From Chapter 2
Stefan didn’t know what to expect when he’d heard the pounding on his door. He was not a sapling so had not opened the door until he’d sent his senses flaring out to find out what it was. The pain and horror that had whipped back at him had nearly taken him to his knees. When he swung the door open he’d expected to find a broken and bloodied soul lying on his deck, pounding at his door with the last of their strength, not a small slip of a woman with a riot of messy auburn waves around her shoulders to the center of her back. She wasn’t voluptuous. It wasn’t that she wasn’t curvy, it’s just that she wasn’t overwhelmingly so. Her body was honed, lightly muscled, as if she had grown use to using them. They were functional, rather than crafted to look a certain way. Her drab gray sweats hid her shape but, as he carried her slumped form into his house, he could feel the swell of her hips, the roundness of her ass pressed against his upper stomach, and her slender waist. Her bones were delicate, almost birdlike. Her chest rose and fell softly in her unconscious state, the mounds small but perky.
But it was her face that captivated him.
She had an oval-shaped face, not overly long, but framed nicely by her long hair. Her mouth was shaped differently than he had seen in quite some time. It was more of a rounded pout, where the line around the top lip wasn’t dented. Her nose was slender and flared out softly above her mouth. Her eyes were almond-shaped but large. Even closed they looked nearly too big for her face. He could remember the rich chocolate of their color though, as she had whispered for him to help her before falling into his arms unconscious. Her skin was the color of a peanut shell, not quite caramel and not quite dark tan. Individually these features may have appeared unattractive, but the sum of them was startling. He felt his body tense as he lay her down on his couch.
That was unexpected.
As Ryuichi of his kind, he should not have felt desire for a human female. They would not be able to handle his…attentions safely. That didn’t seem to matter at the moment. His cock was thick and hard, pressing against the zipper of his jeans enough to drag a hiss from his throat. Passed out and in obvious need of help, the slip of a woman who wouldn’t weigh more than a hundred and twenty pounds soaking wet, would not stand up to his nearly seven-foot frame, and the proportions that came with that. He sighed, ignoring his hard-on long enough to pick up his phone and dial a friend. He could not turn away someone in need, and he had a feeling that this woman had a lot of need. He’d have to deal with his libido later.
Cadoc answered on the second ring, despite the late hour. “You have need, zhu?”
“Come to my home. I have a bit of a situation.” The woman moaned in her sleep, curling toward him at the sound of his voice. Her hand reached out and gripped his biceps, and she settled back in her sleep. He frowned down at her reaction to his touch. He could smell her desperation, her fear, and yet he could detect her resolve, her inner core of strength. Somehow he knew that she had come to him by choice, even with the fear.
“Sounds like fun,” Cadoc said, a painfully hopeful note filtering into his voice. It had been some time since he and his guizu, or his nobles, had shared a woman. They had been searching for their Phoenix, the one that would complete their quartet and help them rule the dragonkin. Until they had their Phoenix, no new dragons would be born to his nest. When the need had gotten too high, and possibly dangerous, they’d stopped. They couldn’t keep trying. Every time they attempted to bond with a woman, they found themselves driving her nearly insane. They weren’t lucky enough like the werewolves, or wereleopards, to gain their mate and know her through scent alone. For dragonkin royalty, the woman would have to be strong enough to suppress their animal sides and roll it into her own form, the Phoenix. When she released their powers back to them, the four of them would be as one, complete, and so would the nest.
It saddened him that he would have to disabuse Cadoc of the notion that the woman he heard could be their potential mate. They’d lived long enough without a Phoenix, and their nest could only grow smaller with each death. They may live for centuries, but they were not immortal, just much harder to kill.
“Not that type of help, Kylin,” Stefan said then, choosing to use Cadoc’s title to signal things were serious, and to remind them of their pact to not try again for a Phoenix until they found another dragonkin strong enough to take them all on.
“I will be there in under an hour. Wait for me.” Stefan disconnected the call, sure that Cadoc would be there soon enough. He didn’t want to hear the disappointment anymore than necessary. He called another number, shaking off his own feeling of loss, and waited for Nero to answer.
“Zhu,” Nero answered after four rings. Nero was never one to wake up easily.
“I will need you, Gui.” Stefan could hear Nero sigh over the phone.
“How have you gotten yourself into trouble, my friend?” Where Cadoc may be Stefan’s sword to bear, Nero was his conscience in all things. He would need the both to determine what would be done with the woman. He may lead the dragonkin, but he listened to his council.
“It is not I that is in trouble. Cadoc is on the way already,” he said as he looked down at the woman on his couch. She was curled around his arm, and he hadn’t made a move to get away from her. His thumb made lazy circles on the top of her hand, as if he were memorizing the touch of her flesh. He hadn’t realized he’d been doing it, or the effect it had on his body until now. He was still rock hard, his breath beginning to come in thick pants. He closed his eyes, feeling his dragon swirl within him, eager to try and find his Phoenix again, no matter the risk. His human side pushed that need back. This woman needed his help, not his passion.
“I will be there.” Nero hung up then and Stefan sighed. Somehow he knew this was going to be a long night.
“What happened?” Her voice was smooth like silk, and as sultry as summer heat. He felt it go through him all the way to his toes. He struggled to breathe through the sudden flare of fire through his blood. He felt like he was burning with fever, like some switch had been flipped. He didn’t care about her problems, or her fear, any longer. All he wanted was to taste her. All he wanted to do was lift her over him, feel her skin to skin, and sink his cock so deep inside of her, she would no longer know what it felt like to not have him within her.
Something must have shown in his face because she sat up quickly, crab crawling backward to the opposite side of the couch. It was the fear that stopped him. Her eyes looked as if she would fight to the death if he touched her now. He took a deep breath, trying to push the desire, the need down. He should not have wanted her. He should not have felt this heat. She was human. He could smell it. She would not survive mating with the three of them. He knew that. He knew better than to even entertain it for a second. He shook his head, counting in his head until he calmed down. He was nearly there when a knock sounded at his door. He didn’t move. The woman in front of him was too spooked for that. He just called out.
“Come in.” Nero and Cadoc stepped through the door and froze. They scented the air and turned, in freeze-frame movements, toward the cowering woman on the couch. Cadoc’s tongue slipped between his lips, tasting the air. The movement meant he was losing himself to his inn
er beast as well.
If she could huddle tighter to the coach, she did. She whimpered, but another scent filled the air. Thick, spicy, and drench in sweetness, her desire coiled around them all. Even terrified her desire called to them, signaled that she sensed their need and wanted to answer it, even she didn’t understand what was going on. She couldn’t know what her body was saying, couldn’t understand how precarious this moment was. They couldn’t take her. She wouldn’t be able to stand it. This had to stop, and it had to stop now.
“Please,” she whispered, mouth going slack, eyes heavy-lidded, and fingers curling into the pillows under her. He wasn’t sure what she was asking for. He couldn’t tell if she wanted them to stop, or to touch her.
“Stefan,” Nero and Cadoc growled in unison and Stefan stood as slowly as he could, watching her eyes widen and fear finally outweigh the need. In the face of her fear, his need calmed, and he could breathe easier.
“Be calm, you will come to no harm here. You caught us unaware. You are safe with us,” Stefan said as softly as he could. Her eyes jumped to his face and he wasn’t sure who exactly he was trying to convince.