Authors: Jessie Donovan
Tags: #Fiction / Romance / Paranormal
Reawakening the Dragon: Part Three
Jane’s heart thudded inside her chest as she held her breath and waited for Kai to answer her question about Maggie Jones. Until he did, she wasn’t going to get her hopes up. Hearing the dragonman wanted to kiss her had sent a little thrill through her body, but she wasn’t about to live a life of him being nice one minute and an arsehole the next. As hard as it would be to walk away, she would do it if Kai didn’t pass this test.
Kai remained silent as his pupils flashed to slits and back again. She really wished she could hear what Kai’s dragon was saying to him.
After a full minute had passed, Kai’s low voice filled the room. “Maggie Jones was my true mate.”
Jane let out the breath she’d been holding. “Was, as in past tense?”
His jaw clenched a second before he replied, “She’s still alive. However, she chose another.”
“Wait, how is that possible? I thought once a dragon-shifter found their true mate, they went into a frenzy?”
Kai moved to the edge of her bed and sat down. The action reminded her that her dragonman had been shot only a few hours ago and wasn’t at full-strength.
Still, if Kai was in pain or tired, she couldn’t tell. He really was a master of self-control in all areas.
Well, except when it came to her.
Kai’s deep voice filled the room again. “While a male dragon-shifter will often know their true mate when they see him or her, it’s usually their first kiss that brings on the frenzy.” Kai’s piercing blue gaze never moved from hers. “Maggie never let me kiss her.”
Jane fisted the sheets on the bed. “So what did she do, then? Tease you and string you along? Is that why you needed the bars on the windows? So you wouldn’t go after her?”
“How do you know I wasn’t the one to run away?”
She raised her eyebrows. “That goes against everything I know about you.”
“This all happened eleven years ago, when I was twenty-one. Young dragon-shifter males spend their early twenties battling their dragon’s need for sex. In a small way, Maggie was right to be cautious.”
“Even with hormones raging through your body, I can’t see you forcing anyone. Stop stalling and tell me the rest of your story.”
Kai stared at her, but Jane didn’t look away. He stated, “I will if you stay quiet.” Jane motioned with her hands and Kai continued, “The bars came later, so let’s back up a bit.” Kai turned a little more toward her. “I met Maggie when I visited my mother, who lives with the Welsh dragon clan, Snowridge.”
Jane frowned, but her expression must’ve conveyed her question because Kai answered, “I was raised on Stonefire, but my mother moved there after my father’s death, after meeting her second—and true—mate and later had my half-sister. Since I was sixteen when she met her new mate, I decided to stay here with my uncle. However, I would visit her every once in a while.”
When Kai paused, Jane tucked away the information about Kai’s mother for later and waited patiently. In her experience, when you interrupted a story at an emotional point, you sometimes broke the spell and a person wouldn’t divulge their whole story.
Her silence paid off as Kai spoke again. “A few years after my sister was born, I was visiting and spotted Maggie for the first time. With her short black hair and brown eyes, my dragon knew instantly that she was meant for us.
“I was still learning to control my dragon. At the time, my beast often swayed me to his decisions. So when he demanded we pursue her, I didn’t fight him.
“I was twenty-one then, but Maggie was a few years younger than me and inexperienced with males. While dragon-shifters are a lot less prudish about sex than humans, there is still an awkward period like with adolescent humans.” Kai looked away and stared out the window. “I decided to be honest with her and told her she was my true mate. At first, she ran and avoided me. But after a few days, she started to seek me out. We would take long walks and go for flights over the mountains. It soon became a game for me and my dragon to try to make her laugh.
“I thought I was lucky at finding my true mate so early.” He looked back at Jane. “If we find our true mate at all, it’s usually a bit later.”
Jane reached out to touch Kai’s uninjured shoulder, but then pulled back, lest she break the spell. “Then what happened?”
He gave a bittersweet smile. “I’d only gone to visit my mother on Clan Snowridge because I was about to join the British Army for two years. I had always wanted to be a Protector, like my uncle. But I needed the military training and experience before I could even apply.
“I had thought about giving it up for Maggie, but she encouraged me to go. She needed time to digest what the mate-claim frenzy would be like and the two years would give us both time to grow up a little more. While I didn’t want to leave her, I figured having her two years later was better than never having her at all.
“So, I went. The army suited me. I always had a place to be, a schedule, and a task. I excelled at all of my training and eventually learned to control my dragon so I could fight in the harshest environments, such as combat zones. While it was hard to be away from Maggie, I knew I had made the right choice. At least, I thought so until I finished my service and returned to Clan Snowridge to visit her, my mother, and my baby sister.”
Kai paused and Jane waited with bated breath. She had a feeling that whatever happened next had changed him from the young dragonman who had liked long walks and making a young woman laugh to the stoic workaholic sitting next to her.
With a sigh, Kai’s voice filled the room again. “The instant I landed, my mother was there to greet me with a look that told me something was wrong. When I finally wheedled the information out of my mum, I found out that Maggie had recently mated one of the clan’s accountants, a shy male who worshiped the ground she walked on. To say I was upset would be putting it mildly.”
Jane frowned. Something was missing from his story. “Wait a second. If you kept in touch with Maggie, how did you not know something was wrong?”
Kai shrugged his good shoulder and grimaced. “I later found out she was afraid I’d come racing back, force a kiss, and then she’d be under the spell of the mate-claim frenzy. Instead, she thought pretending everything was fine was a better idea. Especially since if I had challenged her mate or had attempted to kill him to claim Maggie, it could’ve started a war between Stonefire and Snowridge. And she knew I wouldn’t want that, or I’d never see my mum or sister again.”
“Rubbish. I can’t imagine you ever forcing a female, not even in your youth.”
Kai shook his head. “I never would. But some mate-claim frenzies go wrong and Maggie’s cousin had suffered one. Instead of talking about her fears, Maggie ran away from them.
“To be honest, I did the same with my anger. I came back to Stonefire and ranted at the previous clan leader, Victor Holmes. While Victor was different than Bram, he had been a good leader. He gave me two options—stay on Stonefire and get a grip on my dragon, or leave the clan until I could do so.”
“Judging by the bars, I’m guessing you stayed.”
“Yes.” Kai met her eyes and she wished she could read his expression. “Although I sometimes think it would’ve been easier if I had left.”
As soon as Kai started talking about his past and problems with Maggie, he hadn’t been able to stop.
Not even Bram had been able to get so much out of him. The old clan leader before Bram had known, of course, but Kai had wanted a fresh start with Bram. While Bram had known the basics and had seen him a few times during the worst three weeks of Kai’s life, Stonefire’s current leader had never really pushed on the subject. He sometimes wondered why Bram trusted him; there was always a small chance Kai could regress and go after Maggie if he saw her again.
Pushing thoughts of Bram aside, Kai studied Jane’s face. Telling even a small part of his past to Jane made him feel lighter. Especially since his human was looking at him with curiosity instead of pity.
His dragon spoke up.
Jane just wants the story. Yet another reason she is perfect for us.
You’re really cheering for her now, aren’t you, mate?
Of course. I will never see her naked if I don’t. You’re too stubborn and never go after what you want.
Jane’s voice cut into his thoughts. “You can’t just stop there. Something must’ve happened between then and now or you never would’ve admitted to wanting to kiss me.”
His eyes darted to Jane’s mouth and he lingered on her full bottom lip. Despite the pain and his exhaustion, he burned to kiss her again.
Jane cleared her throat and he met her blue gaze. He couldn’t help but smile at the faint blush on her cheeks.
“Finish the story so I can check on your wound,” Jane ordered.
The image of Jane’s hands on his skin made Kai shift his position. His dragon chimed in.
I want to feel her soft fingers. Hurry up.
Too tired to argue with his beast, Kai raised an eyebrow on Jane. “Yes, ma’am.”
Her smile warmed his heart. “Glad to see you finally acknowledge that I’m in charge of you until you’re better.”
“I wouldn’t say in charge, but if saying yes means I can have you touching me, then it’s a small price to pay.” Jane merely shook her head and he smiled as he continued, “Fine. Although if you’re looking for a happy ending, it’s not going to happen.”
Jane tilted her head. “I just want the facts.”
His dragon crooned.
She is perfect.
Kai replied, “Well, I was young and my dragon didn’t take it well. He roared and clawed his way out of any mental prison I constructed. All he wanted was Maggie.
“I spent three weeks locked inside this cottage. A guard was posted near my place at all times and the old clan leader checked on me every day. Bram checked on me too since he had been one of my schoolmates and had been concerned. Bram has always cared about the clan, even before he was leader.
“Anyway, after three weeks, once I was able to keep control of my dragon for several hours at a time, Victor sat me down and told me about his brother, who had gone through the same experience with his true mate denying him. That time, it had been one of the human sacrifices who had run away and left her child behind. You actually know that child, by the way. It was Nikki. Being the first child of a human sacrifice has been much tougher than people realize.”
Jane nodded and waited for him to go on. He liked that she could remain quiet if a situation needed it. Not that he didn’t love matching wits with his human, but it showed her in a new light—one where he could imagine her helping him with his Protector duties.
He paused at that. He’d barely kissed the human. It was a bit early to be thinking of a future with her.
Pushing aside that thought, he carried on with his story. “Victor’s brother eventually found someone to love within the clan and is mated to her to this day. Knowing it was possible to survive a true mate’s denial was the missing piece I needed to get my life together. After that, I focused all of my energy on my work. I became head Protector shortly after Bram took over the clan, and the rest is history.”
Jane remained quiet for a minute. Then she moved closer to him and placed a hand on his cheek. “You are much more than a muscled fighting machine. You’re strong inside and out.”
His dragon chimed in.
I’ve been patient, but I want her to fix our wound and touch us. Ask her.
We need rest, so if you’re hinting at her touching our cock, it’s not going to happen.
His dragon growled.
I’m not stupid. If you don’t get well, I may never be able to shift into my true form.
Well, with you, I’m never sure.
With a huff, his beast faded into the back of his mind. Good. Kai could focus on Jane without his dragon banging on about a kiss or more.
For a split second, he wondered what the hell he was doing. Jane had grand plans for her future, as did Kai for his clan. He should ask her about them first and ensure she knew what getting involved with him would entail. But as she stroked her thumb over his cheek, Kai trusted she knew what she was doing. Jane was clever. She would never do anything without understanding the consequences.
Well, almost everything. She’d been daft about going into that pub in Newcastle alone, armed with nothing but a can of illegal pepper spray.
He didn’t even want to know where she’d managed to purchase that. The female was too stubborn and determined for her own good.