Authors: Julie Wetzel
On the Accidental Wings of Dragons
I would like to dedicate this to my biggest fan. You will always be a bright light in my life.
I love you Grandma!
THIS book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the authors' imagination or are used factiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
NO part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
On the Accidental Wings of Dragons
Copyright ©2015 Julie Wetzel
All rights reserved.
Cover Design by: Marya Heiman
Typography by: Courtney Nuckels
Editing by: Cynthia Shepp
Table of Contents
About the Author
Michael peeked up at the noise coming from the door. It had been the first sign of life in this hellhole since he had been chained to the wall days ago. Maybe someone was coming to let him out. Or even just give him a drink. God, he was thirsty. It didn’t help that he could see a small trickle of water sliding down from a grate to pool just a few feet away. Tucking away from his needs, he readied himself for some kind of action. He’d been through extensive training to deal with stuff like this. There were hundreds of things he could think of to help him escape; he just needed an opportunity.
The light from the hall cut a square across the darkness of the dungeon as the door swung open. Squinting against the burning glare, Michael watched as his captor threw something large inside. Without a word, they slammed the door and left. “Well, that went well,” Michael scoffed to himself. At least now he would have something to look at as he died of dehydration in a damp cell. Why they hadn’t just killed him outright was beyond him.
In the thin light from the small, grated window, Michael’s eyes searched the bundle that had been left. Was it something he could use to escape? It looked to be a wad or roll of some kind of fabric. Pulling against his chains, he tried to get closer, but his captors hadn’t left him very much wiggle room. In fact, they hadn’t left him enough chain to even sit down. If he stretched himself out, the toe of his right boot just touched the edge of the fabric. He tried to scrape it closer, but whatever was wrapped up in the bundle was damned heavy.
He had started to succeed in pulling some of the fabric loose when the bundle shifted. Michael froze as hope slammed into his heart. Could it be? Was there someone inside that bundle? His eyes reevaluated the mass. It could be the right size for a person, if they were small.
“Hey.” Michael’s voice cracked as he called to the bundle. He pulled against his chains harder and tried to poke it with his foot. Clearing his throat, he tried again. “Hey.” This time the bundle definitely moved. Michael stood back against his wall and watched as the cloth shifted. A split opened up, and a pair of delicate hands slipped free. His heart soared as the material pulled back and a woman rolled out.
She was the most exquisite creature Michael had ever seen. It wasn’t the dainty curls or the soft glow of her skin that made his breath catch, it was the possibilities she offered. His entire continued existence rested in her hopefully kind hands.
She let out a gasp of air and raised one of those delicate hands to her temple. Pain raced across her face as she curled onto her side, gasping.
“Are you all right?’ Michael asked, pulling against his chains. Mentally, he kicked himself as soon as the words were out of his mouth.
Of course she was not all right.
He could see the pain racking her body as she wheezed. He wanted to rush to her and comfort her. If he could just get out of these damned manacles. Racking his brain, he tried to think of a way to help her. The men who had captured him had taken his jacket and guns, but had they emptied out his pockets? He shifted against the wall, searching, hoping it was still there. “Hey,” he called to her again.
She lifted pain-filled eyes to him.
He shifted to show her the bulge on the side of his leg. “There’s a medic kit in my pocket.” It was only standard issue, but there was a dose of morphine in it.
The woman studied him for a moment before another wave of pain lanced through her. It took her a few minutes of deep breathing before she could unroll again.
Michael’s breath caught again as she pushed out of the material wrapping her. He had been right; she was the most exquisite creature he had ever seen, but this time, it wasn’t her potential he noticed.
The gold and bronze of a sleeveless ball gown hugged her shapely frame as she forced herself part of the way up from the floor. Her porcelain skin was flush with pain, but even that didn’t distract from her beauty. Unable to find her balance to stand, she crawled over and flopped down next to him. She pressed her back into the cold, stone wall and looked up at Michael. He could see the question in her eyes.
He nodded at his pocket. “There are painkillers in the kit.”
She studied him again before reaching up and pulling the nylon pouch free. Rummaging through it, she found the pills and swallowed them down without the aid of water. After a few more deep breaths, she leaned her head over and rested it against the side of his leg.
God, she felt good. Her heat seeped through the canvas of Michael’s pants, warming him. Tilting his head back against the wall, he closed his eyes and waited. The morphine would kick in soon to ease her pain, but she would probably pass out from it. That meant a few more hours until he could get that drink he so desperately needed. Rubbing his tongue on the roof of his mouth, he tried to work up some saliva to tide him over. He turned his mind to the woman resting against his leg.
Who was she? Overall, she was rather rumpled from her trip, but she was still amazing. Her golden hair was braided and wrapped up in an elegant twist on the back of her head. Little wisps of hair curled gently around her shapely face, softening her lines. She seemed oddly familiar, but he couldn’t place her.
She must be someone famous. Maybe an actress or singer.
He shook the thought away. This group wouldn’t grab someone like that. They were set on power plays and money. She was more likely the wife of a politician or the head of some state. That would explain the recognition. He’d probably seen her at one of the many events where his group served as security. He closed his eyes and tried to pull up her identity. If he just pushed, he could do it.
Movement from his side pulled Michael from his thoughts. The woman had shifted away from his leg towards the pool of water. His dry lips parted as she dipped her fingers into its silvery surface. He could just taste the water she had cupped in her hand. The tip of his tongue darted out to wet his lip as she raised her hand to her mouth and tentatively drew in that life-giving liquid. His heart sank as she spit it back out, coughing. God, there had to be something wrong with it. Michael let out a defeated sigh and hung his head. He would die hanging on a wall, just feet away from help. Maybe it just tasted bad. Hell, right now he didn’t care if it was sewage, he desperately needed liquid.
The warm tingle of magic tickled across his skin, drawing his eyes back to the woman. Her fingers rested on the surface of the pool, drawing runes in the liquid. Michael’s eyes widened. If she knew magic, they might have a chance. He watched in silence as she finished her spell before lifting another handful of water to her mouth. This one met with her approval. To Michael’s surprise, the woman bent her face to the water and sucked up a great mouthful. Oh, how he would love to do that! He looked around for something she could use to bring him some. Maybe if she tore off a piece of the material she had been wrapped in, she could soak some up. That would just be heavenly.
The woman stood up from the pool and turned to Michael. Even though it had only been a short time since she’d taken the drugs, she looked a lot better. His eyes darted to the water. What was the best way to ask for the help he needed? To his surprise, the woman stepped close and looked into his eyes. Her amber eyes shone with compassion, and his mind relaxed. Somehow, he knew that she wouldn’t let him die chained to that wall. His eyes fell to her perfect mouth. A bead of water clung to the corner, and the desire to lick it up overwhelmed him. Sure, those rosy lips, just slightly puckered, would make her mouth absolutely kissable, but it was the promise of moisture that made him lean forwards with the desperation of a dying man.
It was pure heaven when she placed her hands on his chest and rose up to meet him. The softness of her lips on his eased the cracked skin. Her wet tongue slid across his mouth, and he opened for her. A gush of warm water flowed into his mouth, and he clamped his lips to hers so not a drop could escape. Pure ecstasy washed through him with that first sip. Shuddering, Michael swallowed what she offered. Honeyed wine could never taste as good as her mouth and that water. Desire shot through him, and he could feel himself stiffen as she pulled away. The woman let out a little puff of air, like a silent laugh, as she turned away to get him more water.
Michael’s eyes dropped to the front of his pants. How was it possible to get a hard-on when he was so dehydrated? He was still fully dressed in black cargo pants and a T-shirt, and they were, so far, still hiding his growing arousal. But that laugh made him think she knew what had passed through his mind. His eyes traced the gentle curve of her backside as she bent to draw up more water. God, how he wanted out of those manacles! To be able to lift the folds of her skirt up, exposing more of that pale skin. To feel her warmth and wetness as he pushed into her. Michael shook his head hard, trying to dislodge the image that had settled into his brain. How could he be thinking of her like that? For God’s sake, he had just met the woman. She was giving him water, not making out with him.
Michael nearly died when she pressed her mouth to his for that second drink. He pulled against his chains with the desire to hold her. To explore that wonderful mouth. Would her skin be as soft as her lips? Would she fit against him? Would the rest of her taste as good as her lips? He ached to find out. She pulled away, leaving him bereaved for her touch. Gasping for air, he hung from his chains. A note of concern filtered into his lust-laden thoughts. What the hell was he doing? This wasn’t him. Sure, he fantasized about beautiful women, like any man, but it never went this far. When she came back with the third mouthful, he rounded up his scattered wits and pulled away from her.
“What are you doing to me?” He gasped.
Her eyes filled with a compassionate sorrow, and she made a sign with her hand. A sign that the entire world had learned almost two decades ago:
His mind clicked into gear. That explained everything. The magic, his hormonal response, and why this group would kidnap her. She was a dragon. Giving in to his uncontrollable urges, he pressed back to her lips to claim her gift. No human stood a chance against a dragon; the pheromones they put out could send even the Pope into a mating rut. Hell, the stuff was currently making the rounds as the latest designer date-rape drug. It was fast, effective, left no side effects, and was hard to prove in court. It was ironic that he would be caught in this potent chemical’s clutches. He had been working to stop the organization producing it before being captured. He shivered again as she released his lips. This was going to make things hard, both literally and figuratively.
Normally, dragons didn’t put out a significant amount of the chemicals to bother people casually, it had to be harvested and refined to be used as a drug, but a dragon could pass it on intimately with the same effects. He was probably getting a significant dose along with the water from her mouth. Had he known she was a dragon, he would never have let her feed him water that way. His boss was a dragon, and Michael had seen how uncontrollable women got after he kissed them. It was most definitely a good thing that his hands were chained above his head. Sure, he was going to have one hell of a case of blue balls, but at least she would be safe from him. The problem would come when they tried to escape.
Given several days and a few good hand jobs, he could work the pheromones out of his system, but did they have the time? Now that she was here, their captors would have to act. There was no way they could leave a dragon with magic in a cell. Even if they warded the area, it was only a matter of time until they got free. The problem would be him. When she did get him free of his cuffs, he would probably fall on her like a satyr among nymphs. He had seen it happen with others. It was not something he wanted to subject her to. She would probably understand, most dragons under those circumstances did, but he would hate himself for it.
Anguish rode Michael right along with the lust as she pressed into him with another mouthful of water. He needed this—without the water, his death was almost certain—but knowing that his response was chemically induced didn’t ease the guilt plucking at him.
This mouthful slid bitterly across his tongue as he worshiped at her lips. The liquid burned his throat, leaving him gasping as she pulled away. Something was definitely different about that sip. He tracked the heat as it slid down and bottomed out in his stomach. She reached up and touched his cheek, pulling his gaze to her. Shock filled him as their eyes met. Apology shone clearly in her face as his stomach clenched in pain. Groaning, he tried to curl up as his insides began to boil. He barely noticed when she leaned into him, pressing his back to the wall and taking his weight from the manacles. God, what had she done to him?
Now she’d done it. Carissa pushed up against the unconscious man. She should have gotten him down before she had worked her magic, but that would have led to a whole different bundle of problems, and they were all her fault. She hadn’t thought when she drew up that first mouthful of water and passed it to him. She didn’t deal with humans much on a personal level and had forgotten the effect dragons could have on them. It also didn’t help that this one, with his dark, wavy hair and chocolate-brown eyes, hit every one of her yummy buttons.
She felt horrible as she held him up. All those sculptured muscles were loose under her hands. The only portion of him that wasn’t limp pressed into her stomach where she leaned against him. Even unconscious, her pheromones made him hard. She ran her hand over the ridge in his pants. He was definitely a prime specimen of his species. Half considering helping him into a softer state, she shook her head and decided against it. He would probably be very upset with her when he woke up. Taking advantage of his helplessness would not help her case.
Pushing his body up, Carissa scratched a rune into his cuffs, weakening them. Working her fingers in next to his skin, she tore through the metal of the manacles pinning him to the wall. She shook her head as she lowered him to the floor. That should have been the first thing she had done. It would have solved a plethora of problems they now had to face. The disorientation and pain from whatever had been used to knock her out still tickled at the back of her head. The morphine from the man’s medical pack had helped, but those drugs didn’t work very well on her system.
Carissa arranged the man on his back and went to get another drink of water. The foul taste had started to return from where more water was dribbling in from the grate high in the wall. She would have to spell the water again when her companion woke up. He desperately needed it.
Putting her back against the cold wall, she pulled the man up so his head rested in her lap. Her eyes fell on the material on the floor. A curtain from the baron’s house. She pulled the loose material over and wrapped part of it over her shoulders before spreading the rest over her companion. Tilting her head back, she tried to remember what had happened.
A ball. Carissa had gone to a ball held by Baron Estivis. That explained the excruciatingly tight corset squeezing her ribs. Why did everyone expect dragons to wear older fashions? Sure, the gowns were gorgeous, but they were so damned uncomfortable. Why couldn’t she just have one of those nice cocktail dresses or an evening gown? Oh, but no, she was expected in a Victorian dress, complete with corset and impossibly long skirts. Shaking away her fashion worries, she closed her eyes and tried to remember what had happened at the ball.
Lots of dancing. Carissa had gone to the ball as a favor to her brother, Kyle. He had made other arrangements for that evening long before receiving the invitation, but Baron Estivis was a big supporter of dragons. This ball was a must for at least one of them. Since Kyle was busy, she had been given the duty. At least she had been saved from idle conversation. She couldn’t speak without the help of her best friend, Tilly. The poor girl was down with a slight cold that prevented her from going to the ball. But, Carissa didn’t recall anything sordid happening. It had been a pleasant evening filled with good food, wine, and lots of dancing.
Carissa ran her hand under the material to the small pattern embroidered on the man’s black shirt. She had noticed the sidewise eight with a line running through the middle on the med kit. A smile curled her lips. Someone had really put some thought into the logo for the mercenary group that protected and policed dragons. It was simple, yet illustrated the group’s name so well. Infinity over time—Eternity. They had really messed up this time—both with allowing her kidnapping and losing one of their own.
She looked down at the sleeping man. Goodness, he was handsome. She couldn’t remember ever seeing him, but Eternity was known for staying in the background. In fact, most people didn’t even know the group existed. She studied the scruff on his face. It had to be at least a few days old. Daniel, the head of Eternity, hadn’t mentioned anything about losing a man when they’d last spoken, but that was more her brother’s business then hers.
Brushing the unruly hair back from his forehead, she pondered over her mystery man. Did Daniel even know he was missing? Were they looking for him? Hopefully he wasn’t too high up in Eternity. Carrisa bit her lip as a very bad thought hit her.
Pease don’t let him be an Elite.
Daniel was going to be really pissed if she had just ruined one of his specially trained enforcers.
Slipping her hand down to rest on his chest, she leaned back and closed her eyes. Who he was didn’t matter anymore. What was done was done. Daniel would just have to deal with the change in his rosters. And, if they were very lucky, her mystery man would adjust to his new life quickly. Now she just needed to rest for a while until he woke up.
What the hell had he done last night? Michael worked his sleep-addled brain, trying to clear it. A foul taste clung to the back of his tongue, and his head throbbed like he had been out with two hookers and a liter of vodka. Groaning, he rolled his head, trying to get comfortable. His pillow was soft and smelled wonderful, even if the bed was much too hard. He buried his face deep in the warmth and breathed it in. A soft touch brushed his hair back from his face. Apparently, the hookers were still around. He let out a sigh of pleasure and opened his eyes.
An expanse of gold and bronze material filled his vision. Rolling his head slightly, Michael looked up into the amber eyes of the dragon lady. Realization shot through his numb brain, and he cursed as he rolled out of her lap. Scooting back as far from her as he could get, he tucked his hands and face into a corner. Maybe if he didn’t look at her, he could resist the desires she provoked in him. Why the hell had she let him loose? She was a dragon. She should know what kind of response to expect out of a human male.
Michael curled in on himself as he listened to the rustle of her skirt. The tingle of magic washed over his skin, making him want to peek at her.
God, what was she doing over there?
The rustling came closer, and he held on tightly, praying he could resist the lust he knew was about to slam into him. Any moment now, he was going to turn into a raging beast. Any moment. The hem of her skirt brushed his leg, and he clenched his teeth, waiting.
Cold droplets of water skated over his head and down his neck. The seconds ticked by as she dribbled more of the water over him. Unable to resist the urge any longer, he turned his face upwards, and she squeezed the rest of the water from the cloth into his mouth. God, that tasted good. Not nearly as good as it had coming out of her mouth, but it would definitely do.
The dragon lady reached her hand down and touched him. A tingle of desire rushed through him, but it wasn’t the same, uncontrollable urge he had felt earlier. This he could handle. Grasping one of his hands, she urged him up with a silent touch.
Unfolding from the floor, he let her pull him over to the pool. The thought of water pushed all other desires from his mind, and he fell to it, drinking greedily.
Once he had had his fill of the water, he pulled out a great handful and scrubbed it into the skin of his face. Oh, it felt good to be somewhat clean again. A soft cloth rubbed against his hand. He took it up and dried his face on it. Opening up his now-dry eyes, he found the piece of cloth was one of the layers of underskirt on the dragon lady’s dress. The real shocker came when he realized that she was still wearing it. He dropped the material as if it had burned him and backed away from her. Now that his need for water was taken care of, he could feel the need for her rising in him again.
“I’m sorry,” Michael apologized. “I didn’t know that was your skirt. I would never have touched it if I had.” His mouth kicked into overdrive, and he prattled on about the water and the faux pas of using her skirt as a towel, trying to keep his mind off where it really wanted to go.
Amusement burned in her amber eyes, and she leaned forwards to touch his shoulder.
His words froze on his lips as she looked into his eyes. Letting out a deep sigh, Michael closed his eyes and scrubbed his hand through his hair. He shouldn’t let her affect him like this. He was an Elite, damn it! He worked with dragons every day! Taking a deep breath, he centered himself before meeting her eyes again.
“Sorry about that,” he apologized again, this time much more controlled. “It’s been a long week.” He smiled weakly at her, holding out his hand. “I’m Michael, by the way.”
She gave him an understanding smile that stole his breath and shot heat straight to his groin. Taking his outstretched hand, she pulled him to his feet. Her hand felt so good in his, but he resisted the urge to pull her into his arms.
“Thank you.” He let himself reach out and touch her shoulder in gratitude. “For everything.”
Reaching up, she touched his cheek softly.
God, he wanted to roll his face into that warm touch, but he resisted the urge. Maybe her pheromones weren’t affecting him as badly as he had thought. He just had to keep from kissing her again.
Sorrow filled her eyes, and she shook her head before turning away from him.
Confused, he followed as she led him to the door. “What’s your name?” Michael asked as she leaned her head against the wood.
She shushed him softly so she could hear into the room beyond. Her fingers traced runes into the surface as she listened.
He shut up. The mystery of her identity could wait until they were someplace safer. If she could get him out of this cell, he could get her out of whatever building they were in.
As soon as she had finished her design, the runes in the door flashed bright red. She stepped back into Michael as heat raced across the wood.
His hand went to her hip to steady her. Something down low throbbed, and he pulled her back against his body as the door turned to ash. God, she felt good against him. Okay, maybe her pheromones
working on him, but he could handle this. The urge to hold her was there, but it wasn’t the same unbearable passion he had felt earlier.
Bouncing on the balls of her feet, his dragon lady flashed him a dazzling smile before grabbing his hand and pulling him to the door.
His training kicked in, overriding his desire. She was dragon, and he was Eternity. It was his job to protect her, no matter who she was. Stopping her short, Michael pulled her back against him before she could get through the door. “Let me go first.” He turned so he was ahead of her and eased himself past the doorjamb. No one was in the outer room, but something caught his eye. Carefully, watching for enemies, he crossed the room to a pile of discarded items—his jacket and gear. The guns were missing, but there was a collection of other things in the pockets that could help. He pulled the empty shoulder holster on before slipping into his leather coat. God, he loved this coat. Turning back to his dragon lady, he considered the curve of her bare shoulders and the weight of the biker leathers he had just donned. He really should offer it to her, but that would make quick access to his tools harder. Weighing the options, he chose to keep the coat; she could have it once they were out of danger.
“Let’s go.” Michael took up her hand and led her out. Peeking around the corner, he pulled her around and down the empty corridor. They passed through two more stone halls without signs of life. He was starting to think their escape would be easy when a man turned the corner and practically ran into the pair.
Michael snatched the man’s head and gave it a quick snap sideways before he could cry out a warning. He hadn’t really thought about his actions or his dragon lady’s response to it before he acted. As the body crumpled to the floor, Michael turned to take in her feelings. To his utmost surprise, she had already bent to the body to search it.
Pulling a gun and two clips from the man’s body, she silently passed them up to Michael.
With a shake of his head, he took them. He should have known the death wouldn’t affect her. Most dragons, especially the old ones, lived by different morals. They were apex predators who didn’t mind toying with their food before they ate. Hell, if she were old enough, she had probably eaten a few mortals along the way. He pushed that thought away.
Leaving the dead man in one of the side rooms, Michael and his dragon lady took off down the hall. A set of steps led up. The window in their cell had been set high in the wall, so they must be underground. Michael led the way up the steps and stopped just out of sight of the next room. This was going to be an issue. The steps opened up into some form of barracks. There were several voices. He tried to count. Maybe ten or fifteen. He checked the one weapon he had. There were definitely not enough bullets. Turning back, he pressed his dragon lady back down the steps. They would just have to find another way out.
His efforts met with resistance as she pushed forwards to look into the room. He hissed a warning to her and tried to pull her back down the steps.
Waving him away, she lowered herself to the steps and inched forwards to get a better idea of what they were dealing with.
He tugged at her skirt, trying to get her to come back. “We can’t get out that way,” Michael whispered, “come on.” If they didn’t get off these steps fast, someone was going to look over and see them. Then their goose was really going to be cooked. To his relief, his dragon lady inched back to his side. “We’ll find another way out.” He started back down the steps, but stopped when she grabbed his shoulder. He turned to urge her on and was shocked when her lips descended to his.
Uncontrollable desire shot through him, and he snaked his arms around her back, deepening the kiss. Oh man, she tasted as good as he remembered. His body thumped as she molded herself to him. Obviously, she was just as affected by him as he was by her. He explored the inside of her mouth for a moment longer before rational thinking slammed into his brain. They were kissing just steps from the same people who had tossed them both into a dungeon. Ripping his lips from hers, he held her close, trying to regain his control. Her heavy breathing didn’t help, but the voices from behind her kept him from leaning back in to continue.
Finally, she sighed and nodded her head at him. She had regained control.
Dropping his arms, he disentangled them and went to step back. He definitely needed the space. Maybe he could quietly readjust himself as they went back down the steps. His pants had become uncomfortably tight. His dragon lady leaned towards him and snatched a quick kiss from his lips before turning back to stride purposefully up the steps, straight into the enemy-filled room.
Carissa heard Michael suck in a breath to stop her, but the warning he tried to shout went unsaid. He couldn’t. She had his voice. She hadn’t intended to let the kiss go that far, but oh, did it feel good. The touch of his hands on her back had tingled, like a well-placed spell. Her insides still quivered, but she pushed the thoughts and feelings back as she stepped from the stairway to the room. Michael was just inches behind her, and, if she didn’t get out there now, he would pull her back, ruining her opportunity to act. She was sure he wouldn’t let her try this if he knew what she was going to do.
The room fell silent as the men inside were startled by her sudden appearance. Carissa had just a moment to act before someone’s brain clicked into gear and all hell broke loose. Opening her mouth, she let the first strands of ancient langue slip out. She wove her power into the song as it rose from her chest. There were very few that still understood the words she sang, but no human could escape its power. She walked to the middle of the room and stood, forcing the magic out.
At first, she had thought her kidnapping must have been an error. No one in their right mind would kidnap her. Her brother would be furious when he found out. But now she was sure she was the intended target. The spells she’d woven on the water and door should have been very simple, but she’d had to pull out high runic magic to accomplish the tasks. Someone had warded these people against lower forms of magic. It made things harder, but that wouldn’t stop her. She had gone into this room expecting to find the same level of protection on air magic, but the spell slipped easily from her. Only someone that knew her weakness would leave such a vast field of magic open. You could do so much more with air magic, but you had to have a voice to use it.
Never underestimate your opponent.
Whoever had kidnapped her had definitely underestimated her. Carissa turned part of her attention to the man standing, shocked, in the doorway. Michael. She was going to have a lot of explaining to do. If he hadn’t realized who she was before, he surely did now. Maybe if she were lucky, he would save his questions until they were out of this mess. Or maybe she should just keep his voice for a while so he couldn’t ask them.
Pressure in the air drew Carissa’s attention back to her task. There was a mage somewhere in this room, fighting back. She looked around at the passive faces. Turning a full circle as she sang, she looked for him. Whoever he was, he was strong. She poured her full strength into the strange words and pushed it back up the stream of power working against her. He let out a croak of pain as her power reached him and tore through his brain. That was one mage who wouldn’t trouble her again. Now, she just had to finish subduing the rest of them and get out of here. The first of her kidnappers slumped to the floor, unconscious.
It was taking too much raw power to put these men down. Carissa looked around as the last of them crumpled to the floor. Normally, she would just kill them all with a few words and be done with it, but whatever they had used to subdue her in the first place was still working on her system. It had only been a few hours since she’d pushed out of that curtain cocoon. Maybe she should have waited until tomorrow to try escaping.
Too late now.
She pushed the rest of her power out to make sure none of the men woke up as they took their leave.
Swaying on her feet, Carissa crumpled to the floor, too. She just needed a few minutes in a lower state to recover. The transformation should help her, but it was going to make Michael’s job harder. Hopefully, he was up to the challenge. She closed her eyes to let go of part of her control.
Oh God! Oh God!
Michael’s brain chanted as his dragon lady stepped into the room filled with enemies. The first strands of sound hit him, and he knew. God, he knew who she was! How had he not recognized her?
Who in their right mind would kidnap her?
And he had kissed her!
Oh God, he was a dead man. The king would have his head. On a platter.
the dragon king’s
Everything made more sense now. The gold and bronze of her corseted gown—the colors of the royal family. The fact she hadn’t said anything to him. How she spoke now was a mystery his panicked brain couldn’t wrap itself around. Born without a voice, she had learned how to borrow the voices of other dragons, but it had to be a
. He was most definitely not a dragon. Maybe that part of her lore was wrong. Maybe she could use anyone’s voice.
God, even her being held captive made sense. The king of dragons loved his sister with a fondness that bordered on unnatural. She would have made the perfect leverage to move the king. He would have done anything to keep her safe. That is, if her kidnappers had managed to keep her imprisoned. Whoever chose her as their target had made several very grievous errors—one of which was underestimating Lady Carissa’s power. With their escape, her kidnappers had just made the very top of the king’s shit list.
Suddenly, his pants were less tight. The king would kill him, too, if he knew the kind of things Michael had been thinking about his sister.
Swallowing back his shock, Michael watched Carissa turn to take in the room. Her eyes seemed to be searching for something, but what? He looked around at all the enthralled humans. How he knew they were all human was beyond him at the moment, but he knew it. Her song grew in intensity. He could feel the magic searching for something. It brushed against his skin like a purring cat. A strangled sound drew his attention across the room as a single fellow crumpled to the floor, his strings cut. She had killed him with just her words. His eyes went back to his dragon lady.
, he corrected in his mind. Lady Carissa, sister to the king. The most powerful dragon sorceress known to walk the earth. Her power rivaled even the king of dragons. Oh, he was so dead when they got out of here. Maybe Daniel could find him a nice hole to hide in for the rest of his natural life.
The strum of magic subsided as she brought her song to an end. Her voice was beautiful. Oh, how he would love to hear that voice, maybe a little hoarse, crying out his name in passion. He slammed that thought down with a quick reminder that she was the
. But it did nothing to relieve the ache growing in his pants again. He was so going to die with blue balls.
He looked around the room at the men. All of them were crumpled to the floor, but the few he could see were still breathing, so they weren’t dead. She had only killed the one man. Why not take them all out? It would solve a lot of issues.
There had been a rash of dragon disappearances, lately. After a long undercover operation, Michael had discovered this group. They had been kidnapping and killing dragons for their glands. The pheromones they produced sold for big money, but they couldn’t be reproduced in a lab. It had been his own bad luck that had gotten him caught during his mission. If he hadn’t gone back for that cup of coffee, he wouldn’t have run smack-dab into their hands. Why they just hadn’t killed him on the spot was still a mystery. Maybe they wanted to try to trade him for some of their buddies whom Daniel already had locked up. Fat chance there. Daniel didn’t make deals. Anyway, Michael was an Elite. He was on his own.
His attention was pulled away from his thoughts when Carissa moved. Horror filled him as she crumpled to the floor. He tried to cry out her name, but his voice didn’t work. She’d definitely stolen it to perform her trick. His heart squeezed when her form dissolved. Dragons only involuntarily shifted to their smaller forms in times of stress or need.
Voicelessly crying out her name again, he rushed to her side and dug the small, golden dragon from inside the body of the dress. He placed his hand on her side, feeling for a heartbeat. For a moment, he thought she was dead, and then she pulled in a raspy breath. His fingers finally located the staccato beat of her little heart—strong and steady. Michael let out a shaky breath as he cradled the limp dragon against his chest. If he’d had any questions about who she was, this cinched it. Only the royal family shifted into gold dragons. He stroked her head and tucked her wings in before turning to roll up her dress. She was going to need it as soon as she recovered.
Once everything was secure, Michael stood up and looked around. Getting her things together had been a quite a chore. He hadn’t wanted to put her down in case he needed to get out of there fast. With her dress, rolled inside the corset, secured to his belt, and her jewels in his pocket, he looked around for the exit. There were three doors leading out of this room. Tucking Carissa into the crook of his left arm, Michael pulled out his gun and headed for the door on the right. He was taking no more chances with her safety.
Michael was surprised at how small Carissa was in this form. The gold dragons were the largest of the great dragon families. They towered head and shoulders above any of the other colors when in their great form. He had seen Carissa in that form many times. She was magnificent. The way the light sparkled off her scales always stole his breath away. Hell, the light sparkling off any color of dragon was magnificent. There was something in their scales that broke the light and reflected it back, like the prismatic coating on interstate signs. He had always wanted to touch her scales. They were so beautiful. His thumb rubbed gently against the side of her head where it rested in his palm. He looked down at her to make sure she was still okay.
God, she was so small. He had seen dragons in their little forms that rivaled Great Danes. But Carissa… she was barely the size of a house cat, although she did have a little length to her. With her head resting in his hand, the tip of her tail hung to nearly his knee. A scalloped frill covered her neck, but she lacked the horns her brother sported in his grander size. The tip of her tail ended in a fanning of soft strands. Not hair, but not hard like quills. It patted softly against his leg as he walked. For a second, the thought of that tail thumping into his back popped into his head. A shot of desire raced through him again. Oh man, he
gone crazy! Now he was having erotic thoughts about her in dragon form. That was just not normal. He had always loved the look of her as a dragon, but it had never caused him to lust before. He shook the thought away, readjusted himself, and worked his way down the next corridor.
Michael had been able to determine they were in some kind of castle-like building. The windows, if there were any, were small and set high in the stone wall. Some didn’t even have glass in them. The halls all wound around oddly, like a maze. He had taken several wrong turns that came to dead ends, but he was able to avoid the people moving about. Carissa had rumbled a few times in her sleep but hadn’t woken. He rubbed his thumb gently over her neck, hoping she would wake soon. He could really use her help to find a way out of here.
The sound of pounding feet echoed up the hall. Michael slipped into one of the side rooms so they could pass. Someone must have discovered the unconscious men in the barracks. Oh great, his job just got harder. Michael considered finding someplace to hole up, but this group wouldn’t stop searching for them until they had turned over every stone, or found them. And with only one gun, he wanted to be away as quickly as he could. A few minutes later, a herd of feet thundered past, heading in the other direction. He had to get out of there. Now.
Tucking Carissa tighter to his body, Michael took off in a sprint down the hall away from where he’d come. There had to be an exit around here somewhere. Something thumped against his back, causing him to whip around to find his attacker. Another thump smacked him between the shoulder blades, this time accompanied by a gurgle. He looked down to find that he was squeezing Carissa hard against him. He tried to curse and apologize as he loosened his grip. She thumped him once more before climbing up his coat. Her needle-point claws bit into his jacket before she wrapped herself around his neck. Thank God for good leather.
“Can’t find the way out,” he mouthed to her as she settled on his shoulders. She rubbed the top of her head on his cheek soothingly before looking around at their options. Noise was coming from behind them, so Michael started off down the corridor again. When the hall dead-ended in the middle of another, he stopped. Carissa thumped him hard on the back with her tail and pointed her nose to the right. He turned right.
Every few steps, Carissa would swish her tail from the front of his body to the back. Movement to work out her nerves. God, he wished she would stop doing that. The soft thwap of the tufty bit at the end of her tail reminded him of that soft flogger his ex used to like. It really wasn’t helping with his earlier thoughts. God, if he got out of this, got her safely back to the king, survived the king’s wrath, then survived Daniel’s wrath for his initial fuckup; he was so heading over to that BDSM club downtown. A pretty girl with a soft flogger would probably go a long way to work the dragon hormones out of his system. Carissa’s tail thumped into his back again, and he caught the end when it came back around. She whipped her head around to look at him, but he just gave her a half smile and a shrug. It’s not like he would explain the issue to her even if he could. Her tail stilled, but he held on, rubbing the soft fringe at the end.
Finally, natural light filled the far end of their hallway. Michael didn’t care anymore; be it door or window, they were going to get out. Luck would have it that it was a door, a big, beautiful, wooden door being held open by a man. He was yelling something to someone outside, but that didn’t bother Michael. As soon as the man finished and went to shut the door, Michael smacked him in the back of the head with the butt of his gun. He dropped like a stone. A purr vibrated through his shoulder from Carissa. He shivered in response. Even while killing someone, just a sound from her made him hard.
What the hell was wrong with him? He had handled dragons before—heard their noises, felt their purrs, touched their scales—and none of them brought on any response even close to what she brought out in him. He wanted her. Right now.
In this form.
How was that even possible? He was going to need some serious counseling when the whole, sordid affair was over.
After a few deep breaths, Michael pulled himself together and opened the door. Two men turned to look at him. Two men. Michael could handle that. He pointed his gun at the first and pulled the trigger. The hammer fell on the round with an audible click, but nothing happened. A dud. He tried again, but the gun jammed up.
The men had frozen when the door had opened, but now they sprang into action. One raced away for help while the other came at them, fighting to get his gun out of wherever he had stuck it. Carissa launched herself at the man’s face. Five pounds of teeth, claws, and wings distracted him enough for Michael to shoulder-check him and smack them to the ground.
Carissa’s wings and tail trembled and thrashed as she hissed from where she landed. Michael snapped the man’s neck before turning to look at the little dragon. She didn’t look hurt, but he was afraid she had gone down hard. He reached for her, but she snapped at him and turned towards the woods just beyond the courtyard.
Snapping to his senses, Michael looked around for the other man, but he was already out of sight. Dropping the useless gun, Michael chased after the flash of gold scampering across the open ground. She was quick for her size. Pausing at the tree line, Carissa waited long enough for him to catch up before slipping off into the woods. Chaos exploded from the castle behind them.
Snatching her up from the ground, Michael tucked Carissa back under his arm and booked it for all he was worth. He wasn’t going to break any land-speed records, but he had trained for just this kind of thing. Sprinting short distances, he zigzagged his way through the trees, looking for a place to hide. Someplace to get away from the men he could hear following them. He shot for a break in the bush to his right. An unruly bramble caught his legs, and he slipped. Tumbling, he tucked Carissa in against his chest, protected by his arms. Who knew what kind of damage he could do to a small dragon if he fell on it. Panic filled him as he saw what they were falling towards. Nice, soft, green grass… at the bottom of a really long hill.
Let me go, you stupid man!
” Carissa hissed from where she was crushed to Michael’s chest. Unfortunately, he didn’t understand dragon. Didn’t he have a brain cell in that head of his? She could have told him those brambles hid the edge of a cliff. Hadn’t Daniel taught him
? Didn’t he know to release a dragon in a fall? Now he was going to crush her as they rolled down the hill. Oh yes, he had tucked her up between his arms to protect her body, but what about her wings or tail? What would happen if she broke something? Now that they were outside, it wouldn’t take but a few moments for her to shift to a larger form and get them out of there, but he was too stupid to realize it. Just snatched her up and took off, willy-nilly, into the woods. God save her from men, no matter how they made her feel. And oh, how he had made her feel!