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Authors: Julia Mills

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BOOK: The Fate of Her Dragon
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She paused to take a breath
and Drago jumped in.
“You are the only one I can communicate with. Our bond
is strong because of your magic. Don’t you think I tried to call out to another
Guardsman? Of course, I did, but no one can hear me except you. And you know I
am telling the truth. Look inside yourself, you can feel it. If you didn’t you
wouldn’t have come all those times and you most assuredly wouldn’t still be
talking to me. You are a smart, intuitive woman, Alicia. You know I’m telling
you the absolute truth, just as sure as you know we are mates.”

“We are what?!”
Alicia sputtered just as their connection became
silent
.

Drago reached out with all
his senses and then chuckled to himself,
“Well, bullocks, my mate has
fainted.”

 

Chapter Two

Alicia followed the soothing
tune of a low baritone hum back to consciousness. The melody seemed familiar,
almost haunting, but it was the way the man’s voice ignited all her senses,
waking up every nerve with gentle kisses of sound that made her sigh and
stretch like a kitten in the sunshine. She had a few minutes of blessed
serenity before the glaring light of reality came rushing back. Jerking
upright, the young witch shook her head and squinted against the rising sun. The
last thing she remembered was talking to the man that had nearly driven her
crazy for the last few weeks before her world had faded to black.

I can’t believe I fainted.
I never faint. Must’ve been from the lack of sleep, or…

“Did you say you think I’m
your mate?”
She demanded, immediately
irritated when her question was met with male chuckling.

“I did.”

“Well, you’re wrong. I
mean, you have to be wrong. It just isn’t possible. And if you are making it up
just so I’ll help you out of whatever the
Dorcha
has done to you then let me make it clear that I was going to
help you anyway. I…”

“Alicia…”
Drago said her name with such command she stopped
immediately, waiting for him to speak. It took several seconds but when he
began again, his tone had softened.
“Let me ask you a question. Why is it
that you are the only one I can communicate with even though there are other
Guardsman around?”

Not willing to admit
anything, the young witch scoffed,
“I don’t know… proximity?”

Again, he chuckled, and she
wished he were standing right in front of her so she could punch him in the
nose.
“But did you not hear me when you were sleeping… in your home?”

“Yes, but…”

“And were you not
compelled to help me?”

“Yes, but…”

“Were you not drawn to the
spot where you now stand over and over again?”

“Yes, but…

“Do you not feel our
connection deep within your soul?”

“Yes, but…”

“Do you…”

“WILL YOU STOP
INTERRUPTING ME?!”
Alicia knew she
was screaming, but Drago’s incessant questioning was hitting too close to
things she didn’t want to think about.

Taking a long, deep breath,
Alicia paced back and forth in front of the huge boulder separating her from
Drago.
“Okay, I admit, I was drawn to this place. I admit I can hear you and
it’s obvious none of the dragons can, but there has to be a logical explanation
that does
not
lead to us being mates. Right now, we need to focus on
getting you out of there and I’m gonna need some serious muscle to help move
this big ass rock.”

Her comments were met with
silence. She was just about to ask if he was still there when he finally spoke.
“I agree to table our discussion of being mates until I am free, but do not
think I will forget.”

Alicia wanted to argue,
wanted to tell him that a hundred years in a hole in the ground surrounded by
silver had left him a brick shy of a load—but she couldn’t. There was no
denying their connection. No denying what she felt just from the touch of his
mind. This man was her future but there was no way she was admitting that to
him, not until she could look him in the eye and make sure everything he was
telling her was the truth. It was clear what she had to do.

“All right, whatever, I
need to go get some help, but first you need to answer a few questions. I’m gonna
have to convince some very headstrong men that you are really here and really a
Guardsman.”
She shook her head.

Piece of cake! Yeah,
right, not even on a good day.

“Ask anything you like,
Alicia, my dear.”

Alicia smiled at his old
world style of speaking, ignoring the way her name rolled off his tongue. The
lilt of his accent made her think of things she had no business thinking about
a man who was trapped and needed her help. Clearing her throat, she asked,
“You
said your last name was MacLendon? Are you related to Rayne MacLendon?”

“Yes, Rayne is my nephew.”
He chuckled, but she could feel his
sadness.
“I am guessing since you mentioned Rayne instead of his father, Alexander,
that he no longer lives?”

“No, I’m so sorry. From
the stories I’ve heard he has been gone for some time.”

Alicia could feel Drago’s
sadness and wished there was something she could do or say that would help, but
for the first time in her life, she was speechless. The silence seemed to
stretch on until she wondered if maybe he’d collapsed. The strain in his voice,
as well as the unmistakable weakness she felt him trying to hide,
had been evident. Not sure what to do, she whispered,
“Are
you okay?”

Yeah, that was stupid. Of
course he’s not okay.

“I mean…”

“I know what you mean,
mo chroi’,
and I appreciate your condolences. I
knew it was too much to hope that my brother still lived, but I am glad his son
survives.”

Once again Alicia wasn’t sure
what to say. Deciding to get back to the business at hand, she asked,
“Is
there anything I can tell Rayne that will make him believe you are who you say
you are and not a figment of my imagination?”

His laughter was warm but she
could feel his struggle as he answered,
“Tell him you know his first taste
of whiskey was from his father’s flask that Rayne had taken when ol’ Alex had a
wee bit too much after the battle at Hunter’s Cove. Make sure you add that you
know he has a scar on his left buttocks from falling down the ladder the next
morning after passing out in the hayloft and that I’m the one that covered for
him while he nearly threw up his toes during training that afternoon.”

Alicia laughed out loud. It
was hilarious to imagine the totally composed, always in control, Rayne
MacLendon drunk and falling out of the hayloft, not to mention throwing up in
the training pitch. She wondered if Kyndel knew about her mate’s childhood
exploits.
“I’m not sure I can get away with the comment about his
‘buttocks’,
she mimicked his accent.
“His mate may take issue with
that.”

“His mate?”
Pride mixed with loss floated from Drago.

Alicia felt horrible that
she’d dropped that bomb on him without thinking. There was going to be so much
he had to deal with but that could all wait until she got him out of the hole
in the ground. Answering as quickly as she could and pouring all the warmth and
happiness she could into her words, Alicia replied,
“Yes, he has been mated
for several years and they have a son. They’re very happy and I know they’re gonna
be even happier to meet you.”

Her words were met with a
tired sigh,
“So many years…”
She felt an immediate about face in his
attitude.
“Well, that is for another time. You need to be going. Get your
help and get back here. I have lost too much time.”

Alicia opened her mouth to
argue. She wanted to tell him not to order her around, that she had a mind of
her own and knew what needed to be done. Instead, she stopped and took a deep
breath. It was obvious he was dealing with the little bit she’d told him about
his family, as well as what she was sure was pain and fatigue from his prison.
She’d seen what just little bits of silver did a dragon shifter, so she could
only imagine what he’d been through being trapped in a silver box for a hundred
years. He was lucky to be alive.

“You rest, I’m going to
get help. I’ll be back as soon as I can. Don’t worry. We’ll get you outta
there.”

“I know you will,
mo maite
. I have all the faith in the world in
you.”

His voice sounded distant as
she said one more goodbye and took off through the woods. Alicia offered a prayer
to the Universe and the Goddess as she ran…

“Please let me help Drago.
Don’t let his faith in me be in vain.”

 

Chapter Three

Arriving at the house she and
her family were sharing while staying with the dragons, Alicia stopped to catch
her breath. The entire way through the woods, she’d been going over all she’d
learned and thinking about what she was going to tell everyone. She was sure
her family would believe her and prayed her sister’s mate, Liam, would too, but
she was seriously worried about the other dragons. All she could do was try. If
they thought she was crazy then she’d just have to figure out another way to
free Drago.

Opening the gate at the back
of the property, Alicia made her way through the garden and up the steps to the
kitchen door. Happy sounds of her mother and sisters chatting about their plans
for the day drifted through the weathered wood. She had to smile, they were a
crazy crew, but they were hers and she wouldn’t trade them for the world. With
her hand on the doorknob, she took one last deep breath and slowly let it out.

It’s now or never.

Turning the knob, she opened
and stepped in. All conversation stopped and everyone looked up. Her mother,
Sarah Beth, put her hands on her hips and shook her head. “And just where have
you been, little missy?”

Fiona and Brenna, two of the
youngest of her six sisters, giggled into their hands and waggled their
eyebrows while Sarah Beth continued her inquisition. “And don’t tell me you got
up early and left the house. I know better, Alicia May. I went to check on you
in the middle of the night and your bed hadn’t even been touched. So out with
it, where have you been?” 

Alicia knew she was going to
tell her mom the truth, she always did, but it was the fear that Sarah Beth
would think she’d lost her ever-loving mind that made her stop and think for an
extra minute. And of course, true to form, that extra minute cost her dearly.
As she opened her mouth to speak, the unmistakable sound of the front opening
sounded, quickly followed by her sister Hannah’s voice. “Hey y’all! Anybody
home?” And then her brother-in-law Liam’s chuckle. “And is everybody decent? Man
in the house.”

Alicia’s shoulders slumped as
she groaned to herself, “Well, hell, now the dragons are here too. Why didn’t I
just walk in and tell her? I swear to the Goddess, am I ever gonna learn?”

Thankfully, everyone
including her mother had walked into the family room to greet Hannah and Liam,
so Alicia took her time revamping the speech she had planned to include all the
info Drago had given her. One foot over the threshold was all it took before
Fiona, the youngest of the sisters in attendance, yelled, “Hey Hannah, ask
Alicia where she was all night?”

Spinning around, eyes wide,
Hannah gasped, “Alicia May…where were you?”

As if things hadn’t already
gotten bad enough, the two oldest of their band of merry witches came walking down
the stairs. “Do tell, Alicia May,” they teased in a singsong tone. “Where were
you all night?”

Annalisa, the oldest sister,
added, “Better yet, who were you with?” and wiggled her eyebrows for added
effect.

Alicia blew out a long breath
and plopped onto the couch. “All right y’all, grab a seat. Cause you’re never
gonna believe this story.” She added a nervous chuckle to diffuse some of the
tension that had instantly filled the room.

Everyone took a seat. All
eyes were focused on her. The room was so quiet her voice almost echoed as she
started to speak. “Well, it all started a few weeks ago. I began hearing a
man’s voice in my dreams.” Her sisters all snickered and winked, but Alicia
ignored them and powered on. It was a survival technique she’d learned when she
was much younger. “He was calling to me. Asking me for help. At first, I
thought it was just all the stress of the fight with the
Dorcha,
the
crap with Cleland, not to mention Mara being missing in action, but things
started to get much more intense. I started walking in my sleep.”

The look on Sarah Beth’s face
said it all—she was worried and more than a little pissed that Alicia had
waited so long to tell her. Not willing to stop and deal with her mother’s
anger, Alicia kept going. “Every time I woke up I was up on the cliffs near the
caves. Just recently, I found myself outside the one with the entrance blocked
by that huge boulder. You know the one that’s almost perfectly round? Anyway, I
guess the worst was when the voice started calling out while I was awake. I
really thought I was losing my mind, but in my heart, I knew I had to help him.
It was like a compulsion but there was no magic. I just
had
to help the
man that was calling to me. Yesterday, everything changed. The faraway voice in
my head became clearer and for the first time I was able to answer back.”

She looked from person to
person as they stared at her as if she had three heads, willing them to
understand…
to believe
. And just as it had been since they were
children, it was Hannah that came to her rescue. “So, you talked to him. What
did he say? Who is he? Can you help him?”

Letting go of a breath she
hadn’t realized she was holding, Alicia smiled at her sister. Being number
three and four in a brood the size of the McKennons had made the girls not only
sisters, but also friends, and today Alicia needed all the friends she could
get. “Yeah, I talked—or thought—to him.” She laughed out loud at how crazy she
sounded. “He said he was trapped about a hundred years ago by the
Dorcha,
specifically the
Grand Draoi
…”

“Cleland?” everyone almost
shouted at the same time.

“No, that’s the weird part.
He said he didn’t know who Cleland was, and after I thought about it for a
minute it kinda did make sense, because Cleland isn’t that old and we all know
how that butthead came into power.”

Heads were all nodding in
agreement with varying degrees of sadness and anger that Cleland’s bid for
power had cost their father his life. After a few seconds of silent
commiseration, the young witch continued, “And here comes the part that I’m
gonna need your help with, Liam.”

Her brother-in-law nodded.
“Anything you need, Ally.”

She smiled at the nickname
he’d made up for her since mating her sister. Alicia had never liked anything
but her full name but she was kinda warming up to the idea of it, especially
when she could see it made Hannah happy.

Nodding, she said, “He said
his name is Drago MacLendon….”

“Holy shit!” Liam yelled,
cutting off what she was about to say and finishing for her. Awe colored the
young Guardsman’s words. “You have got to be kidding me? Do you know who he is?
Or was?” He rushed on, not waiting for an answer, jumping up and pacing as he
talked. “He’s Rayne’s uncle, but everyone—and I mean
everyone
—thought he
was dead. He and his men disappeared like forever ago. Poof! Gone! Never heard
from again. And it was a
huge
deal. They were seriously vital to the
dragons and their fight against extinction. The man was known as the
Assassin
.”

Everyone in the room gasped.
Liam stopped pacing and looked around, shaking his head. “No, not the way
you’re thinking. He was a freaking legend. Still is. He got the name because
there wasn’t a wizard or hunter alive that could outrun, outwit, or outfight
him and his Force. His men were known as The Enforcers and let me tell you,
when they set their sights on an enemy, that enemy was as good as dead. I mean
I’ve heard the stories since I was a little
drake
. You’ve got to go tell
Rayne. We’ve got to figure out how to save him…”

Liam spun around and stared
at her for a just a second longer than was comfortable. His brows were furrowed
and he bit the inside of his cheek. She knew he was talking to Hannah through
their mating bond because her sister was nodding her head even though the room
was silent as a tomb.

Oh damn! Bad choice of
words.

Alicia opened her mouth to
ask what was up when Liam squinted his eyes and asked, “Just how is it that you
are the only one that can hear him or speak to him, Ally?”

Oh crap! Oh crap! Oh crap!

The one thing she’d hoped no
one would focus on was the one thing her brother-in-law seemed to grab on to.
Alicia wished she could disappear in a cloud of smoke but instead, she stood up
straight and looked him right in the eye. “I asked the same question, believe
me. I mean I questioned him up and down about why me and not one of y’all.”

She stopped, hoping that was
enough of an explanation and they could get on with how to best approach the
Dragon Guard Commander with her bombshell, but no such luck. Hannah stood and
walked across the room, stopping right in front of Alicia with a knowing look
on her face. “Is he your mate, Ally?” she whispered.

Alicia had no idea what to
say or do. But by the way everyone in the room was staring at her, waiting for
an answer, she knew she better come up with something quick. So she did the
only thing she knew how to do. She told the truth. “That’s what he says.”

“And what do you say?” Hannah
asked, just a bit louder than before.

Throwing up her hands and
stepping away from her sister, Alicia walked to the window and stared at the
flowers blooming around the porch. She had no idea what to say. It was
something she herself hadn’t come to terms with and truly wasn’t ready to share
with her entire family, but now it was out in the open and she had to do
something. Her thoughts were in chaos when the low, baritone voice that had
started this whole mess asked,
“What do you feel, Alicia?”

“Have you been listening
the whole time?”
she demanded.

“No, I was sleeping, and
you know we cannot always communicate over long distances. It was your distress
and worry that woke me. I had to reach out to you, to make sure you were all
right,”
Drago answered, ignoring her
curt tone and pushing confidence at her. She could feel him trying to reassure
her and had to admit it was nice.
“So I ask again,
mo chroi’,
what do
you feel?”

“You know darn good and
well what I feel, Drago, and stop with all the mushy sentiments. It only makes
this all the more crazy. I don’t even know what you look like. We have bigger
fish to fry than discussing our love lives. Now, go back to sleep and I’ll let
you know when I have everything here sorted out.”

“As you wish,
mo maite
.”
She could hear the chuckle in his
voice and promised to kick him in the shins once he was free and she knew he
was okay. Their connection went dead and she turned to face her family.

“Yeah, okay, we have a
connection. But I’m not so sure it’s the whole mate thing he thinks it is.” She
saw Liam and Hannah with goofy grins on their faces about to interrupt, so she
hurried on. “I know. I know. You two obviously think he’s right. Who knows?
What I do know is that he’s buried in a magical hole in a silver box and we
need to get him out. The black magic is too strong for me break through alone.
I’m gonna need help and we’re gonna need pure brute strength to get that
boulder out of the way and dig him out if we find what I think we’re gonna find
in that cave.”

“He’s been encased in silver
for a hundred years?” Liam asked. “Do you know what silver does to a dragon? He
must be one tough son of a bitch.” Alicia once again heard awe in her
brother-in-law’s voice.

She nodded. “That’s what I’ve
been trying to tell you. He’s in trouble and we need to get him out. Will you
help me talk to the Commander? Please?”

“Yep.” Liam grabbed Hannah’s
hand and headed to the door, calling over his shoulder, “Come on Ally, let’s
get this show on the road.”

The walk to the house Rayne
and Kyndel had been staying in since they’d gotten back to the Blue Thunder
lair was silent. Alicia was deep in thought and figured her sister and
brother-in-law were talking in their ‘special way’ while trying to leave her
alone. Hannah had always been pretty good about giving Alicia the space she
needed to work through things on her own, and she was grateful for that.

All too soon they came to the
back of the MacLendon house. Alicia looked at Hannah and Liam before asking,
“How do you think we go about this?”

Before either could answer,
the back door opened and Rayne walked out onto the patio. “I suggest you come
in here and tell me what the hell is going on. Heavens know Liam is the worst
at shielding his thoughts and his little mate’s worry is even stronger today.”
He stood with his arms crossed over his massive chest and spoke with such
command that Alicia was walking forward before she realized what was happening.

Looking to her side, she saw
Hannah and Liam had identical looks of obedience as they also followed the
Commander’s orders. When they were about two steps from where the formidable
Rayne MacLendon stood, the door behind him swung open and out came his fiery
redheaded mate with their son on her hip. She smacked her mate on the shoulder
before smiling directly at Alicia. “Don’t let Mr. Grumpy Pants order you around
like that. Y’all come on in and have some muffins. I just put the coffee on.”
Then to her husband as she was turning to go back inside she said, “I swear
your manners leave a lot to be desired.”

BOOK: The Fate of Her Dragon
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