Fiona watched the dragon wade into a bush of red flowers, ducking its head to take a bite and then raising it to watch her. It did not look interested in immediately attacking.
“What do you think?” Fiona whispered. “It might attack if we move.”
He kicked at the stones that had not been there five minutes ago and looked straight ahead.
“If this dragon wanted to kill me, two of its friends had a chance and let it go. I’m going nowhere.”
“Neither am I.”
With a sudden shrug of hanging ivy and white roses and a flutter of candlelight a tall man in a sleeveless top and knee-high boots walked through the middle arch calling the child’s name. “Alisana!”
The dragon paused nibbling on the flowers, looked in his direction but stayed where it was.
He descended, put his hands on her shoulders and said in something less than a gentle voice, “What are you doing here? How did you get through? We’ve told you…did your friend bring you through again?”
“I don’t know. I saw the lights but she’s not here. I didn’t go away from the steps.”
“Go back, find Vaun and tell him I need him.” She looked obstinate, and he added in a firmer voice, “Alisana, go on, there’s no time, you know that.”
She went but with no good grace, glancing behind her at them with a final smile before padding silently under one of those arches. Jay took a step forward and the man immediately ordered, “Stay where you are.”
Jay stared right back at him. “That’s not an order you can give. You’re the one who called me, not the other way around, and we’re not leaving yet.”
A woman suddenly strode through an arch on the far left. She carried a knife in a sheathe on her right hip visible only briefly before her short coat covered it.
She approached the man and they spoke together in low voices as they watched them, two pairs of intent eyes, both hard but neither hostile. “When did they arrive?” she asked.
“I’m guessing not long. I thought you’d already left. Where’s Vaun?”
“He left on the first ship, something about a landslide.”
Both of them stared down the stairs and out across the grass at Fiona and Jay. The man said, “We have to go back now, but I want to make sure Pirene isn’t here. I can’t hold this door and one of them at the same time.”
Striding silently past Jay’s car, paying it no attention as if she saw cars all the time, she stopped and looked out at the marina. There were no boats anchored on this side but she watched those on the other side of the harbor as they bobbed up and down at the piers. The marina restaurants were busy at this time of night.
She looked at them, silent, serious, but still not hostile. Like Alisana, Fiona thought she was probably not human.
“Pirene cannot use these doors, we’re almost certain of that. There’s no one here but these two. What would you do with them?”
He hesitated, took a quick glance in their direction and then looked back at the woman. “The boy may be the one Kenley was expecting.”
She shook her head. “We leave this to you then, I have the ship to meet.”
The man waited until she’d returned the way she’d come, right through the stone arch and the white roses into the dark, then he walked down the stairs and took a few steps away from them.
“I’m Drake Alcaide of Viridis Company. Are you Jay Lombardo?”
Fiona wanted to reach out and shove him or step on his foot or anything to keep him from answering. Because she couldn’t, she grabbed the moment before he could. “What if he is?”
Drake Alcaide almost smiled. “If he’s Jay Lombardo, Kenley Dirac asked us to send a message to him.”
The dragon raised his wings. “Kenley Dirac is my mother,” Fiona told him, struggling now with a combination of fear and frustration. She was losing track of things; this was becoming all about Jay.
“I know,” said Drake Alcaide.
That was not what he implied earlier. He knew them then, both of them, but his focus was entirely on Jay who now asked quietly, “What kind of message?”
The man studied him for a long moment. Jay quit even looking at him at all and was silently watching the creature with the wings on the other side of the grass. “What did she use to send the message?” he repeated.
“A flight of dragons.”