Unable to stop himself any longer, Levi searched for Lyndi’s smaller form behind the wall of bigger men. He backed up a step and collided with a gaze so full of desolation, all red banked fire and heartache so raw, that he had to look away for a second to get his own violent reaction under control. When he looked back, Lyndi had dropped her gaze to the ground, hiding from him.
Confusion drowned out every other emotion rioting within him, so loud his head almost buzzed with it. What had that look been? Because if it was even a hint of what he hoped it could be…
The gods had shit timing.
Until this second, with the way she constantly sniped at him, and had from the moment they met, he’d believed she hated him. Carried a grudge for that first misunderstanding, and all the misunderstandings that followed. She’d always taken his need to protect her the wrong way. He hadn’t wanted her to build her orphanage in a human home, so unprotected and vulnerable, not because she wasn’t capable but because he expected the Alliance to show up unexpectedly and wipe out all the boys they felt were stains on the dragon world—and she’d be caught in the crossfire. He hadn’t wanted her to join the team because the reason they needed more bodies was because they kept losing team members. He couldn’t bear the thought of losing her, too.
Her temper had always been a little quicker, a little sharper with him than the other guys. Even his jokes. Mike called her Lyndi-Loo-Hoo all the time, but Levi had tried it once and she’d about taken his head off for it.
But other moments slowly began to coalesce in his mind. Small moments he’d written off. A look filled with heat that had suddenly cooled. A smile just for him when she never sent him smiles. Even a few of her frowns had held a different meaning.
Had all her sharp edges been like a hedge of thorns, built to keep him out? Had that one dance at Drake and Cami’s wedding reception been more that he’d let himself believe? A gap in the hedge, letting him glimpse the true heart of her before she’d closed it over with sharper thorns?
He’d relived that moment over and over every day since.
Lyndi had caught the bouquet and then headed across the dance floor to her brother. Levi, to this day, had no doubt she wouldn’t have gone in that direction if she’d seen that Drake was standing beside him.
When she’d got to them, she’d ignored him and flashed her brother that easy smile she gave to everyone but Levi, waving the flowers in her brother’s face. “Nervous?”
“That you’ll be the next to mate?” Drake had lifted a single eyebrow.
“He’d have to be nuts,” Levi had muttered darkly, thinking of ripping some nameless man’s face from his head if he tried it. He might have to leave the team.
Drake had snorted at his words, but Lyndi’s reaction had been more dangerous given the humans around to witness. Her eyes flared red, glowing and brilliant.
“Just because I’m sterile doesn’t make me worthless,” she’d practically spat at him.
Back to that same original misunderstanding.
“Which is not what I meant, and you know it,” he’d answered back.
Only her eyes had gone brighter, sparking with flame. To hide her face until she could get herself under control, Levi had quickly stepped toward her and drawn her into his arms for a dance, making sure to use his broad shoulders as a shield.
For once, she hadn’t yanked away. In fact, after a minute she’d huffed a breath. “Thanks.”
The fact that she’d even relaxed slightly against him had made him do something probably pretty stupid. He’d pulled her closer, their combined heat mingling, and inhaled the smoky sweet scent of her hair.
“I always seem to rub you up the wrong way.” He’d gone over this a hundred times since, wondering why he’d said that. Those words came out too easily, lulled by the slow music and the sway of their bodies. “Why is that?”
“Maybe I want you to rub me up the right way,” Lyndi had quipped.
Her response was seared into his memory. She’d sure as hell shocked him. Blood had surged through him, making him hard and hot at the same time. Only the jolt of hope had been followed by a sudden drop when she’d immediately jerked to a standstill in the middle of that dance floor.
She’d taken it back, just like that. Then she walked away without a second glance.
He hadn’t followed. Maybe that made him a total idiot, but Lyndi wasn’t exactly easy. The conflicting signals. He’d been so sure she wanted him, and then she’d shut him down hard.
She’d been shutting him down for hundreds of years.
He intended to end that. Today.
“That’s all,” Finn announced.
Out of the corner of his eye, Levi was aware that his alpha turned to him. “Let’s talk about getting you there safely,” Finn said.
Levi watched Lyndi slip out the door ahead of all the others, not looking at him. Levi couldn’t follow. Not yet. Everyone else shuffled out, still buzzing over the news, casting him furtive looks. Kanta clapped him on the shoulder before leaving him there with Finn and Drake.
“Actually, boss,” he said slowly, turning back to the two alphas. “I need to think about this first.”
“I get that,” Finn said. “But there’s no time.”
Story of his life. Two hundred years hadn’t been enough time to figure Lyndi out. A week… That was nothing, a blip. Blast and damn this war.
With a nod, they got into discussing the safest route for him to take. Something that took a solid twenty minutes. Trying not to look like the hounds of hell were after him, Levi finally left the room with only one thought.
As soon as he reached the main level, the general chatter of the common rooms of their home hit him. Just the normal, everyday stuff. Sounds he’d taken for granted until now. How was he going to leave this? The second he showed his face in the kitchen, though, everyone went dead silent.
“No. No way,” he said, trying his best to give them an easy grin. “Long faces are off limits around here. I’ll go win this war for the king and then be back before you even miss me.”
“Who said we’re going to miss you?” Hall popped off from where he sat on a stool at the island counter. Snakelike eyes, barely passable as human, glowed lime-green against smooth, honey-bronzed skin.
Hall’s sense of humor always was an acquired taste, but the comment seemed to signal the others to go back to their kind of normal. Which they sort of did, though the tension lingered in the air. An unspoken heaviness of loss. One more hit. They’d been taking a lot of hits lately.
“Hey,” Levi said quietly to Attor who was closest to him. “Where’s Lyndi?”
“Her room, I think.”
Levi was out of the door before Attor finished speaking. Following Lyndi’s lingering scent, he moved into the foyer and up the grand staircase that led to the living quarters, right past his own suite to the one at the end of the second-floor hall. Forget knocking. She’d probably ignore him anyway.
Trying the handle, he found it unlocked and let himself in.
Then slammed to a halt at the sight of her standing, facing the door, eyes wide at his intrusion, tears streaming down her cheeks, glistening in the soft lighting.
Holy hell. Tears for him?
The breath in his lungs deserted him in a harsh whoosh, leaving him light-headed. With only a single thought—making those tears stop—he prowled across the room to cup her face in his hands, brushing at the damp streaks on her cheeks with his thumbs.
“I thought you’d be happy I’m leaving,” he said quietly. “You hate me.”
She huffed a laugh and rolled her eyes, the move so familiar he’d swear she was about to lay into him, only, vulnerable as she was, she could hide nothing of her reaction. He caught the slight quiver to her lips.
Driven beyond the limits of his control, Levi lowered his head and kissed her. Soft and sweet, trying to offer comfort. Trying his damnedest not to act on instincts that screamed at him to take it further.
With a whimpered sound, she scooted closer, wrapping her arms around him, opening under him, turning the kiss into something…desperate. Urgent.
(C) Abigail Owen, Entangled Publishing, 2020. Reprinted with permission from the publisher.
Fire’s Edge #4
The cousin of the High King, Lyndi Chandali has lived with the constant threat of being pawned off as a political prize. A rare, female-born dragon like Lyndi can’t truly mate–not in the way it counts. Which is why she’s kept her distance from a certain sinfully delicious Beta. Instead, she’s built a life for herself giving orphaned dragons in the Americas a home.
As Beta of his team of enforcers, Levi Rowtag is a fighter first, last, and always. His job is to protect–his team, the shifters in his territory, and the stubborn woman hell-bent on fighting with him at every turn. He knows from the moment they first meet what she’ll never accept–they are destined to be mated.
But with the kings at war, the enemy is now coming for Lyndi. Worse, he’s coming for her orphans, too. He’ll have no choice but to defy his king and go rogue if he has any hope of protecting them all. . . and finally claiming his mate.
Romance Paranormal [Entangled: Amara, On Sale: December 7, 2020, e-Book, ISBN: 9781649370891 / eISBN: 9781649370891]
About Abigail Owen
Paranormal romance author, Abigail Owen, grew up consuming books and exploring the world through her writing. She attempted to find a practical career related to her favorite pastime by earning a degree in English Rhetoric (Technical Writing). However, she swiftly discovered that writing without imagination is not nearly as fun as writing with it. No matter the genre, she loves to write feisty heroines, sexy heroes who deserve them, and a cast of lovable characters to surround them (and maybe get their own stories). Abigail currently resides in Austin, Texas, with her own personal hero (and she married that guy!) and their two children, who are growing up way too fast.