Her Dragon's Heart (Dragon Guard Series Book 8)(2)

By: Julia Mills

Anxiety flooded their mating bond. Jace probed, looking for the cause of her fear, but Melanie’s thoughts were locked up tighter than Fort Knox. Her features so well-schooled that only someone who’d studied her as much as Jace would notice the rigid set of her shoulders and the way she continually glanced to the side.

He’d asked what was wrong and she’d made an excuse about being tired then walked away without looking up. Never one to relent, Jace followed, hoping for answers. Instead, Melanie ducked out of the room, returning several minutes later with her backpack and coat. She made an excuse about an early shift, which didn’t fit her schedule and raised more red flags, but the kicker was when she left without letting him walk her out.

Jace paced Royce’s front porch until he’d worn a path, then made three laps around the yard before calming enough to go back inside, cursing himself for not making her tell him what was wrong. The notion of making Melanie Whelan do anything was laughable and made him smile.

I should’ve told her she was my mate. That we’re meant to be together forever. That I’ll be there for her no matter what.

Over the next few days there had been countless times he’d on his way to see her, only to have her look up, fake a smile, then head the opposite direction. He knew she was avoiding him but had no idea why. Using every one of his enhanced abilities, he watched from the shadows, undetected but still close enough to protect her.

On the evening of the second night, he’d had enough. He knew their attraction was mutual. He’d scented her arousal when they touched, seen her pupils dilate, felt her breath quicken, and felt their connection the few times he’d lowered his lips to hers. Melanie Whelan was his, dammit, and he would protect her to his dying breath, whether she liked it or not.

Waiting in the hospital parking lot, determined to get some answers, Jace propped himself against his motorcycle and waited. Her scent filled the air seconds before she exited the large sliding glass doors. He made a beeline to intercept his stubborn mate, reminding both himself and his dragon they were there to get answers, not to be distracted by her sparkling eyes and kissable lips.

Unfortunately, two strides into his trek, the cellphone in the pocket of her scrubs rang. Her steps slowed as she pulled it from her pocket, then stopped completely as she scowled at the display. Biting her bottom lip and staring at the phone like it might bite her, Melanie finally answered with a growled, “I told you never to contact me.”

The hair on the back of his neck stood up. His dragon snarled. Jace used his enhanced hearing to listen as the raspy voice of a much older man responded. “But Meli Rose, we are family. I just...”

“You just want to screw up my life...again. Well, not this time seanathair.” The venom of her tone had Jace and his beast preparing for battle. The use of the old dragon language and a blasphemous term like seanathair had him scratching his head. Only those well versed in dragon dialect would know what an insult the use of ‘old father’ would be to their grandfather. He made a note to find out how in the hell she was so well-versed in their language.

The sing-song tone laced with malevolent force that replied to her made him want to punch something. “Now, Meli, you know you belong with your teaghlaigh. We know what is best for you.”

Melanie transformed before his eyes. Her back went ramrod straight, her shoulders pulled back, and her feet spread to shoulder width apart. A warrior was born and she was preparing for battle. The tension in her jaw worried Jace that she might break a tooth. She growled her response.

“You know what is best for me? You? You, Grand Draoi, presume to know what is best for me?” She paused, her hate and anger a living being.

Although Melanie was truly pissed, Jace felt what it cost her to stand her ground. The internal battle to fight for what was right against a blood relative was one that never came easily for anyone. He fought the urge to go to her. His hands flexed with the need to grab the phone from her hands and verbally assault the man that dared to upset his mate. More than anything, he wanted to spare her the obvious torture the mere sound of the man’s voice caused.

His beast within wholeheartedly agreed, chuffing and growling until the young Guardsman had a hard time maintaining his focus. Of their own volition, his feet moved forward. Jace ground the heels of his boots into the asphalt, willing himself to stay put. He knew Melanie would not welcome his intrusion, no matter how good his intentions. There was history to her torment, something he could tell she’d spent years learning to keep hidden. One of the many things he admired about his mate was her strength and knew from their many conversations that she valued her independence. Watching her, he could see how hard she’d fought to attain that independence and would do whatever he could to help her maintain it. He took several deep breaths, assuring both himself and his dragon he was doing the right thing.

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