“Nothing can match the treasure of common memories, of trials endured together, of quarrels and reconciliations and generous emotions. It is idle, having planted an acorn in the morning, to expect that afternoon to sit in the shade of the oak.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand and Stars
Ten Years Later.
The sloop glided on the surface of the Med’s blue-gray waters under an open sky with clouds that looked like the color washed canvas of an inspired artist. The sloop made way in calm seas with sails secured to the boom. The outboard motor purred like a contented beast sending mesmerizing vibrations through the hull, deck, and her passengers.
The Captain was at the wheel with the First Mate. The young officer called off bearings and sounded the depth of the bottom for clearance as they approached the marina. He watched the buoy markers as the Captain lifted his chin to the breeze.
The Captain’s white hair was longish and flowed behind him in wind-whipped cords streaked with black strands left over from younger days. His tan skin testified to his life under the warmth of the sun. He was a big man and though along in years the chiseled angles of his face and the muscles on his arms and chest spoke of strength and confidence.
Below decks, a woman lies on her side on a bed looking out an oval portal across the water. Her pantyhose covered elegant hips and legs with long smooth curves. Her reflected image stared back at her from the glass with a dreamy smile.
The ship cruised past the zig-zag pattern of the shore and on past the Auditorium Ranier III. The steady pace reduced more as the sloop angled into the Port of Monte Carlo in Monaco. The contrail of waves from the bow drifted away and disappeared in the ripples of wind-kissed seas.
Gloria poured herself from the bed and went to the chair next to the dresser and lifted her evening gown and slipped it on. Long fingers with age ridged nails sporting French tip manicures smoothed the dress and adjusted it.
Her bosom glistened like opalescent pearls in the plunging decolletage at the front of her dress. A turn to the left then right ensured no unseemly exposures. She turned around and looked over her shoulder at her heart shaped bottom.
A mischievous smile puckered red lips. Gloria winked with her smokey eyes at the figure in the mirror. A sigh eased passed her lips. There would be no sleep tonight if her Dragon had his way with her. She sat down in her chair, turned toward the portal and crossed her legs; letting the silk flow over her like a caress.
The ship eased into the slip and docked on the Quai des Etats-Unis. The Captain went below and dressed in his tuxedo. He emerged with his wife attached to his arm. They walked off the gangway to a waiting chauffeur.
The couple sat in the back absorbed in each other’s eyes as the car wound through the streets until it picked up the Avenue de Monte Carlo where they soon pulled into the Hotel de Paris. Arm-in-arm, the Dragons made their way into the grand hotel up to the ninth floor and entered their suite overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
The sun began its descent behind the curved face of the hotel and the bluffs, coloring the bottoms of the clouds with a yellow light that transitioned to orange, later red, and finally, sienna and gold.
“The view of the sunset is beautiful, Raul. I’m not sure you’ll be able to pry me away from here.”
“I don’t think I’ll try to pry you away, my love.”
“Will you keep your promise to ravage me with your desire?” Gloria teased.
“If you will keep your promise to pleasure me in the shadowy darkness of nightfall with your sweet love. The ravaging of your graceful curves will be my favored pleasure, my dear.”
A knock alerted the daydreaming couple. Raul left the bedroom to the living area to let in their hosts.
Gloria looked out over the palm trees across the street. The emblazoned Med soothed the butterflies in her stomach. She dreamed of what was in store for her. It was a long time coming. They had survived many challenges to restore their life and health. This trip was their first cruise across the oceans, and she had no intention of stopping until their natural end gave them their hard-earned eternal rest.
Gloria heard voices in the next room. It was time to face them. It was the last act of their healing. She took a deep breath and composed herself. She was a Dragon Sentinel after all. This meeting was not the easiest of all battles she fought.
Gloria entered the room and met the eyes of three people next to Raul. She saw hopeful expressions of reconciliation. She saw tears. Her eyes misted at the sight of their welcome.
Mariah was at Peter’s side, her arm around his waist for support. Next to them was Valeriya. Her green eyes were shining like emerald beacons. Gloria walked straight to Mariah and hugged her. The women cried as they tried to talk, to explain, to ask for forgiveness, to forgive and to listen. The two women opened their arms and Val slipped in and hugged them both. Dragon, Cybrid, and Hybrid were finding their peace through a bonding love and long dreamed of reconciliation.
The saber of conquest fell away in the warming embrace of love and understanding.
Peter shook Raul’s hand and rubbed his back in admiration.
“Yes, Peter. You certainly may,” Raul replied.
Peter went to Gloria as Mariah and Val eased away. Peter wrapped his arms around Gloria. She couldn’t look at his face. The humbled Dragon Sister lowered her head against his chest. She felt his breath and listened to his heart. She recalled it was the same way long ago. Her body shook at the pain of remembrance. If there was something to be thankful for, it was Peter pushing her into Raul’s loving arms.
“If you can believe that you are still loved and admired, please believe me when I tell you that your accomplishments always eclipsed your life as hard as it was to bear. Your suffering has brought freedom, wisdom, equality, and peace to millions of Dragons, Cybrids, and their offspring. Please accept our tribute to you and Raul tonight at the opera. The Black Dragon Orchestra has a special treat for you and this time the music will seal our love and faith in our unified society.”
Peter released Gloria, who wept without shame. She had hated herself for far too long. Peter and Mariah’s acceptance of her and the return to full status as a retired Praetorian Guard lifted an invisible millstone from her spirit. She was ready to move on to her new life.
She was unable to talk. It was enough for all to see.
After a settling down period and a few wild stories to catch up. The group refreshed themselves in the stylish bathrooms, collected together and met their driver to ride in a stretch limousine to the gala event honoring the heroes that helped end the Cybrid War.
On the way over, Gloria asked Val, “What became of the little boy you rescued in Astana?”
“Nuru is away in his first year of college now. He’s quite the young man. Strong, smart, and a hopeless daredevil.” Val beamed with pride for her adopted son. Val never married. She devoted herself to Nuru. He never knew Val was responsible for the loss of his mother and father. Instead, he grew up basking in the love of his adoptive mother away from the sights and sounds of war.
They all laughed and congratulated Val.
Raul proposed a toast.
“To the strong, smart, and hopeless daredevils. May their women tame their Dragons and keep them safe from harm and smothered in love.”
As if on cue from clinking crystal glass, the sun dropped below the bluffs in one last show of color as nightfall devoured the light and fell across the vibrant city like a blanket.
Avec l’amour, au revoir.
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