Chapter 1 - Max
Max stifled his laugh as his foster brother carried on over the phone.
“And then, right after I get my act together, you up and leave me.” Chris finally took a breath.
“It wasn’t intentional, bro. It’s time for you to spread your wings. You have Landon, now. You don’t need me to keep you between the lines.” Max adjusted the Bluetooth and opened another box.
Books. His one true hoard. What he held the most value in, above money, other than money being a necessary evil to get by in the world.
As a dragon, he had little use for it except to pay the bills.
What did he need of furniture if he had his books?
He glanced at each spine, then scanned the multiple units of shelving he’d bought after his first month of work at the central library downtown in the new city he called home. In his head, he had the order lined up that the books needed to be in. “How’s Colin doing?”
“Still pretty bummed you dropped out of college. And then had to move so far away.”
“I had to get out of town, Chris. I’m not really interested in being part of some Alpha dragon’s harem. That’s all the Alphas around there wanted. I want something more. And I knew I wasn’t going to get it, so I decided to strike off for somewhere new.”
“I can’t say that I understand exactly, but I get it.”
In the background, Max heard Chris’ son, Caleb, babbling. “Did I just hear Daddy?”
Chris chuckled softly. There was rustling over the line before Chris spoke again. “Actually, it’s more like ‘doppa’ but we think he means daddy.”
“Being a father suits you.”
“It feels pretty good. Look, I hate to cut this short but it’s lunch time and I can feel a tantrum coming on.”
“Is Caleb a grump when he’s not fed.”
“Actually, his father is. Landon had to go in for a board meeting and that makes him an ultra-grump.”
“Got it.” Max glanced at the time. “It’s actually good timing. Since it’s my day off, I want to go check out another museum today. I love this place. It’s like there’s a museum on every block here.”
“It’s so dork.”
“It’s so glorious, you heathen. Tell everyone I love them and I’ll call Colin and Jeremy this weekend.”
“Take care, Max.”
Max killed the call and stripped down. After all his unpacking and sweating, he wanted a shower before he went museum trawling.
Indigenous People: An Exploration of Art Through Time
This was a new exhibition. His friend Ashley, the reference librarian where he worked, talked about it for weeks after she’d seen it. It piqued Max’s interest. After a little research, he was totally psyched to come see it.
Books were his thing. Definitely. He could still appreciate the collection for what it was: a historical perspective of another peoples through their art. There were times Max wondered if the collections in the museum exhibits he visited were from non-shifters, or if he had the pleasure of viewing another dragon’s obsession.
That’s what dragon hoards were, after all. A dragon’s particular affinity and obsession.
Like his books.
Stopping between rooms, Max glanced down at the pamphlet. Even though he was drawn through the doors to see a specific exhibit, that didn’t mean he wouldn’t stop at each and every piece on display to look at it and read about it. That’s what museums were. Places to become immersed. If he had the patience, he might get into history or art itself. He didn’t have it, sadly. He was still young and there was so much that attracted his attention.
Without warning, a breeze blew through the hall and Max’s senses were swamped with the scents of Alphas. Being in the specific exhibit spaces it wasn’t noticeable. Now, it was almost overwhelming.
Next up was a viewing of local artisans displaying their work. More of a gallery than a museum exhibit. The pamphlet said that many of the paintings were for sale. Folding the paper up again, Max pocketed it and ducked into the room. Hopefully, that would give him a break from all the Alpha pheromones running rampant in the museum.
Who knew so many Alphas actually enjoyed art and antiquities?
It was easy to spot them now that he had caught wind of them. It was obvious none of them were dragons. Non-dragon shifters were pretty much a no-go from the outset. He didn’t feel a natural draw towards them, even when they made eye contact and gave him their best, charming, smile.
And he wasn’t blowing smoke when he told his brother he escaped to this town to get away from dragon Alphas because he was equally not interested in them either.
Max already had this perfect Alpha avatar built up in his head. No one lived up to it. It was safe that way. He didn’t have to come out of his shell to actually engage in anything with an Alpha because they would never be good enough.
Who could possibly live up to a breathing embodiment of the perfect Alpha?
He loved dark haired men with dark flashing eyes. Eyes that seduced with flashes of intelligence. Max didn’t want the brute sexuality of an Alpha’s physicality. Sure, they were nice to look at and touch but it did nothing for him if there wasn’t the wit and wisdom behind those looks to back it up.
Seduction with well spoken words; confidence without arrogance.
He shook himself out of his wool-gathering. So busy imagining the perfect mate, Max didn’t realize he’d wandered through half of the art exhibit. He certainly didn’t remember anything he’d looked at.
No big deal. He could start over.
He turned the corner to go back to the beginning when he ran into someone.
Expensive cologne was the first thing that filled his head. It wasn’t that cheap stuff, either. It didn’t have the offensive bite that most carried. It wasn’t overwhelming as much as Max had practically faceplanted right into the man’s shoulder.
He looked up to see the most gorgeous set of dark eyes he’d ever witnessed in his life. The man’s hair was perfectly styled and held a luxurious black sheen to it. “Oh, excuse—”
Max held a hand out to keep him from practically tumbling into the guy. His suit was tailored to fit across the very fit and broad body he could feel beneath the expensive cloth the suit was build from.
“It’s fine,” the deep voice rumbled out.
It was the sound of water rushing over a fall. Of distant thunder during a summer storm. It rolled over Max in a wave of soothing calm.
With his next breath, he caught the scent that floated beneath the cologne.
No. No no no. No. Max moved to get away from dragon Alphas.
He backed up, his foot clipped a nearby bench. “I um…” he forced a smile and turned quickly. He was done with the museum now.
What he wanted more than anything was to put distance between himself and the Alpha.