Gabe headed through the foyer toward the kitchen, snagging a bottle of water and downing it on his way out the back door. Kicking off his flip-flops, he jumped from the porch to the grass and hit the ground running.
Three strides in, the magic took over. It shimmered down his back, tracing his spine, almost sexual as it tickled his skin. His face elongated, forming a snout covered with silver scales, while his eyes widened and narrowed, the irises turning into little more than silver slits. Horns sprouted from his head, curling toward his back, which was bubbling and twisting as his body grew, getting larger, longer, more serpentine. Wings emerged from his shoulder blades, growing and stretching until they were ten feet wide, fully extended.
He was still running as his wings flapped, lifting him from the ground, propelling him into the sky before he was even fully formed. He let out a breath, shooting fire at nothing at all, and headed for the clouds, bursting through them at top speed, water droplets clinging to his leathery skin until he soared higher and the wind whisked it all away.
He burst through the clouds again, emerging beneath them in time to see the shimmer of magic swell around her as Talia shifted for Ruby’s enjoyment. He flew in lazy circles, watching as she turned into a dragon as well, smaller than his own form but no less impressive.
Ruby, small as a doll from this height, clapped her hands and bounced on her feet, calling out encouragement as Talia did first a front and then a backward flip before soaring down to the ground and turning back to the sky at the last moment.
Gabe held his breath. Something poured through his system, a magic he had never experienced before. It urged him to fly lower, which was weird. He flew alone, always had.
What the fuck was going on in his head?
Talia remained in flight for a few more minutes and then landed next to Ruby, who ran up to her, not afraid in the least, and gave her dragon form a hug. He was nose-diving before he realized what was happening, his dragon insisting, for some damn reason, on joining them.
When he landed next to her, Talia arched one scaly eyebrow while Ruby rushed over and patted his chest. “I love dragons,” she declared, and he snorted, fire bursting from his nostrils and hitting the ground a foot from the little girl.
Talia roared and bumped him with her head, a stern look on her dragon face.
It was an accident, he thought.
You almost fried your own daughter.
Gabe whipped around to stare at Talia, who had an equally shocked look on her own snout. He shook his head, motioning—shift back!—and then he did just that, quickly magicking his clothing back on before Ruby got an eyeful of the type of body parts she’d better not see until she was at least thirty. If then.
Talia followed his lead and he deliberately stared at her, just to catch a glimpse of her naked body in that brief few seconds before she, too, magicked her clothes on. His dragon, now contained inside his human form, roared with approval even though the moment was so quick he didn’t really even see anything.
What the hell?
“You heard me,” he blurted as soon as they were both in human form.
“You heard me,” she responded, pointing at him.
“That doesn’t happen. Dragons can’t speak to each other. It’s impossible.”
“It’s not,” she qualified. “It’s just really rare.” She looked down at the little girl, who was watching them as if they were an animated TV show.
“And why am I suddenly attracted to you?”