Not every romance is a fantasy, but ours are!

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.”

 

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

 

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