"A couple of walking corpses paid us a visit, and Ben was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Poor kid thought they were after him for a minute. Your father pulled him into the house, and I sent him in here while we dispatched them in the hallway."
Andi wrinkled her nose. "I knew I smelled something gross in there."
"Yeah, I'm sure you and your father will gag over it for a few days. It's times like these that I'm glad I don't have your sense of smell."
Andi picked up her bacon slice and continued nibbling. "There doesn't seem to be any disturbance out there, so the neighbors must not have noticed."
"We're guessing whoever sent them put a spell on the neighborhood, imploring everyone to stay inside for a few minutes."
"Who did it?" She finished the first piece of bacon and pulled off a second.
"Don't know. We've stayed out of the supernatural spotlight since you were born, so neither of us can figure it out. Might have been a random attack. Someone lost control of their zombies and they were drawn to our magic. We'll have to wait and see if anything comes of it."
"Why didn't Ben mention any of this when we talked?" Andi asked. "It would have made a pretty big impression on my day, and I know this stuff exists."
"Maybe he convinced himself it didn't happen. Though I don't know how he can believe it was a hallucination after I drove him to school."
"You what? You drove him to school? Jeez, Mother, you really are trying to set me up."
"I swear I'm not. I didn't want him to be late on top of everything else." She paused and gave Andi a piercing stare. "Though I did feel something special about him."
"I did, too." Andi squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head. "No, no, no. I can't feel anything for him. I've purposely avoided this every time I'm at a new school because it can only end in heartbreak."
"Not necessarily," her mom said, almost too low to hear.
"What do you mean? He's going to grow up, and I'm going to look exactly the same."
Her mother stood and returned to the dishwasher. "Eat your snack and think about it. Do you have any idea what I am?"
She started to say, "Of course," but didn't have anything to add after that. She took a sip of soda and concentrated on the bubbles running down her throat. Mom wasn't a dragon, not like her and Dad. But other than that, she never really gave it much thought. Mom aged at the same rate, roughly one dragon year for every fifty human years, but besides her almost superhuman dexterity, she seemed normal.
"I don't know. You're my mom. Other than having a dragon age, you're human."
"I am human," Mom said as she put a few more plates into their new home. "Or at least I was. Now I'm a Dragon Guard, your father's bound mate."
"What does that mean?"
"It means I'm your father's one and only. We share a bond stronger than any other. Only dragons and their guards have it. I always know where he is and what he's feeling. And when he's in his true form, we can communicate without speaking, though you already know that. Plus so much more."
"Wait, what are you saying? You think Ben is this to me?" She jumped out of her chair. "No, he can't be my one true love or any of that sappy Disney princess stuff. I just met him."
"Like I said, I felt something about him this morning, but I mostly ignored it. We never told you any of this because fate waits until the dragon and her guard are in their late teens or early 20s, dragon-year-wise, before introducing them. That way both are physically and mentally able to handle it all. They never meet earlier unless…" Mom's eyes went wide, and this time she did drop a plate, though it was a cheap plastic one that didn't break.
Mom took a deep breath and headed out of the kitchen. "Finish up, Andi, and then hit the books. I need to talk to your father."