Not every romance is a fantasy, but ours are!

Justin slammed his hands down on the table in front of him. “What do you mean an ancient artifact is missing?”

Hue shook his head. “I’m just saying that it has gone missing and if it isn’t located I may have to take a few days off to go home and help locate it.”

“That’s unacceptable. It is a week until Black Friday and that’s when things start getting really crazy around here.” Justin Kringle is a hard Dwarf to please. He takes his job as COO of the North Pole very seriously. He looked over at me with an irritated glance. “I suppose you’ll want to go too.”

Mirroring Hue I shook my head. “No, I would stay here to make sure things didn’t fall behind. We have caught up on all the work that accumulated after the duel. We’re actually a few days ahead of schedule. If Lord Hudraer must leave for a short period of time I would remain here to make sure things stay on course.”

Justin seemed to relax a little, sinking back down into his chair. He reached for a mug with a candycane-striped handle that read, “Dwarves Do It Better” and took a long sip of coffee. When he had drained the last bit of it he looked as if he would pout for a moment. He sighed, setting the cup back down. “If everything is in order, then Lord Hudraer you may go, but not until after Black Friday. Until then I need you here making sure Lady Alizeyah is fully prepped to handle the busy season on her own if need be.”

Hue nodded beside me. “We will be totally prepared.”

“Good.” Justin shifted his attention back to me. “Uniforms said you haven’t returned the dress from the launch yet. Please do that this week so it can be cleaned.”

“I did it this morning.” I offered a smile I hope was reassuring.

“Alright, I guess we’re done here. You two, back to work. I want a report by Wednesday with a plan if Lady Alizeyah has to take over the full assignment.”

Hue nodded as he took my hand, pulling me to my feet. “Yes sir.” I followed along behind Hue as he all but dragged me from the conference room. Once outside and down a few halls he paused, stopping to take a breath. “I may have to go back sooner than that. How would you feel about spending the weekend at home in the nest?  Geren is away right now and we haven’t been able to reach him. We can’t access his vaults, which is where I believe the artifact to be, without him, but still I’m sure everyone would like to see you.”

I shrugged. “Sure, but let’s do the report before we leave. You and I both know once we get home there isn’t going to be a moment’s peace.”

In a fluid motion he pinned me to the wall and grinned evilly. “I can always lock us down in my vaults again where nobody CAN bother us.” Lowering his head he dropped his mouth to mine. His kiss was instantly deep and hot, but short lived. Just as I felt myself melting against him he stepped away and tugged on my hand. Sighing, he said, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t rush you, and you’re right that we should get the report done first.”

Four hours and six cups of coffee later we finished the report. Despite Hue’s objection I went ahead and emailed it to Justin early. I wasn’t at all surprised when he replied to me at nine o’clock at night, still working. The man was a workaholic through and through. Glancing up at Hue I smiled. “I’m all set.”

He took my hand and the world shifted around us with sparkling flurries and starlight. When the world came into view we were standing in the center of the great hall and everything was silent. “Where is everyone?” I whispered.

“I think it’s the middle of the night here.” He leaned close to me. “You can bunk with me tonight.” I felt a chill run through me but didn’t object when he guided me towards his chambers.

Lanterns sprung to life around us as we closed the door. Lifting my hand to his lips he pressed a kiss there. “I normally sleep in the nude but I believe I have some sleeping garments from your realm.” He disappeared into a closet at the far side of the chamber and when he returned he was holding a pair of blue striped pajamas.

I walked over and picked up the top half with a smile. “These remind me of a set my grandfather used to have.”

“That has got to be the least sexy thing you have ever said to me,” he said with a laugh.

I made short work tugging off my clothes. Hue, ever the gentleman, turned his back and pretended to keep busy as he changed and waited for me to finish. The PJ top came to rest just below my butt, leaving my legs exposed. I shivered as the cold stone ground under my feet. “Do you have a pull-out bed like Mom?”

Hue shook his head and scooped me up into his arms. “No, but my bed is large, my chamber is cold, and I give you my word nothing will happen until you are ready.” He lowered me onto the bed, encouraging me to get under the covers and sliding in behind me. He went still when I snuggled up beside him and rested my head against his shoulder. “With you so close I may not be able to sleep.” I started to shift away but he wrapped his arms around me holding me in place. “I’ll be fine. Besides, I can’t wait to tell Lady Jura you called her ‘mom’ tonight. She’s going to be delighted.”

I smiled as I felt my eyelids grow heavy and it wasn’t long until I drifted off into the land of Nod.

I sat quietly reading while Oliver laid siege to my kitchen. I had to admit that I had come to enjoy having a Vampire around the house. He was a master in the kitchen and when he got bored he cleaned. Or if Sheldon convinced him to do something stupid that he knew would make me mad, he would clean. Tonight was one such occasion. The furball had insisted that I allowed him to hang out with the North Koreans when I wasn’t home. Oliver had driven him to the DMZ.

He finished plating the pancakes and sausage he had made. “Can you grab the milk and juice out of the fridge?” he called over his shoulder.

I bookmarked my page and left the new Isabelle book on the couch. Retrieving the milk and OJ with a smile I sat them on the table and stared with delight. “I love breakfast for dinner.”

“I know,” he said. “You’ve told me that at least ten times in the time I’ve known you.”

“Ah,” was all I could say as he poured a glass for me. Sinking into the chair opposite him I began attacking my short stack with vigor. A few bites in I noticed he wasn’t talking. “Are you alright?”

He looked up, startled. “Me, yeah.”

I looked him over and noticed he was pale with dark circles under his eyes. “Excuse me for saying this, but you look like a Vampire. When was the last time you fed?”

He paused and looked uncomfortable. “Before we went to the North Pole for the duel.”

“Don’t you normally feed daily?”

“Yes. A small feeding every day is better than going long periods without. Normally I would be doing fine but the realm travel is hard on me.” He looked down at the plate and took another bite.

“But why haven’t you fed?”I asked, on the verge of being exasperated.

“I’ve ordered blood to be delivered and the first delivery hasn’t come yet.” He looked up at me and seemed to read my next question. “You and I have been getting close and I didn’t want to take from the source because often it becomes very… sexual. I’m not sure where we stand but I wouldn’t feel right being involved with someone else.”

“Oh…”

“Did I read things wrong?” There was a sadness to his face.

“No,” I said quickly. “You read the situation right, I just hadn’t really thought about it. I mean I hadn’t really thought about your food and you…” my words trailed off.

“So you think there may be something between us?”

“Yes,” I took a drink of juice and swallowed hard. I got up from my chair and walked around the table. Oliver stared at me the entire way. Cautiously I slid onto his lap. Reaching up I pulled my hair away from my neck and over my other shoulder.

“Ummm, Dani? Not that this isn’t interesting but what are you doing?” He looked at me with a mixture of confusion and humor.

“Feeding you,” I said, turning on his lap to look into his eyes. “I’m not drunk this time so be gentle and try to keep the marks somewhere my co-workers won’t see.” Oliver began to chuckle and as he watched me it turned into full-on laughter. I slapped a hand to his chest. “Hey, this isn’t funny. You need food and I’m offering.”

“Are you really offering?”

I considered what he was saying. “Yes, I am.”

He considered me for a moment then shrugged. “Alright, then let’s do this right. If you are sure, I promise this won’t hurt a bit.” He wrapped his arms tightly around me and slid the chair back. Cradling me to his chest he stood and carried me across the room.

“What are you doing?” I asked as we neared the door to my bedroom.

“Feeding. You can say no to anything at any time, but feeding for you will be more comfortable on your bed where you can lay down.” Effortlessly he sank down on the bed. He encouraged me to lay back and began rolling up my sleeve.

“What are you doing?”

“You wear long sleeves, I thought your arm would be a good place because it would be easily concealed.” He pressed a kiss to the inner curve of my elbow.

“You promised me sexy.” The skin under his lips tingled.

“I don’t think I promised you sexy,” he said, lifting his head to look  at me.

I sighed heavily and sat up, pulling my top off over my head as I came. “Stubborn gentlemanly Vampire,” I cursed under my breath. I smiled, watching as he tried to maintain eye contact rather than looking down. Leaning forward I buried my hand in his golden curls and pulled his mouth down to mine. He was deathly still for only a moment before he pulled me into his arms.

Sliding his hands along my sides I felt my skin tingle and goosebump under his touch. I twisted on his lap, straddling his hips. I rose onto my knees in an effort to encourage him back, but instead he caught me and held me in place. He kissed a fiery path starting at my chin, down my throat and to the edge of my bra. Playfully he let his teeth graze the edge where the lace met the skin. He lowered his head and suckled at the hardening peaks through the fabric. I sucked in a deep breath, doing my best not to make much noise.

He paused, resting his cheek against my breast. “I can hear your heartbeat.” He smiled. “I can stop this. We can take things slower.”

In answer to his offer I reached down and tugged at his shirt as I undid the top few buttons. Taking the hint he released me long enough to tug it off over his head. I smiled as I ran my eyes over his taunt pale chest. A small patch of golden curls begged to be touched. I ran my hands over his cool skin and dragged my nails lightly down his shoulders and arms. Leaning down I caught his ear between my teeth and gave it a playful bite.

His hands steadied me on his lap and slid up to unhook my bra. I sucked in a deep breath when his mouth closed hungrily over one of my pert nipples. One hand teased the other breast while he steadied me at my waist. Catching me at the hip he turned me in his grip and laid me back down on the mattress, now with his weight holding me in place. I ran my hands over his back urging him on as he ruthlessly teased my poor breasts.

I arched my back, pressing my hips against his and heard him moan a little against my breasts. Skillfully he managed to one-handedly unfasten my jeans and began sliding them down my legs. Once he managed to tug them free I heard them land somewhere forgotten on the floor with our shirts and my bra. He slid his hand along the inside of my thighs urging me to part for him. When his hand came to rest on the juncture between my legs he lifted his head and pinned me with his gaze. I pressed myself against his hand, signalling my consent, encouraging him to continue.

He parted my folds and his cool fingers felt foreign and enticing. Starting with soft touches and caresses, I sucked in breaths that left me shivering as he made contact with my aching nub. He began stroking it slowly and increased the speed as he lowered his mouth, capturing on of my breasts again. I moaned softly but with increasing volume and frequency as the speed picked up further and he slid a finger inside of me. My body squeezed tightly around it and I bucked against it.

I felt like a fire had been lit low in my abdomen and he was stroking it hotter and hotter with each movement. I felt a light pinch at my breast as he bit into my flesh, feeding from me. I glanced down and the sight sent my body into a spasm as I tipped over the scale of my lust. My moans became ragged breaths and I rocked myself against his hand. I saw him lift his head and watch me with a smile. The color had returned to his face and his lips were stained the slightest ruby red. He started to shift off of me but I reached for him, capturing his shoulders.

“Not yet,” I pleaded. His answer was a smile as he stood, removing his own slacks. In the silvery glow of moonlight he seemed to beam with an ethereal luminescence. He tugged a blanket up over us and tugged me against his body. I slid my hands over his body, still shaking from my recent release. “I’m not done,” I said, pressing my lips to his neck and nipping at the delicate skin there. When I reached the tensed muscle between his shoulder and neck I bit down with some force.

He growled in my ear. The sound was primal and deep. “Are you trying to get me to go further? If you keep this up I’m going to want to take this relationship to a new level,” he whispered before running his tongue along my ear. In answer to his statement I slid a hand down his chest and over his abdomen. I couldn’t help but smile as I felt each of the muscles contract under my touch. It was his turn to suck in a deep breath and resist the urge to moan as I closed my hand around his manhood.

Stroking him I purred into his ear. “I think I’m ready for that level. And by the feel of this so are you.” I emphasized each word with a flick of my wrist. I started to move down his body, but he rolled over, pinning me beneath him.

Panting he leaned down and captured my mouth with his. I could taste the slightest coppery tinge of my own blood on his tongue, but rather than repulsing me it fanned my already growing need. I slid my legs around his hips and crossed them at the ankle. Reaching down he slid his fingers effortlessly into me. His breath came out ragged as he positioned himself at my opening. Inch by torturous inch he slid into me, his whole body straining with control. Tired of waiting and aching to feel him deep within me, I thrust my hips up to meet his and moaned as he caught me and held me there. All the muscles inside me ached to accommodate him so quickly but rejoiced in the pleasure of it. I was rewarded with his own deep pleasure-filled moan.

He whispered something to me in a language I didn’t recognize and then began to move within me. Slowly at first then building speed and force. Soon I found my ragged breaths turned to gasps of pleasure and then screams of pleasure as he pushed me higher and higher. Then with crashing force I was over the edge tightening around him but he didn’t stop, forcing me back up the climb again quickly and this time when I came I felt as if my heart was stopping.  I heard him cry his own release as the world went black around me, sending me flying on a wave of euphoric ecstasy.

When I came to again I was plastered tightly against his chest with his arms tucked firmly around me. “Did I pass out?”

He chuckled and I listened to the rumble in his chest. “You did.”

“Is that common?” I asked.

“For sex your first time with a Vampire?” He ran his hands over my back reassuringly. “Yes. It is quite common. As you build up resilience you’ll be able to reach satisfaction more and more without the fainting. I did my best to take it easy on you since it was our first time together.”

“That was taking it easy?” The shock in my voice was hard to miss.

“Yes, provided you allow me to pleasure you again I will strive to take you to new heights. Wait until we take you to become fully awakened. Your sensitivity levels only increase.” He nuzzled my neck. A shiver ran down my spine. He froze in place. “Are you alright?” Concern laced through his voice.

I nodded. “Yes, just picturing what normal sex, long lovemaking a and good hard fu…” He cut me off with a kiss.

“We’ll have time to try all those things later but for now you should rest and recover.” He kissed my forehead lightly. “Good night Dani.”

I smiled, closing my eyes. “Good night Oliver.”

 

 

 

I sat on the edge of the desk in Ian’s room. Despite my best attempts I had two more run ins with Cariss over the weekend and now as I sat there quietly I could feel his gaze resting heavily on me. Finally I looked up from Ian’s sleeping form and met his gaze. To my surprise the older Were chieftain offered me a gentle smile.

“Come take a walk with me, lass?” His voice was the gentlest I had heard it since he arrived. He moved past me silently and stood just outside the door in the hallway. I tossed one more look in Ian’s direction and moved to join him. Pulling the door shut, Cariss took my hand and tucked it into the bend of his arm. I suddenly realized where Ian had learned the courtesy. Leading me away from the room he cleared his throat. “I thought we may go find a cup of tea or coffee?”

I nodded walking along beside him. “You know, we were happy in Seoul before all this started.”

“I know, lass.” He patted the back of my hand. “He always sounds happy when he is around you.”

“Then why send Briar?” I asked with a tone a whinier than I would have liked.

Cariss chuckled. “He asked the same thing. Parents do what they think is best for their children. My son needs heirs and a family of his own. We knew nothing about you and he wasn’t sharing no matter how much prodding we did. All I knew came from hearsay within the OAC. I knew you were a Changeling and young. Those two items normally suggest weak, untrained and unreliable.”

I quirked a brow. “And what are your thoughts now?”

Cariss smiled in a way that made him blush. “I think you’re intense, hard working, passionate and a force to be reckoned with.  I’ve never seen an Elf or a Dragon do what you do. I’ve never witnessed someone take down my son so quickly.”

“That was quickly?” I gulped.

His chuckle was back. “Yes, Ian is a fierce warrior. One of the best our clan has ever seen. I was afraid he would go easy on you  because of your relationship. Instead, he threw everything at you and you faced him victoriously. That takes a great deal of skill and strength.”

“I was terrified,” I said flatly. “Warrior wolf is a scary scary thing.”

“It is. Our intimidation factor is one of our greatest weapons. During battle our bodies release a pheromone that causes our enemies to frenzy and give in to their fears. You seemed totally unaffected. Your composure is a testament to your fortitude.” He seemed strangely proud.

“Thank you?” I offered.

Cariss nodded as we pushed through the doors to the cafeteria. He directed me to take a seat while he grabbed some drinks for us. I settled into some of the more comfortable chairs by a window. When he arrived he handed me a cup of coffee and took a seat.

“So you’ve won the duel and now hold the fate of my son in your hands. What next?” he asked.

I took a sip of the coffee and shrugged. “I’m not sure. Hue and I have discussed our options for Ian and know what we would like to see happen but the elders must vote on it.”

He studied me carefully. “Do you plan on continuing to date my son?”

“I don’t know. Trust was broken and lies were told. I love Ian but I’m not sure what we are at this point. At least I now have the option to find out.”

“And what about Lord Hudraer?” he asked.

I looked at him over the top of my cup, considering what to say. “What about Hue?”

“Obviously you and he are very close. It’s no secret he loves you. He’s made his feelings for you very well known and clear to the public. Just the fact that you call him Hue when Dragon culture is so formal shows how close you are.”

“All of his close friends call him Hue,” I offered.

“Yes, but most of them probably knew him for years before doing so.” Cariss held up his hands. “Look, you’re young yet and so you can date and see whoever you want. Lord Hudraer and Ian are both at a point though where they need mates.  My son lost everything not that many years ago. I just want to see him happy.”

“I understand. I know I need to make some choices but it’s hard when you love someone to let them go and I love them both. I know it’s selfish of me. Can you at least be open to Ian finding someone who isn’t Were?” I hoped that his father would open the way.

Cariss sighed and considered me for a moment. “Yes, because he is now yours to control. All I ask is that you find him a mate soon. Briar will bear him an heir but he needs someone to complete him.”

I reached out and took Cariss’s hand, giving it a squeeze. “Protect Briar. Her desire to serve the clan made her do some horrible things I’m sure she now regrets.”

“Didn’t she attack you?” His eyebrows knit down and he looked annoyed.

“She did, but Ian will not be returning to Scotland anytime soon. He has voiced his desire to stay in Seoul a few more years. If the Dragons allow that, then so he shall.”

“Briar has been cast off by Ian twice now. She will carry the child then be sent back to her own people to carry the shame.” I could tell he was telling me this because he thought the sense of karma would make me feel better.

“No. She will be the mother of his child and your grandchild. She may have done some horrible things, but she doesn’t deserve to be ripped away from her child and shoved into a life where she never has any chance of being happy because you forced her to mate with someone who doesn’t return her affections. It’s not fair. A child should know both parents.”

He smiled to himself, shaking his head. “Tell me, does Lord Hudraer know you lead with your heart? As a leader you cannot show such weakness.” He let go of my hand and took a sip of tea. “I’m not saying you won’t be an excellent leader, my dear, but your kindness may also be your undoing.”

A familiar warm hand rested on my shoulder. “I don’t know about all that. I along with the rest of the brethren rather believe that her compassion will help balance our warrior spirits.” Hues voice felt like a big warm blanket wrapping around me. “And after last week’s performance we now know she is fierce enough to take on any foe.”

Cariss slipped his gaze up to look at the Dragon standing behind me. “Greetings Lord Dragon.  Perhaps you can give me more insight on what is to happen to my son?”

“What did Lady Alizeyah say?” Hue sank into the chair next to me.

“Nothing, and I’m sure you’ll agree that as head of the council you will be able to better answer that question.” Cariss smiled in a way that seemed almost slick. A drastic change from the gentleman I had been drinking coffee with a few moments before.

Hue cleared his throat. “Actually the council has agreed to allow Lady Alizeyah to make the decisions unchallenged. Your clan issued the duel to her directly, not us as a clan. Otherwise, I’m sure Lord Vallen, Lord Geren or I would have met your son on the field of battle. Instead you directly challenged a member of our council who was barely past being a Whelp. Who was untrained. Who had already been attacked by a Were.  You had best hope that Lady Alizeyah is full of the compassion you just moments ago were criticizing her for.” Hue’s voice sounded silky smooth and calm but I could feel the untapped rage storming within him.

Cariss tightened his jaw in annoyance before turning back to face me. “So you mentioned you had ideas concerning Ian’s punishment?”

“That’s enough, father.” Ian came to stand near us. Hue stood up and offered the healing Were his chair, but Ian shook his head. “Lady Alizeyah will make her judgement when she is ready.” Ian sank to his knee beside Hue and I and took my hands. “I swear my fealty to you and your clan. I am yours to command henceforth.”

Cariss stood up with a growl. “Get off you knees, boy.”

Hue touched Ian’s shoulder. “Then arise, our friend and brother.” Ian nodded and stood.

Cariss started to storm off but I turned to him over my shoulder. “Lord Cariss,” I called. “Let Briar know that she is under my personal protection. Everyone deserves a chance at happiness and if you can’t guarantee that chance then I will.”

Hue stood and hugged Ian. Ian didn’t struggle against it but squeezed my hand where he still held it. “You know you have really pissed him off don’t you?”

“As much as you swearing your fealty to the Dragons?” I shot back with a playful grin. “It should make family gatherings a bit more interesting.”

“To say the least. So, Lady Alizeyah and Lord Hudraer, I am ready to accept the punishment you will set forth for me.” Ian bowed his head.

“Return to Seoul for now and take care of whatever you need to. Meet us at the nest in three weeks time and bring Briar with you. All will be revealed at that time.” I could see shock on his face but he nodded.

“Should I be quitting my job in Seoul and looking for a replacement?” he asked.

“No, nothing like that. You will remain in Seoul as long as I do.” I watched as he breathed a little easier.

“About Briar, why are you so hell bent on helping her?” he asked.

“Because she has been dealt the short end of the stick and deserves some compassion.” Ian’s face softened.

“I know I betrayed your trust, but will you give me another chance someday?”

“Maybe. For now I’m going to keep things casual and sort things out for myself,” I told him. Ian nodded and headed for the door.

Hue wrapped an arm around me, pulling me to my feet, and pressed a tender kiss to my cheek. Leaning close to my ear he whispered, “Are you ready to get back to work? Justin is two heartbeats away from having a heart attack if we don’t get our work caught up.” He then ran his tongue over the tip of my ear. My knees gave out from under me and I had to turn my face and bury it in his shoulder to keep from moaning loudly. Hue chuckled. “Evidently when you got the Elf ears you also got the sexual sensitivity there too.”

When I could control my legs again I released Hue and put on my best stern face. “Let’s go, harbinger,” I directed. He tugged on my hand and led me in the direction of the office.

Confrontation

Oliver and Dani had commuted up to see us at the North Pole a few times but I knew things were up when Oliver came to see me alone. I daresay he lay in wait for Hue to leave. Hue had been gone just a few minutes when there was a knock. I didn’t bother to look up from where I was working at the desk; I just called for him to come in, thinking Hue had forgotten something. When I heard the footsteps that entered, though, I knew it wasn’t Hue or even Ian. I swiveled in my chair to face my guest.

“Oliver? How can I help you?” I asked.

“Can we talk for a minute? Or is now a bad time?” I motioned to one of the chairs near the fireplace and quickly joined him in the other.

“Sure, we can chat. What’s up?”

He shifted uncomfortably in the chair for a moment. “First of all, how are you feeling?”

“Fine, but I know you didn’t come here to ask me that. Is Dani alright?” A surge of worry shot through me and I think he saw it flicker across my face because he immediately started to reassure me.

“She’s well. This visit is about you. Did you know you were nearing your full awakening?” His voice was soft but stern.

I shook my head. “No, I wasn’t aware, but it isn’t uncommon for extreme situations to bring out a full awakening as a form of self preservation. I guess that’s what happened – Ian would have killed me because I don’t think I would have backed down. I don’t think he would have wanted to, but considering who he is to his clan I would understand.”

“My concern comes from having never seen a Halfling Dragon with your abilities or extreme level of change. It seems unnatural.” He pinned me with his gaze, his eyes drilling deeply into mine.

I shrugged which seemed to make him uneasy. “How many Fae/Darkling Halflings have you known in your life?”

“Maybe three or four,” he answered honestly.

“How many Tempests have you known? How many of them were Halflings straddling that divide?” I leveled my gaze, refusing to let him see any emotion in me.

“I’ve known only one other Tempest besides you and Hudraer in my life and she was Darkling. I have only ever heard of one other Tempest who straddled Fae and Darkling.” He seemed annoyed.

“Hue and this other Tempest – would you say they demonstrate other skills or powers outside of what you would expect in their race?”

“Well, yes…”

I cut him off. “Doesn’t it stand to reason then that I, as an Elf and Dragon Halfling, would also demonstrate talents you have never witnessed?”

He sat quietly for a moment. “Oliver, I’m not sure what you are looking for and I respect your recent promotion within the OAC but I know about your conversation with Ian and this conversation is going no better. If you are concerned about the safety of the population in case I’m not in control, you will be happy to know I am. If you are looking for a chance to poke the new ‘monster’ let me remind you that Ian and Hue BOTH still outrank you.”

He clenched his jaw, his annoyance showing. “Is that a threat?”

“No, you’re my friend and I wouldn’t threaten you over your treatment of me. However, if you disturb Ian as he is recovering or do anything to put Dani in the middle of an imaginary problem, then you can assume I am making such a promise.”

“Why do you care so much about Ian? You chose to meet him on the field of battle.” I wasn’t sure why he was changing topics so quickly.

“Despite what you must think, I love Ian. Did he break my heart? Yes, but that doesn’t change that I care about him. I do also believe that since this problem started between us, expecting some other clansmen to get involved is unfair. My mother is Lady Jura.  She holds a title equal to that of Cariss. I am her ONLY child, and as such asking Cariss to allow his heir to duel was a fair trade. The loss both sides faced was fair.” I let out a breath slowly with control.

“What will come of Ian? What is his punishment to be?” Oliver’s tone had changed to a quiet demand.

“Oliver, you are the Lord of a Noble Vampire house. If our roles were reversed, what would you tell me if I asked?” I stayed calm.

“I would tell you our ways and laws are our own and that you are not part of our fold and so have no need or right to that knowledge.” He blinked as he finished realizing he had just answered his own question.

“You are welcome to ask Lord Hudraer when he returns but I have a hunch his answer will be much to the same.” I sighed and smiled. “Ian is and continues to be considered a friend to our nest and clans. I doubt his punishment will be anything harsh.”

“But you cannot guarantee that.”

“You’re right, I can’t.” I shrugged again and got to my feet. “Oliver, I like you and the fact that my best friend seems to really like you speaks highly of your character. This matter is not your business. If you are concerned that I may be a threat to the community I suggest you file paperwork with Marthailain which will then be correctly addressed. Do you have any evidence that I or one of the parties involved broke any Otherworld laws?”

“No.”

“Then I suggest you go home and see Dani. Let us and the Were finish resolving the issue.” I opened the door for him, as I did Hue stepped in, startling me.

Hue smiled broadly at Oliver. “Oliver, to what do we owe the pleasure?”

“He was just checking in on us.” I answered. “But he is on his way out now.” I paused and gave Oliver a large grin. “Unless you would like to have this discussion with Lord Hudraer?”

Taking my hint Oliver excused himself. When he was gone Hue considered me carefully. I felt his mind brush against mine and watched as confusion and anger flared across his face. “Did he threaten you?”

“No, and I made it clear that it wouldn’t be tolerated if he dragged Dani into this either.” Hue nodded then captured me by the waist, drawing me against his chest in an embrace.

 

“She’s so pale,” I whispered to Oliver. “She looks like a…”

“Vampire?” Oliver supplied.

I turned to look him in the eyes and nodded quietly. He squeezed my hand where he held it. It was reassuring and warm. That was something I had to get used to. Despite everything we are told, Vampires are in fact very warm. The fresher the blood they consumed the warmer they are. A fresh feed could make them feel almost feverish to the touch; likewise if they are starving they can be icy cold  and even develop a chill. Oliver, at the moment, was very warm.

“Stop worrying. She just lost a lot of blood but is otherwise fine. Ian was the one who was injured severely.” He paused and looked as if he was deep in thought. His jaw clenched tightly and he turned to face me. “Did you know she had fully awakened like that? Did you know she was trained with a sword?”

I blinked at him, trying to figure out what to say. “Are you accusing me of hiding something?”

“No, no, no…” He began backpeddling quickly. “She seemed totally in control and at peace out there, but everyone watching was shocked. Hue didn’t react, but they have a mental and emotional tie. I’m just trying to understand how she went from wise-cracking Kat to some super creature. She displayed powers I have never seen.”

I shook my head. “No, I had no clue, but I saw her afterwards. She had no clue she awoke during battle.”

“I’ve never seen a Halfling like her before.”

“There is nobody quite like Kat.” I couldn’t help but grin at the statement. “Although, I was a little surprised the fire armor didn’t come out sooner.”

He quirked his brow. “That wasn’t new?”

“Oh, no. That was old hat. She figured that out while she was looking for her mother and she defeated the High Dragon Priestess. She and Hue worked on that spell specifically while you were clearing out bad Vampires in Seoul.”

“So the talons, wings, scales and eyes?”

“Are all new. So is the flying. She really struggled with it back at the nest.” I tugged on his hand. “If you’re sure she is going to be fine let’s go check on Ian.”

I leaned into Oliver’s side as he draped an arm around my shoulder and guided me down the hall. Ian was in a private room in the infirmary. It had taken three healers the better part of the night to patch him up. It was touch and go the first twenty four hours but now he seemed stabilized. When we arrived at his door Oliver caught me by the arm, preventing me from entering the room. With a little tug he pulled me against his chest and held me close. He stared down at me, his eyes glittering. I leaned up onto my tiptoes and met his lips with my own. I closed my eyes, drinking in the smokey and spicy taste of his kiss. His hands slid along my side before pressing me tighter against his body. Tentatively, I explored his mouth, ignoring the prick of his canines on my tongue.Finally he withdrew from the kiss and took a deep breath, resting his chin on top of my head.

“I’m sorry about that. This entire mess makes my head hurt. I just needed a moment of heaven before I went in there to see the hell my friend went through. Forgive me?” His words were soft and seemed almost melodic to me.

“Of course. How bad is he?” I finally asked. I hadn’t been allowed to see him since they brought him back from the duel.

“As of this morning he was still asleep.”

“Like a coma?” I asked in shock.

“No, just sleep, but he was badly injured. She came close to killing him. It has me concerned.”

“But he’s stable now, right?” My stomach did a flipflop.

He shook his head. “No, it’s she who has me worried now. I’ve never seen someone so young and untrained with so much power. My first priority is the safety of those in our territory. If she isn’t in control, she could be a massive danger to everyone, Human and Otherworlder. She didn’t defeat Briar, she almost destroyed the MacGregor Clan’s mightiest warrior. When he wakes up, I need to figure out if he was letting her win or if she is a possible monster.” He reached and opened the door for me before I could comment. His gaze told me what I needed to know – not to say a word about this.

Ian lay on the bed with eyes open, looking at us in question. Briar sat beside him holding his hand and Cariss stared out the window in silence. When Oliver pulled the door shut behind himself he flashed me one more warning look.

“How are you feeling?” I asked, crossing the room to take the seat on the other side of the bed beside him.

“I’ve had better days.” He paused, wincing a little as he tried to shift to face me more. “How is Kat? Nobody here is willing to tell me anything, but I know you’ll have the latest update.”

I smiled. She almost kills him and he’s still concerned about her. “She’ll be fine. She is pale and lost a lot of blood, but you’re the one that gave us a real scare.”

He waved it away. “I underestimated her and I shouldn’t have done that. Every time I think I have her figured out, she surprises me.”

“Even so, did you know she was that close to awakening?” Oliver asked. Cariss turned to face us all now that he was more interested in the conversation.

Ian paused and considered the words for a moment before meeting Oliver’s gaze. Both of their faces were like stone, revealing no emotion. “Yes, I have suspected she was close to awakening for some time now. I’m glad she did. I have little doubt she would be dead now if she hadn’t.”

“She almost killed you,” Oliver bit out.

“I know, but she didn’t. We both did what we had to for this pointless duel.” Ian sighed then smiled. His smile was almost chilling. “Yes, Lord Vampire, she was in control of herself and I dare say she was still holding back. I did what I had to and so did she – she just did it better.”

There was something Ian wasn’t telling us, but he seemed to know exactly what Oliver was fishing for. Ian shifted his gaze back to me. “Is she in good spirits? Aside from blood loss she seems alright?”

“Yes, I think she is a little shaken about the entire thing. She doesn’t take any joy in knowing she hurt you. I think it haunts her a little.” I squeezed his hand as I noticed his smile faded to one that was genuine.

“Tell her I’m fine, tell Hue to take good care of her until I can come check on her. She’s not a trained killer or a warrior. I’m sure this experience was hard on her. She had nightmares after the duel with her Aunt for weeks.”

Cariss threw his hands up with a sound of frustration. “The Dragon bitch won and you are to be punished because she didn’t respect our customs. I’m not sure I see what you have to smile about and I certainly hope she has nightmares for months to come.”

Ian growled a warning sound at his father. “You will not speak of her like this. The entire incident could have been avoided if you had listened when I told you not to send Briar here.” Briar shifted uncomfortably but said nothing.

Cariss’s face turned red but he stopped talking and stormed out of the room.

Ian didn’t seem surprised by Kat’s change at all and neither did Hue – but Kat did. I tucked away the information for later, knowing something wasn’t right.

Big things are happening for all of us here at Elven Life. My books are starting to come out, the podcast will be starting soon and the beginnings of next year’s film project are creeping up on us. I plan to reflect these major changes in Kat, Dani and Ian’s life. Expect a lot of new characters, new plots and stories, and an entirely new addition to the site. All that being said, the next few months are going to be a little crazy. I am making the vow to you to maintain at least three story driven posts a week with the hope of hitting four.

I promise you more adventures, more steam hot scenes, and a lot more laughs. Stick in there with us as we take you on this exciting journey.

Thank you,

Isabelle & Lisa

 

The icy air cut through the layers I was wearing and penetrated my skin like a chilling dagger. Every hair on my body stood at attention, puffing itself up to face the coming challenge. I was scared. I don’t mean nervous, though I’m sure those feelings were scrambled in there too. Scared! Fear had wound its grip around me and held tight.

Across the field a tall form stood in dark contrast against the bright North Pole white. I didn’t need to see clearly to know that it was Ian. I felt Hue grip my shoulder to reassure me but I could feel the fear and anxiety that had him knotted up as well. “Are you ready?” he asked in a voice that sounded sure and confident.

“No, I could train a thousand years and I wouldn’t be ready for this.” Even as I said the words they sounded disembodied and I couldn’t feel my own lips speaking them.

Hue’s attention shifted as a long string of shadows approached the field. Among the faceless forms mere my mother Lady Jura, Briar, Chieftain Cariss, Marthailain, Justin Kringle, and Dani. “Oliver will be here shortly once the sun finishes setting. Do you have the vial Ian gave you?”

I opened my hand and looked down at the tiny vial of Ian’s blood. “I’ve already marked him, what will this do? Is it going to boost my senses or something?”

Shaking his head Hue leaned closely. “As much as I dislike it, it will strengthen your bond with him. I cannot say more than that.”

I narrowed my eyes to turn and glare at him. “I’m in a life or death situation and you can’t give me more info than that?”

“No, because it was hard enough convincing everyone over there that I be allowed to come over here and walk you onto the field. I assure you it is only due to your tender age that I was granted that much.” With those final words he placed a hand on my lower back and guided me towards the center of the field.

I’m scared. I reached out with my mind.

I know. I am too. Focus all your fear on me. Let me carry the burden of it during the duel. Our connection is a tool that is yours naturally, carry it into battle. Pull whatever you need from me. Use everything at your disposal. His silent coaching did lighten my nerves and the closer we got to center field the more I felt him pull on my fear. In a quick motion I lifted the vial to my lips and consumed the metallic tasting liquid within it. It burned down my throat.

Hue, in case I don’t make it through you should know…

I know, and you are forever in my heart as well.  

As we approached the group and the sun finally set Oliver appeared at Dani’s side. He nodded silently in my direction. A large man with long dark hair, highlighted with streaks of white stepped forward. It was like looking into the future of Ian’s face. Cariss was handsome but his eyes lacked the kindness that Ian’s always held. This was a man who was a hardened warrior. His eyes raked over me as Hue stepped beside Lady Jura, taking her hands.

“You’re the Halfling whelp that has caused all this trouble? My son’s kindness and compassion attest that he would agree to a battle that doesn’t have to end in death. I wasn’t sure why the Dragon Lords wouldn’t discipline you for your interference, but now I understand. Lord Hudraer is as in love with you as my son is. You will not find Ian as weak.” His words were firm but not forceful. They were merely matter-of-fact and cold. Nobody there thought I stood a chance at winning this duel.

I squared my shoulders back and looked from Hue to Ian, then back to Cariss. “I’m sorry you find love weakness but make no mistake, I don’t regret my interference and no amount of duels would. I care about your son and the fact that you would allow any of your clan to face me on the battlefield shows your politics are dated.”

Everyone’s jaws dropped open at my statement except for Dani who nodded her encouragement for me. “You dare?!”

“Obviously, I do.” I gave Cariss one last glare before turning to face Ian. “Shall we.”

Ian considered me. “Don’t hold back because I won’t be either.” Even though his words were filled with warning they were filled with encouragement.

Marthailain stepped forward and gave the orders. “Duelists, face away.” We both turned, standing back to back. “Count your paces.” I began counting out my twenty-five paces from center field. Then came the words I was dreading. “Ready!” and in the split second before the last call came I forced out a breath and all my fear with it. “Begin!”

I flung myself around to face Ian. He was shifting as he crossed the field, effortlessly rushing towards me. Reaching with all my strength down through my toes I pulled on the earth in front of me, lifting a wall of dirt and stone between us. I heard a small gasp go up in the crowd. I forced my legs to start putting distance down the length of the wall between myself and Ian. The wall did little to slow him down as he found away up and over it.

I could feel his breath on my heels as I turned to venture a glance over my shoulder. He lunged at me, knocking me to the ground with his force and weight. Cariss cheered loudly from where he stood as the air rushed from my lungs with the impact of it. I desperately pulled my knees up between us as Ian’s teeth snapped at me, nearly catching me in the cheek. With all of my strength I kicked him with both feet, knocking him off of me.

We both scrambled to our feet and now stood facing each other in what felt like a staredown. He lunged at me me again and this time I jumped, pushing off the ground and connecting with the air. I felt something with in me shift and my skin tingled and the ground slipped effortlessly beneath me. I suddenly understood what Vallen and Geren had been trying to teach me with my flying lessons. My heart and body felt lighter but something within me told me I was more solid than before. My feet touched down just before Ian tackled me again.

As he connected with me he shifted, pinning me again, but I was ready for him this time. I twisted my hips and rolled him under me. shoving at his shoulders. He looked me in the eyes and shuddered for a moment before forcing me off. I flew back, hitting the ground on my backside hard. He recovered before me and charged again.

Focusing on my connection to fire I flung my arm forward, pulling a flaming ball of anger from the air and hurling it his direction. It caught him square in the chest. I managed to make it to my feet as he recovered. The smell of burned hair hung in the air. When he looked me in the eyes this time his stare was red and intense. Before I could pull another fireball from the air he threw back his head with a howl that pierced the night. My knees went weak and the pain was mind numbing. I clasped my hands over my ears as I sank to my knees. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed several of the watchers doing the same.

This time when he charged at me I had no defense and his teeth sank deep into the arm that I threw in front of me to prevent him from connecting with my throat. Against all odds and intense pain I ripped my arm free of his iron jaws. My blood splattered across the pure white snow. The moonlight seemed to glisten off my skin and cause me to glow with its silvery reflection.

Ian began circling me. Not giving myself any time to second guess, I dug deep. “Blessed fire protect me…” I whispered into the frozen air and pulled on every ounce of magic I could feel pulsating within me. Flames rippled over my skin and I felt the familiar burn as my clothes were consumed by flame and replaced with white armor. With a flash and gust of icy wind I pulled my sword and shield from the air.

A gasp went up from everyone watching but Hue. His eyes were level and calm. Cariss swore under his breath and mumbled about weapons and unfair advantage. Ian grinned, allowing his body to shift into a monstrous form somewhere between man and beast. He towered over me by at least two feet now and had claws that gleamed, revealing their razor sharp danger.

He swung at me while letting loose a deadly growl. I raised my shield to knock away his blow. As it connected I stepped in with my sword, turning under his arm and drawing the blade across his ribs. The blade caught hold and opened a gash along his side. He whirled around and returned my blow, drawing his claws up across my thigh, ripping through my armor and cutting deep. My leg buckled under me causing me to stumble.

I recovered just in time to pull the shield up in front of me as his claw connected with it. The force caused my blood to gush from my earlier bite. “I commend you, Lady Alizeyah, for your bravery,” called Cariss. I could barely hear him over the thundering of my heart in my chest. “But it is time for you to surrender before your blood loss becomes something you cannot survive.”

I felt myself weakening as I deflected blow after blow. Ian’s next attack knocked the shield in such a way it flew free of my hand and skittered across the icy snow-covered battlefield to rest in front of Lady Jura. Cariss looked at me with glee flooding his eyes. Ian stepped in to deliver a final blow but I dropped my shoulder, stepped into his side and drove my elbow with all my weight behind it into his gut. I allowed momentum and instinct to guide me. I grabbed with my weakened arm, pressing my sword’s shoulder into him and turned, pulling him down. He flowed over my shoulder, his own weight slamming him to the ground with the sound of a crunch. He struggled to get to his feet but from nowhere I dragged a silver scaled talon down his bare chest, opening the flesh wide and adding his scarlet blood to the pale cold ground. His wound hissed and steamed angrily and he staggered back in pain.

Knowing in my heart that if I didn’t push this to the end he would, I lunged at him, knocking him flat onto his back. I buried my taloned fingertips into his open chest wounds and he howled in agonizing pain. I laid my sword across his throat, drawing a hairline string of blood and continuing to apply pressure.

“HOLD! He surrenders!” called Cariss’s panicked voice behind me. I heard footsteps crunch furiously across the frozen ground to us. “Lady Alizeyah, we accept your victory.” Cariss’s hand clutched my shoulder, causing me to glare up and him and growl. A man who does not scare easily snatched his hand away as if I were made of fire.

Hue’s arms closed around me, pulling me to my feet and whispering calming words into my ear. I stood watching as Oliver and Cariss pulled Ian to his feet, already making preparations to get him immediate medical attention. Cariss turned to face me where I clung to Hue doing my best to appear strong. Marthailain and Justin assisted Oliver with Ian’s now unconscious form.

“I didn’t think you would kill him. I didn’t think you had it in yourself to kill someone you love.” Cariss said as he eyed me from head to toe.

“You threatened my nest, my clan and my honor. I love your son but make no mistake, I swore I would win.” I was shaking with anger because it should have been him being carted off for emergency care.

“Ian never said you were a warrior. In fact, he led us all to believe that you were weak and needed his protection. Quite the neat little bag of tricks you have there, using your Elven powers to commune with all the elements thus making your Tempest abilities all the stronger.” He paused, considering his words. “However seeing you shift partially into your Dragon form was awe-inspiring. I was told half Dragons never gained any of the forms but you, my dear, have most of them.”

I lifted my chin and held the Chieftain’s gaze. “Per the terms of our contract Ian will be surrendered to myself and my clan. We will decide what the appropriate punishment is. Thanks to you, your son broke my trust and my heart. While I understand your desire to see heirs, this entire fiasco was not my fault, it was yours. Your blood should be paying the price, not his.”

The old Were started to say something but instead gave a small bow and turned to follow the others with his son.

Dani and Lady Jura approached us. Jura looked at me with vindicated pride in her eyes while Dani stared at me in shock. I looked at my closest friend. “I’m sorry if that was scary,” I apologized to her, wondering how her perception of me had changed.

Dani shook her head. “Kat, I understand why you did what you did and could only hope I could find the same strength to do it if I were in your shoes. Do you know what you look like?” she blurted out.

Hue, not waiting for me to process her words, swept me up into his arms, flattening me against his chest. He crossed the snowy terrain quickly and came to stand beside a frozen lake. I gazed at the creature whose reflection stood before Hue.

Her skin glittered with the slightest twinkle of silver scales in the moonlight. Long taloned fingers hung from her hand, ending in tips that looked like steel points. Eyes as black as night with glowing violet irises dominated her face. A mouth with a set of deadly sharp teeth grinned back at me. Small but sharply pointed Elf ears pointed towards heaven and then there behind me were two beautiful, leathery silver Dragons wings. I let out a shaky breath as I realized the reflection of “her” was in fact me.

“Your Dragon form. You’ve completed your awakening,” Hue whispered softly against my ear. My breath caught in my throat and the armor slid away in a puff of smoke. My features and eyes shifted in front of me, returning to the way I normally was, only now with pointed ears. The gashes on my leg and arm were still bleeding. A dozen little cuts and two dozen bruises adorned my body. I stood naked in the cold staring at myself. Hue pulled off his long black coat and slid it around me before gathering me back up in his arms to return to our rooms.

Dani and Lady Jura walked alongside us all the way.

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