BASTIEN: A Vale of Stars Short
An exclusive look at an important secondary character from the Vale of Stars series.
She looked delicious. Black corset squeezing too tight, plump red lips sucking down her pink drink, long lashes framing sweet brown eyes, and a tumble of blonde hair falling over one shoulder and breast. Yeah. If she darted out her tongue one more time to retrieve her cocktail straw, I’d give her something more exciting to do with her pretty mouth. “You want another drink, darling?” I nodded at the bartender, Keelie. Keelie poured another draft then set the tankard in front of me, giving me a tight smile when I tossed double the coin on the bar, her dark green wings ruffling at her back before she tightened them again. “Keelie. Bring the lady another one of those pink things she’s drinking.” My admirer for the last half hour giggled and scooted onto the stool next to me, her dangerously short skirt hiking wonderfully higher. “This pink thing will burn the hair right off your chest.” Her eyes scanned lower as if she could see straight through my shirt. Keelie poured the nasty concoction then set the glass in front of her before heading to another patron waving his hand down the bar. I made no pretense of hiding my own wayward thoughts, taking in the lovely view of her ample cleavage on display. “I’m more of a beer man. But I’m happy to buy you as many as you like.” She picked up her cocktail and tapped one red-painted nail on the rim. “You should try the pink firebomb. You don’t know what you’re missing.” And there went that tongue again, wetting her bottom lip before she took the straw in her mouth. There was no question we weren’t talking about a damn drink, especially when her hand slid onto my thigh. “I know you,” she said, tilting her head with a coquettish smile. “Do you?” “You’re that senator’s son. The one on the news all the time.” Swallowing my sigh, I leaned closer, letting my fingers graze one brown wing as I stretched my arm around the back of her barstool. She closed her eyes on a shiver. Very sweet. Her wings were sensitive which meant she’d be good in bed. “He’s the consul-elect, actually,” I corrected. “Consul? Really!” “Nothing official yet, of course. But these deals are done behind closed doors, you see.” She leaned closer, lowering her lashes. “That means you’re important.” Beautiful, but not bright. No matter. I’d gladly take what she was offering for one night. I didn’t need a lover for a season. Just one gorgeous bombshell who could take my mind off Cloven politics and my father’s expectations of me joining the Senate as his replacement when he became consul. That’s all I needed. “Not really. Just a politician’s son.” “And a Silverback.” She lifted a slender arm over my shoulder and stroked the arch of my wing. My cock hardened to pain in an instant. Her breasts brushed my arm when she leaned closer. “I’ve always loved the color of a Silverback’s wings. And yours are so big.” Her hand on my thigh slid up and cupped my cock. I wrapped my hand around her nape and dragged her halfway onto my lap, crushing my mouth against hers. She was as delicious as she looked—soft, wet, pliable. Her little moans drove me on. I took a nice, long taste, sweeping my tongue in deep before pulling back with a nip of her luscious bottom lip. She panted, her breasts heaving, overflowing the top of her corset. “There’s a broom closet next to the restroom,” she whispered. “Let’s go, darling.” She popped off her stool. I tossed a few more coin on the bar then my comm buzzed in my pants pocket. Pink Firebomb was rubbing against me as I pulled out my comm. I frowned at the number. “What’s wrong?” she asked. “Just a minute. I have to take this.” I took a few steps into the alcove headed toward the restrooms and hit the answer button. My baby sister’s sweet face popped on screen. Her blue eyes flared bright with serpentine slits cutting down the middle. Her dragon never rose to the surface like that. I tensed. “Lara, what is it?” “Someone’s here, Bastien,” she whispered. “In the house.” A muffled scream sounded from somewhere on her end of the line. She squeezed her eyes closed, tears falling. “That’s Momma. She’s crying, Bastien.” She hiccoughed a sob. “Lara, open your eyes. Look at me and listen to me.” Her full dragon eyes popped open at my command. “Get out of the house. Now. Do not try to go downstairs. Open your balcony door and fly right out. Now! Do you hear me?” Her little head jerked. “Yes. Okay.” She gasped, jerking her head to the side. “Someone’s coming.” “Fly, Lara! Now, sweetheart. I’m on my way!” Her comm clicked off. I sprinted through the bar, barely noticing Pinky staring stupefied, as I raced out into the night and lifted off the cliff’s edge into the air toward Cloven. I cursed myself for stopping here at Farrow’s Dell, a small mountain village halfway between Drakos and Cloven. I didn’t need to. I was avoiding the inevitable, another meeting with my father that would end in his disappointment. I wasn’t cut out for his arena of politics, but there was no making him understand. So I thought to stop for a few drinks before heading home, maybe find a woman for some pleasant distraction. And so I had. But now my family needed me, and I was an hour’s flight away. If I hadn’t stopped, I’d be there already. I cut a low path toward Cloven, not wasting time to fly above the cloud cover as most Morgons do at night to use the moonlight as a guide. I opened my senses and used my dragon gifts and my powerful wings to drive me hard toward home. Rocketing through the darkness, I thanked the stars above when pinpricks of light appeared up ahead. Cloven. Banking hard right, I flew past the mountain-like skyscrapers toward the eastern shore of the river where the aristocrats isolated themselves from the commoners of Cloven. That’s where home was. Along the bend in the river, I caught sight of my parents’ house, a white pillar in the night, one yellow light on the second floor gleaming bright. “Lara.” Cutting a hard angle down, I didn’t slow my descent, my legs buckling on the landing of her balcony. Her balcony door was open, the gossamer curtain billowing in the breeze. I jerked it open, but she wasn’t there. Her bedroom door was open to the hallway. She must’ve gotten away, but I needed to check on the rest of the family before I went in search for her. My pulse pounded in my throat as I smelled the metallic scent of blood in the air. I edged into the dark hallway, hearing no one. Nothing. Not a footstep downstairs, not the soft breathing of someone deep in sleep, not another heart beating nearby. I pushed open the bedroom door next to Lara’s, wishing I wouldn’t find what I did when I stepped into the room. My fourteen-year-old brother Landon wasn’t in his bed, though there appeared to be some violence. The covers were torn from his bed and the lamp knocked over. I strode faster down the hall toward the strong scent of blood. The wind cut through this room as well, the balcony door partially open to the night as if they tried to get away. Tried and failed. My seventeen-year-old brother Darius lay sprawled on the floor, both wings broken backwards to the point that the bone was showing. His head twisted in an unnatural angle. I knelt and straightened his head, pushing his hair back away from his face. He hated when his hair fell in his eyes, always combing it back with his hand. A nervous habit. Spreading one palm over his chest, I tried to say goodbye, I tried to swallow the lump in my throat. I then stood and stepped over him to Landon’s body, also broken and brutally beaten about the face before a dagger had impaled his chest. He must’ve fought hard to try and save his brother. He had the heart of a warrior. Always had. He was the one begging me to teach him moves I’d learned in my service in the Morgon Guard. I'd done my duty required of Morgon men. And though I wasn't cut out for the military either, I enjoyed teaching Landon what I learned for the time he'd join the ranks of the Guard. Now, that time would never come. I closed Landon’s mouth so that it no longer appeared as if he were screaming, and then placed a hand on his blood-soaked Tshirt, recalling the funeral rites a priest would say. “All spirits move from one plane to another. It is not our right to judge when one has come and gone.” Inhaling a deep breath, I summoned the strength and recited the words of farewell. “I send you both with grace and blessings and love.”
Beyond the pungent scent of his blood, there was another. Softer and sweeter. I stepped around him to the other side of the bed only to feel my heart crack and splinter at the sight. Lara. Laying on her stomach, one arm stretched backward, one hand curled near her forehead, blood pooling around her cheek and face, eyes wide and lifeless. “No, no…no!” I knelt and pulled her into my arms, minding her delicate wings, though one had been broken. A sure way to keep another Morgon grounded was to break their wings first. I grit my teeth in rage, wanting to maim and kill the beasts who’d done this. Her body was still warm, crimson soaking her yellow nightgown. “Lara, sweetheart. I’m so sorry.” I pressed my cheek to hers, feeling the fading warmth leave her body, her spirit was already gone. I was too late. Rocking her gently, I didn’t move when I heard men shouting below. “Morgon Guard at the entry!” Footsteps pounded through my childhood home. “The senator and his wife are dead in the downstairs bedroom, sir,” said one of them. “Check upstairs,” came another voice I didn’t recognize. Even for a Morgon, my hearing was highly acute. I could hear every word through the walls, knowing they’d be here any second, and I’d have to hand over my family. And Lara. I pulled her closer to my chest, her body almost cold now.
Then two men were in the room. “Hands up! Put the body down!” I glared at the two officers, both of the Huntergild clan, crossbows at the ready and aimed at me. “Wait.” I raised one hand, still holding Lara with the other. “I’m Bastien Silverback.” “We know who you are. Stand up and put your hands on the wall,” said one. He then spoke into his headpiece comm, “We’ve got him, sir. Upstairs, second bedroom.” “What?” I asked. “Bastien, just relax. Do as you're told and you’ll get a fair trial.” “A fair trial for what?” They didn’t answer me. I glanced down at my dead brothers and my little sister in my arms, my dragon senses tingling along my skin. I was being framed. What was it my father once said about the dangers of being consul? The officer with the headpiece spoke into his mic, “Yes.” I could hear what the man on the other end said, my sense of hearing far greater than any Morgon in the room. “My informant said he’d still be on the scene, gloating over his foul deed. If he resists, kill him.” I pressed a kiss to Lara’s forehead. “Goodbye, sweet sister. Go with love and blessings.” Then I gently lay her on the carpet. “Easy now, Bastien. Hands on the wall.” I turned slowly as if to obey, and then bound out the balcony door, splintering it off the hinges and shattering glass. With two giant leaps, I whipped open my wings and beat them hard, lifting fast into the night. An arrow whirred past my ear as I flew straight up above the house, ascending on the opposite side of where the Guards attempted to impale me with arrows. Adrenaline pumping like fire through my body, I beat my wings harder and flew higher than I ever had before, catching sight of the distant mountain range to the west. “Aria,” I whispered. Now high above the clouds where no one could hear me, the air was thin and flight was difficult from this height. But I wasn’t an average Morgon. I didn’t always believe my father’s stories of our line of Silverbacks being of the finest stock and deserving the best, never quite caring for the elitist ideals of my soon-to-be-consul father. But he was right about one thing. Our genes were strong and pure. I would use that strength now to discover a new path in a new realm beyond the glittering lights of Cloven and away from the corrupt government who murdered my family with plans to use me as their scapegoat. I screamed. And I screamed. Soaring toward that frozen wasteland where outcasts lived. An unforgiving place with unforgiving inhabitants, so I was told. There, I must find a new life. Catching sight of Brilla’s Crag in the distance, the tall peak of the mountain range separating Aria from the civilized world, I wiped my arm across my brow, smelling the sweet scent of my baby sister. Of gentle, kind Lara. I vowed that I would return one day and find the bastards who did this to her and to my family. And they’d pay for what they’d done and what they’d taken away from me. “I promise,” I whispered. The icy wind carried my words away. But they’d never leave my heart. ____________________________________________________________________ Meet more of Bastien and other characters in DRAGON IN THE BLOOD. Available now.