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Once a dragon claims his mate in his heart, it is forever.”

Magdeline was listening, and she’d gone quiet beneath him. “You said there are girl dragons?”

He nodded, pleased she wasn’t fighting him any longer. “We come in both sexes, Magdeline. We are very much like you humans in some ways. We love, we laugh, we fight, we live.”

And you change into dragons.”

Yes, there is that little difference.” He tried a brief smile hoping it would ease Magdeline even more. “We change into dragons.”

She closed her eyes. “I can’t believe this is happening. When I came here I didn’t know I’d be stepping into a flock of dragons. I don’t—didn’t even believe in dragons. I thought you were myths.”

A rage.”

Her eyes popped open. “What?”

He’d answered automatically, not realizing he’d have to explain. Which meant more talking. He was doomed. Clearing his throat, he shrugged. “A group of dragons is called a rage. But we go by clan. It’s more civilized.”

A rage?” Magdeline repeated. “Isn’t that just perfect. And you were saying you weren’t scary and evil.”

I didn’t say we weren’t scary.”

She rolled her eyes at his remark, then went motionless as if she was afraid she’d offended him. “I—”

I am still a man, Magdeline,” Ormr interrupted, knowing if she couldn’t get past her fear, there was no chance for anything between them. “I share my life with my dragon half. A creature of more instinct than logic. But I am always in control of my beast. Always. You never have to fear me.”

She swallowed, hard. “And the others? Even if I could trust you, how can I trust the others? Those who let their dragon be in charge.” Her eyes widened in sudden fear. “Or the woman back at the mansion who’s watching Bettina for me tonight. She’s a member of your clan, so she must be a dragon. Oh, my God. My baby is with a dragon!”

You will be safe,” he insisted. It was getting easier to talk to her now. All he had to do was open his mouth and let his heart pour out. “Bettina will be safe. Children are a great gift, no matter what the species. We’d never hurt a child. Never! We are not a rage of mindless beasts out to destroy humanity. We’ve lived beside you for centuries…millennia. If we’d wanted to wipe you out, you’d already be dead.”

She stared at him for another long minute. “I’m not sure why that makes me feel better, but it actually does.”

Trust me, Magdeline. You are safer here with me than anyone else in the world. I will protect you and Bettina with my life.”

But why?” she whispered. “We just met. And you spent the majority of that time yelling at me.”

He couldn’t answer that without going into things best left unsaid…at least for now. “I want to get to know you. I don’t want you to be afraid of me.”

Magdeline wiggled beneath him again, but this time her soft, voluptuous body against his had a predictable effect. Not wanting her to feel what she did to him, he rolled off and helped her to her feet.

I didn’t hurt you, did I?” He tried to brush the twigs from her hair. “I’m sorry I had to go to such measures, but I had to stop you. Before you went back and told the other humans the truth. It’s a death sentence to speak about the clan to outsiders” he stated bluntly. “I hope you’ll give me a chance to explain why it must be kept secret.”

Her face went pale. “A death sentence?”

Yes.” Even though he wanted to, he couldn’t soften the blow. It was too important she understand. “I know you’re frightened and uncertain, but there are lives at stake here. Not just Drayce’s, Ryuu’s and mine, but hundreds of others. Women and children who could be destroyed if the humans knew who we were.”

Children?” If possible, Magdeline’s face went even paler. “You have children on the estate?”

Of course.” He cupped her cheek in his hand, wanting to shout in triumph when she didn’t move away. “You didn’t think we came from under a rock, did you?”

Children.” Magdeline’s eyes were dazed. “All those kids Bettina was playing with. They’re dragons.”

Dragonlings. We call a young beast a dragonling.”

They could have eaten her.”

Ormr couldn’t help the laugh. “Lille kriger. I have it on good authority that contrary to all the old tales, humans do not taste good.”

That’s not funny.” He watched, pleased, as she fought back a smile. “And what is it you keep calling me?”

Lille kriger.” He gave an embarrassed shrug. “It means little warrior.”

Me?” Magdeline shook her head firmly. “I’m no warrior.”

Aren’t you?” Taking a chance, he pulled her closer. “To keep your daughter safe, you fought me. A man…a dragon much bigger and stronger than you. Overwhelming odds, yet you didn’t hesitate. You were strong and courageous. A warrior.”

Her cheeks went pink. “My friends call me a mama bear. Overly protective. That’s why I got so mad at you when you told me I was a bad mother.”

And I’m sorry for that.” He still regretted his outburst. Swallowing hard, he bared a bit of his soul. “I have a thing about children in danger. I…I lost my child. A son. He…died. It was a car accident. My mate died, too.”

Magdeline’s eyes filled with tears. “I’m so sorry. Lucina mentioned a loss, but I had no idea. A parent should never outlive a child.”

I honor them still.” He gazed up at the sky. “Every night I sing the dragon lament, lovaas do krosis.”

The what?”

The song of sorrow.”

Oh…” Magdeline did smile this time. “That sounds like a lovely idea. How long…?”

He sighed, remembering again the pain of discovering his whole world had changed. “A little over eighteen months ago.”

It’s been four years for me,” she whispered, honoring him with a little of her own soul. “His plane was shot down during a mission in Afghanistan. You never really get over it, do you?”

No,” he agree. “But you can move on.”

Their eyes met, and they both went still.

Move on?” she whispered, her gaze searching his. “You mean…with you? How can we do that? We just met, remember?”

There is something strong…something undeniable between us,” he murmured back, taking her hand. It was a heady feeling to be so close to his mate. His beast purred and roared, demanding more, but Ormr held the unruly creature back. He wouldn’t frighten her now. “I felt it when we first met. I think you did, too. And then we kissed…”

We kissed,” she echoed, and her shiver gave her away.

This was it. Would she turn from him or give him a chance? The primitive part of him wanted to toss her over his shoulder, steal her away to his private hoard and lock her in forever. But she was a warrior, and no warrior would put up with that for long.

You know what I am,” Ormr went on, his muscles tense with worry. “Can we take this time and get to know each other better? Could you ever contemplate being with a man who could turn into a dragon?”

I…I don’t know.” Magdeline leaned back and there was confusion in her eyes. “I thought I was through with all that when Robert died. I never expected to find someone else. And then you kissed me!” She gave him a disgruntled look. “Why did you have to do that!”

He snorted out a laugh, but told her the truth. “I had no choice. My dragon wanted a taste of you.” He shrugged. “So did I.”

I still don’t know how I feel about all this.” She pushed away from him and stared back through the trees towards the clearing. Her eyes glowed silver in the moonlight. “Dragons aren’t real. This is crazy. Yet I look at you.” She glanced back his way. “And I see you. The real you. And I’m filled with both wonder and terror.”

His heart fell. “You aren’t still afraid of me? What can I do to prove—?”

No. Stop.” She touched his arm. “You don’t need to prove anything. It’s not that I’m afraid of you, really. It’s…it’s just a lot to take in.”

I’ll be there for you in every way.” Ormr added to his vow, his gaze greedily drinking in Magdeline’s beauty. She was so lovely, with her midnight hair, porcelain cheeks and sultry mouth. And her body was a feast to both the eyes and the touch. He couldn’t wait to see her as she truly was.

If she ever gave him the chance.


*end of excerpt*


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