This is the last chapter of Dragon’s Confession. I hope you have enjoyed the serialization of this novella. I have prepared a game to celebrate its conclusion.
Next week I will give you the first chapter of Bear Sin which is my new Billionaire Oil Bearons novel which will be published in a box set in May. I will have to delete this post once the book is published, as keeping it up will violate my contract with the publisher of the box set. So look for post and read it before it’s gone!
The reviews of Dragon’s Confession are still rolling in. It’s great to hear from my readers, and I am so glad so many of you have enjoyed this book.
They spent a long sweaty afternoon in her bed. Ingrid had a few fantasies to try out and Victor was a more than willing participant. He had impressive stamina. Probably all that cross-country skiing and gear polishing.
When she had ridden him until her aftershocks had rendered her boneless, she collapsed moaning on his slick chest. He gathered her close. The aroma of two fulfilled athletes hung heavy in the air of her room.
“Happy?” he whispered.
She nodded, too worn out to speak.
“Good. I love you.” His arms tightened around her.
She meant to answer, truly she did, but she must have drifted off again. He was gone when she woke up with her thighs glued together and her inner muscles still quivering.
But the lovesick fool in her mirror grinned while she braided her wet hair and dressed in clean clothes. She tracked Victor down in the security room. He was scrutinizing video footage again. “More hummers?” she asked. She wasn’t going to buy trouble.
He held out an arm and she let herself be pulled against his body. “The congratulations are rolling in.” He was smug.
“It’s a big deal in Dragonry when a bachelor marries.” He pressed buttons. “Here you go.”
Ingrid recognized his parents. Lord and Lady Severn were dressed formally and smiling delightedly. “We are about to begin our official calls to announce your betrothal,” Severn Lindorm told the camera. “We will begin with the High Marshal, and then head to Juist to inform Prinze Reinhart. Then we will take our happy news to the Duke and Duchess of Estremaura.”
“What your father is trying to say, Victor,” continued Anna Lindorm, “Is that we are delighted by your betrothal and look forward to renewing our acquaintance with Ingrid. We will have your cousins film our announcements and send you a video.” She too beamed into the camera.
Ingrid hadn’t known that she was worried that Victor’s parents would disapprove of her. Lady Severn’s warm and genuine smile made something inside her relax.
“That was six hours ago.” Victor brought up a new video. Ingrid sat on his lap. He was happy to hold her. Again. He kissed the side of her neck. “This is Montenegro.”
The camera played over rugged mountains and a bleak stone castle. The camera angle altered. Anna Lindorm preceded her husband up a massive interior flagstone staircase to a narrow landing. A stocky black-haired man stood waiting with several flunkies as if prepared to repel intruders. He reached around Lady Severn to shake hands with her husband. Anna’s smile became rigid.
“Who is that sexist jerk?” Ingrid asked.
“Vadim of Montenegro. High Marshal of the Guild of Dragons.”
They watched in silence as the Marshal finally reached for Lady Severn’s hand. He ignored her attempts to shake his hand and brushed her knuckles against his lips. Anna’s pleasant expression did not alter as the black mustache swept across her fingers. Lord Severn’s set into sterner lines. His chest broadened.
“Yuck,” said Ingrid. “Your mother looks so serene, but I’ll bet she’s hopping mad. I would be.”
“I’ve not met him myself, but I think Montenegro is supposed to be conservative,” Victor murmured. “Maybe that was the Eldest’s code for ‘male chauvinist’. But he got the most votes.”
Ingrid curled her lip. “Maybe there should be rules about electing pigs.”
“I take it I don’t get a vote when we are married?”
“No. The seats on the Council are open only to men.”
The camera cut away to reveal a reception room as grim as the stone stairway. The High Marshal sat on a carved throne and accepted a scroll one-handed from Lord Severn who had presented it with two. Vadim handed it to the slim, blond flunky beside him who opened it and read it aloud.
The ornate and flowery language flowed unheeded past her ears as Ingrid stared in disbelief. She turned so fast she cracked her head on Victor’s square chin. After a flurry of apologies and kisses, she murmured, “What is my stalker doing in Montenegro?”
“The guy reading that Proclamation is that sneaky groupie who knocked me down in Gstaad.”
Victor backed up the video. “Him? Are you sure?”
“Of course I’m sure. He was hanging around, on and off, for months before the accident. Norway, Austria, Switzerland.” She checked them off on her fingers. “I’ve seen him plenty of times.”
“Calm down. I’m not really doubting you, sweetheart. But that guy is the Prince Maximillian the Archduke of Landor.”
“You know him?”
“He’s related to every House in Dragonry. Including ours. Why would Landor be pursuing my dragoness?”
“I prefer to think of myself as my own person,” she shot back.
“And why didn’t you recognize he was a dragon?” he murmured.
“Smell,” he said absently as he typed up a rapid message and hit send.
“He smelled like lots of other guys,” she said.
That got his attention. He began to show her a photo lineup. “Do you know any of these guys?”
She pointed to a few. They were all blond and blue-eyed and as tall and muscular as Victor. Typical ski bums. Just like the ones he pointed to that she didn’t recall.
“Darius, Nils, Theo, Oswain,” he called names off as she identified skiers she had seen on and off over the years. Experts who frequented the same slopes as her.
“You know those guys?”
Victor grinned. “Yup. They are all the Eldest’s sword bearers. And my cousins. He has kept you well-guarded. But Maximillian is not numbered amongst the Eldest’s honor guard.”
She frowned at the screen. “So why didn’t your cousins recognize this Maximillian?”
“Probably did. Said hello and accepted he was skiing. If he’s the asshat who knocked you down, he did it deliberately. He was practically born on skis as I was. But I wonder why you didn’t realize you had dragons all around?”
She wrinkled her nose. “I didn’t know what I was smelling wasn’t hot male but dragon. As you said, I needed to work at being a dragon. Are you implying that Landor is one of those rogue dragons you told me about earlier?”
Victor rolled his shoulders as if he was tense. “Looks like it. If he made you as a dragoness, he also made your bodyguards. Hard to think of a good reason why he started to stalk you if he believed you to be claimed by the House of Lindorm.”
“Claimed?” She narrowed her eyes at him.
He kissed her. “Have you not claimed me in return?” he demanded when they were both breathing hard. “Are you not my mate as I am yours?”
“What other reason would a blaze of Lindorm dragons have to be guarding you, other than the fact that you belong to our House? Only a rogue would ignore that.” He glared at her before he sent his fingers flying over the keyboard. “I’ll see if we can locate any footage from the hotel security in Gstaad. If it is Landor someone will identify our UFD.”
“Sorry.” He patted her thigh. “Unidentified Flying Dragon.” He typed more. “If our flyer was Landor, at least we know where he is now. And we can look at his file.”
Victor shrugged. “It’s the twenty-first century. We Lindorms have computerized databases. There will be some event where Landor was photographed in dragon. If he was our UFD, we can match his plumage to the video from San Michaela.”
“I hate to be the one to break it to you, Lindorm, but dragons have scales not feathers.”
“We descend from birds,” he said absently. “We call it plumage. At any rate, if Landor is our stalker, Montenegro is a long way from the Dutch Antilles.”
“Does this mean we can go back outside?”
“Not until the Eldest gives us the all clear.”
“Because he’s the boss?”
“Because he’s the big boss.”
* * *
Three days later…
The sun shone down from a cloudless sky. Despite the clear sky, the sea rolled in on towering breakers. A storm was coming. Victor rubbed more sunblock into her back. She squirmed a little deeper into the lounger and relaxed. His hands moved down to her buttocks and smoothed more lotion there. His fingers parted her crack and glided away to do the backs of her thighs.
“You know, we spent three days inside when the sea was calm,” she complained. Or at least she tried to. Her words emerged as a breathy purr.
“Hmm. Eldest’s orders.” Victor ran his fingers up one thigh to her pussy, brushed her muff and slid away.
“Are you teasing me, Lindorm?”
“Yup. It’s getting to be a habit.”
“You think your Uncle Thorvald wanted us to spend three days in bed?”
He chuckled. “Who knows with the Eldest? All I know is that he has had a personal word with Prince Maximillian and pointed out that mated dragonesses are off limits. And Lindorm dragonesses doubly so.”
“And you think that will make the Archduke of Landor back off?”
His laugh made her shiver, and not with delight.
“I guess that’s a ‘yes’?” she said.
“Even if that skyworm had it in him to ignore the announcement of our engagement, let’s just say that a visit from Lord Lindorm and his brothers, sons and nephews is not a thing that a little pipsqueak like Landor will forget soon.”
“Lord Lindorm did that for you? I thought your uncle was angry with you?”
Victor shook his head. “My uncle wanted me to learn a lesson from my misdeeds. He and my father probably put their heads together to figure out how. They are both satisfied that I am now a fit husband for you – the precious only daughter of their old friend. Uncle Thorvald wants us to get married. Soon. And he wants you kept safe.”
“He’s not a terrible old tyrant,” Victor explained. “Well, he is terrible. But so are we all. You too.”
“Poisoned dart, lethally sharp talons and horns.” He counted on his fingers. “Fire-breathing dragoness. That would be you. Landor must be even more of a fool than anyone believed to have stalked you. And beyond stupid to have followed us here. But now that he knows that the House of Lindorm is on to him, he will creep back to his castle.”
“So I am safe?”
“Otherwise we would still be inside amusing ourselves with indoor sports.”
Victor lost interest in his erstwhile rival and buried his face between her thighs, before going back to her calves. “I don’t want you to burn.” He smoothed sunscreen onto the soles of her feet.
They had made love for three days, and twice more since they had come down to the beach, and she felt boneless, well-loved and randy as heck. “What have you done to me, Lindorm. Are you using love spells again?”
“No.” She might have accused him of murder. He leapt to his feet.
Ingrid pushed herself up onto her elbows. “I was joking.”
“I can’t joke about rape,” he said. The rose on his chest was almost maroon now. The diamonds that sparkled looked like tears today.
She launched herself into his arms. “Aren’t you done with feeling guilty?”
He kissed the top of her head. He clutched her close and sat down with her in his arms. He smelled of grief. “I will spend the rest of our lives earning your forgiveness and respect.”
“For what, Victor?” It was time that he stopped with all this angst and gloom and got on with being happy.
“For, f-for…” His voice cracked. “For raping you.”
“How have you turned consensual sex into rape? That’s a stretch, even for you, Lindorm.”
“How was what I did different than slipping roofies or Special K into your drink?”
“For a start, I was awake. Before, during and after. And to finish, I stayed besotted. No secret potions or love spells involved.”
“I meant to bespell you.” His voice was anguished. And for once his cock was not a flagpole.
“There is a big difference between drugging a woman so you can have sex with her unconscious body, and trying to get a girl to fall in love with you. Where did you get the idea that you had raped me?”
He swallowed. She tried to shake him. It was like trying to shake a mountain. “My mother.”
“Your mother called you a rapist?” That didn’t sound like Anna Lindorm.
“That’s what she meant.”
Probably not. “Well, she wasn’t there.” Ingrid felt indignant. What a burden to lay on a sensitive boy’s shoulders! Because her big, macho dragon had been a sensitive boy, and had grown into a sensitive man. An admirable man.
“It wasn’t even statutory rape, Vic. Age of consent in France is fifteen. I’ll admit I had regrets in the morning. But mostly because I didn’t want to get married. And later I thought you had used me and discarded me. Four terse emails a year wasn’t what I expected.”
He tightened his arms around her. “Truly, Ingrid? You know I would never do anything like that again.”
“Victor, what part of ‘I love you’ don’t you get?”
He shuddered. “I’ll teach you to love me.”
The doofus. “I already do. I have promised to marry you. I love your sense of responsibility. I love your mind. I’ve got a rock on my hand that would blind the sightless at twenty paces. We make love like minks. How does that add up to my not being in love with you?”
He pushed her away slightly so he could gaze into her eyes. “It’s the sex,” he explained.
“It is not the sex, Lindorm. You are my fated mate, and I am yours. Believe and be happy.”
“I am happy.”
She rolled her eyes. “Happy is that feeling where nothing is the matter and nothing is hanging over your head. We are going to have a few more days of honeymooning, go back to Austria to talk to Horst – admittedly not the most pleasant of duties – and head to Paris so I can buy a snazzy dress that will make all of Dragonry sit up and beg. And after our Betrothal Ball, we are going to get married and live happily ever after. Got that?”
“I can live with that program,” he said after a pause.
“Good. Now get on with making sure I don’t burn.”
“I live to serve.”
April, Ballroom, Chateau Lind
“I don’t see why your aunt and uncle invited Landor,” Ingrid complained to Victor.
He offered her his elbow. He looked just as handsome and elegant in his uniform as he had when he had visited her in Austria. She suddenly realized that he had dressed up to honor her and she had behaved as if his sudden appearance at the Schloss Schwalm was of little account. She gave his arm a little pat – silently asking for his forgiveness.
Her dragon looked at her and displayed teeth that looked sharper than any man had a right to. He ignored her unspoken apology and answered her question. “Have you never heard the expression, ‘Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer’?”
She nodded and whispered, “Prince Maximillian is your enemy?”
“No one pursues my mate and remains a friend.” His voice was cold. “We don’t know what his motives are – but we will.”
The Archduke lounged by the High Marshal. Even when the receiving line had formed, neither one had been allowed near her. But still. Landor looked innocuous. Smaller and slighter than the dragons all around him. He never looked directly at her, but his eyes tracked her in the mirrors. Even in full evening dress and patent leather pumps, Vadim of Montenegro looked malevolent.
But she felt safe here with Victor.
The light of a thousand candles lit up the long mirrored room and reflected back a thousandfold, not only the guests who had been entertained for the last two weeks, but also those who had been invited just for this ball. A thousand glittering ballgowns slowly revolved in the arms of men wearing dress uniforms or tuxes.
From the gallery, the orchestra struck up another song. “Shall we?” Victor asked.
This would only be their second dance. She had danced all night with a succession of guests. And Victor had danced with a succession of females. For a guy who had never attended a formal dance, he had some awesome moves. She allowed him to turn her into the swirl of waltzing guests.
At his touch, her pulse accelerated as if they had not sneaked away to play every day. Where their hands touched a throbbing heat bloomed and lightning flashed. Thank goodness her taffeta gown was boned and lined with heavy fabric. No one could see that her nipples were so hard they ached.
Victor knew. He winked at her. “Have I told you that you look nice tonight?” he asked.
“You have.” Her dragon was trying. She waited.
He cleared his throat. “You are the loveliest woman present.”
“And I like how that dress goes in at your…” Her tongue-tied lover turned red and shut up.
She smirked. Her Lindorm blue gown nipped in under her bust and flowed over the line of her hips and ended in a sweeping train. She didn’t look nice, she looked magnificent. Her mother and sister-in-law had made sure of that.
Her hair towered over Victor and every loop and curl sparkled with diamond pins. His necklace was looped around her neck in five strands caught at her bosom with an enormous sapphire and diamond brooch. A gift from Anna. As were the matching bracelets on her arms. Astonishingly, she was not the most bejeweled woman present.
“Don’t tease, beloved,” he begged. He spun her in a leisurely circle, as elegant and surefooted on the slick hardwood floor as he was in the sky.
“I love you,” she whispered.
He got redder. “Me too.”
The music died. Their dance was over. Victor began leading her to the back of the room. Lord and Lady Lindorm stood on a carpeted dais. Waiters poured into the ballroom carrying trays of champagne. People began to join Lord and Lady Lindorm on the stage. Victor’s parents and Horst stood to one side. Lord and Lady Drake and another couple stood on the other. Thorvald Lindorm held up his hand and the roar of the guests cut off instantaneously.
“It is my happy duty tonight,” Lord Lindorm began. His deep voice effortlessly filled the room and every eye was turned obediently to him. “To announce the betrothals of two pairs of young people.” There was a scattered round of applause and a few cheers. Lord Lindorm waited for silence. “You will be pleased to learn that Edmund Drake has persuaded Liesbeth van Waals to marry him. Congratulations, Edmund and Liesbeth. I know you will join me in wishing them a long and happy marriage.”
To thunderous clapping, a tall dark-haired man helped a blonde woman mount the three steps to the platform. Edmund and Liesbeth stood between their parents holding hands, blushing and looking happy. Ingrid glanced at Victor. He was holding his breath. The big doofus. She squeezed his arm reassuringly. Perhaps one day he would take their happiness for granted, but today was not that day.
When the applause was only a memory, Lord Lindorm spoke again. “Six years ago, my nephew Victor met a girl in this house. Tonight it pleases me to announce what perhaps most of you already know.” He paused to glance around the room.
As his eyes passed over her, Ingrid suddenly understood the meaning of awestruck. Gone was the genial and kindly host of the last two weeks. Thorvald Lindorm’s blue eyes were predatory and fierce. She finally understood why Victor believed that Landor would trouble her no more. And how brave her nineteen-year-old lover had been in confessing to his formidable uncle.
“Please join me in congratulating Victor and Ingrid von Schwalm on their betrothals,” Victor’s uncle concluded.
Victor helped her up the steps as if she were fragile. Her heels were four-inch stilettos, so perhaps he had a valid reason. Anna Lindorm leaned in to kiss her cheek. “Welcome to our family,” she said as she had said many times before.
“Be happy.” Horst kissed her other cheek. “Vater would be proud and pleased tonight.”
Lord Lindorm extended his hands. Ingrid took his right, Liesbeth his left. “May good fortune follow you all your lives.”
The elegant room rang with whoops and catcalls as if the flower of Dragonry were rowdy peasants. Lord Lindorm’s stern face softened into benevolent lines. He raised his hands still holding Ingrid and Liesbeth’s.
“Long life and happiness,” he cried into the sudden silence. Lady Lindorm passed him a glass. He drank. The crowd followed his lead.
The orchestra began to play softly. To the accompaniment of tinkling glasses, Ingrid and Victor were hugged and kissed again and again. It was a long time before Lord Lindorm quieted the room.
In the gallery, the musicians began to play a stately polonaise. Victor led her out into the space cleared for them. With every eye on them, they began the ceremonial procession. Edmund Drake and Liesbeth van Waals moved behind them. Lord and Lady Lindorm followed.
Soon the entire room was partnered and moving in the same grand dance. Ingrid grinned at Victor. For all its formality, she was enjoying this ritual.
“Happy?” he asked.
And right there, without missing a step, Victor Lindorm kissed his betrothed wife before the assembled aristocrats of the Guild of Dragons, and made her forget everything but him.
©Isadora Montrose, 2017
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