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Blood Dragon (Water Dragons Book 3) by Charlene Hartnady (1)

Chapter 1

What the fuck am I doing here?

How had he allowed himself to be convinced that this was a good idea? It had been years and years since he had gone on a Stag Run. As expected, he was bored and frustrated and irritable. He was suddenly reminded of why he had stopped going in the first place. It was like being given a bucket of candy he would never be able to savor. It didn’t matter how good the treat looked, or how delicious the thought of it was, once he put it in his mouth, he’d get…nothing. Sweet fuck all! It would be like sucking on a pebble. Why bother even trying? Why look?

He watched as Delta nuzzled the neck of a very willing human. Then he was groping her breast. It wouldn’t be five minutes and the two of them would leave together. They would spend the night together. He’d already watched several others from the group pair up and head out. Lucky fucks! Bay ground his teeth, trying to look away from the couple as they continued to make out. He couldn’t take his eyes off them though; call it morbid curiosity. He watched as Delta squeezed her denim-clad ass and how…

“Can I buy you a drink?” a busty blonde asked as she sidled up to him, drawing his attention to her.

He was sure to keep his frown firmly in place as he locked eyes with her. “I’m good.” He held up his beer.

Go away!

Her smile quickly died. Bay felt like a class-A dick as he watched her turn away; it couldn’t be helped though. There was no point entertaining any advances. No point whatsoever.

“You turned that hottie down?” Beck asked as he hooked an arm around Bay’s shoulders. “Are you crazy?”

“You are the one who’s crazy. I shouldn’t have let you talk me into this. It just reminds me of everything I can’t have.” He shoved Beck’s arm away. He knew that the male meant well but some things were better left alone.

“You’ve been working ridiculous hours. You needed to blow off some steam.”

“And how do you propose I do that?” He realized he was starting to sound like a sulking child. “Look, thank you for trying. I appreciate the sentiment but—”

“Why don’t you just take the blonde home?” Beck raised his brows. “Have a little fun. Something is better than nothing.”

“No.” He shook his head. “Sometimes leaving things alone is for the best. No use flogging a dead horse.”

“Horse?” Beck choked out a laugh. “Now you’re exaggerating. I wouldn’t call your dick a horse…”

Bay had to smile. He shook his head. “Thanks, bro, but no. You can stop now.” He looked at the entrance to the bar. “I’m going to head out.”

He could see that Beck wanted to argue.

“I’m tired. I’ll take a walk, maybe have a swim ‒ that’s how I let off steam. Besides, it’s getting late, I’m sure you’ll be leaving soon.”

Beck nodded. “Enjoy your swim.”

Bay nodded back. “You enjoy your night.”

His friend slapped him on the back. “I most certainly will.”

He watched as the male headed back to the group of females he had been talking to, then Bay put down his beer and headed out.

He spotted her the instant his feet hit the pavement and stood there rooted to the spot.

* * *

Half an hour later…

The female wasn’t human.

Not a chance. Bay took another swig of his beer, turning his gaze to the gyrating bodies on the dance floor. He had followed her into the bar across the street like an idiot. That question kept playing on his mind. What was she? It wasn’t long before he was staring back at her, his eyes drawn to her lithe frame. She looked human enough, even though she was tall. Much taller than every other female in there. Tall and toned, wearing a tiny slip of a dress. No bra. Her breasts were the size of ripe peaches. Probably just as sweet. He ignored the voice in his head that made suggestions of sucking on them.

Stupid voice.

Stupid idea!

Instead, he kept his focus on her. She looked both nervous ‒ her eyes kept darting about the room ‒ and brimming with confidence ‒ her chin had this tilt to it. A strange combination to be sure.

Bay took a few more steps towards her, trying hard not to openly scent the air. Finally, he found her scent in amongst all the warring smells. Not human. Not a fuck! Not with a scent like that. It was rich and very feminine with hints of flower nectar and notes of honey. Yet, it was distinctly masculine as well. What the…!? He’d never scented anything like it. How could someone scent of both a female and a male? It wasn’t an overlapping masculine scent. It was coming from her. The essence of her. Intriguing.

He watched as yet another male approached her. Watched as she shot him down with a single shake of the head and a couple of well-directed words. Then she was leaning back, her ass against the bar, her gorgeous green eyes drifting across the room. Taking it all in, and yet not really focusing on anyone in particular. She toyed with a tumbler, holding it in one hand and then the other. Swirling her finger around the rim, finally clutching the glass against her chest. Not drinking any of the amber liquid inside. Not even a sip.

He had to know.

Had to.

Couldn’t resist any longer. Bay ran a hand through his hair. He’d been told he was attractive. Not that it mattered. Then again, he found himself wanting to please her. Stupid but true. He prayed she didn’t shoot him down like she had all the rest. Especially since he wasn’t after what the other males wanted. Bay had to know what she was. Then he would be satisfied. Then he could go for that walk and take that swim. Get rid of some of this brimming energy. He didn’t belong there. Should not have come in the first place. He felt a pang but quickly shoved it aside. He’d felt sorry for himself for far too many years. Bitterness and anger were his best friends for a while there. Those emotions didn’t help anything though, so he didn’t dwell much on them anymore.

Not much.

There was the odd occasion where it flared back up. Like in this moment, looking at this female made him feel everything all over again. He took a deep drink of his beer, pulled in a breath and headed over to her. The sooner this was done, the sooner he could leave.

Not all that long ago, he used to have confidence enough for three males. Those days were over. She looked up as he approached, looking indifferent. He’d even go so far as to say she looked bored. Then her eyes widened and her lips parted. Her nostrils flared and her eyes lit with interest. Not the rejection he’d been expecting then.

One of the most spectacular looking females he had ever seen, began her slow perusal of him, starting at his feet and working her way up. Her nostrils flared again as her startling green eyes met his. They were vivid, like newly unfurled leaves on a seedling. They glinted, her attention focused solely on him. Well fuck!

“Not human.” She shook her head, narrowing her eyes in confusion. Her voice was silky and smooth, with a hint of smoke around the edges.

Bay had to smile. “I could say the same about you.”

She nodded once, a smile toying with the edges of her lips. She didn’t say anything more.

“So…” she began. He stepped in a little closer, not wanting those around them to eavesdrop. She raised her brows, looking him in the eye. Only marginally shorter than he was, Bay noted. She had a pair of legs on her that went on for miles. “Do you like what you see?” She finally smiled and holy shit but she was gorgeous. Several males stopped to openly stare.

He chuckled like a whelp before finally managing to stop himself. Just in time too. Any more of that type of behavior and he’d embarrass himself. Make it very clear to any watching that he didn’t do this often…make that ever. “Yes.” No use lying. “Very much so.” He rubbed his chin, the light stubble catching against his hand. “I need to know one thing, and then I’ll be out of your hair.”

“Let me guess, what is a female like me doing in a place like this?” She must have caught the look in his eyes because she shook her head. “No! What about, did it hurt when you fell from heaven?”

Bay frowned. “What? No…I—”

She smiled, it was radiant. “One male asked me if I was a light switch. He wanted the opportunity to turn me on.” She rolled her eyes.

Bay choked out a laugh. He hadn’t heard anything so stupid in all his life. “Human males tried those pick-up lines on you?”

She nodded. “There are more if you want to hear?”

He shook his head. “That’s okay. Did any of them actually work?”

She shook her head. “I’m still here. In fact, I was just about to head back to my hotel.” She put the glass down on the bar. Then her eyes lifted in thought. “If you don’t have a cheesy pick-up line, what did you want to ask me?”

* * *

Ceri hoped whatever it was, that it was good. She found herself feeling a little disappointed that it wasn’t some cheesy pick-up line. This male was something. She wasn’t sure what had possessed her to head out tonight. Sex with a human had seemed like a good idea after staring at the four walls of her hotel room but almost the moment she arrived there, she had changed her mind. They were puny, they tried too hard. None of them scented of anything remotely interesting. And now…he was there. This tall, dark, sexy specimen of a male. He scented like nothing she had savored before. Like chili and dark chocolate and smoke. Her mouth watered for a taste.

“I wanted to ask,” he leaned in, speaking softly, “what are you? I scent…” He narrowed his eyes. “You look female, but I scent male as well. It makes no sense. The female scent is stronger,” he frowned, like he was thinking it through, “quite delicious actually.”

She laughed, watching as his cheeks turned a light shade of pink. This male was shy and sweet. Not just sexy as sin. Most of the males of her species were downright arrogant. There was a vulnerability to this male she found appealing. “Are you enquiring about my sex?” She narrowed her eyes at him. “Don’t I look like a female?” She pretended to be put out.

His gaze dropped to her breasts and his cheeks reddened. His Adam’s apple worked as he swallowed. Then his eyes widened and he sucked in a breath as they locked back with hers. “No, I mean, yes…you look feminine. You look really good.” He squeezed his eyes shut and swiped his hand over his face. “I was just wondering what species you were…that’s all.”

This male was adorable. “What’s your name?”

“Bay,” he responded immediately. “And yours?”

“You must be a shifter,” she blurted.

His jaw tightened and he shrugged. “Good guess since shifters are the most common of the non-humans. I’m certainly no elf.” He touched one of his ears.

“Yeah, but which kind of shifter?”

“I didn’t say I was a shifter. When did this become about me?” He raised his brows.

He hadn’t denied it either. She didn’t scent dog or bear or…it was puzzling. Maybe he wasn’t a shifter. That couldn’t be though. Like he had pointed out, he wasn’t sporting elf ears ‒ so, not an elf.

Most shifters knew the scent of a vampire when they smelled it. This male didn’t. Ceri didn’t think he ventured out often.

He leaned in again. So close that his breath tickled her ear when he spoke. “I’m a dragon.” Her nipples tightened.

Ceri inhaled deeply, taking his scent in. “Of course you are.” How had she missed that? The chili was fiery. The scent of smoke was very much at the fore. The dark chocolate made her mouth water for a taste.

He straightened up. “Your turn.”

Disappointment rushed through her once again. This was the part where she told him and he high-tailed it out of there. Their species was not well loved. “I’m a vampire.” She held her breath.

His whole frame tensed. Then he nodded. “You drink blood?” He frowned.

She smiled. “Yes, regularly. Although my last feed was two days ago ‒ from my best friend, a male. That’s who you scent on me.”

His eyes lit with realization. “That makes sense.”

“This is the part where you excuse yourself and run.” Such a pity. He would make a good lover, she was sure.

“Is it?” He lifted his brows.

She pushed out a sigh. “Yes, humans and non-humans alike are either afraid of us or put off by our…food requirements.”

He looked amused. “What is your name?”

“You can call me Carmine.” Maybe this would go her way and if it did, she didn’t want him knowing who she really was. He couldn’t ever find her, or…Hold on, Ceri! Calm yourself! Nothing had happened. Nothing might happen. She was getting ahead of herself. One thing was for sure though, she did want him. Very badly.

He quirked a brow. “I can call you Carmine. I take it that’s not your real name?”

She shrugged. “We don’t need names, do we?”

He shrugged. “I guess not. I am neither afraid nor put off.” He put out his hand and she took it. Strong, firm…and very warm. They shook. “It’s good to meet you.”

“You too.” She smiled. “I was just headed back to my hotel. It’s a block or two up the road. Would you like to walk me back?” Normally she wouldn’t dance around something quite this much. If she wanted to rut someone she came right out and said it, but she had a feeling she might spook this one. This, despite him being handsome. He oozed confidence, but at the same time there was a shy edge to him. She would even go so far as to say that he was a little awkward. Ceri found that she liked the combination. Liked it a lot.

“Yeah, sure.” He put his beer down on the bar. “I was about to leave anyway.”

She walked ahead of him, feeling his eyes on her. The air was crisp. Ceri sucked in a deep breath as they walked outside. “I’m a couple of blocks up the road.” She pointed to the five-story building not far up ahead. “You take the next right and it’s about a block down.”

“Ocean view.” He raised his brows.

“Yes, it’s right on the beach.” She nodded.

“Nice.” He smiled and they began to walk.

“What brings you to Beachhaven?” The male frowned. “It’s a little far from your neck of the woods…Sweetwater, right?”

She nodded. “Very good, you know a little about us.”

“A little.” He nodded. “So, what brings you here?”

“Even vampires need a vacation.”

His smile widened.

“I love the ocean. Love lazing around on the beach in my bikini. I love swimming. My absolute favorite,” she raised her brows, “don’t laugh.”

He shook his head. “Never. Why would I laugh? There’s nothing wrong with downtime.”

“I love snorkeling as well.” She licked her lips. “I discovered it a few years ago. Now I take a beach holiday every chance I can get. I know,” she rolled her eyes, “a vampire who loves to swim and snorkel.” She made a face. “It’s especially laughable considering the myth that we turn to ashes in the sun.” She pushed out a nervous-sounding laugh, realizing that she was nervous. Very much so.

Bay shrugged. “I think it’s great. I happen to be a Water dragon. We have a natural affinity with water, especially with the ocean.”

She frowned. “A Water dragon. Forgive me, I don’t know much about your kind.”

“That’s because we don’t get out much.” He grinned. So cute! He wore a black button-down shirt, top two buttons open, a pair of dark jeans. His blue eyes glinted in the streetlight.

“You don’t.” She shook her head. “You’re the first dragon I’ve ever met.”

“You’re the first vampire I have met, so I guess that makes us even.”

She nodded. They arrived at the entrance to her hotel. “I would love to hear more about…Water dragons…your species in general. Can I entice you up for a drink?”

He seemed hesitant. Why? By the way he’d looked at her earlier, she could tell that he was interested. He’d openly admitted to liking what he saw when she’d asked him, and yet…he was still hesitating. “It’s just a drink. I won’t bite or anything.” She laughed at her stupid joke, wishing she hadn’t made it. Especially considering how he barely smiled.

“Yeah, why not.” He finally shrugged. “One drink and then I must go.”

His lack of enthusiasm both irritated and excited her. Ceri was used to getting males she wanted. Never for anything other than a rut though. She was not able to bear children, so male vampires tended to steer clear of anything that smacked of commitment. Not that she’d actually met anyone she wanted to spend any real time with. Please! She used her keycard to gain access to the building and made her way to the elevator.

The shifter followed close on her heels. She pushed the button for the fifth and highest floor. “You said you don’t get out much. Is that the case for dragon shifters in general, or specifically you?”



The elevator dinged as they reached her floor. The door opened. Ceri put her hand on the edge of the door as it opened. “Both? As in…?” She raised her brows, moving into the door of the elevator and essentially closing him in.

“Dragon shifters are only permitted to…mingle with humans twice per year.”

“Otherwise you’re homebound?”

“Yes.” He nodded, stepping towards the exit. Towards her. His scent was incredible.

“Why do your males mingle with humans?” It seemed an odd thing to do. She could guess but hearing it from him would be way more fun.

“We have very few female dragons.” He shrugged.

“So ‘mingle’ is not the right word?” She smiled to show she was only teasing.

Another one-shouldered shrug. His eyes glinted with mischief. More of his scent enveloped her. Drool-worthy. She swallowed down her need to drink from him. Her gums itched. She’d eaten just two short days before. She didn’t need blood. Not so soon. She wanted it though. Wanted his blood.

“You said you don’t get out much and that it’s not only because you’re a dragon shifter. There’s more to it then?”

“I haven’t been into town for a couple of years now. Single males go on the Stag Runs religiously.”

“Stag Runs?” She laughed. “I guess it’s a good name. Why don’t you go on them?” She knew she was prying. If he had wanted to tell her, he would have. Then another thought occurred to her. “You’re single, aren’t you?”

“Yes, very much so. The Stag Run is not my thing. Males come into towns like this one to rut and…” He let the sentence die.

“You don’t like rutting?” She frowned.

Bay smiled, he had this strange look about him. His eyes seemed clouded. His demeanor, down somehow. “Don’t answer that.” She put up her hand. “It’s none of my business,” she laughed, trying to shove aside the heaviness that suddenly filled the space.

She waited for him to say something. To answer her or to change the subject… something, but he just looked uncomfortable. Ceri stepped out of the elevator and into the hallway.

She didn’t have to walk far. “This is mine.” She stopped at the first door, using the keycard to open it. “Come on in.” She pushed the door open and leaned against the jamb, allowing him plenty of space to enter in front of her.

His eyes locked with hers. They heated. He was definitely interested, so why was he acting like being there was the worst idea? More importantly, why did that intrigue her so much?



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