Liam Takes Manhattan (Elder Races #9.5)

Written By: Thea Harrison

Liam Takes Manhattan (Elder Races #9.5) by 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.