Hollywood Dragon: BBW Dragon Shifter Paranormal Romance

BOOK: Hollywood Dragon: BBW Dragon Shifter Paranormal Romance
ads
HOLLYWOOD DRAGON

 

By Zoe Chant

 

Copyright 2015 by Zoe Chant

All Rights Reserved

 

Chapter One

 

Jan faced Taylor, the roommate she would never have to see again in two months, thirteen days, and twelve hours, and tried not to show how irritating she found Taylor’s untuned violin whine.

“I’m sorry, Taylor, but there was no mistake,” Jan said, forcing her voice to a brightness she did not feel. “The invitation list was very small because it’s going to be a small bridal party. Not a wild bachelorette bash. That’s what Shelley wanted, and as her maid of honor, I think it’s my job to give her the party she wants.”

She did not say,
In all the months Shelley has roomed here, you have been dismissive and even downright rude, and we both know your sudden interest in her is not because of Shelley, it’s because Shelley is about to marry a rich, famous Hollywood director
.

Taylor flipped her carefully tangled blond hair back and said, “Well, it can’t be
that
small. She has no sisters, and if she has any friends I’ve never met them, so there has to be space for her
roommates
.”

Anybody else, Jan thought, would deal with a no and move on. Not Taylor. She seemed to be constitutionally unable to accept that the entire world did not see her as the A-Lister she saw herself as.

But Jan still had to get through those two months, thirteen days, and twelve hours. She squashed down her irritation and said, “The party details are a secret, of course, so Shelley will be surprised. But I can tell you this much: you wouldn’t want to be there even if I didn’t have to keep it small.”

“Why not?” Taylor asked, one thin arm crossing over the other.

“Because the main event is going to be foods of the world. The only thing these cuisines have in common is that none of them are fat-free, salt-free, gluten-free, sugar-free and dairy-free. Not one.”

Sure enough, Taylor’s lip curled in disgust as she ran her gaze down Jan’s curvy body, as she had done every time she walked into the kitchen and saw Shelley and Jan sharing a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. In the Taylorverse, anyone over size four was a walking personal affront. “Yes,” Taylor said, her tone rising half a note from flat to sharp. “It sounds like something Shelley is sure to like.”

Now comes the eye roll, Jan thought.

Taylor rolled her eyes. “At least you’re not having it here.” Her voice rose another half note, from sharp to flat again, as she turned away. “Other people do have lives.”

“I wouldn’t think of it,” Jan said, a note of truth in her own voice for the first time in the entire painful conversation.

She did not tell Taylor that Mick Volkov, Shelley’s fiancé, had arranged through a friend for the party to be held at a fabulous beach home in Malibu, catered by another friend whose wife, Aislin, was a four-star chef, and who had pretty much completely taken over planning the party and the guest list, filling it with A-List names Jan had never met. If Jan had had to count on her own resources, she would have been forced to serve pizza and beer in their cramped apartment with its vintage Curbside Rejects of 1983 furnishings.

 

The day of the party, the hot desert winds had been blowing for days, and the apartment felt airless. Jan was standing before her closet, going through her clothes again as if something less limp and worn out would suddenly appear. For about ten seconds Jan marveled at all the famous people she was about to meet, then the doubts crowded in, a pack of familiar ghosts. Jan knew those ghosts well, and had developed a list of avoidance techniques. If she kept herself busy, she would worry less about all the aspects of her life that she could not control.

Beginning with her clothes. These Hollywood types wanted to come because they were curious about Shelley. They would not give Jan a second look. She knew that. But still, she did not have the wardrobe or shoes for this kind of party. She hadn’t had a date for one year, two weeks and two days. The only good clothes she had were her audition outfits, which were completely wrong for anything but auditions.
And look how much luck those have brought me
, she thought as she scowled at the formal black skirt and the floaty white one.

By the time Shelley arrived to pick her up, Jan was in full anxiety mode.

Shelley now rarely slept in the converted closet the landlord laughingly called a bedroom, so Jan seldom saw her anymore. One of the ghosts sang in the back of her mind,
This is the way it’s going to be now. When she marries, you will be all alone, so get used to it
.

“Hey, Jan,” Shelley said. Tall and built like a Valkyrie, Shelley looked relaxed and happy. “How’s it going?”

“Want the short answer or the long? Never mind, both would be ‘boring.’”

“Any auditions?”

“Two cattle calls, and both times I saw them look at my hips and cross me off the list before I opened my mouth. Business as usual! I don’t have to ask if you and Mick had a week of wild riding and wild sex. Or wild riding sex.”

Shelley grinned. “Both. All three.”

Jan laughed, fighting to ignore the Jealousy Ghost’s keening high C.

Shelley deserved her happy ending. She didn’t have a mean bone in her body. She probably would have said yes to Taylor, too.
Unlike me
, Jan thought as they walked out to Shelley’s new car, one of the many gifts Mick had showered on his wife-to-be.

Jan loved the whisper of air conditioning, a luxury long broken in her old clunker, and too expensive to fix. The engine purred and the suspension glided over the cracks in the street. Jan sat back and sighed with pleasure.

Shelley sent her a quick grin before pulling onto the Santa Monica Freeway onramp. “So I’m taking it you don’t want to drive to Sanluce?”

“You know my junkheap won’t make it over any mountains without overheating. I was going to look into the Greyhound schedule. At least they're air-conditioned!”

“I can take you.”

“Aren’t you going with Mick?”

“Turns out he’s got post-production stuff to deal with for his film. He’s going to fly out that night and meet us there. And I’ve got a trunk full of stuff so I told him I’d drive.”

Jan strongly suspected that this was Shelley’s way of making certain that Jan wouldn’t have to take the bus. They had done favors for each other over the years, times without count. It had never been a big deal. And Jan knew Shelley didn’t want to make it a big deal. Grateful as Jan was, she was secretly a little depressed because from now on, she was never going to be able to reciprocate.

The Jealousy Ghost twinged hard enough to make Jan shift in her leather-covered seat. After the wedding, Mick and Shelley would be honeymooning up the old Route 66—and shooting a pilot for a TV series that Mick wanted to build around Shelley.

Jan would
never
want to take anything away from Shelley, who deserved her wonderful new life. It was just that Mick’s elevating Shelley to wealthy, wedded bliss and professional success all at once left a Shelley-sized hole in Jan’s total crapsack of a penny-scrimping, dateless and professionally flat-lined life.

Since their days at UCLA, she and Shelley had shared the privations of life while trying for one’s dreams. When you have someone to laugh with, the broken down old cars, the endless grind of humiliating cattle call auditions, the make-do scrabbling between tiny gigs and the disastrous dates could be seen as the first act in some romantic comedy. Jan even heard the quirky soundtrack sometimes.

But suddenly Shelley’s romcom had zoomed to the triumphant third act—leaving Jan to trudge alone through the awful first act, over and over.

Jan shifted again, sternly forbidding her mind to go there. She hated letting the wailing ghost drown the music of life, and so it was a relief when Shelley said, “My folks are caravanning up with Grandma and all my brothers and their wives and kids, so it’ll be just me and you. Like old times.”

“Like old times,” Jan repeated, forcing a bright note into her voice. “Tell me about the wedding plans. Is there a best man? Am I going to be walking down the aisle next to Steven Spielberg?”

Shelley laughed. “It could have happened, but no, Mick and I both want a small wedding. Mick said he had his big Hollywood circus when he married number three. Once was enough, and as for me, you know I’m not one for big bashes. This thing today is about my limit.”

Jan said, “Does it bother you, being wife number four?”

Shelley shook her head. “Not after we talked it out. The first two were mistakes when he was really young. Oona the Famous Actress . . . it sounds like she used him as a stepping-stone. From what little Mick has said, she doesn’t sound like a jerk. More like she’s living a story in her head, and everybody else is a supporting actor.”

Like me
, Jan thought.
The first part, anyway. So far my life has been the comedy fat sidekick in everyone else’s story, who can sing for her supper on cue.

 

Chapter Two

 

 

Jean-Pierre LaFleur—known as JP to his friends—stood on the terrace outside the LaFleur mansion, phone pressed to his ear as he gazed down into the rose garden, where workers were setting up trellises for Mick Volkov’s wedding.

Mick’s
fourth
wedding. Which Mick, one of JP’s two oldest friends, had asked him to host.

As JP half-listened to his excellent Hollywood assistant, Victor, running down the day’s list of phone calls and mail, he considered the bitterness he had been fighting for nearly a month, ever since Mick brought his prospective bride to meet his family and friends.

It wasn’t the number of Mick’s failed marriages that made JP bitter. JP had been with Mick for the first two. Mick, a bear shifter, was like a bear in being simple and direct. He had married his first sexual partner, mistaking the
woohoo!
of first sex as mating for life. The second marriage, shortly after Mick, JP, and their third friend Dennis had returned from three years in the service, had been made pretty much for the same reason, fueled by a spectacular three day bender. The third marriage Mick had been tricked into, though he had gone willingly. None had lasted longer than a few months.

All those mistakes had been understandable.

This one, however, was the real deal: Mick had found his mate. And further, JP had seen at first glance that it was true. He could see the mate bond in their eyes, even the most casual touches between them, as if an electric current passed from skin to skin that no one else could sense. He could see it in their mirror-bright auras when he shifted to his phoenix.

And he knew his bitterness was jealousy—envy?

“ . . . the agent in Paris has given us an exclusive, as promised . . . in Tokyo wants a follow-up call . . . reservations for London?”

Vic was asking a question.

JP wrenched his mind back to business. He backtracked mentally, considered, then said what he knew would gratify Vic, “Why don’t you handle that, Vic? Fly to London yourself. You know everybody there. I’d have to postpone, as I’ve Mick Volkov’s wedding taking up this week.”

“Mick Volkov is getting married
again
?” Victor asked in an astonished voice.

JP smothered a laugh. “Don’t you read
Variety
?”

“Only the music news.”

“It’s here and it’s going to be in my garden.”

“In
Sanluce
? It’s the size of a peanut, isn’t it? Why would Volkov want to do it there?”

Many of JP’s employees were not shifters, Vic included. Vic knew nothing of the tightness of shifter clans, claves, and communities.

“His family is here,” JP said.

As he expected, that was a boring enough answer to kill Vic’s interest. They finished up the phone call very quickly, as JP ruthlessly cleared his schedule for the next week.

After hanging up the phone, he took a last look at the workers struggling with the trellises, and walked back into the house, considering envy and jealousy. He knew the difference—and the fact that both emotions were unworthy. He did not want to take away Mick’s happiness. His bitterness arose entirely out of a conviction that what Mick had, JP would be denied.

It was difficult enough for phoenix shifters to find mates. Add to that the family obligations as mayors of Sanluce for well over 150 years, but most telling of all was the fact that he was that rarity, a double-shifter. And his secondary shape was nothing simple, like Mick’s bear or Dennis’s tiger.

Down deep under his phoenix, locked down hard, burned JP’s fire dragon. Who could possibly have the strength to mate with
that
? JP could barely control the dragon himself. And how would JP ever find this miracle mate even if she existed?

He tried to dismiss the bitterness as he entered the mansion, and walked to the mayoral office suite. His mother, the current mayor, was there at her desk, a hundred year old teak monstrosity brought back by his great-great-great grandfather from one of the Pacific Islands.  It was traditional, and his mother was all about tradition.

“Jean-Pierre,” she said on seeing him. “Chief Albert called.”

“I’ll go over to the police station this afternoon. I have to finalize things with Mick first.”

She looked tired and stressed. “I understand your loyalty to your friends, but I have to tell you that this wedding could not have come at a more unfortunate time.”

“I’ll handle it,” JP said, as always.

They discussed more town business. Then he retreated to his own suite to get the call to Mick over with. His emotions, he could lock behind a wall. Easy. He’d had a lifetime of practice at that.

The problem confronting him was how much to reveal to Mick about the problems facing the town.

He decided to take his cue from Mick, and hit his number.

Mick answered on the first ring. It took three minutes cover the details. It would have taken about forty seconds, but Mick kept getting sidetracked, talking about how wonderful Shelley was.

Mick sounded as happy as he had three weeks before, when Mick had brought his Shelley to Sanluce. The wedding was all he could think about. It was going to happen, bad timing or not.

And that, JP realized, meant a lot of new people interrupting his life.

JP decided against ruining Mick’s joy, and instead asked, “By the way, who is my opposite number? Is there a sister or cousin?”

Mick said, “Shelley’s only got brothers. Her maid of honor is her roommate, Jan. They’re old UCLA buddies.”

“Wait, is this the roommate who made Shelley live in a closet before she hooked up with you?”

“No. Yes—it’s complicated. Do you really want to hear it?”

“If I have to sit next to her and make conversation, I’d rather know where the landmines lie.”

“Roger that,” Mick said. “Briefly, last year Jan auditioned for, and won, a decent part at a West End theater. She drives a bucket of bolts ready for the junkyard, so she quickly found a dump of an apartment within walking distance, signed a year lease—and then got turfed out of the part at the last minute before the contracts were signed.”

“Producer’s girlfriend or the director’s?” JP asked with cynical weariness.

“First one. And thin. So there Jan was with high rent in a crap place, and no income except what she makes as a part time wait person. She had to take in roommates. The two legit rooms were taken when Shelley turned up needing space, so she got the closet.”

“Okay, that makes sense. Is she anything like Shelley?”

“Short. Feisty.”

“If she were an animal, what do you think she would be?” When JP said ‘animal’ they both knew he meant ‘shifter
,
’ but long habit kept them from speaking about these things where they might be overheard.

Mick said, “If I had to guess, I’d make Jan out to be a Persian cat. Or maybe a small bulldog.  First time I met her, she was pretty wasted after having hustled straight over from some party, I don’t even know why, except that she had this idea she needed to defend Shelley from the big bad much-married Hollywood jerk. That would be me.”

JP felt a flash of humor—one of the first in a shitty year, as Mick gave his bearish chuckle and said, “She came right up toe to toe, her nose about level with my navel, and warned me against lying or keeping secrets from Shelley. Those two are as loyal and protective as me, you, and Dennis.”

JP whistled. “She know about us?”

“Of course not. Well, Shelley wanted to tell her, but I made her promise not to. Why burden a total stranger with a secret like that to hide for the rest of her life, about people she will never see again?”

“Wise choice,” JP said. “All right, see you next week.”

JP hung up, and frowned down at the phone. He knew the chance of finding Dennis in phone range was no better than fifty-fifty, and even if he got him, the chance Dennis would be able to get back to California was less than half of that. But he tried anyway.

To his surprise, Dennis answered as soon as the international connection got through. “Hey, JP.  Something wrong at home?”

“No. Actually, yes. So far it’s been nothing that I, and the Consejo
,
can’t handle. My instinct is that you should be here if you can. At least consider coming for Mick’s wedding.”

Dennis snorted. “
Mick’s?
Another one? If it was you and Maggie, I might consider it, but I don’t see getting on a plane because Mick’s been an idiot again.”

“Maggie is gone,” JP said. “Married someone else.”

“What?” The phone crackled so much that JP held it away from his ear. “You two go back to high school. Before!”

“Maggie found her mate. It wasn’t me. She pretty much gave her parents and my mother the finger when she tried to strong-arm Maggie into staying and sticking it out, and took off. So I’m a one with no plus.”

“Geez, I thought you and Mags had an understanding. Total freedom, marriage someday to consolidate holdings, yadda yadda.”

“Until she met the real deal.”

“I thought we don’t believe in mates,” Dennis said plaintively. “That’s old folks’ talk, hearts and flowers. You and me, we love ‘em and leave ‘em. And poor Mick, the honest bear, gets snookered into marriage.”

“He found his mate, too. This wedding is the real deal for him as well.”

The phone went silent.

“Anyway, my point is, there might be some action. I haven’t burdened Mick with it, as his head is in his wedding, but I might be needing backup.”

“Action?” Dennis said, his voice brightening. “You shoulda come out with
that
first crack out of the bag! As it happens, I’m grounded. Leg. Before you called I was sitting here tossing cards into a hat and feeling sorry for myself. Let me see what I can swing.”

JP hung up, reflecting that only Dennis would completely ignore a broken leg if there was a chance of something going on. But that kind of defined the three of them, didn’t it? Mick the bear, straightforward, loyal, strong. Dennis the hunter.

And JP the dragon, whose responsibility was to protect them all.

 

ADS
15.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
READ BOOK DOWNLOAD BOOK

Other books

Lilah's List by Robyn Amos
Shades of Honor by Wendy Lindstrom
Cloaked in Blood by LS Sygnet
Shem Creek by Dorothea Benton Frank
Léon and Louise by Alex Capus, John Brownjohn
The Leper's Return by Michael Jecks