“Tariq and I think that I can hide Cecily’s appearance.”
Cecily watched as Derek addressed her father, leaning forward from where he’d sat on the couch, his elbows propped on his knees. Tariq was leaned against the wall behind the couch where Derek sat, his arms crossed as usual. Daniel was leaning against the window with an arm around Tara, and Cecily still stood in front of her father.
He hadn’t said anything since he’d seen Cecily’s face, and his gray eyes held a tired, sad look. After a moment, his gaze pulled away from hers to meet Derek’s and Cecily’s shoulders fell. She didn’t know what to think. Dad hadn’t said a word to her. Was he disgusted?
“Are you sure? How?” Her dad’s voice was low.
Derek hesitated, then spread his hands. “Magic. Dragon magic. I think I can cover her with a glamour that will disguise this change.”
Cecily watched as her father gave a slow nod and fell silent. After a moment, the silence grew awkward and the tension in Cecily’s shoulders increased. She knew it. Dad hated dragonkind, and now he would see her as one of them. Tears began to burn behind her eyes and Cecily blinked hard. The silence lengthened until she couldn’t stand it. “Dad, I know how you feel about dragonkind. I-”
“No.” Her dad’s voice was rough. He stood, limped toward her and placed both hands on her shoulders. “Don’t you ever think I would love you any less.”
“Dad-” Cecily had to stop. The tears burning behind her eyes slipped down her face.
He gripped her shoulders tighter. “No, Cecily. I love you. You and Daniel are my children and always will be.”
Cecily inhaled a shuddering breath. “So you don’t hate how I look?”
He pulled her into a rough hug. His voice was shaky when he spoke. “Cecily, you are as beautiful as your mother. Never think otherwise.”
Derek hesitated. “Cecily reminded me of something the Queen said awhile back.”
Cecily’s father went still, then limped away from Cecily, and sat heavily in his chair. “They called us kin.”
“But if my change is because of that, why didn’t you or Daniel change?” Cecily shook her head. “It doesn’t make sense.”
The room fell silent.
Finally, her father exhaled. “I blame myself for this.”
“What?” Cecily looked up in surprise. “Dad, this has nothing to do with you!”
He pressed his lips together. “It does. Remember that I told you before I could feel something different about you, something more?” He lowered his gray eyes, staring blindly at the floor. “The day I took you to the clinic for healing after you were injured, you were able to break away from the gaze of the dragon at the clinic. And every day you felt more and more like your mother-” He shook his head. “I was the one who insisted you see Derek in his natural form.” He lifted tired, gray eyes to her moonlit gaze. ” I was the one who insisted you hear him sing the Call.”
Derek leaned forward. “You think her change might be an effect of hearing the Call?”
Her father gave a weary nod. “You probably remember that I suspected she would gain some kind of protection against dragonkind.” He exhaled. “I just never imagined it might have an effect like this.”
Tariq pushed away from the wall and placed his hands on the back of the couch where Derek sat. “He might be right, Derek.” He sent a nod toward Cecily. “I think it’s time she tells us everything so that you may tell them the rest.”
Cecily sent Derek a questioning look. “What does he mean?”
Derek met her gaze, frowning. “Tell us everything that happened right before you noticed this change first.”
Cecily shook her head. “I wasn’t the one who noticed the change – Tara was.”
Tara looked embarrassed. “Cecily had fallen asleep in class, and the teacher had been trying to wake her for at least five minutes. Then suddenly, she started to glow.”
“What?” Derek interrupted. “How? In what way?”
Tara shrugged. “It was like gold was lighting her up from the inside. When it faded,” she motioned toward Cecily, “she looked like this.”
“Do you remember anything, Cecily?” Derek asked.
“Yes.” Cecily hesitated. The last thing she wanted to recount was the flashback she’d had. She’d been able to hide them from her dad and Daniel, and she didn’t want her dad stressed out about her when he still struggled with his own flashbacks. She would never do that to him. Especially now that she understood what he went through.
“Don’t be afraid, Cecily.” Her dad’s voice sounded low and comforting.
Well, she could tell him about the dream, at least. She exhaled. “I dreamed about a grove filled with golden light. The light filled me and burned. Then it faded.”
“That must have been when you started glowing!” Tara interrupted.
“What happened next?” Derek asked.
” I heard a voice. Someone called me.”
“Called you?” Daniel sounded alarmed.
“He said his name was Calliope. He said that I needed to find him before it was too late.” Cecily folded her arms around herself at the memory. The next part had felt too real, too painful. Almost as bad as her flashbacks. “Then Sahak showed up and attacked me with dragon-fire.”
Tariq’s hands squeezed the back of the couch, his knuckles going white, then pushed away as he moved back to lean again against the wall. “I don’t know, Derek.”
Derek glanced at him and shook his head. “I don’t know either.”
“Don’t know what?” Her father crossed his arms. “What is the rest of what you and Tariq mentioned?”
“The rest is that I don’t know how well a glamour will hold.” Derek spread, then clasped his hands. “We have to keep in mind what Queen Saranyu said about your people and mine. Whatever she meant by you, Cecily, and Daniel being ‘kin’ might effect the spell I lay.” He shook his head. “Our powers work very well on dragonkind and humans, but we’re not really certain what you are.”
Her father gave a slow nod. “So this might or might not work.”
“Yes,” Derek said.
Cecily shook her head. “Trying something is better than not trying anything. Let’s just do it.”
Derek glanced at Tariq, who shrugged. Derek gave a short nod and stood. “All right.” He motioned Cecily over. “Stand here.”
She moved from the center of the living room to where Derek had indicated. “Now what?”
“Now, be still. You might feel a little strange, but don’t move.”
Cecily nodded and watched as Derek’s green eyes closed and he slowly raised his hands. A gentle breeze brushed through the room as emerald and jade sparkles of light burst into appearance from his palms to his elbows. Swirling around his wrists, the emerald light thickened until it was a spinning blur. Derek’s green eyes opened and he lifted his glowing hands and placed them above her head, then slid them down her face, neck, and shoulders. Beads of sweat grew on his forehead and his face held a look of fierce concentration as he bent to slide them the rest of the way down her torso to her hips, legs, and feet.
Finally, Derek pushed wearily to his feet and stepped back, stumbling slightly.
“Derek!” Cecily caught his hand and moved to his side. “Are you okay?”
Tariq moved around the couch to join them, and Derek held up a hand and shook his head. “I’m fine. The spell was harder than I thought it would be is all.” He tilted his head and looked Cecily over. “It looks like it worked, though. How do you feel?”
“I feel fine.” Cecily touched her face. “I look the same?” She sent questioning glances to her dad, Daniel, and Tara.
Her dad pushed out of the chair and scrutinized her, then nodded and looked at Derek. “That’s some pretty potent magic. Looks like it took a lot out of you.” He paused. “How long do you think you can hold this?”
Cecily turned to Derek. “Do you think it will hold until school ends?” She hesitated. Even after school ended, she would still need to be hidden to attend Lyman’s – if they accepted her. How could she ask Derek to hold this magic over her when it had clearly drained him just to place the spell? She could never put him at risk. “That’s a really long time, Derek. Maybe I should give up on my dispensation-”
“No.” Derek’s face hardened with determination. “You’re not going to be a slave to dragonkind. I’ll hold it as long as needed.”
Cecily hesitated, uncertain. “If you’re sure-”
“I’m sure.” Derek’s tone was final.
“Well, this has been fun,” Tariq said, “but Derek and I really should head out.” He indicated the sky outside the window. Evening had deepened into night.
Tara came over and nudged Cecily. “Is it okay if I spend the night?”
Cecily made an affectionate face. “Of course.” She moved to touch Derek’s arm as he walked slowly from the living room to the foyer. “Derek, I don’t like how-”
“Don’t worry about it, Cecily.”
“Shh.” He pulled her into an embrace, and pressed his lips to her hair. “It’s going to be okay. I promise.”
Cecily relaxed against him. “All right, but if the spell starts to really hurt you, promise me that we’ll think of something else.”
Derek smiled and pulled away to follow Tariq out the front door. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Cecily.”
“Derek-” Cecily huffed, but Derek and Tariq shut the door as they left.