Authors: D'Elen McClain
She’s killing me slowly and I can’t stop thinking about her—her scent, her silky skin, her tight warmth. It all drives me crazy.
Betty doesn’t help. I had to banish her to the human tower because of the angry looks she constantly gives me. I was also afraid she would bash my head in while I slept.
This last time, I made it a week between visits. Each day was a nightmare. I can’t do it again. How can I miss her like this and not love her? And how can she stay away when she professes such love for me?
I’m soaking in a bath when I feel two dragons cross into my realm. I would know Pepper’s magic anywhere. The other dragon is closely connected to Bastian. It could be Acasia or Ashrac. I jump from the tub and dry off quickly. Pepper is coming here. What does this mean? Has she come to her senses and decided that her place is with me? Or does she plan to torture me further?
I don’t care. She’s here and I’m not letting her go.
I watch them fly nearer with Acasia in the lead. This doesn’t reassure me. I wait while counting silently in my head. Between each number I tell myself not to do something foolish.
They land and Acasia gives me a hard stare before leaping from the perch and flying away. I’m completely bewildered. Pepper watches Acasia’s form grow smaller and I only see that something is very wrong when she turns in my direction.
I shift and leave the perch. “Fly with me, mate, and all will be well,” I try to assure her. She will never leave me again. I’m just not stupid enough to say so.
Of course she does the opposite of what I ask. Her magic spikes and she shifts to human. She crumbles and lies on the perch crying. I land, shift, and have her in my arms in mere seconds. I hold her close as I carry her inside. “Tell me what is wrong.”
She hiccups. “I hate you.”
She doesn’t hate me. Enjoys making me miserable, yes; hate, no. I sit down in a large chair and situate her in my lap while her arms remain loosely around my neck and her head against my shoulder. “Okay, why do you hate me?”
Her head tips back so I can see her face. She closes her eyes for a moment and when she opens them her irises are bright yellow. I could float in her eyes for years.
“Wwweee,” she takes a deep breath.
I hold my patience. “Yes, we…”
“We’re having a baby,” she finishes in a rush.
I almost spill her from my lap. “What?”
Red flames dance in her yellow eyes. “You knew this would happen,” she whispers forlornly.
I pull her close again as my heart races and pounds until there’s a good chance it’s going to crash through my chest. We’re having a baby. A baby dragon. My son. Emotion swells inside me. Her fists beat against my back and she cries harder.
I’m never letting her go. But, I’ve learned a lot these past weeks so I’ll try persuasion first. “I need you here, Pepper. Hell, I was so close to stealing you. Please, you must stay.”
“You… you don’t love me,” she cries louder.
My heart is there, but something holds back the words. “I care so much.”
It’s the wrong thing to say.
She twists and before I can stop her, she lands on the floor on her bottom. I try to stand, but she grabs my leg and I end up sprawled beside her. “Stop this at once, Pepper. You can hit and trip me all you want, but you don’t need to be landing on the floor. Think of the baby.”
“I hate you,” she yells again and hits me with her small fists.
What the heck do I do now? I could pitch her over the side of the tower—anything to end her tantrum. With my luck she wouldn’t shift to dragon and she would make that beautiful splat that Ashrac wanted to see. So, I sit here, on the floor, and let her strike me.
A baby dragon. I’m going to be a father. The strikes slow and she eventually stops. A slight snore escapes her and I can only smile.
She slumps over my thighs and sleeps.
I carefully stand and carry her to my bed. I have so much to do—a tower to clean, a nest to build, and I must tell my friends. I guess Acasia will tell Bastian. I so want to celebrate and be congratulated for my accomplishment.
I do none of those things. I look at Pepper’s tear-stained face and know that I can’t leave her. She needs me. I curl around her back with my hands on her lower belly and fall into the first heavy sleep I’ve had since she left me.
Her fingers are running through my hair when I wake. Yellow flashes in her eyes. My beautiful mate. She leans over and kisses me. She’s mine. She’s in my bed and she will never leave me again. I run my hands across her skin and feel the magic sizzle between us. I roll to my side and bring her with me. I need to taste her skin and stare at her breasts. They’re perfect. She’s perfect. She’s impatient and pulls my hair while wiggling to get under me. I’m more than willing to give her everything she desires.
I take her in one smooth stroke.
Again, the word
captures her completely. I move slowly, loving her warmth and filling her with mine. She meets me thrust for thrust. My balls tighten and with a groan, I release inside her. She’s moaning and twisting beneath me as her body quickens and she joins me in an incredible explosion of light.
Twelve months later…
Our son’s birth. Or I guess laying his egg. Acasia and Roxy tell me it isn’t so bad. Roxy has two sons now, so I guess she would know. Sadly, I don’t want the baby out of my body. In my belly, he’s safe and warm where I can protect him. Not that Tahr would let anything happen. He’s been the perfect father if not the perfect mate.
He loves me and still he won’t say the words. I rarely think about it anymore.
I gasp as another cramp rolls through my gargantuan yellow stomach. I’m sitting in the middle of the large nest that Tahr built. His silver wings flash from above as he circles me. I’ve told him if he touches me again, I’ll bite. He’s smart to keep his distance.
“Should it be taking this long?” he asks for the third time in an hour.
I growl and Tahr continues to fly as close as he dares. I feel constant pressure now and I know the birth is imminent. “Tahr,”I cry out when a stabbing pain tears through my stomach
Uncaring that I might actually bite him, he lands with his back legs spread to either side of me. He spreads his wings and covers me. I lift my hind legs slightly and feel the egg sliding from my body. I cry out again as the center pushes through and with a final push our exquisite egg rests safely in the nest. I lean into Tahr’s wings and release the breath I’ve been holding.
“You did it, Pepper,” he says in awe.
I’m happy and sad. It will be another year before I hold my child. So unfair. I shift to human form and within a few seconds, Tahr does the same. He lifts me from the nest and cradles me in his arms as we both look down at the miracle we’ve created. The egg glows. I can’t make out a color and maybe that means he will be silver like his father.
“I want him yellow like you,” Tahr whispers. He has a habit of reading my thoughts.
“Do you really care?” I ask tiredly and rest my head on his shoulder while keeping the egg in sight.
“I guess not.”
I know Tahr would prefer yellow because he thinks his own silver color holds the last remnants of the curse. I don’t believe that. I think I’m yellow because I wasn’t a true bride when I transcended. The Goddess has never appeared to me again and I have no idea why any of this has happened. I don’t question it, though. We’re mostly happy.
Tahr steps over the side of the nest and snuggles us down with the egg. “Sleep,” he says. “I will guard you and our child.”
We have twelve long months of guarding the egg, so I do as he says. One of us will always be on duty. It’s instinct and I don’t question the internal compulsion to keep everyone away. My mind drifts to darkness and I sleep for the first time in two days.
When I wake, I give Tahr a chance to sleep. He’s exhausted. I look at our egg with reverence and watch a pulse of light shine from the center. Everything is as it should be. A small clang comes from the top of the tower stairs and I am instantly on alert.
I’m only slightly relieved to see Betty. She has a tray of food, but it’s too soon.
“Don’t come down,” I speak into her mind. I feel very protective of our child and don’t want to hurt her. She quietly backs away and closes the upper tower door. No matter my hunger, it’s too dangerous for Betty right now.
Tahr sleeps for hours and I ignore my growling stomach and enjoy the peace of seeing our son within his protective shell. I also think about his name. We’ve been arguing about it for months now. My eyes turn to the headpiece that rests a few feet from the nest. It reminds me of Meagan. My fingers caress the cool gold and I offer her a silent thank you. I know Tahr misses her, but he no longer mentions her name. Someday he will see that love is never wrong and that he loved her deeply.
Several hours later, Tahr wakes. “How’s our baby?” he asks huskily while smiling at the egg with fatherly pride. My dragon looks rested. I’m a little cramped from staying in one place so long, but I can’t help smiling at our son either.
“He’s fine. I’m very hungry, though. Betty tried to deliver food hours ago. It’s too dangerous for her to come down here. I’m feeling overly protective.”
Tahr tenderly runs his finger across my cheek. “As you should. I will collect us a meal and then give you a break after we eat.” He gives me a quick kiss and steps from the nest. “If you don’t mind, I would like to go to Bastian’s and give him and Acasia the news. They can pass it on to Laryn and Roxy. I shouldn’t be gone too long.”
We promised we would let them know right away. But, for some reason, I’m feeling apprehensive. The egg. It must be our son. Acasia and Roxy warned me that my mommy instinct will stay in full force until our child is delivered from the egg.
My dread increases the longer Tahr is gone. Deep down inside, I know something is… off. A pulse of energy rocks me and fear slices through my heart. I know my friends’ dragon magic and this is not a friend. This energy signature is dark and deadly.
I’ve been sitting on the nest in dragon form since Tahr left. I can’t stay here and wait for whoever has come to strike. I’m too defenseless in this position and I need to meet my foe away from the egg. I have no doubt the dragon will strike soon.
“Betty,” I call into her head. “We are under attack. Gather everyone and get them into the dungeons. Open the doors for only me or Tahr.”
She can’t answer, but I know she will help lead everyone to safety. I fly to the top of the tower and stare into the sky. A sigh of relief passes my lips when I see a flash of silver wings. It’s Tahr. Then, horror washes over me as I realize who the dragon actually is. This can only be Drakon, even though Tahr swore his uncle was dead.
I’m not sure what I expect—Drakon to talk first, ask where Tahr is, or challenge me. He does none of those. The impact of his body sends me backward and we fall inside the tower. He’s much larger than I am and he doesn’t let go. I can’t help thinking that the silver of his eyes is so much like Tahr’s. We’re spinning and falling, heading to the hard stone floor below. The nest thankfully isn’t in our path.
The impact jars my bones and knocks the wind completely out of me. I can’t expel fire without the ability to breathe, though I try. Drakon leaps back and hits me upside the head with his tail. I roll twice before I’m able to claw and scramble and situate my legs beneath me. I’m still a gangly dragon at the best of times. I’m not Roxy with her mighty halberd, I only have fire for self-defense. I can annihilate anything but another dragon.
Drakon’s going to kill me.
I will not make it easy for him.
He hits me again and blood flows into my eyes. I shake my head to clear it and hear human feet on the stone steps above. My human family. They pour down the stairs brandishing everything from kitchen knives to large pieces of wood. So foolish and they don’t have a chance. My heart breaks for what Drakon will do to them.
His first burst of dragon fire ignites the men in the lead. I don’t have time to dwell on their silent screams as they fall. I must save my son. While Drakon’s attention is on the humans, I rush him from behind with my talons fully extended. They slide off his scales causing no damage. His tail catches me in the head again. One of my teeth breaks and blood splatters against the stone walls. My breath returns in a rush as flames roar from my throat. Drakon’s maniacal laugh will haunt me forever. He’s crazy. I can see it in his devil’s eyes. He plans to kill us all.
I must somehow strike at Drakon’s underbelly. It’s the most important self-defense lesson Tahr taught me. A male’s cock sheath is his only vulnerability in dragon form.
From the corner of my eye, I see Henry running and leaping over burning bodies. With a large club in his hands, he launches from the stairway and somehow manages to land on Drakon’s back. It’s my chance. Drakon spins and tries to dislodge him. I charge in low and avoid his tail. My forward momentum allows me to slide the last few feet to try to get under him.
Drakon twists before I reach my goal and his front foot smashes into my shoulder. His back talons puncture my lower belly, which is swollen and unprotected from the birth. Pain, so intense I can’t breathe or get my legs beneath me, swallows me whole. My eyes drift slowly to the nest. I’ve failed to keep our son safe. I’ve failed to protect Tahr’s humans, my family.
Drakon’s laugh vibrates through my skull. I watch, unable to stop him as he approaches the egg. His great spiked tail flies to and fro as he tries to dislodge Henry. Somehow Henry avoids the blows and hangs on.
My vision is bleary and I catch only a small burst of light from the egg before it’s surrounded by Drakon’s massive claws. He launches from the tower floor and I have only one alternative. And, it must happen before Drakon is too high. My dragon fire will not harm our son. This is so we may breathe fire and heat the egg as needed. With a loud scream, I release everything I have. I know what will happen, but the reality is much worse. Henry’s body ignites and his mouth opens in a silent scream. Drakon is thrown against the wall, but retains hold on the egg. I pull myself up and using my last reserves, I launch into the air. I’m not quick enough and Drakon disappears over the side of the tower before I’m fifty feet from the floor. I pump my wings and painfully head upward. With no strength left, I tumble over. My wings are useless as I spin down to the ground below.