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EMBER…

I sleep so hard my drool is running off the pillow and getting the sheets wet.

Ugh. I drag myself out of the infinitely soft bed. The “room” Aleks found for me is more opulent than a presidential suite at a five-star hotel. The bed is huge, with four posts and gauzy white netting. I have two balconies—one off the bedroom and another off the sitting room. The jacuzzi in the bathroom is built for a party of four, the wide-screen TV fills an entire wall, and there’s a fully-stocked bar tucked in the corner. Once I was alone, I slammed back two shots just to take the edge off an insane day. It took two more before I could get my mind to stop racing and finally float into a buzzed-out sleep.

Forty dragons. It’s both way too many to kiss and nowhere near enough to rebuild a population. Even at four times that—assuming the other lairs have just as many—that’s barely at the minimum number required for a viable society. I did a piece on it once, looking at everything from indigenous tribes, endangered species, Martian colonies, and how many people you would send on an interstellar spaceship. Turns out no one really knows the minimum viable population—estimates range from 100 to 14,000. But there’s literally no one who says forty is enough.

And because the dragons can’t find their mates, the real number is much smaller.

Nikolais’s people are truly dying out.

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