Kiss of Danger (The Dragon Legion Novellas) (8 page)

BOOK: Kiss of Danger (The Dragon Legion Novellas)
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Katina could see the deep silvery purple of his chest scales more closely now and also the power of his muscles moving beneath the armor. His wings beat at almost a leisurely pace, as if it was effortless to both fly and carry her weight. There was a savage beauty about him, and a power that filled her with awe.

“That he was your husband,” the dragon said, his voice sounding precisely like Alexander’s, “didn’t give him the right to strike you.” He gave her an intent look, one that reminded her very much of Alexander when he was annoyed. “Ever.”

Katina gasped in shock. “You spoke!”

The dragon glanced down at her regally. His gaze was knowing, as if he would dare her to believe the impossible.

“But you’re a dragon,” she said, speaking aloud as she considered the possibilities.

“A dragon shape shifter,” he corrected and once again, Katina recognized his voice.

“Alexander?” she whispered and he inclined his head once.

Just as Alexander would have done.

Katina looked away, her thoughts spinning. A dragon shape shifter? Who knew that such creatures existed...never mind that she’d been married to one. But then, the gods were often said to enchant humans, turning them into other creatures or trees. She’d thought the stories whimsical, but they must have a root in truth.

She could easily believe that Alexander would defend her from harm, using any abilities he had.

She just hadn’t counted on this one.

Was it possible that she and Alexander had something in common? Katina’s heart began to pound with hope, but she tried to stay calm. She had to know more to be sure that this was cause for celebration. “Isn’t that impossible?”

“Nothing is impossible, Katina. I’ve learned that much, at least.” He spoke with such conviction that she wondered again where he had been and what he had seen.

“Do you control the change?”

“Yes.”

“Is it new for you?”

“No.”

Katina was thrilled. “Show me,” she said, needing to see the truth with her own eyes.

Alexander didn’t answer, but began a spiraling descent. Katina realized that he was targeting the crest of a hill that was well out of sight of the village. He was going to do as she asked and show her what he could do. But then, Alexander was always a man whose actions spoke more clearly than his few words.

The dragon landed with that same easy grace and set her on her feet.

Katina held her ground and met his gaze, wanting him to see that she was unafraid of him, whatever he was.

“You should avert your gaze,” he advised.

“Why?”

“They say it can make a human insane to witness the change.”

Katina wasn’t one to put stock in rumors, and she already knew that seeing such a change wouldn’t challenge her sanity. She already knew such feats were possible. “Who says that?”

If a dragon could be said to smile, this one did. “Others of my kind insist it’s true.”

“Have you seen any human go crazy at the sight?”

He considered the matter, then shook his head.

And Alexander never lied to her.

“Then I’ll keep my eyes open.” Katina lifted her chin. “Show me.”

The dragon’s gaze brightened. The way his eyes glittered was both familiar and alien: it reminded her of Alexander when he was intent, yet seemed reptilian. “My bold Katina,” he murmured, the low familiar sound sending a shiver through her.

Then all she saw was the similarity with Alexander.

As she watched, that same strange blue shimmer lit around his perimeter. It became radiant, a wondrous yet unusual glow, and then within the halo of illumination, Katina caught a glimpse of the dragon’s silhouette changing.

The dragon’s wings became smaller and folded down into his back, melding into his shoulders. His tail shortened until it, too, disappeared. His claws became hands and feet, his scaled hide faded from view, and Alexander in his strange clothes stood before her instead. It all happened in the blink of an eye. That blue light shimmered briefly around his body, before it was extinguished.

He waited in silence for her to respond, watching her with care, just as Alexander was inclined to do.
 

Katina wanted to laugh with delight. She had a good look at him, verifying that her eyes and her hope hadn’t deceived her. Alexander was wearing his strange clothing again, although the front of his upper garment hung open to reveal the tanned expanse of his chest. He was exactly as he should be, and she knew he couldn’t possibly have been hiding here or otherwise disguised.

Alexander
was
the dragon.

The dark dragon drawn on his shoulder suddenly made more sense.

It marked him as what he was.

This explained why the dragon had some to her rescue. Katina exhaled, surprised to find her insides quivering with joy. Learning Alexander’s secret made Katina feel as if a burden had been lifted from her shoulders. She didn’t have to hide her own truth from him any longer. She didn’t have to fear his reaction.

They had so much in common.

She walked toward him, cautiously placing one hand on his chest as he watched her. His heart pounded beneath her hand, beneath the familiar heat of muscle and bone. She hardly dared to believe her good fortune, and had to be sure this was as perfect as she believed it to be. Was there a trick?

“What god gave you this gift and at what price?” she asked.

Alexander studied her, as if deciding what to tell her. He was so still that he might have seen the secrets of her heart. “You aren’t afraid,” he mused and her heart skipped. “You’re not even surprised.”

Katina smiled, not ready to explain all of her reaction just yet. “You’re the man I love, and that doesn’t change, even if you have kept a secret from me.”

Alexander studied her and she watched conviction dawn in his eyes, as well as pleasure. “My bold bride,” he murmured with admiration, then closed his hand over hers.

“I knew there was something you weren’t telling me.”

“But how? I was so careful...”

Katina laced her fingers between his. “Not so careful as that. You answered the door before anyone knocked. You lifted a pot from the fire before the food began to burn. You rose from a deep sleep to get Lysander for his feeding before he opened his mouth to cry. I thought you could see the future, but were afraid to admit it to me. I thought you were a kind of oracle.”

He looked down at their interlocked hands. His thumb eased across the back of her hand, launching an army of shivers over her flesh. “A gift of prophecy would have been far easier to explain.”

“Then how did you know those things?”

“Our senses are sharper. We see farther and hear a greater range of sounds.”

That made sense to Katina. She waited but he said no more, so she leaned against him to whisper. “Why didn’t you tell me?” She knew the answer to this. It had to be the same answer she would have given in his place, but she wanted to hear it. She wanted him to realize that they had this fear in common before she shared her secret.

“I was afraid to lose you, if you knew the truth.” Alexander swallowed and looked down at her hand in his. “Not all women would welcome such news of their husband.”

“I think they would if that husband saved them from a beating.” Katina retorted. She’d meant to maybe make him smile, but immediately saw that she had said the wrong thing. Alexander frowned, then released her hand and turned away. He looked over the valley now falling in darkness. He propped his hands on his hips and kept his back to her.

Katina felt as if a wide cold rift had opened between them, then guessed why. “What happened to Cetos?”

“What do you mean?” Alexander’s voice was carefully neutral.

Katina swallowed. She didn’t wish Cetos dead, despite what he had done, but she did want to be with Alexander again. “Am I a widow, free to welcome you again, or not?”

Alexander flicked a hot look her way. “I didn’t kill him.”

“Is he dead?”

“No.” Alexander was so sure that Katina knew it was true.

Her heart sank. She was still a married woman. “I won’t go back to him,” she said with resolve. “I’ll stay with you.”

Alexander grimaced. “You gave your word to him.”

“You invited me to go with you.”

“That was before...” He frowned and fell silent.

“He raised his hand against me.” Katina felt her lips set even as she folded her arms across her chest. If Alexander was going to be stubborn, she would be more so. “And if I tell him that I welcomed you, he’ll cast me out anyway. Do you mean to hold me to that marriage vow, even though he tried to hurt me?”

To her surprise, Alexander said nothing, although his scowl deepened.

“Don’t you love me anymore?” Katina demanded, needing to hear the truth.

“I have no right to love you,” Alexander said.

It wasn’t the answer she wanted, but it wasn’t the one she’d feared either. “You’d prefer that I went back to Cetos?” she asked, hearing the hurt in her voice. “You just came to seduce me, not to stay?”

“No,” he said with force. “Never that.”

“Then what?”

“I won’t make a promise to you that I might not be able to keep.”

Katina bit her lip and looked over the valley. It was possible that he was bothered by her marriage vow, but she sensed that there was something else, some ethical concern that made him wait. She loved that Alexander was a man of honor, but in this moment, she could wish that he weren’t quite so principled.

Of course, then she wouldn’t love him quite so much.

Then she remembered his earlier confession. “You don’t know if you’ll be able to stay,” she whispered.

Alexander bowed his head.

“You never could lie,” she said softly.

“Not to you.” He looked at her then, his heart in his eyes, and Katina realized she’d have to show him that she’d take every moment she could have with him, and savor it. She’d tried to send him away, fearing that Cetos would injure him, but now that they were away from Cetos, she couldn’t bear to be parted from Alexander.

And she knew now that he could defend himself against any man.

She recognized that his principles would stand between them, along with her marriage vows. As long as Cetos lived and Alexander was uncertain of his future, he wouldn’t touch her. He’d defend her and talk to her, but no more than that.

Katina wanted more. She had to find a way to solve this.

“When will you know about your future?” she asked.

“After I ask the Pythia.”

“We have to go to Delphi, then.”

He nodded.

“The flames, in the sanctuary,” she guessed. “When we first met. It wasn’t a trick, was it? It didn’t have anything to do with the Pythia or the fumes in the temple.”

“It was the light of the firestorm,” Alexander admitted. “The firestorm burns when one of my kind meets his destined mate.”

Katina smiled with new hope. “Then we
were
destined to be together.”

Alexander shrugged and Katina sensed that, once again, he would protect her from some painful truth. “It’s not such a romantic idea as that. The destined mate is the woman who can bear the
Pyr
’s son. The flame burns until their match is made.”

Katina looked away, disappointed that the magic of their first encounter had only been about the conception of Lysander. “Did I have a choice?”

“There’s always a choice.”

But Katina remembered the heat of the firestorm, the power of her desire and the connection she had felt with Alexander in that potent moment. She remembered the consuming attraction she’d felt for him and wasn’t sure she could have resisted him then, not for any price.

She stole a glance at him and acknowledged that hadn’t changed. She hadn’t been able to resist him on this day, even without the spark of this firestorm.

And she didn’t want to resist him now.

Suddenly, she realized the implication underlying his words.

“Bear his son,” she echoed. “That means that Lysander...”

Alexander fixed her with a cool glance that reminded her of the dragon within. “Will be like me,” he confirmed with a calmness that seemed undeserved. “Understand, Katina, that if I hadn’t pledged to serve, then I would never have answered the summons.” His eyes darkened as he watched her, his voice softening. “But if I hadn’t pledged, then I wouldn’t have been in the sanctuary of the temple at Delphi that night you arrived there. I wouldn’t have missed that for all the world.”

There was a lump in Katina’s throat. “No matter how it ends?”

“No matter how it ends, I can’t regret having been with you.”

Katina reached out and took his hand in hers again. “I have no regrets, either.”

Their gazes locked and held for a long moment. That familiar heat rose between them, reminding her that they had never stopped with one mating. She saw the spark of desire brighten in Alexander’s eyes and dared to hope that he might soften in his resolve. She made to take a step closer, to encourage him with a kiss, but Alexander caught his breath sharply.

BOOK: Kiss of Danger (The Dragon Legion Novellas)
3.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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