Home > Claimed by the Barbarian Dragon

Claimed by the Barbarian Dragon
Author: Terry Bolryder

 

 

1

 

 

Mara Nelson stared out the window of her crystal shop, pondering how much things had changed since shifters had come out into the world.

At her door, her beautiful wind chimes with their hanging, sparkling crystals were catching the evening light and throwing it in beautiful rainbows around the shop.

And out on the street, two men were arguing in a way that made her distinctly nervous.

Mara had read shifter novels all her life, so it had been different for her when shifters were revealed to the world.

Every time she saw an extra-tall, extra-built man, she had to wonder if they truly were one of the magical beings who could take the form of both creature and man.

And the ones she’d thought she’d pegged as shifters tended to slide their eyes over her in silent, burning admiration, despite her attempts to hustle down the sidewalk past them.

A few of the people in her shop also paused to watch the argument, but luckily, after a few chest pokes and shouted arguments, the two men turned in different directions and left, making Mara let out a sigh.

A woman with red hair, wary green eyes, and a tired expression brought a small girl who was presumably her daughter to the front to check out, bringing with her a few rose quartz tumbled stones and a mystery grab bag.

Mara took them from her with a smile to ring up the order and looked down to see that the little girl, who couldn’t have been more than five, was holding a small crystal crown that wound in and clipped crystals at the side of the face.

The little girl stood on tiptoes to put it on the counter and smiled up at Mara. “This too, please.”

Mara smiled back at the girl’s sweet politeness but heard the mother sigh and look down apologetically.

“We can’t get that,” she said. “But look, we have pretty crystals here, like you like.”

The girl’s eyes went sad for a moment, but then she nodded, and the mom picked up the little crown to put it back.

Before she could, Mara snatched it lightly out of her hand and put it with the others to ring up.

She smiled at the little girl, whose eyes were now wide. “We’re running a special. Free gift with purchase.”

The girl’s face brightened as if she’d been gifted the moon, and Mara felt warm energy beam through her at having given another person happiness.

Other customers in the store looked over with a smile, also happy with the transaction.

Who could ever say no to such a cute little kid?

As the mother rummaged in her purse for payment, thanking Mara eagerly, Mara moved over to the crystals and took each in her hand, silently infusing them with all the good thoughts and energy she could muster.

Ever since she’d first started selling crystals from a small online store at home and making crystal jewelry, she’d heard from friends and customers that there was a special calming feeling to them.

She hoped that was true. The world could always use more healing.

When Mara had rung up the order, she went around the side of the counter to get on her knees to gently place the crown on the little girl’s head. “There you go. You look beautiful. Like a princess.” She smiled.

The girl threw herself into Mara’s arms, thanking her, and then her grateful mother took her hand and led her out of the shop, promising to be back next payday.

Mara was just glad she’d been able to help.

“You have to stop being so softhearted,” another customer said, stepping up, this time one of her regulars.

Becky was a pretty woman in her fifties with fluffy, soft blond hair to the top of her shoulders and a curvy figure like Mara’s.

They’d become good friends over the years since Becky came in often to check out new goods, and she really liked the other woman.

“I can’t,” Mara said. “Did you see her little face?”

Becky put a hand to her cheek. “Crystals are not a necessity.”

Another regular customer, Willow, a curvy woman in her thirties like Mara, with gorgeous deep skin, eyes like obsidian flecked with tiger’s eye, and a fashion sense anyone would envy, looked over to join the conversation. “I’m with Becky. You have to make a living.”

“I do,” Mara said, smiling. “I’m so lucky to do so. How can I not give back?”

“Crystals aren’t a necessity, you know,” Becky repeated.

“Yes,” Mara said. “But I don’t know anywhere that crown will be happier than on that little girl’s head.” She shrugged. “You never know what a moment of kindness will mean to a person. I believe in acts of kindness wherever possible.”

“It’s admirable,” Willow said, shaking her short curls. “It really is. But one day I worry you’re going to be taken advantage of, you’re so kindhearted.”

“Kind but not stupid,” Mara said. “Did you find anything you like by the way?” She wiggled her eyebrows. “Just to piss you off, I’m thinking about doing a fifty percent off sale right now in the store.”

Becky and Willow both rolled their eyes, but then, since they were both crystal hounds, quickly got moving to put crystals in their carts.

Mara was happiest when people had her products. She made enough just from her online and wholesale sales to cover her living, and she donated what she could to charity when she had extra.

But there was something about putting smiles on other people’s faces that she was addicted to, and she didn’t know how to stop.

When Becky was checking out, holding a gorgeous sodalite sphere she handed over to Mara, she quickly grabbed Mara’s hand, setting down the sphere to do so.

Her blue eyes widened. “Hon, what is that?”

Normally, Becky’s eyes were either full of her characteristic frankness or gentle and kind, but right now, they were filled with horror.

Willow came over immediately to check as well as Mara looked down at her own wrist with a sense of dread, wondering how she hadn’t noticed.

She supposed she had been distracted with the rush of customers that had left just before the near fight outside.

There was a mark on her wrist. Dark brown with an odd symbol that looked like a misshaped sun or star. Like a tattoo.

But that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was that she could swear it was moving.

She stepped back from the counter, staring at it, shock ripping through her insides, disbelief making it hard to fathom that this could happen.

“Hold on, honey, calm down. Let us see,” Willow said.

“It’s moving!” Mara said, trying to stay calm through the waves of nausea and shock moving through her alternately.

“Not to me,” Willow said, pulling her hand forward and studying it.

When Mara looked again, she saw that Willow was right. It wasn’t moving.

“Have you seen those fliers around?” Becky asked, looking down at the mark also. “Like, ‘See something paranormal or experience shifter trouble? Call the double dragons.’”

Willow sighed, leaning her cheek on her hand on the counter and releasing Mara’s hand. “I want to use the number just to see a dragon, but a friend of mine tried that and it didn’t work. I don’t know how they decide whether to come or not.”

Mara had seen the fliers. But she hadn’t ever thought she would need to call the number…

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