Authors: Berengaria Brown
Dragon Lovers 1
Mallory is fascinated by three life-size stone dragon statues. Then one night they come to life and she learns they’re shape-shifters. One of the museum’s directors, Teivel, plans to use the shape-shifting dragons as art thieves by placing them in exhibitions in other museums, and Mallory, Angus, William, and Mark now have to find out which statues are shape-shifters and how they can prevent Teivel from implementing his plan. That makes their days very busy, but the nights are for their own pleasure.
Can they outwit Teivel? What will happen if Mallory loses her job or the statues have to leave their home in the museum? And can a relationship built on a crisis and unbridled lust develop into lasting love and enduring passion?
Ménage a Trois/Quatre, Paranormal, Shape-shifter
Dragon Lovers 1
Siren Publishing, Inc.
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A SIREN PUBLISHING BOOK
IMPRINT: Ménage Amour
Copyright © 2012 by Berengaria Brown
E-book ISBN: 1-61926-290-8
First E-book Publication: February 2012
Cover design by Jinger Heaston
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For Cindy Spencer Pape who made me realize dragons could be sexy.
Dragon Lovers 1
Copyright © 2012
Mallory Hughes had the best job in the whole world. She was the manager-curator of The Magic Dragon Museum. The museum was a four-story building in the city, on the intersection of Nineteenth Street and Main, just where the business part of the city was blending into residential addresses. In her neighborhood were a growing number of young people, couples, and even families, who were transforming warehouses into apartments.
And that was another awesome fact. Her job came with an apartment. About a quarter of the top floor was her own personal space, with a living room, bedroom, office, and a private entry into a rather overgrown roof garden with a sunken hot tub. Mallory grinned. It was unlikely she’d prune the shrubbery any time soon—it made an excellent privacy shield—but she sure as hell kept the tub spotlessly clean and the metal gates oiled and locked. Sitting in that tub was the perfect way to relax after a day of moving heavy stone statues around to catalog and photograph them.
She’d been in charge here at the museum for three months now, and she could still hardly believe she’d been the successful applicant for the job. She’d worked in a museum all through college, while she studied art history, conservation of artifacts, and photography, but had still been sure many better qualified people would apply for the position. Apparently not. She was curator-manager and thriving on it, even if some of the statues were damn heavy and a real challenge for her to move. Thank God she’d remembered her physics class about levers.
Her job involved carefully cleaning each statue then photographing it and detailing its provenance for a glossy catalog the museum directors planned to distribute. When that was completed, she was to organize displays of the statues by themes so they could go on tour, earning the museum more money than was possible while they were crowded into the existing building.
The museum wasn’t even currently open to the public, although as soon as she had completed the first few rooms, appointments for tours by visitors, especially school children and art students, would begin.
Mallory was feeling very confident of beating her deadline. Already the first room was sparkling clean, every statue pristine and arranged attractively, its provenance listed on a colored card.
She’d kept separate lists of potential themes for exhibitions, listing each statue under the various headings and cross-referencing them all in the computer database.
Today she’d been working on some life-size statues in the second room. Three huge male statues there appealed to her tremendously. All were carved in stone, so there was no way she could move them, but she’d moved other things from around them to create enough space to start cleaning them.
Mark was carved from granite, so he was mostly gray, but with some pink in his wings.
Angus was made of Connemara marble, which meant he was green, whereas William was the more traditional white marble. All three were stunningly beautiful dragons, with almost human faces. Even their eyes were expressive. At times she felt as if they were watching her, and remembered stories about how eyes in the very best paintings seemed to follow people around. “Which goes to prove the people who carved you were very talented,” she said, patting Angus on the thigh. And what a thigh it was, too, heavily muscled and sturdy, leading up to the kind of chest she would love to see on a human male at the beach. Or in her hot tub.
Mallory climbed up higher on her stepladder, using a special brush to dust the intricately carved lines of his wings. Angus’s wings were open, stretching probably six feet from his body, and cleaning them would be a joy and a delight. “Your wings are beautiful. Someone put a lot of work into them. The marble is paper-thin here along the edge.” Carefully, she brushed dust from the crevices and worked along the expanse of the wings until her knees were aching, and she needed to sit down. “When I’m sure all the dust is off you, I’ll wipe you with a damp cloth, and I bet you’ll sparkle. You’re going to be one stunning dragon, Angus.”
William was going to be more difficult to clean, because he was white. Likely she’d have to wash him, which would mean putting down cloths to catch the water and being very careful to work from his head downward. But once again, even dirty, she could tell the workmanship in the carving of him was wonderful.
“It’s a shame you three are too big to go on tour anywhere. You’re by far the best works we have. But don’t worry. I’ll take a lot of pictures of you from every angle, so experts learn about you.”
While she was resting her aching knees, Mallory looked around the room, noting some smaller statues that would be easy to move, clean, and photograph, although she never knew how complicated a statue would be to catalog until she started looking it up. Some of the statues had been carefully recorded on cards, some had sketchy notes stapled to their paperwork, and a few had been listed in the computer database. But often Mallory spent hours sifting through old files and records looking for more details on a particular artwork.
That was another reason she loved her job, the mixture of physical work and mental challenge, with no one ordering her to do any given task at a particular time, so she could move to whichever she was in the mood for. Always assuming she met her deadlines, of course. But so far she was well ahead of them, although she’d been careful not to report quite how far ahead she was, in case she struck a particularly difficult few pieces that soaked up her lead time. Besides, living onsite, if she felt like putting in a few extra hours in the evening, she did. It wasn’t like she had an exciting social life, or a million friends demanding her presence at their parties.
Sighing, she stood up again, climbed her ladder, and patted Angus. “Okay, Angus, let’s finish your wings at least today.”
* * * *
Mallory couldn’t settle down to read or watch television that evening, so she collected her cleaning equipment and decided to look at a group of four small statues she’d moved to have better access to Angus.
They were incredibly ugly things, but intricately carved from solid wood, and seemed to be a set, as they were all similar. She carried them over to her work light, one at a time, then carefully polished them. None of them was as dirty as many of the other statues, which surprised her, but once she’d polished them, they glowed with the rich grains of the wood from which they’d been carved.
“You’re made of oak, aren’t you? That’s a very strong wood, and your grain markings are quite beautiful. What’s your name?” She tilted the dragon up, but there was no label on its feet. “Hmm. There wasn’t any paperwork where you were originally sitting either. I hope you aren’t going to be a problem to catalog.”
She put the statue down, thinking of it as “Number One,” and picked up the second one. Nothing on its base either, or on the feet of the final two. “Likely the four of you are listed together on the database,” she reassured herself, polishing Number Two and loving the way the lighter and darker patterns in the carving swirled together across the little dragon’s body. “There’s more tannin in you. Even polished up, you’re darker than the other three,” she said to Number Two, putting him down and picking up the next one.
The third one had hints of red in his body, and the fourth was the lightest in color. When cleaned, all were stunning pieces of art. Mallory carried them through into the first room—the room of statues ready for display—and arranged them in a group on a table. “Tomorrow I’ll find out your provenance and take your photographs. But right now I’m much too tired.”
She pulled her cell phone out of her jeans pocket. “Wow, look at the time. It’s almost midnight. Way past my bedtime.” Hastily she gathered her cleaning equipment, replaced it in the storeroom, and headed to her apartment. She fell asleep wondering why the four wooden statues weren’t as dirty as the other pieces of art. Likely Angus was sheltering them from the dust
* * * *
“Has Mallory cleaning you made your power stronger, Mark?” asked William, staring sadly at his dirty white form.
“I don’t think so. Or at least, not very much. But moving those four Celtic wooden dragons has definitely helped. I could actually feel the bonds loosening when she moved them to the other side of the room, and now they’re out of this room completely, I feel much stronger. I’m sure when you’re cleaned up as well as us, the power of the three of us together will be enough to let us move.”
“That’s awfully messy thinking, Mark. On the one hand, you’re saying being cleaned hasn’t made much difference, yet on the other you’re saying when I’m cleaned we should be able to move. Do you want to clarify that a bit?”
Mark laughed. “Sorry, my friend. What I’m trying to say is that moving the wooden dragons was more beneficial than being cleaned. But that once all three of us are clean, and free from the power of the wooden ones, we should be able to transform into our human shapes.”
“That makes sense. My wings are itching to fly. It’s all right for you two with your wings folded, but having had mine open all this time has been torture on my back muscles. When Mallory cleaned them, I swear I could feel her touch at times, especially at the edges. It almost tickled,” said Angus.
“Well, that does sound hopeful. Being stuck in here in this museum for the last few years has been quite hard to take, especially watching myself get grubbier and grubbier. Being white truly sucks,” said William.
“Hey, it can’t be as bad as a guy having wings with pink in them. It’s lucky I’m bisexual and proud to wear pink,” said Mark.
“That’s another thing. It was torture when she washed my cock. Two years without sex, and then the hottest chick on the planet is handling my equipment, and I couldn’t do a thing about it,” moaned Angus.
William brightened up. “Well, I’m the only straight man among us, so that means I get the first chance to woo her when we become human again.”
“Oh no you don’t. We’re a team, a unit. It’s all of us or none!”
“Besides, she already said I was handsome,” added Angus.
“Um, instead of thinking with our cocks, shouldn’t we be planning how to get free?” suggested William.
“What’s to plan? We’ve talked of little else for two years.”
“Yeah, but we had to be very careful and circumspect because of the company around us. Now we should do some in-depth planning. Where will we go? Our old apartment will long since have been rented out to someone else, and all our possessions sold on eBay. It’s lucky we’ve always kept our valuables in a lockbox paid by direct debit from our accounts, or we wouldn’t even have any assets anymore,” said William.
“Don’t hit me, but I think we should stay here, keep the museum as our base. Sure, we need to get some clothes and things for when we’re in human form, but it’s going to take Mallory months, if not years, to finish sorting and cataloguing the entire building. I reckon we could put a trunk with our things in it somewhere in a distant corner, and rest here in dragon form by day then do what needs doing at night, either as dragons or humans,” said Mark.
“Actually, that’s not a bad idea. Staying here solves the accommodation, rent, and all that sort of thing problem, and as dragons, we can get around at night far more easily than we can in human form. Obtaining the first set of clothing will be tricky, but after that, everything we need should be quite easy. Thank God we used thumbprints on the lockbox, not pin numbers. And then one of the first things I plan to do is have a word with Teivel,” Angus finished on a vicious note.
“No, not smart, not smart at all,” cautioned William. “While he doesn’t know we can transform into humans again, he won’t be trying to stop us doing things. The longer he doesn’t know anything about us, the better it will be for us all.”
“Good point. You always were the smartest one among us,” said Mark.
“As long as our little wooden buddies don’t alert Teivel to our changed circumstances, that is,” said Angus.
“I suppose Teivel might be able to link mentally with one of them, likely Crevan, but I’m pretty sure he always appeared in person in the past. Anyway, everything’s changed. Poor old Mr. Tanner’s been dead and gone for a year now, and he was the one who didn’t want anything to change here at The Magic Dragon Museum. He was very old and liked to wander around, keeping his memories of former days intact. Also, he was rich enough not to really need any income from the museum, so it didn’t really matter that he’d laid off the staff and had stopped opening the museum to tour groups and so on.”
“It’s more than that though, Mark. Teivel wants to use the dragons here as hired thugs to steal artworks and jewelry. Put a dragon statue in a building or art gallery, and at the right time, the dragon steals something special. It’s never caught, because the next morning it’s still there in statue form. That was Teivel’s brilliant plan, and I can’t see him having given up on it over the past few years. Especially now the new management here is planning on opening this museum up again and sending various statues out to other museums as special exhibitions.” Once again William felt sadness dragging him down. Every time he thought something good might come out of this disaster, the good intentions were overlaid by the surrounding circumstances.