A new focus on Romance genre

The jungle. A fascinating place, a dangerous place. So thick that there are corners few human eyes have gazed upon. Sometimes for good reason, too.

Dawson plodded along the jungle trail, or at least what he thought was the trail. With the foliage increasingly covering the ground he wasn’t so sure anymore. Still, he felt he’d get more lost trying to backtrack, so he continued forward.

He and his friends had come to the jungle to shoot a short film. They’d been looking for a clear enough spot to set up, with a sturdy enough tree that they could rig a pulley elevator system on. Dawson thought he’d found one, but it wasn’t nearly as clear as he’d thought and when he turned around his friends were gone. He always had an awful sense of direction. He really should have stuck close to his friends.

With a sigh he gripped his flowing hair. Especially since he’d left his shirt on the cart. He was such an idiot. It had been so hot out there he took off his shirt, but it didn’t help and now he was lost alone in the jungle shirtless with his skin slick with sweat and he was going to wander out there forever.

He stopped and looked around. Every direction looked identical, like an old cartoon with repeating backgrounds. He could’ve been walking in circles and wouldn’t have realized it. If he had anything to mark his path—but he’d still be hopelessly lost. At this point he considered himself lucky to have not run into a dangerous animal, like a tiger or an iguana or a piranha or a—

Snake! Dawson stumbled as a pliant, scaly tail slid down his back. Before he could scramble away the snake wrapped around his waist. He ran but the tail lifted him into the air. It was a strong snake—if it got around him he’d pop like a balloon. He flailed but the snake held its grip. He couldn’t reach any tree or branch to pull himself free. The snake lifted him into the leaves and he came face-to-face with—

A human! No, not a human. She looked human: her smooth face held amber eyes with blonde hair flowing down her svelte body; a silk cloak covered her back, only a bra of stitched leaves over her front. Past her hips, however, trailed the scaly tail of a snake, sandy scales with a dark pattern of spots along it. The very same colors around Dawson right now.

“A lamia,” Dawson whispered. The stuff of legends.

The lamia chuckled. “That’s right, cutie.” Dawson blushed as she tapped a smooth finger on his cheek.

It was impossible. Lamias didn’t exist. But he’d always wanted them to. His wish couldn’t have made this happen, could it?

She placed him on the rough branch, her soft tail around him. She sat on the branch among her scaly body like a throne of coils, the tail behind her thicker than Dawson’s waist.

“My name’s Penny,” the lamia said, steepling her fingers under her chin. “What’s yours?” Her voice was silken, not quite deep but with a tone that slunk into Dawson’s mind and mushed around in his head. He swallowed.

“My name’s Dawson.” He wondered if he was delirious from walking in the heat. Did he pass out and was dreaming this? No, the velvety scales from her flexible tail slithering around his body felt too real. He thought he should maybe get away, but her tail felt like a soft river in the shade. That said, if she coiled too high—well, her tail around him was no thicker than his arm, but he could see that it widened until it surpassed his waist. He didn’t want to be crushed.

“What are you doing here in the jungle, Dawson?” Penny laughed. “And without a shirt, no less.”

Dawson gave a hesitant chuckle, blushing both from being caught shirtless and her cute laugh. “I kinda left my shirt because it was so hot out here.”

“I see,” said Penny, and with a grin she added, “you left your shirt because you’re so hot.”

Dawson coughed and looked away. “Um. In a manner of speaking, yeah. I’m out here exploring the jungle with my friends for a project, but I got lost from them.”

“Hmm.” Penny’s grin widened. “Do you think your friends are looking for you?”

Dawson looked at her. “Uh. I hope so.” He wasn’t sure he liked where that line of questioning was going. She seemed to leer at him, though she didn’t move closer.

“Do you think they would look for you up a tree?” she asked.

Dawson looked at the jungle floor far below. No one seemed to be around. He was trapped with her.

“Wh-What are you planning on doing with me, exactly?” he asked.

“What would you like?” Penny asked. Dawson stared at the lamia—was she giving him a choice? “I could just snuggle you a bit. Massage you.” She giggled. “We could totally make out up here. Nobody’s gonna intrude on us.”

With every suggestion Dawson found himself leaning closer—or were her coils pushing him towards her?

“Of course, if you’ve been walking out here for a while, maybe you’d just like to take a little nap.” Penny’s smile deepened. “Or we could sleep together in a . . . different way.”

All the possibilities shuffled through Dawson’s mind. He’d always dreamt of meeting a lamia. Would he really just give himself to her?

“But first things first,” said Penny. Her eyes widened, and Dawson leaned forward, anticipating the mind-caressing hypnotic colors he’d always wanted to see. “Look into my eyes and…

“APRIL FOOLS!” The “lamia” threw their disguise of hair and skin off, revealing in the fake tail a goldenrod chitinous imp with twitching, charred-black arms, grinning a mouth of sharp teeth.

Dawson recoiled in shock and shouted, “Wha–?” before he fell screaming off the branch to the ground below.

The impish dankom stared after him, their open smile flipped to a grimace. The grin returned. “Ah, don’t worry, you’ll be fine! I fell out a two-story window last year.”

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