she looked up into his eyes, they were churning like silver storm clouds, and his teeth were gritted. He smelled of blood, and her animal reacted. Winter hissed at him before carrying on to follow Air Ryder up the porch steps.

Her cheeks heated with mortification. She’d hissed at a monster and then given him her back? Her instincts were broken. At the door, she cast a quick glance over her shoulder at Logan, but where she expected fury etched in his features, she found calculation and curiosity instead.

With a steadying breath, she stepped inside and closed the door behind her. Ryder was already making his way toward a hallway door where Winter could hear crashing and stomping from inside.

Ryder flung it open with an expectant smile and said, “Honey, I’m hooome,” and then neatly ducked as a glass of water shattered against the wall behind him. “You wait here,” he said, pointing Winter to a spot near the door.

“That close?”

Air Ryder ignored her and disappeared inside the room with Dark Kane. Brave snowy owl. Winter wanted to survive, so she stayed right where she was, near the exit and nearest Logan because she’d somehow convinced herself if she needed protection from dragon’s fire, he was the monster to see.

Her inner panther nodded in agreement.

Ready to bolt at any moment, she sat on the very edge of a leather couch, hands clenched in her lap.

Movement caught her attention in the small kitchen, and Winter jumped as Rowan appeared. She filled a glass of water and leaned back on the counter, lips quirked up in a half-smile. “Rowan,” she introduced herself.

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