Authors: Aurora Reid
© 2016 by Aurora Reid
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Jax’s Mate (Wood Bear’s Unexpected Mate) is included as a bonus book at around 60%.
ass escaped her golden cage
She showed up at the LA Outlaws practice with Jae’s favorite
candy—gold flecked truffles from the gourmet chocolate store, a flashy treat
for a dragon. Except what seemed like a nice gesture was anything but.
She’d been stuck inside of his home and needed some fresh air and
sunlight. There was also a part of her that clung to that tiny thread of hope
that there would be someone at the practice who could help her, someone who
would see the desperation in her eyes.
The Outlaws were rushing into mats, doing drills. Cass could hear
the thudding long before she got to the gate. A few spectators were standing
there along with reporters following one of the best teams in the Shifter
Football League. The analysts said they were going all the way to the
Championship this year.
Jae would know she had arrived.
He was a dragon shifter, senses so sharp he told Cass he heard her
The scary part was that she believed him…
Cass had woken in such a feverish mood. She’d been cooped up in
Jae’s home for months. Going to the practice would anger the red dragon, but
she’d hit her breaking point, fearing what would happen to her if she was
isolated any longer.
And while he might leave her door unlocked sometimes, she knew she could never get far. Jae would go to the ends of the Earth to find her, and being a dragon, that wouldn’t be so hard.
He’d seemed like a nice guy at first. Actually, he
a nice guy. His behavior had changed ever so slowly. Now she was stuck in
one of his rooms in his isolated mansion, like it was normal, like everyone
goes through a period like this in their lives.
Her fingers trembled as she grasped the fence.
A single helmeted player turned and faced her, not budging. It was
Jae. Inside of the shadowy helmet, his eyes burned, a flash of red
like a death ray pointed right at her.
“Ms. Warren, it’s nice to see you.”
Cass spun to see the Outlaws’ head coach, Coach Howard, standing
by the side of the gate. He went to let her through the entrance. The guard
nodded and let them through.
“You’re just the person I need.”
She blinked. What? “Oh, hi, Coach Howard.”
She already began to walk with him, no idea what use she could be.
Coach adjusted his cap with the LA Outlaws logo on it. Whenever
she saw him, he always wore that cap, reminding her of her father at her minor
league game for her little brother. He’d fit right in. At his age, whatever it
was—must’ve been a lot, since he was a shifter with grey hair—he looked the
part. And played the part as well, in more ways than one. Coach Howard was like
a father to every one of the Outlaws.
“Nico is here. We could use your expert set of eyes on his injury.”
Oh...that was right. She
one of the leading sports
physical therapists with a Master’s in Shifter Studies. She’d just been Jae’s
private nurse for so long that she’d almost forgotten she was anything else.
Now she would be meeting the only other dragon she knew, their
star quarterback, Nico.
Jae wasn’t going to be happy about this. She clutched the small
gift bag closer to her chest as she followed Coach inside, going through the
long, dark hallway that led to the locker rooms.
Once they were in the light, Coach grunted. “What’s in the bag?”
“A gift for Jae.”
“It’s his favorite candy.”
“Tell you what, you help out Nico here, and I’ll
“It’s my job.”
They stopped at a door.
“Could’ve sworn it was your job too.” He noticed the wriggle of
Cass’s nose, the little twitch and added, “Jae’s got you all to himself, and I
let that go, but you’re technically on our payroll, which you already know. If
you ever get tired there…”
Cass waved the thought away.
I’m more than tired of it. I’m terrified. But I can’t say that out
The dragon breathed fire at her heels.
“Let’s see what’s going on, shall we?” She nodded to the door and
Coach Howard opened it, heading right in.
Something told Cass that Coach had his suspicions of Jae. Yet he
was an eagle shifter, and an eagle was no match for a dragon.
Nico waited, sprawled out on a massage table in some shorts and no
shirt. They never met before, but she knew about him. A single quarterback with
a mysterious and dark past, a handsome shifter who could transform into a
powerful dragon, he was on every celebrity blog’s radar.
“Hello,” he said, his golden eyes glowing as he tilted his chin up
Since she watched every game—Jae grilled her on his performance
during each one—she saw when Nico was injured. He had been rushing past a sack
when his Achilles tendon had torn.
“Cass? You’re a sports therapist?” He showed an inkling of a white
smile that had heat spreading like wildfire in her.
She could see why girls were so obsessed with him, lining up after
the games in order to get his autograph and pictures, or in some cases in order
to seduce him and get to his gold chambers, which she assumed he had. All
Coach Howard slapped her on the shoulder. A little too hard.
Perhaps he’d been around the boys too long, but she appreciated it,
“Cass here is one of the best damn therapists you could ever hope
to walk in this door. I won’t bore you with her resume, so just trust me.”
He gave her shoulder another pat and then headed for the door. “Good
luck, let me know what you think after, Cass. I’m eager to hear all about it.”
The door shut, leaving Cass alone with the intimidating dragon
He’d be intimidating enough with his shirt on, never mind off.
Usually, quarterbacks didn’t have the most impressive physiques. Nico looked
like a statue of the perfect man: wide shoulders, a lean yet muscular chest, a
ripped set of arms with bulging biceps and some nice looking legs too, every
part of him honed to be the best possible. Looking at his physique, you could
see his dedication, his striving to be the best he could be.
“Why have I never seen you before? I think I would’ve noticed.”
Cass took cautious steps to the side of his table.
“I’ve...been with the team for a while, but mostly I’ve been
“Oh, so you’re the one he won’t answer questions about?” The edges
of his eyes crinkled a little as he looked up at her. She didn’t think that
there could be wear on his body. He looked immortal.
“Well, whatever you’re doing, it must be good. He hasn’t even had
a stubbed toe all year.”
“I can only do so much,” she began, but he stopped her.
“Something tells me you’re being modest.”
Seeming uneasy, he stared past her then. As soon as she placed a
hand on the table, he winced.
“You’re not healing as quickly as you should be,” she noticed at
He looked distant.
Thinking about laying her hands on his skin, that ball of energy
in her stomach burst into a roaring fire. She held back, waiting for his
Shifters usually healed quicker than humans. Their quick healing
meant fans didn’t have to wait for their favorite players to return to the game
after injuries. But sometimes, after a particularly nasty injury, healing could
be slowed from a shifter who was stressed, psychologically damaged, or there
were other diseases, specific shifter diseases that could overwhelm their
This was why Nico was nervous. Cass definitely would be. She’d
probably be hiding under the table.
“Go ahead. Work your magic, doc.”
Cass checked his tendon. She made sure to be careful as it was
She turned it over a little, rotating it. He took an inhale,
almost unnoticeable, but Cass caught it while checking for the tiniest
movements in his body. There was a lot of pain. This guy could hide it well.
“I see it hurts.”
“I just want to use it again,” he grunted.
“Sorry, I’m going to have to manipulate it some more.”
The tendon was turned ever so slowly and then massaged, Cass
careful to monitor his breathing as she did it.
“Why shifters?” he blurted out. “Why would a human study shifters?
I thought you all hated us.”
“That’s not true.”
Gold flashed in his eyes. “Or feared us.”
She smirked. “I’m definitely not afraid of you.”
He returned a sly look that seemed to say, “Oh really?”
“Really. I’m pretty sure you’re the one on the table here.”
Nico grinned. “You’re not wrong.”
The hair on the back of her neck prickled when she caught Nico
looking behind her.
A wave of fear passed over her. Jae was there, she imagined, right
behind her, whispering, “I hear every breath you take.” Kind of like that
Police song. She’d never thought it very romantic, more like stalker-ish.
When she turned around, he
there, standing in
the doorway, his face solid like a rock and stern.
“Hi, Jae,” Cass said in a hurry. “I brought the chocolates you
Jae simply nodded. Up and down, he nodded, his eyes not moving.
It was unsettling. Cass didn’t want to return back to touching
Nico’s leg. She knew how possessive Jae was.
“Go on, I’ll be here,” he said, his voice cold.
Nico shrugged. “What’s up, Jae?”
“Go on. Ignore me.”
He was making that difficult.
Like Nico, Jae had that sharp, impenetrable look about him. They
were both cut, but Jae was shorter and buffer, necessary for his defensive end
position. His hair was also a deep black, unlike Nico’s warm chestnut colored
hair that further pronounced his golden eyes.
Cass did her best to ignore Jae. She put her back to him to make
it less awkward. Touching a patient was always clinical. With Jae there, he
forced it not to be.
She let go.
Now wasn't the time. Later she wanted to discover the secret to
why this shifter wasn’t healing.
Cass was so good at her job because she was so damn curious and always asking questions.
“I want to order some tests for you.”
Nico shook his head vehemently. He looked deeply into her eyes.
When Jae did that, she would be terrified. Instead, Nico’s look
caged her, and then prodded her in areas that she had assumed were dead long
ago. Her arousal stirred.
“No tests,” he grunted. “I’ll manage.”
She smiled at him, his intense look softened.
managing. That’s why you need my help.”
Nico snarled a little. Not at her. Behind her.
Cass didn’t want to turn around. Fear told her that Jae might be
stupid enough to fight a member of his own team. Dragons were territorial, more
than that, possessive, so to have two in the same room seemed like she was
asking for the room to be torched.
Nico’s abs flexed as he pushed up. It looked so hot to Cass.
And kind of made her want to see a brawl, just a dirty little thought of a hot shifter quarterback fighting for her and protecting her, not like she’d really want to see a fight.
“Are you going to stand back there the whole time and watch?”
Jae said nothing again, only nodded at Nico.
Cass saw a spread of fire emerge around Nico’s pupils but it was
almost too fast to see, like a split second look at a star exploding.
This wasn’t good.
Thankfully, Nico put an end to it.
“There won’t be tests, I’m sorry, I’m fine. Thanks for taking a
look at me.”
Nico was now expressionless. Cass turned around and saw Jae lift
So that was it?
It was time, like always, to return back to Jae.
She squinted and furrowed her brow at Nico. They had only just
met. But she was still disappointed in him.
Then she followed Jae out of the room, sure that she had angered
the dragon and would be sure to pay.