Fire Mates, Book 3
Published 2016 by Book Boutiques.
Copyright © 2016, Lexxie Couper.
All rights reserved.
“So this is Chicago,” Ryan Conley murmured, letting his gaze slide over the dimly lit, crowded bar he’d found himself in.
All of the tables were occupied, mainly with couples in varying stages of “getting to know each other”, and the small square of polished parquetry that passed as a dance floor was packed with bodies writhing against each other to the sensual sounds of the jazz band to his left.
The perfect place for a traveling dragon shifter to chill for a few hours.
Lifting the bottle of Miller to his lips, Ryan took a sip. He’d been in the U.S. of A for three weeks now—in an attempt to escape the craziness caused by his brother, Tyson, back in Australia—and he had to admit, American beer wasn’t half bad.
He’d tried a different brand in each state, Blue Moon in Nevada, Shiner Bock in Texas, Sam Adams in New York and now, here in Chicago, Illinois, Millers. It didn’t have quite the kick a Tooheys Blue back home had, but it did the job. Cooled his throat, tempered his thirst, and gave him a nice little buzz if he had more than a few.
He wasn’t having more than a few tonight. Tonight he was going to find himself a nice warm, soft body to dance with, maybe play a little tonsil hockey, partake in a little mutual feeling-up, and then, after the band had packed up and the bar had closed, head back to his hotel room alone and take care of his needs with his hand.
For some reason over the last few days, he’d found himself in a state of perpetual semi-arousal. He’d considered letting any number of the willing women he’d met during his trip tend to the urge, but something about the rising heat in his body didn’t feel…controllable.
Better a quick wank alone than run the risk of turning into a walking, talking, groaning barbeque when he climaxed. One of the more inconvenient aspects of dragon-shifter sex: igniting in blue fire when a truly soul-shattering orgasm claimed you. Something like that was hard to deal with if the other participant of sexual congress wasn’t a dragon.
Also fairly fatal to them as well.
“Buy you a drink?”
A low female voice on his right caressed Ryan’s senses, slamming his heart up into his throat. The smell of honeyed sulfur filled his every breath. His body grew hot and motionless, a statue of molten steel wrapped in an inferno of prickling heat. And yet at the same time, he’d never been colder, like he’d been encased in a glacier of ancient ice.
What the fuck?
The urge to shift into his dragon form lashed at him. He resisted. Just. Another wave of heat razed his body, a blistering caress that seemed to flood his cock with rigid fire. Christ, he was in agony. An agony more pleasurable than any he’d experienced before.
Pain and fire and pleasure and ice…
Ryan’s chest squeezed tight.
“One drink?” the woman beside him said, a seductive laugh in her voice.
No, not the woman: the dragon.
The owner of the voice was a dragon shifter.
An inferno engulfed Ryan again, an exquisite onslaught of pain and pleasure.
It wasn’t just his heart beating fast and his body burning up. His dick was growing thick and hard in his jeans. The desire to fist his hand in the woman’s hair and take possession of her lips with a savage kiss surged through him in a tsunami of hot lust. The need to fuck her mouth with his tongue as he sought out the junction of her thighs with his—
Mating fire? Shit, are you experiencing the mating fire? Is the woman beside you your—
Ryan ground his teeth, killing the unsettling question. He needed to shut this down right now before it got out of hand.
He wasn’t in the market for his Fire Mate. No siree. There wasn’t a hope in freaking hell he was ready to be mated for life, regardless of whether it was fated destiny or not. Screw that. Or not screw that, as the case were.
Keeping his stare on his beer, he fought the hungry inferno demanding he turn to the woman and claim her as his. “Got one, thanks,” he pointed out, giving the Miller bottle a jiggle.
Just as he didn’t need to look at her to know she was a dragon, he didn’t need to look at her to know she’d slipped onto the bar stool beside him. He could feel every move she made in his very core. It was intense.
Ryan didn’t do intense. Ryan did flippant, laid-back, casual fun.
His whole body reacted to her question. His dragon reacted to her, period.
That hungry fire licked through him, from his groin to his chest and up to the back of his throat, growing more insistent, more impatient. His scalp crawled, as if alive with a million fire ants. His balls throbbed.
That same need to crush her mouth with his, to own her pleasure and to burn up in it, rushed through him again.
He ground his teeth and shook his head. Damn it, he wasn’t going to succumb. He wasn’t. Casual bonking with a dragon was always wild fun, but something about the way his body and his dragon were reacting to the woman beside him screamed the complete opposite of casual.
And if it wasn’t casual, it was something far more significant, and Ryan wasn’t in the market for significant.
But if she is your Fire Mate…you’ve got no choice in the matter. You know that. If the woman beside you is your destined mate, the one you cannot ignore, reject, or deny, the second you make physical contact with her the clock starts ticking and you both need to consummate the relationship before things get—
A low growl rumbled deep in Ryan’s chest—his dragon making itself physically known—and he stiffened. All of him stiffened. Including his already semi-stiff dick. It stiffened all the way to an engorged pole straining against the imprisonment of his jeans.
He should have stayed in Australia. He should have stayed put and dealt with the fallout of Tyson being spotted in dragon form.
“One dance,” the woman said, leaning toward him.
Her scent—delicate and heady at once—filled his breath and, incapable of stopping himself no matter how hard he tried (and he fucking tried so hard it hurt), Ryan turned to face her.
The second his eyes connected with hers, the potent need to shift, to fuck, to mate, blasted through him. His heart quickened. His lungs turned hot, seared by the very breath inside them. His head roared with a cyclone of raw lust.
She studied him, still, expression unreadable. Her silver-blue eyes held his. If she was burning up in the mating fire like he was, she didn’t show it.
How could she not be overwhelmed by it? How could she—
“One dance?” she repeated, an accent not quite American, not quite anything else, giving the question a sultry lilt.
Ryan’s body reacted some more. At this rate, he’d shift inside the bar and claim her there and then.
Probably not the best thing to happen, given how packed the bar was. That and the fact the majority of the world still existed in a state of ignorance when it came to dragon shifters.
He couldn’t keep the moral high ground with his brother about exposure if he shifted here, now could he?
Maybe if he ignored her, she’d just go away and the mating fire would be guttered and he could just go back to drinking his Miller?
Drawing a deep breath, the woman’s intoxicating scent tickling what little control he had over his fevered dragon and hungry libido, he shook his head. “Don’t think that’s a good idea, do you?”
A soft chuckle slipped past her exquisite lips. “Actually, I think a dance is a very good idea.”
Despite his best efforts to return his attention to his beer, he ran a slow gaze over her.
She sat perched on the stool with artful sensuality, her long, sublimely toned legs exposed by an emerald-green leather mini-skirt, her equally sublimely toned belly bare thanks to the snug black crop tank that hugged her small breasts like a second skin. Her hair—a thick dark brown bob—brushed her dark straight eyebrows and jaw, as she smiled. Her lips were blood red and full and made him hunger to kiss her. Apart from the smattering of freckles on her upturned nose, her skin was creamy pale and exquisite.
“Nice ink,” he commented, trying to sound as calm and relaxed as she appeared as he took in the tiger preparing to pounce tattooed above her right hip.
“Thanks,” she said, trailing her fingertips over the tiger’s spine.
A shudder of ravenous need rocked Ryan. He bit back a growl, the urge to shift becoming almost impossible to deny. Staring into her eyes once more, he let out a ragged breath. “Think you should go now,” he suggested through gritted teeth.
Christ, if she didn’t… If she touched him…
She leaned closer to him. “Dance with me,” the woman whispered in his ear, her breath a warm kiss on his skin.
Ryan closed his eyes and let his head and shoulders slump forward.
Ah, fuck, who was he kidding? For better or worse, his Fire Mate was on the stool beside him; she was stunning, gorgeous and sexy as all hell; and they were going to have the most intense, incredible sex of their lives within the next twelve hours.
C’est la vie.
“Let’s go,” he said, straightening his shoulders and turning to face her.
As before, his heart quickened, his prick throbbed and a rush of molten heat engulfed him when he looked at her. She truly was gorgeous.
Christ, he hoped her soul was equally gorgeous.
“We need to find an isolated spot far away from humans ASAP,” he said. “Do you know of one?”
She blinked. For a split second, confusion flickered in her eyes. And then her pupils dilated and she let out a shaky breath. “We…we could just go to the alley out the back?”
Ryan laughed, fighting to temper the impatient, demanding heat spreading through him. He’d been horny more than once in his one hundred and forty-two years, but not this horny. Tyson had mentioned the mating fire was like being possessed by concentrated lust while being hurled into a volcano, but Ryan hadn’t really believed him.
Guess he owed his big brother an apology when he got back to Australia.
“The alley out the back?” he said, raising an eyebrow at the woman. What was her name? His brother had also mentioned something about dragons being able to hear their Fire Mates’ thoughts when the mating fire began, but at the time, Ryan hadn’t really been paying attention. Of course, the whole conversation had taken place over a hundred years ago, and Ryan had been checking out two very lovely human women practicing yoga on the beach as his brother talked. In fact, hadn’t he responded to Tyson’s info-dump with an incredulous, “Why the fuck would you want to hear their thoughts?”
Another apology he owed the bastard, it seemed.
What was her name? He concentrated on her eyes, seeking out her thoughts…
Nope, he wasn’t getting anything much yet. Was that because they hadn’t touched? Kissed? Exchanged saliva? Man, he really should have paid more attention when Tyson was doing the whole “sex talk” thing. Of course, what little brother listened to his big brother when said big brother was in pretentious lecture mode?
The woman studied him, her expression enigmatic. “Why not the alley? It’s big enough for you to shift in, if you want.”
Ryan frowned. “For me to shift in? What? You planning to ride me away from here?”
She threw back her head and laughed. The sound detonated a raw hunger in the very core of Ryan’s existence. If he’d still doubted she was his Fire Mate, his soul’s reaction to that laugh would have ended it.
He hadn’t anticipating finding his destined mate this trip, but found her he had. Now they had to figure out how to proceed. After they found somewhere isolated and—
“Of course I’m planning to ride you,” she said, smoothing her fingertips along the top his thigh.
Kaboom. Just like that, Ryan was on the cusp of shifting.
She’d touched him. She’d slid her fingers up his leg and his dragon was surging to the surface, ready to take her, claim her, brand her as his, and fill her with—
“Oh fuck!” she whispered, reeling back from him, her eyes wide, her lips parted. “Wh-what…what was that?”
Sucking in shallow breath after shallow breath, Ryan balled his hands into fists. Finally she was as rocked by the mating fire as he was.
For some reason, he felt less unsettled now.
“It packs a kick, doesn’t it?” he breathed, his pulse wild.
She stared at him. The scent of her pleasure radiated from her like sweet heat. If they didn’t get out of the bar soon, things were going to get crazy.
“Who knew?” he continued, trying for a chuckle.
She blinked. And then shook her head, as if trying to clear it.
“Let’s go to the alley now,” she said, drawing closer to him once more. She didn’t, however, touch him again. He understood. If she did, he suspected they’d both be dragons within a heartbeat.
“We’ve got twelve hours, gorgeous,” he said, risking his sanity and control by leaning toward her a little. “We don’t need to resort to filthy fucking in a dirty alley.”
A frown pulled at her eyebrows, there and gone just as quickly. “Come out back with me, draco,” she pleaded. The title—ancient Latin for dragon—slipped from her in a husky breath. A playful grin curled her lips, her eyes smoldered with open lust. “I’ll make it worth your while. I promise.”
It was Ryan’s turn to frown. He’d never imagined what meeting his Fire Mate would be like, but he sure as hell assumed it wouldn’t be so odd.
“What’s your name?” he asked, searching her eyes for…something.
Something wasn’t gelling. Something felt…wrong.
“Come out back with me,” she repeated, returning her fingers to his thigh and trailing them upwards. Higher. Higher.
Her fingertips skimmed the engorged bulge of Ryan’s trapped erection and an eruption of searing need engulfed him.
Took control of him.
With a growl that wasn’t even close to human, he snagged a fistful of her thick sable bob and crushed her lips with his.
She kissed him back.
There was nothing uncertain or hesitant about it. Her tongue delved into Ryan’s mouth with arrogant purpose, capturing his with sublime skill. Her hands smoothed up his chest, over his nipples—now hard points of flesh under his shirt—around the back of his neck to tangle in the hair at his nape. She held his head still and made love to his mouth with her tongue, a fierce joining Ryan could neither fight nor deny.
Every molecule in his body burned, a thrumming heat that radiated from his cock up through the pit of his belly into his chest. He grabbed her hips and hauled her up to stand in the V of his spread thighs, driving his hips to hers, letting her feel his response as he once more took command of the kiss.
She whimpered into his mouth, a soft sound that sent shards of scalding lust into Ryan’s core. He ravished her lips, feasting on them, demanding more from her. And she gave it, pressing the curve of her sex to his straining erection, raking one hand down from his hair, over his chest to wriggle between their bodies until her fingers found his fly.
Holy fuck, she’s going to—
Ryan pulled away from her. Gasping, he wrapped his fingers around her biceps and tore his lips from hers.
They had to get out of here. Now.
Before it was too late to stop what had already begun.
“I think it’s time to take this elsewhere, draco.”
Ryan stared down into her face, his body burning. Every nerve ending scorched and crackled with heat. He sucked in a slow breath, knowing his nostrils flared. His cock throbbed in his jeans so hard, agonizing rapture filled its rigid, constrained length.
The fire…the mating fire…
“Come with me.” The woman closed her fingers around his wrist and, without waiting for his response, turned away. She pulled him off his stool and walked across the dance floor, tugging him along behind her.
He went. Willingly. He couldn’t fight the mating fire anymore. There was no point. They were in it, engulfed by its flames, and they were horny. So freaking horny. And when a dragon was horny, a dragon fucked.
The cool Chicago night air hit him fast, wrapped around him like a shroud. He blinked, squinting at the darkness. An alley. They were in the alley. Behind the club. When had they walked through the door? He didn’t remember. He only remembered the woman pulling him from the—
Hot lips found his, the woman’s hands tearing his shirt from his jeans. Her tongue delved into his mouth, stroking his as her fingers scored lines over his torso. She pinched at his nipples, and he groaned into her mouth, her greedy lust firing his own into action.
Without thought, he hooked his fingers in the neckline of her shirt and tore it open, capturing her breasts with his hands. She arched into his touch, fisting her hands in his hair, her head thrown back, her lips parted.
He claimed the smooth column of her throat with his lips, his teeth. She whimpered, rolling her hips against his. The heat of her sex radiated into Ryan’s engorged cock, flooding his balls with dire urgency.
Fuck her…fuck her…claim her…
The feverish thought seared through his head. He sucked hard on her flesh, seeking the hemline of her miniskirt with a desperate hand. He had to be inside her. Now.
She shifted her position, just enough to let his fingers find their target. He shoved his hand between the supple leather of her skirt and the hot velvet of her inner thigh, wriggling it higher, higher, until the tips of his fingers found her moist folds.
He let out a raw groan. She wore no underpants. And she was free of pubic hair.
“Oh fuck yes,” she rasped, her nails scraping at his shoulders. “That’s it, draco. That’s it.”
The words, the title, flayed at his senses. He sucked in a sharp breath, the scent of her lust streaming into his being. He could smell her juices, taste their scent as they flowed through his nose and down the back of his throat, a distinct honeyed sulfur that all female dragons exuded. His cock pulsed, his blood roared in his ears. A million pinpricks of molten heat razed his flesh, his cells. Deep within, his dragon roared. Eager for freedom. Impatient for fulfillment.
“Fuck me, draco,” she continued, thrusting her hips upward until his fingertips dipped into her sodden pussy. “Fuck me with your fingers, then your cock. Claim me, take me, use me, and then take wing for me and fly me to the moon.”
The whispered words lashed at Ryan. His head spun. He shoved his hand higher up her spread thighs and drove two fingers deep into her pussy. It was tight and hot and wet and he let out a growl, a sound far less human than it should be.
And louder than any human could ever make.
The sound of a dragon about to mate. About to—
Something sharp sliced across the skin on the right side of his neck.
He flung himself backward, primitive instinct taking control of his movement as searing pain filled his throat. He snapped his stare to the woman’s face, his blood turning to ice at the site of terrorized shock in her eyes.
And the crossbow bolt embedded in the brick wall beside her head.
The muttered curse behind him had Ryan spinning around. A man stood a few feet inside the mouth of the alley, his face etched with frantic frustration as he fought to cock a bolt in the ornate silver crossbow in his hands.
Cold rage sank into Ryan’s gut. He recognized the crossbow. It was the kind used by the Extraho Venator.
A low snarl tore at his throat. He bunched his fists, his stare locked on the man.
Why the second bolt had misfired, Ryan didn’t know. Didn’t care. All that was important now was how slowly he was going to make the scum hunter suffer. And for how—
Fingers of steel wrapped around his biceps, digging into his muscle. “Come on, draco,” the woman—his Fire Mate—ground out, tugging on his arm. “We’ve got to go.”
He shook her off, or tried to. He wasn’t running. Not from an Extraho Venator. Not from a cowardly human who hunted dragons for the sport of killing and gloating rights.
He wasn’t running. He was going to—
The deafening squeal of a police siren cut the thought dead. Blue and red lights flashed at the mouth of the alley, painting the dark walls with bursts of light. A car door opened, followed by another.
The Extraho Venator tossed a look over his shoulder, and then turned a harried sneer toward Ryan. “Kill you later, dragon,” he called, a second before launching himself at the closest fire escape and scaling the stairs up into the blackness of night.
Ryan lunged after him, only to be stopped by his Fire Mate’s fingers on his arm, like talons of steel in his flesh.
“We have to go, draco.” She pulled hard on his arm, her voice strained, her accent thick. “Now!”
He swung back to her, the burning heat of the mating fire surging through him as his stare found her worried eyes.
“Please?” She tugged at his arm once more.
It was the plaintive fear in her voice that moved his feet. He turned from the flashing blue and red lights and, threading his fingers through those of his destined mate, sprinted down the alleyway. Away from the cops. Away from the Extraho Venator.
And with every pounding step, he swore to beat the shit out of Tyson when he got home. The mating fire was nothing like his brother had described. Nothing.
It was intoxicating.
And dangerous. Very dangerous.
“Here. We can stop here.” Deanne Roe squeezed the Australian’s fingers, halting his phenomenal speed. He stood motionless, casting the empty, treed park they now stood in the middle of a slow inspection.
His light gray eyes turned to her, his expression guarded. “Are you sure?”
She nodded, ignoring the way her pussy contracted when he looked at her. Trying to, at least. It was difficult. For one thing, the memory of the kiss he’d given her back in the alley wouldn’t go away. It was the most intense, surreal, indescribable kiss of her life. In fact, it was the most intense, surreal, indescribable anything of her life, and that was saying something.
From the second she’d seen him in the bar, her body seemed to smolder with a burning heat. That heat grew hotter as she approached him, had turned almost unbearable when she sat on the stool beside him, had stolen her breath when he’d looked at her.
But when she’d touched him…holy fuck, it was like she was on fire. Fire. As if she was engulfed in pleasurable flames that licked over her limbs, between her thighs, over her nipples…
It had unsettled her in the bar, but she couldn’t stop wanting to touch him. It had been unfathomable, but undeniable. To say she was drawn to him, aroused by him, sexually attracted to him, was the understatement of the millennia. Her unexpected and thoroughly unnerving reaction to him had messed with her plans. And her head.
She hadn’t intended to let him kiss her.
She sure as shit hadn’t planned to let it go beyond a kiss in the alley. A kiss had been all that was needed to nudge the Australian to where she’d needed him to be.
But when their lips had touched, when his tongue had stroked over hers, when his thumb had brushed her nipple, her plans had somehow gone to hell.
Hot, burning hell.
Like her body was on fire.
On fire and lusting for more.
So much more.
Dragging him away from the alley hadn’t changed that. Only intensified it.
Tearing her gaze from his, she knotted her torn shirt between her breasts and scanned the dark park around them, her heart racing. If she kept looking at him, she’d fling herself into his arms and beg him to fuck her right there and then.
That was something she couldn’t do. God, had Julian witnessed her debauchery? What would he think? Especially seeing as she’d also fled the alley without her—
The Australian’s voice jerked her away from the worrying thought and shattered her flustered calm. She frowned at the shadows around them, wondering if Julian was out there. Better to wonder that than to look at the Australian beside her.
But he’s so damn nice to look at…
“I want answers.” He moved to stand directly in front of her, his hands wrapping her upper arms. “Why did you want to get me into that alley so badly?”
Deanne shook her head. “I just…” She stopped, swallowing. The need to wrap her legs around his hips and impale herself on his cock burned through her, so powerful she could barely think.
What the fuck was going on? Had he drugged her somehow? Was it some kind of fucked-up dragon magic? She’d never heard of this kind of reaction to a dragon. And if he had drugged her or enchanted her, how did she—
“Tell me,” he growled, his fingers hard on her arms. “You were desperate to get me out there. Did you know that Extraho Venator was there, waiting?”
At the title, an icy finger of steel slipped up Deanne’s spine. It didn’t abate the fever ravishing her, but it cleared her head…a little. “The dude with the crossbow? Of course not,” she snarled, trying to shake his grip from her arms. She failed. He didn’t let her go. Nor did he stop staring into her eyes.
She wished to hell he would. It was hard to fight whatever he’d done to her while he was studying her with such open lust.
Crap, she needed to get away from him. Just for a few moments. Just to clear her head and regain her focus. Who knew where Julian was right now? Hopefully nowhere near here. Maybe he was dealing with the dick with the faulty crossbow.
Squirming in the Australian’s grip, she tried to step away from him. “I need…”
His fingers tightened harder around her upper arms. “Why did you lure me out into the alley? I don’t give a rat’s arse if you are my Fire Mate, I want to know what’s going on!”
Deanne frowned. Her belly fluttered. The need to tangle her fingers in his shaggy russet-brown hair and take possession of his mouth with hers, to press her body to his and burn up in their pleasure, intensified. “Fire Mate?” she said. Crap, why did she sound so panty and breathy? “I don’t know…”
She stopped, licking her dry lips as her stare moved to his mouth. She needed to feel his tongue sliding over hers again. Now. She needed…
She destroyed the minute distance between them and captured his mouth with hers.
A groan rumbled in his chest, one not at all human.
Hot ribbons of desire and rapture threaded through Deanne, combining with her delight. She had no idea what he was doing to her, but if she could keep her head long enough while it was happening, maybe she could get him to shift and then she could…
His fingers dug into her arms with brutal strength a heartbeat before he tore his lips from hers. “Enough,” he snarled, glaring down at her. Tall. He was so tall. And so, so fucking hot.
Her pussy contracted, squeezing a cock that wasn’t there. She stepped toward him again, aching for his touch.
Fury flared in his eyes, warring with the raw hunger she saw in their light depths. “No more kissing,” he said, holding her at arm’s length. “No fucking, no mating, no anything until you tell me what’s going on. We were just attacked by an Extraho Venator. You’re a dragon. Behave like one for a fucking second and think about that.”
Deanne blinked. Another chilly finger traced up her spine. “Dragon?” She shook her head, staring at him. In her chest, her heart thumped like a freaking cannon. “I’m not a dragon. I’m a Rider, that’s all.”
Disbelief guttered the sexual hunger in his eyes. For a split second. “A Rider? A dragon groupie?” His jaw clenched as he raked his gaze over her from top to bottom. As before, a pleasurable heat consumed her, pooling between her thighs and stealing her ability to breathe.
How was he doing this to her? And how did she stop him without—
His blunt voice snatched a gasp from her lips.
“For starters,” he went on, his stare once again holding hers, “the so-called Riders rarely survive a sexual encounter with a dragon long enough to give themselves a title. And secondly, no human, no matter how into dragons she might be, smells like you.”
“It’s true.” Deanne jutted out her chin as she struggled to fight the hunger overwhelming her. She wasn’t scared of him. She’d never been scared of a dragon shifter. It was one of the few things Julian praised her for. And one of the reasons she was so revered.
Oh, but you’ve never come face to face with a dragon like this one, have you, Roe?
His nostrils flared. His eyes narrowed. He drew closer to her, his head lowering to an inch from her face. “Bull. Shit.”
“I could tell what you were when I first walked into the bar.” She barely resisted the overwhelming urge—no, the craving—to close the small distance between their faces and capture his mouth with hers. “Why else do you think I walked over to you? Because I wanted to have a conversation? Because I wanted to hear you say g’day and crikey?” She barked out a laugh, fighting to stay motionless. “No. I wanted to be fucked by a dragon.”
His eyes flickered, an unreadable silver light that sent liquid tension straight to the junction of her thighs. “And you just happen to exude the same pheromones as a female dragon? What? Did you buy it by the bottle on eBay?”
His accent—very Australian, very unsettling—grew thicker with each sarcastic word. As did the undeniably rigid length of his cock pressing against her belly. She stared up at him, her heart thumping fast in her throat. Pheromones? What the hell was he talking about?
“You’re mistaken,” she insisted, shaking her head. God, why did her voice sound so breathless? She was never breathless. Never unsettled. She’d been interacting with dragons her whole adult life. Longer. Since she was a young teenager. Since her father had introduced her to the world of dragon shifters. She knew everything there was to know, everything that had to be done.
And yet, the pheromones? Why didn’t she know about the pheromones? Why hadn’t Julian told her about them? And what the hell was a Fire Mate? It sounded important. He’d called her that. Surely she should know what a Fire Mate was. Surely her father should have mentioned it. Why didn’t she know about Fire Mates?
Because you’ve never done this before. For all your interaction with dragon shifters, you’ve never been devoured by lust before. You’ve never lost yourself to the moment. Whatever he’s done to you, it’s made you—
“Now tell me again.” The Australian’s voice growled over her senses, sending a ripple of wicked excitement through her. Damn it, why did just the sound of his voice push her close to orgasmic rapture? “Why did you want me out in that alley so badly? Why are you denying you’re a dragon?” He drew closer to her still. “And while we’re at it, what is your name?”
Deanne forced herself to remain motionless. “I’m not a dragon. I’m a Rider. You’re not my first. My name is none of your bus—”
His mouth closed over hers before she could finish, the kiss brutal and savage. Before she could stop herself, or contemplate what she was doing, she poured herself into the kiss, her tongue mating with his. This wasn’t the plan, but she couldn’t stop. She didn’t want to stop.
The ends justified the means; that had always been her way. The ends justified the means.
Oh, but you’ve never experienced “means” like this before, Roe, have you?
The Australian’s hands scraped up her rib cage, covered her breasts. She whimpered, pressing her hips to his. She was on fire again. Burning up in her desire. Her need for him. To be filled by him.
She reached for his fly, her pulse racing at the feel of his trapped, engorged cock straining against the denim. That was good. It would spring free the second she released it. She could impale herself on its hard, thick length immediately.
His lips tore from hers. There one second—gone the next. As were his hands from her body.
Deanne snapped open her eyes, her breath ragged.
He stood but a few feet away, the edges of his mouth twitching. “Now tell me what your name is. Or shall I spend the rest of eternity calling you Fire Mate?”
The two words seemed to reach into Deanne’s core like a tight fist. Her pulse accelerated until it was a painful hammering in her throat, her nipples grew hard and painful. A heat more intense than the sun’s rays caressed her flesh, her limbs. Laved at her sex, her clit.
She gasped, her eyes wide, her breath caught.
What the fuck was going on? None of this made any sense.
“What is a Fire Mate?” she asked. The faintest stirrings of fear licked at her. Tainted the concentrated lust heating her blood.
The Australian’s stare narrowed. “How can you not know?”
Deanne licked at her lips. They were dry. And craving the touch of his. “I told you,” she snapped back, although even to her ears it sounded like a whispered plea. “I’m not a dragon shifter. I’m a groupie. I get off on sex with your kind. I hunt your kind to—”
“Hunt? Fuck, I forgot…” The man’s snarl made her flinch. He stepped away from her, scanning the dark park around them.
He suddenly looked dangerous. Very dangerous. Menacing strength seemed to claim his tall, lean body, and a low growl—unlike any she’d heard a dragon shifter make before—rumbled in his chest. It should have made her worried. On edge. Instead, the whole package made her aroused.
Made her want to throw him to the ground, strip his clothes from his body, and impale herself on his cock.
“The Extraho Venator may have tracked us,” he said, turning back to her. “It’s not safe for us here with the hunter likely on our tail, and I’m not in the mood to shift to incinerate him.”
Deanne’s heart slammed into her throat. Shift.
Oh boy, Roe, that’s exactly what you want him to do. Of course, the timing completely sucks now.
“We need to get out of here,” he said. “Now.”
“Or we could go back to the alley,” she suggested, head roaring, pulse pounding. “My bike is there. We could go back together, and I could maybe take you to wherever it is you go to stretch your wings.”
Silver-gray eyes turned to her. His nostrils flared. “What is your name?”
The tone of his voice sent a wicked thrill into the pit of her belly. She’d never met a dragon like him. He was…intoxicating. Swallowing the sudden lump of confusion in her throat, she lifted her chin and met his unwavering stare. “Tigress.”
He burst out laughing.
Deanne gaped at him. Laughing? He was laughing? At her? Right now? How did a man go instantly from being almost petrifying in his menacing intensity to downright sexy in his boyish mirth?
“Of course your name’s Tigress.” He grinned, shaking his head. “The ink should have given it away.”
Deanne’s hand flew to the tiger tattoo above her hipbone. “Do you have a problem with my name?”
“I do if you expect me to call you that from now on.” He chuckled. “Especially when we’re having sex. A dragon should not yell out Tigress while fucking another like rabbits. One too many animals in the mix, I’m afraid.”
A fresh ribbon of lust unfurled through Deanne at his words. She pressed her thighs together, willed the craven want away and crossed her arms over her breasts. “Who says we’re going to have sex? Maybe the way you’re behaving is too weird for me to actually want sex with you anymore. And what’s wrong with calling out Tigress?”
He laughed again. “We’re Fire Mates. We’re going to spend the next two or three centuries having sex. As far as I know, Fire Mates rarely go a day without fucking.”
That hot ribbon of unsettling desire threaded through Deanne’s agitation again. An invisible lick of heat stroked over her clit. Having sex with him every day? Fuck, what would it be like to have sex with him every day? Kissing him had almost undone her. What would it be like to—
Roe. Get your head together. That’s not the game plan.
She narrowed her eyes into a glare. None of this was the game plan. The amazing kiss, the surreal effect he was having on her body, the way he seemed to be messing with her head, the dragon hunter in the alley…this bizarre conversation… “Only two or three centuries, draco?” She emphasized the term. “You’re not into commitment, I see.”
A grin pulled at the corner of his mouth. “You titled me draco, honey, not me. My name’s actually Ryan. And four or five centuries is the average lifespan of a dragon shifter, give or take a few decades, even ones denying what they are for some reason. Less if they’ve got an Extraho Venator sniffing out their scent. Which we do, so can we go now?” The grin grew wider. Mischievous. Sexy. “Tigress?”
Deanne’s belly knotted. The longer she stayed with him, the more dangerous it became. Especially after the unexpected attack in the alley. Ryan was correct; the dragon hunter wouldn’t stop. Not now that he’d found his target. Not after such a close call. Unless Julian had dealt with him, the hunter wouldn’t let up his pursuit, and Ryan was likely to find himself impaled with a crossbow bolt or two.
Which meant Deanne had to stay with him.
And have sex with him. Lots of—
She killed the disturbingly enticing thought before it could finish forming. It didn’t stop the pressure in her sex throbbing harder though. Nor the twisting need in her belly. Damn it, this was going to get complicated. Really complicated.
Grounding her teeth, she fixed Ryan with a level look. “Your place or mine?”
He chuckled. “That’s my little Tigress.”
With a wink, he turned and began running through the shadows, heading deeper into the park.
Deanne swiveled at the waist, scanning the area around her. If the Extraho Venator was about, she couldn’t feel him watching. That didn’t mean he wasn’t lurking in the dark, but she doubted it. By the time he’d made it back to the street from his hasty fire-escape scale, she and Ryan would have been long gone. Most hunters knew how to track a dragon however, and she didn’t think it would be long before this one found Ryan again.
Unless he’s incompetent? He did shoot at Ryan while he was still in human form, after all.
Biting back a low growl of contempt, Deanne ran after Ryan. She couldn’t let him out of her sight now. She’d have to change all her plans, but she couldn’t let him out of her sight. Hopefully her father had dealt with the hunter and the threat was over and she could finish what she’d set out to do weeks—
Her foot collided with something hard and she stumbled to a halt, peering at the dark ground. Or rather, what was on the ground—clothes. Tossed aside clothes. Jeans. Boots. Socks. A T-shirt.
Clothes she recognized. Ryan’s clothes.
Her heart punched its way into her throat. Crap. He’d shifted. Or was about to. And she’d lost sight of him.
Crap, shit, fuck.
She squinted into the blackness around her, searching for a naked Australian.
Nothing. They were in the middle of a large clearing, with what looked like a concrete sidewalk or bicycle track ringing the perimeter before the trees started again. Thin wispy clouds stretched across the black sky, the pale new moon casting little light on her surroundings.
Deanne bunched her fists. “Damn it.”
Wherever Ryan was, she couldn’t see him.
A cold ribbon of unease threaded through her frustration. And a thick rope of emptiness.
Emptiness? What is there to feel empty about? Failure?
The answer didn’t fit. She turned on the spot, searching for him.
Her so-called “Fire Mate”.
What exactly was a Fire Mate? And why did Ryan keep insisting she was his?
And more to the point, why did he insist she was a dragon?
Perhaps you’ve spent so long studying dragon shifters you’ve taken on some of their traits. You’ve been tracking Ryan ever since he arrived in America, after all. Maybe he’s caught your scent more than once and confused it with—
The air above her displaced with a violent gush of wind. It slammed into her, sending her backward in a tangle of feet. She fell on her ass, the ground cold on her bare legs, her hair whipping about her face as another gust of air flowed over her.
And then a massive form the color of fresh blood appeared in front of her. A massive form in the shape of a dragon, its wings beating the air with slow swipes as it landed on all fours a few yards away, its long, wickedly-sharp talons digging into the soft grass.
Deanne’s breath caught in her throat, her attention ensnared by the creature before her.
Oh my God, he’s beautiful.
The thought had just enough time to whisper through her stunned mind as a million pinpricks of molten fire covered her flesh, and then a kaleidoscope of iridescent light shimmered over the dragon’s form and Ryan stood there, gloriously naked.
“My hotel is over a mile that way,” he said, waving an arm to his right as he strode toward her, his exquisitely sculpted muscles coiling and flexing with each step. His very impressive shaft, she couldn’t help but notice, was semi-rigid between his thighs. “I couldn’t detect that many people on the streets between here and there, but that doesn’t surprise me, given the time of—”
The word night didn’t leave his lips. It had no hope. Not when Deanne slammed into him, her arms wrapping around his neck, her lips crushing his.
The sight of Ryan in his dragon form had reignited the starving, ravenous need for him. The sight of his naked human form—so beautiful, so sensual, so sexy—had been the propellant that moved her forward.
She kissed him, unable to stop. It was dangerous and stupid and insane, but she had to kiss him. She had to taste his saliva on her tongue, her lips. She had to feel him groan into her mouth as she wrought pleasure on his soul. The fire sweeping through her, the burning desire consuming her, demanded it. If she didn’t kiss him, if she didn’t fuck him, she would surely incinerate in a need more powerful, fiercer than any she had known or experienced. It was beyond her; it frightened her. She could no more fathom it than she could deny it.
The only thing that mattered was being pleasured by Ryan and pleasuring him in return. Bringing him to climax, over and over. Sucking his seed from his cock with her mouth. Riding his face until his tongue made her come. Fucking him. Being claimed by him.
Mating with him. As all Fire Mates do.
The nonsensical concept sent shards of liquid tension into her pussy. She raked at his bare chest, her nails dragging over his puckered nipples. He moaned, his hands finding her clothes and tearing at them. She helped him. Shucking out of her skirt even as she continued to worship his mouth. She kicked the garment away, the cool night air flowing over her feverish flesh, between her thighs, over her moisture-slicked folds.
Ryan’s fingers sank into her slit, wriggling deep inside her. She bucked into his penetrations, her whimpers of capitulation vibrating in her chest. His lips left her mouth, his teeth nipping a path down her throat, along her collarbone, her shoulder. He scissored his fingers within her inner walls, finding her G-spot with masterful talent every time.
“Oh, oh,” she panted at the dark night sky, her fingers threading through his hair. “Oh yes. Yes.”
She rode his hand, an orgasm crashing through her with startling force. So fast, so powerful.
“That’s it, Tigress.” Ryan’s breath was hot on her neck, in her ear. “Lose yourself to the pleasure.”
She cried out, the climax shuddering through her with growing pressure. She clung to him, her knees shaking, her head swimming. God, this was amazing. How could it be so good? With just his fingers? With just a touch?
Iridescent whips of blue lashed at the blackness of the night. She cried out again, the color like a physical caress on her soul.
Blue fire. Blue fire engulfed her, engulfed them both. Where…where was it coming from? And how was she not screaming in pain? How was she…she…
The blue light swirled over her vision. Flames of color that danced and flicked into shapes that Deanne’s desire-drowned mind swore were dragons. Two dragons, their graceful bodies pressed together, their tails entwined, their wings whisking them into the night as their noses nuzzled.
“Come for me, my mate.” Ryan’s murmur played over her rapture like mist.
She did, her second climax rocketing through her.
Claiming her, just as he wrapped his other arm around her back and lowered her to the ground.
Her orgasm peaked, a detonation of scalding fire within her core. She clawed at his shoulders, the dragons of blue fire writhing through the darkness, making her burn hotter, hotter.
And then he spread her thighs with a purposeful knee and pushed inside her, his thick, hard length sliding in and out, driving her closer, faster to another orgasm. An impossible orgasm. One that shouldn’t be. One that could only bring pain.
“Fuck me, Tigress.” He thrust into her, his lips on her throat, his hands on her breasts, her belly, her ass. “You are so tight, so perfect. I’m gonna…gonna come soon. Soon. Oh fuck, come with me, honey. Come with me.”
Deanne whimpered. From pleasure. From rapture. From the fire engulfing her.
And as she called out her release, as Ryan’s name burst past her lips, the dragons swirled about her. Filled her vision. The night’s shadows grew blue, blue, so blue she could barely see. The sky vanished, lost to flames so hot they burned beyond blue to white.
Flames surrounding her. Surrounding Ryan.
Engulfing them both.
“Fuck,” Ryan roared, his rhythm lost to his thrusts. “Fuck, yes, yes.”
Their twin orgasms lasted a lifetime. The blue fire flared around them. Consumed them.
And then all too quickly, it finished. Deanne’s climax faded away, leaving her breathless and panting and clinging to Ryan’s hunched shoulders as he lay slumped—half on her, half on the ground beside her. She stared at the black, cloud-streaked sky above, her flesh ice cold after the smolder of the flames.
Flames? Blue fire? How are you still alive? This can’t be…
Ryan’s low, languid chuckle caressed the side of her throat. “Told you you were my Fire Mate.”
Deanne’s pulse thumped. She swallowed. “I’m not a dragon. I told you, I’m a Rider. That’s—”
“Bullshit,” he laughed, lifting his head to grin down at her. “Honey, you just lived through the mating fire. A human doesn’t survive that, no matter how many dragon shifters they’ve screwed. You know it. I know it. And now we’ve found each other, now we’ve experienced it together…”
Whatever Ryan said after that, Deanne didn’t hear.
She stared at him, her heart smashing fast against her breastbone, her mouth dry.
The blue fire.
Holy shit, had she just lived through what Julian sarcastically called the “fuck flames”? The phenomenon that occurred when two rutting dragons spontaneously combusted during coitus?
Had she truly just…just burst into flames, blue flames, while having an orgasm? A soul-shattering orgasm?
Oh God, how could that be?
She wasn’t a dragon shifter. She wasn’t. How could she be a dragon and not know it? It wasn’t possible.
No Extraho Venator could ever be a dragon.
And she’d been an Extraho Venator since the day her father had put a crossbow in her hands at the age of twelve, aimed it at a downed dragon, and told her to squeeze the trigger.