Excerpt: Two weeks before venturing to the desert, Garrett received an email from a colleague who told him a group of nomads saw what they claimed to be a dragon in the Egyptian Sahara. Garrett, one of the world's leading cryptozoologists—a title meaning little, according to his father—jumped at the opportunity to investigate such a claim. No known lizard-like creatures in deserts grew to the size described, so even if the animal wasn't a dragon it was certainly a new species. In a magnificent coincidence, he received a letter from Keegan a week before the email saying he was on his way to Egypt. Garrett hadn't seen him in nearly a year and hoped he could contact him when he arrived in Cairo. Contact him he did, and Keegan agreed to lead him into the desert with a band of nomads who had taken him on as a sort of shaman. Garrett was ecstatic at the news. His own adventures with strange creatures paled in comparison to Keegan's tales of the world—though, the strangest creature Garrett ever met, really, was Keegan.
By evening, Keegan had bathed, eaten, and spoken with the people, who'd gathered around him like children around a storyteller. As Garrett sorted through his pack—carefully examined for scorpions beforehand—in the tent he and Keegan shared, Keegan entered. Garrett wore a sweatshirt and jeans, as night in the desert could get very cold. Keegan seemed unaffected by the temperature. He wore linen pants, a pair of sandals, and nothing else. Garrett wondered if his power kept him warm.
"Cold?" Keegan asked with a smirk. He knelt by his own pack, his back to Garrett. A tattoo crawled down his spine, starting somewhere beneath his long, sun-bleached hair and extending downward to the top of his pants, the work exquisitely intricate, an interwoven design of many colors. A torch outside the tent flap cast flickering light on Keegan's skin, making the colors shine iridescent. The lines moved with the subtle flexing of Keegan's muscles.
"That's new," Garrett said.
Keegan looked over his shoulder. "Huh? Oh, my back?" He looked away. "Yeah."
"When did you get that done?"
"A few months ago." He rose and turned. He held a shirt but didn't immediately put it on. The torchlight twinkled off the twin rings through his nipples. Those were new too. Garrett tried not to focus on how attractive he was, even more so than when they were in school together. Garrett had a job to do, after all—even if he had come there hoping for a little something else.
"Still working on your canvas I see," Garrett said. "Every time I see you it's a new tattoo or piercing. You'll never get a job in the real world." He said the last bit with a mock-fatherly tone.
Keegan rubbed a hand over the snake around his arm. "I don't think I'm going back to the real world. As much as I love archeology, I'm leaving the field."
Garrett looked at him in disbelief. "You are?"
"There's much more to this world than we ever imagined at Cornell." Keegan pulled his shirt on, a plain white t-shirt, so tight it clung to the sculpted landscape of his chest and abs. "I think you know that better than anyone, Garrett. I can't work in a structured system anymore."
"What about your travels? Your adventures? You couldn't give those up; I know you! You want to see the world."
"The world is bigger than what I can see now, working under measly grants." Keegan grew stoic. "You shouldn't have come here, Garrett."
Garrett's bewilderment increased. "Why not? This is what I do. And besides, I get to see you. I haven't seen you in ages!"
Garrett laughed sarcastically. "I've been handling dangerous creatures for a long time, Keegan. A dragon? That's the holy grail of my field! My grants come from people with "special interests," but if I found a dragon and could document it? The scientific community would come crawling back to me to apologize! I wouldn't need to beg on the doorsteps of eccentric millionaires."
Keegan shifted his jaw. His gaze met Garrett's, the gleaming blue depths of his eyes capturing the torchlight, and then he looked away. "I just don't want you to get hurt," he said.