Liam takes manhattan, p.1
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       Liam Takes Manhattan, p.1

         Part #9.50 of Elder Races series by Thea Harrison
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Liam Takes Manhattan

  Liam Takes Manhattan

  (A Story of the Elder Races)

  Thea Harrison

  Warning: This story contains a major spoiler from Shadow’s End (book #9, released December 1st, 2015). If readers do not want to be spoiled, they should read the stories in order of their release dates.

  This is a short story (15,000 words or 50 pages) intended for readers of the Elder Races who enjoy Liam Cuelebre as a character.

  Reeling from a deep loss, the magical prince of the Wyr, Dragos and Pia’s son Liam Cuelebre, turns inward and withdrawn as he struggles to come to terms with who he is, along with the challenges that lie before him.

  Hoping to ease his heartache and offer comfort, a concerned Dragos and Pia offer him a gift, something he has desired for a long time. Liam’s response has a ripple effect across all of New York. Soon miracles of all kinds start arriving just in time for Christmas, along with a visit from a mysterious person who gives Liam hope and a vision of his future.

  Liam Takes Manhattan is the third part of a three-story series about Pia, Dragos, and their son, Liam. Each story stands alone, but fans might want to read all three: Dragos Goes to Washington, Pia Does Hollywood, and Liam Takes Manhattan.

  Liam Takes Manhattan

  Copyright © 2015 by Teddy Harrison LLC

  ISBN 10: 0-9906661-8-2

  ISBN 13: 978-0-9906661-8-9

  Google Play Edition

  Cover Art © Frauke Spanuth

  This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced, scanned or distributed in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

  Table of Contents


  Title Page

  About the Book

  Copyright Page

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  About the Author

  About Dragos Goes to Washington

  About Pia Does Hollywood

  Look for these titles from Thea Harrison

  Chapter One

  Liam stood at the edge of the rooftop of Cuelebre Tower, looking down at the city streets.

  It was the darkest time of the year, after winter solstice and the annual Masque of the Gods, and right before Christmas. Below, the streets were decorated with Christmas lights, the ribbons of brilliant color piercing the frigid darkness.

  Dense, icy snowflakes swirled on a wind so cold, it stabbed at the skin like tiny, invisible needles and whipped through his shaggy hair. He ran his fingers through it, but it tangled again immediately after. He needed a haircut, but when had there been time?

  It was not just the darkest time of the year. It was also one of the darkest times for the Wyr. For the first time in history, a sentinel had fallen. Constantine was dead, killed in a battle with a first-generation Djinn.

  Just a few days ago, they had burned his body on a funeral pyre. Shocked by a loss too deep for tears, the Wyr in the Tower went about their business like automatons, going through the motions. Dragos had decreed that the Masque would still be held, and so they’d done their jobs. Amidst the lavish festival, condolences poured in from all the other demesnes, while the Wyr endured.

  Behind Liam, the rooftop door opened twenty feet away, and a soft footstep sounded. Recognizing the footstep, along with the hint of scent carried to him by the knifelike wind, Liam didn’t turn around.

  His mother stepped beside him, wrapped against the winter night in an ankle-length woolen coat, gloves and a cashmere scarf. As a gust of wind hit her, she shivered and lifted her collar to protect her neck as she looked out over the city.

  “I don’t know how you or your father can stand being out in this kind of weather without a coat,” Pia muttered. “Just looking at you standing there in your T-shirt and jeans makes me feel cold.”

  Both he and his father carried so much fire inside, no winter chill could affect them.

  “It feels good,” he said, lifting his face to the wind. The light sting of snow on his skin broke through the distance between himself and the world.

  Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his mother nod. Pia Cuelebre was a beautiful woman, tall and slender, with pale skin, light gold hair and dark violet eyes. She shone gently like a candle in the night.

  After a few moments, she said, “Supper’s ready.”

  “I’m not hungry.” He turned his gaze back to the illuminated streets below. The dragon that lived inside him watched the small, fragile creatures with sharp interest.

  “Liam,” she said gently. “Please come downstairs and eat something. I don’t think I’ve seen you take a bite since Con’s funeral.”

  While that might be true, it wasn’t exactly accurate. His mom had been overwhelmed with funeral preparations and her duties as hostess for the Masque, so the family hadn’t shared very many meals like they normally did. Whenever she had checked on him, he hadn’t been hungry.

  But that didn’t mean he hadn’t eaten. Driven by instinct and need over the last week, he had shapeshifted into his dragon form and flown over the ocean repeatedly, hunting for massive amounts of food and gorging until he couldn’t swallow another bite.

  Now, her concern pressed against him like a cage, and he had to fight a small, fierce battle with himself to keep from lashing out at her. The events of the last week had brought his feral side too close to the surface, and he realized that he had become more dangerous.

  Battle, his dragon whispered to him, as it had ever since he had learned of Con’s death. Fight. Death.

  Family, he told it. Home. Love.

  The battle was over, and they had won. But at such a price.

  His mom loved him and only wanted the best for him. And he loved her too. He would not give his feral side free rein and hurt her unnecessarily.

  He told her, “I’ve eaten.”

  The tense line of her shoulders eased. “Well, that makes me feel a little better, but you haven’t eaten with us, so I’d like to see some of that action with my own eyes. You’re … you’re growing so rapidly right now, you must need a lot of fuel.”

  For the first time since she had joined him, he turned fully to look down at her. Pia stood five-foot-ten, and he had passed that height yesterday.

  Because in the darkest part of this particularly dark year, he had lost part of the battle with his dragon.

  He had always been prone to growth spurts during times of crisis, and sometimes he’d had to fight to keep his dragon form under control as it strained to become fully grown.

  All predator Wyr grew faster and stronger than other Wyr, and the dragon was the apex of the predators. Fueled by the unique magics he had inherited from both his parents, he had grown in massive bursts since his birth, lunging into life.

  As he faced her, Pia drew in a breath. Tilting her head up to him, she whispered, “You’re nearly as tall as your father.”

  One corner of his mouth lifted in a wry tilt. “I know.”

  “Do you … can you tell if you’re going to grow any taller?”

  He hesitated and flexed his shoulders, considering. “I’m not sure, but I think I’m almost done.”

  Her violet gaze had turned wide with fascination. “I can only imagine what your dragon form must look like now.”

  “It’s pretty big,” he admitted.

  “You’ll have to show him to me s
oon.” She tucked her hand into the crook of his arm and turned with him toward the stairwell. “In the meantime, let’s get inside where it’s warm. Your father and I want to talk to you.”

  Reluctantly he gave up the wild solitude of the night and went with her downstairs to the penthouse.

  Huge though the penthouse was, the walls and warmth felt as confining as his parents’ concern, but he endured being inside for her sake. The living room lay mostly in shadows, except for the brilliant multicolored lights glowing on the Christmas tree in the corner.

  Pia had been half human before she had accessed her Wyr nature and successfully changed into her Wyr form. As a child, she had celebrated both the Masque and Christmas with her mother, and she had continued that tradition when she became Dragos’s mate.

  As a result, Christmas decorations filled both the penthouse and their home in upstate New York. Dragos had been content to indulge her, and had joined in the preparations. Stacks of colorfully wrapped presents lay underneath the tree.

  Once inside, Pia pulled away and hurried down the hall toward the brightly lit kitchen and dining room. Liam paused momentarily, his dragon’s eyes appreciating the lavish decorations and bright jewel-like colors adorning the tree before he strolled to catch up with her.

  He knew his father was in the dining room before he rounded the corner. Whenever they were in close proximity, Liam always knew where Dragos was. He could sense Dragos’s Power in his mind’s eye, like a burning sun. He wondered if his father could sense him in the same way.

  Dragos stood at the head of the dining table, his attention focused on the large beef roast on the platter in front of him as he carved it into thin slices. Light from the overhead chandelier gleamed off his black hair and outlined his tall, broad-shouldered figure against the plate glass window behind him.

  Porcelain clinked in the kitchen as Pia prepared other dishes. A brief surge of revulsion hit Liam at the sight and smell of the roast. He had eaten so much raw prey lately, the cooked meat looked vaguely revolting.

  His dragon focused on the sharp knife his father wielded with such competent, lethal dexterity. Carefully, Liam throttled the beast back. He and his father loved each other too.

  Dragos never lifted his head from his task. He said in a quiet voice, “Tell me you’re in control, and I will believe you.”

  He hesitated. Of course his father would sense how close to the surface his dragon was. Dragos had been Lord of the Wyr for a very long time. No doubt he had dealt with many Wyr struggling with the feral side of their natures.

  Straightening his shoulders, Liam replied steadily, “I’m in control.”

  Dragos’s piercing gold gaze stabbed at him. Then his father turned his attention back to carving the roast. “Good enough. Go help your mom.”

  At the order, rebellion surged through him like a flash fire.

  He thought, I’m not a child anymore. I won’t do everything you tell me to do just because you tell me to do it.

  As quickly as it hit, the rebellion subsided again, leaving him rueful and wary. Perhaps he wasn’t quite as in control as he thought he was, or wanted to be.

  Silently, he obeyed, walking into the kitchen to wash his hands. Afterward, he picked up serving platters filled with roasted sweet and white potatoes, Brussels sprouts sautéed in garlic and olive oil, and gravy.

  Pia was just putting the finishing touches on her own meal, a vegan roast with vegan gravy. As he carried the food to the dining room, she gave him a grateful look.

  With the quick ease of familiarity, they were soon seated. Dragos and Pia had wine. They didn’t offer him any, and why would they? He was less than a year old. To them, he was a gigantic, dangerous child.

  But he wasn’t a child. Not any longer. He was young, very young and inexperienced, but no longer a child. Bitterness whipped through him at the thought. He throttled that back too. He was fast growing tired of this constant battle with himself.

  After passing the food around, he took note when his mom and dad exchanged a look.

  Here it is, he thought as he toyed with his food with a fork. Whatever it is they want to say to me.

  Dragos turned to him. “Your mom and I want to apologize.”

  Taken aback, he blinked. “Apologize for what?”

  Pia said, “We swore we wouldn’t let this happen, but we got too busy and time slipped away from us. We had come to a decision a few months ago, but with the new pregnancy, and the trips to Washington DC and Los Angeles, and then getting ready for the Masque, and—and Con’s death—” Her voice wobbled then firmed again. “Well, the last few months have been really hectic.”

  “I know,” he replied, eyeing both of them cautiously. He had no idea where this conversation was going. “You’ve been more busy than usual. I get it. What’s wrong?”

  At that, Dragos and Pia exchanged another, longer look, their expressions too complex for him to read. Pia turned to him and said in a quiet voice, “Nothing new is wrong, my love. A few months ago we decided to let you have a dog, but we haven’t had time to do anything about it. We want to get you a puppy for Christmas. Would you enjoy that?”

  Carefully he set down his fork and repeated, “You want to get me a puppy.”

  “You’ve wanted a dog so badly,” Pia said. While her face and voice remained mild, he noticed she hadn’t touched her food either. “But your dad thinks it’s best if you start with a puppy, so that it can get acclimated to the predator Wyr it would be living with. I compiled a list of breeders that we could visit next week, if you like.”

  Liam put his flattened hands on the table, on either side of his plate, and considered them. They were broad across the palm and long-fingered, like his father’s. Then he pushed to his feet, strode into the kitchen and retrieved a wineglass. When he walked back into the dining room, his parents hadn’t moved, but the atmosphere in the room had grown tense.

  They watched in silence as he took the bottle of wine and poured himself a glass. Dragos’s gaze flared into incandescence.

  The wine was dark red, densely rich like rubies. Experimentally, he sipped it. It was dry, with the merest hint of blackberry and cherries. Gods, it was delicious. He took a deep swallow and returned to his seat.

  “When you said you wanted to talk to me, do you know what I was expecting?” he said in a conversational tone. He looked at Dragos. “I was expecting either or both of you to try to talk me out of the pact you and I made when Con was killed.”

  His father lounged back in his seat, appearing to relax, but Liam knew he could move faster than almost any other Wyr, except for maybe his mom.

  And him.

  Dragos said, “I told you I would give you a year to prepare for a trial. Even if it goes against my better judgment, I won’t back out of that.”

  “All I can think about is that a few days of that year are already gone,” Liam said. “And you want to give me a puppy.”

  While his mom continued to look composed, her shoulders slumped, and he knew he had struck some kind of blow. It made his stomach hurt, but he couldn’t take the words back. There was an eight-hundred-pound elephant in the room, and his name was Liam. They had to confront it.

  He picked up his glass of wine and drank again, noting how both Pia and Dragos tracked his movements and the wariness in their expressions.

  “How did you feel when I got myself a glass of wine?” he asked. After waiting a beat for them to respond, he continued. “It felt wrong to you, didn’t it? You wanted to stop me.”

  Pia pushed her plate away and leaned her elbows on the table. “I can’t deny it looked odd,” she replied. As she met his eyes, her own gaze was steady and unwavering. “It’s also odd for me to look up into your face when we’re standing side by side. This last growth spurt you’ve had is the most significant one yet, and we’re going to have to go through another period of adjustment. Be patient with us—we’ll get there.”

  But that was just it—time was trickling away, and he didn’t think he
could afford to be very patient.

  His father had given him a year to prepare for the trial to become a sentinel. His dragon had flared to meet the challenge, but he needed both education and raw experience. And everywhere around him were shackles made of love and expectation.

  He felt like he was living in a trap. The urge to fly away as fast and as hard as he could swept over him again.

  “Thank you for supper,” he said, as he pushed his chair back and stood. “But I’m afraid I’m not very hungry again.”

  “Sit down,” Dragos said. “We’re not done talking.”

  He gave his father a long, level look. Whatever Dragos saw in his expression made him stand too, until they stared at each other eye to eye. Dragos’s hard cut features were shuttered, but his eyes blazed with light. Liam wondered if his own gaze blazed with the same fierce light.

  Neither one backed down. The air between them boiled with heat.

  Liam said in a soft, courteous voice, “I’m done talking for now. I’ll let you know when I’m ready to talk again.”

  With that, he pivoted on one heel and walked out. He took the distance to the living room in long strides, but behind him, he could still hear Pia whisper, “Dragos, let him go.”

  That was all he had time to hear before he pushed out the door, ran up the stairs to the roof, exploded into his Wyr form and took to the sky.

  * * *

  As soon as she heard the penthouse door settle behind Liam, Pia slumped and put her face in her hands.

  “I wondered what life would be like when he reached a rebellious stage,” she muttered. “So now I know.”

  She just hadn’t expected him to exercise such control. She had thought he would go through a teenage phase of shouting and slamming doors, and if anything that she and Dragos would laugh about it when they were alone.

  This was something entirely different. Almost overnight, it seemed, he’d shot up in height and his shoulders expanded, while his youthful rounded features grew lean and chiseled. Always a handsome boy, he was now indisputably a handsome young man.

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