With a grin, he dove into the ice-cold water and felt the pleasant shock reverberate through his body. After a length underneath, his lungs began to burn from a need for oxygen. He swam up to the surface, taking in a lungful of sweet air. The dragon exhaled a cold breath, chilling his body further as the beast settled into its element.
The sun wasn’t high in the sky yet and there was no movement on the streets. The tourists had been living it up ever since they had arrived. Brent couldn’t keep up with all the events that were planned around town, and he didn’t even want to. There were beautiful women everywhere he looked, as if it were ladies night all the time. It was enough to put a smile on the lips of any man. But it just made Brent feel tired.
Now that he had adjusted to the water temperature, heat surged through Brent’s body, and he felt the dragon pushing him to shift. He dove under the surface again, as gills split along his neck in searing stripes of pain. Webs glued his fingers and toes together by thin membranes. He opened his eyes and took in the dark blue tiles and the bright white flooring of the pool. Oxygen flooded his lungs. He breathed in the chilly water and blew out bubbles. Flipping onto his back he gazed up at the shifting surface of the water. Beyond, the world moved in and out of focus. He saw a flock of birds fly overhead and the plants waving to and fro around the pool. Sounds were dampened under the water. It was peaceful.
He tried to let go of the tension and the stress that had been filling him lately, but it seemed that his dragon had something on its mind.
“When will we find our mate?” The dragon’s question surprised him. It whispered through his mind like scales brushing against the inside of his skull. He hadn’t even realized that his dragon had been looking for a mate.
“Are you looking for someone for now or forever?” he asked. The answer was important. He had to be sure this was what the dragon really wanted.
“Not temporary,” it whispered. “Always.”
Brent felt relief sweep through him. So that was it! But the relief was quickly followed by worry. They were still young in human years, not even twenty-five yet. He had a job, but he wasn’t even sure if he wanted to continue working at the Dragon’s Lair. His future seemed up in the air.
He tried to push away these thoughts and focus on what the dragon wanted: a mate. He thought of Tor and Louisa. Once they’d been mated at New Year, they had seemed to exist in their own little world, so cozy and close. Tor stayed over at her place practically every night unless she needed some alone time. A pang of envy burst in Brent’s stomach.
The more he thought about the idea of a mate, the more it appealed to him. Part of him wanted someone for himself. He wouldn’t be opposed to sharing with his friends from time-to-time, but when all was said and done, she would be all his. But another part of him was scared. What if there wasn’t anyone for them? What if she wasn’t out there? What would he do then? How would his dragon react to that? It had happened before—dragons searching the world over and not finding anyone. It was a sad and pitiful existence. Some thought it was punishment for past deeds, but Brent didn’t like to think that. Not even the coldest bastard deserved to be alone. Brent suddenly yearned to experience that first blush of love and contentment, to feel what it would be like to love and have that love returned.
“When?” The dragon pressed.
“I don’t know,” he told it. How should he go about finding her? A dragon matchmaker? A witch? Or should he rely on pure luck and fate?
“She’s here, in town,” the dragon pressed. “I can feel her.”
Brent almost changed back to his human form from shock. He hadn’t felt anything unusual, but then again his senses had been bombarded by so many things as of late. The fact that the dragon had been keeping this from him sent a wave of scalding heat through his body. The dragon had watched him fumble through one encounter after another, each less satisfying than the last. Why hadn’t it just told him it wanted a mate? “What do you mean?”
The dragon hissed out a cool stream of mist, interrupting his thoughts and pulling his focus back to the beast. “You must clear your senses. Use mine.”
Brent didn’t know how to open himself up to the dragon without undergoing a full shift. He felt his frustration mounting. The ability to share senses was supposed to be fluid and effortless, and yet it seemed to be all or nothing with his dragon.
“Stop. Let it go and relax. Think about our mate,” the dragon urged.
“Easy for you to say,” Brent muttered. How was he supposed to do that if he didn’t know anything about his mate?
He floated up to the surface and closed his eyes, letting the gentle lapping of the water center him. His limbs went limp and he sank down again, letting the soothing waters envelop him. Brent tried to picture his ideal woman, or at least an outline of her. A woman with curves, and a healthy appetite. A woman who was intelligent, strong, capable, independent, and full of respect for herself. Just thinking on those qualities made Brent’s heart ache. His frustration with his life grew as he thought of all that he yearned for. He missed having someone to spend time with, to cuddle with. He missed the basic human contact and comfort that he could find in a relationship. He wanted to be able to wake up with someone, make them breakfast, go out on dates, and spend the evenings talking about their days.
“Yes,” the dragon hissed. “Think on that.”
Brent’s body became buoyant, and once again he floated with ease.
Now he tells me, Brent thought. In his mind’s eye he could see the faint hint of clear, chocolate-brown skin, and light brown eyes. A cool breeze drifted over him, raising goose bumps. He inhaled deeply. The scent of the forest wafted past his nose. They were nowhere near the woods. With another pull of air, he got the scent of a million different perfumes, some herbal, some floral, and some spicy. Heat churned in his gut as his balls hardened. Arousal traced a fiery path along his spine. Shock reverberated through his system at the sudden onslaught of pure, unadulterated need. It had been a long time since he’d had a taste of real, honest-to-gods desire, and he didn’t even know who it was that his body wanted.
He tried to sense something of her personality beyond her multitude of scents. The imaginary woman imbued him with warmth and comfort, a coziness with the spice of sexual excitement that only increased his need for her. He felt his cock thicken, filling with blood as his body temperature spiked. Brent tried to push past the feeling and concentrate on locating the woman. It was one thing for the sexual chemistry to be there, but to be able to stay with someone, he would need to forge a real connection to her. With a mental shove, he tried to open himself up to her more, get more of a feel for who she was.
He hit a wall, hard, and bounced back. All sense of her vanished and the outline of her image wavered, then disappeared. He pushed again, trying to seek out that thread that connected them. He gritted his teeth as he tried to force himself past the wall. Brent pictured his energy like a large wave of water as it crashed against the solidity of her barriers again and again. He tried to reform the water’s shape to something sharper, like a sword or icicle, but again he was blocked.
Confusion turned to anger and determination. I’m going to get to you, he thought. You will be mine.
Dragon Ugly (c) 2013 Selena Illyria
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