Fire Mates, Book 2
Published 2016 by Book Boutiques.
Copyright © 2016, Lexxie Couper.
All rights reserved.
Yorick “Rick” Hayes knew he was in trouble when the cop didn’t smile back. She was a very sexy cop, with a very sexy mouth, a very sexy throat, very sexy long blonde hair in a ponytail, and a very sexy body, all wrapped up in a very sexy, authoritarian cop’s uniform—complete with a not-so-sexy but very authoritarian gun on her sexy hip.
If he weren’t three points away from losing his driver’s license altogether, he’d consider throwing caution to the wind and flirting his arse off. The trouble was, he was three points away from losing his license altogether—three points now hanging perilously in the balance, thanks to his rather childish desire to drive faster than the posted speed limit. And a veterinarian without a license was a veterinarian who couldn’t get to emergencies. Of which there were many, considering Rick was the only vet in North Shore Sydney who specialized in reptiles.
Who knew so many people in the snobby end of the city owned lizards? Not Rick. Not until he’d settled in Sydney and opened his own veterinary practice after finishing his degree. Then it was call-out after call-out after call-out. And so many were for reptiles, he’d seriously started to wonder if he was being pranked by his cousin—she of the Komodo dragon obsession. He wasn’t.
The snobby end of the city just seemed to have more pet lizards and snakes per head than the rest of Sydney, which, considering most pet lizards and snakes cost a small fortune to procure, made sense in a bizarrely financial way. Have ridiculous amounts of money, will spend it.
The snobby end of the city also had its fair share of pet dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, parakeets and hamsters, so on the whole, Rick was kept busy doing what he loved most—caring for sick and injured animals.
Well, loved almost the most. Loving very fine ladies was what he really loved the most. Ladies like the very fine, very sexy lady cop waiting for him to produce his license.
He stared at her from his place behind the steering wheel of his dilapidated pickup, unable to ignore the delicate subtlety of her top lip and the wicked fullness of her bottom. It was a very kissable mouth. It went perfectly with all her other verys.
Maybe if he smiled again?
“You do realize,” she said, her voice smooth and throaty and far too no-nonsense, “you were driving ten kilometers over the limit?” Her sunglasses reflected Rick’s face like a bowed mirror.
Refusing to admit defeat, he smiled one more time, putting all his not-inconsiderable, roguish, cheeky charm into it. “And who would have thought this old thing,” he patted the exterior of his door with his palm, “had it in her?”
His far too no-nonsense, very sexy authoritarian police officer didn’t react. Or respond.
Damn. Maybe he was losing his touch?
The one-word command, spoken with an American accent, of all things, sent a ribbon of equal parts nervousness and excitement twisting through Rick’s belly. The reaction was odd, he had to admit. He knew why he was aroused—the cop was sexy, as he’d already noted—her body lush in all the right places, her legs long, her hips curvy, her breasts full, and the accent just topped it off. But he didn’t understand why his body seemed to be thrumming with what he could only describe as nervous energy. Getting a speeding ticket wasn’t the reason, either. He’d received enough of those to know how that felt. No, this was different. This was…
He blinked, the cop’s growled order jerking him back from the weird, introspective moment. When in the hell did he get introspective?
Mirrored sunglasses regarded him.
Rick frowned, suddenly feeling flustered. “Err…”
With an exasperated sigh, the cop bent at the waist, raised one hand and removed her sunglasses, staring him hard in the face.
Fuck, he wished she hadn’t.
Her eyes were green. The greenest green eyes he’d ever seen. Thick, honey-blonde lashes and a smidgen of dark brown eyeliner only made them appear greener. They were stunning and mesmerizing and his dick stood instantly at attention.
But not just his dick. It was as if every single cell in his body zeroed in on every single cell in hers. The urge to open his door, bury his fingers in her hair, bury his face in the side of her neck and breathe, just breathe, was so overwhelming, he found his hand on the door handle before he could blink.
What the hell?
Jerking his hand back to the steering wheel, Rick stared at the cop, his breath caught in his throat, his cock ramrod straight, his heart smashing against his breastbone.
What in the hell was going on?
The cop looked at him, green eyes holding his stare with unwavering intensity. And then he noticed the slightest shift in her body, and his stomach rolled. She was reaching for her gun.
“License!” he burst out, squirming in his seat in an attempt to snare his wallet from his back pocket. “Yes, license.”
The cop’s stare dropped to his lap, no doubt to make sure he wasn’t going to produce something nefarious, like his own weapon, and Rick had to bite back a groan. There wasn’t a hope in hell she would miss the wood he was sporting. Not with the way he was thrusting his hips upward in his so-far-utterly-futile attempt to retrieve his wallet. Bloody hell, since when was it so hard to pull a folded rectangle of leather from a pocket?
“Err…” The ridiculous sound vibrated in his throat once more, his focus fixed firmly on her face as he fought with his wallet. He writhed and thrust his hips up again in an attempt to make more space between his arse and the car seat. Of course, that meant his bloody inconvenient erection whacked against the bottom of the steering wheel. He hissed in a sharp breath.
“Are you okay, sir?”
The question didn’t help. Damn it, the sound of her voice was like some sort of aural Viagra. His dick got harder, his heart beat faster and that urge to crawl from his truck and…and…do things to her got way urgent. Wickedly horny things. Downright filthy things. Things like lick her pussy until she came on his face…things like bend her over the bonnet of his truck and bury himself up to the balls in her sodden sex…things like riding her back as she soared above the clouds in—
Rick blinked. Above the clouds? Ride her back? What the fuck?
He squirmed some more in his seat, flashing an apologetic smile. “Just…let me…I can’t seem to get…”
Damn it, why was she still looking at his crotch? It wasn’t helping. Not one little bit.
“I think you’d better get out of your vehicle, sir.”
Rick froze. His heart leapt into his throat. Out of the vehicle? Fuck no. No no no.
“Err…I don’t think—”
The cop’s green stare slid back to his face, her expression unreadable. “Out of the vehicle, sir. Now.”
Oh no, this is not good. Not good.
Her fingers closed around the grip of her Glock. Her nostril flared. “Sir, I’m not asking.”
Fuck. Fuck fuck fuckity fuck fuck!
Rick stared at her through the window. He had two options. Do as she ordered and get out of his pickup, or ram his foot on the accelerator and drive.
If he went with option one, if he climbed out of his truck, thus removing the barrier of metal between them, he knew beyond any doubt he would throw himself at her and proceed to do all those things his suddenly psychotic libido was telling him to do. Right up until the point when she pulled her gun, jammed it against his temple and blew his suddenly psychotic brains out. He wouldn’t be able to stop himself. There was something so potent, so compelling, so bloody intoxicating about the woman. Even now, still strapped in his seat, his stare locked on her face, every fiber in his body screamed at him to take her, claim her, fuck her, mate with her…
Fuck a duck, he was in trouble.
Just that single word passed her lips, but if Rick didn’t know any better, he would have said it was strained. A plea for everything he wanted to do to her.
He knew better.
He planted his foot on the accelerator and took off.
As fast as his old pickup would go, which, given that he liked speed and had spent an inordinate amount of money on the engine, was ridiculously fast.
He floored it, shifting gears with the skill of a frantic fugitive desperate to escape capture. Which he was. But better that than shot trying to hump a cop on the side of the road.
What the hell was going on with him?
Shooting a look in his rearview mirror, he saw the female officer running back to her vehicle. His mouth turned dry. His cock throbbed, still as hard as ever. She was following him.
Of course she was following. What did he think she was going to do? Wave him off? Shrug and chalk him up as “the one that got away”?
Rick’s already rapid heart rate kicked up a notch. Damn it, what the hell did he think he was doing?
“Saving my arse,” he muttered, shifting back a gear before flinging around a corner and flooring it again, just as a siren began wailing behind him. “Hopefully by the time she catches me, this…this thing going on with me will have—”
His mobile phone burst to life, the sound of the Beatles singing I Am the Walrus telling him it was his receptionist on the other end of the line.
He snatched the device from the passenger seat where he’d tossed it at the start of his journey, connecting to the call with a jab of his thumb before slamming the phone to his ear. “What’s up, Rose? I’m kinda in a situation here.”
“You’ve got an emergency call-out, Doc. A dog mishap. Pretty bad one by the sound of it. The owner’s close to being hysterical.”
The news was sobering. And had the same effect on his dick as a cold spoon smacked against its engorged head.
Rick never thought he’d be so happy to lose an erection.
Repeating the address of the patient three times to cement it in his head, he told Rose to prep for surgery then disconnected the call. Gone was the feverish need to flee the cop. All that mattered now getting to the animal that needed him.
Ten minutes later, the wail of the siren behind him an inescapable reminder of his pursuer, Rick screeched to a halt in the driveway of a rather massive McMansion.
And saw the emergency straightaway.
A beagle was hanging facedown from the house’s short wrought iron fence, its side impaled on one of the ornate spikes.
The second Rick opened the door, the poor animal’s yelps and whines filled his ears, its pain reaching into his heart. A tingle rippled through him, the kind he always experienced when confronted with an animal in torment or agony. It spoke to him on a level he never questioned, an instinctual understanding of the situation and what needed to be done. His heart slowed, his breaths grew deep and, as he alighted from his pickup, his head cleared.
All that existed was the dog and Rick.
Ignoring the elderly woman kneeling by the beagle’s hanging head, her sobs and pleas for help a distant whisper, Rick crouched and placed his hands on the dog’s chest. The animal’s tortured yelps quieted immediately. Its heartbeat vibrated through his palms, an erratic, weak beat that sank into Rick’s belly.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
The voice yelling at him was from the cop. On a deep level, one he would need to examine later, his body responded to her just as it had when she’d removed her sunglasses. His groin stirred, his pulse quickened, every nerve ending thrummed. But only for a moment, a brief recognition of her, before the reason for Rick’s existence—the care of wounded and sick animals—drew his full attention once again.
He lowered his head, drawing his eyes level with those of the impaled beagle. “It’s okay, mate.” He spoke in a low murmur, feeding the dog his calm through slow, gentle strokes of its chest. “I’m going to get you off this.”
He raised his hand to the beagle’s muzzle, smiling as the dog licked the back of his fingers, an acknowledgement of Rick’s presence. “That’s a good boy. I know, I know.”
Lifting his gaze to the woman kneeling beside him, he gave her a reassuring smile. “This is your dog, yes? You are Mrs. Beaumont?”
She nodded, tears wetting cheeks soft and wrinkled with age. “I don’t know what happened. I let him out to do his business and then he was yelping.” She paused, fresh tears chocking her voice. “I rushed out and found him like this.”
Rick touched her shoulder with a steady hand. “He’s going to be okay, Mrs. Beaumont. I promise. What’s his name?”
The old woman’s gaze jerked to the hanging animal, her lips moving soundlessly for a second before the answer found its way from her throat. “Barney. His name is Barney.”
Rick stroked her shoulder, studying her face. “Barney will be fine, Mrs. Beaumont, but you have to do something for me, please. I need to move quickly.”
For a moment he was overwhelmed with the tangible scent of her grief. It wrapped around him and streamed through his nose and mouth, a testament to her love for her dog. It wasn’t the first time Rick had experienced such a sensation when dealing with a distressed animal owner. He’d come to expect it, even used it to help soothe the person’s fear, but never had it hit him so hard. For a moment, all he could do was drown in the sour-ash odor—and then it was gone, nothing but the heavy scent of summer jasmine and the copper tinge of the beagle’s blood flowing through his nose.
“Mrs. Beaumont?” he said again, needing the elderly woman to look at him. Her grief was only upsetting her dog. Rick could feel the increasing stress flowing from the beagle in waves. “I need you to go inside and bring me some clean towels and warm water. Not boiling, but warm. Can you do that please, Mrs. Beaumont?”
Mrs. Beaumont’s stare jerked back to Rick. A second wave of her grief washed over him, just as potent. “Y-yes, I can do that.”
He gave her another warm smile. “Remember, Barney will be okay. I promise.”
The elderly woman was on her feet and rushing to her open front door before Rick could finish reassuring her. But that was okay. That was exactly what he wanted.
Lifting his head, he gave the police officer standing to his right a long, steady look. Once again his body reacted to her presence, to her stunning green eyes, a whirl of debauched images assaulting him. Suggesting things he ached to do. But only for a moment, and then the dog’s pain welled through him again and the surreal pull on his body faded. Almost gone.
He looked from Barney back to the cop. “I need you to get my bag from behind the passenger seat in my truck.”
She frowned—for all of a second—and then turned and ran to his pickup.
Rick returned his attention to Barney, running his hands over the dog’s body. Low whines played at his senses, telling him the animal was growing weaker. He needed to get him off the fence ASAP before his own weight tore the flesh wider. Unfortunately, the spike had come close to piercing his gut, and judging by the color of the blood oozing from the puncture wound, there was a real risk of the small intestine rupturing with any movement.
Repositioning himself until he was directly in front of the dog, Rick cupped Barney’s head in his hands, rubbing his forehead lightly against the beagle’s. “It’s going to hurt, mate. I can’t tell you it’s not, but I’ll make it quick and I’ll make it better as soon as I get you down, okay?”
Barney’s tongue, worryingly dry, licked at Rick’s chin.
He smiled, closing his eyes and keeping his forehead against the distressed dog’s for a heartbeat longer, letting Barney feel his calm. His promise.
Barely another heartbeat later, the cop was beside him again, his bag—the emergency kit he always carried in his pickup—in her hands. She lowered to a crouch beside him, her green eyes serious, her body tense. “What do you need me to do?”
Her soft voice caressed Rick’s senses and, once again, that surreal, hyper-sensual awareness of her rippled through him, but it was tempered this time, as if his body (or hers?) knew now was not the time. Instead of insane lust, what flowed through him was a warm feeling of completeness that, in Rick’s opinion, made no bloody sense at all.
Pushing aside the unexpected sensation, he gave her a quick look. “I need to remove Barney from the fence and I need to do it quickly. I need you to stem the flow of blood from the wound as I pull him from the spike.”
She frowned. “The towels? Mrs. Beaumont—”
Rick shook his head. “Is better inside. This isn’t going to be easy for anyone to see, let alone her. Her heart is too entwined with her dog’s to experience it.” He returned his attention to Barney, changing his position again until his hands were all but supporting the dog’s weight. “There’s sterilized gauze in the bag. You’ll need a lot, I’m afraid.”
He heard his cop move, a distant part of his mind noting how, somewhere between being pulled over and now, she’d become “his” cop. How she’d gone from a sexy woman in a uniform he’d considered flirting with to the woman about to help him do what he was born to do, and he didn’t doubt in the slightest she could. His gut told him his cop, whoever she was, was exactly where she was meant to be—by his side.
And that made not one iota of sense at all.
He pressed his forehead to Barney’s for the last time, closed his eyes and drew in all the positive energy around him, pulling it from every living thing he could. Drawing it in, channeling it, letting it flow through him into Barney. Giving the dog the healing energy and ancient power of the Earth. He didn’t know how he did it. He never did. It was just the way it was and he didn’t question it.
Why would he?
“My God…how are you doing this?”
The whispered gasp beside Rick sent a shard of something tight to his core. He opened his eyes and lifted his head, looking at his cop. She stood at Barney’s side, her hands full with wadded strips of gauze, her eyes wide, her expression one of utter, enrapt awe.
Doing what? he wanted to ask. But he couldn’t.
The second their stares connected, a bolt of pure energy scored through Rick, as if the sun had set fire to his soul. And then, without thought or hesitation, his blood boiling, his nerve-endings sizzling, his heart hammering, he straightened his knees, pressed his palms to Barney’s body and slid the dog from the fence spike.
Kenna Mackay couldn’t believe she was on fire. Now, of all times, every molecule in her body was at the incineration point.
Is this why you didn’t call for backup?
She stared at the serious man lifting the poor dog from the fence. A man who, only a short while ago, had been roguishly, worryingly sexy as he’d tried to flirt his way out of a ticket—and felt her entire existence burn hotter still.
And the only way that could be happening was if part of her existence, the part she’d denied for so long, was recognizing her destined mate. And there wasn’t a hope in hell that was—
“The gauze, Officer. Now.”
Kenna blinked, numb shock smacking into her. The man’s blue gaze flicked from her to the dog and back, his expression both calm and determined.
Oh hell, the dog.
She leaped forward, pressing the folded strips of gauze to the torn wound in the beagle’s left side. Hot blood flowed from the hole in the dog’s body, staining the gauze red with horrific speed. But the animal didn’t make a sound, nor fight the man sliding him from the fence. In fact, the dog gazed at him, something close to utter trust in his beautiful brown eyes as the spike quickly exited his body.
Kenna had never seen anything like it.
Without hesitation, she scooped her arm under the beagle and pressed her other hand to the wound, now freshly exposed. For a few seconds she held the dog’s entire weight, her stare jerking between the surreally calm animal and the man she’d chased to this very spot, and then said man wrapped his arms around the dog, placed his hands over hers and said, “I’ve got him.”
But the words didn’t make it to her ears. Not when the roaring of her blood was so deafening. Not when, at the very instant he touched her, she was engulfed in heat so incinerating the only sense left to her was sight.
She gaped at him, her heart hammering its way into her throat, her mouth, her temple.
Good Lord, her Fire Mate was touching her.
No. It’s not happening. I refuse to acknowledge—
“Honey, I know you’re feeling whatever the fuck is happening between us as well, but you’ve got to let go of Barney now so I can save his life.”
The words, uttered in a low murmur, made her blink. Her stomach clenched. No, her sex clenched. No, it was her chest, her heart. Her ass. Her wings…
Wings? Wings? What the hell is going on?
Kenna staggered back a step, sliding her hands from beneath his, her stare still locked with the stranger’s.
And the fire consuming her abated. A little.
The man’s lips curled in a loose smile, two dimples creasing either side of his mouth, his face turning from handsomely serious to blow-your-mind gorgeous. “We’ll talk about that later,” he said, curling his arms until he cradled the beagle against a chest Kenna only now noticed was broad and undeniably well sculpted. “But first…”
He turned from her and lowered the dog to the ground, the animal far calmer than he should be, given he’d just been impaled by a fence.
And yet even that fuck-with-your-head fact wasn’t important. Not now. Not when, after forty-two years of constant, tenacious suppression, the dragon deep inside her was surging to awareness. The very aroused dragon.
God save her. It was mating time.
Three hours later, standing in the waiting room of Dr. Rick Hayes’ veterinarian practice, Kenna watched Mrs. Beaumont cover Rick’s face in kisses and barely suppressed the urge to rip out the sweet, fragile, grateful old woman’s throat.
The mating fire scorched Kenna’s body, pumping through her heart and pulsing in the muscles of her sex. She ground her teeth, the sight of Mrs. Beaumont’s lips connecting with a smiling Rick’s cheek, lips and forehead awakening a base, irrational and thoroughly territorial jealousy.
Damn, she was in trouble.
How many decades had passed since she’d behaved like a dragon shifter? How many? Enough to almost forget the ridiculous, animalistic carrying-on of her kind. Enough to almost forget how damn embarrassing the primal, bestial traits of her other existence were.
Enough to almost forget she was a dragon shifter.
Even when Tyson Conley, Sydney’s oldest and most respected dragon shifter, stupidly blew his cover a few months back, Kenna had remained detached. The city’s shifters had rallied together, pooling their considerable resources to squash the media coverage, effectively killing the exposure of their kind. Who knew there were editor-in-chief dragons at both leading newspapers? And even the clips that kept popping up on YouTube of a shadowy dragon silhouette soaring into the night sky were regularly removed from the net within twenty-four hours.
By their very nature, dragon shifters were solitary creatures, but when it came to protecting their secrets they banded together like steel.
But Kenna kept her distance. If she stayed away from dragons, if she denied the dragon inside her, then she wouldn’t be a target for the Extraho Venator. And if she wasn’t a target for the Extraho Venator, those damn dragon hunters wouldn’t be able to butcher her.
Like they had her twin sister, forty-two years ago.
The grim thought punched into her, tempering the dangerous jealousy toward Mrs. Beaumont. But not the raging heat simmering beneath Kenna’s skin.
Curse it, what the hell was she doing, experiencing the mating fire?
She slid her stare to the vet happily bathing in the old woman’s sobbing gratitude. Nothing about him hinted at being a dragon, but he had to be. It was the only explanation for the ancient magic she’d felt surging through him when he’d tended to the beagle on Mrs. Beaumont’s fence.
Not to mention the fact the second she’d laid eyes on him, every nerve ending in her body had burst into scorching fire. God save her, she’d almost climbed into his pickup and onto his lap the moment he’d lowered the driver’s-side window and looked at her with those flirting blue eyes of his. Eyes, she couldn’t help but noticing, now doing a very fine job of flirting with Mrs. Beaumont.
“Thank you, Doctor,” the old biddy gushed, her hands cupping Rick’s square jaw, open adoration on her wrinkled face. “Thank you so much again for saving Barney!”
Rick laughed, pressing his palms to Mrs. Beaumont’s hands to gently lower them. “No thank yous required. Really.” He smiled, flashing twin dimples, his eyes sparkling with joyous mirth. Kenna’s sex contracted at the sight. Damn it, he was cute. Cute and dangerous. Tall and rangy, with a latent strength in his sinewy, broad-shouldered form, lips that promised all sorts of wickedness, scruffy blond hair that was the very definition of bedhead—all draped in a cocky arrogance that made her pulse quicken and her pussy clench.
She had to get away from him before she lost control.
So why are you still here? Why did you follow him when he brought Barney and the near-hysterical Mrs. Beaumont back to his practice? Your shift was almost over. You could have gone home, but what did you do? Told Dispatch you were helping with an animal emergency. You didn’t have to do that, but you did. Why did you stay while he operated on the dog? Why didn’t you go then, hmm?
Because she had to issue him a speeding ticket and it would have been distasteful to do so when the dog’s life was still hanging in the balance.
That’s bullshit, Kenna Mackay, and you know it.
Kenna bit back a growl, the sound far too bestial for her liking. It was bullshit. Speeding tickets and official police procedure had nothing to do with it. He’d barely been breaking the speed limit but her gut told her to stop him. At least, she’d thought it was her gut. Now she had to wonder.
And you never called for backup. Despite a ten-minute pursuit, you never called for backup. Why? Because you didn’t want anyone to come between you? Because you wanted him all for yourself? Because the mating fire had taken control of your damn senses?
Her sister had experienced the mating fire, had in fact bonded to her Fire Mate three months before she was slaughtered. Kenna remembered the way Ciara behaved—as if all control and inhibition had been stripped from her. As if her mind and body weren’t her own.
Kenna didn’t even want to acknowledge the fire. Especially if it meant succumbing to her dragon side.
Especially if it meant succumbing to Rick Hayes.
She didn’t succumb to anyone. It wasn’t safe. Her sister had discovered th—
“…without you, Officer Mackay.”
Kenna started. The sound of Mrs. Beaumont weeping her name jerked her away from dark thoughts a second before soft hands pressed to her cheeks and even softer lips were smacking against her cheek.
Oh God, the sweet old thing was kissing her.
“Thank you, Officer,” Mrs. Beaumont gushed, pulling away just enough to stare at Kenna with the same adoration she’d bestowed on Rick. “If you weren’t there to help Dr. Hayes, I don’t know…” She hiccupped a sob. “Barney may not have made it.”
Kenna opened her mouth, certain she should say something. Nothing came out.
It didn’t seem to matter to Mrs. Beaumont, however. The elderly woman flung her arms around Kenna, squeezing her in a surprisingly crushing hug, all the while thanking her for helping Dr. Hayes save her beloved Barney. Promising Kenna she would bring Barney to visit her at the station when Dr. Hayes said it was okay for him to come home. “And I will make you scones! Spicy pumpkin ones. To say thank you some more. You and Dr. Hayes can come for afternoon tea and…”
Whatever she said next, Kenna didn’t hear it. Because at that very moment, Kenna made the mistake of turning her gaze to Rick.
He was watching her.
Their eyes connected and raw lust roared through her, a surging force of heat that obliterated anything and everything else. She knew an old lady was hugging her, thanking her, but all she could comprehend was the incomprehensible desire to strip naked, throw herself at Rick and fuck him until she ignited.
And by the unmistakable hunger in Rick’s stare, that desire was mutual.
Get away from him, Kenna. Get away. Before it’s too late and you—
Inside her, deep in the prison of her soul, her dragon screeched. Crying for release. Begging for freedom.
Calling to her Fire Mate.
* * * *
Rick had no idea what was going on. None. He was pretty sure he’d saved Barney. That would explain the profusely grateful Mrs. Beaumont currently squeezing Officer Be-Still-My-Beating-Heart. He must’ve tapped into the same mysterious force he always did, in order to complete Barney’s surgery. That would explain the familiar tingling in his gut and chest. But it was all a blur.
When had he driven back to his clinic? No idea. When had he operated? Who knew?
If he had to put his current state of mind into words, the best he could come up with was “horny beyond belief” and even that didn’t come close. There was a disgusted part of his mind that couldn’t help but wonder if he’d sported a semi throughout Barney’s surgery, he was that turned-on.
Had he really thought he’d been aroused by Officer Mackay back on the road? A schoolyard crush compared to what he experienced now. How in the hell he managed to stand still and let Mrs. Beaumont hug her was beyond him.
How he stopped himself from throwing the sweet old beagle owner from his clinic, along with his currently bemused receptionist, before locking the door and doing everything to Officer Mackay he’d been aching to do since first making eye contact with her wasn’t just beyond him. It was beyond plausibility.
Hell, he didn’t even know the officer’s first name yet and he was ready to pump her full of his seed—and that was an entirely messed-up thought. He never fucked without a condom but the thought of taking Officer Mackay with a thin film of latex separating them…nope. Not possible. Not doable. Not at all.
He swallowed, his dick throbbing. Damn it, if he didn’t know better, he’d say he’d been drugged. It wasn’t humanly possible to be this turned-on.
But he was. And if he didn’t get Mrs. Beaumont and Rose out of his clinic soon, they’d bear witness to his totally uncouth seduction of Officer Mackay. And by uncouth seduction, he meant begging her on his knees to let him fuck her.
Because that’s what he was going to do. As soon as they were alone. It was either that, or jerk himself off so hard he may very well rip off his own dick.
A low moan tickled his ears…or was it a loud roar in his head? Both? He stared at the police officer being hugged by Mrs. Beaumont. Did she make the sound?
Yes. She’s calling to you.
The tingling in Rick’s stomach and chest—a leftover from whatever it was he did when connecting with animals—intensified. It razed through him, like a wave of charged energy unlike any he’d experienced. The longer he gazed at Officer Mackay, the more the sensation consumed him.
Connected. It’s all connected, Yorick. You, the woman, the tingle, the lust, the need, the power…
Christ, the power. It was the very power he’d been tapping into since childhood, that which made what he did—healing, caring, communing with the creatures of this earth—so much easier. And yet it was more. It twisted through his very existence, a surge of unfathomable magic so ancient he could taste the primordial mist of its birth. And the more he looked at Officer Mackay, the more potent, the more entwined with her it became.
She who is born of fire she who is born of flight she who is born of…
The babbling thought made fuck-all sense but Rick didn’t care. He had to claim her. Now.
“Rose?” His receptionist’s name sounded more like a yelp in his throat. She sat behind the front counter, and Rick was thankful for the fact it was chest-high. If it weren’t, Rose would be getting a damn good look at his trapped erection. “Rose, I need you to drive Mrs. Beaumont home.”
The command—for that’s what it was—tore from his throat in a strangled growl. Rose’s eyebrows shot up. “You don’t want me to print her paperwork first? Get her payment info and all?”
Rick shook his head, refusing to let himself look at Officer Mackay and the still-hugging Mrs. Beaumont. Not until we’re alone. Not until we’re alone.
She who is born of fire she who is born of flight she who is born of…
“We’ll bill her later,” he ground out, heart smashing hard against his breastbone. “After you see her home, take the day off. I’ll take care of the remaining appoint—”
Rose shook her head before he could finish. “You don’t have any. It’s Saturday, remember? I’m only here because of the emergency.”
He blinked. Saturday? How had he forgotten what day it was?
She who is born of fire she who is born of flight she who is born of…
“Come along, Mrs. Beaumont.” Rose’s voice sounded as if it was coming from a distance, and Rick frowned. His head felt fuzzy. He felt hot. Sucking in another desire-drenched breath, he watched Rose cross to Mrs. Beaumont and curl her fingers around the elderly woman’s upper arm. “Let’s get you home, shall we?”
Rick’s breath grew short. Shallow. From the corner of his eye, he could see Officer Mackay but he couldn’t look directly at her. Not yet. Instead, he kept his focus on Rose. If he looked at…
She who is born of fire she who is born of flight she who is born of…
…the other woman…
…it was game over.
Dragging Mrs. Beaumont away from the officer, Rose shot him a look over her shoulder, her expression telling him loud and clear she thought he was insane. She knew Rick well—she’d been his receptionist for close to ten years now—and had seen him at work with more than one unattached female pet owner, but the way she was looking at him now said one thing.
Hitting on a cop? Really?
If only he could tell her he had no choice.
Need her need she who is born of fire she who is born of flight need to claim her need to mount her need to…
With a smile at Officer Mackay, and a quick smirk at Rick, Rose led Mrs. Beaumont, still gushing her thanks to Barney’s saviors, across the waiting room. Rick stared hard at them, his heart slamming faster and harder in his chest as they neared the clinic door.
The door swung open, the small metal bell attached above it dinged with inordinate volume once, twice, and then, with another smirk over her shoulder at Rick, Rose pulled the door shut behind her.
Officer Mackay’s soft exclamation, barely more than a whispered breath, sank straight into Rick’s chest. He turned toward her, not even remotely knowing what he was going to say.
And was driven back a step as she slammed into him.
Her lips crushed his as she wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her hands in his hair, balling them into fists then plunging her tongue into his mouth.
The kiss was savage. There was no control, just raw, ravenous hunger. Her tongue slid over his, mated with it. Her teeth nipped at his lips, his chin, his jaw. She bit his earlobe, lashed her tongue into his ear and then claimed his mouth again.
It was the most untamed, uninhibited kiss Rick had ever experienced.
Christ, it was amazing.
He raked his hands up her back, snared her no-nonsense ponytail in a tight fist and yanked her head backward. She let out a moan, her hips thrusting against his as Rick’s mouth assaulted her throat. His cock strained against his jeans, nestling against the softness of her mound. Her police-issue belt dug into his waist, her walkie-talkie drilling into his hip. He didn’t care. Not when she was making such raw sounds of lust as he kissed and sucked on her throat. Not when her hands scraped at his chest, searching for his shirt buttons.
He pulled away a little, just enough to grant her fingers access to his collar. She fought with his shirt, growling low in her throat. Rick heard the soft pop of a button tearing from material, the sound sending carnal jolts of heat into his groin. She was wild. Fuck, she was wild and savage.
His cock pulsed at the thought, aching for attention.
It would have to wait. Rick wanted more of her first. Releasing her ponytail, he grabbed her police cap, pulled it from her head and tossed it aside, all the while covering her throat, her jaw, her lips in frantic kisses. Her flesh tasted like smoke-infused honey. It was intoxicating.
He dragged one hand down her back again, squeezing the firm curve of her backside as he hauled her sex harder to his. She moaned at the punishing contact, her nails scraping over his chest, around his shoulders.
A rational part of Rick’s mind told him this was insane. He told the rational part to fuck off, yanking the hem of her shirt from her trousers and shoving his hand beneath the stiff polyester. Her skin felt like hot velvet under his palm, and fresh jolts of tight need sank into Rick’s cock.
Christ, he was so fucking hard.
And she was so damn perfect. Reclaiming her mouth—he couldn’t seem to get enough of it—he let his hand explore the dip of her waist, the ridges of her rib cage. When his fingers found the swell of her breast, contained by a bra as no-nonsense as her ponytail, she groaned into his mouth and ground her sex against his rigid dick. His head swam.
“This is…oh God, this is so…” she moaned against his lips, her nails dragging over his chest until her fingers captured his nipples. “Touch me, touch them. Now.”
He didn’t need to be begged. He wriggled his fingers under the cup of her bra and squeezed the heavy perfection of her breast.
“Oh yes!” she cried, her nipple beading under his palm. “Squeeze it, pinch it.”
Exquisite agony throbbed through Rick’s cock at her commands. He yanked his hand free of her bra, silencing her shouts of dismay with a kiss nowhere near gentle. He fucked her mouth with his tongue, taking utter possession of her sweet lips as he hooked his fingers at the edges of her collar and tore her top open.
She threw back her head, begging him to kiss her tits, suck them, bite them. Rick shot her face a quick look, the feverish pleasure flushing her cheeks making his heart miss a beat. God, she was gorgeous. Stunning in her raw sensuality. A creature of pure response and unchecked desire.
And his. All his.
Dropping his gaze to her chest, he snared the thin straps on her shoulders, pulling them down her arms along with the sleeves of her top, lowering the bra to rest just beneath her breasts.
“Yes!” she cried, her hands fisting in his hair, tugging his head down. “Suck them now. Hard, please. Hard!”
He did, closing his lips around one tight nipple and sucking with fierce pressure. She bucked against him, her nails scraping over his shoulders, across his back, back to his shoulders again. “Bite it,” she growled.
Rick caught the puckered nipple with his teeth, rolling it back and forth before sucking again. She whimpered, a keening noise he’d never heard before. Wild and feral and thoroughly feminine. Christ, he could die a happy man listening to the sound. He wanted to hear it again.
He switched to her other breast and, once more, Officer Mackay filled the waiting room with low, throaty moans of pleasure. But it wasn’t enough for Rick. He wanted to taste all of her.
Returning his lips to her mouth, he reached for her belt.
She stopped him with a hard shove.
He staggered back, his stare flinging to her face, his throat growing tight at what he found there.
Crazed lust filled her eyes. Her lips were parted, glistening from his kiss. Her cheeks were pink with a high flush. Her breasts rose and fell with each heaving breath she took, her open shirt and bra hanging from her body as erotic a sight as Rick had ever seen.
Oh Dian Cécht, I have found…
The nonsensical thought didn’t finish. It couldn’t. Not when Officer Mackay released her belt and stripped her trousers from her legs, taking her underpants with them. Not when she stood before him half naked and completely exposed.
Rick didn’t hesitate. He destroyed the tiny distance between them, hauled her off her feet and spun to face the reception counter, depositing her on top of it.
She gasped, the granite surface no doubt cool on her pussy. And gasped again when Rick wrapped his hands around her knees and yanked her forward, enough to slide her wet sex to the counter’s edge. He flicked her a quick look, reveling in the passion blazing in her green, green eyes.
“Rick…” she murmured, shifting on her perch. Anchoring her fingers around the counter’s edge and lifting her hips, spreading her thighs wider.
It was all the request he needed.
He draped her legs over his shoulders and thrust his tongue into her sodden sex.
“Oh…y-yes…God…oh that’s so…”
Her whimpers turned to cries, her cries to groans. Rick lapped at her labia, her clit. He sucked on her folds. The louder she groaned, the more he tortured her with his tongue and teeth. Her clit grew fat against his lips and he sucked on it with greedy want. She bucked against his mouth, her booted heels driving into his back. It hurt, a gloriously wonderful pain of raw lust and demanding need. He continued, laving his tongue over and over the button of sensitive flesh. Flicking it, biting it. Sucking and flicking it again.
And with every swipe and thrust of Rick’s tongue, Officer Mackay begged for more, begged him to claim her, fuck her. Begged him to keep going, keep going, her cries growing wilder, her hips bucking higher, higher—until a shudder racked her body. Until her legs contracted around his shoulders and she came, her cream gushing over his lips and tongue and chin.
“Oh God, Rick, yes…yes…”
Rick’s cock strained against his fly, the metal teeth of the zipper digging into his engorged length. If he didn’t sink into her pussy soon, he was going to blow. And even if he did manage to get inside her, he wasn’t going to last long. He was feverish with his need for her. He was on fire. He was burning up.
Smoothing his hands up her waist, he lapped the last of her juices from her folds and straightened, gazing at her pleasure-etched face. “I need to fuck you now, hon. I can’t hold on any longer but I have to tell you, I haven’t got a condom and I don’t want—”
Her throaty chuckle stopped him. “Condom?” She hooked her legs around his hips and jerked his groin hard against her sodden folds, her eyes hazy with pleasure. “Since when do dragon shifters use condoms?”
Rick’s heart missed a beat.
He blinked, a frown knotting his forehead. What did she just say?
Officer Mackay laughed again, her legs grinding him even harder against her spread sex. “Ha ha, very funny. Now fuck me, Fire Mate. Before I shift and destroy your—”
Fire Mate. The word sank into Rick’s brain like a piercing finger of blinding light. Fire Mate. “What’s a—?”
The living electricity sizzling through his veins turned to molten heat and, in a rush of color and sound and smells, Rick was assaulted with vivid memories. Memories that weren’t his but the—
The Druid’s dragon she is beautiful join with me dragon join with me and I shall…
The force of the memories hit him like a wrecking ball. His memories. His, but not his. The Druid’s memories.
The Druid? Who the fuck is the Druid?
He staggered backward, breaking free of the officer’s hold, his eyes wide, blood roaring in his ears.
The Druid’s dragon she is beautiful join with me dragon join with me and I shall…
“Holy fuck.” He gaped at her, his heart well and truly punching its way into his throat. Druid? Druid? Holy Christ, was that the source of his mysterious power? Was he a Druid? In some former life? Was he—
“Rick?” He saw confusion twisting the pleasure in her face. “Rick, what’s going on?”
He swallowed. The tingling in his body reached his head, the memories lashing at him even as the throb in his still-engorged cock grew stronger. “Did you say dragon shifter?”
The confusion in Officer Mackay’s face turned to something else. Something close to terror. “Oh my God. Oh my God, you’re not a—”
She didn’t finish. Face bleaching white, she flung herself off the counter, snatched up her trousers, her belt and gun and ran to the clinic’s public toilet on the far side of the waiting room.
The door swung inward with violent force and, with a bang louder than a gunshot, slammed shut just as violently behind her.
Rick stood stock-still, every fiber in his body thrumming. Fresh memories smashed into him, wave after wave. Memories of his own hands, his own voice performing ancient rituals of life and death. Memories of the mystic energy of those rituals pouring from the earth into his soul.
Memories of cosmic spiritualism.
His heart hammered faster. His groin throbbed harder.
A Druid. He was a Druid? Well, had been a Druid? In a former life?
“Holy shit,” he repeated on a murmur.
He dragged his hands through his hair, staring at the closed toilet door. He was a reincarnated Druid and he’d just given head to a—
“Fuck a duck, the Asterix comic books did not prepare me for this.”
You can’t stay in here forever, y’know.
Kenna ground her teeth, pacing the tiny washroom. She refused to lift her head, knowing what she’d spy in the mirror above the basin if she did. She wasn’t ready to see the shame in her eyes. She sure as hell wasn’t ready to see the disgust.
How could she have done that? Gods, how could she have confused some kind of…of natural human attraction with the mating fire? Was she that out of touch with her other existence she couldn’t tell the difference between a chemically induced physical response—even a mind-blowingly hot one—and a fated bonding of mythical proportions?
No, it was more than just thinking Rick Hayes is cute. It had to be. You felt—
“Oh for fuck’s sake, Kenna. You heard him. He’s not a dragon.”
The words burst from her in a snarl. Her cheeks turned hot with fresh shame, her stomach knotted and, deep within its prison, her dragon roared with frustrated rage.
Kenna ground her teeth. Horny. The dragon was still horny. Still convinced the man outside the toilet was not only a dragon shifter, but her Fire Mate.
At the thought, a ripple of hot, hungry lust sheared straight through her core. She bit back a growl. This wasn’t happening. It couldn’t be. She was controlled. She was disciplined. She didn’t let her dragon out anymore. She didn’t think like a dragon anymore.
You just did, Kenna. You just gave yourself utterly and completely over to the mating fire without fight or hesitation.
Kenna’s stomach rolled. Her sex throbbed. She had. Decades of refusing to succumb to even the most basic urge to fly—to fly, for God’s sake—and she’d just gone and completely surrendered to the ridiculous, disgusting behavior of a rutting beast. Triggering something that couldn’t be stopped.
Oh God, she was pathetic and weak and—
She dug her fingernails into her palms. No. She’d turned her back on that side of her existence, thank you very much. She’d turned her back on it and she wasn’t succumbing again. None of that primitive, instinctual carryon. None of that animalistic, base behavior. None of the ridiculous shifting forms that made her vulnerable and exposed her to shit she didn’t want.
She was a cop, not a flying damn lizard. She was a woman with free will, not a beast incapable of finding a partner without Fate and freaky genetics. Not a mindless creature instantly bound and irrevocably joined to some stranger the moment they swapped saliva.
She wasn’t like that. She wasn’t. That’s what her sister had been, and look what happened to her. Betrayed by her Fire Mate, her own damn kind, and given to the Extraho Venator. Handed over to the dragon hunters by the dragon who was meant to love her beyond comprehension or condition.
Kenna wasn’t going to let that happen to her. And if the guy outside with the oh-so-clever tongue and cheeky grin and wicked dimples thought otherwise, he was in for a damn surprise.
She stopped pacing, snatched her Glock from where she’d dumped it in the basin, pulled it from its holster and cocked the hammer. “Right.” She swung to the door and yanked it open with her free hand, not even bothering to dress. “That’s it.”
Rick Hayes’ mouth fell open as she stormed toward him across the waiting room. Possibly because she still wore nothing on her bottom half. Possibly because she was leveling her police-issue weapon at his chest. Possibly both.
Kenna didn’t care. Or stop.
Not until she was inches from where he stood, gaping at her.
She rammed the muzzle of her gun under his chin, snaring a fistful of his collar to stop him from fleeing. “Tell me who the fuck you really are, Dr. Hayes, before I blow your goddamn head off.”
Kenna let out a choked roar. “Don’t ‘err’ me!” She drove the gun harder into his chin, balling her fist tighter on his collar. Disgust surged through her, but for Rick Hayes or herself, she didn’t know. “I want answers and I want them now. You have until three. One…”
His mouth worked. Sound, however, didn’t.
“I really don’t—”
She narrowed her eyes, ignoring the exquisite fire licking through her veins, the eager throbbing in her sex and the hungry cry of her dragon at his close proximity. Damn, was that an erection she felt bumping against her stomach? “Three.”
“Okay okay okay!” He frantically waved his raised hands. “I think I was a Druid in a former life who somehow or another joined with a dragon in some kind of funky ancient ritual.”
The statement burst from him in a frantic flood of shouted words, his stare locked on her face.
And yes, she’d been correct—it was an erection. A big one.
Her dragon screeched her approval. Scalding fire razed her body.
She shoved his chin higher with the Glock. “You’re a what?”
Rick swallowed, his Adam’s apple jumping up and down in his throat. “I think I was a Druid in a former life. All these memories just slammed into me that sure as shit weren’t mine, but…the second I experienced them, I knew they were mine. And it explains the whole ‘commune with animals, connect with cosmic energy’ shit I’ve been able to do for fucking ever.”
Kenna stared at him. She didn’t know what else to do.
“And the second I saw your eyes this afternoon, I was overwhelmed with the urge—no, the compulsion—to fuck your brains out over and over again until neither of us could move.”
The confession punched out her breath. “Okay,” she muttered. “That wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.”
But it’s what you want. The fucking over and over again part, yes?
A choked chuckle bubbled up Rick’s throat. “No shit, Sherlock.”
She frowned, refusing to acknowledge the molten need claiming her. Not until she had answers.
And then? Will you impale yourself on his very impressive erection then? Because the mating fire never lies, Kenna. You know that. And Druid, dragon or whatever, if you don’t consummate the mating soon, things will get a little wild.
She narrowed her eyes. “So…a Druid?”
He nodded. Or at least tried to. Her gun pressed to his chin made it difficult.
Kenna’s belly twisted. Dragons and Druids of ancient times had long existed in a harmonious relationship…to a point. Truth be known, it was all very vague to Kenna. The night her sister’s Fire Mate betrayed her to the Extraho Venator was the night Kenna lost any interest in her kind. She’d been young when that happened, barely one hundred and thirty-seven, but all dragon shifters knew of the ancient Druids.
What Kenna didn’t know was how one could be a dragon shifter’s Fire Mate.
Damn, she was woefully unprepared for this.
Get away. Now. You’ve got twelve hours before you need to deal with this. By then you’ll have regained control of your body and your mind. Until you do that…
No, not twelve. She’d first connected with Rick three hours ago, when she’d pulled him over for speeding. Which meant she only had nine.
As if to prove a point, her sex constricted, still acutely aware of the man standing so close she could feel his breath on her face, still feel his erection against her belly.
Her pussy gave a hungry throb, bringing with it a wave of heat that turned her blood to liquid fire and threatened to turn her mind to feverish mush. The mating fire. Damn it.
Get out of here, Kenna. Before whatever the Druid is doing to you finds you parting your thighs and begging him for—
She took a step back and lowered her gun. “I can’t stay here.”
Rick’s eyebrows shot up. “You’re going? I don’t mean to sound clingy or anything, hell, I’m the first to run when things get intense—and I think what’s going on between us blows intense out of the water. But you can’t just drop words like ‘dragon’, ‘shifter’ and ‘mate’ and then fuck off.”
“Yes, I can.”
Rick took a step toward her, effectively destroying the little space she’d put between them. “No. You can’t.”
She shoved her gun back under his chin. Not very professional, to be sure, but professional went out the window with her first orgasm. “You seem to forget who you’re talking to—a cop with a gun.”
He cocked an eyebrow. “And you seem to forget who you’re talking to—the man who just made you come with his tongue.”
A million pinpricks of heat lashed over Kenna. Not just at Rick’s very true statement, but also at his faint scent streaming into her body with every ragged breath she pulled. Her pussy clenched, her womb felt heavy. Her nipples pinched into painful tips of want.
She stared up at him, her pulse pounding with such force she wondered in a distant part of her mind why the windows weren’t rattling.
“I’m curious, Officer Mackay…” His voice was barely a whisper, his gaze an inescapable hold. “If I’m the Druid in this relationship, not the dragon shifter, what does that make you?”
Kenna swallowed. Or tried to. Her throat felt so damn thick, her mouth so damn dry. “There’s no relationship.”
The corner of Rick’s mouth curled. “Bullshit.”
He kissed her. Just lowered his head and, before she could stop him, brushed his lips over hers.
Before you could stop him? Really? You could have stopped him, Kenna. You just didn’t.
Nor did she stop him after his tongue touched her bottom lip.
Step away. Now.
The thought was insistent. And smart. But she couldn’t. She knew she had to get her head around what had happened, what was happening, but she couldn’t step away. Not when he kissed her the way he did.
Oh Kenna, what are you doing? Why aren’t you stopping him? Because you can’t? Or because…
She didn’t know nearly enough about her kind. She realized that now. She’d spent so long denying what she was, this mating fire situation was too much for her to digest. She knew how long she had to consummate the mating. She knew what would happen to her if she didn’t. What she didn’t know was how a human, albeit one of Druid decent, could be her Fire Mate. And how to undo it.
Because as sexy and attractive and masterful as Rick Hayes was, Kenna wasn’t going to be anyone’s Fire Mate. And she sure as hell wasn’t going to let herself be a dragon.
One more kiss. Just one…
The tempting thought almost undid her. Or maybe it was Rick’s tongue, slipping over hers with a tenderness both surprising and deliciously intoxicating.
Oh yes, just one more. One more kiss, one more orgasm, one more…
She jerked away.
Her dragon screeched, furious at being denied contact with Rick.
Your Fire Mate. It doesn’t matter what he is or isn’t. He’s your Fire Mate and you’re running out of time to do something about it.
She shook her head, her stare locked on the man. “This can’t happen, Dr. Hayes. You have no idea what’s going on. Forget we ever met.”
“What can’t happen? What don’t I have an idea about? What is a Fire Mate?”
His questions came fast. She shook her head again. “It doesn’t matter.”
Dark anger flickered in his blue eyes. His nostrils flared. “It does matter. I’m a player, Officer Mackay, I have no qualms admitting that, and you’re not the first woman I’ve fooled around with hours after meeting her. But you are the first woman to call me a dragon shifter, and by fuck, you’re the first woman to make me ache with such monumentally powerful lust I can’t even think of a word to describe it. It’s like I’m burning up. It’s like I’m on fire.
“I want you. I lust after you. I bloody well need you. Every fiber in my body, every cell, is screaming at me to take you in my arms and make love to you. Not just fuck you, but claim you. Possess you. And even someone as flippant as me knows that’s not natural. Not human. So tell me, before you go running out that door, what are you, what is a Fire Mate, and when the fuck am I going to sink my dick into your sex and make you mine?”
His voice became a growl, his stare fixed on her, his jaw bunching. Waves of raw lust radiated from Rick. Kenna only needed to draw a quick, shallow breath to taste it on the air, hot and sweet and masculine all at once. He was in the grips of the mating fire just like she was, and if she stood still for a second longer, he’d throw himself at her and neither would be able to resist what would happen next.
She took another step backward. The cool air-conditioning of the waiting room felt like a million icy kisses on her feverish flesh, her moist sex. Her gut twisted. Her nipples puckered, her breasts grew heavy and swollen.
“Tell me, Officer Mackay.”
The command caressed her senses. Made her head swim. Made her pussy throb.
“I’m a dragon shifter,” she ground out. “You’re my Fire Mate, the man fated to be my partner in every way—emotional, physical and mental—for the rest of our lives. And you are never going to stick your dick in my—”
The clinic’s bell dinged.
Kenna spun on her heel, her face flooding with shame. Oh God, they’d forgotten to lock the door? They’d been so overcome by the mating fire they’d forgotten to look the damn door?
“It’s just me, Dr. Hayes. I wanted to bring Barney his sleeping—” Mrs. Beaumont stood in the clinic’s open doorway, one hand resting on the doorknob, the other grasping a tattered, fur-covered baby’s blanket, her eyes wide, her expression shocked. “Officer Mackay? Why aren’t you wearing your trousers?”
Rick watched Officer Mackay bolt to the restroom. Damn it, he really needed to find out her first name. If he was going to spend the rest of his life with her, he had to call her something other than—
Rest of your life? So you’re buying into the whole Fire Mate thing?
He blinked. It seemed he was.
Because it’s real. You know that. The bottomless, unfathomable ache for the woman tells you that. The same way the…the fire for her does. You’re her Fire Mate. Her destined, fated partner. Face it, Yorick, you have no freaking clue what the fuck is going on and the only one who can give you answers just fled into the loo.
He let out a ragged breath, turning to Mrs. Beaumont and waving his arm toward the recovery rooms. “Just through there, doll.”
She frowned, her lips pursing a little, her gaze flicking to the closed restroom door before she shuffled from the waiting room, leaving him alone. Christ, what kind of messed-up day was this turning out to be? His gut was a ball of desperate, frustrated need, his cock a rigid pole demanding attention—Officer Mackay’s attention—and she, his Fire Mate, was hiding out in the toilet.
What the hell did he do next?
Before the answer could come to him, Officer Mackay stormed out of the loo and toward the door, fully dressed, gun holstered, face set.
“Hey!” he called, moving to follow her.
She stopped, turned to glare at him, pointed a silent finger as if to say, “don’t even try” and then all but sprinted to the door—and was gone.
Well, she really has fled the scene now, hasn’t she, Yorick?
Rick started at Mrs. Beaumont’s voice. Damn it, he’d already forgotten about Barney’s owner. He faced her, offering a smile as she closed the post-op/recovery room door. “How is he, Mrs. Beaumont?”
Mrs. Beaumont’s face split into a wide smile. “He’s wonderful. He licked my hand when I gave him the blanket and he looks so spry already. You are a very talented vet, Dr. Hayes.”
Rick brushed off the compliment. “I just do what I do.”
The druid’s dragon she is beautiful join with me dragon join with me and I shall be re…
The memory slammed into him, the same memory as before, his hands performing a ritual he didn’t understand, but this time there were more details. Vivid and hyper-saturated memories. His hands were glistening, his fingers stained with crimson liquid. His voluminous sleeves, coarse white wool, dripped with the same. The air hung heavy with the scent of copper and charcoal and sulfur. The dragon’s cries echoed through his—
“Dr. Hayes?” Mrs. Beaumont’s voice scratched at Rick’s mind. “Are you okay? I know I interrupted you and Officer Mackay during…well, I know I interrupted you, but you do look—”
Rick shook his head, squeezing his eyes shut on the disquieting memory. “Sorry.” He opened his eyes and tried to refocus. “Just a bit of a headache.” His gut churned, his head swam and, beneath it all, his cock throbbed and his body craved. Burned.
Need her need my Fire Mate need her—
I shall be re—
“Do you believe in reincarnation, Mrs. Beaumont?”
The question fell from Rick before he could stop it.
The sweet old thing before him nodded earnestly. “Oh, very much so. I know without doubt Barney is my long-dead husband reincarnated.”
Rick blinked at the elderly woman’s claim.
“Barney will only eat chicken with sweet potato, and that was my dear old Ivan’s favorite meal. And Barney won’t leave his balls alone, just like Ivan.” She paused, a soft frown pulling at her penciled eyebrows. “Although Ivie played with his balls with his hands, not his tongue like Barney does. Having said that, I do believe if my husband could have licked his balls, he would have.”
The laugh was out of Rick before he could stop it. Mrs. Beaumont gave him a warm smile, obviously not in the least offended. Still, he felt he should apologize. “I didn’t mean—”
She shook her head. “Don’t be concerned. Tell me though, why did you ask?”
Druid the druid’s dragon she is beautiful join with me dragon join with me and I shall be re—
His hands glisten, his heart races. Lifting the sprig of sage, he shakes it over the dragon’s bowed head and with a single stroke—
Rick sucked in a breath. There was far more to the memory that time. Not enough to know what was going on, just enough to tease him. What was he doing with the dragon? Why was it watching him, its head lying on a lush bed of grass? Was it a female dragon? It sure felt like it, and somehow that was important. Significant. And what the fuck was on his hands? And why did his heart race now just thinking about it?
He returned his attention to the elderly woman standing in front of him. “No reason. Just thinking it would be great to come back as one of your pets.”
Mrs. Beaumont’s smile grew wider. Her cheeks turned a faint pink. “Well, that’s very sweet of you, Dr. Hayes, but I do believe you’re flattering me. Especially given the state of dress in which I found Officer Mackay. Where is she? I hope she didn’t leave on my behalf?”
The pit of Rick’s stomach tightened at Officer Mackay’s name. His cock twitched. If it were possible, he’d say his blood ran hot in his veins.
Need her need my Fire Mate need her—
“She didn’t,” he almost gasped. “She had a call to get to.”
Mrs. Beaumont lifted an eyebrow. A very skeptical eyebrow. “Hmm, well, please give her my best when you see her next.”
Rick found himself nodding. See her next? Yes, that’s what he had to do. See her. Hold her. Fuck her. Mate with her.
Make love to her.
“Mrs. Beaumont, what do you know about dragons?”
Now why the hell had he asked that question? Where the hell had his brain gone?
Out the door. With Officer Mackay.
The old dog owner chuckled. “Only what the movies tell me. My granddaughter loves watching one about a boy who trains a dragon. I don’t know what it’s called, but it’s quite lovely. Oh, and there’s that one with James Bond doing the voice. Now there’s a dragon I’d like to train. He could share Barney’s chicken and sweet potato any—”
Need her need my Fire Mate need her…
“Of course, Barney would be jealous but Ivan would understand. He got lucky many a night after a James Bond movie played on the…”
Need my Fire Mate need to hold her taste her oh Christ need to bury myself inside her and…
“Sure they’re just a myth, but who really knows? The myth had to come from some…”
Lifting the sprig of sage, he shakes it over the dragon’s bowed head and with a single stoke, performs the final rite of the…
“And I do believe there’s something quite romantic about dragons, don’t you, Dr. Hayes?”
Rick started, his pulse pounding in his neck like a wild drummer on speed. He swallowed. Romantic? That wasn’t exactly the word he was thinking of to describe what was happening between him and Officer Mackay.
No. But it should be. It will be. As long as you—
“Mrs. Beaumont?” He gave Barney’s owner a frown. “Do you know Officer Mackay’s first name?”
This time both of the old woman’s eyebrows shot up. “You don’t?”
He shook his head.
And that was when the disgust fell over Mrs. Beaumont’s softly wrinkled face, a face—up until this point—filled only with adoration for Rick. “Kenna. Her name is Kenna. She told me while you were operating on Barney. Of course, I assumed you knew that, Dr. Hayes, given that I found her half-dressed and disheveled in your presence.” Her lips pursed into a tight ring of disapproval. “Perhaps you aren’t the person I thought you were.”
But Mrs. Beaumont didn’t wait for whatever response Rick hoped to God was coming out of his mouth. With a derisive sniff, a disgusted head-to-toe inspection and another sniff, she turned on her heel and hurried to the door. The bell above it danced with jerky excitement, the sounds of the street beyond rushed into the silence of the waiting room, and then Mrs. Beaumont turned back to Rick, her eyes beyond disapproving. “You may be a talented vet, Dr. Hayes, but I fear your morals are lacking too much for my liking.”
He gave her a lopsided grin. He had to. He didn’t have anything else in his repertoire for dealing with such open disdain. “Does it help if I say she’s my Fire Mate?”
Mrs. Beaumont’s lips pursed with even more sour disapproval. “I don’t want to know what you call it.” And with that, she stepped through the door and slammed it shut behind her.
Rick stared at her blurry shape through the frosted glass. A whirlwind of options presented themselves to his befuddled brain—chasing after Mrs. Beaumont, apologizing, making up some story about pranking her, telling her he was kidding, offering to treat Barney free of charge—but he didn’t bother with any of them.
He crossed to the door, flipped the lock and then ran across the waiting room, vaulting the reception counter in a single, one-armed jump.
Snatching the computer mouse from its resting place, he swiped it over the desk, waking the shiny Mac he’d recently purchased for Rose. One click later he was online, and sixteen key strikes after that he was looking at what was possibly going to drive him insane or answer all his questions.
He stared at the Google page before him, at all the results presented, before reading the top result.
The Dragon—Animal Symbols of the Celtic Druid.
His stomach knotted once again and his pulse gained speed.
“Yorick Hayes…welcome to Wonderland.”