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The towel Hailey had given Jamie was stiff and rough with overuse, so Jamie was drying her arms with toilet paper when she joined the council in the dining alcove.  The dragon-boy trailed her like a gosling.
        "Sit Jamie, sit," Hailey's uncle said cheerfully.  Jamie parked herself at the last empty chair remaining at the small table, shuddering a little as she swallowed a cough.  Greasy grey smoke from cheap cigarettes filled the room like haze and drifted lazily up to the low-hanging lamp dangling above the table.  The dragon-boy stood beside Jamie and breathed deeply of the poisoned air with his eyes closed and his chin lifted a little.
        "Smoke, anyone?" Hailey's meaty uncle passed around a carton.
        "Hey, sure." Sens reached for a cigarette and leaned over to accept the light Hailey gave him before she lit her own.  Hailey's uncle held out the package to Jamie and lifted his eyebrows.
        "No thanks," Jamie said around her pounding headache.  "I don't smoke."
        "Ah, good for you.  Don't start." Hailey's uncle ground out the rest of his cigarette on a brozne ashtray that was thick with tar and he helped himself to another.  "So, picked yourself up a baby dragon there."
        "I guess that's what he is, uh, sir.  He kind of decided to follow me."
        "May as well call me Uncle.  You'll feel closer to my dear niece."  The big man drew off his cigarette and pulled it away, smiling with yellow teeth.  "Yeah, I saw that kid with his mom couple a days ago.  I knew something smelled different about the little bugger.  His mom sure as hell did.  Smelled like utter death.  I saw the unicorns come close to being smashed by however many cars just to round those two up, too.  Those sonsabitches always act like they've got steel rods wedged where it would count, but dragons make them piss their pants."
        Sens flicked an ash.  "I didn't think dragons actually existed, to be honest."
        Hailey nudged him with her elbow.  "If any other vampire said that, I'd understand.  The unicorns figure the less said about dragons, the better.  But _you_ work in Lycanthrope Affairs.  I know you have a tendency to space out when matters don't directly concern you, but you should have heard _something_ about dragons."
        Jamie curled her hands into fists and cleared her throat.  "We were talking to Wreath ... er, she's one of the unicorns..."
        Uncle nodded.  "I know Wreath."
        "I guess you would." Jamie rubbed at her warm neck.  "Anyway, she kind of hinted that dragons are shapeshifters.  Is that true?"
        "Oh absolutely, little miss.  The greatest shapeshifters there are, and ever have been.  Isn't it obvious, though?  Lookit that little boy beside you.  He's a weapon." Uncle looked at Sens.  "Your friend here pleads ignorance in the ways of dragonkind.  He even claims he didn't believe in them, but I'd like him to look me in the eyes and tell me otherwise."
        Sens looked up.  "What do you mean?" he met Uncle's amused stare, and he yielded, dropping his head again with an embarrassed smile. "Aw man..."
        "Sens, this is a nice girl sitting here.  Tell her the truth."
        Jamie's heart pounded furiously.  "What are you talking about?"
        Sens just kept grinning, refusing to meet her eyes like a non-repentant kid caught stealing chocolate bars.  "Damn it Sens, tell me!  You're pissing me off!"
        "Good for you, girl," Hailey said.
        Uncle sucked his cigarette down to the filter.  "The sun'll be up soon.  I don't have to work today, but I don't want to sit here for the rest of my life, either.  Jamie, Sens knows more about dragons than he's letting on.  I mean, sure, there's a lot that _nobody_ knows because they're pretty damn elusive, but there's plenty of rumour and speculation.  It is a known fact, however, that young dragons are raised by their mothers."
        "Well, who else would raise them?"
        "Let me finish.  Dragons are social to a degree.  They live in small prides, but the males and females keep their distance from each other until it's time to boink.  Or when protection is an issue.  Then they fight together and give the unicorns massive problems."
        "What does this have to do with me?"
        Uncle spread his hands on the table.  "All right, look.  Your father left your mother, right?"
        "Well, yeah.  How did you--"
        "That's not important, but tell me this.  Who do you trust more?  Your mom or your dad?"
        "My mom, of course.  She raised me.  My father ... I barely talk to him."
        "So?  You think humans are the only creatures in the world who can become attached to their mothers?"
        "I took you along because you're a girl, Jamie," Sens said suddenly, looking at Uncle instead of her.  "Yeah, I still wasn't sure if dragons existed at the time, but I figured it was definitely worth a look.  I knew enough that if there _was_ a dragon, it might not trust a man as readily as a woman."
        Jamie blinked rapidly.  "You said--you said--"
        "--That I took you along because we were going to be heroes?  We were going to free an innocent little boy from the hooves of tyrants?  Jamie,  you think humans are assholes?  Welcome to the world of vampires.  We suck blood for Christ's sake.  We have to deceive others in order to _eat._"
        Hailey flicked her dangling lip-ring thoughtfully.  "Actually, you're one of the bigger assholes among us, Sens."
        "If I were a _complete_ asshole, Hailey dear, would I have Jamie with me?  I had to do what I had to do to get her in on this.  Now that we have the baby dragon, we're set.  We can break away from the unicorns' control."
        "I don't understand what's going on," Jamie said quietly through her raw throat.
        "I don't understand it fully, myself," Sens admitted.  "The boy trusted you all right, but there's something more at work.  Not that it matters in the end.  Tonight, we're going to talk to the unicorns about a nice sum of money and the freedom to travel without being harassed.  You won't have to go back to that godforsaken bank, and I won't have to deal with Johnny and Lycanthrope Affairs."
        Hailey rolled her eyes.  "Yeah, God knows that working for a few days out of the month is a torment, Sens.  Meanwhile, people like Alex kill themselves trying to keep you under control.  What makes you think the unicorns are going to negotiate instead of just running you through?"
        "Because if they don't, further negotiations will be conducted under a full moon."
        "Crazy, crazy." Uncle shook his head and tapped his ash.  "Shit, you're crazy.  You don't know what you're getting into."
        "It'll work.  You hide me 'til then, and I'll be generous with my reward."
        "Oh sure, when I start flinging money around left and right, Johnny won't get suspicious at all."
        "You could leave the city, man.  This isn't a hard thing I'm asking you to do.  Or if you want to rot here with Johnny's nose up your ass, then be my guest."
        "When you put it that way, eternal life isn't as appealing as it seems," Hailey said wryly.
        "I don't want to hand over the dragon," Jamie heard herself say.
        Uncle pointed at her and looked at Sens.  "See, Jamie talks sense.  She knows it's too dangerous."
        "I don't care about danger.  I just don't want to give the dragon back to the unicorns."
        "I know Johnny's put you through a lot," Sens said in a bored voice.  "But this is the best way to get back at him, trust me."
        Jamie's mouth ran under its own power.  "Trust you how, exactly?  You've hurt me this much."
        "It's for--"
        "Don't give me that, Sens.  It's not for anyone but you.  I'm not giving an innocent little boy over just so you can profit.  I--" Jamie paused.  "--I love him."
        Hailey's laugh began in her nose and burst out loudly before she put her face in her arms and pounded the table with her first.  Sens wore the blank look of a foreigner trying to absorb an alien language.   
        Uncle smiled.  "Well, I know you have a bit of a bond going on with the boy, but those are strong words considering you've known him for ... uh ..."
        "Couple of hours," Sens said dryly.  "Kid hasn't said a word, either.  We don't even know his name."
        "Ango," the dragon-boy said.
        Uncle broke the stunned ten-second silence.  "Okay, well.  He has a name.  Regardless, the point stands.  He's dangerous, Jamie.  You don't know what he's capable of.  He can't stay here."
        "Exactly!" Sens agreed.  "He has to go back to the unicorns, one way or another.  We may as well benefit."
        Hailey sighed.  "This isn't some lost puppy you found and expect a reward for, Sens.  This is a killer animal you stole from the unicorns."
        "He's not an animal," Jamie said flatly.
        Uncle suddenly smacked his palms on the table.  "Jesus, Jamie!  Listen to me!  He's not a little boy, that's for sure.  If he looks at the full moon tonight, he'll be _worse_ than an animal.  Shit, I'll bet a million dollars this is why he bonded himself to you.  So you'd protect him right up 'til the moment he changes and tears into us." He stuffed his carton of cigarettes back into the breast pocket of his shirt.  "This is stupid.  Why'd I let you in the apartment, Sens?  I just wanted to go to bed."
        Sens voice rose. "With Hailey, no doubt."
        Hailey's chair thudded backwards as she flashed to her feet and Uncle said in a louder voice, "Oh, don't even _start_--"
        "Someone's at the door," Jamie said.
        The fight froze.  "What did you say?"
        "Someone's at the door.  I heard a knock."
        The smell of fear filled the apartment like an animal's musk, but Sens voice was steady.  "Nice job hiding us, Hailey."
        "Bite me, Sens.  Next time, choose your snake-holes a little more carefully.  If Johnny doesn't make you eat your own balls, that is."
        "Will someone open this door?" the visitor called.
        "Alex!" The name was spoken as a collective sigh of relief.  Sens unlached and opened the door.  "Man, glad you're here."
        The curly-haired therapist removed his shoes as he stepped into the apartment, and Jamie felt like throwing her arms around him for performing such a simple, human ritual.  "Hi, Alex!"
        Alex glanced at her, but his eyes didn't return her greeting.  Instead, he pushed Sens roughly.  "You idiot!  Do you realise how much trouble you're in?"
        "What do you mean?"
        "Oh, I'm seriously going to beat your ass.  What did you think Johnny would do when he found out you stole that dragon, dance around a Maypole?  He's getting the Archers to go after you."
        Jamie watched the colour drain from Hailey's face, and Uncle automatically said, "That's it, Sens.  Out.  Now."
        Sens whacked Alex's hands away.  "Can everyone stop screaming like girls for a second?  The Archers are up north for the Silver Jamboree.  No way they can get down here and find us that quickly."
        Uncle stared at him hard.  "Oh, Abel's capable of that and more."
        "The Archers of Eden have their reputation, but that's not going to kill us." Sens snorted.  "Hell, that's an awfully ambitious name for an organisation whose leader putters around in a blue Honda."
        "Blue Honda or little red wagon, I'm not having the Archers anywhere near me."
        "Then I'll call Johnny now!  I _want_ him to find me!  We've got business to discuss."
        Ango put his head on Jamie's shoulder.  He didn't say anything, but he sighed sadly like an old dog.  Jamie drew him up and rested her chin gently on the top of his head.
A "novel excerpt," circa 2005..ish. The project has since been put on hold in favour of other stuff, but I like the original idea and have by no means abandoned it. The final product, should it ever come to fruition, will be revised considerably, as the dialogue in this excerpt (and throughout the rest of the story) is seriously bad.
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AxDude Featured By Owner Aug 11, 2006
As far as excerpts go, this was an interesting read. I can understand your dialogue heavy nature (mine isn't, it's more descriptive). If I read this at a book shop or the like, I’m sure I would have a gander at the actual book; in that respect, you’ve done your job.
woekitten Featured By Owner Aug 11, 2006
Thank you! If I did get lucky enough to have this published, I'd probably choose a better excerpt, though. ;) Some people have difficulty understanding what's going on between the characters, since they're kind of shoved into the middle of a conflict.
AxDude Featured By Owner Aug 11, 2006
"Conflict keeps the world of words a movin'"... I feel like dancing...
woekitten Featured By Owner Aug 10, 2006
_this_ represents itallics. Editors/publishers usually like to recieve plain .txt files from writers, which can't support standard .doc and .rtf formatting. Since this was copy/pasted from a manuscript, the underlines are present. I would replace them with itallics tags, but my experience with Devart and HTML formatting hasn't been good.
kinmoratree Featured By Owner Aug 10, 2006
I'm not sure what _this_ is. I'm interpreting it as the character making those annoying little quote wiggles with their fingers. It could be the way the site is interpreting something you are uploading, and if that's the case, I apologize. If not, I would eliminate them. Because it's not a standard punctuation mark, it makes for a difficult read.
woekitten Featured By Owner Aug 10, 2006
_this_ represents itallics. Editors/publishers usually like to recieve plain .txt files from writers, which can't support standard .doc and .rtf formatting. Since this was copy/pasted from a manuscript, the underlines are present. I would replace them with itallics tags, but my experience with Devart and HTML formatting hasn't been good.
shadow-ice Featured By Owner Aug 10, 2006  Hobbyist Writer
Interesting is an understatement. But I will admit that with so many people talking back and forth at once, it can become a tad confusing sometimes. I had trouble figuring out who was who and which said what.
woekitten Featured By Owner Aug 10, 2006
The good news is, this is a very rough draft I'm working on, so all is subject to explosion and re-writing. :D I will admit though, my writing is extremely dialogue-heavy. It's a nasty habit I picked up and can't seem to shake.
megafighterx Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2006
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