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Hal shut and locked the doors to the distillery for the day before he turned and looked out over the land. Snow blanketed everything and the light the crescent moon cast upon the ground made it look almost as if it were glowing.
The need to lose himself in the land in the forest sometimes was overwhelming, as it was this night. Other times he could ignore the call, but not tonight.
Hal didn’t bother to tell the others where he was going. He simply walked down the steps and into the night. The weather didn’t faze him.
His boots crunched in the thick snow, but he never noticed. His gaze was trained on the forest ahead. Every one of them answered to something, and for Hal it was the forest.
Always had been.
Always would be.
Once he was in the trees, he took a deep breath and lifted his face to the sky. Snow landed on his lashes and rain dripping from the limbs above pelted his face.
It was glorious.
Hal smiled and spread his arms wide. He touched his chest, through his jacket and sweater, to the tattoo beneath.
A person could get lost in the glens of the Highlands, and there were thousands of glens. Which made it a perfect place for Hal and the others like him to stay hidden.
It had been a long time since he’d allowed his other self to show, his dragon self. And for some reason, this night he desperately yearned to spread his wings and fly.
To feel the wind around him as he soared through the sky.
He still remembered flying low over the trees, the leaves brushing against his underside as the sun beat on him. He hadn’t needed to hide then. For once upon a time, he had been able to call to his brethren and listened to their roars fill the forest.
So very long ago he had lived a completely different life. Back before the humans betrayed them, before a war that changed everything.
A sound off to Hal’s right had him turning his head in that direction. He dropped his arms as his eyes fastened on a large, fast-moving animal loping through the trees.
Hal let his coat drop from his arms as he sprinted toward the animal. As he neared, he realized it was a dog—a very large dog. And the only person near Dreagan land who had such a dog was Dan Hunter.
With more frustration than Hal wanted to concede, he came to a halt. He had been able to take flight, but now he had to chase a dog. For several moments he watched the Great Dane running, his tongue lolling out the side of his mouth.
There had been a few times in Hal’s life where he’d felt that free, been that free. Those times were the barest of memories now.
When a person was as old as Hal, time blurred.
It was so easy to get lost in his memories, of what had once been, and what he had once been. But to allow himself to get absorbed in such recollections was not wise.
He pulled himself back from the brink and gave a loud, short whistle, which pulled Duke up short. The Great Dane turned his head to Hal and issued a deep, booming bark in greeting.
“Come here, lad,” Hal called.
Immediately, the dog ran to him, his tail wagging.
Hal rubbed the dog’s massive head. “It’s no’ like Dan to allow you to run like this. Nor is it like you to run off. What’s the problem, lad?”
Duke jerked against the hold Hal had on his collar. Hal narrowed his eyes. He’d learned very early in life to listen carefully when animals tried to speak. They might not be speaking your language, but they were talking. It was obvious Duke was trying to tell him something.
“Show me,” Hal said, and released the collar.
Duke took off at a run and Hal was quick to follow. Dreagan land extended far as the eye could see, and Dan’s cottage was the closest anyone lived to Dreagan.
It was because Dan rarely rented the property and didn’t cause any problems that Hal and the others hadn’t made a point of getting rid of him.
Hal easily kept pace with the Great Dane as they traversed over the land. When they crested the last hill that overlooked Dan’s cottage, Duke stopped and whined.
Dan’s Corsa could be seen by the light of the moon and despite the heavy snowfall. Thankfully, the rain had tapered off, but the snow made it difficult to see where Dan was.
Duke butted Hal’s hand with his head before he took off down the slope to the cottage. Hal had memorized the lay of the land centuries ago and knew where the boulders lay hidden in the snow.
He leapt down the slope and landed in thick snow. Duke caught up with him, and they both ran the rest of the way down the side of the mountain.
Hal rushed to the front door, but found it locked and all the lights out. When Hal turned to look for Duke, he found the Great Dane standing beside the car.
That’s when Hal noticed there was someone inside. In three strides he was beside the car. He tapped on the window, but the figure didn’t move