My apologies for the delay in posting this. I’ve been in the Sierras with my family and just returned. After listening to all of your advice (thank you!) this will be the last chapter of this book that I post. I’ve decided to write the whole story and if I ever hope to publish it then I can’t have it also available online. However, any of you who would like to receive the chapters privately please email me or comment and I will put you into the Dragon Reading Group.
Thanks to everyone who helped me with this chapter. Your feedback and proofreading are invaluable in my continuing effort not to look like a complete dork in public. Also, a huge special thank you to Irena Keller who is serving as my Hebrew consultant. She is amazing!
I do hope that you enjoy this. I’ve become very fond of Daisy.
“Siobhan,” said Alex, “you need to calm down and explain what happened.”
I drew a deep breath and shuddered. We were alone in the house: Alex, Tim, and me. Tim had sent his extra guys on to another job saying that they were needed there more.
I accepted the glass of whiskey that Alex handed me. He was such a traditionalist, my brother. It was the perfect two-finger pour of scotch. At least he didn’t offer me a paper bag.
Alex bent down to my level. His brown eyes were wide and honest as they gazed into mine. “Talk to me. What on earth was it?”
I shook my head. I sat with a thud on the stepladder and exhaled. Then I looked at Alex. “Permission to speak frankly?”
He smiled at the phrase we had used so many times over the years. “Of course.” Then he and Tim waited.
I have to admit it. It hurt my pride a little to have Tim there. He knew a lot about me, but not everything. There is nothing like a brush with the supernatural to make a person feel vulnerable. Are you special or are you, well, something else? I shuddered to think what my myriad of therapists over the years might have said.
“Siobhan?” asked Tim.
“Yeah, well,” Alex looked at Tim. “You aren’t talking. That’s not, um…”
“Normal,” finished Tim.
“You did say ‘frankly’, sis.”
“Right,” I hefted myself up and looked at the two of them with renewed affection. “Boys, grab the bottle and two more glasses. Let’s talk about it in the garden.
“So, let me see if I’ve got this straight,” began Tim, once we were back out on the patio. “You have a dragon hiding in your grandparents’ garden, Siobhan can spot a lie at four hundred paces, Ian is some quasi-demon scary dude, Alex and I were just Jedi mind-tricked into walking away from our lunches without remembering a thing and I’m still stuck with the kitchen job?”
Alex and I clinked our glasses together. “Yep,” agreed my brother. “I think that about covers it.”
Alex and I waited for Tim’s response. He poured himself a glass of scotch and then waved it at us as he spoke. “You all,” he said, sounding indignant, “act like I don’t know a thing about this.” He drained his glass and poured himself another one. The he recapped the bottle and pushed it away.
“I’ve always known Siobhan was the wrong person to lie to,” he said, sighing. “Only an idiot lies to her. It never seems to work out.”
He drank deeply from his glass and continued, “And, as to the dragon, God, you all told me about her when I was eight!”
“And Ian?” I asked.
Tim looked at Alex and then at the glass he held. He set the glass aside and gripped one of my hands tightly in his. “Well, he is awfully pretty.”
“Screw pretty,” I muttered, “He’s beautiful and cursed. He’s powerful. I can’t explain it. Ian scares me.” I wasn’t in the mood for Tim’s attempts at humor. “Look, I don’t know if you two are going to believe me, but I think something huge is happening here.”
“Can we meet the dragon?” asked Tim.
“I wish you could,” I said. “The thing is; I’m afraid that when Daisy comes back we’ll be in the middle of a war.”
“Who is she fighting?”
I peered into my glass. I wasn’t used to drinking in the middle of the day. “Look, guys. I know I already sound a little nutty. I think I need some information and then maybe I can figure this out?” I meant it as a statement, but it came out as a question.
Alex frowned at me. “How do you get more information on this? Craig’s List?”
Tim made a noise that I could only call a snort and said, “Yeah, right. Can we go to the authorities about Ian?”
Now it was my turn to snort, although I didn’t out loud. Instead, I spoke slowly, “A former child of therapy still clings to the notion of a dragon in her backyard and now says that the local heartthrob is a nasty, err… something, call it demonic. That would play well with the police, right, Tim?”
“Okay, so conventional authorities are out. Where else can we go?”
I frowned. “Daisy said she’d been here for a very long time and then in my dream she said I needed to ‘keep the garden safe’. Maybe there is something about this spot? What was this place before it was our grandparents’ home?”
I got up and grabbed my laptop, hoping to find some answers. I quickly ascertained that the land deeds I needed to see were not yet available online. Alex and Tim were both watching over my shoulder as I shook my head. “Well?” asked Tim.
“It looks like I need to go over to the city offices,” I said. “No easy answers here.”
Alex checked his watch. “Hey guys, I’m sorry, but I need to get to the café. Call me later?”
I nodded as he gave me a quick hug. “You bet.”
As Alex left I glanced at Tim. “You don’t need to stay. I’m just a client.”
“You’ll never be just a client. You and Alex are two of the oldest friends that I have.” His voice dropped and he added, “Besides, I’ve never seen you so rattled, Sh’belle.”
“You don’t get to call me that anymore.”
He winced. “You’re scared.”
I grimaced as I packed my laptop into a backpack and grabbed my keys. “That’s just it. I don’t know for sure what I’m scared of yet.”
“But, you have an idea.”
I tried to contain the shudder that passed through me, but I think that he saw it. “Yeah, I have an idea.”
“So, to City Hall we go?”
Tim drove to City Hall over on Washington Street. It was only a few minutes away; everything is close in Calistoga. The antiquated, but charming, white building sat on a corner. It looked more like a fire station than City Hall. This was only fitting as for many years, it actually had been a fire station.
We parked about a block away and walked over to the city offices. I think Tim sensed my mood because he took my hand in his as we walked. His warm, familiar grip felt good and I squeezed his hand in return. “Thanks.”
We shared a good moment. Then I heard, “Excuse me, miss?”
I turned my head to the speaker. He was taller than me, just about six foot. He was also older than I was, in his early forties. He seemed to be of Persian descent and he reminded me of a desert sheikh. At least, he had a very distinctive, noble hawk’s profile. His hair was very black and curly. He wore a mustache and a close-trimmed beard. The man’s eyes were dark, but they had a shine and a sparkle radiating from them. The small lines around them were lines of laughter. He appeared kind and perhaps a little tired.
“I’m sorry to bother you. Perhaps you could help me find Fair Way? I’m all turned around.” He smiled and Tim and I both smiled back in spite of our preoccupations. There was a touch of sunshine to his expression.
He shifted his backpack a bit when he spoke. Something about his back, or at least the space above his back bothered me. It shifted in and out of focus. He saw my puzzled gaze and his smile broadened. “I always pack too much,” he said in a self-deprecating tone and shrugged. Perhaps, I reflected, I should not have scotch at lunchtime.
“Well, you’re very close,” I answered. “It’s just about a block from here, that way.” I pointed down the street ahead of us.
“Thanks so much,” the stranger said. His eyes met mine with such an open, honest expression that it was easy to respond in kind. After my encounter with Ian the light that radiated from him was a relief.
He turned and walked up the street. Tim and I continued towards the pristine white building with its cheerful flower boxes. As we approached the city offices I saw the telltale, shimmering lines in the air. They looked like waves of heat coming off a hot street, but it wasn’t warm today. Tim’s hand tightened on mine and I realized in surprise he was seeing the same thing I was.
We watched as Ian stepped through these rippling waves in the air from some place unseen to where we were. Tim’s grasp on my hand tightened. I did not respond. Looking at Ian, I saw again the layers of faces: fiery light, dark and the beautiful human face before me now. My stomach turned at the sight of the darkness.
Ian flicked a glance at Tim and waved his hand as he had earlier in my garden. “Run away, forget, there is nothing here for you.”
To my surprise, Tim did not move. If anything, his fierce grip on my hand became even tighter, to the point of pain. Still, Tim did not speak. His face was a study in concentration. Ian’s perfect brow furrowed for a moment as he looked in puzzlement at Tim, then he looked at our joined hands and his expression cleared. “So be it,” he said.
Ian took a step closer to us. Unlike earlier, his expression was not neutral or curious. It was predatory, almost hungry. Something had changed in the intervening hours. I swallowed hard as my mind raced, trying to figure a way out of this.
Ian came even closer until he stood right in front of me. I raised my face to gaze on his. The conflicting kaleidoscope of images held me fast. I wanted to run away, but I could not move. Ian put one of his hands on each of my shoulders and spoke intently as his eyes held mine, “Ani roe otach, Haroa. I see you, Watcher.”
“Lo, Innon!” came a powerful shout. I turned to the sound, breaking the hypnotic spell that Ian had held over me. The man I had given directions to moments before was back and yelling at Ian in fury. “Ani roe otcha, Innon!”
Ian stepped back. His face had become a mask of frustration and rage. “Turel, I found her. I See her. This is my right.”
The dark-haired man I had helped put his backpack down and folded his arms. “No, for now I See her and there are laws that will not be broken. The human Haroa shall be present. She is in my Sight and in Our gaze. You will submit or pay forfeit, Innon.”
The two men locked stares in what was clearly a battle of wills. Then I gasped as the man called Turel began to glow. The light, the sunshine I had seen in his eyes suffused his entire being. For a moment I thought I saw the shifting waves above him and then I realized the area above his back and shoulders was a kind of pocket in reality. It was a pocket of an alternate dimension. As Daisy had once hid her bulk from my five-year-old self’s eyes in the garden, Turel hid his wings.
Turel’s light became brighter, as bright as the morning sunrise. His face grew stern and he barked a command at Ian, “Hit’alem, Innon!” Ian shot one more longing glance at me and then disappeared.
“Holy shit,” I heard Tim whisper next to me.
I held up one hand to shield my eyes as I stared at the glory of an angel revealed before us. Turel walked over to me and cupped one hand under my chin, tilting my face up to meet his eyes. He kissed one of my cheeks and then the other. His expression softened as he looked at my confused face. “Siobhan Isabella Orsini, my blessing is on you,” he intoned. It felt like he was performing a ritual and I wondered how he knew my name. “My name is Turel. I am one of the Two Hundred Fallen. We are the Observers of this war. You have my blessing and my protection as was foretold. For you are the human Haroa, the Watcher. May you always See true.” Then he pressed his lips to my forehead. “Shalom.”
“I can offer my blessing and my protection over your home,” he offered. “Do you wish me to include your garden, too?”
I opened my mouth, but for once, nothing came out of it. I tried again, hoping I didn’t look as foolish as I felt. “What?”
“I say unto you again, do you want me to include the garden?”
I thought of my dream and I found my voice. “Yes, I need my garden protected.”
Turel smiled and then he, an angel, winked at me. “Good girl.”