August. Midnight. Breathlessly hot.
Leonore found the heat enervating to her body, even as it beat on her mind like the sound of a brazen gong. She had barely felt able to eat, and her feet dragged as she headed towards the garden in the hope of a little coolth. She leaned her forehead against the glass of the french doors and resisted the urge to scream.
A familiar voice spoke in her mind.
“Why so sorrowful L’e’onore?”
“Because it’s too hot, and my head hurts, and I haven’t seen you for…”
She stopped speaking, uncomfortably aware that the last time R’u’uth had come to visit she had tried to make him understand how unsuitable their relationship was. And when he had refused to see her point had chased him away with a flea in his ear.
He just laughed.
“Oh L’e’onore. Why did you not call me?”
She shrugged, and a tired tear ran down her cheek.
“How could I call you when I was so angry last time?”
She turned to look into the parched garden just in time for a long tongue to lift the tear from her skin.
“Come for a fly. Let me take you where the air will cool your cheeks and soothe your fevered mind.”
Leonore didn’t need asking twice; she climbed up R’u’uth’s extended foreleg and settled between his gleaming wings.
“Where are we going?”
He turned his head to grin at her.
“Wait and see.”
Then they were in the air, with a breeze ruffling Leonore’s hair and cooling her skin. She leaned against smooth scales and strong muscles, and just gave herself to the joy of flight.
They didn’t seem to have been in the air for very long at all when R’u’uth turned on a wingtip and dropped down through the night sky to land beside a moonlit lake. Leonore slipped down from her perch and ran to the edge of the water.
“Oh, it’s beautiful here. Where are we?”
“Nowhere in your world.”
“That should be frightening, but I find I don’t care. I reckon I’m safe with you.”
R’u’uth laughed dragonishly.
“That depends on your definition of safe…”
Leonore felt herself blushing and nerved herself to meet R’u’uth’s gaze.
“That remains to be seen.”
She felt the warmth of his approval as a heat at the base of her stomach and turned back to look at the dark water.
“Would you swim L’e’onore?”
“You can. I will swim with you if it would please you.”
“I have no swimming costume.”
“Dragons swim in their skin…”
She put her hands on her hips and regarded him with some severity before throwing back her head and laughing.
“If dragons can swim in their skins I suppose humans can too.”
She dragged her dress over her head and wriggled out of her underwear before kicking off her sandals and heading into the blessed coolness of the lake. For a moment she didn’t think R’u’uth was with her, but then she felt a smooth, warm flank as he swam over and under her and around her. She laughed delightedly, and the two of them played in the water like children.
“On my back,” R’u’uth spoke in her head and she allowed him to swim up beneath her, settling herself between his folded wings. He swam strongly away from the side of the lake towards what Leonore eventually realised was a small, green island. She leaned forward and placed her arms around his neck. He chuckled and she felt it vibrate through her body.
And then they were climbing onto dry land and she remembered her nakedness.
“R’u’uth. My clothes.”
He chuckled again, then sobered.
“Worry not. I will enjoy to see you, but I know you are not ready…”
“No. I am not ready. I may never be ready.”
“I will take that risk. Now get off my back before the feeling of your tender skin becomes too much for my resolve.”
She slipped to the ground and found, to her intense surprise, that she actually rather enjoyed the feeling of his eyes on her skin. He looked at her approvingly and she even found a bit of a swagger somewhere in her locker.
“Why are we out on this island?”
“I wanted you to see something. Come.”
He led the way uphill to a rocky peak at the centre of the island and pointed with his nose.
Leonore looked, and could scarcely believe the beauty before her eyes.
The black water of the lake looked as smooth as silk and there was a stripe of golden moonlight marking a pathway from the horizon to the centre of the lake. And if that wasn’t enough, there were silver creatures dancing on the golden water.
“What are they?” she whispered.
“Naiads. Listen. They will sing.”
Leonore listened as the water spirits lifted their voices. Their song was beautiful, but cold and ethereal, and Leonore shivered as she listened.
R’u’uth draped a wing over her and she leaned against his smooth strength.
“Thank you R’u’uth,” she whispered.
He turned his head and delicately nipped at the side of her neck before blowing his spicy breath into her lungs.
“Come. Let us get your clothing before I forget myself.”
Leonore climbed onto his back and they took to the sky for the brief hop to where Leonore’s clothing lay in a heap. She dressed quickly and leaned into R’u’uth’s embrace, rubbing her face against his muscular neck.
He touched her cheek with his tongue.
R’u’uth made a step with his foreleg and she climbed lightly onto his back.
He turned his head and favoured her with his most dragonish grin.
“Next time I bring you to the island, I may not be such a gentleman….”
And then they were in the sky, heading back towards the August heat.