Jade was completely breathless as the wind whipped across her face. The world beneath her was a distant blur as the clouds closed over the skies. She was just a speck on the horizon as she flew toward the sun. Its rays seemed to kiss her skin as a cloud parted before her.
She was flying on the back of Costel, her dragon a few days after her initiation; she had been assigned to Costel, a Romanian Longhorn. They’d taken an immediate liking to each other the minute they were in the air. Costel appreciated Jade’s flamboyant inhibition.
Jade stroked downward on the dark-green scales that ran down his neck. As the sun came into view it glinted off of his glittering gold horns.
“We’re going to get along just fine,” she murmured as she leaned over Costel’s back and basked in the glorious sunlight.
In the far distance, Jade heard a piercing whistle cut through the air. Costel grunted beneath her and turned to look behind them. Jade pulled on the reigns and they flew in the direction of the camp. When they landed, Jade noticed that all the riders were landing as well.
“What’s going on?” Jade asked over the roaring of a nearby dragon who was clearly upset with being grounded.
“I don’t know,” Braden replied as he searched the holding paddock for a spot to lead his dragon to.
Just then a flash of dark wings startled Jade and she backed away into Costel’s side. He turned toward her, nostril’s flaring dangerously. Realizing it was his rider he turned to ignore her. Jade frowned, circling back toward the dragon that had nearly landed on her.
“Sorry about that,” Mac yelled down to her from his saddle on the dragon.
She glared up at him in response before crossing the dragon paddock to find Jared standing at the gate observing the commotion.
“What is going on?” she asked impatiently.
Jared frowned as he said, “A Muggle air craft is flying in this direction. I caught it on the radar and signaled for all riders to land immediately.”
“An air craft?” Jade asked dubiously.
“Yes, and from the looks of it is a small jet plane. It must be off course, because no one flies in this direction,” Charlie informed her cutting into their conversation. He bore a slightly aggravated look on his face as he began to count up the dragons. Swearing lightly under his breath he turned his eyes toward the skies. “Where the devil is Dayton?”
Jade frowned as she followed Charlie’s gaze into the blue atmosphere. She hadn’t met Dayton formally, but she’d heard about him. He was one of the more revered riders, albeit, more dangerous.
As if on cue, a dragon dropped suddenly from the sky and landed hard on a patch of free dirt in the dragon paddock. Jade glanced over at Charlie to gauge his reaction. From the looks of it he was not happy.
Charlie flipped the clipboard he’d taken from Jared back toward the tall dark-haired young man and approached Dayton.
“You’ve got some nerve waiting for so long in the sky,” Charlie shouted over the nearest dragon’s pounding feet as it was led toward a feeding trough.
Dayton merely smiled as he slid down the dragon’s side. “I didn’t see a reason to rush. That aircraft was nowhere near me.”
Charlie drew up close to Dayton. “When the whistle blows…you get down. Do you understand that?”
“Of course,” Dayton replied through a clenched jaw. He turned to leave Charlie but stopped and smiled serenely. Within a few strides he was standing in front of Jade. “You must be the new rider. Can’t say I haven’t heard a thing or two. It’s a pleasure,” he said with a fixed smile. His eyes seemed to calculate everything about Jade, making her feel eerily uncomfortable.
She took his outstretched hand and shook it. “I’m Jade,” she replied.
“Dayton, but feel free to call me Day…or night,” he said with a wink before drifting away through the paddock gates.
“Blooming wanker,” Charlie grumbled lowly as he passed Jade and headed in the direction Dayton had just gone.
Jared snorted in laughter but sobered upon looking at Jade. She merely said, “I think he’s a bloody ponce if you ask me.” He seemed to be shocked she’d said such a thing but that gave way to a look of pure respect.
After her first encounter with Dayton, Jade found it nearly impossible to avoid him. It was as if he was planning to be everywhere she was. He’d interrupted her meals on several occasions to gloat of some new flying feat he’d achieved on dragon back. Conversations with him were centered exactly upon the speaker. Jade couldn’t take it anymore.
She was at her wits end when he’d rudely intruded upon her morning’s jog. Although she had shared it once with Charlie Weasley, she was in no mood to allow Dayton the same honour.
Stopping abruptly as Dayton went unnoticing on with his tirade on how he should be given more shifts on dragon back, Jade glared at him. He seemed to notice her absence of dogged footsteps beside him and stopped too.
“Do you need a break?” he asked with a congenial smile.
“Oh,” she thought, “how I’d like to wipe that smile off his face.” Irritably she said out loud, “No, I don’t need a break.”
“Perhaps you’ve got a cramp,” he stated. “I’d be glad to work it out for you,” he offered with a sinister grin.
“That does it!” she snarled angrily.
Startled he stepped back as she took a menacing stride toward him. Seething she said, “I’m completely sick of you! I’d love nothing better than to chuck you down the side of this mountain and possibly have Costel eat you alive.”
His brow rose in amusement and possibly challenge. Brazenly he said, “Fiery, I’m intrigued.”
She snorted in frustration. “The cheek on him,” she thought furiously. He was actually entertained by her outburst. “Well,” she thought, “I’ll fix him.”
Jabbing a finger at his chest she stated venomously, “If you so much as invite yourself to jog with me, eat with me, or even sit near me I will be forced to dismember you myself.”
He reached out tantalizingly and stroked the tip of her finger making her jolt backwards as if she’d been burned. “You and I both know that you’re fighting an attraction that you can’t overcome. You and I am a perfect match.”
His very words sent shivers down her spine as well as made her sick to her stomach. “I might actually hurl,” she grumbled.
He laughed despite her obvious insult and said in a velvety voice, “We could be great for each other.”
“Get a grip!” she cried out furiously. “You…you’re revolting and furthermore I don’t want you to come near me again.”
He reached toward her again, but she swatted his hand away before striking him across the jaw with a left hook. He staggered back blindly and landed hard on his arse. “You are a wanker, not to mention a ponce,” she spat out as she furiously made her way back down the hill.
From a distance, Charlie spotted her coming up the dirt path toward the camp looking very much hassled. Not far behind her he spotted Dayton who was coming down the hill looking furious.
“Uh oh,” Charlie murmured as he passed Jared and met Jade at the gate.
From the look on her face, Charlie knew something had transpired between the two on the mountain. She had an infuriated look in her eyes and her expression was harried. “You alright?” he asked as she approached.
“No,” she spat out heatedly.
“What happened?” Charlie asked quickly, noticing that Dayton had increased his walking speed. He was, no doubt, in search of a rematch.
“That bloody maniac made a pass at me,” Jade cried out with a crazed look in her eyes.
Dayton was upon them and seething from head to toe. “That wench hit me with no reason. It was completely unprovoked!”
“What?” Jade snapped. She turned toward Dayton and Charlie thought she might swing at the moron, so he pulled her way. “You tried to touch me and you…you’ve been following me ever since the day you introduced yourself.”
“Listen, just because I turned you down doesn’t mean you have to go and hit me,” Dayton snarled still holding his jaw. “It’s a good thing I did tell you no, I wouldn’t want to be involved with such a harlot.”
This time Charlie spoke. “That’s enough!”
“Oi, Charlie you ought to have this wench sent back to where you ordered her from,” Dayton continued.
Jade slipped out of Charlie’s arms and made a lunge at Dayton. “You maggot!” she screamed murderously.
Charlie threw his arms around her waist and yanked her away. Jared appeared between Dayton and Jade instantly and pushed Dayton a few steps back.
“What in the hell is going on here?” Jared asked incredulously.
“He harassed me!” Jade cried out still kicking and squirming in Charlie’s arms.
“She punched me across the jaw!” Dayton yelled back waving a fist in Jade’s direction. “She ought to be fired for attacking another rider.”
Jade made another lunge for Dayton and growled, but Charlie’s arms tightened around her, holding her at bay. “Stop it,” he hissed in her ear. “You’ll only make it worse.”
She relaxed by a measure in his arms but still shot fiery looks at Dayton. “He’s got some nerve, making passes at me and trying to touch me. Like I’d let him get more than a finger on me before I let him have it,” she snarled more toward Charlie than anyone else.
“I’ll take care of it,” Charlie said fervently. He released her and she staggered a bit, before he said, “Now, both of you get a hold of yourselves.”
Dayton stepped toward Charlie and raised a finger at him threateningly. “If you don’t do something about her, then I’ll send a letter to the ministry,” he stated smugly.
“If you don’t back off I’ll send you to the ministry,” Charlie snapped. “It’s against code to harass another rider and not only that but it’s against policy to make passes at co-workers. You’ve got a week’s suspension.”
“What?!?” cried Dayton.
“We can arrange another week if you’d like,” Charlie stated with furrow of his brow, clearly anticipating an argument.
“What about her?” Dayton asked jamming his thumb in Jade’s direction.
Charlie turned to Jade, his eyes looking sympathetic and apologetic. “Two weeks suspension for striking another rider, and if any more incidents occur between you lot I’ll have you both sacked.”
Looking positively pleased at Jade’s sentence, Dayton strutted off toward his tent. Jade watched him go, burning a hole with her fiery eyes on his backside.
“You should have come to me if he had been stepping out of line with you,” Charlie stated breaking her gaze.
“A lot that would have done,” she snapped moodily.
Charlie pulled her back by the shoulder. “You listen well,” he said lowering his face to hers. His eyes, usually hazel, she noted, were dark and grave. “You’re a rider at this camp and the fact that you’re a woman is quite significant. Just because these men think they’re a better flyer or a better whatever gives them no right to try and take advantage of you, even if it’s in the form of rude and callous advances upon you. It’s my duty to make sure every rider and keeper is safe.” With a sigh as he straightened he said, “I expect the next time such a thing occurs that you’d come to me first before resorting to your means of coping.”
“Fine,” Jade muttered before marching off stormily.
“She’s a piece of work,” Jared mumbled affectionately from Charlie’s side. He threw an arm around Charlie’s shoulders and shook him in a brotherly fashion.
“Yes, she is and I’m regretting the day I laid eyes on her,” Charlie grumbled none too sincerely.
“I bet you are,” Jared laughed as he steered him away.
It didn’t take long for everyone in the camp to find out about Jade and Dayton’s altercation. After all, Dayton was sporting a nice bruise. Jade was happy to see that most of the fellows were giving him a hard time about it. He was being teased at the moment two tables down from her in the mess hall.
“Nice work there Miss Jade,” Mac said congenially as he took a seat across from her.
Jade barely smile. “Well, it did cause some cramping in my hand the next day,” she answered honestly.
He laughed in return, saying, “Never met quite a woman like you.”
“What’s all this I hear about you slugging pretty boy,” Brendan amicably asked as he took a seat beside Jade.
“Rumor has it that he caught one between the legs as well,” Mac stated with a chuckle, his rotund belly shaking with mirth.
“Hey, if you need back up next time around just give me a shout,” Brendan added enthusiastically.
“Thanks guys,” Jade laughed. “But I think I can handle him.”
“Oh, we’re sure you can,” Brendan snickered. He reached out and plucked an apple from the basket on the table and began to bite into it loudly.
Jade shifted in her seat uncomfortably as she glanced over at Dayton. “So, who’s riding in my shift?” she asked dully.
Through labored chewing, Brendan answered, “No one in particular.”
“What he means,” Mac elaborated. “Is that your time and the git’s time is being spread out. Everyone’s taken another two hours a shift now.” He grunted as he moved in his seat. “Mind you, I’m not too happy about it,” he added grumpily.
Brendan smiled, bits of apple peeking out the sides of his mouth. “He’s got saddle arse,” he teased.
“Oi, well I’m not young like you lad,” Mac growled in response.
Mac shook his head in disagreement. “No one blames you. He never should have gone after you like that.”
Brendan stood from his seat and stretched. “Don’t think on it too hard, you did what was right by you,” he stated. Glancing at his wristwatch he sighed, “Well, it’s time for work. I’ll see you lot later.”
Jade regretfully rose from her seat. “I should go too. According to Charlie being suspended doesn’t mean I don’t work.”
Mac laughed. “Oh, he’s got you on clean up does he?”
She shrugged. “Someone’s got to do it,” she answered.
“See you later lass,” Mac called after her as she walked away.
A half hour later, Jade found herself with a shovel in hand and a handkerchief wrapped around her face. “This,” she thought, “is vile.”
“Hey, Jade, are you listening at all?” Jared asked after waiting for her response that never came.
She blinked and looked over at him. She shook her head apologetically. “I’m sorry, I must have missed what you said,” she answered truthfully.
Irritably, he repeated, “I said, make sure you shovel the mound outside the paddock. We’re transporting it to Hogwarts. Dragon dung is very fertile and they can use it in the greenhouses.”
“Right,” Jade mumbled as she entered the paddock. She ignored the other riders’ stares as she went about her disgusting work.
Along with a shovel, she had been supplied with a wheel barrow. Clearly, she was to do this all without magic.
Plowing her shovel into a rather fierce smelling pile of droppings, Jade muttered, “If they think a little crap is going to drive me away then they can think again.”
Two hours later, Jade was exhausted, nauseous, and sweaty. She leaned over the paddock’s fence and tried to calm her churning stomach.
“Nice job,” Charlie complimented as he walked over to the large mound of manure. He glanced over at her and smiled. “You look sick.”
“It’d be a wonder if I wasn’t,” she grumbled in response before dry heaving.
“Get up to the medical tent and have the mediwizard give you something,” Charlie ordered.
“Yes, sir,” she grunted in response before taking off.
After taking her prescribed potion and a shower, Jade felt completely restored. She joined Mac and Brendan beside a small pit fire and lounged across the ground.
Brendan’s nostrils flared in protest as he sniffed the air. “What’s that smell?” he asked.
“It’s me,” Jade mumbled scornfully. “I’ve been shoveling dragon dung all day.”
Brendan shifted his seat away from her. “You took a shower right?” he asked cautiously.
She shot him a fierce look. “Yes, I took a shower,” she snorted.
“Well, take another,” Mac commented.
“Lay off,” she retorted. Warming her hands near the fire she said, “I bet you Dayton doesn’t have to shovel crap.”
“No, he had to do laundry,” Brendan informed her.
She sat up abruptly crying, “What?”
“Yeah, he’s been collecting all our gear and such,” Brendan continued. “He’s had to hand clean everything.”
“That pillock got off easy!” she barked indignantly.
Mac shook his head replying, “Not exactly. You see, Dayton thinks doing laundry is a woman’s job. He’s put off about it if you ask me.”
“Well, I would have rather done the clothes than what I endured today,” Jade murmured angrily. “Another week of this and I think I’ll die.”
“You’ll get through it,” Brendan assured her.
“Bloody right I will,” she replied boldly.
“As much as I’d like to sit here and rally, it’s past an old man’s bedtime,” Mac groaned as he stood up.
“Goodnight, old timer.” Brendan gave him a short salute before Mac went off to his cabin.
Jade rose from her spot on the ground and stretched. Her body was already starting to feel the aches and pains of having to shovel nonstop. “I’m going to sleep too. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Night,” Brendan replied.
A week later, Jade was still sore from the first day of her suspension. She didn’t have to shovel manure the rest of the week, but the tasks that were assigned to her were just as awful. She wasn’t looking forward to her second week of being suspended.
Sitting on a bench near the lockers, she waited for either Charlie or Jared to give her an assignment for the day. When neither showed up after a half hour of waiting, Jade moved from her seat. She approached Charlie’s cabin. The flaps were shut, but there was noise coming form the inside.
Pushing the flap slightly away, she peered through the crack. At first glance she didn’t see anyone, but when she pulled the flap away some more she spotted him. He was seated at his desk writing. There was a black box beside his elbow that was playing the Weird Sisters.
Jade hesitated, not knowing whether she should approach or let her presence known first. He was her superior and she wasn’t sure if she was even allowed into his tent.
“There you are!” Jared called out from behind her, causing her to jump up.
She twirled around, letting go of the flap and smiled nervously.
“I was just looking for you,” Jared continued. “Sorry I was late. I had some issues with scheduling.”
“That’s alright,” Jade mumbled, glancing back toward Charlie’s cabin wondering if he knew she had been peeking in on him.
“Today should be an easy day for you,” Jared said leading her away. He stopped in front of a shed that contained dragon saddles. “Everything in here needs mending. Most of the leather on the saddles has worn down from the dragon scales. You’ll need to replace all the straps.”
“Okay,” Jade replied.
“You’ll need your wand, too,” Jared informed her. “This should take you a few days, so just take this a few hours at a time.” He walked away then, leaving her with saddles that were in disrepair.
“It’s a good thing I know basic sewing spells,” Jade murmured as she pulled her wand out and turned to the shed. She was going to get through this week she determined, if it was the last thing she did.