The Dragons were in an uproar looking for a missing artifact. It would seem that there is an old tradition between my nest and the two closest villages. Several centuries ago there was a particularly brutal winter. The blizzards were so bad that villagers were not able to venture out into the forest to collect firewood. A young man braved the horrible weather in hopes of reaching the next town over to see if they could help his village survive the ruthless storm. Despite the odds he made it to the village, but found it in just as bad shape. The young man collapsed to the ground too cold to go on, knowing he had failed his family and friends.
Then by chance, a Dragon passing by the village spotted him. Taking the young man under his wings he filled him with heat. When the Dragon learned of the plight of the villagers he rushed back to the nest. He filled a lantern with Dragonfire produced from a loving heart and given in friendship and brotherhood. Any fire lit from the lantern would burn without wood, oil or wax. The Dragon took the lantern that Yule to each of the villages and encouraged all of the villagers to take the fire into their homes.
Now, every Yule the Dragons from the nest take the lantern to the villages and share the Dragonfire so that nobody must fear the winter in coldness and dark.
The problem is the ancient lantern has gone missing and the Dragon responsible for it is away negotiating in another realm with another nest and its clans. Lord Geren and his clan have been the keepers of the lantern ever since that first Yule they used it.
Hue, Vallen and I searched the nest for hours without any luck. Geren’s younger brother and sister even joined in the search, but by the end of Saturday night we had to give up the search until Geren could return. When we finally called an end, we were all exhausted. I sank down into one of the large chairs in front of the fire in the great hall. It felt nice to soak up some of the heat. Vallen all but collapsed into the chair across from me and when Hue appeared I scrambled to my feet to allow him to sit. A look of defeat clung to him.
Sighing heavily, he mumbled a thanks as he took a seat. I started to move away to find a chair I could bring over to join them, but Hue captured my wrist and tugged me down on his lap. Wrapping his arms around me, he gathered me against his chest, holding me there. His hand absently stroked my hair and hip where he held me. I could feel my skin blush brightly as Vallen sat there staring at us, and anyone else could see the display.
Vallen smiled softly. “The two of you make me jealous. I long for the day when I can be comforted merely by holding someone close.” It was then I realized Hue was clinging to me like a Teddy Bear, and it had nothing to do with me other than that I offered him peace and comfort.
I relaxed against him, enjoying the feeling as his arms tightened around me. The thump of his heart beat in my ear was like the soft cadence one might find in a lullaby. His voice rumbled in his chest as he spoke softly. “You will find the ONE that completes you.”
Vallen quirked a brow in our direction. “And you have found the ONE that completes you?”
“Maybe…” answered Hue. I closed my eyes where I rested comfortably against Hue. I heard Vallen sigh with exasperation and pictured him rolling his eyes at the response.
I dozed off at some point and awoke at the feeling of cool hands stroking my face. “Wake up my lovelies.” Jura’s voice coo’d. I opened my eyes to find her standing over both of us. I was still cuddled tightly against Hue and when I peeked up at him, I noticed he had fallen asleep too. Everyone around us had just let us sleep. I shifted my gaze to Jura and started to move but Hue’s grip just tightened.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to fall asleep,” I explained.
A groggy male voice rumbled huskily beside my ear. “Shhh, it’s fine. We’ve both been so busy the nap was probably needed.”
“It’s late. I can help Alizeyah to bed and you can both get some rest before you return to the North Pole tomorrow.” Jura’s cool hand closed over my shoulder. I shifted off his lap, this time with little resistance. Hue stood up as I followed Jura towards the chambers. I had only made it a few steps when I was swept up into his arms again, my feet dangling in the air.
“What are you doing?” I asked sleepily.
“Taking you back to our chambers,” he muttered half-asleep. “I don’t want you to trip on anything in the dark.”
Lady Jura stopped and turned to face us. “Lord Hudraer, where do you think you are taking my daughter?” Her lips were were a thin slash across her face and her fists rested on her hips.
“We’re going to our room, Mom. Good night, we’ll see you in the morning.” Her mouth fell open but I was unsure if it was the “our room” or “mom” part of the comment that had done it. Hue pivoted effortlessly on his heel, strolled around her and arrived at his chambers. Setting me down carefully on the floor, he didn’t release my waist until he was sure I was stable. I pushed open the door and stepped inside, watching as the flames around the room sprung to life in small lanterns.
The door clicked shut behind me as I made my way to the bed, rescuing my top half of the pajamas from the piles of blankets and covers on the bed. Hue and I ignored each other as we stripped down and crawled into bed exhausted. I tugged at the covers pulling them up around me. I didn’t resist when Hue pulled me back against the curve of his body as the light in the lanterns extinguished. I lay there quietly waiting for sleep.
“Do you think my mother will be upset I am staying in here with you?” I asked.
“I think she will probably ask me about my intentions towards you sometime in the near future.” His voice was thick and sounded tired.
“What will you tell her?” I continued to pry.
“What do you wish for me to tell her?” His question made me pause. I wasn’t sure how to answer that. On the one hand we were definitely connected but at the same time I was just figuring things out with Ian. I let out a slow breath.
“What do you want to tell her?” Maybe if I could hear him say it I would have an easier time putting a label on it.
He stroked my hair away from my face and pressed a kiss to the delicate spot where my neck and shoulder met. Dragging his teeth over it playfully he stopped and pressed one more kiss there before answering. “I would like to tell her that you are my Soul Mate and have acknowledged me as such. That we will be a bonded pair in time and will fill the nest with our own Whelps. I also realize you are not ready to make such a commitment, so for the sake of your mother’s sanity I figured I would just say we were seeing each other.”
I paused and smiled, considering his words, then a thought struck me. “Let’s say we work out and end up mated. Will I lay eggs? Will I give birth? If I lay eggs how many will I lay at a time?” All of the stories I had read talked about Dragon eggs.
Hue chuckled but it seemed out of surprise. “You would give birth. Very few clans within our ranks lay eggs. The ones that do don’t really have a human form. What’s more, Whelps are born in humanoid form and their Dragon forms don’t really start coming into to existence much until they are in their adolescence. My siblings and I always had the eyes and the iridescence on our skin and according to Jura when you were a baby you did too.”
“You’ve talked about me as a baby?”
“I’ve seen photos! Don’t forget, your mother and aunt were being held prisoner in your realm. Cameras were not unheard of.” I turned in his grip and rested a hand against his chest.
“Hue, what if you’re waiting on me and I’m not the one?” I asked.
He chuckled. “I’m not worried. I just know you are. A Soul Mate is worth waiting a thousand life times for, so waiting however long it takes you to be ready is worth it.”
“What if I’m never ready?”
“You will be, someday. Until then I will wait. I can wait for you to love me as I love you.” He stroked my cheek with his thumb. His breath was warm on my face.
“But what if…” I didn’t finish the sentence because he leaned down and captured my mouth with his. My body flamed to life at his touch and I pressed myself against his bare chest as if I was trying to merge and become one with him. My heart raced in my chest and ached as if it were missing something. His mind opened to me and a weightless feeling of pure joy washed through me. This is what he felt holding me so close. It wasn’t desire or lust, it was pure unadulterated joy. It was so beautiful it pricked at my eyes, causing them to tear.
When the kiss broke he turned to lay on his back, pulling me half across him as he did. His heart beat wildly beneath me and caused feelings of arousal in me to stir. His hand rested on my shoulder where it caressed small circles through the pajama fabric. “I will wait forever if I have to. When you’re ready.”