This is an exciting week. My bundle will be published on March 10. On that date, I will raise the price of Billionaire Dragon Lords to $6.99. This is your last chance to lock in the lower pre-order price. Remember that this box set is enrolled in Kindle Unlimited and you can read there.

This week I am posting Chapter 3 of Dragon’s Confession. Victor pays a formal call on Ingrid at her home in Austria. I found a lovely Austrian castle to stand in for the purely imaginary Schloss Schwalm. I hope you enjoy the jigsaw I made with it.

If you did not have an opportunity to read Chapters 1 & 2, they are posted on the website. Go to the menu, click on ‘Blog’. You will navigate to a complete list of all posts. The first 2 chapters are there.

Thank you for the many emails I received this week. It was good to hear from so many fans. I tried to respond to everyone. If I skipped you, be patient, I will reply soon.

CHAPTER THREE

  Schloss Schwalm, Austria

“What I understand is that you have bought me,” Ingrid said through her teeth.

She limped over to the twelve-foot-high window and gave Victor her back. And a very nice back it was too, encased in black leggings and a long knitted tunic of dusty orange. Not exactly a match for his dress uniform, however. His heart sank even further. Apparently, his mate did not think this occasion sufficiently important to warrant formality.

“Money changed hands, if that’s what you mean?” Victor responded with excruciating courtesy. He wanted to put his mate over his knee. Except perhaps she truly did not want to be married to him? His tattoo thrust thorns into his heart. Perhaps now that the time had come to make good on her pledge she couldn’t bear to. He bowed to her as words dried on his tongue.

She was staring into the rainy gardens beyond the windows. Her stormy face was reflected in the small panes of wavy glass. She was watching him watching her. She damn well saw him bow. But she did not acknowledge him. His head began to ache. He was a plain fellow. He didn’t enjoy games. At least not ones where the rules weren’t clear.

He tried again. “Your studies are complete. You are off the Olympic Team. What is there left to prevent our marriage?”

She turned around. As agile on her crutches as she was without them. Her long braid swung wildly. Her lovely face was a mask of rage. “I’m off the Olympic Team, so I should just give up my dreams and marry you?”

He held out his hands. “I thought that we were friends,” he said. “Lovers.”

“Friends don’t buy friends. And I haven’t seen you in six years. Some lover.”

“Technically, I didn’t buy you,” he kept his tone level. “I paid your father two million euros a year so that he would to agree to you remaining in school and on the ski team.”

“Horst said,” her voice broke.

“Your brother is an ass. An unmitigated ass. I gave your father what he demanded.” He shrugged. “You were the one who didn’t want to give those things up. I thought you realized I was paying.”

“Because I’m yours by right of capture!”

He laughed bitterly. “I have never said so. I have never claimed you as my conquest. Never. I paid your father because I wanted you to be happy. I didn’t let him get away with highway robbery because I wanted to stake my claim. I didn’t think I needed to.”

“You just didn’t want your family to know. Everyone knows the Lindorms are the stuffiest dragons ever.”

“I know some Maoris that would give my Uncle Thorvald and his son Sven a run for their money,” Victor returned wryly. “However, I concede that we Lindorms are old fashioned and straitlaced. But just where did you think I got the money from to keep you skiing if my family didn’t know I had transformed you?”

“You Lindorms are all fabulously rich.” She threw the words at him.

“But not crazy, my darling. I was just nineteen. A kid. I was still at the Academy. Serving as junior sword bearer when I had leave. I didn’t have access to that kind of money six years ago.”

“Oh. So you told your uncle?” Her voice was very small.

Encouraged he stepped closer. “That morning. As I was honor-bound to do,” he said. “I had abused a guest in his home. Seduced a child. I had to confess. Suppose we had made a baby?”

“I was seventeen. Hardly a child. And I wanted to have sex with you.” She examined her short fingernails as if they held the secrets of the universe.

“You were three days shy of seventeen, Ingrid. Sixteen. And a virgin, brought to my uncle’s house party to meet eligible bachelor dragons. Your father had every right to expect that you would leave as you came.”

Despite his best efforts, his voice was growing grim. “I was not one of the suitors that year. Moreover, as one of the Eldest’s sword bearers, I was supposed to keep you and the other guests safe, not debauch you.”

“Debauch?” She swung around, her blue eyes wide. “Do you talk like that all the time?”

“I believe that is the word your father used.” He hated that his voice was growing stiffer with every word. “My uncle used worse. And my mother.” He shuddered. “I have never apologized properly to you. I do so now.”

She paced back and forth across the salon dodging the fiddly gilt furniture with a supple athletic grace that made his mouth water. “You don’t have to apologize for being my first,” she tossed over her shoulder.

Victor blocked her return. “I had better have been your last,” he growled.

She shoved at his chest. Her fingers pressed into his medals. “Let me go,” she demanded.

He wasn’t touching her. She was thwarted by the narrowness of the space between the furniture and her crutches. “Not until I have an answer,” he responded. Surely she could not have given herself to some other male? He controlled his impulse to breathe fire. “Who. Is. He?”

“My body. My business.”

His dragon triumphed over his will. He tossed her crutches onto the thick, pale carpet. Her hands clutched his biceps. He lifted her by the waist and brought her mouth to his. She tasted the same. Sexy. Innocent. Loyal. Angry. That was different. But her legs scissored around his waist and she returned the frenzied sweep of his tongue with her own. At least passion still bloomed between them.

He had come today to ask her to marry him. To demonstrate that he was no longer a youth with no self-control. And five minutes in her company, and he was ready to ravage her. But he couldn’t make himself stop. Not when her mouth softened under his. Not when her scent changed from ripe to ready. Her body was making ready to join with his and his cock was as stiff as the furniture.

Victor wrestled with his inclinations and won. He set her gently on a spindly two-seater couch. Her legs reluctantly let go of his waist. “Forgive me,” he said with a little bow before he collected her crutches.

“Have you been keeping your legs crossed?” Her blue eyes narrowed.

He faced her squarely. “Of course.”

“Really. That’s not what Horst says.”

“I don’t know what your brother has told you. But he and I are not comrades. Of any sort. Since the hour I transformed you, I have considered myself a married man.”

“Deflowered me.” Her tone made it a profanity.

“That too. But it was the transformation that made the match. I thought you knew how it is with us dragons.”

“I know you’re obsessed with purity. With virginity.”

He shook his head and sat down in the chair opposite hers. It was a delicate thing with slender bowed legs and pale gold and cream satin upholstery. The mate to her two-seater settee.

“Be careful,” she warned. “That chair is 300 years old and not designed for hulking, great Swedes.” He rose to his feet feeling foolish. Sure his face was red. She smirked at him. She looked so young and mischievous it was just like the first time he had met her. He sat cross-legged on the carpet before her and looked upward at her merry face. “Did I hurt your ankle?”

She thrust it out in its black boot, just missing his temple. He didn’t flinch. She was too much of an athlete to smack that boot into him by accident. On purpose? Whole different kettle of fish.

“It’s fine. Another two weeks and then I can have the cast off and start physical therapy.”

“Hmm. I want to hear all about it,” he said. “But first let me clear up a major misunderstanding.” He cradled her boot with both hands.

“We dragons don’t care about the purity of our mates. We care about their ability to become mothers. Only a dragoness can bear our children. And only a virgin can be turned into one.

“We are a race of males, and there are no female dragonesses for us to woo.” He would wait to explain that the Treasure of the House of Lindorm was his own sister – Christina of Severn, the first dragoness born to their family in seven centuries.

“It comes to the same thing,” Ingrid argued.

“Not in the least. Right now, and for the last six years, you have been a prize beyond price. There isn’t a bachelor in Dragonry who wouldn’t relish an opportunity to woo a woman who was already a dragoness-made instead of a young girl. So it isn’t your purity I care about. It’s not whether you have shared your body with another man. It’s whether or not you have given your heart to him.”

“Pretty words. But for the last six years, you haven’t taken the time to visit me. Not once.” Her voice broke.

“That was my punishment,” he said fiercely. “I thought that was obvious. I was permitted to write you four times a year. One paragraph. I wrote every time.” Unlike you.

“Your punishment?”

“Did you think I could just announce that I had transformed a girl who had been brought to the Chateau Lind expressly to meet an eligible dragon without facing any consequences?” He shook his head. “I broke every rule of decency and courtship and I have paid for my crimes.”

“Crimes? Since when is a little consensual sex a crime?”

“You were a virgin. I was bound by the pact between our families.” He shrugged.

“Some fine pact where my father got to sell his daughter’s virginity to the highest bidder.”

“The bride has to give consent. We take that very seriously, Ingrid. I don’t know how it is in other Houses, but Lindorms have happy, fertile marriages. No divorces. Our happiness depends on respecting our brides and their families. I wronged you and your family. And I was justly punished.”

“Punished?”

“My penance was to let you go to finish growing up. To risk that you might accept one of my dear aunt’s invitations to her annual house party and choose a husband who wasn’t me.”

“If I get to choose, why are you here?”

“My sentence is over. I have been permitted to formally declare my Mate Hunt and I have done so. I stood before the Council and declared that I was seeking a bride. I will be at Chateau Lind in April seeking a bride with the other bachelors.”

“A b-bride?”

“Seeking you, Ingrid von Schwalm. Only you.”

“Then why go to that marriage market?”

Victor gave a bark of laughter. “My Aunt Inge throws a house party at her home in Loire-du-Bois so that dragons can meet young women who already know about dragon shifters. It is not the easiest thing in the world for us to find virgins who want to be turned. It is our long association with mortal families such as yours that makes it possible for us Lindorms to find brides easily.”

Ingrid snorted.

“Aunt Inge would not care to have her decorous affair referred to as a marriage market. I am hoping that you will attend this year, we can get to know one another again, and perhaps announce our engagement.”

“It’s a marriage market where young girls are bought and sold,” she objected.

“We Lindorms pay a bride price,” he admitted. “But we do not pay for unwilling brides. If I married you without paying Horst, would that make you happier?” He looked around at the signs of decay in the glittering salon.

“Horst wouldn’t like it if I asked him to forgo the money. He’s all for our marriage. He says he will not pay for me to ski anymore if I do not go to France this spring.”

Victor chuckled. “What a total idiot he is. Threats won’t work on you. But Horst is probably drowning in the bills to maintain this place.” He shrugged. “I don’t mind paying him for the privilege of calling him brother. Please, accept my aunt’s invitation. And mine.”

“And choose from all this year’s bachelors?” Ingrid’s blue eyes twinkled and the corners of her mouth lifted.

“Don’t force me to kill my friends,” he said sternly.

That wiped the amusement from her face. “I thought you said I had choice?”

“So long as you choose me.” He stood up and then sank to one knee. “Will you permit me to court you honorably, as I should have six years ago?”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Candlelight dinners and moonlit walks. Play with me, Ingrid. Talk to me. Fall in love with me – not just my body – with me.” He reached into his trouser pocket and pulled out a small, dark blue velvet sack.

“I like how you get to frame your emotions – the ones that had us tumbling into my bed after two days – as love, but I was just a foolish, infatuated, in-lust air-head.”

Victor took her hand. He pressed the sack into her hand and covered it with both of hers. “I bewitched you,” he admitted. “Literally. I used my talent as I should not have done. As is forbidden to the dragons of my House. Forgive me for making you cry. For transforming you without permission.” He took his hands away and let her have the bag.

“What is this?” “Don’t you remember? You wept diamonds.”

She untied the braided gold cord and pulled out a long string of glittering stones strung on a platinum chain. The gems had been cut and polished. They sparkled and cast rainbows on the windows and mirrored walls. “How long is this thing?”

“Too long.”

“And it’s mine if I marry you? I remember you saying that.”

“It’s yours, Ingrid. Your tears. Your necklace. That morning, I was only trying in my clumsy way to comfort you.”

She put the necklace around her neck and began to loop it. When she was done five strands glittered on her bosom against her orange sweater. “Thank you – I think.”

He lifted her from the couch and carried her to the rear of the room where floor-to-ceiling mirrors double the size of the salon. “They become you,” he whispered letting her stand on her good foot and supporting her from behind.

“What is this worth?”

He shrugged. “I didn’t ask. It is not for sale.” He paused. “Of course you may sell it if you wish. It is yours.” His throat closed.

“You should see your face,” she exclaimed.

He could. He looked as immaculate as he usually did. Neat mustache. Perfect hair. Uncreased uniform. And a face that might have been carved from stone. He turned Ingrid in midair and brought her face to his. “Permit me to woo you. Give me a chance.”

This is material not previously published. ©Isadora Montrose, 2017

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