Some of his good humor returned. “That’s a very long tale, some five thousand years.”
“Then pick out the parts that matter and skip ahead to my bits.”
Luca furrowed his brow as he looked ahead of himself and his eyes took on a faraway look. “My kingdom is old. Very old, even for those of my world. The tales say we were brought out of the earth to guide all the other races.” He grinned down at me. “Our first act was to save a tiny village from a flood.”
I lifted an eyebrow. “Races?”
He nodded. “Yes. There are quite a few, but humans are the most prominent. Dragons like me are nonexistent outside of my bloodline.”
My second eyebrow shot up. “You’re a dragon?”
He grinned. “You don’t believe me?”
I looked him over. “You’re missing most of the hardware.”
Luca stretched out his hand to me. “Would you like me to show you?”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Show me what?”
His face was softened by a smile and I couldn’t help but be enchanted by his bright eyes. “How beautiful my world is.”
My eyes flickered between his face and hand, and a frown creased my lips. I reached up and pinched my arm. Hard. I winced.
Luca’s eyes twinkled with mischief. “Am I a figment of your imagination?”
“Not yet,” I mused as I hesitantly laid my hand in his. “But I still have my doubts.”
“Then let me fly them away,” he teased as he led me over to the wide window from which I had been looking out, though he paused long enough to toss his crown onto the bed.
The sill was about a foot wide and the bottom wasn’t too far from the floor. Luca hopped onto the sill and was able to stand up without hitting the arched top.
I planted my feet firmly on terra firma and gawked up at him. “Are you nuts? We could fall!”
He winked at me. “That’s the idea.”
I yelped as he bent down and grasped my arms. He drew me up onto the sill and I instinctively clutched onto him. A light breeze blew past us, and its scent hinted at flowers in bloom and a touch of sea air.
“Suicide is not the answer!” I snapped as I tried to free myself from his powerful grasp. “Especially when I’m involved!”
Luca wrapped his arms around me and pressed me lightly against his chest. “Trust me.” Then he leaned into the abyss and took me with him.
I couldn’t help but scream as we plunged toward the ground hundreds of feet below us. Luca slipped one arm under my butt and drew my face against the crook of his neck. The sun hung over us as though a spectator in this last bit of insanity.
That is, until it was blocked out. Two shadows covered the sun, and at the same time we were jerked upward a few feet and away from our certain doom. I lifted my eyes to the shadows and my jaw fell open.
A pair of leather wings protruded from Luca’s back. They stretched far out on both sides of us and I could see each tiny bit of bone adjust to take in every hint of wind. We were kept aloft by that constant effort, along with a flap or two to keep our height.
I raised my wide eyes to Luca’s bemused face. “You. . .you. . .you have. . .”
“Wings?” he finished for me as a chuckle escaped his lips. “Yes, I have them. It’s a family trait.”
I was mesmerized by the soothing motion of the muscles and leather as they moved in time with the smallest of breezes. Mesmerized, that is, until Luca flapped hard and lifted us a little higher.
A devilish twinkle slipped into his eyes. “Care for a guided tour of my city?”
I frowned. “What do you mean-”
I interrupted myself with a scream as Luca dove down. The wind whipped past my face as the earth came up on us. The winding road down the castle entrance came closer and closer. I prepped for an earth-shattering kaboom, but it didn’t come. Luca opened his wings wide and we glided twenty feet above the ground. He turned us upward and we cleared the rooftops of the fine houses that lined the wide road. They reminded me of Georgian mansions in English countrysides, though without the massive grounds.
“That’s the Procession Road,” he told me as we flew past elegant lampposts and a few white benches placed at intervals along the route. “Every king since the beginning has walked down the road to the site of the coronation.”
I looked at the world through peeks and glances. “Would it be too much to ask if we had this guided tour from the ground?”
“We’ll attract attention,” he warned me.
I looked down at the folk who traveled along the route. They were dressed in all manner of styles, from Victorian to medieval peasant. A few carriages rolled up to the side of the road, and women in large feathered hats poked their heads out and admired my flying companion. A few even waved their ostrich fans at him.
“King Luca!” one of them cooed from the window of her elegant white carriage pulled along by two equally white horses. “When will we have that brunch you promised me?”
Luca only smiled and bowed his head to her, though I noticed he flapped faster. I leaned back and studied his face with a barely concealed grin. “So that’s why you want to avoid landing.”
“A rich man has many admirers.”
“Well, this woman isn’t going to be one of them unless you put her down.”
He grinned. “If I do that will you promise to be one?”
I snorted. “Not on your life, but you’re putting that in your hands if you don’t put me down.”
Luca laughed. “I’m very difficult to remove from the-ouch!”
I had grabbed his earlobe and given it a nice twist. I kept a firm hold on the flap as I smiled at him. “You were saying?”
He winced. “I was saying we’ll land soon.”
Luca turned us off onto a narrower side street and landed behind a stack of crates outside a side door. He set me down and I stumbled a few feet before turning around. My jaw hit the puddled ground as I watched his wings disappear behind his back.
He offered me his arm and a smile. “Shall we?”
I eyed both the man and the arm with a slight touch of suspicion. “You’re taking me home, right?”
His smile faltered a little, but he inclined his head. “I will take you to the portal immediately.” I raised an eyebrow, but accepted his arm. A grin slipped onto his lips as he drew me against his side. “And by the scenic route.”
My eyebrows crashed down. “You little sneak! You didn’t say anything about fine print!”
“The ‘fine print’ will get us to the destination, but by a-ahem-” He looked over his shoulder at Procession Street that opened behind us. I followed his gaze and noticed that a crowd had gathered behind us. Many of them gawked at Luca, but others had curious eyes for me. “-a quieter route.”
I faced ahead and frowned. “Alright, but no funny business.”
He chuckled as he led me forward toward a smaller street. “Your euphemisms are quite amusing.”
I looked him up and down. “I’m surprised you know them at all, and that you speak my language.”
“Your world and mine aren’t too different,” he mused as we stepped out into the off-street.
A horse trotted past with a strange man riding in the saddle. The man had mouse ears that stuck out of his tall hat, and a tail swished out from his pants. His four fingers were round and pudgy, and his face stretched out into a short pale snout.
I snorted as I watched the mouse man disappear down the street. “Yeah, just like home. . .”