Thank the stars, NO! You must grow into your Hunter powers. It takes a very, very long time.
“Do I have any Hunter powers right now?” It may have come out sounding a bit peevish, but seriously, I was a dragon. I wanted some juice.
Y’rill chuffed. There’s my Yi-yi. A few. But when you become human again, no.
“You mean except for the lightning.” I liked my lightning bolts. I wondered if I’d be able to use them now without turning black.
Not the lightning. That is part of the birthing process. You will be as you were before you changed.
Sucky, still, “But I’m immortal now, aren’t I?” I said, and if I’d been human, I’d have been bouncing in hyperspeed from foot to foot.
You can be killed in your human form until you’ve spent enough time as a Hunter that you complete the full transition. You must be careful when human, Yi-yi.
“For how long?”
You would consider it a very long time. Now come, let me show you your new home.
My new home. All the worlds were my oyster, half my life. The world I loved was mine for the other half. I turned my head from side to side, drinking it all in; the velvety, exquisite, enormous expanse of space and, one day, the mysteries even of time. Beyond that, if I chose to die, I could become as a planet.
This was, I decided, bemused and stunned, the greatest superhero gig of all.
I was a Hunter.
Like the caterpillar, compelled beyond reason to spin itself into a cocoon, I’d grieved the transformation, believing I was losing my life. Deep down, in a place I never let myself feel, I’d actually been…afraid. I’d mourned. Only to discover wonders I’d never dreamed possible. Become an entirely new thing.
I might fly Ryodan up into a starry night sky. Soar overhead while his beast hunted. A dragon and a beast, roaming the Earth together. God, the things we could do now!
It was a future I couldn’t wait to explore.
“How many months?” I demanded.
I said years.
I said smugly, “Right, how many months? Come on, Shazzy-bear, break another rule for me.”
Y’rill sighed. You’re going to be a handful.
I grinned. “As if you weren’t. I get to be the kid now. Teach me how to fly like you do. Teach me how to sift. C’mon, Y’rill, show me everything!”
When Y’rill turned with a sharp, beautiful dark swoop of her powerful Hunter body, curving the merest tip of a wing, I imitated the motion and, together, we glided off into the starlit sky.
There’s nothing left to do tonight but go crazy on you
FOUR MONTHS LATER
I LOPE UP THE FRONT stairs of Chester’s, marveling at the sensation of having a woman’s body again, and at just how much Ryodan accomplished while I was gone.
Chester’s-above is a stunning, modern six-story building of pale limestone and vast expanses of glass. The wide, curved staircase leads to ornate steel doors, heavily etched with wards, as is everything of that man’s; he likes to protect his property. As I push one open and step inside, I smile.
The domed foyer has sleek black marble floors, simple white and chrome furnishings, windows all around, and faceted skylights casting rainbows on the floor. I can feel the bass from here, rising up from the many subclubs below.
I’m a woman again. It’s strange and exhilarating but I have to admit, being a Hunter, flying among the stars for the past few months was beyond my wildest dreams. Y’rill and I played with the abandon we’d shared Silverside, with one difference—no predators, no enemies, just adventures. I’d visited worlds beyond describing, drifted inside nebulae, played hide and seek in meteor fields, watched stars go supernova, slingshot around moons, played in the gaseous rings of planets, my Hunter body impervious to harm. I’d barely scratched the surface of discovering what it was to be a Hunter; Y’rill was downright mysterious about many things and full of annoying, “patience, grasshopper” sayings. According to her, I would learn when it was time and no sooner. Still, I had a fair idea my potential was virtually limitless, one day in the future.
Unlike Shazam, who lived to break rules at every opportunity, Y’rill preferred to adhere to them. It had taken me weeks to convince her to help me transition back into my human form before I’d learned to do it myself, then another four months to get her to actually do it.
She’d then warned me that I had a single week in human form before she came to reclaim me.
I thought it was half and half, I’d protested.
Not at first. You must settle into this skin. If you stay human any longer right now, you might lose your Hunter form.
Oh, hell, no way! I’d cried.
Still, I felt like the luckiest woman in the world. I had a whole week with Ryodan! After believing I’d lost him forever, a week felt like a small eternity to me.
We’d flown to Dublin, landed on top of the building that housed my flat, where she’d shifted me back into human form (painful!) then reverted, herself, into Shazam. We’d hurried (I was naked—now I understood why Ryodan always had extra clothing stashed in convenient places) below to my flat, where Shazam flashed me a mischievous grin and muttered a cryptic, Go to him, he’s been waiting a long time, before curling up for a nap on our bed.
I’d taken my first shower in months—not that I seemed to need one—dressed with care, weaponed up and freeze-framed straight for Ryodan, electrified with excitement.
As I push through the second set of doors, my smile deepens. The street-level bar and restaurant is lovely, with an elegant staircase that descends to the subclubs. I dash down the staircase and stand behind the balustrade surveying the dance floor, looking for him.
It’s early evening, the club is hopping as usual and I’m pleased to see not a single Fae. A part of me wants an immediate update on events in Dublin and our world, wants to head to the abbey and get all the details, but I learned a valuable lesson about time from both Dancer and Ryodan.
We don’t always have as long as we think we do. Updates can wait.
It’s necessary to be selfish sometimes, and tonight I have every intention of it.
It was pure pleasure to slip into a black spandex dress, heels, and nothing else but creamy Irish skin. Knowing I’m about to slip out of it and go crazy all over that man’s big, powerful body.
I want Ryodan in my bed, inside me, all around me, and that’s my only goal for a good long while. Before I have to leave again, I’ll catch up on my world. Tonight’s for me. Tonight’s for us. And it’s long overdue.
I descend the final set of stairs, thinking maybe I’ll find him in his office, and push through the crowded dance floor, heading for the glass and chrome staircase to the Nine’s private levels. I’m nearly there when someone blasts into me from behind, seizes me in a steely grip, drags me the rest of the way to the stairs, and shoves me down on the steps. Has to be one of the Nine; no one else can noodle me like that.
I toss my hair from my eyes and scowl up. Then, “Lor!” I exclaim, delighted to see him.
He stares at me in utter disbelief. “Dani?”
“Mega in the flesh,” I flash him a hundred-Megawatt grin to prove it. “I’m back. And you are so never going to believe the things I’ve seen and done.”
Then Fade and Kasteo are there with him, all three of them staring at me, with a mixture of irritation and disbelief.
“What’s with you guys? I told him I’d be back.”
“The boss,” Lor says flatly. “You told him that.”
I nod. “I sent him a message.”
“He sure as fuck doesn’t think you’re coming back,” Fade growls. “And I’m sure as fuck glad you are because he’s been goddamn impossible to live with. Go fuck him and make him sane again.” He turns and stalks away.
To Lor, I say, “He thought I wasn’t—wait, I don’t understand.”
“Just go to him, honey,” Lor says. “He’s in his suite. Never comes up. Spends most of his time as the beast. Ain’t eating, ain’t sleeping, ain’t fucking, and it’s getting ugly around here.”
I surge to my feet before he even finishes speaking, lope up the stairs, taking them three at a time, dash onto an elevator and tap my foot impatiently as it descends. How could he not know I was coming back? I don’t believe Y’rill would lie to me. I frown, remembering her exact words: I adjusted it so he would receive it at the proper time. Okay, so what was the mysterious being’s idea of “the proper time”?
When the door whisks aside, I explode from the elevator, freeze-frame down the hall, and blast through the door into the anteroom of Ryodan’s suite.