This is the first chapter from Hidden Treasures, book 2 of the Drakaina series.
Even at three, four, and six, the daughters of Trank and Tatiana Livingston were expected to attend classes. Their Grandmother, Nonnie, held these. They were an exercise in decorum and deception, something the girls learned to fully appreciate quickly.
It wasn’t that they were being taught to be bad or underhanded, which would have been frowned upon. The lessons were considered to be a matter of self-defense and preservation. At the same time, the children needed to learn how to act in public, something Nonnie excelled at. No one would be able to guess she was a Drakaina, a secret she had hidden well from the world that surrounded them. As matriarch of the family, it was time for her to pass on her secrets; something there had been no need for before now.
In the last several hundreds of years, there had been no Drakaina born to their people. This dry spell had come to an end over the last 10 years; for whatever reason. Now, several hundred had joined the ranks of their mothers. It was considered a miracle, even if it meant they needed to take special care of the little Drakainas, for they symbolized the future of their species.
On this day, the girls were seated at a small table on their Grandmother’s patio, and as they carefully acted out their parts, she studied every movement they made. They had been dressed royally, and as they sipped apple juice from small porcelain teacups, Nonnie smiled in satisfaction. Her vigilance was beginning to pay off. They were the pictures of little ladies, as they should be. In civilization, they would be able to fool most anyone watching as they nibbled on their biscuits and conversed lightly. Like her, not so much as a drop of juice or a crumb of a biscuit escaped their control. It was time she let them in on more of her secrets.
Nonnie didn’t have the girls fooled as much as she thought she did. They knew she was a softie at heart, and they had her firmly wrapped around their little fingers. It went both ways, but they were smart enough to know when not to push their luck. Nonnie loved them, but she wasn’t about to put up with their nonsense during class. She was also the center of their worlds. Granted, their parents were no less loved, but she was the one who was visible at all times. She was the one they had to watch for.
“So Nonnie,” Desiree began, as she was the eldest girl, “what should we discuss today?”
Nonnie didn’t immediately respond, instead she continued to watch her Granddaughters, to see if any of them would break the ensuing silence. When no one did, she gave a slight nod of satisfaction. None of the girls had as much as flinched under her gaze, which boded well for the future. They hadn’t broken ranks either, which meant the sisterly bond they shared was strong, and they would go to the rescue of each other if needed. It was a connection she hoped would never break, although she was certain it would be tested to the limit many times over during their lives.
“What makes you think I have a subject selected for today?” Nonnie asked.
“Because you usually do,” Desiree replied calmly.
Not one of the three girls had shown signs of withdrawing or cringing, and Nonnie liked that. They would be fierce little Drakainas when they were fully developed, something the women of their kind needed to be to protect their young in times of need. This also related to each other while they were younger. If even one had cowered at the tone she had used, she would have had words with them. She was not about to let them get away with any signs of weakness, even at this early age. It was a lesson she made sure they understood well, for it would be tested vigorously in the future, and it was time to let them know how much. If all went well with the classes she was about to teach, there wouldn’t be a Drakaina who wouldn’t be able to make any of the huge males of their species squirm or break into a sweat with a look. It was no less than a Dragon Male deserved and one a Drakaina should be able to dish out.
“So true,” Nonnie acknowledged Desiree’s statement. “A woman is always prepared for any eventuality. You never know when someone is going to throw a curve at you, be it a male or female. A Drakaina needs to be even more careful than Human women. It is the way of the world.”
Kassi then did the unforgivable. She had been watching and listening with rapt attention, and she forgot to mind her manners as she licked the last of the cookie crumbs from a forefinger. She realized what she had done wrong the moment she noticed Nonnie direct a sharp glance in her direction. She hung her head in shame as she slightly squirmed, and then glanced up at her Grandmother through her long dark lashes. The moment Nonnie gave a slight smile, Kassi perked up, silently promising to do better in the future.
Desiree and Dempris, Kassi’s sisters, understood. Kassi was only three, but she wouldn’t be a baby for much longer, and Nonnie wouldn’t put up with errors from her then. Still, there were things even Desiree and Dempris needed to learn, as there really wasn’t that much difference in their ages.
“Now,” Nonnie directed their attention back onto her. “I will begin by informing you that your small class is about to become much larger. All the young Drakainas from the American continent are going to be sent here for lessons during the summer months.”
“Are you talking about the North or South American continents?” Dempris asked, as she calmly raised her cup to take a sip.
Nonnie waited for Dempris to return her cup to the saucer before replying. She wanted to see how much control the girls could hold onto through their excitement. She needn’t have worried, for they were fully in command of their reaction to her news; not like their brothers had been when their father had told them about the activities that were about to happen over the summer months. It wasn’t only the Drakainas who were coming, but also their brothers, although the one side didn’t know about the other. Drakainas were a tightly guarded secret, even amongst their own kind, which meant that the only girls the boys knew about for sure were their sisters. They were not about to share this information with anyone, not even their best friends.
“Over the next three summers,” Nonnie began, “You can expect to meet others like yourself from all over the globe. I hope you will be gracious as well as welcoming when you meet them, for we must all learn to guard each other from the perils we will be faced with in the future.”
“You are talking about Dragon Hunters, as well as boys in general. Am I right?” Kassi spoke calmly.
“Not all men are evil,” Nonnie corrected what she was sure was going through Kassi’s mind. Her youngest Granddaughter might only be three and looked like she was made of candy floss, but she could be hell on wheels when she put her mind to it. It was the part of Kassi’s personality that made her preen with pride.
“Is that why father is refurbishing the resort hotel?” Desiree asked.
They had all noticed the activity going on at the old building site and had been curious to learn more about it. Their mother had forbidden them from hanging around the building because of all the strangers. It had taken them weeks to find a decent vantage point from which to watch the men work, and they had made a point of sharing their information with each other. After all, they were in the same boat. They were all as curious as the others about what was happening. As long as no one ratted on anyone else, they figured they would be safe enough. The chances of this happening were next to nil in their estimation, for they were all into this up to their eyebrows, and none of them wanted to face Nonnie in the mood she would be apt to be in if they were found out.
Nonnie didn’t have to ask whether the children were up to mischief. She was certain of it. She didn’t ask the particulars of what this amounted to because she knew none of them would let her in on the secret. That was all right with her. They were entitled to do things like this as long as no one got hurt. It helped cement their bonds. What was going to be tricky was keeping the girls and boys segregated from each other over the summer. The men were definitely not to know about the girls, and as the brothers were taught to guard their sisters, they were not about to share this secret with the others.
To make sure the boys understood how important this was, they had been taken aside and warned not to talk about their sisters to anyone, not even with each other. They all knew that the resorts on the island were being restored for use in the future, but none realized that there were two buildings. Well, few beyond those who lived on the Island. The hotel closest to the main house, where the family lived, was to be used by the girls. The boys would use the one on the other side of the Island, as they were older and there weren’t as many of them. No one was to know about what they were doing here because it could be dangerous for them all if the information reached the wrong ears. One slip and the word that there were young Drakainas on the Island could be disastrous. The girls were too young to protect themselves yet. They were merely babies in many ways. This meant that security was going to be high, so nothing happened while they were in their formative years. This had been why the island had been chosen. It was secluded and could hold many secrets from the world without giving any away. The young men that were coming were going to be told that they were being sent to learn how to protect their own and, to them, this would mean their sisters.
Nonnie looked at the open curiosity that shone from the three sets of amethyst eyes before her and sighed. Her Granddaughters were so precious, so pretty. They would be beautiful Drakainas, fit for only the best and most fierce of the male Dragons.
“It will be my task, as senior Drakaina, to tutor all the young Drakainas, like yourself. I will teach you how to behave in public, as well as how to disguise your appearances, so no one will be able to tell what you are. Male Dragons will want to capture you, to force you into a bond with them. Dragon Hunters will want to kill you. There are precious few choices for a Drakaina in this world.” Nonnie hadn’t told anyone, but this was something she fully intended to change.
Nonnie figured that as the world changed, they needed to also. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t survive on the world for much longer. There were weapons being developed that could down a fully-grown Dragon. They needed to find ways to fit in so they weren’t so visible.
Nonnie watched, as all three of her Granddaughters studied her with narrowed eyes. She could sense their little minds clicking while they worked things out and wondered if they were coming to the same conclusions she had. For their ages, they were well ahead of their time. Then again, they had never been treated as anything other than adults. It was the way it needed to be for them.
Desiree was the first to reply, “You intend to teach us how to fight, as well as how to use Human rules to guard ourselves with, don’t you, Nonnie?”
Kassi and Dempris looked at their older sister and grinned. They liked that idea and knew where there were several young boys who weren’t reluctant to face off against a scrappy girl. This could be a lot of fun if done right.
Nonnie retained her silence, but she smiled to let them know they had guessed her plans. Even at their young age, they had a way of getting to the bottom of a plan.
New Anthology – Together We Stand with proceeds to go to the relief effort in Ukraine.