Authors: Vivienne Savage
“Of course. Have a pleasant eve, Marceline.”
“Night, Marcy,” Chloe mumbled.
“Shit, sorry. We tried not to wake you. Sleep well, you two.”
Marcy flounced away to join Antonio in their hotel room. Once Saul and Chloe showered off the salt water residue, a strange sense of vitality seeped through her veins. It hit her like a shot of adrenaline and quickly shed her exhaustion.
“Yes?” He sprawled beside her, silent but peaceful in appearance with his golden eyes shut. He often feigned sleep but rarely dozed off before her.
“Are dragons nocturnal?”
“Most are. Why do you ask?”
“You always get up to go snack and stuff.”
“Many centuries ago, my kind once awakened with the arrival of false-light and hunted freely. Many of my ancestors delighted in setting villages ablaze until the flames could be seen from miles away,” he admitted. “I have adapted over the years and overcome my natural inclinations. It allows me to pass for a human more easily.”
“I certainly appreciate it. No wonder you always snore until noon. You must be rubbing off on me because I can’t sleep either.” All of those long nights of cuddling and drifting off just prior to the sunrise took their toll on Chloe’s circadian rhythm. “This problem is all your fault, so you can fix it,” she teased.
Once he stifled his laughter, Saul kept her entertained through the night with tales of his ancestors. He told her about his mother’s gentle heart, the contrast between his parents’ personalities, and how she had tamed the worst of his father’s habits only just before the dragon’s demise. Even his ruthless grandfather was a beast feared so greatly that the legendary St. George slew him, among many others, and yet Saul had inherited neither male dragon’s tendency toward violence.
“So what you’re saying is that it’s a good thing you guys have adapted to other methods of conquest that don’t involve fire?”
“You misunderstand, Chloe. Our disguises are a necessity in these modern days of missiles, tanks, and jet planes. But yes, you are right. Many of my kind do prefer to manipulate humanity from behind our corporations.”
“And the government,” she murmured while clicking through the cable channels on the television.
“The silver dragons are especially fond of politics, yes,” he chuckled.
“Silvers?” Chloe perked.
“Quicksilver dragons, my love. Otherwise known as storm dragons.”
“They sound pretty. Are all of you organized by color?” She reached over his shoulder and into the bag of cheesy nacho chips on his nightstand.
“Mmhmm.” His fingers trailed through her hair, an absent stroke that continued down her back. The ridiculous reality show on the television faded into the background.
“Oh come on. Don’t clam up on me now. What are you?”
“Bronze,” he answered absently. The models on the catwalk distracted Saul more easily. She rolled her eyes and poked his bare chest until he coughed up more information. “The product of a quicksilver and volcanic dragon, Chloe. Hardly anything special. I can’t say that I’ve inherited my mother’s love of political scheming.”
“So volcanic must be red. Tell me about reds.”
“They’re assholes,” he said bluntly.
Chloe almost inhaled her chip. “Okaaay,” she said, drawing out the word. “You going to clarify that any?”
“There is little else to say about them.”
“Where did you pick up that language anyway?”
“I learned it from you,” Saul said, an amused tone accompanying the cheeky smile on his face. “If you must know, my father and grandfather were both volcanic dragons, although I feel no such inclination to dwell in a pit of lava myself.”
“Because you take after your mother?”
Chloe didn’t press Saul anymore about his family or the mysterious red dragons he seemed to hold in disdain. Bits and snippets of conversation alluded to a love/hate relationship between her lover and his male progenitors, one she certainly understood thanks to a failed relationship with her mother.
“Do you think I’ll ever meet any of your fellow dragons? Or are you all, you know, a solitary sort?”
“Do you wish to?”
“Maybe one day.” Chloe shrugged and snuggled in closer. “Hey, do you think room service has a midnight menu?
“Did you not tell Marcy that you would prefer not to see food for the rest of the day?”
“It’s past midnight. It’s a new day,” she argued.
Saul sighed and reached for the phone. One thing remained certain — Chloe knew how to train a dragon.
The days after their weekend in Galveston passed like a blissful dream. Thanks to her savings and Saul’s generosity, Chloe treated unemployment like an extended vacation. After an enjoyable jog on the paths cutting between the residential complex and adjacent park, she showered and fell into a pleasant sleep while Saul perused her bookshelf and watched television. She dozed in and out of her nap, awakening once to the sound of Saul asking if she’d like Marcy to bring home a pizza, and a second time to a ruckus outside.
“Who the fuck are you?”
No. Oh god, no.
Freddy’s loud voice carried all the way to the bedroom and interrupted her attempt to resume napping. Saul must have answered the door, as he often did whenever Marcy or Chloe were unavailable. The two women had even returned one day to find him entertaining a pair of Kirby salesmen, who had easily convinced him to buy three of their vacuums and complete accessory kits before Chloe ran them out of the apartment. She managed to snatch the check from their hands in the nick of time.
For a dragon, Saul had a soft heart, and if he couldn’t chase two door-to-door salesmen away, she had little hope of him running off Freddy.
Chloe scrambled from the bed, driven to hurry by the sheer outrage in her ex-boyfriend’s voice. Felix ran past her on his way to hide in the closet; her cat had never liked Freddy.
The reason for Freddy’s ire became apparent when Chloe stepped from the hall. Saul didn’t wear much, accustomed to Marcy vacating the home between the hours of 8 and 5. He must have visited the facility’s pool, as he stood half naked in only a towel, like some bronzed and gleaming Adonis. Or better yet, her new manservant.
“Chloe, tell this jackass to get his clothes on and get the fuck out. We need to talk.”
I don’t need this right now!
Freddy ignored Saul
her indignant cry by stepping over the threshold. “I thought I’d give you a chance to apologize for what you did, baby. I know you can be a little unreasonable sometimes, and I get that. But I’m still willing to take you back.”
“I do not believe Chloe wishes to speak with you.” Saul placed himself between Chloe and her ex. “Leave or I will escort you from the premises.”
“Are you serious? Who the fuck is this guy? Tell the Fabio wannabe to hit the road so we can talk about this like adults.”
Yes, who is he? How do I introduce him? Boyfriend sounds so trite and simple.
Chloe sucked in a long breath and slowly released it through her nose. She could do this.
“Baby, meet Freddy. Freddy, this is Saul, my…”
“Betrothed,” Saul offered in the silence following her falter. “Chloe and I are to be wed.”
She expected Freddy to make fun of Saul’s formal speech pattern, or at least question it, but his steroid-deteriorated mind latched on to the wedding announcement instead. He laughed.
“Good one, sweetcheeks.”
“No, we’re serious. I’m flying back with Saul to Los Angeles in a week. I came back to handle my life and pick up Felix.”
Saul stared at her while Freddy looked between the two of them in disbelief. “Like hell you are. You can’t marry this asshole.”
“Excuse me? You’re not my fucking father, Freddy.” Saul opened his mouth to speak, but Chloe whirled on him and poked her finger into his bare chest. “I can handle this myself without you butting in, thank you very much.” Saul shut his mouth and stepped back with both hands up. By then, she’d already returned her attention to the jerk in front of the door. “I meant every single word that I said to you.”
Freddy’s cheeks mottled. “You ungrateful little slut. Is this the thanks I get for taking your beat-up pussy after Malcolm got tired of you?”
It didn’t surprise her even a little that Freddy resorted to name calling and insults. Color flushed over her cheeks and turned her face into a blazing inferno of shame and anger. It hurt, cutting deeply no matter how much she told herself that he was only a bitter, lonely man who would never see beyond his own ego. She blinked away the stinging tears and drew in a slow breath.
And then she launched her right fist into Freddy’s face. The blow laid him on his ass just before the welcome mat. The satisfying crunch that could have been his nose breaking didn’t faze or stop Chloe’s furious tirade.
“Fuck!” he cried from the ground, holding his nose. His eyes watered with tears and blood leaked from his nostrils.
“I am not a slut, but
are an asshole and no woman will
stay with you. No one! You’ll always be a lonely asshole, but I have someone who loves and cares about me now. Now get out of my house before I kick your ass and let him fuck up whatever is left of you!”
“You fucking crazy bitch. Keep her, dude, just fucking keep her!” Freddy raged as he climbed to his feet and vacated the apartment, too much of a wuss to risk further physical confrontation.
With a deep frown lining his face, Saul shut the door behind Freddy and turned to face Chloe. “I am sorry, my love,” he apologized as if he were the one in the wrong. He guided her to the couch and settled a blanket across her lap before stepping away into the kitchen. He returned a few minutes later with a sandwich, chips, and a tall glass of sweet tea.
The food tasted like sawdust in her mouth, and despite that setback, Chloe forced herself to eat the lunch prepared by her considerate mate.
“I think I’m gonna go take a shower.”
“Would you like me to wash your back?” Saul’s offer held no hidden innuendos. That was another thing she loved about her generous dragon: he knew when to ignore his randy libido.
Chloe shook her head. “No, but thanks. I just need a few minutes alone.”
“Take as much time as you need.”
Chloe rose from the bathtub floor and tilted her face up into the hot spray. The tuna had tasted awful coming up the wrong way; so awful she’d reached an arm out of the shower and snagged her toothbrush from the nearby counter. The mint paste helped rid her mouth of the sour taste but the usually refreshing scent was off-putting.
“Chloe? Sweetie?” Marcy knocked on the bathroom door before opening it. “Geez, woman, turn the fan on. It’s a sauna in here.”
“You home already?”
“Already? It’s the same time I always get home.” Marcy flipped the switch for the fan. “You okay, hun? Saul told me what happened. We’ve been waiting for you to come out.”
“Sorry. Just a sec, okay?” Chloe scrubbed soap over her face a final time, rinsed, and shut off the water. A towel hung beside the frosted glass door for her to wrap around her shower-reddened skin. Ever since Saul had scalded her, she had acquired his strange tolerance for boiling water and preferred it.
“Hey, your dad called, too, and wondered if you were still planning to visit for the Fourth of July.”
“Dad’s too busy with his new girlfriend to miss me at the barbecue. Besides, I don’t want to intrude.”
“Sam misses you plenty. Even if he does have a hot girlfriend half his age to take care of him now. Hey, are you okay? You look horrible, chica.”
Chloe shook her head and tightened her grip on the towel. Felix snaked in between her wet ankles to deliver a round of loving mrowls. “It’s nothing.”
“It’s something. You know you can’t lie to me. What’s wrong? Is it Mr. Moneybags? Did he do something to you? I swear, I will fuck his world up if he—”
“No, it’s nothing Saul did.”
“Freddy then? Honestly hun, don’t let that prick upset you. He’s so not worth it and from the sound of things, you chased him off good this time. I wish I’d been here to see you bloody his big nose.”
“It’s not that. It’s…”
Please no, don’t let me be pregnant. Please, please no.
Chloe paced in a short line and raised one fist to her lips. She bit her knuckles fretfully.
“Chloe, it’s me. You can talk to me about anything.”
“I think I’m pregnant,” she blurted out, interrupting whatever else Marcy intended to say.
Her friend stared at her with wide eyes. “Holy shit. What do you plan to do? Is Saul okay with that?”
“It’s… it’s not his.” Chloe bit her lip.
“Are you sure? You two have been at it like rabbits for the last couple of weeks.”
“No. Marcy, you don’t get it. Saul can’t… he’s had a vasectomy,” she lied, erring on the side of caution to avoid spilling the truth. “You know, rich and wealthy, wanted to keep women from using him for his money.”