Authors: T. S. Joyce
“No. Yes. I don’t know. I haven’t done this before. I just get this…” Another rattling growl vibrated against her skin, and he crushed her to him harder. “I just get this awful feeling when I think about you living in Saratoga away from me.”
“Who is possessive now?” she teased.
With a frown, she whispered, “Hey.” Cupping his cheeks, she lifted his gaze to hers as she eased back. His eyes were silver where they’d been dark just moments ago. “I’m okay. Nothing’s going to hurt me or take me away. It’s not like with Feyadine, okay?”
Damon searched her eyes, and after a few seconds, the worry that had pooled in his began to fade. He huffed a laugh and rested his forehead against her cheek. “Sorry.”
“Well, don’t apologize, Dangerous Damon. I like my man a little growly and possessive. And if the offer still stands…”
“If it still stands, what?” he asked, his deep timbre hopeful.
“Then yes,” she whispered through a smile. Your mountains already feel like home somehow, anyway. I still don’t want your money, though,” she said, trying her best to look severe and likely failing. “I don’t want to be some kept woman.”
“Does my wealth make you uncomfortable?”
“Hell yes. I’ve never had two dimes to rub together. I bet there isn’t even cheap pesticides on that lettuce on my sandwich. It’ll probably taste weird.”
Damon chuckled against her throat and pressed his lips there, right where her pulse was pounding.
“Also, I’m never going to wear fancy clothes, so don’t even buy them for me. I won’t change. I’m always going to stick out in this fancy mansion like a sore thumb.”
“Mmm, that’s not true, and I don’t want to change you, anyway. I like these cheap, threadbare shorts you wear.” He ran his hand up her thigh. “You look sexy as hell walking around my lair looking comfortable. Besides, you’re much easier to access in these.”
“Our lair now, lover, and I
comfortable. You should try it. I could go to the grocery store in these duds, or I could take a nap in them. The sky’s the limit.”
Damon leaned forward and kissed her with a hint of tongue. Oooh, sexy dragon. His mouth moved against hers as he deepened the kiss, and in a smooth motion, he unfolded from his chair with her in his arms and strode around his desk toward the door. Good, he was going to take her somewhere more private because she definitely didn’t want to get caught banging while Diem and Harper were in the house. But nope, Damon settled her on her feet and pressed her back against the wooden doors as he locked the deadbolt. Okay then, they would have to be quiet.
Damon bit her bottom lip and unsnapped the button of her shorts, then slid her bottoms down to her ankles, panties and all. He dropped to his knees and demanded in a whisper, “Take your shirt off.”
Okie dokie. She yanked her shirt off her head and wiggled out of her bra faster than the snap of a finger, but Damon seemed fine where he was, eye level with her hips. She opened her mouth to ask if something was wrong, but he gripped her legs, leaned forward, and laved his tongue against her sex right at her clit.
“Ooooh,” she groaned.
She clamped her teeth on her bottom lip to remind her horny noises to stay where they were.
Damon sucked gently on her sensitive nub, then brushed his tongue against her again. Her knees were numbing now, but as if he knew she was about to go down like a sack of stones, he gripped her knees and held her upright. Clara ran her hands through his hair, and the next time he ran his clever tongue over her clit, she gripped his head in a silent plead for more. That satisfied rumble she adored rattled from his chest and filled the room.
Slowly, Damon slipped his tongue inside of her. Clara’s eyes rolled closed at the sparking sensation between her thighs. She rested her head back against the door and sighed out a helpless sound. Over and over he plunged inside of her until pulsing pleasure rocketed through her body. The jingle of Damon’s belt brought on another wave of excitement, and when he bit her inner thighs gently, once on each, and turned her slowly until she faced the door, she knew he wasn’t done with her yet.
“Arch your back, love,” he whispered in her ear as he pressed his erection against her back. She did so happily, desperate to feel him inside of her again. God, she adored when he called her “love.” Dangerous Damon and Dangerous Clara had no voice here. What they were doing, bonding to each other so seamlessly… This wasn’t dangerous.
Damon wrapped his arm around her middle and nibbled at the back of her ear. Clara’s hips rocked as her desperation piqued. The head of his cock pressed into her by an inch, and she pushed backward, hungry for more of him.
Damon chuckled a deep, sexy sound right against her ear. “Are you eager for me, love?”
“Yes. Call me that again.”
Without hesitation, he whispered, “Love,” against her ear.
Now both of his arms were around her, one around her middle and one massaging her breast in a needy rhythm as he slid into her from behind.
“More,” she demanded on a breath.
Damon smiled against her ear and drew back, then slammed into her. And there were his teeth again, right on her shoulder as he thrust into her over and over. His pace picked up, faster, harder, and she was gone now. Floating. Falling. Nothing to hold onto, and she didn’t care to stop the stomach-dipping sensation.
When a feral, wanting growl ripped up her throat, Damon reacted immediately, pounding into her harder. And just as the pressure became too much and her body clenched around his in another orgasm, Damon froze behind her, a snarl in his throat, and his teeth sunk deeply into her neck. She gasped and bowed back against him. Pleasure, pain, pleasure, pain, and the scent of iron filled the air. Warmth running down, pooling in the bowl above her collar bone, streaming down between her breasts. Warmth running down her thighs as Damon’s jets of hot release became too much for her to hold.
Her body was on fire.
Fire from the overwhelming heat of Damon’s body.
Fire from the warmth that churned in her middle as her release pounded through her.
Fire for the man she adored.
“I love you, I love you,” she panted out as he ran his tongue over the claiming mark he’d just given her.
“Mate,” he whispered against her skin. “I love you, too.”
“Favorite mate,” Clara said, holding onto Damon’s shoulders piggy-back style.
“You,” Damon said easily as he reached forward and pulled open the front door like it weighed nothing. The towering giant barriers groaned as they swung open and creaked as he closed them again.
“No, I mean out of your human mates.” Butterflies had been flapping around in her stomach since he’d first called her that this afternoon in his office.
“I haven’t called anyone my mate but Feyadine and you, and you’ve seen me through her memories. What we had wasn’t real. At least not to her. The humans I married were just to stop a freefall. I took on a wife when the loneliness got too bad. When the darkness was so thick, I thought I’d become the dark.”
“I think Feyadine loved you, Damon,” she said softly. “Not to defend her because I hate what she did to you, but I think you meant a lot to her. At least you felt big when I was in that vision. You felt important. She was hurting deeply when she told you about her betrayal.”
Damon shook his head, eyes on the cobblestone driveway he strode down. “She felled all of our people with her treachery.”
“Yeah, but she couldn’t have known that would happen. It felt like she was unhappy to be mated to Marcus and felt unwanted. Unloved. And then she met you, and she wanted to pretend her life was different. I think she was one of many mates to Marcus and wanted something real. You felt real. When I saw you through her…I loved you.” Gah, this was all so confusing.
“My answer is still the same and an easy one for me to give. You are my favorite mate. I wish you had been my only.”
“For all this time?”
Damon chuckled and released the backs of her knees, settling her on her feet. He turned and cupped her cheeks, then leaned down and kissed her gently. “For all time.”
Her cheeks heated with happiness, and she brushed her nose against his before she pulled away. Dangerous Damon.
He wrapped his big strong hand around hers and led her toward the waterfall tumbling off the cliffs above. From here, she could hear it clear as a bell. The mist as the falls hit the water below smelled like rain, and the silt that was being stirred from the bottom of the river smelled rich and earthy. The sun beamed down in speckles as they ducked under a low-hanging bald cypress branch and into the woods that encased Damon’s perfectly manicured lawn. With the pine-needle blanketed forest floor covered in gold pools of sunlight, and rays of dusty light streaming through the canopy to the soundtrack of the roosting birds’ song, this place looked like a completely different world. Walking in front, Damon smiled back at her as he led her toward a thin deer trail in the woods. His smile was bright and easy, flashing those gorgeous dimples, and his dark eyes danced when they landed on her. God, she loved him in this moment, more than anything. This incredible man who had survived so much had chosen her. He made her feel special when it was him who was truly one of a kind.
He’d changed out of his business suit and into a pair of low slung jeans and a dark gray T-shirt that clung to his ripped upper torso and more loosely around his tapered waist. He’d even forgone his usual polished black leather shoes for a pair of flip flops that looked as if he’d actually worn them before. He’d shocked her in the best way. Damon Daye had a casual side, and she bet he had shared it with very few people. She felt like the luckiest that he shared so much of his secret self with her.
Clutching onto his hand tighter, ignoring the slight sting of his heated skin against hers, she followed him toward the sound of the waterfall that was now blocked by the thick pine canopy above them.
“In storybooks, dragons protect treasure. Do you have piles of gold and gemstones buried deep in your mountains, and if so, can you draw me a treasure map? I’ve always wanted to swim in a pile of gold coins.”
He laughed and shook his head. “My treasure is this land. The mountains themselves are what my dragon protects.”
Her stomach fluttered at his open admission. She’d only been joking, but he’d gifted her with honesty. She looked around at the mountain peaks surrounding them, covered in evergreens. It was nothing but miles of rolling hills—beautiful, lush, and stoic.
Damon had bound himself to something that could never die. Like him.
With a shake of her head, she said, “Favorite period in time.”
“Medieval. God, I actually got to have fun then.”
Clara inhaled sharply. “The dragon legends. Those were you?”
“And my hybrid offspring at the time. Hellions, the lot of them.” There was a smile in his voice, and from here, she could see his cheeks swell with a grin at the memory. “You should’ve seen the castles, Clara. You would’ve loved that entire era. Well, most of it. We glutted ourselves on ash and, for the first time, I wasn’t hiding or convincing my offspring to hide. We could just be for that short period before I went into hiding again and allowed the stories of that time to fade to legend. I was too heartsick and reckless then, but damn, it felt good to let go. I took my first wife shortly after that to ground me again. I’d bred women before—humans—but I needed more than that to bring me back to my senses. I needed someone steady in my life. I didn’t care for her much, but I felt protective enough to see reason behind keeping my dragon hidden.”
Clara frowned and stifled the green tendrils of jealousy. He’d said he didn’t care for his first wife much, so why was she feeling so possessive? He’d lived for a very long time. Of course he’d been with other women. Smoothing the frown from her face, she said, “Favorite job.”
“Logger,” he said, void of hesitation.
“Wait, you were a lumberjack?”
“Does that surprise you?”
She looked back in the direction of his mansion, but she couldn’t see it through the trees anymore. “A little.”
“I wasn’t always wealthy. I’ve just had infinite time to figure out what works and what doesn’t. I’ve lost my money and gone completely broke several times over taking risks with finances. You caught me after a fifty year good run is all. I’ve done logging several times when the money was gone. It’s my fallback. The physical work settles my dragon and makes me feel almost…content. Even now, when I see the bears on their landings, when I watch them work, I miss it down to my bones.”
“Why don’t you work with them then if you miss it so much?”
“I hadn’t ever considered it before because I was trying to keep distance between myself and the bears. It was easier not to feel anything for them if I didn’t spend the extra time with the crews.” Damon led her out of the woods and onto a black pebble beach. He turned and unbuttoned his jeans with a wicked grin that transformed his face.
Naughty glint in his eyes, he shucked his pants and pulled his shirt over his head, undressing completely.
“I’ve never done it before.”
Damon frowned and angled his head. “I’ve seen your body, Clara. Your beauty steals my breath away. I love all of you. Every pattern I can trace in your freckles, the soft curve of your breasts. Your smooth skin that is only for me to touch.” He reached forward and plucked a wild curl of her ruddy hair, then released it and watched it spring back into place. “I’m attracted to every single thing about you. You don’t have to be shy around me.”
She crinkled her nose at the surrounding woods. “It’s not you that I’m worried about. What if someone sees us?”
“A modest shifter? I thought I’d seen it all. This is private land, and no one ever comes here but me. This is my favorite place, and in all my years here, I’ve never seen anyone at my falls.”
Okay, she felt better now. With a shy smile, she pushed her shorts and panties down and took of her shirt, but when she looked up, Damon was diving gracefully into a wave. He came out of the dark water and shook out his hair like a dog, then gave her a playful grin and jerked his chin for her to join him.
With a giddy laugh, she ran across the river beach and into the lapping waves. When she reached him, she swam past and challenged him, “I’ll race you to the falls!”
She was breathless from exertion and laughter by the time she lost rather badly to Damon in a race to the pounding water and its surrounding mist cloud. In the fog, it felt more private, and she relaxed completely in his arms as he held her and swam her in slow circles until their feet touched the craggy bottom right by the waterfall. His eyes stayed trained on her as though he’d never seen anyone as beautiful.
“This is fast, isn’t it?” she asked. “To feel this deeply about another person in such a short time?”
“Maybe for others. Our love story is different, though. For me, it started eons ago when I forged a connection with your ancestors. Feyadine wasn’t meant for me. She was only meant to be the beginning of my journey to you. It doesn’t feel fast to me.”
Cheeks flushing, she pulled Damon in close and rested her chin on his shoulder. The water lapped at her in a relaxing rhythm. “I feel like I’ve known you my whole life.”
“Haven’t you though? Through your visions?”
He was right. A piece of her had always known him. Had always yearned for him. “You sure were easy to fall in love with, Dangerous Damon.”
The corner of his mouth lifted against her cheek, and he angled his head just enough to rest his lips on hers and take a languid, gentle sip. “So were you, Dangerous Clara.”
“Can I see him?”
“You want to see the monster inside of me?”
She angled her head and nodded. “Don’t you know that’s what love is? It’s seeing the monster inside and staying anyway.”
He shook his head and stared at her as if he couldn’t believe she was in his arms right now. As if he couldn’t understand how they’d gotten here. As if he was the lucky one. Silly dragon.
With a slow, clicking rumble, he steadied her on the rocky bottom and backed closer to the waterfall. His eyes blazed silver, and he hunched into himself an instant before his skin ripped open and the enormous dragon inside of him was freed. He towered over her like a building and arched his long neck high. The waterfall pounded against the sharp spikes down his back, and streams of water trailed down his scales. His head was as wide as a barn, and when he blinked, two separate eyelids closed over his eyes from the side. The snarl in his chest sounded throatier and louder now, and he moved with snake-like grace. Two long, curved spikes unfurled from the base of his head backward and were accented by smaller ones that grew in lines down his cheekbones. His armor-like scales boasted the tarnish of burns and slash marks of old battle scars, but the old injuries didn’t hinder his movement as he stepped carefully through the water, arching around her, as if, even now, in the safety of the secret waterfall, he had the instinct to protect her.
He was lethal and terrifying and beautiful.
Stepping carefully over the jagged rocks beneath her bare feet, she held her palms out and made a relieved sound in her throat when her hands connected with his body. She’d expected him to be cold, but he was just as warm as he was in his human skin.
Slowly, she spread her arms out like wings and pressed her body against his. Damon’s stomach rose and fell under her with his steady breath, and the slow vibration of his constant rumbling rattled her body. When he lowered his massive head, his churning silver eyes with those long, contracting pupils beheld her with something akin to pleasure.
She squeezed her eyes tightly closed and grinned as her chest filled with overwhelming joy. She’d seen him when he was blowing fire and angry, and she’d seen him like this—a gentle giant that could be so careful with her in the lapping waters of the falls.
When she opened her eyes again, the sunlight was reflecting beautifully off of his iridescent scales.
She was in this.
Clara was staying because she’d seen Damon for what he truly was.
She was staying because he was so easy to love.
With a slow smile, she whispered, “I see no monster.”