Thought I'd share original opening of Skyfall =) If you'd like to try the series, Wingspan is free pretty much everywhere.
“Soar,” Talon calls from far back in the tunnel. “Wait, buddy.”
Soar stomps on ahead and ignores his old friend. Three months prospecting gold for his hoard and running discrete errands for Sire Lev have left him with two things on his mind.
A bath and Cloud.
Well, maybe a couple of others like a shave and a haircut. His belly is still half full of deer and he’s too damned tired to fill a bowl in the dining chamber.
Fuck, the Sire voice.
Eyrie gryphons think Soar is the prick when the one running to catch up can be as pushy as any female, except for Cloud of course. That little gryphon stole Soar’s heart in spite of their relationship being a series of intimate interactions in his den. As soon as he’s cleaned up he hopes she’ll be there waiting for him. It’s dark outside and the Vancouver Island Eyrie will soon be quiet so she’ll have no trouble making her way to him unseen.
He never expected to actually miss her but the last few weeks outside on the wing have been driven by a foreign urgency to get home. Even though they are nothing more than Guard Master and student during the day, he opened up to her at night to become someone articulate and generous. In private, he’s a gryphon even Talon wouldn’t recognize. He’s not so sure he even knows himself.
“My ass on fire or something, Talon?” Soar looks at the stone ceiling and as Talon slows his long strides they sound more like Lev’s. As Sire, hereditary leader of the eyrie, Lev is never in rush. Everything happens on Lev’s time and since Talon mated to Lev’s daughter, Shadow, he adopted many of his mannerisms. Talon’s assumption Soar will squat and strain as quick for him as he does for Lev is premature since Talon won’t be Sire for centuries. It’s one hell of a long apprenticeship and Soar doesn’t blame Talon for nor envy his responsibilities.
“Good to have you back,” Talon offers a hand and Soar accepts. They grasp each other’s elbows and nod. Talon’s smile is genuine and Soar offers one in return since he’s now aware his irritation is entirely due to fatigue.
“Got some news. Need you to get some rest. You’re back out again tomorrow.”
“You’ve got to be joking,” Soar growls. The beard itches and as he lets go of Talon’s elbow he gets his fingers in it and scratches.
“No joke,” Talon’s grin widens. “Cloud made it, Soar. Master Sky accepted her in Memphis.”
Soar’s belly goes cold and Talon’s gaze drops to the dark slash of Soar’s mouth. Soar is sick and angry with the thought she’s leaving him.
“She got in?”
“Don’t be so surprised. You know much she wanted this.”
“Great,” Soar mumbles and tries to turn but Talon takes his elbow.
“You’re escorting her to Memphis.”
“No fucking way,” Soar shakes Talon loose and only gets a step away before Talon’s palm hits the wall, his arm blocking Soar from taking another.
“You got something better to do than see my daughter safely to Memphis?”
Soar stiffens. His refusal is more than passing on an order that probably came from Lev. For Talon, his friend’s flat out ‘no’ is a personal insult.
“You’re still sleeping with her, aren’t you?” Talon whispers, leaning in close and there’s a single flash of blue static in his feathers. It’s a warning that matches Talon’s dominant posture. “I’ve seen how she looks at you. Every day I see her wait for you to do more than order her to keep her wings back or bend her knees more. I see her falter when you treat her like nothing more than a trainee.”
“What’s your point?” Soar demands but he doesn’t retreat and keeps his chest pressed to Talon’s arm. Relations with any gryphon eighteen or younger are taboo and Cloud was twenty when she came to him two years before. Fair game. Soar was seventy three and getting to the age when a male wants something regular waiting for him at home. Damn, like he’s started to think of Cloud. Males are typically several decades older since they are driven to grow their hoards before getting serious. Most females, however, seem wired from their first season to need the security of a home eyrie and a male, even if he doesn’t spend a lot of time in the confines of her den.
“My point is,” Talon sighs. “My point is we’ve talked about this. She wants to be a ranger—”
“And I swore I wouldn’t hold her back,” Soar interrupts, remembering how Talon’s right fist left him with double vision for a week. “I know she’s royal, Talon. I held my chin high and took my punishment for not expressing my interest in her to you first.”
Damn, Talon doesn’t seem convinced Soar’s interest in the red-head is weak. Soar’s tactics change from honesty to defensive lying. The trouble is he lies mostly to himself as he talks out loud. Nobody knows about Soar and Cloud but Talon. Cloud never told a soul.
“It’s casual because that’s how Cloud wants it,” Soar lowers his voice and meets Talon’s stare. Then he drops his eyes like he’s making a personal admission. It’s far from casual for either of them and as the words come out Soar believes them and will until he’s alone. “I know what she wants. Maybe it’ll be something serious when she gets home but she made it clear I’m secondary to getting in to Memphis.”
Talon nods as he buys it.
“And as for an escort isn’t that going to give the outside the impression she’s royal? Nobody else makes a group trip out of it.”
“I see your point,” Talon agrees. “But she’s also Dame Shadow’s adopted daughter and Memphis is a fuck of a long way off. If you’ve—”
“Got something else to do? As a matter of fact I do. You know the issues with Calgary and I’ve got a line on some information Lev’s been hard for.”
“Cooper,” Talon growls. “We’re due to check out Master Sky’s senior students, my friend. You go deal with Cooper and I’ll take a couple of the guard with me, escort Cloud and see if there’s anyone who might be a good fit with us. You know Shadow will have my tail in a sling if anything happens to her.”
Soar laughs, drawing his lungs full of the moist air rising up along the tunnel from the baths.
Suddenly he’s not so anxious to see Cloud. Her impending absence is killing him inside already and the only thing that will cure it and keep him from begging her to stay is a quick, clean break.
How can I be nervous?
Cloud’s small den is positively claustrophobic. Each turn she makes as she paces causes the tips of her wings to scrape against the stone walls. She didn’t have to try hard to hear the gossip that Soar is home and now all she can think about is getting to his den. If she doesn’t share her news with him
soon she’ll probably burst into pieces.
It takes forever for the tunnel outside her den to settle down as the other single females talk about him. Over the past two years she’s learned to curb her jealousy. As the biggest and most dangerous eligible male in the eyrie he’s the one every single female wants and he’s Cloud’s. Even though their affair is secret she’s his only one.
Cloud changes again into another set of traditional trousers and tunic then pulls up the front to sniff her skin. She simply smells warm and takes a deep breath to purge the worry that all the pacing forced the scent of sweat to cover the soft citrus of the soap she borrowed from Shadow.
Without making any effort to hide her passage, Cloud draws her curtain aside and steps from her den into the quiet tunnel. Someone has already been through and blown out every second and third silver light, the only indication most residents of the eyrie have turned in.
The section of dens reserved for unattached males is a different matter. During daylight hours the tunnels are open to everyone but at night a female going to the male quarters could be the subject of gossip if it became a regular thing and especially if it involved Soar.
Once at his den she pauses a moment to make sure he’s in. The heavy curtain covering the entrance is fresh with his scent and she runs her lips over her tongue to moisten them for his kiss. After three months and two days she’s wound tight.
Cloud steps in and lets the curtain fall shut behind her. For a moment the outright emptiness of the room is disorienting since she expects him to be there, wings widened in greeting.
“Soar?” She keeps her voice soft so it doesn’t carry into the tunnel.
There’s a grunt as his wingless form rolls over on his mat.
Cloud’s arousal fizzles. Unwinged? Nothing sexy about that. A winged gryphon isn’t interested in one in human form. Soar won’t find her attractive at all either.
“Um,” she tries. He doesn’t even lift his head much less stand to greet her.
“I don’t think my feet have touched the ground in days, Cloud, and I’m damned tired,” he bitches as he turns his back to her. “What do you want?”
“I just...” she inhales.
...feel like a complete fool, coming in here thinking you want me.
“I couldn’t wait to tell you,” Cloud forces her voice higher in the hopes her excitement is at least a little infectious but her voice falters. Soar sighs with impatience. “I’m going to Memphis, Soar. Sire Lev said you’d take me and—”
“And what,” Soar pushes himself to his feet. His interruption comes as her voice fails. “I’m tired and I’m leaving again in the morning.”
“Just a few days alone together,” Cloud whispers. “It’s been so long. Just you and me.”
“Like a couple?” He laughs. “Christ. I didn’t realize we were exclusive and it’s been three fucking months.”
Cloud’s heart thumps with deepening embarrassment. Whatever he was doing it obviously involved someone else.
“We had a thing,” Soar yawns then speaks slowly. Each word pushes her further out of his league.
“We had a thing, Cloud. We were never a thing.”
“Okay,” is all she can manage as she staggers out. Her wing tangles in the curtain and the last thing she hears from Soar are a few swear words. How could she have been so dumb to think there was any more going on than sex? It makes sense now why he never acknowledged her in public.
The tunnels and common areas are deserted as Cloud makes her way to the royal chambers. She’d have gone to spend some time with Shadow even if Soar hadn’t harshly explained their relationship.
“Cloud?” Shadow’s voice reaches her as she steps into the den. The first chamber is a large room with two smaller ones on either side. This is what she needs. Closeness to the two gryphons she loves with all her heart, her adopted parents who will always welcome her in.
“Can I stay here tonight, Shadow?”
“Not in your old den,” Shadow says from the other sleeping chamber. There’s no scent of sex in the room and Cloud smiles. They knew she’d see them. “Come in here.”
Cloud’s eye sting with held back tears.
“Like old times,” Shadow soothes as Cloud’s lungs hitch. “I’m going to miss you like crazy.”
Shadow is nestled into Talon and turns to face Cloud then gets up on one elbow and extends her soft white wing in invitation. As Cloud snuggles in to the smaller gryphon, Talon’s arm reaches to embrace them both.
“I’m so proud of you, Cloud,” Talon whispers as Shadow murmurs in agreement. “You’ve earned Memphis.”
“I love you,” she answers and falls asleep with Shadow’s lips pressed to her cheek.
There’s nothing Cloud hates more than lying face down on the soft dirt floor of the sparring chamber. Other than being face down in the dirt with Hunter on top of her.
And Master Sky telling them to do it—
But Hunter doesn’t move; instead he shifts his weight, rubbing his whole body over hers while the dozens of other sparring pairs take position for another match.
“Hunter,” Sky’s voice echoes down from the high rounded ceiling. “We are not practicing holds.”
Holds, my sire’s pinfeathers, Cloud curses. I’ve been mounted.
“This one’s my specialty,” Hunter whispers so only Cloud can hear. “It’s called ‘later in my den.’”
Cloud limits her disgust to an aggravated click of the tongue. As she tries to throw him he rolls away and she lands on her back, layering her feathers in cold dirt. She accepts his offered hand only because it’s an expected courtesy. Chunks of his straight brown hair cling to the sweat on his neck and he grins, gives her a sly wink and drops into a crouch. Her own long red hair is in a neat knot at the back of her head, a far cry from the rebellious tangles of a decade earlier when she first moved to Soar’s Vancouver Island Eyrie. Hunter’s fingers ease his trousers up over the bend in his knees before he raises his hands in defense.
His stupid sideways grin disarms her every time.
For a moment she lets her guard down and returns his smile until she remembers he isn’t Soar and her teeth are full of dirt. That jerk hasn’t spoken a word to her in three years. Didn’t even say good-bye when she left for Sky’s mountain. This jerk circles left and Cloud tries not to let his good mood get to her.
It could be because the two jerks are brothers. She can close her eyes and imagine he’s Soar; the pace of his steps, the way his breathing gets throaty when he’s physically worked up, the deep brown of his wings...
Maybe that’s why she puts up with Hunter’s advances.
“Come on, Cloud,” Hunter takes a step closer. “Couple of us are going to Memphis for a few days and I need a date.”
“I’m certain you have your pick of female accompaniment,” Cloud replies as she sidesteps his lunge. A prodigal grandson of Master Sky would need no help attracting a gryphon of the opposite sex.
Cloud’s wing gets a little high as she spins clear of Hunter and one long reddish-brown flight feather slaps his stomach but not hard enough to satisfy her desire to smack Hunter or his brother.
“That’s a given,” he admits and it is if the talk from the other females training under Master Sky is even close to the truth. “But it would be good for you. I’m certain you want a chance to prove you’re not a complete bitch outside this room.”
“I’m not,” she protests as she lands in the dirt again.
As she rolls over she catches sight of jerk number one.
Soar stands on one of the upper shelves above the chamber, arms crossed, watching more advanced students practice with daggers, his weapon of choice. Cloud can’t be sure, but his hands appear to tighten around his biceps in response to her stare. He still wears his hair short. When she arrived for her first lesson in the sparring chamber back home his hair was down to his elbows so she asked him how the other females kept their hair out of their eyes. Soar disappeared at mid morning break and flew to a hairdresser in Tofino for a cut.
She scans the other shelves for her adopted sire, Master Talon, in the hopes he’s come along on their semi-annual recruiting trip but Soar is alone.
“Please, Cloud,” Hunter begs. “Say yes. I promise you won’t regret it.”
Her heart skips as Soar looks her way then the air pops from her lungs as Hunter flattens her on the ground.
“I mean it,” he gets an elbow in the dirt, easing his weight as her lungs refill. “We don’t have to call it a date, okay? You call the shots.”
Cloud cranes her neck around but Soar is gone.
“Enough for the day,” Master Sky calls as she strides from the chamber. Her long, salt and pepper braid sways between her wings.
As Cloud shakes off the dirt Hunter waits for her answer.
Why the hell shouldn’t she go to Memphis with Soar’s brother? Soar and Cloud never were a thing in spite of the nights she spent in his den and it’s her own stupid heart that keeps clinging to something she’ll never have. Maybe a few days making friends will be good for her.
And her royal magic says Hunter trusts her so it must be okay to trust him.
“Swear, Hunter,” she insists. “You’ll be a perfect gryphon or you’ll never get a second chance to impress me.”
“Shit, really?” Hunter staggers back a step like she’s landed a fist in his gut. Gosh, he’s surprised. He must have known Soar was coming or he wouldn’t have planned the trip. Soar’s presence, while he assessed prospective rangers, would give everyone else a break from training.
“Yeah and if you want to call it a date I guess that’s okay.”
“Wow, right,” Hunter pushes his sweaty hair back and rubs his palms on his trousers. “I guess I’ll see you at evening meal then.”
He practically skips to the tunnel that leads to the male’s baths, taking his place with a couple of others who dared to ask Cloud out and have the bruised egos to prove it.
But dinner with her?
Don’t push it, Hunter.