The Dragon's Appraiser: Part One (4 page)

BOOK: The Dragon's Appraiser: Part One
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Madja took a deep breath before looking up at his face. He looked furious and she couldn’t understand why. She had said any number of rude things to him in the past few days, most of which he had brushed off with cool indifference.

When she was certain that she could keep her voice steady, she said, “Sevrrn. You’re hurting me.”

To her relief, the words had an immediate effect. Sevrrn released her breast at once, drawing back swiftly as though he had been burned. His anger gave way to bemusement as he stared at the damage he’d done to her breast.

Madja wasn’t sure why she felt the need to placate him, but she couldn’t help herself. “It’s not as bad as it looks, I’ll be…”

Madja trailed off as she noticed something completely inexplicable. Cheeks aflame, she took a step back and turned away from him, shaky fingers working to readjust her bodice. When she was bold enough to turn back around, Sevrrn was gone.

She tried to tell herself that she had seen wrong. Perhaps it had been a trick of the light. There was certainly no way that Sevrrn, the ancient and powerful dragon god, had an erection.

CHAPTER SIX

 

Sevrrn kicked the next object toward the human. It was the scabbard that usually housed one of his favorite swords. Centuries ago, he had been fascinated by the elaborate golden dragon that had been embossed on its surface. He was the only golden dragon he had ever heard of and had wondered if the dragon was supposed to be him.

As the human picked up the scabbard and began to scrutinize it, he realized that he was not the least bit interested in what she had to say. In fact, over the past several hours, he had not been listening to anything she had said.

But he had been paying attention to her.

Not the words coming out of her mouth, but the way her lips moved. Her lips, he was beginning to notice, were particularly appealing to him. They were soft and pink and sometimes her small tongue would flick out to wet them. He liked seeing her tongue and he liked the way her plump lips looked when they were slick with her saliva.

He could not understand why her lips captivated him so much. There was hardly enough meat between them to fill his mouth, let alone his stomach.

But he did not want to eat them. He wanted…

He wasn’t sure.

Uncertainty
.

That was not something the dragon was used to.

Sevrrn’s attention was drawn back from her lips. He took in her entire face, realizing that she was staring at him expectantly. Her eyebrows drew together.

“Are you all right?”

No one had ever asked him that before. He did not like it.

“Get back to work,” he commanded. “I expect everything to be appraised by the end of the season.”

She did not listen. Why did she never listen to him?

“How am I ever going to finish when you keep adding things to the pile?”

“I am not referring to the pile,” he told her, growing impatient with her insolence. “I am referring to my entire hoard.”

She
laughed
.

He did not like that either. Well, he liked the sound of it. But he did not like that she seemed to be laughing at
him
.

“Autumn will be over in two months. I get that time is probably not something you pay much mind to, but trust me, a quality appraisal on everything here will take me decades, maybe even a century. I’ll probably die of old age before we even begin to tackle the stuff at the bottom of the lake.”

He had not considered that. At the rate they were going, it would take her a great deal of human time to complete the appraisals. He could not have her growing old and feeble before they were finished. Besides, if she grew old, her lips would begin to thin.

That would be a problem.

He was not sure why.

“You will not die.”

The thought of her growing old and dying had perturbed him, making his tone sharp. She flinched.

“The oldest human I know is eighty-seven and I’m already a quarter of the way there.”

He gave a dismissive wave of his hand. “We will find a way to keep you alive. I am sure there is some sort of artifact or potion that grants immortality. We will acquire it.”

He knew of a few such objects. Most were guarded by other immortal beings, a few by his own kin, but he had many things within his hoard that others would be willing to exchange them for.

Her eyes widened and she appeared excited. “You mean like a quest?”

A
quest
? Why would he ever do a thing like that?

“We will make someone bring it to us.”

Her shoulders slumped. “I see. So that’s how it’ll be? You and I, spending eternity in your lair?”

She sounded strangely disappointed. The human never ceased to perplex him.

Curious, he asked, “Why would we leave?”

“I don’t know. To go on adventures? See the world?”

Sevrrn could see how this might seem appealing to a human. With the short spans of their lives, seeing the world likely seemed an impossible goal. He, on the other hand, had seen the world a million times over.

“I can fly around the world in a day,” he told her. “It is much smaller than you think.”

She did seem satisfied by his answer. “My father spent a year travelling down the Vrynesh coal road on the back of an ox. He said he saw something new every day.”

His brow arched and for some reason, she smiled.

He liked her smile, but she did not need to know that.

“Is there a point you are trying to make?”

She shrugged. “I guess that the world is a lot bigger than what you can see with your eyes.”

He did not need a human lecturing him on such things. Sevrrn was about to tell her this, but he became distracted. She picked something up off the ground—the crown she had tried to abscond with the week before. Then, she approached his throne, bringing with her the scent of the ocean.

But it was more than that now. She was beginning to smell less like the ocean and more like his lair. Like the freshwater spring that fed his lake. Like the soft silks that she curled up in each night when she slept. She was even beginning to smell a little like him.

He should not have liked that, but he did.

“A week ago,” she said, holding up the crown, “all you knew was that this crown was simply a combination of gold and pearls. It was just another trinket in your hoard. Now you know that it’s the earliest relic of one of the greatest nations in the world. You know that it was made for Empress Arda, the legendary slave who overthrew the most oppressive empire to ever exist. You know that the word carved on the inside comes from her famous saying, ‘A hundred masters have seen my back bend, but they have never seen it break.’

“Nothing about this crown has changed, but now you know its history, its significance goes beyond the materials it’s comprised of.”

Perhaps she had a point.

A very small one.

He stared at her, silently contemplating how such a young creature could have such a broad perspective of the world. After a few moments, she tilted her head away, her cheeks coloring.

She asked, “So, what’s going to happen once I appraise everything? Will you set me free?”

The question made him strangely uncomfortable. “Of course not. We will appraise new things.”

“Wait, so you want to make me immortal just so that you can own me forever?”

“You belong to me,” he reminded her. “Your mortality has no bearing on that fact.”

Her eyes briefly rolled back in her head. It was not the first time he had seen her do that. What did that mean?

Then, she leaned her head back. The side of her head brushed against his leg. When he did not move, she leaned against him a little more. Though detached from his body, he was never fully separated from his scales and Sevrrn was acutely aware of each strand of her hair. He did not typically enjoy being touched, but with her, it seemed different.

“I don’t think I want to be immortal,” she said, jarring him back into reality.

Truly, his human said the most bizarre things.

“All humans desire immortality.”

She yawned.

“Maybe, but I don’t even want to spend a human lifetime in here, let alone eternity.”

That irritated him. “What is wrong with my lair?”

“Nothing, it’s just sort of boring. Don’t you ever get bored?”

“You are a strange human. One moment you wax poetic about an old headpiece and now the vast contents of my hoard cannot hold your interest?”

She smiled. “You’re right. I guess what I mean is that it gets a bit lonely here. Sometimes I miss going to festivals, or even just walking around...”

Sevrrn tuned her out, choosing to focus on her hair. It reminded him of obsidian, solid black, but with a sleek sheen. Conversely, it was rather soft. Not quite as soft as silk, but it smelled better and for whatever reason, he enjoyed touching it more.

He realized he was touching her hair, gathering it in his hand and letting it slip through his fingers like dark water. He decided it was not strange for him to want to touch her. After all, she belonged to him. He should be able to touch her whenever he pleased.

But she seemed to enjoy his touch, and that made him like it even more. She leaned into his hand, even rubbing against it a little. After a few moments, her long eyelashes fluttered shut.

“Do not go to sleep,” he quietly commanded.

Ever stubborn, she opened one eye. “Why not?”

Lips flattening, he told her, “You cry in your sleep. It is annoying.”

Annoying was not the right word. There was another word for the way her nighttime terrors affected him. Early on, he would nudge her awake, but no sooner did she fall back asleep would she return to whatever plagued her in her dreams. He wanted to be able to do something more, but there was nothing her could do to protect her.

It was annoying. And something else.

“Sorry. Sometimes I have nightmares.”

“About what?”

She hesitated. “Mostly, being alone.”

“Hm.”

He was not sure what else to say. Without the ability to travel into her dreams with her, there was nothing he could do.

He was annoyed. But not at her. At himself—at his own inability to do more for her. Then, he became annoyed with her for making him annoyed with himself.

He was beginning to think they had sent him this human just to confound him.

The sky had darkened some time ago. No doubt, that was why the human was growing tired. He stood up from his throne and walked away from her without another word. After a moment, he heard her make her way over to her bed of silks.

He prepared himself for another night of listening to her cries. Another night of being alone. Before she had come along, he had not realized that he had been alone. He had been alone for centuries and it had never bothered him before. Now, just getting through the nights was proving problematic.

Shifting into his dragon form, Sevrrn stretched out his long body. Perhaps he would bend the light around himself and go for a quick flight. Flying always helped him to clear his mind. That, and hunting. That was what he should do. Take flight and hunt some cattle.

He spread his wings, preparing to propel himself into the air. Then, he glanced back at the human. From his great height, he could easily see past the mounds of treasure where she was curled up in her silks.

She looked…sad.

For whatever reason, Sevrrn folded his wings. On light steps, he made his way over to her silk pallet. She propped herself up on her elbows, watching as he settled down beside her. He coiled his long tail around her bedding and laid his head down on the floor.

She would not cry tonight, he decided. Because tonight, she would not be alone.

The human did not say anything, but he heard her move. Seconds later, he felt her rest her head against his tail.

That night, he did not feel alone either.

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

The next morning, Madja woke to find herself alone, with only a charred chicken left in Sevrrn’s place. After eating, she went down to the lake for a dip.

Ever since she’d found out about Sevrrn’s light-bending ability, Madja had made it a point to bathe in a cotton shift. That was why she was not alarmed when she came up from washing her hair to find Sevrrn watching her.

She was, however, alarmed to find that he was completely naked.

Madja stole one greedy glimpse at his resplendent body before jerking her head away and feigning indignation.

“What are you doing? Where are your scales?”

“I removed them so that your view of my human form would be unobstructed.”

She climbed out of the water and grabbed a linen cloth to dry off with. “How magnanimous of you.”

“Today, you will appraise this body.”

Madja laughed. “Tell me you’re referring to a corpse you brought back and not yourself.”

She thought she heard him snort. “Are you refusing my request?”

“What if I am?”

He was silent for a while, and finally, Madja worked up the nerve to turn. She kept her eyes focus squarely on his head, though they desperately wanted to travel lower.

Sevrrn scratched his head in a very human gesture of uncertainty. It was the first time she’d ever seen him do that, and Madja wondered if he’d learned it from her.

“I am not sure,” he finally said. “I generally kill humans who do not obey me.”

For some reason, the admission didn’t frighten her. In fact, morbid though it was, Madja was amused by his predicament.

“I see. Well, then I suppose this is goodbye.”

His gaze darkened. “Do not be ridiculous. You are not just any human. You are mine.”

He said it casually, as though he was stating a universal fact—‘the sky is blue, the stars are far, and you are mine’—and perhaps it was because of how easily he said it that warmth blossomed in Madja’s chest. Even as Sevrrn began to pace and mutter to himself, she was still playing the phrase on repeat in her mind.

Not ‘you belong to me’, but ‘
you are mine
.’ Why was it so different?

She knew that she was blowing it way out of proportion, but she just couldn’t help it.

Sevrrn stopped pacing. “What if I said that I would stop feeding you?”

Suddenly, Madja found him considerably less charming.

“If you stop feeding me, I’ll die,” she pointed out.

He nodded and resumed pacing. Apparently, it hadn’t occurred to him that she’d do just about anything if he stopped feeding her for even a day. She wasn’t about to inform him of that.

He stopped again, but Madja held up a hand and spoke first.

“Look, I know there are probably a bunch of weird ideas in your head right now, but I assure you, there’s a very easy solution to your problem.”

He tilted his head.

“You could say, ‘please.’”

“Deal. Please.”

That was easy.
“Please, what?”

“Please, what?” he repeated.

“Usually, when you ask please, it’s followed by a request. For example—”

He flicked his wrist. “That was not part of our deal. Now, commence with your appraisal.”

Madja wondered what Sevrrn would do if she smacked him.

She pressed a finger to her temple. “Fine, but I don’t know what you’re expecting. I can’t exactly appraise the value of a person.”

“You are not appraising my value as a person, you are appraising my physical body.”

He took a step forward, so that there was only a small space between them. Madja could smell him, and for all her knowledge of art and history, words always seemed to elude her when it came to his unique, masculine scent. All she knew was that it made her knees weak.

“Your body isn’t an object.”

“But it is,” he insisted. “I spent centuries crafting my human form. I took inspiration from the things that please me.”

Madja remembered her own assessment of Sevrrn’s body, the first morning she’d seen him in his human form. Bronze skin, hair like white gold, eyes like garnets, and teeth like pearls. It now made sense to her, how so much beauty could be condensed into a single being.

“Perhaps you are not skilled enough to appraise me,” he said, his lips pressing together.

“That’s not it, it’s just that…”

Madja trailed off as she felt something brush against her belly. Her mouth became dry, and with considerable effort, she glanced downwards.

Her eyes bulged. Were he not such a large man, Sevrrn’s manhood would have seemed comically oversized. But given his stature, it was perfectly proportionate and, at present, completely erect.

For reasons she could not fathom, Madja remained still, not backing away, nor taking her eyes off of the hard length pressed against her.

“It happens when I see your breasts,” Sevrrn explained, not sounding the least bit ashamed.

She realized, then, that while her white slip shielded her body from view, it was considerably less effective when wet.

“I thought you found humans to be distasteful.”

“I am unaccustomed to using this body for extended periods of time,” he told her. “This is my first experience with arousal. I find it to be very…frustrating.”

“Well, I guess it’s flattering—”

“We should indulge in one another.”

Madja stepped back so quickly she nearly tripped over her own feet. “Huh?”

He gestured toward his erection, his tone all brisk practicality. “It is for the best that we slake these urges on one another’s bodies. I have been having difficulty concentrating as of late. I cannot continue to suffer this debilitation.”

Madja blanched. “I—I’m not just going to have sex with you.”

“Whom else would you do it with?” he asked, now scowling.

She raked a hand through her hair, struggling to understand how their conversation had taken such a bizarre turn.

“We can’t just have sex. It’s irresponsible. What if you got me pregnant?”

He folded his arms across his chest. “I would not be so reckless as to spill my seed in a human.”

For all his beauty, Sevrrn really had no concept of how to talk to a woman.

“Look, I’m not having sex with you. You have to understand that for most women, and even a lot of men, sex is about more than just physical lust. There needs to be some sort of emotional connection. I’d have to be in love with you, or at least really, really like you.”

Sevrrn frowned. “You do not like me?”

“I do like you, but not like that.”

He sighed, and she could hardly blame him. She was very attracted to Sevrrn and knew that if he continued to make advances on her, it would only be a matter of time before she capitulated. But right now, it was all too sudden. She needed time to adjust to the idea of a dragon and her being lovers.

“You are such a nonsensical creature,” he said with a shake of his head. “Fine, let us a make a deal, then. What do you want in exchange for the use of your body?”

Now
that
was prostitution.

Her jaw clenched and unclenched. Through gritted teeth, she said, “I don’t give away sex, I’m not a whore. If you wanted to be with a respectable woman such as myself, you’d have to do what every other quality man does. Be nice to her, respect her, and cherish her.”

In actuality, arranged marriages and bride prices were quite common in many parts of the world, but she decided to keep that information to herself.

A devious look spread over his face.

Not good
.

“I see. Perhaps I should go to your people and ask that their next tribute is a female with fewer reservations.”

Not even thinking before she did it, Madja bent down, scooped up a handful of coins, and threw them at him. He made no move to evade her assault, and let the coins bounce off his chest without so much as blinking.

Face hot, she asked, “Why, so you can ruin another woman’s life?”

His expression turned skeptical. “I was not under the impression that your former life was all that interesting.”

“I had a fantastic life,” she countered.

“Then why have you not tried to escape?”

“Because I’m sure you’d just hunt me down anyway.”

He cleared the distance between them in two strides, his garnet eyes dark with intensity. She could feel his erection against her again, the hard flesh jutting into her abdomen. He inclined his head and she saw his nostrils flare.

“You are right,” he said. “I would find you, anywhere.”

Sevrrn dipped his head lower, licking her neck with one, quick flick of his rough tongue. Madja bit down on her bottom lip. Her hands balled into fists, but her feet remained firmly planted on the ground.

She heard him sniff her and for a moment, she felt self-conscious. Then, he licked her again, and this time the stroke of his tongue was slow and deliberate. It was as if he was tasting her.

Strong hands came up to rest on her hips. They ran along the sides of her waist, stopping at the swell of her breasts. He cupped one in each hand, warmth from his body heating the damp cotton. Her nipples stiffened and strained against the confines of her slip.

His tongue was soon joined by his lips, and then, his teeth. Her body quaked at the feeling of two, sharp-tipped fangs being dragged across the fragile skin of her neck. After what he’d done with his claws, she should have been terrified. But while a part of her was scared, there was another part of her that was excited. That dark part of her seemed to feed on her fear, using it to create a potent cocktail of arousal. Her insides began to throb and the region between her thighs grew slick.

Although she tried not to show it, Sevrrn must have sensed her arousal. He released one of her breasts, his large hand moving down her belly and toward her pelvis. As he moved to push apart her thighs, Madja panicked.

With his fangs pressed against the most vulnerable part of her body, she wasn’t about to tell him “no” again. Instead, she did something that the dark, wicked part of her had wanted to do from the moment she laid eyes on his naked body.

She reached between them, and grabbed his erection.

Madja didn’t squeeze, or pull, or do anything besides take him into her hand, but the moment she made contact with his swollen member, Sevrrn let out a harsh growl against her neck.

Apprehension had her tightening her grip, as his manhood had suddenly become the only leverage she had over him. But instead of becoming angry, Sevrrn just leaned his head in the crook of her neck and groaned.

The masculine sound called to a primitive part of her. She was still for a moment, overwhelmed by the knowledge that one of the oldest and most powerful beings in the world—a male that had never before known the touch of a woman—was craving hers above all else.

With a steady hand, she began to stroke him.

She had never done anything like this before. Her hand couldn’t even fit all the way around him and she would have been certain that she was doing it wrong, had Sevrrn not began to purr.

‘Purr’ wasn’t quite the right word. If she’d heard a cat make that sound, she would have thought it was possessed. But it was the closest thing she knew to the rhythmic, rumbling sound that was emanating from his chest. She couldn’t help but wonder if he had ever made that sound before, or if it was something just for her.

The audible evidence of his satisfaction had her working harder to please him. As she increased the pace of her strokes, Sevrrn’s purring became deeper and more pronounced. His hands began to roam over her upper body, restlessly clutching at her curves.

With each moment that passed, his manhood seemed to swell thicker. Its color deepened to a rosy hue. The more it changed, the more fervent his touch became, until his hands seized her hips, clamping onto them as though they were the only thing stopping him from flying apart.

Sevrrn’s breathing hitched. His next breath was a harsh growl. He bucked his hips into her hand, the head of his manhood burrowing into her soft belly as he took his release. She felt his massive body spasm as hot seed spurted onto her.

While the aftershocks of climax rippled over Sevrrn, Madja stilled, unsure what to do next. She had the strange urge to stroke his back, but bizarrely, that somehow felt more intimate than what they had just done. So, she waited.

When he finally raised his head, his expression was utterly unguarded. Shock, amazement, and above all, lust, burned in the molten depths of his eyes. His mouth opened, words spilling out with unbridled urgency.

“Again. Do it again.”

***

“Again.”

Madja turned her head to gape at him. Sevrrn lay on his side, his elbow propped up and his head resting against his hand. When she didn’t immediately acquiesce, his eyes narrowed.

Shaking her head, Madja asked, “How are you… I mean, aren’t you getting tired?”

BOOK: The Dragon's Appraiser: Part One
5.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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