Authors: Tianna Xander
Tags: #Paranormal, #Erotic Romance, #Dragon, #Shapeshifter
“Someone has found my lair.” A low growl came from deep in his chest. “Who could know I have risen? More yet, who would care?”
“A lot of people could know,” Emily said dryly. “You flew here while it was still daylight. The people who are with me know, and they had no reason to believe your rising should be kept a secret from others of your kind.”
“It is not someone of my kind who hunts us. This is not the magic of a dragon, or of a witch. This is the magic of a sorcerer.”
“Don’t you mean mage?” Emily frowned. Since when were mages bad? As far as she knew, they wielded the same kind of good magic as witches.
“A sorcerer is not a mage. They are something...more.” He ran back down the passage toward the entrance to the cave, never once stumbling in the darkness.
“More?” Emily didn’t know much about magic. Not really. Like the Flowers girls, she’d been orphaned and left ignorant of her heritage until an old aunt found her, gave Emily her mother’s wand and warned her off dragons. She knew a little about sorcerers, though.
“I had hoped to spare you the knowledge of their existence, love.” He sounded resigned, almost sad. “I didn’t want to frighten you. Sorcerers are powerful beings and most succumb to the insidious whispers of an evil that wishes to control the world and everything in it.”
That sounded ominous. “Are there good sorcerers? Could this be some sort of mistake?” Something told her that was wishful thinking, but she still had to ask. Maybe what she’d read in her family’s Book of Shadows had been wrong.
“I have only known one sorcerer that was not overcome by darkness. This cannot be he.”
is dead.” He rushed from the cave, bursting out into the night and jumped over the side of the cliff. “However, that does not mean they do not exist. I have never met anyone who even knows how a sorcerer is made.”
Emily’s heart raced as they plummeted toward the ground. She wrapped her arms around him, burying her head in his neck.
He let her go for a moment and she couldn’t hold on. Screaming, she lost her grip and started to fall. Declan didn’t let her drop more than a few inches. Strong, dragon forelegs scooped her up just before he beat his large wings and streaked toward the sky. The mountain rumbled behind them, the sound of a large explosion rending the night air.
“It’s gone isn’t it?” Tears slid down Emily’s cheeks as she thought of the time and effort he’d spent carving out that magnificent cave that could have been a home to them both.
Yes, love. It is gone, and for that, I am truly sorry. Please forgive me for exposing you to such danger. I will strive to take better care of you in the future.
“I’m sorry, Declan. You worked so hard on your home, only to have someone destroy it. I’m so sorry.”
Declan held her close.
It is nothing, little one. I removed my greatest treasure.
nuzzled her head with the side of his face. He wanted her to know that
was the treasure he valued above all others.
Nothing we left behind was irreplaceable. You are.
“It’s my fault, isn’t it?” She turned her head, pressing her face against his chest.
No. Nothing evil that strikes at us has anything to do with you. Those who are evil do horrible things. It is what they do.
Powerful strokes of Declan’s wings sent them streaking toward the night sky. Wind rushed by him, striking his face. He closed his arms tighter around her. He needed to see to the comfort of his mate. The cool air felt refreshing against his hot skin. His scales protected him from many things, including the biting cold. However, Emily had no such protection.
“It’s beautiful up here, Declan,” she called out over the rush of wind. She gave a slight shiver and Declan drew her closer his dragon’s heat.
He loved the way she felt in his arms. Her soft, sweet scent twisted his insides the same way it had fifty years before. He closed his eyes for a moment and thanked whatever god had given him this second chance with his mate.
Declan had slept most of the last fifty years. For the most part, he’d been unaware of the time passing. Unlike Emily, he hadn’t felt the horrible loneliness of missing one’s mate. However, his love had grown as though he hadn’t slept a day. His dragon heart swelled with his love over time, and though his internal clock told him fifty years had passed, and she had aged, she was just as beautiful to him as ever.
Time had been kind to her. Though her birthday said she was seventy-six years old, she appeared as though she was in her mid-sixties—and she was as gorgeous as he remembered.
Emily had most likely aged slower because he had tied himself to her before putting himself into the long sleep. He had done so because he couldn’t bear the thought of living without her. He had aged after binding himself to her. It was what he had intended. However, if she allowed Declan to claim her properly, his dragon magic would reverse the aging process. They would both gradually appear younger and younger until he reached the internal age of his dragon. Eventually, Emily would again be the young and beautiful woman she would recall seeing in her mirror all those years ago.
Declan soared over the land. Lights dotted the darkened landscape, twinkling like stars below them. Some of the familiar landmarks were gone, replaced by the lights of newly built homes and businesses.
Banking right at an old stone wall, he headed north, toward Kendrake Delfavaro’s Scottish home. As much as he wanted to be alone with his mate, he wanted her safe even more.
Reaching the house, he flew to the back of the large manor, landing on the stone pathway that led through the extensive gardens. Bending, he lowered Emily to the ground, holding her steady until she regained her balance.
“I’d forgotten how gentle you always were with me,” Emily said softly as she stared up at him, stars in her eyes. She showed no fear of his dragon. She merely smiled up at him softly and blinked away—what he hoped—were happy tears. Only love reflected back at him as she reached out and touched his hind leg. “You’re very warm. I don’t remember you being this warm.”
She had never seen him angry either. He wanted to shout, to rage. His dragon wanted to scream out its frustration at leaving his lair on the run instead of hunting down those who endangered his mate.
Emily softly stroked a thick, armored scale. “Even your scales are warm.” She rapped at it with her knuckles. “And hard.” Grinning, she leaned close to whisper, “You know, I always thought you were
Declan reached out with his senses, delving deep into the ether and pulled information from various sources. He educated himself on what had happened over the last fifty years. He also picked up on new slang and discovered what technological advances had been made.
She thought he was hot. It was a compliment. It meant she found him very attractive. Declan smiled down at her, his dragon revealing his large, sharp teeth.
I have always thought the same of you, lass.
He concentrated on the change, slowly shifting back to his human form. His wings shrank, his body drawing them back into his shoulder blades. His legs and arms compressed and his large, diamond-shaped head grew smaller until his head and face once again appeared to be that of a human male.
Emily continued to stare at him. Tall for a woman, she was still much shorter than Declan’s six-foot-six height. Tears glistened in her eyes, spilling onto cheeks grown red from the chill in the night air.
“You look so different.” Her voice caught on a sob. “Why did you grow old with me? You weren’t supposed to get old.”
Declan stepped close, drawing her into his arms with a groan. God, it felt good to hold her again. “I refused to go on without you. You’re my mate, my love.” His chest ached at the memory of their last night together. “I love you more than life itself.”
“I didn’t mean for you to—I didn’t want this for you.” She buried her face in his shoulder and held him as though she would never let go. After a moment, she pulled back and stared up at him through red-rimmed eyes. “I love you too much for that, Declan. Surely you knew that.”
He shook his head. “I only knew that I did not want to live a life without you in it.” He glanced behind her when someone opened one of the French doors off the deck. “We should join your friends, my love. Their curiosity has gotten the better of them. They have opened the door to see why we haven’t yet entered Drake’s home.”
Emily glanced up, following Declan’s gaze. Summer stood on the porch, wringing her hands as she nervously hopped from foot to foot. Emily didn’t have to say a thing. She merely met Summer’s gaze and held her arms open.
Summer didn’t need more of an invitation. The young woman’s eyes lit up. She danced down the stone steps and into Emily’s waiting arms. “I was so worried about you.” She pulled back and frowned at Emily. “This is the last time I worry about you. I’m getting you a cell phone. I don’t care how much you argue. If you can’t afford one, we’ll pay for it for you.”
She glanced back at her mate, Adrian, as though looking for his agreement. “I refuse to go through another week like the last one. Even though I knew that a dragon would see that his mate was fed and clothed, I hated not knowing where you were or how you were doing.” Summer hugged her again. “The others are out looking for you. We all needed to be sure that you would accept him as your mate. He
just carry you off without asking.”
Summer glared up at Declan. “Why did you just carry her off like that? We just got her out of the hospital a week before you took off with her. Were you
to make her sick again?”
Emily knew that news was
going to make her dragon happy. As he’d told her just a few minutes ago, she was his greatest treasure. He would not take kindly to learning that she’d been sick and hadn’t bothered to tell him. He also wouldn’t like hearing
she had been sick.
Her back warmed as an angry dragon moved up behind her. “Why didn’t you tell me you had been ill?”
Emily’s cheeks burned. “I wasn’t sick. I fainted and everyone panicked.”
“Yeah. She fainted because she wasn’t eating,” Summer added, her hands on her hips and a reproving scowl on her face. “Apparently, she couldn’t afford to eat and buy her medication. So, she starved herself instead of asking for help.”
Declan grasped her shoulders from behind, pulled her back against his chest and tucked her head beneath his chin. “You can rest assured that will
happen again. I am here, now, and Emily will never want for anything, now that we are together.”
“I will if you don’t bind us together, mister.” Emily stepped from his embrace. “I’ve already done without my medication for a week. My blood pressure is probably out of this world, by now.” She raised her chin. “And I refuse to accept aid from a man who is not my husband.”
“I merely wished to give you time to adjust to this life, mate.” Declan shook his head. “We need time to get to know each other again.”
“No. What you mean is that you want to give me time to see that you’re not some witch-killing monster. You’re afraid that deep down, I still fear what you are.”
Reaching up, she cupped his jaw in her hand. The stubble pricked her fingers as she drew his head down toward hers. “I don’t fear you, dragon. I have seen Summer and her sisters with their mates. There is nothing
fear from you, except maybe having to wait for a proposal until I’m so decrepit, I won’t be able to say
without someone fetching my teeth first.”
“I’ve already asked you, woman.” Declan grasped her arm and spun her around. “I’m still waiting for you to give a satisfactory answer.”
“As I recall, the last time you asked, the answer was
If you want a different answer, you’ll have to ask me again. How do I know you haven’t changed your mind?”
“What will I do with you, mate?” Declan chuckled, reached out, and drew her into his arms.
“I’m thinking you’ll love me, but I could be wrong.” Emily smiled up at him. “I’m still waiting.”
With a sigh, Declan lowered himself to one knee and took her right hand in his. Emily covered her mouth with her free hand. Tears streamed down her face as he stared up into her eyes, his love shining like a beacon between them.
“I love you with every fiber of my being, Emily. I always have. Every cell within me screams to be near you when you’re gone. My every thought is of you. Every part of me wants to feel your warmth next to me when I’m awake, when I eat and when I sleep. Will you do me the honor of becoming my wife, my mate? Will you marry this crusty old dragon, Emily?”
Emily could do nothing more than nod as she sobbed into her hand. She had waited so long to look down into her dragon’s loving brown eyes and tell him that being his mate was the only thing she ever wanted.
“Yes, Declan. I would love nothing more than to be your mate. I’ll marry you. I want nothing more than to be yours forever and a day.”
Beside her, Summer bounced in place and clapped her hands. “You two are getting married. That’s wonderful!
“Hey, you guys!” April called from the door. “Oh, hi, Emily! It’s nice to see you again.” She smiled at Declan. “I assume you’re Declan, the red dragon. It’s nice to meet you.” She opened the door wider. “You all need to come inside. Summer, you’ll never believe who we found.”
Declan followed the others into the manor. He settled himself on the rosewood settee with Emily on his lap.
A group of men walked through the door. The female named Summer gasped and rushed toward them, hugging each one in turn. A wave of powerful magic rolled off one or more of the men.
“There is a sorcerer in our midst.” Standing, Declan placed Emily behind him. He must be the one who destroyed his lair. The humans might not realize what he meant by his declaration, but Declan knew the other dragons would realize the danger. It had been years, centuries even, since he’d felt a power so strong.