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Authors: Kendra Leigh Castle

Taming the Dragon

BOOK: Taming the Dragon
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Tess McGarry is only supposed to deliver a silver dragon
pendant to its rightful owner and she’ll be paid handsomely. But this simple job
gets complicated when she comes face to face with the hottest—and most
difficult—man she’s ever laid eyes on. A man who says he wants to claim her as
his mate.

Kaden St. George was once a fierce warrior, a leader among
his kind. But pursued by hunters intent on exterminating dragons and stealing
his treasure, Kaden has gone into hiding—until he is awakened by a beautiful
woman who has something that belongs to him…

Taming the Dragon

Kendra Leigh Castle

ONE

Considering she was broke and
out of a job, the last thing Tess McGarry needed to do was window-shop in
some high-end little store.

Then again, it wasn’t like she had much
else to do on a Tuesday afternoon. And the name of the place, Wicked Little
Things, was tough to resist. What did a place like that carry? Elegant
whips? Golden handcuffs? The view through the large window and into the shop
said neither, but that didn’t make her any less curious.

Besides, it was this or go back to her
tiny apartment and start trying to figure out how to get into a working band
that
wouldn’t
break up in three to six
months. Again.

Yeah, she’d look at shiny objects for a while instead.

Tess pushed through the door, hearing the jingle of a small
bell somewhere above her. She lifted a hand to tuck a lock of long auburn hair
behind her ear as she looked around, misery quickly turning to interest.

Whatever this place was, there was nothing kinky about it.

She walked slowly into the dimly lit space, taking everything
in. There were glass cases full of beautiful old jewelry, walls lined with rich
wooden shelves that held a jumble of objects, all of which seemed to
just...
belong
here. Tess breathed in, catching
the scent of what might have been incense. An odd feeling crept over her, though
it wasn’t exactly unpleasant. She didn’t usually go for New Age stuff, but this
whole place seemed to vibrate with its own energy.

She kept moving, her low boot heels making muffled sounds on
the wood floor. Tess eyed a waist-high stone gargoyle squatting menacingly in
the middle of the store. If she didn’t know any better, she’d swear it was
eyeing her back.

“What
is
this place?” she
murmured.

“You could call it a curio shop, I suppose.”

The voice, warm and rich as fresh cream, startled her. Tess
spun around, nearly toppling into the gargoyle statue she’d wanted to avoid. The
woman who seemed to have appeared out of thin air watched her with eyes the
color of jade, one eyebrow only slightly quirked at Tess’s flailing. Despite
Tess managing to right herself fairly quickly, it was hard not to stare.

Whoever this was, Tess thought, she was a vision: long waves of
flame-red hair framed a face that was both clever and heart-wrenchingly
beautiful. There was something vaguely feline about the tilt of her eyes, and
her full lips hinted at a secretive smile, as though she knew all manner of
things she shouldn’t. Though she was dressed simply, in an ankle-length dress of
deepest red, Tess had no doubt that every inch of the woman was as perfect as
that face.

A face which remained directed toward her, its expression
politely inquiring. But there was a hard glint in those strange eyes, one Tess
didn’t miss. She felt a flutter in her stomach that was something akin to panic.
Which was dumb, she told herself. This was just a little antique store. It
wasn’t like the owner, or whoever she was, was going to berate her for looking
around.

Hopefully.

Tess squared her shoulders and breathed in deeply, then curved
her mouth into what she hoped was a friendly smile. The woman’s gaze sharpened
with a slight tilt of her head.

“Hey,” Tess said, trying to keep her voice from quavering. She
could feel the hair on the back of her neck standing on end. “I’ve never noticed
this place before.” She looked around. Something, anything to escape the
laser-like green eyes boring into her. “You’ve got some great things in
here.”

“Mmm,” the woman agreed. “Not everyone would think so. But
then, not just anyone would wander in.”

“Oh,” Tess said, her gaze pulled back to that deceptively
placid expression.

That was a weird way to put it.

“I’m Morgan Le Fay, proprietor of Wicked Little Things,” the
woman said, extending an elegant, long-fingered hand. The rings that glittered
and glinted on it probably cost more than Tess paid in rent every year. She
hesitated for the slightest instant, then lifted her own hand to clasp Morgan’s.
The instant she did, Tess felt a sizzle up her arm so bright and hot that she
jerked, startled. Morgan’s hand clamped hard around hers, though her expression
stayed warm and welcoming.

“I’m glad you’re here, actually. I think you’re exactly who
I’ve been waiting for.”

Tess’s mind started to fog up, but she fought against it,
gritting her teeth.

Morgan Le Fay? Like the sorceress in
Arthurian legend? Who did this chick think she was kidding?

With a great deal of effort, Tess, pulled her hand away.
Morgan, or whatever her real name was, looked strangely pleased. She gave a
small nod.

“Good. You’ll need that backbone if you’re going to deal with
him.”

“Sorry, what?” Tess asked. That strange energy in the shop only
seemed to intensify. She glanced around uneasily, half expecting the stuff on
the shelves to start moving. Morgan laughed, and the soft sound of amusement was
genuine. That, more than anything, began to settle Tess’s nerves.

“You need work. I have a job. That’s why you’re here.”

“A job,” Tess said. As weird as this woman was, the prospect of
income went a long way toward banishing any lingering fear. “How do you know I
need a job?”

Morgan waved a hand. “You wouldn’t believe me. Yet. Wicked
Little Things deals in the magical, the maligned and the misunderstood. The man
I need your help with is all three. You’re the first who’s been suited to this
task, so...I imagine you’ll come out in one piece.”

Tess lifted her brows, feeling that strange fog trying to creep
into her thoughts again, making her want to do nothing more than nod and smile.
What
was
that?

“You
imagine?
Just what kind of a
job is this? I don’t know what you’re looking for, but I’m just a starving
artist. I don’t do dangerous. Or kinky. Or violent.”

Morgan’s grin was as sharp as a blade. “This isn’t about your
body...Though that will work in your favor,” she added with a quick, assessing
look at Tess’s figure. “It’s a small task, Tess McGarry.”

Tess blinked, startled at Morgan’s casual use of her full name.
Had she told her when Morgan introduced herself? She must have...but somehow,
she didn’t think so.

“If it’s so small then why don’t you do it yourself?”

Morgan lifted her shoulders in an elegant little shrug. “He
doesn’t like me. He doesn’t really like
anyone,
in
fact. If I tried to deliver—return, really— this particular item, it would
go...poorly.”

Tess made a soft noise. “This job doesn’t sound all that
promising, Ms. Le Fay.”

“Morgan,” Morgan corrected her, gentle but firm. “And the job
itself
is
a promise. One I made a long time ago.
It’s time for him to stop hiding and remember what he is, but he’s a stubborn
beast. Kaden will never go without a push. You’re the right one to give it to
him. Beauty, ferocity, and of course, music—his kind adores music, you know—all
in one rather reluctant package. It’s you. It’s time.”

The words made Tess’s stomach flutter strangely.

“I don’t—”

“You’ll be handsomely rewarded, of course,” Morgan said,
cutting Tess off smoothly. “All you have to do is give Kaden St. George his
necklace. It is, as I said, a small task...for the right person. Can you really
afford to be so picky?”

Tess stared at Morgan, wondering why she was seriously
considering this task. The whole deal was weird. There had to be more. She
couldn’t do...whatever this was. She was just a singer. Well, she was trying to
be. And a waitress. Or, well, she had been. No job ever seemed to be a fit for
her. Until, according to this strange woman, now.

And really, Morgan was right. One look at her checking account
and anyone would know she had very little left to lose. She had no family to
catch her, no friends who were any better off than she was. Maybe it was time to
take a leap of faith.

All around her, the air thrummed.

“Okay,” Tess said, the word seeming to echo all around her.
“What do I need to do?”

Relief flickered across Morgan’s face before she took a step
back and turned away, beckoning.

“Step into my office.”

TWO

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Tess pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket, cross-checked
the handwritten directions with the GPS on her phone, and then looked back up at
the ramshackle old house in front of her. Then she swore quietly.

“Either she got it wrong, or the guy doesn’t live here
anymore...or this is some kind of sick joke that ends with me being cut into
tiny pieces,” Tess muttered to herself. Her eyes roamed over the sagging
two-story structure squatting near the edge of a steep, rocky incline that
bordered the edge of a river’s choppy waters.

The wood siding had faded to the point where it was as gray as
the day’s sky, weather beaten and badly in need of replacement. Most of the
white paint had peeled off the wide porch, and what remained was so dingy it was
almost indistinguishable from the color of the rest of the house. The curtains
were drawn in every window, and what had once been a gravel driveway was so
overgrown with weeds that it was tough to tell where it ended. So tough that
she’d parked across the street in front of a scrubby little cottage, its front
yard full of more windmills, gazing balls and ugly statuary than grass.

This place gave her the creeps.

The only surprise was that this supposed bazillionaire’s house
hadn’t been vandalized. It might be in rough shape, but it looked to have gotten
there naturally. There were no broken bottles, no busted windows, no garbage
anywhere in sight. Weird. Like everything else about this job. Tess’s eyes
narrowed as she tucked both the paper and her phone back in her back pocket.

She hesitated, then lifted her hand to clasp the charm that
hung from a glittering chain around her neck. The little silver dragon with
emerald eyes that Morgan had insisted she deliver here was warm to the touch. It
had been since she’d put it on for safekeeping earlier, though that had to be
from lying against her skin all the time. Tess liked it. Okay, hell, she more
than liked it. There was something about the necklace that made her want to just
say forget the job and keep the trinket. Which wasn’t like her...she was no
thief.

She forced her fingers open and tucked the dragon back beneath
the neck of her T-shirt, against her skin where she preferred it. The heat from
it made her shiver with pleasure. Strange...it seemed to have heated up more
just in the time she’d been standing here.

“Time to get this over with,” she told herself. If no one
answered the door, she’d just return the stupid necklace to Morgan, tell her
Thanks but no thanks, and figure something else out.

Tess headed up onto the front porch, the old wood creaking
loudly under her weight. She took a final glance around at the deserted road,
and then pounded on the door.

“Hello?” she called, silently cursing herself, Morgan Le Fay
and especially her former band mates, Mike and August, for busting up the group
and removing her only source of income in the first place. “Mister St. George?
Are you home?”

She tilted her head close to the door, trying to hear any
movement at all. There was a sound from deep within the recesses of the house
that sounded like a deep—
very
deep—sigh. The door
rattled slightly, as if there’d been a strong breeze. But the air was very still
out on the porch.

The hairs on Tess’s arms prickled. A thin rivulet of sweat
trickled between her breasts. It was only then that she realized how
uncomfortably hot the silver dragon had become against her chest. Swallowing the
panic that urged her to run as far away from this house as possible, Tess
knocked again.

“Mister St. George,” Tess said, her voice stronger now. “I’m
supposed to deliver a necklace? From Morgan Le Fay?”

She could actually
feel
whoever was
in the house turn his full attention toward her. Everything, even the soft
outside noises behind her, went silent. There was a pause, then a strange
languid hiss beyond the door. Tess frowned and got closer. It sounded like
something being dragged through coins or metal pieces. Something big.

Tess’s breath caught in her throat as her mind conjured a
picture of an enormous dragon, a real-life version of what she wore around her
neck, uncoiling itself inside this house and getting ready to open the door so
it could gobble her up. It might have been ridiculous, but it froze the blood in
her veins. It also froze her in place as the door swung open right in front of
her.

Her first thought was that Kaden St. George wasn’t the dragon
she’d feared.

Then a pair of eyes the bright gold of a candle’s flame locked
with hers, and she knew she was in plenty of trouble anyway.

He looked like some dark and malevolent god banished to earth
standing there in the doorway. Tousled raven hair, pieces of it gleaming what
looked like deep purple, skimmed sharp cheekbones. His face was angular, with a
square jaw and a regal blade of a nose, softened only by his mouth. Even set in
a disapproving line, his lips looked soft, sensual.

It was exactly the wrong thought, Tess knew, struggling to
center herself before she did something ridiculous. But if his face wasn’t
enough, the man looked as though he’d only just thrown on the pair of black
jeans he was wearing. Her eyes skimmed down his bare chest before she could stop
herself, making
detailed
mental notes on every taut
muscle, every slash and curl of the intriguing tribal tattoos that marked his
golden skin, disappearing beneath pants he hadn’t bothered to button...

“Who wakes me?” he growled, in a roughened voice as dark and
decadent as sin itself.

Tess opened her mouth, though she hadn’t yet decided whether to
answer or scream for help.

It didn’t matter.

With a flicker of movement, Kaden St. George dragged her inside
and shut the door behind them.

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