Authors: T. S. Joyce
LAST IMMORTAL DRAGON
By T. S. JOYCE
Last Immortal Dragon can be read as a standalone dragon shifter romance, but for more of these characters, check out T. S. Joyce’s bestselling Gray Back Bears series.
Gray Back Bad Bear (
Gray Back Alpha Bear (
Gray Back Ghost Bear (
Gray Back Broken Bear (
Lowlander Silverback (
Copyright © 2015 by T. S. Joyce
Copyright © 2015, T. S. Joyce
First electronic publication: October 2015
T. S. Joyce
All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded or distributed via the Internet or any other means, electronic or print, without the author’s permission.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental. The author does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for third-party websites or their content.
Published in the United States of America
I’ll find you again.
Damon Daye sat straight up in bed and gasped. His lungs burned as if he’d been holding his breath for too long, and deep within his chest, the clicking of his firestarter sounded. Shit. He bolted for the miniature fridge near his bed and threw it open, then chugged two bottled waters without halting.
That’s just what he needed—to burn his entire lair down because of one dream. With a shaky sigh, he slid to the floor, back against the cold plastic of the fridge. What in the hell had brought that dream about? He hadn’t thought of Feyadine in years.
He squeezed his eyes closed and tried to banish the remnant memories of the dream. It was the one that used to torture him. The one of her final breaths.
“You were screaming,” Mason said from the chair in the corner.
Damon startled and stifled the low rumble in his throat. With a sigh, he said, “Careful not to get yourself burned alive, old friend. You shouldn’t come in here when I’m slumbering. Not ever.”
“Slumbering,” Mason repeated with a grin. He did that a lot, repeated the antiquated words Damon sometimes used when he wasn’t fully awake yet.
Damon stood, sauntered over to his wall of windows, and hit the switch that retracted the blackout panels. He slept best in rooms that resembled caves. Gray, early morning light streamed under the panels as they lifted, and Damon ran his hands through his disheveled hair. It used to bother him that Mason saw him like this, in the vulnerable moments after waking, but he’d been his assistant and driver for so long now, he trusted him wholly.
“This is your intervention,” Mason murmured.
Damon shot him a glare over his shoulder. Mason was sitting in an old velvet chair with his hands clasped over his knees, leaning forward with his eyes blazing the bright blue color of his boar shifter people. Ah. Damon’s inner dragon had riled Mason up more than his steady voice let on.
“Intervention for what? I don’t host any addictions.”
“I’ve watched you spiral lately. I’ve kept quiet about it, but you need a change.”
Damon clasped his hands behind his back and stared out the window at his mountains. Mason always saw too much of his unrest. He wasn’t wrong. Damon had been fighting crippling loneliness, which was only getting worse if that dream was anything to go by. “What kind of change?”
Damon snorted. “Be serious.”
“I am. I’ve never seen you attach to anyone, not in all the years I’ve served you.”
“I’ve bred females.”
“Bred females,” Mason repeated.
Damon narrowed his eyes at a flock of birds that lifted from the canopy below his mansion. He really hated when Mason mimicked him.
He slid his driver a dangerous, slit-eyed glare. “Don’t mention a mate to me again.”
“Fine, then I think it’s time for you to raise another child. Male dragons require that, and you haven’t raised one since Diem.”
“And we both know how good I was at fathering her,” he said darkly, regretting all the things he’d done to hurt her. He’d thought he’d been a good father throughout the millennia, but it turned out he’d been shit at nurturing. He’d made strides to mend the fences between he and Diem, and they were good now, but he still harbored deep regrets about her upbringing.
“You could do it differently this time. I see a difference in you. The Ashe Crew and Gray Backs…hell, even Kong has softened you.”
“Dragons don’t go soft, Mason, and I can’t do a mate. Watching her age and die would destroy me. I can’t do it again.”
“Then we’ll track down a breeder. We’ll conduct the interviews and sign a contract and you can settle your dragon with offspring. You always do best when you are caring for a female and raising a child. You do.”
Another rumble rattled Damon’s chest. He didn’t like being told when he should cover a woman. That was a choice his dragon made, and right now, his inner monster was freefalling.
Softening? Mason was right, though Damon would never admit it out loud. After centuries of feeling nothing, he’d been letting the bear shifter crews in, little by little. His stony heart was cracking and breaking apart. Tiny earthquakes were busting him up from the middle out because he had grown attached to the shifters in his mountains.
No, allowing anyone else into his life right now was a repulsive idea.
Not until he could find a way to stop feeling again.
“Ow,” Clara Sutterfield groaned, holding her forehead where the teenager in seat 14B had just whacked her with his carry-on bag.
“My bad,” he murmured as he made his way out into the center aisle.
Clara glared. She hated flying. Loathed it. Abhorred everything about it. The lines to get into the airport, the astronomical fees to keep her old Honda in the parking garage, stripping down to her bare essentials at the security checks, that machine that had probably x-rayed her down to her hoo-hah flaps, and she definitely despised the TSA agent who was grinning at her when he picked her out of the crowd to step into the contraption. She was wearing a tank top and cut-off shorts. What could she have possibly been hiding? They’d even dusted her fingers for powder residue. She got it. She really did. Safety first and all, but she was pretty sure she was picked on because she was a registered shifter.
But none of that—not a bit of it—compared to the actual flying. Her journey had been split up by two brutal layovers, one of which she’d fallen asleep in a chair and had nearly missed her connecting flight.
But she was here, and in one piece, and not a colorful smear on the pavement from a plane crash. Bloody Marys had gotten her through. The teen had probably bopped her on the head on purpose because she had refused to let him syphon off her drink about six times.
Clara smiled politely and gestured a harried mother with an infant in front of her.
“I’m just happy to get off the flight with that crying kid,” a man in a business suit muttered behind the mother. “If you can’t keep your kid from crying, you should just stay at home with it.”
Clara let her pissed-off bear out just enough to glare at the man with a dead, toothy grin and probably bright blue, inhuman eyes. Hey, she was registered, and not having to hide her inner animal was basically the only perk to this gig. She even let off a snarl until the man stepped back from the woman.
“Pardona moi,” Clara murmured as she muscled her white, floral duffle bag into the aisle in front of the man-baby. Hadn’t he seen the mother pacing the center aisle trying to keep her baby calm? For chrissakes, she’d done everything she could, and could anyone blame the baby for not wanting to be cooped up on the plane with that grumpy butt face? Poor kid couldn’t even drink Bloody Marys. “Hi,” Clara cooed at the baby, giving a gummy smile over her mother’s shoulder. The woman struggled with a bag so Clara offered to help.
“Thank you,” the woman said on a relieved breath. “I’ve never flown with her before.” She turned and exclaimed, “Oh!”
Clara scrunched up her nose. “It’s the eyes, right? I’m a shifter. They’ll fade in a minute.”
The woman, bless her, only looked taken aback for a moment before a smile took her face. “I’ve never met one of you before.”
Clara laughed and moved forward behind the woman. The line was brutally slow. “Yeah, I didn’t much like being caged on this plane either,” she said with a goofy face for the grinning, drooling baby. What a cutie-pie. Big hazel eyes and chubby cheeks and oh! She wanted to cuddle her up. But she wouldn’t because that would be weird and she would get arrested.
Out of the plane at last, Clara carried the woman’s luggage until she met up with her awaiting husband and didn’t need her help anymore. Clara smiled, waved goodbye, and tried her best to ignore the slashing ache through her middle when she ripped her gaze away from that cute little baby. She wanted one of those. She’d wanted a cub of her own since she was twenty, but sometimes things just didn’t work out like that.
Okay, she didn’t have any luggage other than the carry-on bag on her shoulder, so next up was tracking down a taxi. Or a bus? She looked around the small airport and hoped they had taxi service out in the wilderness. When she’d searched Saratoga online, it looked like a tiny guacamole stain on the map.
“Ms. Sutterfield?” A dark-headed man with animated eyebrows and soft brown eyes held a sign higher. It definitely had her name scribbled across it.
“That’s me,” she said, confused.
The man stared for a moment too long to be polite. “Uh, I’m Mason.” He tucked the sign under his arm and offered his hand, still staring. His attention was flattering, but she knew what she looked like. Frizzy, red hair drawn up in curls thanks to the rainy weather, freckles everywhere, and green eyes not lined with mascara or eyeliner because she thought she would do her make-up in the taxi. Or on the bus.
“You a ginger chaser?” she asked, cocking her head.
“A what?” Mason’s eyes widened with comprehension. “Oh, no, you just look familiar.”
She drew up short and clutched her bag to her middle. Well, that was new. Her look was…unique. She’d never been mistaken for anyone else in her entire life.
“Can I carry your bag to the car for you, Ms. Sutterfield?”
“Clara, please, and no.” She eyed his neatly pressed black suit and cleared her throat, wishing she would’ve dressed up a bit more. “I mean, no thank you.”
Mason was staring again.
Cocking her eyebrow, Clara glared. “I know karate.”
“You a shifter?”
Mason nodded once and turned on his heel, then began walking toward a glowing red exit sign.
“Ewey, what kind?”
“It’s not polite to ask—”
“Snore, what kind or I’m going to guess.” Mason kept on walking, his fists now clenched and swinging at his sides. “Sea cucumber? They look like penises.”
Mason gave an amused grunt, but didn’t enlighten her. Instead, he said, “You’re a lot different than I imagined you.”
“Uh, do you often imagine the people you hire before you see them? Don’t be a creeper. And while we’re on the subject of my hiring, like I told you on the phone, I’m more of a tarot card and palm-reading kind of psychic. I don’t know how much help I can be for your ghost problem. I haven’t even done a séance. And between you and me, I’m not even that good at telling fortunes.”
With a troubled furrow in his brow, Mason popped the trunk of a black, polished Towncar. He settled his hands formally behind his back while she hefted the heavy duffle into the trunk, then he opened her door and waited until she was buckled to walk around the car and slip in behind the wheel.
“And I saw how much my plane ticket cost you. Six hundred bucks! That’s not chump change for someone who has mediocre psychic skills and zero background in ghosts.”
“Money isn’t an issue, so don’t worry at all about your travel costs.”
“So you’re just rolling in the dough.”
“I hired you for my boss.”
“Wait, I thought I was dealing with you.”
“Mason, I swear to God I’m going to scream if you keep talking to me like I’m a grandma. I’m thirty, not seventy. Please, call me Clara.”
“Thirty,” he murmured.
Clara narrowed her eyes at the back of his head and sank into the back seat. The car was spotless and smelled of new leather. Black on black. Nice. Mr. Sea Cucumber’s boss had taste.
“I could’ve hired other psychics, but I want to deal with you. You’re a registered shifter, and this is a sensitive…job. Even if you aren’t able to do anything for my boss, it will be worth the money”—he pitched his voice low—“just to see the look on his face.”
“I can hear you. Bear ears.”
“I didn’t expect you to be so dominant.”
“Why, because I’m a woman?”
“No.” He lifted his dark eyes to the rearview mirror and then back to the road in front of him. “Maybe.”
Clara rolled her eyes and crossed her arms over her bag. Figured. If she had a penny for every time someone underestimated her on the basis of gender, she could probably pay the late rent on her tarot card business. Clara’s Tarot was going under, and fast. She wouldn’t have even considered a job like this if Mason, or whoever Mason was working for, hadn’t offered her two thousand dollars plus travel expenses just to come out. Sounded too good to be true, but she’d already been paid half upfront, so the job seemed legit enough.
And now her curiosity was piqued about Mason’s boss. What kind of trouble were ghosts causing that could make a rich man hire a second-rate palm reader? Sounded like desperation to her. She pitied him already. Ghosts were no joke and could make life miserable. She should know. Her grandmother went mad with the sight. Clara had accepted long ago that her fate would be the same—madness if she couldn’t find a way to control the dreams and headaches.
She might not be a great psychic, but she saw things. Awful things that had nothing to do with this world. Teeth and wings and fire, and even though she didn’t have a ghost problem, she pitied anyone who was being haunted.
And as the scenery outside her window turned from the cityscape around the Cheyenne Regional Airport to the lush Wyoming evergreen wilderness, she promised herself she would do her best to help Mason and his boss.