The next morning Rebecca woke up to the feeling of Brian running one large finger over her back, “Are you deliberately trying to wake me up?” she asked.
“Yes, it is morning and you wouldn’t want to still be asleep or still have me around when your boyfriend shows up,” Brian told her.
Fighting back a smile she decided to give one more push to make sure everything went according to her plans and somehow managing to look serious as she said, “Unless you’re wrong and he’s really not interested in being my boyfriend.”
“Stop being so pessimistic, I’m sure before the day ends he’ll have asked you to be his girlfriend,” he said unfolding his wings, scooping her up into his hands and setting her gently on the floor, “Now get changed and eat your breakfast, you wouldn’t want to keep him waiting,” he told before leaving the room.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A little while later she stepped out of the castle to find Brian sitting on the castle steps waiting for her. As soon as he saw her he jumped to his feet and offered her his arm, “I have something to show you my lady,” he told her.
“What is it?” Rebecca asked as she took his arm and he started to lead her towards the stables.
“I was thinking it was about time you got a proper tour of the property. It’s too large to go on foot, but a car would ruin the historic feel of the place and the driveway is really the only bit of road on the property that‘s fit for a vehicle,” he told her as he opened the stable door, “so I thought they could take us.”
There in the stable stood two chestnut brown horses, already saddled up and ready to go.
“Oh Brian they’re beautiful, where did they come from?” she asked.
“My parents have a horse farm; it actually borders the west side of the castle property. I could show it to you if you’d like.”
“I’d love to see it,” Rebecca replied.
“Then let’s go, there’s lots to see around here,” he told her as they led the horses out of the stable.
They rode for hours, through the forests and eventually ended up following a stream that ran through the property.
“This is still all the land that comes with the castle?” Rebecca asked as they headed away from the stream and down a hill.
“Yes, I’ve heard people say this property isn’t measured in acres, but in miles. I believe my grandfather said it’s about five miles from the east side of the property to the west side and six miles from the north to the south side. It’s said that back when the castle was originally built the property spread farther than the eye could see from the highest tower in the castle. The forests on this land have always been protected, so unlike a lot of places where the forest may have been cut down and then grown back over time, this forest has been here for well over a thousand years at least,” Brian told her as they found another section of the stream and he started to lead them back up stream.
“It’s no wonder one of the conditions of owning this place was that it was never to be developed,” she said then gasped as they came through the trees and into view of where the stream came out.
The stream had cut a path straight down through the hill creating a nearly twenty foot tall waterfall with a large pool at the bottom which was sheltered all the way around by the rest of the hill. The only way into the cove was where the stream ran out of it and a narrow path that had been worn down to the rock that ran right along the steams edge and most likely flooded whenever it rained.
“This is beautiful,” Rebecca said.
“It’s also nice on a hot day and quite deep, I use to throw my little brother in from the top of the waterfall. Unfortunately now we’re both about the same size and he manages to throw me in as often as I get to throw him in,” Brian told her smiling.
“You sound like you have a rotten streak,” Rebecca said.
“Only when I get the chance and mostly just with my siblings,” he told her.
“How many siblings do you have?” she asked.
“Two sisters and two brothers, I was the oldest then my sister Rachel, she’s twenty, my brother Dan, he’s eighteen, another sister Hannah who is sixteen and the youngest, Johnny, he’s fourteen and quite a little terror, especially with strangers, he’ll do whatever he can to make you scream if he gets the chance. You’ll probably be meeting them all when I take you to see the farm, so watch out for him,” he told her as he got off of his horse and took her hand to help her off of hers.
“I’ll do that, what’s he likely to try?” she asked.
“Let’s see,” Brian pulled a picnic lunch out of his saddle bag, “the last time Dan brought a girl home with him Johnny offered her a snack and gave her a plate full of worms. When that only grossed her out, but didn’t make her scream he introduced her to his pet rat by dropping it into her lap, luckily the rat survived the drop to the floor when she flew out of her chair, but she hasn’t been back to visit since then,” he told her as they found a place to sit to eat their lunch.
“I think I should be fine then, I use to play with worms when I was a kid and I’ve had a couple pet rats of my own, as well as snakes and frogs and the like,” Rebecca told him.
- - - - - - - - - - --
After lunch they continued to ride around the property until it was almost dinner time. They rode out of the forest and up to the edge of a large horse pasture with about two dozen horses and foals.
“I take it this is your parent’s place?” Rebecca asked.
“Yep. Now the important question is, are you ready to meet my family?” he asked.
“I think so,” Rebecca replied then smiled, “I just hope you’re there to introduce me,” she said before urging her horse into a gallop across the open ground towards the house.
When they reached the house Rebecca noticed the old man she had seen before and an elderly woman sitting on a porch swing together, holding hands.
“You must be Rebecca, I’m Cora, Brian’s grandma,” the old woman said as she got up and shook Rebecca’s hand while looking her straight in the eye, then glancing over at Brian she said, “She just might be a keeper.”
“Or she might not,” the old man said never making any move from where he was sitting.
“Can’t you at least try to be polite?” Cora asked him then before waiting for an answer she turned back to Rebecca, “That grumpy,” she started then grinned, “but still physically quite fit old man is my husband Duff,” her eyes seemed to sparkle with mischievous as she added, “or as I like to call him, Sir Duff the Buff.”
“Did you really have to tell her that?” Duff asked as he stood up and was about to head into the house.
Cora caught his arm, “Of course I did, a woman is allowed to brag a bit when she has such a fine husband,” she said before kissing him briefly then grinned at him, “Anyways I have to embarrass you a little when you’re being so grouchy. I could always tell her some of the more embarrassing things I call you.”
“Not if I have anything to do about it,” he said before pulling her into his arms and kissing her passionately.
“Come on, I’ll introduce you to the rest of my family,” Brian told her as he took her arm and led her into the house, “I don’t think my grandparents ever got past the newlywed stage of their marriage and it’s gotten worse since they renewed their vows and celebrated their fiftieth anniversary a couple of weeks ago.”
“How sweet and romantic,” Rebecca said.
“Yes, until you go out to take care of the horses and find out they’ve decided to go for a roll in the hay,” a man who looked quite a bit like an older version of Brian said as they stepped into the kitchen, “You must be Rebecca, I’m David and this lovely young lass here is my wife Rose,” he told her pointing to a woman who was cooking.
“She’s here, you really brought her?” a teenage boy shouted as he came racing into the room.
“You must be Johnny,” Rebecca said.
“Yep, and you must be Rebecca, it’s nice to meet you,” Johnny said reaching out to shake her hand.
As Rebecca took his hand to shake it a snake’s head pooped out of his sleeve and started to move onto her hand. She froze, carefully keeping her face emotionless as she let the foot and a half long snake get all the way out of her sleeve. Then carefully taking the snake in both hands she smiled as she held it up to get a better look at it.
“Who is this beautiful creature?” she asked.
“That’s Walter, he’s a ball python,” he told her then reached into his pocket and pulled out a large rat and held it up at eye leave with her, “and St. George is a rat.”
Rebecca couldn’t help laughing; the thought of a dragon having a pet rat named St. George was funny enough, but the way he had worded it made it even funnier. She quickly gained control of her laughter, “Well hello George,” she said then asked, “Is he Walter’s dinner?”
Johnny sighed disappointedly, “No, not yet, Walter’s not quite big enough to eat him yet. You’re not scared of them at all?” he asked.
Rebecca smiled, “Not at all, I’ve had pet rats before and some of my earliest memories are of the snakes my mom kept as pets. You’ll not be scaring me as easily as most girls,” she told him.
“I’ll just have to try harder next time,” Johnny told her.
“Not right now you won’t, dinner is done and you’re going to put them away and behave,” Rose told him.
“Yes, mom,” Johnny replied before taking the snake back from Rebecca and leaving the room.
- - - -
Everyone was called in for dinner and Rebecca was introduced to the rest of Brian’s siblings. After dinner Rebecca started to feel a little uncomfortable as Brian’s siblings all left and Duff and David asked Brian for some help with something in one of the barns, leaving her alone in the kitchen with Cora and Rose who were suddenly looking rather suspiciously at her. They asked her to put a dish away in a corner cupboard and when she turned back around she found herself cornered by them.
“So Duff tells us you already know about us?” Cora asked.
“That you’re all dragons? Yes, I know,” Rebecca replied.
“But you haven’t told Brian that you know yet? Rose asked.
“No, he hasn’t told me he’s really a dragon either, so I’d say we’re even on the secret keeping,” Rebecca told her.
“He’s not telling you because he thinks you’d never be able to fall in love with him if you knew he was a dragon,” Rose told her.
“Duff told me that you said you were already falling in love with Brian, is that true?” Cora asked staring straight into Rebecca’s eyes as if she was trying to see right into her soul.
“Yes, it’s very true,” Rebecca replied, “Honestly I never imagined I could fall in love so quickly.”
“Well then do you plan on telling him that you know he’s a dragon?” Rose asked.
“Yes, actually if everything goes according to my plan I’ll tell him tonight.” Rebecca told them.
“According to your plan, what exactly are you planning?” Rose asked raising an eyebrow.
“If I didn’t know he was really the dragon I’ve been spending my evenings with then the only thing he’d be accomplishing by letting me get to know him in both forms is to tear my heart in two because I’d be falling in love with both. My plan is simple, I’ll make the decision tonight that I’m sure I would have made sooner or later if I hadn’t known Brian is the dragon,” Rebecca said.
“What decision is that?” Cora asked.
Before Rebecca could reply Duff, David and Brian came back into the kitchen.
“It’s getting late and we still have to get you home, I think we should head out,” Brian told Rebecca.
“I forgot about having to ride all the way back, you’re right, we should get going,” Rebecca agreed trying not to grimace. She loved to ride horses, but hadn’t been on one in years and after spending most of the day on one she wasn’t sure how her backside would handle riding all the way back.
“Yep, it should only take an hour or so to get back,” Brian said then smiled and held up a set of keys, “Although if you don’t mind, it might be faster if we take my truck.”
Rebecca smiled, “I wouldn’t mind at all.”
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
When they got back to the castle Brian said, “There’s one more thing I want to show you,”
He led her through the castle and out onto the top of the highest tower then pointed out to the west.
“It’s beautiful,” Rebecca breathed at the sight of the sunset that seemed to have set the sky on fire with brilliant pinks and oranges.
“Not as beautiful as you are,” Brian said stepping behind her and wrapping his arms around her.
Rebecca couldn’t help thinking the only way the moment could be any more romantic was if he had his wings as well as his arms around her. Then she shook her head slightly, wondering if she was crazy.
“What is it?” Brian asked.
“Nothing, just thinking how crazy my life seems to be and how nice this is,” Rebecca replied as Brian turned her to face him.
Their eyes met and they nearly kissed but Rebecca pulled away at the last second.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to rush you,” Brian said.
“No, it’s alright, it’s just that-” she hesitated and he took the bait just as she had hoped.
Brian took her hand in his, “Rebecca I should have told you this right from the start, I liked you from the first moment I saw you and the more time I spend with you the more I fall in love with you. Would you do me the honor of being my girlfriend?”
Rebecca hesitated a second to keep herself from giving in and just agreeing, then she said, “I- I just can’t Brian, I’m sorry.”
“What? But I thought-”
“I know, I like you, I really do, it’s just there’s someone else,” she told him.
“Someone back in America?” he asked.
“No, I actually met him several hours after I met you and you two are so much alike it’s unbelievable. I hate to say it because it sounds so petty, but the truth is you’re personalities are so alike that the only difference between the two of you is appearance and, well I just like his looks better. I was honestly standing here watching the sun set with you and wishing he was the one holding me, there’s just something addictive about the way he holds me,”
He had looked slightly suspicious about who she was talking about until that last line, she hadn’t been sure he’d even remember her comment from that morning about how addictive his wings were, but apparently he did.
Just to make sure there was no doubt left in his mind as to whom she was talking about she added, “I don’t even know his name, I just know I’m in love with him.”
“I- you-” he stood there stuttering for a moment before finally managing to say, “I have to go, I’m sorry, I have to go,” and he practically ran down the tower steps and out of the castle.
Rebecca watched him leave before she went back inside and finally broke down laughing.
- - - - - - - - - -
As soon as he was far enough away from the castle Brian shifted into his dragon form and flew home then barely slowed down to shift back to human as he ran into the house and into the living room where his parents and grandparents were.
“What’s going on?” Cora asked looking up from a quilt she was working on.
“She- she dumped me,” Brian said as he dropped into a chair.
“I thought she was in love with you,” Rose said.
“She is, that’s why she dumped me,” Brian replied.
“So she realized she wasn’t good enough for you?” Duff asked.
“No, she dumped the human me because she’s in love with the dragon me,” Brian replied.
Rose and Cora exchanged shocked looks then burst out laughing, “You know lying to a woman in hopes that they’ll fall in love with you, usually doesn’t work out well in movies and such, but this is just priceless,” Cora said.
“Are you sure about this? Did she actually come out and say she was in love with a dragon?” Duff asked.
“No, of course not, we’ve never asked her not to mention our existence, but I don’t think she ever would anyways, so of course she didn’t say anything about dragons,” Brian told him.
“Then how can you be so sure it was you she was talking about?” David asked.
“Because she’s become quite found of sleeping with my wings around her and this morning she told me she thought they were addictive and I’ve never told her my name when I’m in my dragon form. Tonight she said there was something addictive about the way the man she’s in love with holds her and that she didn’t even know his name,” Brian explained.
“Oh she is good. You’d better get back to your true and proper form, get back to that castle and figure out how you’re going to explain this to her without upsetting her. Because I think I actually wouldn’t mind having her as a daughter in law,” Rose told him.
Cora smiled and winked at Rose before drawing Brian’s attention to her, “You’d better just hope she doesn’t kill or maim you for making her choose between two fine men only to discover she never had to choose. Who knows how many hours she spent worrying and trying to figure out what the right choice was. That poor girl,” she said, Brian’s face growing paler and more worried with each word, while behind him Rose had buried her face in David’s arm to muffle her laughter.
“You’re right, she’ll be waiting for me, but how do I tell her now?” Brian said.
“I’m sure you’ll figure it out, now go on,” Duff told him.
-- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Rebecca was lying on her stomach on the cushion when Brian, now in dragon form, finally walked slowly into the library.
“I was beginning to wonder if you were coming tonight,” she said as she sat up then grimaced.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
She blushed slightly, “I spent most of the day riding a horse and I’m a little sore,” she admitted.
“Well you’re lucky you have a dragon around then aren’t you?,” he said as he made himself smaller until he stood just a little taller than her, “A little dragon’s blood applied directly to the problem should fix it in a matter of seconds,” then with a devilish grin he added, “You can go ahead and take your pants off now.”
“What?!” Rebecca exclaimed.
“Oh alright, we’ll do it the boring way, but it will take a minute or two to stop the pain,” he said grinning at her as he used a claw to cut his hand and a small cut on her arm then pressed his hand to it.
Rebecca flinched slightly when he cut her, but the pain was gone within seconds of his hand touching her arm, an almost tingly feeling seemed to briefly spread through her veins, eliminating every ache and pain as it went.
“I have to admit that’s a pretty nice trick,” she said as she relaxed, then remembering she still had one more part of her plot to carry out. A part of the plot she hadn’t even come up with until that evening on the tower, a plot that made her a little nervous and uncertain as to how it would work, but she was determined to do it. Brian had even gotten himself to the right size for her to do it without her having to think of a way to get him to change his size.
She suddenly turned to face him straight on and slapped him, flinching only slightly when she found the rough skin of his cheek was a bit rougher than she had expected. Luckily for her his blood was still in her system and the palm of her hand only turned red for a second before it returned to normal.
Brian stared at her in shock for a second before he finally asked, “What was that for?”
“You know I’ve never been kissed, right?” she asked.
“Yes,” he replied, completely confused.
“Then do you really think I would want my first kiss to be a lie?” she demanded.
“N-no,” he said looking and sounding completely lost.
“Well that’s why I slapped you, for almost making my first kiss a lie,” she told him wrapping an arm around his neck, “I want to kiss you, I’m going to kiss you, and I don’t really care much what you look like when I kiss you, but for our first kiss you will be the real you and not pretending to be human,” she said, smiling slightly when his eyes widened in realization, but she didn’t give him time to say anything before she pulled his face to hers and kissed him.
Any uncertainty she had felt about kissing him while he was in dragon form quickly disappeared. Although his skin was clearly thicker and stronger than a human’s and to look at him if he wasn’t smiling or making some clear expression it was hard to distinguish whether or not he even had lips, he clearly did have them and had no problem using them to kiss her back.
He wrapped his arms around Rebecca, pulling her closer to him, then wrapped his wings around her.
When they stopped kissing Rebecca smiled up at him, “I can’t imagine even Heaven could feel more wonderful than having your arms and wings around me like this,” she told him.
“I couldn’t agree more. I have to know though, how long have you known?” he asked.
Rebecca grinned, “Since you told me the old man was your grandfather. I had figure out that he was really a dragon within days of getting here, so if you were his grandson that meant you had to be a dragon too. Plus I saw you playing the bagpipes on the tower that night when he came to get you so you two could fail at scaring me off again. One minute there was one dragon and one human the next there were two dragons, which just confirmed everything. If that hadn’t been enough, it doesn’t matter what form you’re in, you still have the most spectacular eyes,” she told him.
“Did my family know that you knew all this?” he asked her.
“Apparently they did, I had actually told Duff I knew before I met you in the woods and I assume he told everyone else because your mother and grandmother cornered me in the kitchen while you were out and they were questioning me,” she told him.
“That would explain so much, like why my mother and grandmother were getting such a kick out of the fact that you dumped me for me and why grandma was laying on a major guilt trip about how horrible I’d been to you and how you’d never forgive me. Not to mention why mom said she wanted you as a daughter in law, it wasn’t because you chose the real me over the human me, it was because you had come up with such a brilliant plan to get back at me for not telling you the truth from the start,” Brian said then added, “I am sorry about not telling you the truth, I just thought I’d never have a chance with you if you knew the truth and I’ve studied enough of our history to have truly believed the only chance I would have was if you didn’t find out until later that I was a dragon.”
“It’s alright, I guess I can understand why you thought that, so don’t worry, I won’t hate you for lying to me, but only this once, don’t let it happen again,” Rebecca told him then smiled, “Your mom really wants me for a daughter in law?”
“She certainly sounded serious. It seems the women in my family take great joy in coming up with inventive ways to torture the men, so she probably thinks you’d make a nice addition when it comes time to come up with evil plots,” Brian told her.
“Well then I hope we don’t disappoint her,” she said.
“Oh I don’t think we have to worry about that. Humans and dragons dating without the human knowing they’re dating a dragon is almost common, humans and dragons marrying after the human finds out they were dating a dragon is rare. Humans and dragons dating when the human knows from the start that it’s a dragon who’s asking them out is almost unheard of, but in every recorded case like that, it has always resulted in long happy marriages,” he told her.
Rebecca grinned, “I like the sound of that.” she told him then lay her head on his shoulder, “There might be one drawback to your wings,”
“What’s that?” Brian asked.
“I feel so safe and relaxed with them around me that after a long day like today you’re relaxing me right to sleep,” she told him.
“Well then, I should let you get some sleep,” he told her as he stepped back and returned to his normal size, gently picked her up and stepped up onto the cushion then placed her on his chest.
“So are you going to become my permanent bed?” Rebecca asked as she lay down and Brian wrapped his wrings around her.
“There are plenty of nice beds in the castle that you could sleep in, but I certainly don’t mind letting you sleep here,” he told her.
“Good, because I think I would be quite content to sleep here for the rest of my life,” Rebecca told him before laying her head down and falling asleep.