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Praise for The Werewolf Upstairs:
"Original and full of laughs, steamy sex, and madcap mayhem."—Night Owl Romance
Let the Sp...
Praise for The Werewolf Upstairs:
"Original and full of laughs, steamy sex, and madcap mayhem."—Night Owl Romance
Let the Sparks Fly
Bliss Russo thought nothing exciting ever happened in her life. Until her building caught on fire and she had to be carried out of the flames in the arms of a gorgeous fireman. Sure, her apartment is now in shambles and she'll have to start her huge work project completely from scratch. But at least her love life is finally looking up...if only she can find her red-hot rescuer again.
Dragon shapeshifter Drake Cameron is the last of his clan, and the loneliness is starting to claw at him. He's met only one woman who might be able to stand the shock of his true nature. After all, she barely batted an eyelash when her home burned down. And feeling her curves against him was just as hot as the inferno. Just when he thinks he'll never track her down, she walks into his firehouse—with no idea what she's about to get herself into...
“I’m never attending a destination wedding again.”
Bliss Russo dragged her garment bag and carry-on up the ramp to her Boston apartment building. He...
“I’m never attending a destination wedding again.”
Bliss Russo dragged her garment bag and carry-on up the ramp to her Boston apartment building. Her purse had fallen off her shoulder ten minutes ago and dangled from her wrist. She needed the other hand to hold her cell phone to her ear so she could bitch to her friend Claudia.
“Oh, poor you. Someone made you go to Hawaii.” Claudia chuckled. “The bastards.”
“Seriously… do you know how long the flight is? Or I should say flights. First there’s the leg from Boston to L.A., then L.A. to Honolulu, and finally Honolulu to Maui. Two days later, I go from Maui to Honolulu. Then Honolulu to L.A. Then L.A. to Boston. Plus I had to follow Hawaiian wedding tradition—at least what the bride’s parents assured us was the tradition—and party all night. I haven’t slept for days.”
“No, I’m not. Unless you count the five-minute nap I took at LAX. I was so exhausted, I woke up on the chair next to me when the guy I had apparently fallen asleep on got up and left.”
“Sorry. Okay, you’re right. It was a lousy, miserable thing to make you do. So where are you now?”
“Almost home. In fact, I’ll probably lose you in the elevator. Give me a few days to sleep and I’ll call you back.”
“Call by Thursday if you can, and let me know if you want to go out Saturday night.”
Bliss jostled the door open, and one of the residents held it while she maneuvered her luggage through. “I shouldn’t. I worked a little harder and got a few days ahead so I could go to this damn wedding in the first place, but I really can’t afford to take any more time off. The competition will crush me.”
“That’s what you get for landing in the finals of your dream reality show. What is it? America’s Next Great Greeting Card Designer?”
“It’s not called America’s Next… oh, forget it. I’m at the elevator now and I’m too tired to care. I’ll call you.”
“Okay, sugar. Sweet dreams.”
“Thanks.” Bliss hung up and dropped her phone into the bowels of her purse. She yanked and stuffed her luggage into the tiny elevator, which she rode to the second floor. Eventually, she dragged everything to her door, rattled the key in her lock, and brought it all into her bedroom. Passing out on top of her bed fully dressed seemed like the only good idea she was capable of having, so she donned a sleep mask, did a face-plant, and stayed that way.
Hours later—or maybe days—Bliss awoke to a deafening blare. Still disoriented, she had no idea what the hell the noise was or, for that matter, if it was night or day. She tore off the sleep mask and still couldn’t tell what was going on. But what was that smell?
Oh. My. God. Smoke! That ear-piercing screech is the friggin’ fire alarm.
Bliss tried to remember what to do. Oh yeah, crouch down low and get the fuck out of Dodge. Thank the good Lord she lived on the second floor, because she couldn’t use the stupid elevator.
Bliss remembered just in time to put her hand to the door before opening it. It didn’t feel as though there were an inferno on the other side. Staying low, she opened the door. The smoke was so thick she could barely see. She held her breath and charged toward the end of the hall.
Suddenly, her head hit something firm and she fell backward. “Oomph.” The sharp intake of breath resulted in a coughing fit.
Looking up to see what she had hit, she realized she had just head-butted a firefighter’s ass.
He swiveled and mumbled through his mask. “Really? I’m here to save you, and you spank me?”
Despite her earlier panic, Bliss felt a whole lot safer and started to giggle. Oh no. My computer! “Wait, I have to go back…”
“No. You need to get out of here, now.” The firefighter lifted her like she weighed nothing—an amazing feat in itself—then carried her the wrong way down the rest of the hallway, through the fire door, and down the stairs.
“Wait!” She grasped him around the neck and tried to see his face through watering eyes.
His mask, helmet, and shield covered almost his whole head, but she caught a glimpse of gold eyes and a shock of hair, wheat-colored with yellow streaks, angled across his forehead. She thought it odd that the city would let firefighters dye their hair like rock musicians.
As soon as they’d made it to the street, she could see better and noticed his eyes were actually green and almond shaped. She must have imagined the gold color. He set her down near the waiting ambulance and pulled off his mask.
What a hottie! But I don’t have time for that now. She staggered slightly as she tried to head back toward the door.
He grabbed her arm to steady her. “Hey,” he shouted to one of the paramedics. “Give her some oxygen.”
“No, I’m fine. I don’t need any medical attention.” Thanks to the gorgeous hunk with the weird hair.
“Please… let them check you out.”
“I’d rather let you check me out.” She covered her mouth and grinned. “Sorry. It must be the smoke inhalation.
He laughed. “Seriously? First you grab my ass, and now you’re hitting on me?”
“I didn’t ‘grab your ass.’ For your information, I ran face-first into your… behind.”
“Oh. Well, pardon me for being in the way.”
His smile almost stopped her heart—or was it the lack of oxygen? Regardless, she had to rip herself away from him and get her computer out of the building before it melted. No matter how hard she pulled, he didn’t budge.
“You need to go back in there for my computer. Apartment twenty-five, halfway down the hall.”
He took off his gloves. “Look, I’m sorry, miss, but if I went back in there now, my chief would have my hide.”
“But my whole life is on that computer. I’m in the finale of a huge TV competition.”
He didn’t seem impressed, so she tried again.
“It’s my greeting card business and all my newest designs are there. This show would pay for a whole ad campaign and give me fifty grand if I win.” Realizing she sounded like a babbling idiot, she pressed on. “I’ve worked so hard to make it this far. If I lose my work, I’ll never catch up. I’ll wind up presenting a half-assed portfolio, and not only can I forget about winning, but it could ruin me!”
Drake couldn’t believe what he was hearing. His weakness might be beautiful brunettes, but did she honestly expect him to risk his life for an object that could be replaced? Could she not see smoke pouring out of the building? Sure, he could probably manage it, being fireproof and all, but after the chewing out he got the last time…
“Don’t you keep a backup file online?”
“No. I don’t trust the Internet,” she said with the saddest expression in her beautiful brown eyes. “There are too many hackers out there, and this greeting card competition is outrageously competitive. Pleeeease!”
All this hoopla for a piece of paper that reads, “Roses are red. Violets are blue?” The brunette didn’t appear to be insane, no matter how stupid this reality show sounded. There were crazier things on TV.
His chief had already warned Drake about risking his neck and told him to knock off taking stupid chances. He’d lucked out the last time. The mayor, a big dog lover, heard that Drake had gone back into a two-alarm blaze to rescue a greyhound. Then Mr. Mayor made the chief disregard any thought of suspending Drake by giving him a medal. But that sort of luck wouldn’t hold, especially if this insubordination was about an inanimate object.
Drake reached out and physically turned the woman around so she could see the inferno behind her. The feel of her soft, warm skin sent an unexpected jolt of awareness through him.
Her hands flew to cover her mouth, and the same sad, desperate sound all fire victims made as they witnessed the destruction and loss of something precious eked out. The tears forming in her eyes did him in.
If he weren’t fireproof, running back into that building would toast him like a marshmallow, but being a dragon, he knew he could do it.
“Ah, hell.” Before anyone could stop him, he dashed in the side entrance. He could always say he thought he heard a call for help.
“Stop. Oh, crap,” was what he really heard. Apparently the brunette had changed her mind, but he was committed now.
Second floor, halfway down the hall, he repeated to himself until he found it. She had left her door open. Fortunate for him, not so much for her apartment. Smoke and flames were everywhere. He felt the familiar tingle just under his skin that signaled an impending shift. Fan-fucking-tastic. Skin became scales. Fingers became claws. His neck elongated, and out popped his tail, creating an unsightly bulge in the back of his loose coveralls. His wings were cramped and folded up under his jacket, but it couldn’t be helped.
His sight was greatly improved in his alternate form, and he spotted the Mac on her glass tabletop. The flames hadn’t reached it yet, so he did his best to grab it with his eagle-like talons and carry it against his chest.
Lumbering down the hall, he wondered where, and if, he’d be able to shift back before anyone saw him. Maybe it’s cooler in the basement—but what if I get trapped down there?
Instead of heading down another level, he opened the emergency door just enough to toss the laptop onto the grass outside. The outside air was so much cooler that he thought he might be able to shift back right there.
Concentrating on his human form, he inhaled the fresh air and sensed his head and body shrinking and compacting. He glanced down and saw his human hands again. His back felt enormously better without squished wings digging into it.
Ah… I made it undetected.
Or had he? The brunette was standing a few feet away, wide-eyed and open mouthed—hugging her computer.
The handsome firefighter, who had appeared like some kind of dinosaur in the smoke only a moment earlier, stepped out of the building and stretched as if trying to work a kink out of his spine. He whipped off his mask and stared at her.
Bliss scrubbed her eye socket with the heel of her hand. My eyes must have been playing tricks on me. There was no other possible explanation. Between her jet-lagged brain and smoke-filled vision, her mind’s eye had concocted a reptilian form that was really her hero firefighter.
Oh, fuck it. “Thank you!” He deserves a reward. She rushed up to him and cupped the back of his head, dragging him down until she mashed her lips to his in the mother of all adoring kisses. He wrapped his arms around her back and pulled her against him, returning her kiss. She fit his body as if they’d been made for each other. The fire he’d just rescued her from had nothing on the heat in his kiss.
Unfortunately for both of them, the chief came striding around the corner along with the paramedics. The paramedics led her away while her hottie fireman received the dressing-down of a lifetime, complete with explicit and crude language.
“Please don’t be mad at him,” Bliss called over her shoulder. “It’s my fault. I asked him to go back in.” But it was too late. A paramedic slapped an oxygen mask over her face as she heard the chief sputter the words “suspended” and “get the hell out of my sight” to her hot hero. She tried to wrestle off the damn mask, but by the time she did, he was gone.
Upon their return to the fire station, the guys whistled at a curvaceous blond waiting for them with a camera. Drake vaguely remembered the chief saying something about their posing for a calendar.
“Terrific,” he muttered.
The chief spotted her and groaned. Then he pointed at Drake. “He goes first.”
As they hung up their jackets, the chief strode to his office.
“Drake, buddy,” Benjamin said, “I’d hang around and watch, but I gotta shower.” He slapped Drake on the back and jogged up the stairs with the rest of them.
Drake glanced down at his filthy hands as the blond sashayed over to him.
“Hey there, handsome,” she said.
“Look, I hate to make you wait, but I should shower before you take any pictures. We just…”
She finger-walked her way up his chest. “Oh, I know. You were out fighting fires and saving people. I think that’s sexy as hell. Don’t change a thing. Except, take your shirt off.”
Drake stifled a groan. He was tired and about to be suspended. This was the last thing he wanted to do right now.
Figuring he was in enough trouble for defying the chief’s orders, he whipped off his white undershirt, faced the blond female photographer as if she were a firing squad, and asked, “How do you want me?”
She chuckled and raised one eyebrow.
“Uh… What should I be doing?” he asked.
From the look in her eyes and the way she licked her lips, the answer was X-rated. Maybe they shouldn’t have sent a woman to shoot the annual firefighters’ calendar. At this rate it would be December before she finished taking the pictures.
“I don’t want to be rude, but I really don’t feel like doing this right now.” When she didn’t respond, he waved a hand in front of her eyes. “Hello,” he said to break through the woman’s vacant stare.
“Your hair… I’ve never seen yellow streaks like that. They’re like primary colors.”
“Yeah, it’s unusual, and before you ask, it’s natural. My whole family has them.” It would be so much easier if I could just come out and say it’s how dragons know each other by clan. But, of course, he could not. Dragons were governed by the same rule every paranormal faction had to live by—namely not to reveal their existence to humans. To do so would cause widespread panic, witch hunts, and they’d probably wind up as government lab rats.
“Oh, um…” At last she seemed to remember her professionalism. “Pick up that hose and stand a quarter-turn to the right.”
Drake did as he was asked and she clicked her shutter release.
“Um, you might want to hold it higher.”
Drake realized he was holding the nozzle right in front of his junk as if it were a limp phallus. He dropped it and grabbed an ax instead, resting it on his shoulder.
“Oh, yeah. That pose really shows off your muscles.” She moved and clicked. Moved and clicked some more.
“Act like you’re having fun. Smile,” she said.
Drake rolled his eyes. “Fighting fires isn’t exactly a laugh a second.”
“Maybe if you think about something pleasant, it’ll produce the look I’m going for.”
Let’s see… something pleasant. Unfortunately, he couldn’t come up with much of anything at the moment. He had just lost the last friendly dragon he knew—his mother—a few weeks ago and still didn’t feel like his old jovial self. Plus he was in trouble with the chief. He’d never work his way up the ladder at this rate, and the job was his life. Maybe his buddies were right. He needed a hobby.
“You’re still looking awfully serious. Here, let me try something.”
“Christ,” he muttered.
She set down the camera and strolled up to him. Unbuttoning her blouse enough to expose lush cleavage, she said in a low, sultry voice, “Think of the fun we can have after I finish the shoot.”
He raised his eyebrows. Think of the horror when you find out I’m a dragon.
“No, that’s still not the expression I want. What’s the matter? Are you having a bad day?”
“You could say that.”
“Anything I can do?”
“Nope.” He’d have to take his punishment just like any other firefighter who did what he’d done, regardless of his inability to burn. He should be grateful for the chance to delay facing the chief, but to be honest, he just wanted to get it over with.
As Drake was thinking about what to tell him, Chief Tate strolled out where they were shooting.
“Are you almost done here?” the chief asked.
The photographer backed away and quickly buttoned her blouse. “Ah, yes. I’d like one more pose…”
“I’ll wait.” Chief Tate stuffed his hands in his pockets and rocked back and forth on his heels.
Shit, I’m in bigger trouble than I thought. Drake decided to have some fun with the shoot after all. He set down the ax, moved beside the chief, and threw his arm around Tate’s shoulder. “Here. Take one of me and the chief. I’ll pay you for it.”
“Huh?” Chief Tate leaned away and frowned at Drake. “What the hell for?”
“A memento. If I’m about to be fired, I’d like a picture of my old boss for my scrapbook.”
Chief Tate reared back and laughed. “I’m not going to fire your ass, Cameron. I probably should for taking such a dumb chance. This isn’t like the time the mayor heard about you saving a damn dog and was impressed. You won’t be getting a commendation for this one.”
The photographer grinned. “Wow. A commendation from the mayor! Now there’s something to smile about.”
The chief snorted. “Yeah, I told him to take off the word ‘bravery’ and make it a citation for stupidity.”
Shrugging one shoulder, Drake said, “It figures.” At least it didn’t sound like he was getting canned. That was a relief.
Chief Tate addressed the woman without looking at her. “Don’t encourage him. He risked his life for a damn pet. Cameron, you’re just lucky the mayor’s a big dog lover.”
The photographer got even more excited, if that were possible. “Oh, he is. I’ve photographed him, and he has pictures of his greyhounds right on his desk.”
“Is that right?” The chief didn’t sound impressed, despite his words. “Look, as soon as you finish up here, Cameron, come to my office.”
“Sure thing, chief.”
The photographer cozied up to Drake. She held out a card. “If you had a shirt on, I’d tuck this in your pocket.”
He took the card and glanced at it.
Blooming Great Photography
He smiled and she said, “Freeze.” Backing up a couple feet, she snapped a few more pictures. “There. Now I have what I want.”
Yeah, your phone number in my hand.
“I’ve got to do something to make this right, Claudia.” Bliss sat at her friend’s breakfast bar, running her fingers over the smooth granite.
Claudia took a sip of her coffee. “Look, he saved your business and possibly your place in the competition. Why don’t you make him a card?”
“A Hall-Snark card? What would it say? I’m sorry I got you suspended, but you looked great in suspenders?”
Claudia grimaced. “Ah, no. I’m sure you can do better than that.”
Bliss slumped over and rested her cheek on the cool stone. “My computer didn’t survive, by the way. Well, I mean, the hardware did, but I think the rest is fubar.”
“Fubar? What’s that?”
She leaned back and sighed. “Sorry. It’s something my brother Ricky, the ex-marine, says. It means fucked up beyond all recognition.”
Claudia chuckled and opened the laptop in question. She hit the power button and a light came on. “Are you sure? It looks okay.”
“I tried to boot it up several times, and all I can get out of it is, ‘Operating system not found.’”
“Don’t give up yet. There’s something called forensic data recovery. You’d be surprised what the FBI can get off computers that were supposedly destroyed.”
“I doubt the FBI would consider a reality TV show about a greeting card competition worthy of their time or equipment.” Bliss cupped her chin and rested her elbow on the counter. “I don’t know what I was thinking. He could have died. I don’t even know his name…” She lifted her head and sat up straight. “Wait. The back of his jacket said Cameron.”
Claudia set a tall glass of ice water in front of Bliss. “There you go. Is that his first name or last?”
Bliss sighed. “I don’t know.”
“What did the other guys’ jackets look like? First names or last?”
Bliss rested her chin on both palms and her elbows on the counter. “I don’t know. I only had eyes for him—as they say.”
Claudia chuckled. “Oh, yeah. You’ve got it bad.”
Bliss took a long swallow of her ice water. Her parched throat welcomed the cool liquid. “You want to know the worst thing about all this?”
“Forget that my home and all my belongings except my precious laptop are toast. I have to go back to Winthrop and live with my annoying parents for who knows how long. If I don’t win the contest, it could be forever.” She groaned.
Claudia rubbed her friend’s back. “I wish I could let you move in here, but my place is just too damn small. We’d get on each other’s nerves, and our friendship is more important than anything to me.”
“I know. I feel the same way. But I do have to go home. I lost my glasses in the fire. I think I have a spare pair in my old bedroom. Some of my old clothes might still be there, and I’ll need them, if they fit. Stupidly, I didn’t get renter’s insurance, and now I have zero money and no time for shopping.”
“So, have you told your parents yet?”
Bliss took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “No, but I have to soon, before they see it on the news. They’ll have a fit.”
“Not because you need a place to stay, I hope.”
“No, that’s not it.” She snorted. “They’re always hoping us kids will come home for dinner… or a month. No, they’ll be upset because one of their precious spawn had a brush with death. And they’re going to try to get me married off and living in the suburbs.”
“Oh, boy. I don’t envy you, but at least your parents aren’t stuck on the idea of your marrying a rich guy.”
“Seriously? Yours are like that? Do they know what you do?”
Claudia laughed. “They know I work on Beacon Hill, but they don’t know I manage a bar. If they did, they’d have a fit. I’m supposed to be rubbing elbows with Boston’s elite.”
“What do they think you do?”
“All they know is that I got my MBA and I manage a small independent company on Charles Street. Technically, that’s true, so if you ever see them, don’t mention the bar. Actually, the less said about my job, the better.”
“You completed your business degree? I thought you still had another semester to go.”
“I finished it in December.”
“Congrats. So, are you looking for a better job?”
Her friend confused her sometimes, but Bliss had other things to think about right now. “Unfortunately, if I go back home, I can look forward to a lot of arranged, so-called accidental meetings with eligible young men. My parents will want him to be Italian so they can have a whole passel of paisano grandkids.”
“With a name like Cameron, it sounds like your hero might be Irish,” Claudia said.
“Or Scottish. I think I remember seeing a Cameron clan wearing their tartan kilts at that Highland Games thing we went to.”
“Oh, yeah. Who could forget those sexy kilts?” Claudia waggled her eyebrows. “So… what does your guy look like?”
“Tall, about six feet. Rugged, great firm ass, green eyes, and hair that’s hard to describe. It’s not blond or red. It’s kind of sandy or light brown with actual yellow streaks. Not highlights like you see on other people. I’m talking about a primary color in half- or quarter-inch stripes.”
“Interesting… What else?”
“He has a side part and it’s long in the front—right to his eyebrows. It kind of angles across his forehead. All shaggy and sexy.” She sighed.
“He sounds like a hunk.”
“Yeah, and if you ever see him, keep your mitts off. He’s mine.”
“I wouldn’t dream of horning in on your territory. You might bite.”
Bliss smiled, at last. “Or tell you to bite me.”
The more Bliss thought about it, the more she liked the idea of making a card for the handsome firefighter. It wouldn’t be one of her trademark Hall-Snark cards. Those were blunt, irreverently honest or flippant, and bordering on rude, but she could come up with something on the fly.
Let’s see… what could I make and drop off at the fire station before I relocate?
“Claudia, can I borrow your computer, printer, and some card stock?”
“Sure. You can use my photos too if you want.”
“You’re sweet, but I have a design in my head that I can draw. I’d make the whole thing with a pen, but my handwriting is terrible and I want him to be able to read it.” Jesus. I’m lucky I can still draw breath, never mind cards, thanks again to Cameron Something or Something Cameron. “Just drawing the artwork will be quicker, and there’s no way you have a picture of what I want.”
“Okay, I’ll give you the necessary stuff and turn on the printer. As for card stock, I happen to have some with matching envelopes. It’s plain white. Is that okay?”
Drake plopped into his desk chair and powered up his computer.
“Well, I have plenty of time on my hands. Let’s see what kind of trouble I can get into here,” he muttered to himself.
Holding the lovely brunette had reminded him of something he’d been meaning to investigate. Dating websites. That had been on Drake’s to-do list for a while. He craved some kind of company, specifically of the female variety, and loneliness had been setting in big time. The death of his last known relative had made him feel adrift in an aloof sea.
Unfortunately, his mother would never see her fondest wish come true. She had always wanted him to find a nice female dragon, settle down, and continue the species.
He was the last of his line now, and finding another clan had proven nearly impossible. There was an Asian clan in San Francisco, but they had made it clear East Coast dragons weren’t welcome. Thanks again, Uncle Mob Boss.
His uncle had missed the family fortune and power so much, he’d decided to recreate it quickly in any way he could. Loan sharking, running guns, selling drugs to kids. Drake had not only walked away from one fortune, but two. The lair where his family had kept their treasure had caved in at about the same time they had to flee Britain. He wondered if his uncle had something to do with that. If he couldn’t take it with him…
When Drake discovered how his uncle “earned” his new money, he refused to have anything to do with the older dragon. His elder didn’t appreciate being judged but gave Drake a chance to reconsider and join the “family business.” Drake’s principles won out and he packed his bags.
He had originally moved to Boston because he’d heard about a female dragon and a paranormal bar here. Even though the dragon was a prostitute, he was willing to give it a go. He’d do just about anything to honor his dear mother’s wishes. Unfortunately, by the time he acted on the information and found Boston Uncommon, the female had gone home to San Francisco. The guys at the bar said something about all being forgiven and Lily being in her family’s embrace again. Nice for Lily. Not so much for him… and the species.
The only problem with a human hookup was that sometimes during sex, if he overheated before he finished “blowing off steam,” so to speak, his eyes glowed and his skin toughened into hard scales. He could even develop claws, all of which signified a shift he might not be able to stop. A couple of close calls with former female companions had told him he’d have to find someone who could accept him and his secret.
He was fairly sure the young woman whose life and business he had saved saw his alternate form, yet she didn’t faint or scream. Perhaps it was the heat of the moment, but he thought he sensed a willing connection, and when he glanced at her finger, he didn’t see a wedding ring.
Maybe I can find a dragon-tolerant human after all. If only I knew where she went…
If only the chief hadn’t had such a need to rip him a new one right then and there, he’d have pursued her. Now she was gone.
He typed in his password to access the dating site and tried to think of some cryptic way to describe himself and what he was looking for that would attract another dragon—or someone who was dragon-tolerant.
Why, oh why didn’t dragons have their own dating site? He snorted to himself and a slight curl of smoke exited his nostrils. Because we’re almost extinct, dumbass. At least that’s what he’d been led to believe.
If dragons were open about their alternate identities, he might be able to find more, but “coming out of the cave” was forbidden. Humans would fear them. Fear leads to hate, and hate leads to discrimination—or worse, annihilation. No. He was stuck. There must be other dragons out there but he had been unable to find them, because each had learned the sad truth about being different.
He sighed and scanned a few profiles. Okay, Cameron. Think. There’s got to be a way to find a like-minded individual. His father had found his mother, and that was before the Internet. She worked in a store specializing in all things Celtic—mostly Scottish and Irish woolens, jewelry with symbolic thistles or Celtic knot designs, some imported foods, and books about Ireland and the United Kingdom.
His paternal grandparents had moved to Nova Scotia from Scotland when his father was a wee lad. He smiled, thinking about how his grandparents spoke. His maternal great-grandparents had come from Ireland a century ago. His great-grandfather on his father’s side was supposedly the “last dragon.” During the Middle Ages, his family had been rich and powerful, but after that debacle, the dragon clans went into hiding. Returning to living in caves, they’d given up everything to protect what was left of their dwindling species.
His father visited New Brunswick one summer, and according to family history, he and his mother had a whirlwind romance. They married the following winter and Drake was born a year later. Surely his mother’s and father’s families weren’t the only dragons to immigrate and intermarry.
There was no “dragon community” he was aware of. How nice it would be to have the Dragon-American club, like the Polish-Americans or French-Americans and many other ethnic subgroups.
Wishing wouldn’t produce results, so he settled in for the great hunt. Thank goodness the site had a free trial. If things kept going the way they were, he might be fired and then he’d need his money while he looked for another job. Ha. Fired while being fireproof. If only they knew…
Bliss had made the card, drawing it by hand. She designed the inside text with Claudia’s basic Word program and printed it using Claudia’s color ink-jet printer. Thinking about how much she’d have to spend to replace everything was giving her indigestion, but there was no other way to stay in the race. She needed to buy a decent laptop and good quality software at a rock-bottom price that same day. The printer could wait a bit, but she’d need one soon to proof her own work—and the rules of the competition required that she receive no outside help.
The most important contract of her career hung on her ability to produce all her designs in three weeks. Unfortunately, she didn’t have a few thousand dollars for forensic data retrieval, so she’d have to recreate every one of them from scratch.
She couldn’t even afford a hotel for more than a night or two, so she called her mother, who alternately sobbed and yelled into the phone. As predicted, her mother wanted her to move home and never leave again. Yeah. Good luck with that, Mom. I may be poor and desperate, but I’m not suicidal.
Her next stop was the fire station. Maybe that would be a kinder experience.
She approached the open bay, hoping Cameron was still there.
A dark-haired firefighter she barely remembered seeing earlier caught sight of her, grinned, and strolled over. The name Benjamin was stitched onto his dark blue uniform shirt. No help as far as knowing if they display their first or last names.
“Hello, beautiful. Can I help you?”
“I was wondering if Cameron is around.”
His expression grew serious. “Ah, no. He isn’t. Is there something I can do for you? Get your cat out of a tree or something?”
She couldn’t help but smile, then she quickly schooled her expression. “Well, you can give him this when you see him.” She handed Benjamin the card she’d made.
He glanced down at the envelope as he took it. “What’s this?”
“Just a thank-you note. He went above and beyond for me today.”
“Oh!” Sudden recognition dawned in his eyes. “You’re the chick who got him to run into that apartment building for some computer or something. Yeah, he’s in a shitload of trouble for that little stunt.”
She frowned. Apparently word got around. “Yeah. I’m afraid that’s me. There’s also an apology in there.” She nodded toward the card.
“It better be a doozy. He’s been suspended for a week.”
“Damn,” she muttered. Suddenly she had an idea. “May I speak to your chief?”
The guy had the audacity to laugh. “Are you sure you want to do that? He’s not in a very receptive mood right now. Maybe you should come back tomorrow.”
“I won’t be around then. I have to go stay with my parents for a while. He’s not the only one who’s miserable.”
Benjamin chuckled. “Okay. I’ll get this to Cameron, but I’d suggest you forget about talking to the chief. There’s nothing he hates more than wives or girlfriends trying to change his mind about something.”
“Does that happen a lot?”
“Not really, but when it does, the guy pays for it.”
“Oh. In that case, forget it. Thanks for getting the card to him.” She strode off before anyone else saw her.
Drake Cameron had taken his lumps like a man and had let the chief reprimand him without getting defensive. There would be no commendation this time, just a seven-day suspension.
Having distracted himself with the Internet for as long as he could, he felt the need for solace, so he headed to the bar his buddies frequented. Even when one of them did something stupid, they were supportive after the chief finished with them. The paranormal bar he went to would be supportive too, but sometimes he needed his human brotherhood.
As soon as he strolled in, he spotted Ralph Benjamin and Mike Kelly at the bar. They waved him over.
“I’m glad you came in. You saved me a trip,” Benjamin said.
“A trip where?”
“Your place. That crazy chick who got you suspended came by and dropped something off for you.”
“Yeah?” His heart leaped. Maybe I haven’t lost her after all! He had saved some hot women before, but none of them came to the firehouse bearing gifts. It was usually the blue-haired grannies who brought in homemade cookies or pies.
Ralph reached into his pocket and pulled out an envelope.
Oh. Just a friggin’ card. I guess she doesn’t bake. He opened it and focused on the bright design. It was a fire-breathing dragon. Holy shit. Is she psychic or did she really see me through the smoke? Either way, she didn’t seem terrified. Maybe she was worth getting suspended for.
With some trepidation, he opened it. A smile spread across his face as he read: “I know it’s your job and I’m sure you’re not braggin’, but I felt like a knob as you slew my dragon. You saved my ass and I’ll never forget it. I ran into yours and I don’t regret it. I’m sorry I sent you into harm’s way. You’re so my hero and I hope you’re okay.” It was signed, “Sincerely, Bliss.” Beneath that it said, “Please pardon the terrible rhyme. It was the best I could do with limited time.”
He tucked the card and envelope into his shirt pocket.
“She said it was an apology.”
“Yeah, it was.” And maybe a little more. The hope of finding a woman who could handle his dragon identity sprang to life like an ember coaxed back into a burning flame.
“Did she say where she was staying?”
“Said she had to move back in with her parents.”
“Where do they live?”
“Did she mention their names?”
Damn. “Did she say anything else?”
“She wanted to speak to the chief and take the blame for what you did, but I told her it wouldn’t help. She just rushed off after that.”
“Did you see where she went?”
Finally back to work, Drake had promised the chief that he’d stop taking stupid chances. The one-week suspension had seemed like a month. He grabbed a cup of coffee in the fire station’s kitchen and leaned against the counter.
“That’s been there since this morning,” Mike said.
“That’s one good thing about staying home for a few days. Decent coffee.”
“So how’s the computer dating thing going?” Ralph asked.
Drake was beginning to regret ever telling the guys how he’d spent his time off. “It was a stupid idea. Nothing came of it.”
“Why not? Were you asking for a Victoria’s Secret model who’s a brain surgeon in her spare time?”
Drake chuckled. “No. Nothing like that.” It’d be easier to find a neurosurgeon lingerie model than a female dragon.
He could picture the brunette as a model. She was tall, though not as tall as he was. He hadn’t seen her in heels, only bare feet, but she might be close to his six feet if she wore four-inch stilettos.
He couldn’t believe he’d caught himself thinking about her for the umpteenth time. If only I could find her. But it seemed hopeless.
His family had lost the ability to breathe fire, which was a good thing. Otherwise, he’d have been tempted to let out a fiery blast of frustration.
“I’m going to check the dating site again, just in case.” He ambled off to the firehouse’s activity room with the guys wishing him good luck.
A few minutes later, Drake gaped at the computer monitor. He couldn’t believe his Internet dating search had paid off. The response he’d just received was obviously from a female dragon.
Hallelujah! There is hope for the dragon species.
Fathering children was something he really wanted to do someday, and because that was only possible with another dragon, he had to at least look into it. This was the whole reason he’d moved to paranormal-rich Boston. If there was a single female dragon anywhere…
Suddenly, he thought of Bliss. He’d been willing to give up the dragon search when he met her. More accurately, he’d change his search from a female dragon to a female he could fall in love with, one who wouldn’t run from him in terror. A human couldn’t bear his children, but if that wasn’t important to her, perhaps…
He still didn’t know if she had actually seen his alternate form, and he was driving himself nuts trying to figure out a way to ask her… without asking her. If he ever saw her again.
Maybe this was a sign he should keep his options open a bit longer—at least long enough to meet the lady dragon. Don’t think beyond the immediate task at hand, Cameron… for once.
Ignoring his ambivalence, he began typing his answer.
“I’d like to meet you. There’s a place called the Green Shamrock near Quincy Market. Do you know it?”
A few minutes later, she emailed him with her answer. “Yeh, I can meet you dayuh tomorrah. Whah time?”
Wow, she seems anxious… and barely literate. Drake chastised himself. Maybe she was just a terrible speller.
If all dragons had such a difficult time finding other single dragons, it made sense that she wouldn’t want to wait—and he shouldn’t either.
He typed, “I’ll be there at four o’clock. How will I know you?” And just to be doubly sure he was talking to another dragon, he said, “What are your distinguishing marks?”
“Mi family has chaka black hair wit a streak ah silvah growin out ah da widah’s peak.”
That was his confirmation. She mentioned her family’s marking. All dragon families had some visible way to identify their clan. Silver growing out of pure black, only in their widow’s peaks, sounded odd enough for a dragon’s markings.
On the line right below that, she asked, “An yas?”
Something didn’t feel quite right. His fingers tingled and shook slightly as he typed, “Sandy hair with yellow streaks. Side part.”
Am I about to make a mistake?
Some dragons, himself included, had a type of sixth sense alerting them to danger.
He thought about Bliss and figured he must be feeling a twinge of ambivalence. What possible danger could a blind date entail? Ugh. Don’t answer that, Drake.
Without questioning himself further, he hit “send.”
She responded with a quick, “See ya den.”
And he typed, “See you tomorrow.”
He was just stepping away from the computer when Benjamin appeared in the doorway. “Lunch is ready, Drake. Any luck on the dating front?”
“Uh, maybe.” He hadn’t mentioned his desire to find Bliss. The guys would probably think he was nuts to get involved with the woman responsible for sending him back into a burning building for her computer—and getting him suspended.
“Hey, that’s great. Maybe we won’t have to worry about our sisters after all.” Benjamin returned to the kitchen without further comment.
That’s what Drake liked about the guys he worked with. They could joke around and leave an opening if a buddy wanted to share his personal life. The others would listen and maybe sympathize or offer an opinion, but no one pushed or prodded. Drake wasn’t about to volunteer any information. Not yet.
He was very glad the female dragon wanted to meet him tomorrow. A little more than twenty-four hours suddenly felt like a long time.
“No, no, no! Not her! Anyone but her!”
Mother Nature stared into the bright sky, gathered two fistfuls of her long, white hair next to her ears, and squeezed. “Gahhh!”
Apollo abandoned his poker game and joined her near the window. The entire top floor of the office building was covered in a glass bubble, so essentially the entire perimeter was a giant window that allowed the Supernatural Council an unobstructed view of Boston.
“What’s wrong, Grandma?”
“I told you never to call me that,” she hissed through gritted teeth.
“Sorry, Gaia. It’s just that you gave birth to Zeus, who’s my father, so therefore…”
She glared at him and a violent wind ripped through the room, blowing cards off the table and rippling everyone’s long, white gowns.
“Sorry, Goddess. Forgive me.”
She sighed. “I’ll forgive you this time, but only because you’re my favorite.”
The other gods gaped at them, several with raised eyebrows.
“Oh, relax,” she called out. “You’re all my favorites.” Then she rolled her eyes.
They looked away, although some of them still appeared tweaked. A moment later, the cards were magically back in their hands and they resumed their game.
“So what’s wrong? How can I help?”
“That fucking Caribbean dragon, Zina,” Mother Nature muttered. “What’s she doing up here?”
Apollo shrugged. “You probably have a better idea than I do since I don’t know who you’re talking about.”
Gaia pointed her long finger at a motorcyclist cruising down Storrow Drive. “That bitch right there. Thanks to a voodoo priestess, she’s run amok for two centuries and there’s nothing I can do to stop her.”
“What’s she doing that you need to stop?”
Gaia threw her hands in the air and whirled away from the glass. “Everything. That creature does whatever she damn well pleases and cares nothing about the consequences. I understand she has a lair where she keeps sex slaves. She finds men vacationing alone, and suddenly they’re never heard from again.”
“Why haven’t we been supplicated? Beseeched? Prayed to for help?”
Gaia chortled. “Come on… Do you really expect men to complain about being sex slaves?”
“But that’s not all. Humans have almost spotted her in dragon form, either through her carelessness or because she’s tempting fate on purpose. It’s happening more and more frequently.”
“Why would she do that?”
“I swear she’s goading me. She’s a spoiled brat, and the last time I caught her flying, I paid her a little visit. I thought she understood my stern warning. After that, I decided to take a nice walk on the beach and she zipped past me, singing, “Neener, neener, neener.”
“Don’t let her get to you.”
“Oh, sure. Be the bigger goddess, right? Ignore her, right?”
“I can’t!” Mother Nature shouted so loudly the gods jumped and dropped their cards. “She’s coming into her fertile cycle. If she mates with another dragon, I’ll have to deal with more of them.” Mother Nature crossed her arms and muttered under her breath, “I was almost rid of them too.”
“Why do you want to get rid of them?”
“I don’t make mistakes, but sometimes… Never mind.”
“So, what should we do?”
“We shouldn’t do anything, yet. There are barely any dragons left, so chances of her finding one are slim. But just in case, contact the Balogs and ask them to keep an eye on that bar where the paranormals hang out. If she shows up there, we’ll need to know right away.”
“[Ashlyn Chase] entertains with a voice that makes reading her stories pure pleasure. It’s like spending time with your favorite friends. A Night Owl Reviewer Top Pick” - ...
“[Ashlyn Chase] entertains with a voice that makes reading her stories pure pleasure. It’s like spending time with your favorite friends. A Night Owl Reviewer Top Pick” - Night Owl Reviews
Length: 6.875 in
Width: 4.1875 in
Weight: 0.00 oz
Page Count: 352 pages