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The Incredible Tale of the Lock-Scaled Dragon

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Chapter One

It didn’t take a genius for Miranda Priestly—a world-renown celebrity, the final word of all that was beautiful, and one of the most powerful women in the world—to deduce she was in trouble. Huge trouble. The type of trouble which made last year’s Paris debacle seem like a walk in Central Park.

After coming close to losing Runway to Jacqueline Follet, who emulated a skunk in more ways than her hairstyle, she’d reevaluated her life. After making several changes with the way she treated others, she thought she’d banked some goodwill from whatever entity kept track of such things. Exhibit A—her latest junior assistant still had a job, even though before last year’s Paris disaster, the vapid blonde wouldn’t have lasted two days. Exhibit B—she’d explained to Nigel how she’d saved him from working in a new venture destined to fail by outmaneuvering Irv from his attempted coup during that same Paris Fashion Week, the key words being “she explained.” Exhibit C—she faxed over a recommendation for Andrea even though the now former assistant had left her without a backward glance during said Paris Fashion Week. (It seemed clear all things led back to last year’s Paris Fashion Week.) And Exhibit D—she allowed the twins’ father to spend more time with them, even though she remained convinced she could provide for their needs much better than he ever would. That included this week, their first week of summer vacation.

None of that mattered now. No, right now, what mattered was the strange woman with an evil glint in her eye looking like a linebacker as she straightened her shoulders and filled out the space in front of her. Miranda tilted her head, raising an eyebrow in silent inquiry.

“You need to be taught a lesson.” The woman was tall, at least six feet, with ropey ebony hair reaching down to her waist. Although her hair was as black as night, her face was wizened, deep lines cutting across her forehead and framing her mouth. Her thin nose had a hook on the end, and as the woman’s nostrils flared, Miranda swore she saw wisps of smoke escape.

Blinking, Miranda decided she was hallucinating. “Don’t be ridiculous. I’m a busy woman. Is it too much to ask that you stop dilly-dallying so I can finish my transaction? Really, not everyone can while away the hours discussing, oh, I don’t know,” Miranda fluttered her fingers, “the difference in witches’ hats over the last millennia.”

This was a perfect example of why she preferred having her assistants make her purchases. What an astounding waste of time. She’d tried to be patient. Truly. She stood behind the chatty woman, waiting for her turn to purchase the two cute ceramics depicting red-headed girls dressed as black cats. The figures had a likeness to Caroline and Cassidy, her eleven-year-old girls, particularly their mischievous facial expressions.

Perhaps she should have exercised more control by not uttering the caustic words bubbling up inside her, but for the last ten minutes she’d had to listen to the uninteresting nuances of the proper way to wear a witch’s hat. She may be in Salem, Massachusetts, for a photoshoot, but it was months before Halloween. She’d be glad when she could return to Manhattan at the end of the day.

Deciding she would have an assistant track down the gifts, she placed the ceramics on the counter and stepped away from it. She stopped when the woman sidestepped to block her from the exit. Pressing her lips together, Miranda inhaled through her nose, doing her best to not lose her temper. “Excuse me.”

She didn’t expect the warm smile she received. In fact, that tone of voice had scared hulking men to near tears in the past. Evidently, it doesn’t work on hulking women.

“I don’t think I will. You, Miranda Priestly, need to learn patience, the type one must have when cultivating important relationships. The type of patience one learns with loved ones. For only when you have patience do you realize the petty irritations of a passing moment mean nothing in the passage of one’s life. No doubt if I were an ordinary woman in an ordinary store, you would walk out that door and forget meeting me with a flick of your fingers.” The woman leaned forward, and Miranda steeled herself not to flinch. “You will remember me and this day, though. I am Laine Bain, and today you will learn what it feels like to breathe fire but have no power.”

Miranda felt dizziness sweep through her, and she reached out to grab the counter. She must have miscalculated, though, since her hand touched nothing. She flailed her arms, a gasp escaping her lips, as the floor rose up to meet her at a staggering speed. She took a few deep breaths to stave off the urge to vomit, and once she felt more settled, she opened her eyes. And promptly closed them. That didn’t keep Laine’s voice from pommeling her.

“Wanting to be yourself once more? You’ll have to find your inner coeur. No one will see you as you are—only your true heart is the bar. She can help you to keep your cool, and help you stop playing the fool. Find your true love and you will find—the key releasing this spell’s bind.”

Miranda opened her eyes and stared at the woman. She was kneeling, her massive face mere inches from Miranda. Looking down, Miranda saw she was no longer human. What the actual fuck? Miranda spread her arms while resting on her haunches, trying to figure out what the hell was happening. Her body was covered with cobalt-blue scales, her fingers elongated. Her torso was a lighter blue, like the color of the ridiculous, droopy sweater Andrea wore on her first day as her assistant. Cerulean.

She lifted her hand and touched her face, horrified to feel scales instead of skin, long pointy ears, and a flat, broad nose. She breathed in and felt her shoulders flex, a heavy weight pulling at her muscles. “What did you do to me?” came out as a roar, but instead of cowering in abject fear, Laine smiled.

“No one can hear you. No one can see you. Only your true love will notice you, but you’ll have to communicate using smoke signals. Good luck, Miranda. And remember to be patient.” With that the woman turned away, and Miranda growled.

She followed the woman, but someone stepped toward her and, before she could fathom what was occurring, she was booted across the room. With a groan, Miranda sat up in a bin full of stuffed animals, horrified when she saw a little boy running her way. Sticky fingers grabbed at a stuffed pumpkin to her left, and Miranda rolled to the edge of the display case and looked down. It was a long drop.

Taking a deep breath, she felt her shoulder blades twitch, and a current of air made her pause. She turned her head to the left, surprised by her range of motion, and saw two wings attached to her back. Breathing in again, she willed them to spread out and nearly sobbed when they extended. Taking her life in her hands, she leapt off the display case, tilting her head toward the ceiling. Wonder of all wonders, her body lifted, and she let out a whoop. It was then she saw the long, scaly tail below her body and stared at it in horror. Her flight path took a swift nosedive toward the grubby concrete floor, and before she could course-correct, she hit the ground. Hard.

Miranda shook her head and blinked several times. She jumped out of the way of a man walking toward the register and stumbled toward the corner so she could get her bearings. She spied a stand with sunglasses and ran over to them. Little mirrors were situated on the rotating display, but they were too high for her to reach. With a sigh, Miranda sat on her haunches, feeling the tail act as a stool. Focusing on the tail, she tried to move it, happy to feel how responsive it was to her desire. She took stock in her little body, concentrating on her wings, her hands, her feet, and her ears to make them move. Satisfied, she decided it was time to see what she looked like. Using her tail as a launchpad, Miranda jumped straight up, overjoyed when her wings flapped enough to take her higher. She leaned to the left to round the display, stopping in front of a mirror. Her eyes widened when she saw her body floating in the air.

Not her body. A dragon. A fucking blue dragon. Rage poured through her, and she opened her mouth to let it spew out, focusing all her energy on torching the place. A round puff of smoke came out. Frustrated, Miranda tried again. Another puff of smoke appeared—the shape more oval. Tilting her head as the anger drained from her, Miranda sighed. Well, that’s disappointing.

With a shake of her head, Miranda stared at her image. She wasn’t a bad-looking dragon. Her neck was long and sleek, and the blues of her scales and belly were complementary to her dark blue, stormy eyes. Staring into those eyes, she could see bolts of silver threaded throughout them. That’s different. Her face retained some of her features, only they were elongated. And was that—yes, the scales on the top of her head were white, like her normal hair color.

The face of a girl appeared behind her, and Miranda veered to the right. Turning, she flew toward the door, hovering until it opened so she could follow the customers out of the store. She flew past the brick, pedestrian walkway to where Essex Street and Washington Street met, knowing her driver was waiting for her. Not Roy, who was in Manhattan, but someone named Harry or Johnny or Frankie. As she passed a restaurant, she slowed, landing on the sidewalk. The aromas were amazing.

She peered in the window, her stomach grumbling as she watched people eat their food. Flying must expend a lot of energy. She swallowed her saliva, grimacing. She wondered whether she would become like her St. Bernard, Patricia, who drooled over everything. It didn’t matter what she was wearing, Patricia slobbered non-stop on any material, fabric, or toy, regardless of the ineffectual threats Miranda levied against her. She loved that brutish dog.

A dull ache suffused her chest as sadness stole over her. She missed her dog. Her girls. Her life. And it had only been, what—less than an hour since she was changed into an invisible, powerless dragon. Shaking off her melancholy, Miranda decided it was time to determine whether she could eat. She needed sustenance before devising a plan to get out of this mess.

Flying inside the restaurant on the heels of some well-dressed people, she listened as they discussed work. It became clear they were attorneys, no doubt on their lunch break before going back to court. Miranda circled the room, thrilled her eyesight was sharp enough for her to see what everyone was eating without her having to get too close.

Watching someone clear a table, Miranda followed the young woman into the kitchen area. She felt slightly sick at the thought of eating the remains of someone’s lunch, but her stomach’s loud growls made her dismiss such reservations. As soon as no one was in the immediate vicinity, Miranda swooped down and landed next to the dirty plates. One held the remains of half a steak, medium rare from the look of it, a salad, and a baked potato. Leaning forward, Miranda picked up a piece of lettuce, elated she was able to grip it. Without any further hesitance, Miranda grabbed the steak and brought it to her mouth, as she would a sandwich. Her teeth chomped through it as if it were rice paper, but it was much tastier. Moaning, Miranda ate the steak while looking around, not wanting to deal with any wayward restaurant employees. Once the steak was gone, she gobbled down the salad and potato within seconds. Still hungry, she spotted leftovers of what looked like white fish. She ate it before moving on to another plate, this one with baked scallops.

Finally feeling full, Miranda looked for something to drink. She flew up enough to hover on the edge of a cup and dipped her tongue inside, her long snout helpful. Still thirsty, she spied some cups filled with red wine and trumpeted, joy flowing through her. Although she preferred to drink in the evening, at this point, all bets were off. She drank the nearly full glass, and spying another, repeated her action. Two glasses later, and Miranda was feeling good. Maybe too good.

She flew in a crooked line, bouncing off the kitchen door. Sprawled on the floor, Miranda pushed herself up and with some effort, became airborne once more. She spied an open back door and with another trumpet and a less-than-straight flightpath, she escaped the restaurant. Victorious, Miranda looped the loop, barely missing a seagull. She didn’t care. Her belly was full, and her fears were dulled. Although not an advocate of drinking away one’s problems, right now she was all for it.

The street was busy with pedestrians, and Miranda did her best to stay above them while making her way toward the car. She knew she was late, but Nigel would wait for as long as possible before returning to the shoot. The passenger door was open, Nigel leaning against the car as he spoke to someone on the phone.

“I don’t know where she is. She mentioned something about finding a gift for the girls.” He rubbed the back of his neck before continuing. “I told you, she’s changed. She does more for them instead of having her assistants do it. And if I were a gambling man, I’d bet that has to do with the impression you left. You may be gone, but you’re not forgotten. I told you she’s much better with her assistants, and even Emily’s no longer chanting how much she loves her job while tears run down her face.” He laughed, and Miranda cocked her head, trying to make sense of what she was hearing. “You’re right. That might have something to do with Serena’s influence. Listen, Six, I need to figure out where she is and get back to the photoshoot. Think about what I said. She wouldn’t have sent that recommendation if she hated you, and she perks up at the mention of your name like Emily does when there’s a cheese board in front of her. Maybe it’s time you reached out.” He laughed again. “Well, I get the impression you wouldn’t mind being eaten alive by her. Ciao.” He dropped his arm down, grin on his face.

Having a good idea of whom he was talking to, Miranda felt her body heat up. That was Andrea. Talking about her. About contacting her. Miranda felt a sense of anticipation mixed with fear. She wanted to see Andrea again, but she couldn’t deny she was still smarting from her desertion. From her defiance. From her rejection. Mere moments after she complimented Andrea, included her as part of her inner circle, Andrea rejected it and her. Oh, she might not have understood what Miranda was offering, but in the end, that didn’t matter. She’d made it clear she didn’t want to be a part of Miranda’s life. Didn’t want Miranda’s life. Didn’t want her. Or so she thought.

Overhearing Nigel’s conversation made her wonder. He entered the car, and Miranda darted inside before he closed the door. She landed on the back ledge next to the rear windshield, sighing when she felt the sun’s rays on her wings. She spread them out, relishing the warmth, and she lay down on her stomach, legs curled and arms acting as a pillow for her head.

This mess wasn’t going to sort itself out right away. That woman—she’s a witch, her mind suppled—claimed only her true love would be able to help her. It didn’t escape Miranda that her true love was a “her.” Andrea’s face came to mind—her brunette locks, dark eyes, and pouty lips easy to remember. Feeling lethargic, she closed her eyes. I’ll rest a few moments. She could hear Nigel flipping pages, and she sank into the feeling of familiarity. Her head felt fuzzy and her body heavy. Miranda exhaled through her nose, allowing herself the luxury of rest. If only for a few minutes.