Authors: Jessie Donovan
Tags: #Fiction / Romance / Paranormal
Sacrificed to the Dragon: Part Three
As Tristan led Melanie toward Samira and Liam’s cottage to freshen up before visiting his sister, Lia’s words from back at the clearing kept ringing inside his head:
I knew your mum, and no matter what race the mother of her grandchild was, she would’ve expected you to take care of your future family.
He didn’t want to admit it, but Lia was right. Due to the brutal, tragic nature of his mother’s death, he rarely remembered what she’d been like when she had been alive. Part of the reason he’d been interested in humans as a boy had been because of his mother. Jocelyn MacLeod had believed much as Bram did today, in that she’d envisioned a future where dragon-shifters and humans would work together.
From what little information he’d extracted from his sister, their mum had believed that up until the end.
After Melanie’s interactions with the children, and Bram’s support, he was pretty confident that Melanie wasn’t working with the dragon hunters. But the real test would be if she could win over his sister or not. Arabella had gone through things that would make a lesser person give up on life. While she mostly kept to herself because of her lack of trust in others, she had found a way to help the clan by studying computer programming.
However, his sister was quite antisocial, to the point she may not open the door to let Melanie inside her home. He’d just have to make sure his sister could scent that Melanie was carrying his child. The faint trace of his scent in the human’s skin might be enough to convince Arabella to give her a chance, instead of slamming the door in their faces and retreating back to in front of her computer.
And for reasons he couldn’t explain, he wanted Arabella to open the door and give Melanie a chance.
As they passed one of the Stonefire’s eateries, the smell of steak and kidney pie filled his nose, making his stomach rumble. No doubt, after losing her breakfast, Melanie would be hungry too.
He was about to ask her if she wanted something to eat when she buried her head against his chest and wrapped her arms around his waist. He stopped walking and said, “What’s wrong?”
Her voice was muffled. “That smell...it makes me want to vomit again.”
“So you’re burying your face against me to cover me in sick and get revenge on me for impregnating you?”
She shook her head against his chest. “For some reason, your scent calms my stomach.”
His inner dragon hummed, happy their scent could help her.
Tristan brushed the remark aside, determined to remain unaffected. “Let’s keep going. We’re nearly there.”
“If I move my head away before we clear that smell, I’ll be sick. And this time, I’ll make sure to aim for you.”
He nearly smiled. Even when facing a humiliating situation, like being sick in public, Melanie Hall didn’t back down.
Since she was suffering in part because of him, he looped an arm around her waist and said, “I can carry you or guide you until the smell clears. Which method do you prefer?”
She hesitated a second and then said, “Guide me, but make sure to walk slowly.”
His dragon let out a soft snarl inside his head. The beast had wanted to carry the human so that they could feel her soft body pressed up against his.
Not now. She doesn’t feel well. Comfort her first and maybe we’ll feel her body against ours later.
At the promise of feeling the human female’s curves against his skin, the dragon retreated. Tristan tried not to think too hard on how cooperative his beast was being, because that would mean thinking about how attached his dragon was becoming to the human.
He tightened his grip on Melanie’s waist and started walking, careful to time his steps to her sideways walk. He nearly ordered her to walk faster, but then he remembered Lia’s words about taking care of Melanie. If his mother were alive today and saw him barking at a pregnant woman, carrying his baby no less, she would’ve frowned and give him a cool, even look. His mother had never been one to raise her voice, yet Tristan and his sister had known better than to disobey her.
Thinking about his mother squeezed his heart. He’d pretty much locked away his memories of her for both his and Arabella’s sakes, but he was starting to wonder if it was time to address both the pain and the memories of his mum. He had a feeling that during their visit with Arabella, he wouldn’t have a choice.
Samira and Liam’s cottage came into view and he caught traces of Liam’s scent in the air. His dragon tried to claw out to be in control. A male lived inside that house. He would take Melanie and try to erase their scent. They needed to protect her.
I will protect her.
His dragon was less than convinced, but grumbled and allowed Tristan’s human-half to remain in control. For now.
He tightened his grip on the human to further soothe his dragon. The feel of her soft curves warm against his hand, arm, and chest calmed the beast. He hoped Liam was out, or his dragon would try everything he could to break free, resulting in a rather spectacular display of protectiveness and possibly a fight.
They reached the front door of Samira’s cottage. Tristan gave his dragon one last warning to behave before he said, “We’re here.”
Melanie had mixed feelings about morning sickness. On the one hand, ordinary smells made her want to vomit on a second’s notice. On the other hand, it made Tristan be nice to her.
It was strange having her face pressed against his chest as he guided her toward Samira’s cottage, but she hadn’t lied about his scent calming her stomach. She didn’t know if it had to do with the half-dragon baby in her uterus or not, but whatever the reason, it beat throwing up again.
Yet as they slowly moved toward Liam and Samira’s cottage, she couldn’t help but notice the heat of his hand on her waist or how safe she felt pressed up against him. If he continued being nice to her, she probably would jump into bed with him again at the first opportunity. And if that happened, she had no idea what Tristan’s inner dragon would do. She wasn’t quite sure what it meant for one to “grow attached” as he’d put it. For all she knew, it might curb her freedom on Stonefire’s land rather than expand it.
Not that she’d allow him the opportunity to try to contain her. She’d worked hard for what freedoms she’d gained thus far, and she’d fight for them all over again if she had to.
Still, despite all of that, she couldn’t help but wonder if an attached dragon looked something like how Liam and Samira acted with one another. Strong-willed Samira melted whenever Liam caressed her cheek or gave her a gentle kiss. While staying with the pair, she’d never seen Liam try to hide his affection.
Sometimes Liam’s possessiveness surfaced when another adult male was in the room and he’d haul Samira up against his side, but Samira never seemed to mind. Quite the opposite, actually; she’d lean against him and lay her head on his shoulder.
Stop it, Hall. No fairy tale endings, remember?
Melanie resisted a sigh, realizing she was hoping for things she probably would never have. Tristan wasn’t Liam. Hell, if not for Tristan’s dragon, the man would probably have nothing to do with her.
And that stung a little.
Before she could think too hard about why it did, Tristan said, “We’re here.”
She eased her head up and looked at Tristan towering over her. “Did the smell last the entire way here?”
He shrugged, but didn’t comment. She hoped this wasn’t a sign of Tristan-the-asshole returning.
Since she lived with Samira now, she took out her key from her pocket and unlocked the door. Unsure if anyone was home, she opened the door and was instantly attacked by a little boy flying at her as he said, “Auntie Mel!”
The boy hugged her legs as she put her hand on the head of Samira’s three-year-old son, Rhys. Melanie smiled and said, “Someone should be about due for a nap.”
Rhys looked up at her, a small frown between his black eyebrows. “No, it’s not nap time. It’s lunch time.”
That would explain the smell of curry spices in the air. Thankfully, it didn’t make her stomach turn. “Where’s your mom and dad?”
“Dad’s gone. Mum’s in the kitchen.” Rhys looked around Mel’s legs and said, “Who’s he?”
She turned and waved toward Tristan. “This is Tristan MacLeod. In a few years, he might be your teacher. So if I were you, I’d be nice to him.”
Rhys assessed Tristan with an over-the-top seriousness and Melanie barely resisted laughing. Finally, the boy said, “My mum doesn’t like you.”
She glanced at Tristan and bit her lip to keep from laughing at the momentary surprise on his face. But just as quickly as it had arrived, it was replaced with a cool, collected one. Tristan raised an eyebrow and said, “Care to tell me why?”
The boy squeezed her legs tightly and said, “Because you’re mean to Auntie Mel.”
The little boy’s protectiveness went straight to her heart. It seemed that trait manifested early in dragon-shifter males.
Now was not the time for a conversation about how Tristan should treat her. If everything went well with his sister, she’d be initiating that conversation herself.
To change the subject, she pried Rhys from her legs and maneuvered him toward the kitchen. “Let’s go see your mom about lunch. Whatever she made smells good.”
The boy reluctantly nodded and let her lead him into the kitchen in the back of the two-story cottage.
They entered the warm kitchen filled with smells that made her mouth water, which was a nice change from earlier. Samira smiled when she saw them, but her smile instantly faded as soon as she spotted Tristan behind her.
Tristan watched Melanie lead the little boy out of the room and while she hadn’t invited him to follow, he did anyway.
The sight of Liam and Samira’s son had put his dragon in the background, which was a good thing considering his beast didn’t like Melanie staying in another male’s house. Even now, he could smell the other male, and neither half of him liked it.
Liam was a nice enough bloke, but even though Liam was mated to Samira, Tristan’s dragon was in a dangerous in-between stage when it came to Melanie. Seeing any adult male put a hand on Melanie could set off his inner beast and his human-half could lose control.
As he entered the kitchen, Samira didn’t see him at first and she greeted Melanie with a smile, but it died when she looked at him. “What’s he doing here?” She glanced to Melanie. “Did he grovel and beg for you to take him back?”
He should hold his tongue, but he’d never been very good at that when it came to conversing with adults. “It’s none of your business, Samira. What is between Melanie and me is our business.”
Samira held up the wooden spoon in her hand and pointed it at him. “Seeing as your bastard ways have made it so she’s staying with me, it’s very much my business. I was on your side originally, Tristan MacLeod, but not anymore.”
Before he could reply, Melanie stepped between them. “Stop it.” She looked to Samira. “I’m just here to change my clothes and brush my teeth. Can I leave you two alone for a few minutes while I do that and not worry about you two biting off each other’s heads?”
Samira lowered her spoon and stirred the contents of a pot on the stove in front of her. “Don’t you both have classes to teach this afternoon?”
Tristan beat Melanie to the reply. “Not anymore. Melanie’s morning sickness hit, and while she’s changing, I’m going to let Bram know and ask someone to cover for us.”
Samira’s expression softened as she looked at Melanie again. “Are you feeling okay now?”
Melanie nodded. “I’ll be fine.” She shot Tristan a look. “And I have something to do before Tristan changes his mind.”
Samira looked between them, but Melanie didn’t elaborate. Good. The human female was siding with him about keeping their business to themselves.