“I don’t care..” She slicked her hair back and stayed where she was because right this second everything felt at peace. “Something happened.. I don’t remember what.. but I know eventually I will and I don’t want it to have a hold on me anymore than it already has. Dad’s scared.. I can see you’re worried and I know something’s coming.. I feel it.”

Largros pulled Isabel into him and held her tight. ~ It can’t have you. No matter what it is, we’ll face it, Isabel…ma Izzy… I will always be here for you. ~

“ISABEL!” Rose was worried about their baby girl. She’d already been through so much. Rose just wanted to keep her safe!

Isabel grabbed her loves hand and squeezed it, “Please don’t make me stay here and face whatever it is without you. I’m afraid I’ll lose myself and never find my way back.”

“I can’t take you to the others until we’re bonded. But we have time.” Largros held her hands and made sure they could look into one another’s eyes. “I’ll stay with you. We can explain things. No one will separate me from you right now.” He leaned down and kissed her, not giving a damn what her mother said.

“I told you breakfast not the middle of the night. And definitely not in the middle of a storm.” It was at this point that she started down the steps only to feel her husband’s hand on her arm pulling her back.

“Don’t, Rosie…” Uscias warned.

“You let him in? Why? And why don’t you want me to go out there and get our daughter?” Rose was absolutely baffled, “You shouldn’t have told her, Uscias. Look at what it’s doing to her.”

“What I told her has nothing to do with anything right now. It can only be helpful. And what’s happening out there? That’s been a long time in coming, and you have to admit that.” He watched as the couple kissed and then hugged each other again as the rain calmed down.

“I told you what I saw. He will hurt her. Who will be there to pick up the pieces Uscias? I don’t want to see her that broken.” Rose was staring at the couple as well and even though she knew it was something she couldn’t stop she had hoped to at least put off the inevitable a little longer.

“We need to go talk to them. They’re your parents. You don’t want to hurt that bridge. And then we can decide when to bond.” He was so happy and relieved. Yes. He had been very worried. She was right.

Glancing back at the porch as the rain eased up Isabel kept his hand in hers, “We can talk to them, but I don’t want to wait any longer than necessary.” With Largros by her side Isabel walked back to the porch making sure to keep her gaze straight ahead. She moved back to the base of the steps to stand at Largros’ side before her parents. She could see that her mother was anything but pleased. Her dad was standing there quietly as if waiting for the other shoe to drop.

“I love you both very much and that won’t ever change, but I love Largros, too. It isn’t fair to him that you block him from this part of my life mama for some preconceived evil he’s supposed to one day do me. Fates can change. You and dad told me all my life that we make our own fate. Mine is with Largros, it’s the fate I choose.”

Largros didn’t understand. What were they talking about?

“Ohh.. Izzy..” Rose lifted a hand to cover her other as she looked at Largros with a heartbroken gaze, “Neither of you see it yet, but I do and I pray that she’s right and fates will rewrite themselves.” Her chin lifted just a little, “My daughter’s special and she’s unique in so very many ways. I hope you adore her as much as we do or her daddy will make you wish you had.” It was a warning she was certain the young dragon understood very well.

“If I hurt her, he has every right to have at me. But I would never hurt her purposefully, ma’am,” Largros whispered.

“That’s enough mama.” Isabel looked at her dad and smiled, “We’ll stay in the spare rooms in the barn. The horses are in the fields right now so shouldn’t be an issue.” She wasn’t about to ask for Largros to be allowed to sleep in the house with her. That would be pushing it too far for her mother right then. Instead she’d suck it up and make it across the yard to the barn for him.

“Unless we’re no longer wanted for breakfast,” Largros whispered, his eyes looking cautiously to Rose. Did she no longer understand what their bond would mean to Isabel? What it could do to help her? Largros couldn’t imagine how it could possibly harm her. He was trusting her with more than himself… he was trusting her with his soul. And even Isabel probably didn’t realize that yet.

“Breakfast..” Rose felt the squeeze of her own dragon’s hand where it rested on her opposite hip as Uscias held her close. “You’re still welcome to breakfast whether you stay in the barn or in the guest rooms inside the house.” All four of them knew that Isabel wouldn’t be in her own room in the morning, she’d be wherever Largros chose to sleep. But Rose felt she had to at least appear to be setting some boundaries when it came to her own home!

“Thank you,” Largros replied. He would leave it up to Isabel.

“I’m going back to bed Uscias, are you coming with me?” Rose moved to kiss her daughter’s cheek, gave Largros one more assessing look before she started into the house.

“She hates me for something I may never do?” He shook his head as he looked at Isabel.

Watching her parents walk inside Isabel smiled for Largros, “She’ll get over it, just give her time and prove her wrong.”

“Maybe we should go inside and talk? We can sit at the table? Maybe we can figure all the world’s problems out and along the way, figure out this problem of yours and this problem of hers and … then live happily ever after?” He waited for the swat.

Instead of swatting him, Izzy just gave a soft laugh and shook her head at him, “I’ve got one better. Come on big guy let’s go inside.” She led him to the couch and once he was seated, Izzy sat in Largros’ lap. Laying her head on his shoulder she relaxed and closed her eyes. “I don’t want to think about my problem right now.” She stretched her legs out on the couch and got comfortable, “Solving the world’s problems sounds way more fun.” Izzy was asleep after only a few minutes in Largros’ arms. She felt safe and protected so it was easy to let go and just rest.

 

 


 

 

Uscias had already made coffee and was in the doorway watching the couple on the couch. He’d put a blanket over them and neither of them had stirred, they were so deeply asleep. Turning back around he walked into the dining room and into the other end of the room walked his sweetheart finishing with buttoning her housecoat.

“Beth’s getting your tea ready,” he whispered. “They didn’t even go upstairs. Looks like they were both exhausted.”

Once she was assured everything was proper Rose moved to stand with her husband. She watched the two sleeping and couldn’t help but slip an arm around Uscias while leaning into him.

“ I don’t mean to be so awful to him, Uscias. I just worry about our girl. She’s so rebellious.” Rose smiled up at her dragon, “She must get that from you.”

“Oh really, now? I don’t think I was the one that kept hopping back and forth between Mr. Matthews and the Dragon Lord’s bed, was I?” he put his arm around her and nibbled her ear. He knew he had a vixen in Rose, despite her “proper” acting. He didn’t hold it against her at all. Dragons normally didn’t have just one lover. It was a convention of other races and cultures.

“It was hard to resist either of you. Especially when you both were so very good at laying on the charm.” She smiled and sighed softly for him, “Besides, how could I resist you when you moved through the portal to track me down?”

“I’ll take part of the responsibility. I was never one to stay in one place long, that’s for sure. It wasn’t til my heart was caught by this particular lady that was wild and free-spirited that I stopped seeking anything more.”

“Oh I wasn’t anywhere nearly as wild or free spirited as she is. Our daughter is most definitely a one of a kind isn’t she?” Rose looked up at the one she so adored and knew how her daughter felt, because she had felt that way since first falling for Uscias during her time across the portal. It had pained her to leave him, but she had children that needed her and she had still cared for John. Now look at where they were. He’d taken the human name Nathan Garner and made himself a history and gone into business specifically to find his way into her life.

“Give him a chance, Rosie. You’re sights have been proven wrong before. And sometimes, you see part of the situation and not all of it. They’re going to have a tough time. I know that. You know that. He knows that. She knows that. So… if we all know what the cards say, up front, at least we all go in prepared. Right?”

As she looked back at the young couple she took a deep breath, “Alright, I’ll give him a chance to prove me wrong.”

Izzy’s phone went off where she had left it on the kitchen table the night before. Uscias moved from Rose to see the screen, where Derek’s name was flashing. “And there’s one of many problems, I can tell you right now,” he mumbled to his love, eyebrow raised a bit. He took another drink of his coffee.

Rose didn’t mention what she’d seen regarding that particular lycan. “Leave him alone, Uscias. That one will face his own troubles.” She whispered it softly as Isabel stirred awake on the couch.

“Won’t we all?” He replied quietly.

“Let’s go have a seat, they’ll join us in a few minutes now that they’re waking up.” As they walked to the table Rose laughed just a little, “I remember the first time I saw you. Seeing them last night brought back all those memories. You were very determined that I would know who you were as if I could miss that in Iona. There wasn’t a place I stepped into that didn’t know you or owe you some how.”

“Well, that was me in Iona. I’ve given over that much to Rashgun and his. But you were exotic. You weren’t from the world I had made. So I needed to be sure you knew who I was in every way.” He shrugged. “I can peacock like the best of them.” He flexed his arm for her just to be sure and remind her. He was proud of keeping his human body as fit as a fiddle for her.

Rose found her breathing catching as Uscias showed off for her. She even found herself flushed a little so she had to fan herself, “I think I did rather well at ignoring that peacocking for a short time at least.” She hadn’t lasted long then and nothing had changed over the years.

“I wasn’t dissuaded, now was I?” He was feeling a bit frisky this morning, for sure. He knew they had the business with these two knuckleheads, but that didn’t keep him from flirting with his Rose. He pulled a chair out for her and as she sat, he took the chance to kiss her neck.

“Mmm I would’ve been a fool to dissuade you. After all, I was told rather angrily over and over again that I was a fragile human female, not worthy of the attention you gave me. I had the one that so many wanted vying for my attention. It bothered them and I ate it up.” There was a delicious little shiver from the kiss and the teasing. Her next exhale was that shuddery little kind that always seemed to thrill her love for some reason.

“And look, tea’s already been set out,” Uscias pointed out before walking to the other side of the table. He would’ve growled for her, but he’d seen a bit of movement from the other room. Right now his aim was to focus his attention on Rose but his eyes were watching for the others.

Largros, in the other room held his finger up and cupped his ear to let Isabel know there was something worth listening to happening in the next room.

Laying still Izzy listened and smiled as she focused on what was being said. Oh, she loved dropping eaves! How wicked!

Rose’s mischievous side was showing through all her proper ways. Her eyes smiled over the cup at him while sipping her tea. She practically purred the next words while blowing over the hot liquid in her cup.

“For at least a week I had your eyes only on me at every little gathering that I mysteriously kept receiving invitations to. Every available and some unavailable women and men were jealous of me. They so badly wanted what I was soon to have. Have you any idea how many wagers were made on us at that time?” She sipped a little and licked her lips knowing he was very intently watching her every move right then.

“I do.” Uscias smirked as he looked down at his coffee. “I played the wagers myself. And I gave myself five days,” the dragon winked at her. “You made me lose. I swore you somehow knew…” His gaze narrowed.

Rose didn’t deny it. She giggled softly for him and there was a slight lift to her chin as she held her tea cup with her little pinky slightly crooked in that ever so proper way.

“How else was I supposed to show you that you weren’t the only one calling the shots in our very public carrying ons? I was not about to let you simply seduce me into your bed, tire of me, and set me aside as you had others. I am not one to be played the fool in such a way.”

“Oh, I had never planned on that with you. You were far too smart to be placed in the same ranks as most of my conquests. I wasn’t just charming you, Rosie, I was enjoying your company. I was listening to things that had my attention. You had my attention, both mentally and physically, my dear. And with every meeting you left a lasting impression.”

Leaning towards him just a little, Rose reached out to dance her fingertips through Uscias’ beard.

“Well, you learned that I always leave a very lasting mark. I’d hate for you to forget me when I’m gone.” She tugged gently on his whiskers and gave her version of a playful growl at him.

He purred…

“Like that could ever happen. You should’ve seen the look on Rashgun’s face when I handed over the keys to the kingdom. He told me I was a disgrace, a ruin, a ridicule. And I promptly put him back in his place, the whelp… “ Uscias shook his head. “But I still left.”

Setting her cup down Rose left her hand with him as she rested her chin in her other one in a way that was very much like Isabel did. Izzy was more like her mama than either woman would ever realize.

“And then I got my heart broken. And that’s why I cannot judge…” He looked past her to the doorway that led to the living room where the two were probably still dozing. “Because even though I knew, I couldn’t just stay away.” His eyes went from lustful to tender. ~ I’d still not change a thing. ~

“Usc.. I’m sorry I broke your heart. That was never my intention.” Tears shimmered in her eyes though they never fell. Even after all this time, those emotions were something very real and existing somewhere disjointed from the moment they occurred, to live on through their bond forever. She still ached for him. “At first I couldn’t understand why you were so determined to stay and work here. I was trying to push you away before John realized. Then I couldn’t let you go even when he realized it. All those evenings in the barn..” She drew in a deep breath and smiled for him. ~ I wouldn’t change anything either. ~ Some of her favorite memories after her return had been in that barn.

“When Izzy said she’d stay in the barn last night I thought I’d bust up,” Uscias smiled, his eyes smiling too as he squeezed her hand.

Largros was dying! He had his face buried in Isabel’s hair trying not to laugh. They were playing possum and he wasn’t sure how much longer he’d last! ~ Please tell me we’ll be joining them soon or else I might break something internal… ~ he was having trouble holding it in.

~ Soon.. Just a moment more because I have to hear this. ~ Isabel had to stifle her own giggles as she buried her face against Largros’ chest.

There was such a small peel of giggles from Rose as she shook her head and spoke softly, “Oh I know.. If they ever find out just how much fun the loft is we won’t be able to keep them out of there. It was my favorite until I couldn’t climb the ladder anymore because of my belly.” She had to dab at her eyes but she laughed a little more, “I was in tears because I couldn’t see my feet and though you tried, everything you said seemed wrong. I was so mad at you. I remember staying in my room for a whole week just to avoid you.”

“Oh… yeah… I will never forget that week. The week that lives on in infamy.” Uscias moved his hands back around his cup. “I thought my scales were going to be on display at Kennedy Corp the next week. For a fucking human, John Matthews had a vicious bite to go with such a calm demeanor.” He’d dropped the F-bomb out of nowhere. He usually didn’t do that. But that memory had definitely been a doozy! Rose hadn’t even witnessed all of it. But she’d come out of the house in time to see her normally well-controlled husband rolling around in the mud with her lover and all the hands cheering for one or the other! “I don’t think I ever felt a right hook as powerful as that man had and I damn sure haven’t since that day.”

“You never did tell me exactly why John had felt the need to fight you that day. He’d known about us for months and hadn’t done any such thing to you until that day.” Rose actually looked confused as she refilled her tea cup.

“A man can only take so much. He loved you, Rosie. Just because you both had grown apart didn’t mean you stopped loving each other. And he was embarrassed. And when he saw that you were unhappy and it was my fault… after he’d let things happen? That was his final straw. He came around that corner flinging his jacket and I was so damned shocked I didn’t even think I should move at first. And then we were wrestling and I couldn’t shift… and I couldn’t act like I was something more than I was with all the men there. And he was the boss and the father of the kids and… well, I didn’t want to hurt the man. So, he took a nice chunk off my ass that day.” He moved his coffee in the cup, swirling it while thinking about something. “What happened after? You never said.” Uscias took another drink of his now-cold coffee. “I know I was relegated to the other property for a while, but…”

Swallowing hard Rose stared into her cup as she answered him, it was only fair since he’d answered her question.

“I was furious at him for hurting you…” She looked back up at him, “I had all his things moved into the room across the hall and he was there until his death. I threatened to leave him and take our children away. He begged me not to leave and swore he’d never touch you again. It was well and truly over between us, but he was a wonderful father – so I stayed for our children. I’m glad he was there when my false labor hit a few days later. I think the stress of everything was just too much for Isabel. She wanted to come be part of the drama. I thought I had finally succeeded in driving you off when you weren’t there. I honestly didn’t think you’d be there for her birth – what? Two months later? Then John surprised me by bringing you back that very day.” That was the day that the three of them had made a pact for the newborn’s sake. Isabel would legally be John’s to keep her safe from everything from Crimson and the Council to supernatural hunters. Uscias would remain on as Nathan Garner, the manager of the property and the business. Rose would just keep sneaking out to him as she desired. They had to keep up appearances for a time. But then John died and after a short time of mourning Uscias had Rose all to himself.

“It was all quite the scandal. I think that’s why John and Mark are still not so comfortable with me. But, John, Sr. surprised me. I thought there’d have to be another fight. I wasn’t going to be kept away from my daughter’s birth. I guess he realized that.” Uscias reached back out to take Rose’s hand. “You’re still that beautiful, smart, woman I couldn’t get off my mind, Rosie. Always will be.”

“Good to know.” Rose bent to kiss his knuckles and as she did so, she heard noises from the couch. “Seems like they’re finally ready to join us instead of simply eavesdropping.” Rose winked at her dragon as she rang the small bell so that their cook would start bringing out the food. “Now I can feed my hungry husband.”

“Well, you do that, woman! Feed your hungry husband.” Uscias was chuckling and he was saying it out loud because he wanted the kids to get the hell up.

Isabel was climbing off the couch when she paused and tipped her head to the side, “Did I just hear you say that? You know she’ll make you pay for that right?” Isabel was stretching her arms up high to stretch her back while groaning softly. As she dropped her arms, Izzy took Largros by the hand and led him to the table.

Largros squeezed her hand and didn’t hesitate. He enjoyed this feeling he had when she was with him. He didn’t care if they were at her mom and dad’s house or not.

Rose watched as Largros pulled Isabel’s chair out for her and made sure she was seated before taking his own seat. She was quick to answer her daughter.

“Oh, sweetie, he already knows that he will be paying for quite a bit later and trust me when I say he’ll enjoy every moment of it.” Rose never lost her sweet smile while taunting her dragon and teasing their daughter.

“What about you, Largros, will you enjoy your punishments at the hand of my daughter when you’ve been naughty?” Rose had to laugh just a little at the look Isabel gave her right then.

“Always,” Largros laughed, a bit of a blush moving over the top of his nose and cheeks.

“Mom! Geeze daddy can’t you control her?”

This had Rose lifting a brow at Uscias as she waited to hear his response to that one.

“Sweetheart, if I could control her, I wouldn’t have wanted her so badly to begin with. She wouldn’t have been the woman I love if I could control her. Now… I can make suggestions til I’m blue in the face, but that’s pretty much the only thing I can do.” He looked over to Rose and smiled with an angelic flourish. The paper was brought in and Uscias began taking it apart to look at what he wanted to look at.

The dragon then looked to Largros and added, “Don’t let her kid you. Our daughter’s just as stubborn.”

“I’m glad she is. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here,” Largros replied quietly. “I love Isabel’s spirit.”

Isabel was smiling at her boyfriend as the food was set in the center of the table. She didn’t pay attention when her mother fixed her father’s plate as she had forever.

Taking Uscias’ plate, Rose filled it with everything her husband liked and set it before him then filled her own with the same things. Gathering sausage and eggs on her fork she held it out to her love with a smile and spoke the same words she had since the first time she did this for him in Iona. He’d taught her this, but very few still followed all the customs. “I share food with you as I share my life, accept and know I love you.”

He took the offered food and relished it along with the sentiment. They didn’t always get to do this, but when they had time, they did not overlook the old ways he had known since being a kitling and watching others. In turn, Uscias broke a biscuit and dipped it in a bit of honey before holding it to Rose. “I share food with you as I share my life, accept and know I love you.”

Largros was touched to see such being done. He looked to Isabel and he asked, “Did they teach you, it’s from the old ways of dragons and kindred? Lycan sometimes do this as well, just not the words. Those words?” he looked over to the couple before them, “I’ve not heard the words since I was but a dragonling in my father’s court. It’s beautiful.”

Isabel gave a small little giggle as she lifted his plate and filled it before doing the same with her own. Gathering a bit of egg, some potato and some sausage on her fork, Isabel repeated the actions of her parents as she held the bite out for Largros to take, “I share my food with you as I share my life, accept and know that I love you.”

“Uh… “ he chuckled as he told her ~ I hope my mouth can fit it. ~ and he opened up and did his best to get every bit of it. He was still chewing as he gathered the same for her. She loved the homemade sausage, so he made sure to include that. Swallowing, finally he repeated the same in kind.

Rose’s breath caught as she watched the young couple and was reminded of their own first exchange. She had blundered it terribly, but Uscias had been patient. She enjoyed her honeyed biscuit and offered Uscias another bite. The endearment was only exchanged with the first bites. They didn’t share every bite, but here and there was habit.

After they had their first rounds of food, the young dragon felt like it was time to speak on something serious.

“Isabel wants to bond as my kindred. And I’ve wanted her to be that for a while. I think we’ve talked about everything leading up to that. I’ve not shared my draconic life with her because we weren’t bonded. I thought maybe I should explain that to you all, while I have the chance.” Largros continued. “Without the bond, I couldn’t find her or help her. You both know these things because of your relationship.” Largros assumed they were bonded, but apparently Uscias had also forsaken others for his human mate – which was fine… considering his age, he was most likely not wanting to mate a dragoness.

Uscias held Rose’s hand. He simply nodded.

“We have certain rules and precautions in this world within my clan and I can’t just let someone come to the lair – especially if there are others who use it. One must be bonded to one of the dragons that use the lair in order to be allowed inside. I meant no disrespect in not telling you more last night or even before last night. But, I promise, as soon as that is done, I will share everything with you. Because when we are bonded, I can protect you from others more readily. And if we practice, I can help keep your mind from being touched by anyone else.”

“Sounds like you have it all planned out, so why do I feel you having questions or concerns?” Rose asked as she ate while randomly offering Uscias bites as well.

“Well, I wanted to ask, if there is anything to be done differently in a bond when the kindred is half-dragon. I’m not sure there’d be anything different, but I don’t want Isabel hurt because I just didn’t bother to ask.”

Of all things, Rose hadn’t expected this. “I wouldn’t think there would be. So far her reactions to things have been completely human. I honestly don’t think that whatever latent dragon traits that appear will be quite so dangerous now that she knows of them.” She wasn’t sure what to tell them. “I wish I knew of other half dragons that you could ask. But with dragons being in hiding we were afraid of pulling curiosity towards our family to ask around.”

“Naaa… on the other side, there’s more half-dragons. If anything, the bond can become deeper, because Izzy’s got the genetics to help out. Her nature is to create bonds. A half-dragon has a lot to overcome, sometimes. Not all of ‘em are born to look extraordinarily human. Izzy had nothing but a few scales on her back when she was born. I remember, John couldn’t get over that. By the time she was here, she pretty much had two fathers, she delighted the man so much. He’d pretty much come to terms with me and it was her nature to bond. I know she won’t remember that, but that’s why it was so easy to pass her off as his. He carried her everywhere, including to work sometimes to show her off. We all kept the scales hidden and by the time she was old enough for school they’d just naturally disappeared. But her ability to bond? No. That’s still not gone. And so far she’s only very lightly used it and done so unknowingly for challenging people. It’s like a charm for her. It’s gotten her good things all through her life – good friends, protective teachers, and an accidental connection to one of our ranch security managers.” he raised a brow.

“Derek Weylyn,” Largros supplied.

Izzy looked at him and nodded. “But we’re just friends.”

“Well, yes and no. He’s a bonded friend, much like Devon and Senias are. It’s something that’s a forward expression. If the bond lasts, it’s because of your personality and true loving friendship. I think you got lucky with that boy. And you have your social graces taught to you by your mama to thank for enduring connections. My little bit helps you out up front and in keeping connection. And it’ll probably just boost your connection to Largros, when you do bond.” He thanked their cook with a nod when she quietly came in to refill the coffee and hand him a small stack of mail. “Mmmm… also, a half dragon can have multiple bonds like a dragon. Take Gabriel? He can only bond to Senias. Anyone else muddles things in the magic. But you could theoretically bond to at least two people on a serious level and it not bother you in the least.”

Isabel wasn’t sure what all of it meant but from Largros reaction he did.

“That explains some things,” Largros whispered. He was nodding to himself and thinking back over their Derek situation.

“Like what – because I’m confused..” Isabel didn’t get an answer as her father had more to add in.

“Maybe I should tell you about what I think later,” He leaned over and kissed her cheek.

Isabel giggled again and looked to the side at her doon to be bonded dragon. Then her eyes caught sight of a particularly fancy envelope in the stack. She reached down and gently tugged it out.

“What’s this? Open it up first.”

“Oh…?” Uscias sat up more properly as his hand moved over a certain envelope. The scrolling letters were eye fetching. He opened it and chuckled before reading it out loud. “You and yours are cordially invited to a welcoming home party in honor of Aiden Royce Weylyn at Dante’s Inferno. At twilight we will introduce our new addition and after the baby is asleep the adults may enjoy an open bar in celebration. Derek and Mira Weylyn.”

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