The Platinum Dragon's Mate - Zoe Chant
Chapter 1: Reid
Show them nothing.
The mantra echoed through Reid’s head as he stepped outside, joining up with the small group of shifters who were preparing for a visit to enemy territory.
Enemy for some of them, at least.
The four of them were neatly divided: there was Reid himself, along with his oldest friend Santos, two native sons of Oak Ridge, a haven for shifters and humans alike. A town where they could all live together in peace, no need for secrecy. Or violence.
And then there was Athena, Santos’ newly discovered mate, and her brother Alaric. The two of them were from—well, as far as Reid had been able to tell, their settlement didn’t have a name. Or a permanent location, even; Athena had implied that the clan moved around a lot. Presumably to keep anyone from learning where they hid out.
Athena’s clan was not in the habit of socializing with humans. In fact, they seemed to believe that shifters were feral creatures, violent by their very nature, without the need for safety or comfort.
Or doctors. Apparently.
Reid let his gaze settle on the fifth member of their party, the one who’d sealed his decision to go on this possibly suicidal visit in the first place: Athena’s baby daughter Olivia.
There were children in this clan, and they didn’t have any kind of basic care. Shifters were hardy, they healed well, and they weren’t susceptible to many of the issues that humans were, but they still needed something.
So when this insane idea was proposed—just walk into enemy territory and hope that no one attacks and kills anybody!—Reid had known he had to volunteer.
He sure wasn’t looking forward to it, though.
“Hey.” Santos nudged him. “You ready to do this?”
“Of course I’m not ready to do this. None of us has ever done anything like this before.” The words came out of Reid’s mouth before he thought better of them, and he bit his tongue in annoyance. Show them nothing.
Santos was his friend, of course—but he didn’t know Athena and Alaric yet. It was better to have an idea of how trustworthy people were, before letting them see all your emotions right there on your face.
“We have,” Athena objected. “We came to Oak Ridge without any backup or preparation at all.”
“And some of us thought that that was a bad idea,” Alaric put in. “Some of us perhaps didn’t have any input on that decision at all. Maybe.”
Athena rolled her eyes. “It all worked out.” She hefted Olivia to her shoulder. “Are we ready?”
All eyes turned to Reid for some reason.
Well. Not for some reason. He knew why. He didn’t let on how uncomfortable it made him.
“I already spoke to my mother this morning,” he said. “There’s no reason to delay. Let’s go.”
His mother, the mayor of Oak Ridge, had met with him over breakfast—not at Lachlan’s Diner, the place where most people went for food, or even at the new coffee shop down the street. No, they’d met in the privacy of his parents’ lavish home.
“I’m surprised you volunteered for this,” she’d said as an opening salvo, sipping her espresso.
“They don’t have any doctors,” he’d told her for the fourth or fifth time.
“But you understand the political implications. Especially for a society like theirs. You’re the son of the clan leader: therefore, you’re my representative.” She’d smiled a little, a tiny quirk of a perfectly lipsticked mouth. “You hate being my representative.”
“I do,” he’d admitted. She already knew that, anyway. “I just think that this is more important than what I hate or don’t hate.”
“Mm.” She set her cup down and met his eyes. “I’m surprised, but I’m not unhappy. I couldn’t have gone myself.”
He understood why. “It would’ve been too much of a challenge.”
“Yes. From what I know of their leader, he’d start a fight immediately, and—” she shrugged— “he’d win. I haven’t fought another shifter in single combat in decades, and it seems like he does it every day and twice on Sundays.”
Reid preferred to convince people with knowledge, skill, and confidence rather than violence, himself. “If we can show the rest of the clan what they’re missing...”
His mother nodded. “Exactly. Maybe we can bypass him entirely. From what Athena’s said, it seems like they’re basically living in the woods. See if you can convince them that they could do better.”
“After I make sure anyone who needs medical attention is getting it,” he reminded her.
“I don’t see why you can’t do both simultaneously,” she pointed out.
Reid was never going to be a politician.