Erika Rosencrans has accomplished her life’s dream: proving that dragons exist. Now she only wants to share her life with the amazing red dragon, Geva, and hunt down more lost ancient temples while exploring her dragon lover’s own vast sexual appetite.
Geva, a member of the dragon queen’s Court has two desires: to make Erika happy and to convince the adventurous woman to stay put long enough to bear his child.
In the process of exploring his dead mother’s journals, Geva and Erika discover a secret his parents kept that could change the lives of all dragons. But in order uncover the details of the secret and get what they both want, the two lovers must compromise.
“Are we headed the right way?”
The words reached Geva’s ears but he didn’t quite hear them. He was too enthralled with the pleasing ivory column of Erika’s neck and the slope of skin that led down, down, down, into the low-cut black shift she had donned before they’d left the luxury of the London hotel to brave a gray, windy afternoon.
Dress, she called it a dress, he corrected himself. His memory of dresses was a bit different from what she wore now—he preferred this mere slip of fabric that hugged every curve, cradled her full breasts, and showed an abundance of skin. Especially her glorious legs, tanned and muscular like a dragon woman’s legs. Was she even human? He’d wondered it often, but seeing the other women she associated with he had to believe that human women in the current cycle were more attuned to their bodies than they had been when he was born.
He reached out a hand to caress the bare expanse of skin beneath her hem. The sharp smack of her hand made him look at her.
“You made me bring you out today, dummy. Tell me we’re going the right way. And you’re learning to drive. I can’t stand driving on the wrong side of the street.”
Chastised, he smiled at her and looked around.
The beasts Erika called cars sped down the lanes on either side of them. Gleaming, monolithic towers of glass drifted past, foreign and bizarre as they travelled through the city. Every so often he would recognize some small landmark or symbol on a sign, but other than that, his beloved city had become a stranger to him.
“It all looks different now, but the direction of the sun tells me we’re headed in the right direction.”
Soon the landscape changed. The bustling city with its alien structures replaced by smaller communities, then rolling green hillsides. The shine of a metropolis was a treasure trove to explore for a dragon like him, but the peace of the countryside let him breathe. He knew precisely where he was now, the landscape as familiar to him as the lush curves of Erika’s body. They didn’t have far to go.
Soon they approached a wide driveway, flanked by security booths. Erika provided identification to the man inside and they drove through.
The huge building they finally stopped before was one he knew well, inside and out. An imposing fountain in the forecourt spurted water out of a sextet of dragons’ mouths into a pool below.
The most familiar was the emblem on the grand, polished sign that hung over the broad entryway. The stylized dragon caused a brief pang of homesickness in him. He didn’t even need to read the strong type beside it. “Hayden Capital and Antiquities.” He was home.
And yet he couldn’t bring himself to get out of the car.
He considered himself the luckiest dragon of his generation, all of whom had slumbered along with him, deep in the depths of that jungle temple, until Erika and her team had completed the ritual to awaken them.
He’d never expected to awaken to such a beautiful, strong, and infuriating woman. One he desired to fuck as much as he desired to argue with her. Their latest argument had been about coming here today. Understandably she was more eager than he was. Everything was a new discovery for her, but finding out about his family’s past wasn’t going to be a happy moment for him. That his hibernation had ended meant his parents were dead now. Expired at the end of a life he believed he should have been a part of.
Dragon law had kept him away. Forced his generation into hibernation to lengthen their lives and preserve their bloodlines. And now they’d awakened to a vastly different world already inundated with humanity to such a degree that the dragons would be hard pressed to catch up.
The Council’s magical restrictions on procreation seemed even more ludicrous now than they had when he was young. He felt it as keenly as his brethren—a kind of itch to get on with it, but with their hands significantly tied. Even though a dragon and his or her mate might both desire a child, wanting was only half the battle. The Council’s magic meant it could take decades for a couple to conceive. Geva hadn’t shared that detail with Erika, nor did he believe the others had with their mates. Human lives were normally so fleeting relative to a dragon’s. There was no sense worrying them with it when they had his longer, dragon’s lifespan to work with, his magic prolonging Erika’s to match. Longer lives meant more opportunities.
Except the breeding restrictions and enforced hibernation had been instituted during a time when there was a real danger of dragon populations overtaking humans and beginning to view them as breeding stock. That was far from the case now.
Well, maybe not that far, considering Geva just wanted to stay in their hotel room and convince Erika to take his seed. He had no desire to mate with any other woman. But after the first attempt he wasn’t sure how to broach the topic again. Apparently “let’s make a baby now” wasn’t an acceptable incentive to get Erika to agree to try. Even though trying was likely all it would be.
“You’re still pissed about the baby thing, aren’t you?” Erika asked. She shifted in her seat to face him.
Sweet Mother was she intuitive. “Yes. I don’t understand the hesitance. A dragons’ offspring are his greatest treasures. And most women want children. I want…” Heat flushed his cheeks and he glanced at her. He wanted more than anything for her to have his children. As passionate as they both were, they could produce a strong Red like him, or maybe a Gold. Those were the happiest dragon offspring. But after her response to his initial request, he hesitated. He also hated himself a little bit for being frightened of her. A human woman? Intimidating to ~him~?
She brushed a palm down the side of his face and he closed his eyes, savoring her touch.
“Geva, I never wanted kids. I love my work too much. Maybe in a few years. Just not now.”
Not now. The words stung but incited a blaze of desire in him that he couldn’t explain. He wanted desperately to share his power with her, maybe to show her what their bond meant again and how beautiful it would be to have some tangible product of their union. He should just tell her why it was so important that they start soon, but he felt the need to convince her to want a child first.
With another swipe of her fingers through his hair, she was gone. She stepped out of the car and walked toward the entrance to the huge, stone building with the emblem of his mother emblazoned on its sign.
He watched her for a moment, admiring the flex of her calves and thighs beneath the short, black dress she wore. A gust of wind blew through and plastered the sheer fabric to her body. The visual made him go hard almost instantly. Then her impatient glower back at him made him question his sanity.
He grasped the lever to extricate himself from her vehicle and joined her. He slung an arm around her waist, only too conscious of the warmth of her body radiating through the slim scrap of fabric she’d covered herself with. It even penetrated the thicker wool of the modern, tailored suit he wore, causing his own skin to tingle pleasantly. Women in this cycle would be the death of him.
Erika would be the death of him. His cock twitched in agreement.
The interior of the castle that was his family’s home centuries before was not quite the same as he remembered. True, the same pattern of polished marble shone beneath their feet, and the same grand, gilt details graced the walls and high ceilings, but as they climbed the wide, low steps that led from the foyer to the grand hall, the subtle differences became more apparent. The lights were first to capture his attention—the chandeliers that hung at intervals glowed much brighter than they ever had. They were as bright as the magic lights from the Temple he and his brethren had hibernated in for so long—a luxury dragons had to avoid when living among humans, but that humans had apparently caught up with. He wondered if there had been a dragon influencing the creation of these electric lights.
He’d encountered all these things over the last six months since awakening. Technology as she referred to it. He took it all in stride. In particular, he was fascinated with the tiny “gadgets” she used for her work and for communication with the others. He loved the sleek shine of them and their compact, symmetrical shapes. When Erika implied that the small object she called a “smartphone” was particularly valuable, his interest piqued, prompting a slew of questions. She finally had to resort to some not entirely unpleasant means to shut him up.
Seeing what he knew now to be surveillance cameras scattered around the place where he had come of age was jarring, however. When they reached the grand hall he stopped in his tracks. The hall was lined with cages, each one with a human standing calmly behind the bars, some having smiling conversations with other humans who stood on the outside. There were gaps midway down each cage where he could see exchanges being made.
“Are they prisoners?” he asked Erika in a low voice.
“No, sweetie. The place is a bank now. A very exclusive one, from the looks of things and how far we had to drive to get here. The cages are for protection. The clerks can come and go. Come on, let’s find someone who can help.”
Geva let her take him by the hand and lead him to one of the cages. He still marveled at the alien newness of the place in conjunction with its bone-deep familiarity.
“Welcome to Hayden Capital and Antiquities,” a chipper male voice said, with only the barest hint of the familiar lilting accent Geva had grown up hearing. He looked away from the bank of huge, flickering screens on one wall that streamed numbers in a steady ribbon, each value he believed represented some form of wealth worth acquiring. He stored the information away to ponder later. Right now he was faced with an attractive, clean-cut young man with a mop of curly blond hair and blue eyes that took him in with a sense of familiarity Geva was unaccustomed to from humans.
“Good morning,” Geva said, letting his lips curl into his most charming smile.
The man’s eyelids fluttered when the breath carrying Geva’s words reached him. His pupils dilated and then his cheeks flushed brightly when his gaze flicked over to Erika. His eyes rested on her face for a split second before sinking lower. The man cleared his throat and tore his eyes from Erika’s chest. He was flustered when he met Geva’s gaze again, but made a concerted effort at formality, even going so far as to feign haughtiness.
“How may I help you today, sir?” The man’s words came out in an almost seductive drawl. Geva hadn’t intended his breath to be more than a calming influence. The reaction surprised him.
Erika muttered a curse. “Remember we’re here on business,” she said in a low tone. He got the sense she was trying to remind herself of that detail as much as him. He’d seen the way her nipples hardened and pushed against the fabric of her dress when the man’s gaze rested there. He’d also seen the way the man had licked his lips at the sight of her. This might be a more rewarding outing than he’d thought.
He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out the small, flat piece of metal that he’d acquired months ago, shortly after joining the world again after his centuries-long hibernation. The object had no intrinsic value. He’d been informed that the embossed figures on its surface were the true key to his legacy. He had expected an actual key to his family’s treasures, something he could shove into a lock, just as he accessed Erika’s pleasure on a regular basis. Things were very different now than they had been before he slept.
The man in the cage—“Benjamin,” the tag pinned to his lapel proclaimed—took the key and studied it curiously. He glanced at Geva with a somewhat eager expression, picked up the nearby handset and placed it against his ear. After a brief exchange, he nodded, replaced the handset and pointed toward the side of the hall.
“Mr. Hayden, please walk to the double-doors. I will escort you down to the vault.”
The man left his post and began traversing the open area behind the other cages. Geva turned in the indicated direction with Erika at his side.
“Hayden, huh?” Erika said. “You didn’t tell me that was your name on the sign out front. What else don’t I know about you?”
“It was a name my mother chose before I slept. The one she began using then. It’s what’s marked on this.” He held his key out to her.
“Sir Gavin Hayden the Fourth,” she read. “Gavin’s a nice name. It’ll take some getting used to, though. Are you royalty? By human standards, I mean.”
“Hmm, minor nobility most likely. We used to seek ruling positions over humans, but it became problematic to maintain the relative anonymity we prefer. And please don’t call me Gavin when we’re alone. Mother was just trying to conform. I’ve grown to like Geva much more.”
Erika gestured at the blond clerk who was scouting his way past the other clerks to meet them at the other side of the room. “Mister Helpful over there certainly knew who you were. That’s a far stretch from anonymity for someone who’s been out of the public eye for several lifetimes.”
“It’s his job to know who I am. This is my home. He is a bonded servant of my family. Employee is the right term now, I believe.”
“Even your employees are marked?”
“Not as such, no. Their bond isn’t permanent.”
Benjamin stood waiting by the double-doors. Geva watched his eyes rove over both him and Erika and wondered if the young man had been acquainted with Geva’s mother to be so eager. His mother had been striking in her human form. She had been a Green, but more passionate and desiring of power than her own parents. His human father had been an ideal mate, a true partner in all things, the way he hoped Erika would be to him.
“My condolences on your mother’s passing, sir. She was well loved.” The light flush that colored the back of Benjamin’s neck betrayed his true feelings.
“You knew Geva—er—Gavin’s mother? What was she like?” Erika asked, picking up her pace to walk beside the young man.
“Beautiful, and very generous. God may strike me down for saying this, but I daresay she was better loved than the Queen.”
Erika faltered for a second. “Oh, you mean the Queen of England?”
Benjamin gave her a curious look. “What other Queen is there, ma’am?”
Geva smirked at Erika’s amused expression, then bent to whisper in her ear. “Mother was our Queen, so it stands to reason.”
Erika glanced ahead, but Benjamin had outpaced them and was now out of earshot.
“Your hierarchy confuses the hell out of me. How do you decide who’s boss?” she murmured back.
“The Council makes the laws. The Queen is their enforcer, chosen by a combination of familial wealth, gender, and color. Racha was the highest-ranking Green female born to our generation, so they cultivated her as our next Queen. It fits her, but no other dragon could have ranked higher, either.”
Benjamin turned and led them down a narrower passageway that Geva knew led to the Keep as well as the dungeon beneath the castle. He was eager to see what modern improvements they had made to the rest of the place. Another heavy door lay ahead, this time with a small, silver box set into the wall to the left of it.
“Swipe your key card and place your thumb like so,” Benjamin said, demonstrating.
Geva pulled his key out of his pocket and inspected it. One edge was smoother than the other. He slid it through the groove of the metal box, observed the blinking light, then placed his thumb on the shiny glass window at the top of the box. A heavy click sounded from somewhere inside the door and Benjamin moved to let them through.
Geva became more impressed with the measures of security as he went, but kept his interest to himself. Everything he had seen so far represented his inheritance. He had expected his family’s wealth to be his when he awoke. Before he slept he had lived with a sense of entitlement that had only gotten him into trouble. His mother had graciously tolerated his transgressions. His father had inflicted him with passionate lectures about being worthy of the legacy. He’d had centuries since then, during his hibernation, to let it all sink in. Now with the memories of his parents haunting him like ghosts as he traveled the halls of his childhood, he was determined to be a son worthy of those memories. And to be a mate worthy of the beautiful woman at his side.
They descended down the narrow, spiral stone steps into the dungeon.
Erika chuckled. “Deja vu. Are there sleeping dragons down below?”
“Not below,” Benjamin said, surprising them both. “The living quarters are in the upper floors of this tower. Lord Hayden liked to call the bedroom ‘where the dragon sleeps.’ I believe that was his term of endearment for her Ladyship.”
“Oh, that’s sweet,” Erika said, shooting Geva a playful look.
Geva smiled back at her, and when he looked away felt the pleasant squeeze of her hand through the trousers covering his ass. He tensed just slightly under the familiar caress, then let out a hiss of breath when her hand ventured further between his legs from behind. The pressure against the back of his balls sent a jolt into his cock, which became instantly rigid. Sweet Mother, the woman was testing him. He’d have taken her right there on the stairs if he wasn’t trying to prove to himself he could assume the role of Lord here.
At yet another heavy door, Benjamin paused and waited for Geva to repeat the unlocking procedure. The young man’s eyes widened when he caught a glimpse of Geva’s groin. Erika’s hand still rested against Geva’s hip and she had a devious smile on her face. She was using his reactions to test the other man. Geva didn’t exactly disapprove but his focus was faltering as a result.
He wasn’t sure what to expect on the other side of the door. His memory of the dungeon was of a place filled with dark corners to hide in, and it had very rarely been used to house prisoners. Considering the level of security, he’d predicted they would find a majority of his family’s collection. He wasn’t wrong, but the elaborate arrangement of every priceless object was far more impressive than he could have imagined.
The doors of each jail cell had been removed, the small alcoves converted into elaborate displays organized by century.
As they stepped silently down the corridor, Erika gripped his hand, her fingers clasped tightly around his. Her breath sped up and Geva caught the sweet, warm scent of her sex. She was only that aromatic when she was ready to be fucked. And very ready if the pink glow of her skin indicated anything.
“This is all yours?” she said, her voice sounding like she had trouble finding the breath for words.
“It’s ours,” he replied, squeezing her hand.
They reached a wide chamber at the end that had an open staircase leading to the deeper dungeons. The chamber was filled with priceless objects from a time even before Geva had been born, and the pieces were arranged in the manner of a large and luxurious boudoir including rugs, cushions, tapestries, armoires, and chairs. A massive wooden bed featured prominently, the headboard taller than Geva.
Erika gasped. “Is that an original Byzantine bed? And in perfect condition, too. Oh, baby!”
She rushed toward it and brushed her hand reverently over the elaborately carved footboard, then up along one of the columns that supported a heavy red velvet canopy.
Geva had never seen the bed before, but then if his parents had always used parts of the dungeon in this manner, it was no wonder.
“Can I?” Erika asked, making as if to climb onto it. “I don’t want to break it.”
Benjamin nodded. “It is really quite a sturdy piece of furniture. It has easily held her Ladyship, his Lordship, and guests.” Geva shot a surprised look at him and Benjamin stammered. “I—I mean her Ladyship and—oh, bugger.”
“Exactly how close were you and my parents, Ben?”
“Ah—um—they were lovely, lovely people. Took me in and made me welcome. And—well, your mum—I should say it was quite a blow when they were killed. In the prime of their lives, too. I’ll just—go now. Leave you two with the, er, bed.”
Geva resisted the mirth that bubbled forth hearing the young man fumble for an explanation
“Do stay,” Geva said, not looking at Benjamin, but watching Erika.
She kicked her shoes off and slid onto the bed, her eyelids fluttering as she sank back against the cushions and velvet. She made pleasant little noises of appreciation and looked for all the world like she didn’t even need a partner. She watched him in return, turning on one side to face him and slide her hand down over her body as if to smooth her already wrinkle-free dress.
Instead, the tug of her fingers caused the skirt to slide up over her thighs a little higher until Geva could almost catch a glimpse of the lacy underthings she’d put on that morning. A garment so spare as to be almost pointless, aside from his arousal to see her wear it.
Benjamin was even more enthralled by the sight. Geva stepped over to him and slid his hand across the man’s shoulders, then bent and murmured in his ear, “Shall we see if it’s sturdy enough for us three?”