The Dragon’s Layer

    Smile. Frown. Laugh. Cry. Poker face. There was a good one, every man needed a good poker face and now that I was moving through the world on my own I would need to hone my airs to their utmost. I was preparing to practice my bows when a knock came at the door. I nodded at my reflection in the mirror and headed downstairs. After putting on my good smile I turned the knob and greeted my guest.
“The fuck do you want?” The smiling face of my cohort and worst influence Diligent greeted me on the other side, completely ignoring my rude greeting.
“Crimson my boy, we’re going to The Lair tonight.”
“Are we now? Like we did last night and every other night for the last two weeks only to get ever so politely shoved away before catching even a glimpse inside?”
“This time is different.”
“How?”
He grinned. “I’m diddling the doorman.”
“…You’ve been waiting to say that all day, haven’t you?”
“You know me well. Now shut up and get dressed, there’s debauchery to be had.”
 
    Actually, debauchery was about as far as one could get from the type of behavior allowed at The Lair. If you wanted in you put on your best tailored clothes and your best behavior; it was a place to enjoy the finer things where open drunkenness and the kind of tail-chasing you’d expect to find at most other liquor purveyors in town would get you thrown out on your face. Very professionally thrown out, of course.
    The Lair kept a small retinue of proficient guards Diligent and I had become uncomfortably well acquainted with on our recent quest to gain entrance. Only a few were needed to handle admission, the rest lurked as unobtrusively as goons in black suits could, or so I was told. The bouncers inside were there to enforce the few simple rules posted at the door:
 
  1. Be civil
  2. No drunkenness
  3. All tabs must be paid before leaving
  4. Payment for items from special stock arranged at owner’s discretion
    The first and second rules were rather ambiguous but they served to keep everyone in line; major incidents at the Lair were unheard of, and not just because everyone was scared shitless of the owner. As for the rest, well, the system worked. The place’s reputation and product also attracted a high class crowd; you could go there for a quiet evening drink or to hobnob with the people that mattered but not to get smashed. As such, getting in was huge to anyone wanting to do… well, anything.
 
    Diligent and I must’ve cut quite the image as we strode from our carriage up the walk. Despite our different builds (Diligent was short and broad while I was tall and rather thin) we wore matching gray suits with white shirts and a red tie. Several women both human and nonhuman alike turned their heads as we passed. The bouncer, a muscular man with a bald head and a cut across his cheek seemed significantly less impressed however. After waving several others away he glared at us.
“May I help you, gentlemen?” He asked. The words were formal enough but they were delivered in a voice and with the tone of someone more accustomed to asking “the hells do you want?”
Wait, ‘diddling the doorman?’ This guy? Ew. “You know friend, when you said doorman I didn’t actually think you meant—”
“What? No! He isn’t the girl—I mean she isn’t the he—”
“I ASKED you people if I could help you!
 
    At the bouncer’s interruption Dilligent quickly recovered, straightening his lapel and spinning to face the man once more. “Excuse me. My friend and I would like to enter your establishment, sir,” he said with a strained smile. “We’re on the list.”
“Names?”
“Dilligent and one Mister Crimson, here.”
The guard looked down at a sheaf of papers in his hands, then back up at us. “Your names ain’t here… gentlemen.”
“There must be some kind of mistake,” Diligent began, sounding genuinely confused. “You see, I—”
“You want there to be some kind of mistake?”  We’d exhausted the man’s patience and his face clearly showed it. Big as he was he probably could’ve intimidated his share of drunkards off the premises at half his size. Diligent balked.
“No sir, thank you sir, have a nice day, sir. Let’s go Crim.” The words flowed from his mouth as he flinched back, spun on his heel and made to walk away.
“Whoa now,” I said before reaching out to snag his collar and pull him whimpering back to my side. “Who did you say you were diddling?”
“I didn’t.”
“Now would be a good time.”
“Blessing.”
“Yes, is Blessing available by any chance?”
The guard’s eyebrow rose a fraction and he peered more closely at Diligent. “Ah, you the one?”
“Y-yes, that would be me,” my friend replied, looking far more comfortable now that he wasn’t under that withering gaze. “She didn’t mention my name?”
“Nope, just said something about a dick like a lightning rod. You look like her type though.” With a sigh the hulk uncrossed his arms and opened the door. “Get in and don’t embarrass us. Gentlemen.”
We got in, alright. We finally, finally got in.
 
    It was too much, really. Diligent and I found ourselves struck dumb by the scene before us after we stepped through the doors. Our feet sank into the carpet as we held each other and took in the view. Opulent was the only word one could use to describe the place. Everywhere the eye went was covered in richly colored fabric, dark wood, or something shining. A decent area matched at least two of those descriptions.
“Hold me Crim,” Diligent sighed.
“I already am. Gods Dil, where do we even start?”
“I was thinking the bar, but getting out of the doorway might be a good start.”
 
    What I felt must surely have been a form of shock. How else could one react when one’s grandiose dreams of a thing actually turned out to be true? For the time being at least Diligent and I straightened to recover what dignity we could and made way for the blindingly polished bar before deciding to settle into a much less imposing group of high-backed arm chairs. There were four of them spaced evenly around an ebony table; I took one and Diligent plopped down on my left. Dear gods, the thing cradled my ass like a lover!
“This is amazing,” Diligent moaned as he settled in.
“Come now, stop acting like you’ve never seen a nice chair before, you’re going to attract attention.” It really was luxurious, but I hadn’t come here to luxuriate.“Come on Dil, we need to go get seen.”
“By who? We just got here.”
“By everyone! We must have seen the half of the merchant guild’s heads just on our way over here!”
“Well then they saw us too. Look, have a drink, eat some food, enjoy the place we weaseled into before you go turning it into an advancement opportunity.”
“But—”
“We’re both wound up nice and tight, we’d probably embarrass ourselves if we tried to do any hobnobbing, so the best thing to do first is…”
“Fine, fine. You always did come up with the best excuses for slacking off.”
“And you continue to love them. Now then, how do we go about ordering here, anyway?”
“First, state your heart’s desire.” A new voice from beside me would’ve been enough to make me jump had the chair allowed for that. “Then leave the rest to us. Though the first part is optional.” the gentle voice finished as I turned to face its source.
 
    She took one more step forward and leaned forward to place a platter of bread and cheeses on our table. A gracefully curved dark priest in The Lair’s red and black server uniform bowed at Diligent and I in turn with a smile. Ah, even the waitresses were top notch.
“My name is Silky, I’ll be taking care of you today.”
Diligent nodded. “Lovely. Well then, do you have any menus?”
“Oh?” Silky looked surprised. “This must be your first time. We have no need for those here.”
“Then how…” Dil trailed off, as confused as I was.
“That’s the best part of the surprise. Food will be out shortly, gentlemen.”
 
    Well that was strange. Diligent and I looked at each other then shrugged; we would get fed and whatever they were serving tonight would probably be wonderful regardless. We continued making small talk while we waited, discussing future plans and observing who was who. I had to stop myself from jumping out of the chair several times when I noticed faces of note. It wouldn’t do to look too excitable though, perhaps Diligent was right.
 
    Silky brought the food just when we wanted it most. Two different meals with the only thing in common was the dollop of mash potatoes on my plate compared to the mountain on Dil’s. Two drinks were laid out as well; a glass of whiskey for Dil and a bottle of red wine and a glass for myself. Had when been asked what we wanted it was exactly as I would’ve requested, right down to the amount of sauce drizzled over my meat. With another bow after pouring drinks the waitress departed and we were free to dig in.
“Oh gods, that was delicious,” my friend sighed after we finished. “I think my mouth just came a little.”
“Really, Diligent?”
“What? It was good.” Defiantly he moved his plate aside and made to get more comfortable.
“Yes it’s good, but saying things like that in a place like—at least get your feet off the table, would you?” With a grumble he complied, but remained slouched with his whiskey resting on his chest. Whatever, it wasn’t my problem if he made an ass of himself in public. Or at least it wouldn’t be were I not sitting next to him.
 
    Deciding to focus on myself I turned my attention to the wine in my hand. Hands down it had to be the best I’d ever had. The light dancing over the deep red delight fascinated my eye almost as much as the smell did my nose when I brought it up. Silky must have read my mind, this stuff was almost too good to drink. Almost. Another sip and I seemed to discover more flavors buried under and curled around the others. I had been given the rest of the bottle but I still hadn’t finished the first glass. I might need to stop exploring this and start actually drinking it soon, but…
Meanwhile, Diligent’s drink ran dry. He looked at it bemused, then back to the table where more of the stuff might have been had he ordered any.
 
“That went fast.”
Too fast. Did you even taste it?”
“Yes, and I want more.”
“Call for a waitress, then.”
“Want to bet I don’t need to?” Without looking away he held his empty glass out to the right. As soon as his hand stopped moving a bottle appeared as if from nowhere and filled it. I turned farther to see Silky’s smiling face before she bowed and turned away.
“Someone wants a tip,” I said after a low whistle, watching her go.
“Hmm…” Another confused shake as Diligent once again downed his drink.
“You’re wasting that, you know.”
“Shut up, I’m doing this for science.” keeping his eyes glued on Silky’s retreating form—not a difficult thing to do—he held out his glass to the left. The waitress didn’t change course, but the unmistakable sound of a glass being refilled still came from our side. In unison we whipped our heads around and found a satyros closing a bottle of the same whiskey he’d been drinking.
“Great choice,” the woman said with a wink before placing the bottle on her tray and walking away.
“Oh, that was uncanny.”
“Wait, I’ve yet to sate my curiosity.”
“That liquor is going to hit you like a sack of bricks in about five minutes.”
“Then let me try my hand at masonry. Now help me out, I need another set of eyes.”
 
    There was really no helping Diligent when he got like this; playing along would shut him up faster so instead of protesting his foolish behavior and waste of perfectly good drink I lent him my help. We’d already scanned the area in front of us, I had a line of sight on his right side and Dil covered the left. There was no way anyone could come up behind us without one of us seeing, yet still when he held his glass for a refill—this time straight up—the sound of pouring liquid was clearly audible. As one we looked above us. A jorugumo suspended from the ceiling by silk bowed her head at us before ascending.
“Done now?” I asked.
“Quite. I’m afraid of where they might start popping out of next.”
“There’s only one direction left.”
“They couldn’t.”
“Well, they could.”  
“On three, then?”
“Fine. One, two—”
We whipped our heads down between our legs to look under the chairs to find… nothing.
“Oh, thank the gods,” Dil sighed. “I don’t know what I would have done if there was a slime with a bottle of whiskey down there.”
“Or a scylla. That would be something, when you’re too drunk to walk the entire chair could just stand up and tilt over when it gets to the door.”
“I need to see that now. Maybe just a few m—”
“Don’t you dare.”
 
That decided, we settled back into our chairs to enjoy the meal’s afterglow, and in Diligent’s case a rapidly approaching drunk.
“But at the shame time,” Dil continued, making that all-encompassing circle with his drink that only held meaning to the drunkard making it, “I feel like thingsh are really—d-d-dragon!”
“It does feel like things have stagnated to an extent, but to say they’re dragging—”
“Turn aroun’, you idjit!” Coming from a drunkard I wouldn’t normally heed those words at all, but Diligent’s face looked like the ghost of his long dead aunt whom he still owed a significant sum of money had just kicked him off of a rather high roof. As such, I decided on the slow halting method of turning around, the kind a man uses when he’s sure he doesn’t want to see what’s behind him.
I used the wrong turn.
 
    Lording over the space off to my right, claw on her hip, there was indeed a dragon. I found myself gawking, but not because there was a motherfucking dragon looming over me. No, this girl was a knockout and she knew it; I was reacting to a beautiful woman rather than a creature capable of destroying everyone in the building and then the building, though she was surely both. Silky black hair that ran down her back framed a fair face with full lips, a delicate nose and slitted emerald eyes I could’ve stared into for hours were the rest of her not equally pleasing. Her dress was the same warm red as the accents on her employee’s uniforms, but save for the scarf-like black collar that draped down to her cleavage far more fitted. She stood with her legs slightly apart which the high slit of her dress allowed to show a pleasing expanse of scaled thigh. The curve of her waist flared in sharply past her hips, then out again gracefully up to her shoulders, below which rested a pert pair of breasts slightly too large for her frame. I completed my whirlwind tour of her body by looking at those eyes once again. They were smiling the way a woman’s eyes do when they know they’ve just been ogled and they aren’t displeased by the fact.
 
“Well now,” she said as the mischievous smile slid down from her eyes to twist her mouth as well, “you two must be the newcomers that have been giving my girls trouble.”
“Yes ma’am, I mean no ma’am, I mean…” I stammered as my brain struggled to catch up with the situation. Dragon. Imposing presence. A dragon in The Lair. There weren’t many dragons which meant… oh fuck. This was the proprietor!
“May I join you boys for a while?” But she wasn’t mad! Unless she was the type to play with her prey before twisting their necks, at least.
“Of course!” I nearly stumbled over myself attempting to go through the expected motions. I hurriedly stood, bowed, then made to pull out a chair, but these weren’t the sort that were supposed to be moved. I was already straining to pull the chair back when that last thought hit me; the dragon glanced over her shoulder with a patronizing grin before taking a seat in the chair I so gallantly attempted to wiggle away from the coffee table. I discovered just how hard it is for an embarrassed man to turn invisible as she began to speak.
“Firstly, I hope you’ve enjoyed your first visit to the Lair. Secondly, I must know how you got in. I don’t recall having anyone with your names—”
“So yer a draggin, huh?” The proprietor’s face clouded. Here was a woman that clearly wasn’t used to being interrupted and my drunken asshole friend cut her off right when she was in the middle of asking how the hells we’d gotten into her club. Yes that was a godsdamned dragon Dil, now kindly shut your trap!
Aloud I said “I think what my friend meant to ask was if you’re the owner of this establishment as one might presume from—”
“No no, that’s quite alright,” the dragon said with an edge to her voice that said if the situation got any less alright things were going to start breaking. “Let your friend speak for himself, he’s only having a little trouble doing so.” Gods have mercy on us all.
“I was jus’ thinkin’, if yer a draggin, where’s yer hoard? Shouldn’t you be polishin’ some challenges or somethin’?”
“My chalices are all quite well shined. You didn’t truly imagine I spent all my time playing with baubles while this place ran itself, did you?”
“But a draggin’s gotta have a hoard, you’ve just got a fancy booze place!”
“Oh?” The dragon turned to me, eyebrow cocked. “Which esteemed guest are you?”
“Crimson.”
“Then tell me Crimson, what do you call it when someone offers you more money eventually for a little money now?”
“Either an investment or a scam, I suppose.”
“Exactly. And no one scams a dragon.”
 
    That made a lot of sense; she’d made that crack about the place not running itself earlier, but one could hire a decent manager if one wanted. When she opened the place 100 or so years ago there wasn’t much in the way of high class anything so there wouldn’t have been any competition. Not a bad idea from a young dragon. On top of that, if one had a good nose, space, and took the long view… suddenly the liquid in my glass looked a lot more like money than pleasure. The dragon caught my eye as I looked up from my realization and nodded.
“An investment and a collection,” I mused. “That’s living the dream, isn’t it?”
Diligent slurred his response. “Yeah, but when a draggin collects alotta something dontcha normally call that…” a horde?!
In an instant my glass was on the table and Dil launched himself into the closest semblance a drunk man could get to attention.
“Crim and I are very sorry for drinking your horde!”
“Diligent is very sorry for guzzling your horde!”
 
    Our hostess lazily waved the thought away. Those claws meant the gesture did a lot less to put one at ease than it should have. “Now now, if I didn’t want you drinking it you’d never see a bottle let alone taste a drop. I’m sure you can imagine though why I’m curious how you two got here without my consent.
“Yes ma’am,” Diligent squealed, not daring to move an inch, “I’m diddlin’ the doorman, ma’am!”
“Oh?” There went that eyebrow again. “I never knew Lucky had those kinds of inclinations.”
“Ah, not that doorman. Which one was it again, Dil?”
“The one with the perky little tits and the ass that won’t quit.”
“Blessing?” The dragon’s response was immediate.
“Blessing. That was the one.”
“Ah. You do look like her type,” she intoned.
“Whash that even mean?”
“Big, sturdy, tackle like a lightning rod, no doubt.”
“But what doesh that m—”
“Dil!”
 
    I turned to the sound of a new voice. Somehow shouldering through the crowd without touching anyone was a raiju. She wore a black striped pantsuit tailored to show off her slender curves, but far more importantly the uniform announced her as one of the establishment’s bouncers. She didn’t look like she’d be much in a fight, but I’d heard stories about being shocked by her. As it was the weasel was headed right for us and I wasn’t sure if I should be cautiously optimistic or scrambling over the patrons to show myself to the door. I took the woodland creature approach and froze, praying I’d still have time to bolt if she went after me. I immediately felt stupid for doing so; once she was past the closest guest the tough act vanished into thin air.
“Dilllllll!”  She leapt at my friend, almost sending both of them to the ground. “How come you didn’t come see me when you got here, huh?” The weasel continued, rubbing her head into Diligent’s neck and dropping her voice. “I could use a recharge, you know.”
“That won’t do,” our hostess rumbled from beside me. “I can’t have my girls running low on juice, can I?”
“M-madam!” The weasel yelped and turned slowly with her back suddenly as straight as her lover’s, “haha, how long have you been there?”
“Long enough to hear a very interesting story I’ll be talking to you about later.”
“Um, I can explain—”
The dragon’s smile alone was enough to freeze Blessing’s words in her throat. “No need for that, you two should go enjoy the situation. While you can.”
“I was just thinking—”
“Go!”
“Yes ma’am, sorry ma’am, right away, ma’am!” Wow, those two were better at that woodland creature thing than I was.
 
    With the hoard violator and his abettor out of sight my hostess visibly calmed. Maybe it was time to drop the hare act, or rather the atmosphere had relaxed enough that I could.
“Well, that was something,” I said. “The place really doesn’t run itself, I see.”
“Oh they’re good most of the time, but every once in awhile someone goes and does something stupid like inviting a man to consume my belongings without at least asking first.”
“So this isn’t the first time this has happened, I gather? You must have some kind of, ah, punishment in mind.” That might’ve been too obvious a question; the dragon’s eyes twinkled as she responded.
“Oh yes. Terrible, terrible things happen when I’m crossed. Tell me, did you like your friend?”
She was joking, right? Probably. Hopefully. At the very least she didn’t seem angry with me. “Sometimes.”
“I don’t think I like him at all. He seems rather boorish.” No argument there. “You, on the other hand are significantly more interesting. Tell me,” she said running a claw down my bottle, “Did you make this selection yourself?”
“No, that was Silky.”
“Hmm.” My hostess brought a finger to her chin. “And your thoughts?”
“It’s marvelous! A delight to drink even after the last of it has gone down! The flavor, the bouquet, even the aftertaste are exquisite!” She let me rave about the vintage for some time, nodding appreciatively until I finally ran out of words.
“I see you have good taste. This isn’t the best I have, but it’s still a shame this is the last bottle. Every time the last one is drained it feels like the end of an era.”
“It is?” That was too bad, I wouldn’t have minded a bottle of that every night. I’d really need to be sure to enjoy every last dr—wait, no. Poise, Crimson.  “Where are my manners? It wouldn’t do to enjoy the last of something so fine by myself. I’d be happy to share if you only had a glass.”
 
    Without looking I held out a hand. As if by magic Silky made a glass appear in it then set to picking up our dishes. Yes, I could get used to this. Now, I needed a more enticing version of that smile from earlier… there it was.
“May I?” I asked, reaching for the bottle.
“No, I enjoy this part.” The dragon gestured for the glass and I made to give it to her, but rather than taking it she wrapped her claw around my hand and held it there. My hostess tilted the bottle, starting a stream of ruby liquid that grew continually longer as she continued to lift the bottle. By the time the last drops fell to pool with the others the tip of the bottle was above the dragon’s head.
“There’s a neat trick.”
“It never fails to impress.”
 
Disengaging my hand from hers was a delicate thing but with a bit of finger tweaking and some sliding we managed. Once we had the dragon sat back and took a sip, sighing out of her nose. She seemed lost in a reverie I didn’t want to disturb, but at the same time I had a burning question, one that needed answering.
“Your name.”
“Mmm?”
“I still don’t know your name.”
“Jade.” She frowned. “Green scales got me named after a green stone. I feel like if we had a cat my mother would have named it Fluffy.”
“Jade is a beautiful name! It suits you.”
“Flattery will get you nowhere, Crimson.” Invariably that line actually meant ‘please flatter me more;’ mamono were no different from human women in that regard. I could do that.
“It got me a smile, that’s good enough.”
“Hmph.” Maybe if I pushed a little more something interesting would happen?
“Hmph indeed. Have you considered that perhaps you were named after the color of your eyes instead?” That earned me a laugh, one so hard Jade struggled not to spill her wine. “Too much?”
“No, it’s cute.” After a few more aborted sniggers she composed herself and sat looking at me with her hand in her chin while she swirled her wine.
“What?”
“I have something you’ll enjoy.” Could it be? “You’ve heard of my personal stock, yes?” It was!
“I have.” Level tone, no excitement shown… perfect.
“You should know keeping your expression that flat is a sure sign you’re faking it. Anyway, my personal selection. The finest in the land, most of the bottles worth more than the average man, each of them filled with liquid titillation to the fine pallette. I’d like to share a bottle with you.”
“Mmm. This is the part where you introduce the catch, yes?”
“There’s give and take in every deal, sir. This time what I wish to take… is you, for the night.” The dragon sipped from her glass, not taking her eyes off of me while the weight of that comment settled.
“That makes me sound rather like a whore, doesn’t it?”
“Hardly. This offer would be wasted on the common whore and none would catch my interest to begin with. Instead, you should be honored that I find you worthy of such a trade.”
 
   There was a certain logic to that; whether it was wine in exchange for my body or not it was still really good wine in exchange for what was still technically a service. I was already thinking about caving in, wasn’t I? Dear gods I was, and hard. The trick would be to do it with dignit—
“Make this easy for us both. You already know you’re going to agree, so what say you just skip to the part where you nod and we drink, hmm? We’ll have more fun that way.” Jade didn’t so much as look away under my stare, merely looking at me in that oddly reptilian way until I finally sighed and leaned back in my chair.
“You win. Do I have to sign somewhere or something?”
“Nothing as formal as that, just drink.”
 
    Again a simple wave of the hostess’ claw summoned Blessing, this time carrying two fresh glasses, a new bottle and a tray of crackers. While the waitress set our places once again, Jade plucked our new selection from the tray and turned it in her hands.
“Silky?”
“Yes, mistress?”
“This is…”
“You still have a few bottles left and he’ll be able to appreciate it. Besides,” she asked as she straightened to present me with a corkscrew, “don’t you think he’ll be worth it?”
“You know, you could humor me by being wrong every once in awhile.”
“Maybe,” the dark priest giggled, “but where’s the fun in that? Now have fun, you two.” With a wink Silky flipped her tray under her arm and was gone. Just me and the dragon once again.
“Well that was reassuring. I suppose this is the last chance I get to change my mind, then.”
“It was too late for that the moment you caught my eye. Now quit fretting and open the damned bottle.”
 
    Okay, then. Jade held the opening toward me in a way that made it clear she didn’t intend to hand it over to me so mimicking her gesture earlier I placed one hand on top of hers and twisted the corkscrew home with the other. As it turned out, dragons made excellent bottle openers; her strength on top of mine made the cork all but fly out. The dragon snatched back her treasure as soon as that was accomplished and filled our cups. The liquid that came out wasn’t the color one would expect but Jade seemed pleased to watch it flow regardless. One also couldn’t help notice that there was more wine in the glass she took, but I decided not to say anything on that. A quick toast later and I was finally free to drink the drink of dreams. The only thing was that it tasted odd.
“This isn’t grape, is it?”
“Hmm, mostly. This is one of the oldest vintages I have, from before we had a good cultivar for the area or any real vineyards. The grapes were all but wild, very crude and a bit bitter, so the makers got creative and started mixing things in to make up for that.”
“Like… raspberries?”
“Some of that. My favorite is that subtle cranberry note though.”
“I don’t—oh, there it is. By the gods, this is amazing! Why aren’t we still making this?”
“Eventually the locals got better grapes so they could make the more traditional wines people buy. That, and I might have been a bit overzealous in acquisitioning more. Ah, just tasting this makes me feel young again!” Not that she looked old to begin with.
“I can see the taste being nostalgic,” I said reaching for the bottle. There hadn’t been as much as I would’ve liked in my glass to begin with, and unlike my earlier treat this wine was one I couldn’t be satisfied to merely think about drinking. The dragon was faster though, and snatched my prize away before I could grasp it. “Hey!”
“We should let this breathe, I think. I think I know something we can do in the meanwhile.”
“But—”
“No. It’s time to fulfill your end of the bargain and this really would be better after we’ve let it sit.” Upon noticing my disappointment Jade smirked. “Don’t worry, you’ll like the next part just as much.”
Hopefully she hadn’t noticed me gulp. “But I do have your word we’ll finish the bottle? Taking equal shares from now on?”
“You have it. Now come, there’s a trade to be made.” As an afterthought my hostess snatched up my original bottle as well and we were away.
 
    It was odd how natural it felt for Jade to be so commanding. I hurriedly fell into step beside her and the crowd parted to let us through, but not so widely I didn’t find myself pressed against her side. She slipped an arm around my waist as we approached a set of doors I hadn’t noticed before and a pair of familiars guarding the door opened them with a bow as we passed.
“Welcome to the dragon’s inner sanctum,” Jade said as we passed through the doorway. She didn’t slow long enough for me to admire the artwork lining the hall, instead guiding us to the other end, into a fourier then up a flight of stairs to another large set of doors that creaked as she pushed them open.
 
    The room within was pitch black until the dragon snapped and two lamps flickered aflame. The decor contrasted with the brightly-lit opulence outside. In a word, it felt dank. The furniture was made of oak covered in a clear lacquer so it looked unfinished. Dim lighting only enhanced the effect. Disregarding my apprehension, the dragon placed our bottle on a night stand and plopped down on the bed with a sigh. Wait, had something clinked? I didn’t know what to do so I just stood in place until Jade propped herself up.
“Strip,” she demanded.
“What?”
“Your clothes, take them off.”
“Ah, um, I’ve never done anything like that before.”
“Then this will be your first time.” Something about that thought amused her and I gulped again when I realized what it was.
    I’d seen women taking their clothes off in enticing ways, but I’d always been more interested in what was being revealed than how they were revealing it, not to mention that swaying my hips like that didn’t seem manly at all. Despite my best efforts the result was rather clumsy—I almost tripped taking off my pants—but the dragon’s tail still twitched when I pulled off my underwear and stood nude before her.  
“Tada, I guess?” Jade snorted at me. “I told you I didn’t know what I was doing!”
“I didn’t believe you could be that bad, my apologies. Still, the attempt at a performance calls for a reward.” As she spoke the dragon reached over to her dresser and removed the stopper on a bottle. the dragon poured a pool of liquid and spread it between both hands. Her scales glistened in the warm light as she stood and moved towards me. She had a look in her eye and instinct drove me one step back for each she took forward until I bumped into a wall. Jade crept closer and rested her claws on the wall beside my head.
“Don’t run, Precious, this is supposed to be the fun part.”
 
    ‘Fun.’ Right. As ever my brain caught up to my penis at the worst possible moment. Here I was naked with a wealthy, horny, and mind blowingly beautiful woman in a dark room, but I couldn’t get excited. Why? Because she was a godsdamned dragon! The slick hand fondling my manhood was  tipped with claws that could rend steel and was covered in scale that could blunt swords! The lips hovering inches from mine could part and spew flame! If she wanted to she could likely crush me between her thighs in a very literal sense. Her attentions weren’t lacking, but thoughts like those rushing through my head meant little me only went to half mast.
“Having performance issues, Crimson?” She asked, “or could it be… you’re afraid of dragons? I know how to deal with that.” In that unnerving way of hers she kept her eyes locked on mine as she straightened and reached behind her neck to pluck a string. The front of her dress cascaded down revealing an expanse of creamy white skin and pert breasts I soon found pressed against my chest when Jade leaned back in.
“I thought that would get me something,” she said, squeezing my hardening erection. “Go ahead and touch.” No thanks, flattening myself against the wall sounded like a much better idea!
 
    Maybe she was just determined to get her money’s worth, but the dragon refused to let my lack of enthusiasm slow her down. She made a map of my sweet spots, stroking, tugging and teasing every part of my penis in between fondling my sack. That got me hard, how could I help it? Had she a sword at my throat the way she teased the underside of my head I still would’ve given me wood. Her free hand found its way inside of her dress and her self-found pleasure sent waves of dark energy crashing against the sandcastle walls of my rationality. Her breath at my ear became sultrier, simple pants became moans. The waves grew high and my walls began to crumble.
 
    Farther below those scales were softer than they had any right to be. They were somehow no  more rough than a woman’s skin but with a texture beyond compare. I wondered briefly if she did something to soften them, but a few strokes later the thought drifted away. It grew harder and harder to think as her hand slid up and down my shaft, each circuit pushing those waves of pleasure higher. Jade circled my head and the waves crested my pathetic wall of resistance. Fuck it! The dragon’s claws formed that blissful O again, but rather than standing still and taking it I thrust forward.
“About time, human. Aren’t you looking for more, though?”
“Gods yes!”
“Then touch me, dammit.”
 
    Without further prompting my hands found the globes of her ass; nature took its course for the rest. The dragon’s butt wasn’t as one would expect. Despite being able to feel the powerful muscles under the skin when she shifted her weight there was a layer of fat over the top one could only get from decadence. When she was younger these buns must’ve been ridiculously tight but settling had softened them and now they were perfect for sinking my fingers into. To further the effect Jade arched her back to thrust herself harder into my hands. Doing so put her face closer to my neck. Her hot tongue lashed out to tease my nape while her hand stroked me to the heavens below. I was building up and Jade wasn’t going to slow down at all.
Hearing my breath grow ragged my hostess straightened to stare into my eyes.
“Going to pop the cork, Crimson? Ah ah, don’t look away. There’s a good boy.”
 
    I came with a dragon’s golden eyes locked onto mine. Jade slowed her movements but didn’t stop as the first spasms struck me, coaxing out blast after blast of semen. Towards the end I dribbled onto the hand encircling my cock, but a good five or six ropes launched themselves onto her stomach. I slumped against the wall as my orgasm ended and the afterglow began. The claw busy under Jade’s dress finally reappeared to scoop up the semen plastering her belly. I was transfixed watching each finger disappear into her mouth and she as well by the taste. When her claws were finally clean the dragon took notice of me again and nodded.
“Our flavors go well together.”
“Thank… you?”
“You’re welcome. Now come.”
Without any warning Jade stooped and scooped me into her arms, supporting my weight with one arm under my shoulders and another under my knees.
“Hey! Put me down!” I demanded, feet kicking. The dragon complied with a shrug, taking a few steps towards the bed before tossing me the rest of the way.
 
    The mattress was firm beneath me and something clinked under me as I moved; I was not going to be able to get used to the aesthetic of this room. The dragon, however, seemed to be completely in her element. I found her leering down at me drinking straight from one of our bottles. It was the lesser vintage, but watching her keep it to herself still annoyed me.
“Were you planning on sharing that?”
“Mmm, where are my manners?” Yet as if she hadn’t heard me at all Jade took another swig. I made the best attempt at glaring a man could be expected to give when he was staring down a horny scaled death machine while the dragon strode forward, bottle still in hand.
 
    Diligent had rubbed off on me in the worst ways over the years; keeping up that stare for as long as I did was something only he would be stubborn enough to do. Realizing that I kept at it anyway. Jade looked amused by my act of defiance, her face never lost its half smirk as she settled on the bed and crawled toward me on her knees. She lifted my chin when our faces were centimeters apart and brought our lips together with an unexpected tenderness. Her tongue poked at my pursed lips until I gave in and parted them. In slipped her tongue, but right behind it was a flood of something warm and sweet. The liquid hit the back of my throat and I swallowed on reflex. I jerked back struggling not to gag, terrified by the thought of what Jade just forced down my throat. Or at least I was until the aftertaste caught my attention and I smacked my lips. Wine?
“You disappoint me, precious,” Jade said. “You should savor drink this good. Do it again and don’t let me down this time.”
 
    The dragon took another long swig and approached me again. This time I opened myself to her willingly and the dragon took my neck between her arms as she descended. Tongues met as she pulled us closer together. The grape ambrosia swirled in our mouths as our tongues danced, giving it a flavor distinctly ours and overpoweringly erotic. An eternity later we parted, both of us gasping for breath.
“Don’t suppose I disappointed you that time?” Jade’s only response was a snort. I made a strikingly similar noise when she reached back to grasp my reinvigorated manhood. Guess it was that time again.
 
    A hand on my chest pushed me onto my back and the dragon mounted me before leaning in for another kiss. The taste of that vintage still lingered in her mouth, but this time the focus was on each other. After another interminable time locked together Jade parted and brought her mouth to my ear.
“Do the honors.” The honors? Clouded by desire I couldn’t grasp what she meant until my hand was guided to a string at her waist. Ah. One yank of the cord on each side and Jade’s panties fell away. I couldn’t see anything with her on top of me, but the knowledge of what would come next sent my member twitching.
 
   Jade noticed my excitement and enjoyed playing with it. One of those claws, one of those beautiful, soft claws wrapped around the base of my cock to angle me towards her waiting slit. The heat and wetness alone as she rubbed my head against her entrance were incredible, and the dragon took several swipes, watching my expression from inches away. Right before I spoke up to ask her to hurry, the dragon finally rocked back and took me inside of her. We shared a sigh when I fully hilted myself and there was the briefest moment of tender affection between us before Jade sat up and rested her weight on my hips. She started grinding against me, working her hips in a circle that stretched her in all the best ways. It was good though not amazing for me, but I could tell from her breathing and the flush on her face the dragon was enjoying herself immensely. Well, she’d already gotten me off once for the night, I needed to return the favor.
 
    With one hand I reached down to grasp Jade’s rocking hips. I held no hope of guiding her movements, but I didn’t intend to. Instead, I slid my hand inward until my thumb was in reach of the dragon’s bean. The little gasp she made when I pulled back the hood was priceless, but the quivering of her walls around me was worth even more. She was really feeling it now; her movements grew less fluid. That would do, but I wanted a finishing touch. Deciding what wasn’t hard, there was part of her I’d wanted to touch since laying eyes on her swaying in front of me.
 
    Two pink nipples stood hard and proud on Jade’s chest, I caught one between my free thumb and forefinger and pulled. The sensation was enough to loose a moan she’d been holding onto since taking in all of me. No way I was going to let it end there.
 
    Beginning to feel something now myself I almost imperceptibly twitched my hips forward. She matched in kind a little more and I did the same. Soon all pretense of the teasing grind we’d started with was gone and I was thrusting up to meet a woman hammering back down into me. Bit by bit Jade sank forward until we were chest to chest, her claws gripping the sheets on either side of my head while we smashed our hips together. Gone was the imperious death machine, replaced by a bitch in heat I was racing ever closer to blowing a load inside of. My senses were filled with Jade’s touch, her moans, and those eyes locked onto mine even as they themselves drowned in pleasure. My climax neared, but the dragon reached hers first. The lascivious panting in my ear caught at the same time Jade’s body seized around me. Her womanhood clenched like she wanted to wring every drop out of me and I could feel the cloth under me ripping under the strain from her claws. I helped her along with a few slow strokes, forsaking myself to make sure her orgasm was as long as it could be. I’d have her pay me back later. Sighing, Jade rolled off of me and flopped onto the bed.
“Ah, I needed that. It’s been a long week.”
“It’s going to be a long night, too.”
“I’m counting on it.”
 
    Jade finally calming down a bit meant I got to as well. The glistening body before me was enough to stoke the flames of lust, but not as much as the waves of dark energy flowing off her before. I had a moment to survey the room and come down from my plateau, so I took it. There was the glint of gold through the ripped padding, but what little of my self-preservation instinct was left after boning a dragon demanded I ignore that. Far less dangerous was that bottle of oil from earlier. I had an idea that had gotten me into the hearts and asses of many a woman before and I was going to need the stuff. The oil was right where Jade left it so, ignoring the dragon watching me out of the corner of her eye I poured some out and spread it on my hands.
“What is it you plan on doing, human?” She finally asked.
“Just this.”
 
    Without any resistance whatsoever I straddled that dragon. Normally you’d expect a woman to show some trepidation with a man in that position; Jade’s only response was curiosity. That reaction changed as I began to knead the muscles in her neck and shoulders.
“Feel good?” I asked, trying to gauge her reaction.
“You’re clumsy.”
“Well in that case…”
“I didn’t tell you to stop. Do it harder, you needn’t worry about hurting me. Yes, that’s it.”
 
    She wasn’t kidding, I really had to lay on her to get the amount of force she wanted, but as I worked the dragon’s arms the muscle went limp and her eyes closed.
 
    There was a sure sign her guard was down. It wasn’t time to strike just yet though, so I continued rubbing her body with my oily hands, marvelling at the layered softness and firmness a strong woman’s body could have. Even her scaled parts were still pleasant to the touch; my hands were feeling uncommonly soft too, I had to wonder if the oil I was using was the culprit. Regardless, I covered every inch of her arms in the stuff, even going so far as to coat the inside of her fingers.
 
    Her arms were covered, so logically the dragon’s scrumptious, uh, torso would be next. That portion was more fun for me. My fingers must have been ticklish, because they sent the flesh beneath quivering with every touch. Not quite knowing what to do I went over her ribs until the reaction quieted, then moved in slow circles towards the mounds on her chest. I fondled, groped, caressed them until the oil and our sweat gave those gorgeous breasts a sheen rivalled only by her bar. Her hard nipples an appreciative sighs told me she was enjoying the treatment as much as I was but I couldn’t stay there forever.
 
    I moved down to her stomach, pushing hard like Jade requested. Down the waist to those phenomenal hips, then onto the thighs. I made a point of not touching her vagina, and limited myself to the outside of her legs on the trip down, only touching her inner thigh on my very slow trip up. She knew full well what I was doing and responded accordingly, spreading herself in increments just wide enough for me to reach the next bit of skin. Eventually—an eventually I made sure was a long time coming—I reached her crotch and her legs were wide enough for me to have a clear view of her drenched womanhood. Yet teasing time wasn’t over.
 
    Anything intense was undesirable here, so I carefully avoided her clit, sticking to a deep rub of the outer lips and just above her hood instead. Jade wanted it badly by that point, the way she spread her legs and angled her hips made that clear. Still though, she wasn’t ready. Before I could make my next move Jade sat up and hooked a hand behind my neck, pulling me in close.
“Ready for round two, human?”
“Not…  yet,” I grunted while slipping away. I tapped her leg and gestured with my chin. “Flip over.”
Again, Jade’s response was an arched eyebrow.
“You owe me.”
“Very well.”
 
    Now then, I had her on her belly which got me much closer to my goal, but hopping straight to it wouldn’t do any good; continuing the charade longer would be smart since I needed the dragon like putty. The same pattern would do, but I’d already gotten her arms, so skipping those would be fine. I continued the massage, starting at her shoulders again and marvelling at the layers of sensuality draped over the dragon’s body while I eased her tension.
    I’d used this trick before on women with more human frames, but never anyone with wings popping out of their backs. Jade lifted them out of the way for me to reach underneath but  I wasn’t sure what to do when I reached the area. An idiot couldn’t have missed the signs that I was doing things right, though. As I worked between her wing joints I happened to give the flesh a good twist while I kneaded with my knuckles. The result was a rumble, more felt than heard, that made my hand vibrate.
“What was that?”
“A sign you should keep going. Be sure to get the membrane while you’re at it.”
Guess I had my orders.
 
    Every touch of those mighty dragon wings earned me another of those rumbles. It was such a pleasing sound I could’ve helped her make it all evening but little me still demanded satisfaction. I stopped after covering the base and lower bony portion of those wings in oil and slid down the curves of her lower back. Again, I couldn’t help focusing on her womanly bits so I spent more time than I meant to massaging the dragon’s ass. By this point I had been massage molesting her nearly an hour and both of us were nearing our limits; the sight of her pink rosebud when I spread her cheeks almost made me lose my composure and do something suicidal but I resisted.
 
    As much fun as teasing a beautiful woman at my leisure was, it was time to get to the main event. Jade was both half asleep and dripping wet so the time to move was now. I knew I wouldn’t have the patience to tease her legs like I had before she flipped, so I skipped that this time and let my fingers glide from the globes of her butt down between her legs to stroke her waiting vulva. Jade sighed when I touched her, never quite reaching where she wanted it most. I kept my approach teasing and slowly lifted my hand, forcing Jade to raise her hips to maintain contact. By degrees I kept this up, giving the briefest of caresses to her slit or clit when it looked like she was going to stop cooperating. The end result of my guidance was a dragon on her knees with her face in the pillow, ass in the air rubbing herself against my hand like an animal. That sight was exactly what I wanted and too much to bear besides.
 
    The preparation was done. Jade was drenched, I was as hard as I’d ever been in my life and the dragon’s pussy was positioned like the gods themselves wanted me to fuck her from behind like an animal. I’d never been one to ignore the gods. Leaving one hand to rub Jade’s thigh and steady her, I took my cock in the other and slid it into her waiting cunt all in one go. We moaned in unison when my balls rested against her womanhood. From the tone, however, it was clear she’d enjoyed that more than I had. A few breaths to relax and I slid my spear out to the tip.
“You have five seconds to explain what you think you’re doing,” my hostess panted past the pillow, glaring at me as hard as a women that desperately wanted to be reamed could.
“Then my points are fivefold. One!” On  the count I hammered back inside of Jade, making her grip the sheets and let out another of those sweet moans.
“Twooooo.” I pulled out slowly, leaving more than a single second for the dragon to recover before the next number.
“Three! Fouuur! FIVE!” The last thrust sent my testicles slapping against her and the dragon yelped into the pillow.
“You… make a good point.”
It was a struggle not to let the smirk creep into my voice when I leaned down to whisper into—well, near—her ear.
“I’m going to make a lot more.”
 
    Just like that I rested against her, slowly working her insides, pulling her to new heights of pleasure while holding back my own orgasm. Jade’s body was mine for the taking. I made sure to play with the spots on her wings I’d discovered earlier in between cupping her breasts and roaming her thighs. Her body being as oily as it was only made sliding my hands over her that much more thrilling.
 
    The knowledge of what I was doing to something as powerful as a dragon was as hot as actually doing it. An unusual heat filled me and I found my willpower failing. I increased the speed and force of my thrusts until my hips slapped against Jade’s at the bottom of every stroke. I found an elbow and lifted one of her claws gripping the sheets. In turn the dragon gripped my arm and I plowed her with her torso bobbing beneath my every thrust. If only there was a mirror so I could have watch those tits bounce too. Well, as consolation… SMACK! I brought my hand down across Jade’s ass hard and watched it jiggle. Dear gods that was hot. Hotter still was the way doing that made the dragon clamp down around me; it was like fucking a thirsty vice.
 
    My end was nearing and I knew it so I pulled the dragon’s claw behind my neck and moved the arm I’d been supporting her with between her breasts so I was cradling her windpipe. She was nearly vertical then, providing me with full access to her pussy so I could force my entire length into her with abandon.
“You like that?” I grunted into her neck while tugging her nipples with my other hand. “Tell me you like being fucked from behind like a slut!” Jade’s claw was working furious circles with her clit, an actual response was too much to expect but she still managed to groan.
“I’m going to cum!”
 
   Not before I did. My first spurt into her depths made the dragon hit her breaking point. She shuddered, moaned like I’d never heard before and the cunt already milking me dry went into double time. The echoes of our carnal calls filled the rooms as our movements lost all rhythm, each of us desperately searching to feel more of the other. My last contractions robbed me of all strength and I slumped back to sit on my heels. Jade, however, seemed to be more energetic. A few breaths after I pulled out she found her knees and put a claw against my chest.
“More already? Give me a mom—”
My command was cut short by a claw pushing against my chest.
 
    A single tap sent me tumbling onto my back and completely belying the fact that I’d just creampied her Jade was on me in a flash. One claw wrapped around my leg and the other lead my flagging erection into her mouth. She was going to clean me with her mouth? I wasn’t going to complain, but that wasn’t something I’d expect from her. Maybe I’d awakened her submissive side? It was said that dragons would do something like that if you ever managed to defea—
“Whoa!” A particularly hard suck brought me out of my reverie. What I thought was an attempt to clean me up was quickly turning into a full-blown blowjob; Jade had already coaxed my limp penis into something reminiscent of an erection and it ached.
“Hey,” I said, pushing up on her head, “I just came, cut it out.” I might as well have told a wall to get out of my way; my hand and words had about as much effect. Rather than listen, the dragon instead redoubled her attack on my sensitive spots. I only got ¾ of the way back to a hardon but Jade didn’t stop licking, prodding or sucking. Every touch was electric, a painful pleasure a joyous torture I instinctively tried to scuttle away from. My effort resulted only in my hostess pulling on my leg and drawing me deeper into her throat. I sounded more like a man that just jumped into a cold lake than one getting his dick sucked; it all just felt unbearably good.
 
    I could feel my neck straining and and my toes curling, the hand that wasn’t resisting her bobbing head clutching the sheets tighter with every stroke. I was helpless to stop any of it. All I managed was to groan “stop, stop, stop!” through clenched teeth while the dragon continued treating me like a toy. Her technique was merciless too; her mouth was far hotter than it should have been, the suction I experienced was inhuman and her tongue worked overtime, constantly running circles around my head or frenulum when it wasn’t plastered against my shaft sending shivers down my spine and my toes curling. Occasionally, for a few muscle clenching moments she would stop and flick my hyper-sensitive urethra and the world would shrink to that single point.
 
    My protest devolved into mere groans as Jade continued her assault on my cock. Something monumental grew between my legs and I knew I was close. Jade too seemed to be able to tell and poured even more attention into those freakishly intense areas that made my whole body twitch. As the orgasm struck me my body left my control. My eyes rolled into my head, but before that the last thing I saw was Jade staring up at me, eyes locked onto my contorted face.
 
    I might’ve passed out at some point. I awoke curled on my side, clutching my aching ribs while my mind tried to make sense of the sensuous torture my body had just been subjected to. Before I had even half a chance the dragon was upon me again. She spun me onto my back with one hand then straddled my chest in one motion. Two claws wrapped around my head, forcing my gaze to meet the dragon’s and making me uncomfortably aware of what might happen to my skull if Jade decided to squeeze. Once I finally had enough control over my eyes to focus on her face I found her lips curled back in a way that showed entirely too many teeth. That wasn’t good.
“I’m…sorry?”
“Say it like you mean it,” the dragon growled.
“I’m sorry! I just… I wanted to have fun! They normally like it after!”
“The only reason you still have all of your parts attached is because I did.”
“Then why—”
“Because I expect you to know your place,” the dragon said, looming closer. “I can tolerate, even appreciate a bit of the cheekiness you displayed earlier, but taking me from behind like an animal is too far. I am not one of your human women, understand?” I nodded and Jade glared at me a moment longer before releasing her grip and standing.
 
    It was only cerebrally that I noticed my hostess’ butt as she walked to a table where clean glasses were laid out; the rest of me was too exhausted to react. I felt like I’d just been used. I had just been used, but I supposed turnabout was fair play. I languished in my sexual exhaustion while Jade found two new glasses and filled them. After that the dragon sat on the bed kitty corner to me before handing me my share.
“This is the last of the bottle,” she said. “Drink it well.”
“Does this mean I’m forgiven? Already?”
“I can stay angry if you prefer. There’s plenty left where that came from and I haven’t had a chance to work out my jaw like that in a good while.”
“No thank you.”
“Good, you might bruise. Do you have any plans early tomorrow?”
“That was an uncomfortable segue.”
“Yes or no?”
“None that can’t be put off.” With that I accepted the glass and savored the remnants of our shared bottle.
 
    Ah, knowing this was the last made it so much better. The silence that filled the room wasn’t bad for drinking either, but I always preferred to have it filled. I allowed myself to meet the dragon’s gaze awhile before speaking.
“So I’m curious,” I said in between sips. “Why the wine?”
“Because I enjoy it.”
“Not that, I mean why me. You don’t seem like the type not used to being able to bed a man with looks alone.”
Jade snorted. “You must learn not to say everything that crosses your mind.”
“Madam, I am the definition of tact… when I choose to be. But now we’ve both fulfilled our bargains, so tell me: why the wine?”
My host seemed to consider this for a moment before tipping back the last of her drink and putting aside the glass.
“Have you ever watched someone’s face? I mean, truly watched it? People make the most amazing expressions, but to me the most amazing of all is when a man experiences something truly divine.”
“Like a certain wine, I presume?”
“Or a good woman.” There was that smirk again.
“How do you stack up?”
“I feel no shame in losing to that bottle. It was a close call besides.”
“Very graceful of you.”
“Then there are the other perks, like not having to argue with smartasses over who’s in charge. Find a lover that’s worth it and it can be a fair trade. I should mention though, you actually haven’t fulfilled your obligations yet. You’re mine for the night, remember?”
“You don’t mean—”
“If you’ve ever aspired to be a dragon’s pillow your deepest fantasies are about to come true.”
“I  haven’t.”
“That’s alright, not all men have dreams that big.”
 
    Before I could protest she snapped and the handles extinguished themselves. Well, I had promised this much and protesting would probably get me into another uncomfortable situation so I decided not to be obstinate. A bit of groping and cover rustling later and we were both situated next to each other under the blankets. Jade had her arms wrapped around my chest, breathing into my ear with her knees tucked in behind mine. It was a foreign feeling; warm and comforting and secure. I felt… safe. It probablyprobablt felt strange because of the scales and the fact that—wait.
Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait!
“The man’s supposed to be the big spoon!” I cried into the darkness
“What are you on about now?”
“Our positions are reversed! Roll over!”
“Nonsense. It’s true the big spoon is usually male, but isn’t the large spoon also the larger, wealthier, more powerful of the pair? All but one tradition point to me.”
“Yes, but—”
“I can continue.”
“Nevermind. Ah, hold on though, the little spoon is ALSO usually the prettiest one.” No way she’d be able to deny that!
“Another point for you.” What? But it was a compliment and she wouldn’t be able to refuse it and… and damn if that hadn’t backfired completely.
“You could’ve at least called me handsome instead.”
“I could have called you lots of things. Now stop talking and go to sleep; you’re much cuter when you’re quiet.”
    And so I was quiet. Sleep crept upon me and the night passed. I awoke to a light breakfast in bed while my clothes were cleaned and pressed, then my hostess escorted me to the door—her private door, not the club door. Somehow it hadn’t occurred to me that one existed.
“You know,” Jade said as stood on the steps overlooking her property, “I should introduce you to my masseuse. You’re rather clumsy now, but with some training…”
“Was that an invitation back?”
“Consider your name on the list.” Yes! “But no friends.” I never liked Dil anyway.
“Very well. Oh, one more thing?”
“Hmm?”
“What about, um… what was her name? The one with the perky little tits and the ass that won’t quit?”
“Blessing.”
“Right, Blessing.”
“Funny how you remembered those details.”
“They were noteworthy. Anyway, what is her fate to be?”
“Better we leave that unsaid.”
“Or better she leave the country?”
“Running only makes me angrier and that wouldn’t be far enough besides. She ended up bringing me something interesting so I’ll go easy, but there won’t be a repeat offense.” I could tell from looking at her that she had absolute confidence in that statement. Normally it would have a connotation like ‘because she’ll be find floating in a pond shortly’ or the like but that wasn’t the case here. Fascinating. Fascinating and ball-tighteningly terrible.
“You are a terrifying woman.”
“Indeed. Now if you’ll excuse me the terrifying woman has terrifying things to do. Run along now; I’ll see you when I see you, but don’t make me find you.”
 
    A dismissal only a dragon could use. “Get out of my sight but come back before I have to hunt you down,” she said. Still, I wasn’t about to protest any further lest she get testy again. After a bow I used my stately walk down the path until I was out of sight. I took a quick look left, then right. No one was looking. I broke into a sprint, forgetting all pretense of grace I’d put on upon my exit.
“DILIGENT!” I screamed as I threw open the door to his office. He looked up from the documents he was reading and the frown on his face melted away.
“CRIMSON!”
“DILIGENT!”
“WHY ARE WE SHOUTING?!”
“Because I’m excited is why! Guess what I did last night!”
“Dick the drake, did you?”
“Hells yes, but that’s not all—”
“Mate with the matriarch?”
“Yes, and—”
“Ravish the reptile?”
“In the name of all that’s good would you pl—”
“Pound the patron?”
“These are getting terrible.”
Dil shrugged. “Sorry, ran out of material. Anyway, you whitewashed this woman…”
“And got my name put on the list! She even invited me to take some lessons from her masseuse! This might be the beginning of something wonderful. How’d you fare?”
“Well, it turns out that women who think they’re going to die are amazing lays. And she has a sister.”
“Aren’t you worried about yourself?”
“The way I see it there isn’t anything to be done. Running would just piss her off and I wouldn’t be able to go far enough besides. I’ll probably just grovel or something when the time comes.”
“A sound idea. Oh, and on that note I should tell you the bad news: Jade hates you. You’re probably never getting into the Lair again.”
“Blast. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. Do you think she could tell me where to buy more of that whiskey?”
“That’s it? You spent so much time trying to get us in and then when you’re banned for life that’s your reaction?”
“My goal was to get in and I accomplished it. The way I see it, gaining entrance to that club was like screwing a virgin. It wouldn’t be as thrilling after the first time anyway.”
“Absolutely vulgar. I expect nothing less from you.”
“I’m glad we understand each other so well. Also…”
 
    Diligent’s voice trailed off and his face took on a far off expression that meant something worthwhile might be rattling through his skull. This sort of thing rarely happened, but when it did the result was always worth hearing. I edged closer and waited, barely breathing until he’d processed the thought and Dil whipped off his reading glasses.
“Do you know what this means?” He said in a conspiratorial tone, leaning over the desk, “you’re the dragon’s layer of the Dragon’s Lair!”
“Godsdammit, Dil.”
 
END.
 
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