Dragonheart - Page 12

“Oh, get that ridiculous look off your face!” I said with a smirk. “I have no interest in raising a child, so you and your wife may keep her.” I paused for effect. “Provided you raise her in line with certain . . . conditions.”

“What . . . kind of conditions?” I have to give him credit. He asked that with a lot less suspicion in his voice than I would have in his position, and that took all the joy in my petty triumph completely out of me.

“To heal her, I had to touch her heart,” I whispered as I downcast my eyes. “And it is a mighty heart indeed - stronger, far stronger - than my own. She has the veritable heart of a dragon, the kind of heart I thought I would never know again.” I forced my eyes to meet his once more, putting steel in my face and voice. “That heart will be respected . . . and nurtured.”

He nodded in agreement. “We would do that regardless of your wishes,” he assured me.

“There's more,” I said. “A heart may take you far, but it is not always enough in this world, so she shall need more. Out of respect to her dragon's heart, she is to be raised as a dragon, one of the noble beasts of old, not the crawling wyrms of today, with a dragon's cunning and a dragon's strength to go with her heart. Raise her to be everything . . .” I nearly said “I am no longer,” but I caught myself in time. “. . . she shall ever need to be. Raise her to be strong and wise, intelligent and fierce, and pay no heed to any who say such is improper, for I will be watching. That is my price.”

I turned away again so I didn't have to see the unwanted sympathy in his eyes. “Then I shall pay it . . . gladly,” he said huskily and with a catch in his voice.

“Did you have a destination in mind?” I asked suddenly to snap us both out of our unfortunate dip into sentiment.

“No, sir,” he answered promptly. “We were merely fleeing the--”

I raised up a warding hand. “Don't bother to tell me!” I snapped. “That way I don't have to pretend to care, and we can stay focused on the matter at hand.”

I took his silence as assent. He was learning.

Took him long enough.

Page 12

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