Scorched Desire

Fire Mates, Book 4

Lexxie Couper

Chapter 1

I so wish I was that bike,” Jilly murmured as she watched the hunk of inked-up hotness ride past her apartment on a blood-red Harley.

“What?”

Jilly blinked, heat rushing into her cheeks. Oh God, had she uttered the words loud enough for Sam to hear?

Shit. Sam would be horrified. As much as she adored him, her friend could be a tad prudish.

“Nothing,” she blustered, turning from her living room window to grin widely at him. She smoothed her palms down over the fronts of her thighs, the worn denim of her jeans for some reason making her tummy tingle.

Every morning for the last two weeks, she’d watched the hunk on the Harley ride past her home. Every one of those fourteen mornings, she’d found herself feeling tingly and aroused after he disappeared from her sight.

She usually dealt with the tingly horniness with the aid of her battery-powered rabbit.

“Nothing?” Sam pulled a face at her, hurrying over to where she stood. “Nothing is making you blush.”

He looked out the window, his gaze darting around what lay two stories below.

Jilly fidgeted on her feet. The building sexual ache that always followed her admiration of the unknown Harley rider burned hotter this morning. More insistent. Demanding.

Wow, if she touched herself right now—

“The dude on the bike?” Sam wondered, casting her an askew smirk. “Really?”

“Why do you say that?” she asked, trying to sound surprised and confused as she returned her attention to the world beyond her window.

Yep, there he was. Waiting for the traffic light to turn green. She could almost hear the powerful thrum of his bike’s engine. Could almost feel its throbbing vibrations between her thighs.

God help her if he ever swung his head in her direction and found her drooling all over him. She would probably orgasm there and then.

“Well, it’s him or the geriatric on the mobility scooter on the sidewalk, and if it’s the geriatric, I’m worried.”

Jilly snorted out a nervous laugh, even as her stare slid back to the hunk.

Tummy tightening, pussy fluttering, she studied him.

Sexy as sin in black leather pants and a sleeveless black leather vest that showed off the muscular perfection of his arms, he could easily have stepped directly from her deepest sexual fantasies.

Long blond hair hung down his back in a thick plait. Stubble roughened his chiseled jaw. Dark sunglasses wrapped his eyes.

Licking at her dry lips, Jilly moved her gaze to the pièce de résistance—an exquisitely detailed and amazing tattoo of an emerald-green dragon extending from the top of his right shoulder down over his upper arm. As always, the sight of the dragon—its power and ferocity and beauty—made her pulse quicken.

Years of studying for a Masters in Norse Mythology meant she was well-versed on dragons. And Vikings. The sexy Harley rider embodied both of her favorite things, all wrapped up in one delicious, wicked package.

“Hey?” Something hard nudged her ribs. “Are you listening to me?”

She jerked her stare back to Sam, fresh heat flooding her cheeks. “What?”

Oh God, what were the chances he would ever let her live this down?

Sam rolled his eyes. “You need to find a boyfriend, Jilly Parker,” he muttered, shaking his head as he moved away from the window.

Jilly flicked a quick glance at the window. A heavy weight settled in her stomach at the green traffic light she found.

Her biker with his dragon tattoo was gone.

Maybe tomorrow she’d wait outside for him to drive past and flash a sign at him saying, Take me. I’m yours.

A wry snort tore at the back of her throat. Even if she did, he wouldn’t. A hunk like that wouldn’t look twice at a girl like her. What with her size-fourteen jeans and curves that had long ago stopped being lush and voluptuous and now bordered on—

“Earth to Jilly.” Sam snapped his fingers in front of her face, expression exasperated. “Come in, Jilly.”

She swiped his hand away with a wave of hers, pulling her own frustrated face. “You need to tell me why you’re here,” she said, stomping away from the window. Tea. She needed a cup of tea. If Sam insisted on being here, tea would need to suffice instead of her vibrator until her friend vamoosed. “I’m meant to be meeting Nadine for coffee in an hour and you’re holding me up.”

A cushion smacked into her back. “Have you not been listening to anything I’ve said since I arrived?” Sam asked.

She snatched up the cushion and tossed it back at him. “No,” she said, resuming her stomp to the kitchen. “I’ve been ogling geriatrics on mobility scooters.”

“You haven’t heard about the dragon sighting? Seriously?” Sam followed her, his burly bulk filling the small space before he hoisted himself up on the counter to gape at her. “The whole side-of-a-hotel-bursting-out-and-a-dragon-flying-away thing?”

Jilly frowned. “Are you serious? That’s a thing in the news?”

Sam nodded. “The official word is it was a promo stunt for a movie, but no one is saying what movie. From what I’ve seen, the dragon was freaking amazing. Whatever the film is, the budget must be huge.”

Reaching for her kettle, Jilly tried to ignore the flutter of delicious heat in the junction of her thighs at the word dragon. An image of the hunk on the Harley with his dragon tattoo filled her head. Her pulse quickened. Her clit throbbed.

Ah man, perhaps Sam was right? Maybe she did need a boyfriend? Nadine—her friend and co-worker—had been saying the same thing for some time now.

She filled the kettle, set it to boil and then leaned her hip against the counter and studied her friend. “So you’re here to talk to me about some movie promotion gimmick? Shouldn’t you be at work?”

Swinging his legs, he snagged an apple from the fruit bowl and bit into it.

Jilly watched him, tapping her foot with melodramatic exaggeration.

He chewed, contemplated, chewed some more.

“Well?” she finally said. The heat in her girly bits thanks to Harley Dragon Hunk had begun to fade. For some reason, she felt angry about that.

Sam swallowed with just as much drama and exaggeration as her foot tapping and grinned at her. “I’ve got a job for you.”

She blinked. “What kind of job?”

A Masters in Norse Mythology didn’t exactly open employment doors, a fact her estranged mother had pointed out all those years ago before riding off into the sunset with Jilly’s ex-boyfriend.

Sam raised the apple, opening his mouth.

“Don’t you freaking dare,” she admonished, throwing a tea bag at him.

It arced in the air with impotent trajectory and fell to the floor between them.

Sam burst out laughing, bit the apple and then answered her with his mouth full. “It’s nothing that amazing. Just a temp thing at the pet shop on 3rd. One of my clients owns it, and he needs a trustworthy person to look after it while he goes to the West Coast for a funeral.”

Removing the boiling kettle from the stove, Jilly frowned. “One of your clients owns a pet shop?” When it came to cake decorating, none finer than Sam could be found in Chicago. Nor any as in-demand and successful.

He took another bite out of the apple, chewed and nodded. “He bought it for one of his girlfriends to pacify her for not leaving his wife. When the wife found out, he ended up with nothing but the pet shop. Oh, and the vacation home in the Hamptons. And the yacht.”

Jilly raised her eyebrows. “For a boring cake decorator, you have some very interesting people in your life, Sam.”

Swallowing the last of the apple, he swung his legs and launched himself off the counter. “That I do,” he agreed. “But none as interesting as you. Now, do you want this job or not? I told Yuggie you were a natural with animals and had no problem dealing with poop.”

Jilly thought of her options. Her current job was at a bookstore where the owner tried to feel her up every shift she worked, which meant she needed to slap Mr. Renner’s wrinkled, veiny, liver-spotted hands away from her butt and boobs twice a week.

Running a pet shop had to be better than that, even with the poop.

“I want it,” she said.

He grinned. “Excellent. Now I’ve fixed this part of your life, I’ll see if I can track down the dude on the Harley for you. You need to get laid ASAP.”

Jilly shoved him in the chest. He fell back, laughing. “Enjoy your tea, Parker,” he said as he hightailed it out of her kitchen. “I’ll see if I can find out what movie the dragon is for and snag us tickets. Who knows, they might need a cake for the opening night?”

Dragon.

The word ignited the fading throb in Jilly’s core, and she sucked in a sharp breath.

She pressed her palm to her lower belly. Her breath fell from her in shallow pants. Maybe she’d forgo the tea, since Sam had left.

Perhaps she’d go put some mood music on, some Adele or Ed Sheeran, and then pull her rabbit out of the bottom drawer instead. Pull the curtains and—

Outside her window, the sound of a motorbike’s engine under full throttle growled over the street noise.

Jilly gasped. She knew that engine.

Running to the living room, she pressed her palms and forehead to the window, a part of her mind scolding her for being so damn childish.

The rest of her didn’t care. Her fantasy hunk with his dragon tat and black leather and scruffy beard and sublime arms had returned.

Returned, and was coming to a halt at the traffic lights in front of her apartment.

Oh boy.

*

Arriman “Ari” Drake cut back a gear and flung his Harley CVO Breakout around the corner, his heart wild.

Not because of the Extraho Venator on his tail. Not because the dragon hunter had damn near dogged his every move for the last hour.

Not because the cops involved in his current cleaning job were being particularly annoying about the hotel window and wanted more cash than normal to lose the filed complaint, nor because his media source had taken longer than he’d like to instigate the rumored dragon sighting was in fact, a movie stunt.

Not because anger flooded through him, balancing him on the cusp of shifting into his dragon form, but because for the fourteenth morning in a goddamn row as he rode down Harper Street, his cock had turned to a rigid pole in his pants for no reason he could fathom and a hunger bordering on unsettling flooded through him.

So where did he find himself again this morning? Riding down the street, not once, but twice. Not because he needed to, but because his goddamn body and a mysterious urgency were forcing him to.

In trying to shake the Extraho Venator, he could have headed in any number of directions, but the goddamn invisible tug on his groin had brought him this way.

Down this street.

He was beginning to think someone was trying to lay a trap for him.

Shooting a look over his shoulder, he searched for the irritating dragon hunter tailing him.

No sign of him. Thank freaking God for that at least.

Ari knew of this Extraho Venator. He was an imbecile called Kestar with delusions of grandeur indirectly responsible for the mess Ari was employed to clean up.

Since Kestar’s arrival in Chicago a year ago, Ari had been busier than ever, and while he could charge whatever he wanted as the city’s alpha Cleaner—a fixer who dealt with the fallout of any dragon-related issue and made it disappear. Being a dragon himself, he did not take well to idiot hunters trying to kill his kind, no matter how much money it made them.

The fact Ari himself had somehow landed in Kestar’s sights was an issue to be dealt with after finishing his current job.

How Kestar had stuck with him for so long today was anyone’s guess. Maybe it had something to do with the fact Ari kept finding himself drawn to this goddamn street.

Throttling back his CVO, he returned his attention to the congested road. It wasn’t just a string of cars slowing him down now. The red light meant unless he wanted to run it—tempting—he had no option but to stop.

Stop.

On the street that inexplicably gave him a boner.

Great. Excellent.

His hog thrummed between his legs, as if the machine was as pissed as he at being reined in.

Shifting on its seat, he planted his right foot on the road and ran his gaze around the area, letting his other senses seek out whatever it may be that made this street so…so…arousing.

He could detect no hint of the honeyed-sulfur scent of a female dragon, nor—for that matter—the musky-sulfur odor of a male one on the air. Nor could he detect the distinctive tinge of preternatural heat that accompanied the presence of a dragon shifter.

Whatever affected him, it was not a dragon. At least, not one he could identify, and Ari knew of every dragon shifter in his city, including those that fell into the just-visiting category.

It was his business.

And just-visiting dragon shifters, like the Australian dragon whose mess Ari currently had the pleasure of dealing with, had a habit of causing all sorts of trouble.

The invisible tug on his gut, his groin, intensified. An itch bloomed into prickling life between his shoulder blades.

Ari held the handgrips of his Harley tighter. His heart beat faster.

Watched. Someone watched him.

Right now.

The Extraho Venator? Or someone else? Something else?

His cock throbbed, straining against the leather of his pants.

Ari narrowed his eyes and ground his teeth. He didn’t like this. He was all for sexual pleasure and getting his rocks off with a willing partner, but getting hard when he didn’t know why? It was beginning to freak him out. And piss him—

A car horn blasted behind him.

Ari hissed, jumping at the noise and swinging his glare to the vehicle behind him.

An elderly woman in a Caddy waved her hand at him in a hurry-up gesture before stabbing her finger toward the traffic lights.

Ari turned back to the light. Green.

The horn sounded again, double-tap style.

He twisted on his seat and grinned at the old woman. “Yeah, yeah,” he muttered, tipping an invisible hat to her. “Keep your panties on.”

She hit her horn again.

He chuckled and turned back toward the traffic lights, skimming his gaze over the apartment building beside him as he did so.

A woman watched him from one of the building’s windows.

Sexual hunger unlike any Ari had experienced before surged through him at the sight of her. An inferno of pleasure rushed through him. His body seemed to ignite with need.

Curves. Curves and dips and hips and breasts and thighs…

Lust raced through him anew, carnal and potent and demanding. His hands burned, branded by the mere thought of cupping and squeezing the woman’s bountiful breasts. His cock pulsed. His mind whirled.

His dragon—the base, ancient creature—roared inside his mind, lunging for release. Craving the woman. Craving…

Curves. And hips. And…and…

He stared up at the woman, incapable of moving. Frozen by her even as his body burned with sexual want.

Their eyes clashed over the distance.

His heightened vision locked on them, his heart beating faster.

Green. Her eyes were green. Hazel green and framed by thick auburn lashes. Green and full of a hunger as powerful as his. Hunger and confusion and—

She jerked away from the window, gone from Ari’s sight.

His dragon roared, furious at being denied. Ari’s body reacted the same, the hungry lust burning through him growing hotter, more demanding. A rain of icy pinpricks washed over him, followed by a tsunami of heat.

Behind him, the elderly woman leaned on horn again, longer this time.

“Fuck,” Ari muttered, flinging his Harley, full-throttle, forward. Through the intersection.

The pull on his gut, his groin, his very existence, deepened. Turned painful.

Grinding his teeth, Ari scanned the busy street for a place to pull over.

He understood now, the powerful, impossible-to-deny draw to Harper Street and its reaction on his body. He knew what it meant.

Fire Mate. He’d found the woman destined by ancient magic to be his partner for the rest of his life.

There were many things a dragon shifter could control, and many things a dragon shifter could manipulate, but the power of the mating fire was not one of them.

Dragons could lose their sanity trying. Ari had more than once cleaned up the mess left by those in his city foolish enough to believe they could deny the force of the fated mating.

When a dragon shifter finally encountered their fated mate, when the mating fire began—a twelve-hour period of intense sexual frenzy—trying to refuse it, ignore it, ended in pain. Sometimes insanity.

Sometimes death.

Ignoring the mating fire long enough caused a dragon shifter to transform into their dragon shape regardless of where they were. If that happened, in the throes of the fire’s heat…

A shudder of cold dread rocked Ari. It threaded through the lust searing his lungs, his veins.

Mating fire. The early stages of mating fire consumed him, claimed him.

Fuck.

He was in the mating fire and there was nothing he could do to stop it.

All he could do was find the woman and surrender to the magic and lust of their joining. Find her and make her his until neither of them had the strength to stand.

And hope to fuck that Kestar didn’t find them while they were at it.

Chapter 2

The hunk on the Harley had looked up at her. Holy crap, the hunk on the Harley had glanced up at her and something happened. Something…weird.

Standing in the middle of her living room now, her heart wild, her breath rapid, Jilly pressed her hands to her belly.

What the hell was going on? The second his gaze had found her gawking at him through her window, she’d suddenly been hornier than she’d ever been in her life. Her whole body had seemed to be completely awash with pleasure. She’d felt flushed and tingly and breathless and moany and aroused all at once, and not just watching-good-porn aroused. No, nothing that sedate. She’d felt like she was in the middle of the most incredible sex of her life with a sexual maestro about to burn up with concentrated lust.

Chewing on her bottom lip, Jilly darted her stare around the room. There needed to be an explanation. A girl didn’t just damn near orgasm because some sexy guy on a bike looked at her.

Perhaps Sam had slipped something into her tea while—

Sam didn’t go anywhere near your tea, Jilly. You didn’t go anywhere near your tea. You didn’t even finish making your tea.

A tingling rush licked over her girly parts, as if an invisible tongue stroked her flesh there.

Jilly gasped at the surreal sensation and unexpected pleasure.

Her nipples beaded. Her belly fluttered.

Pressing her thighs together, a frown pulling at her eyebrows, she ran her hand down over her stomach. The need to touch herself flooded through her, potent and demanding.

She whimpered, fighting to keep her fingers away from her sex. She didn’t oppose self-gratification, but on her terms. This…thing happening to her now didn’t feel like her terms. Whatever this thing was, it felt…

Incredible. Amazing.

Freaky.

Perfect.

Swallowing at the unsettling thought, Jilly removed her hands from her body.

“Screw this,” she muttered, making her way toward her bedroom, her sex throbbing with a hunger beyond her comprehension.

Whatever was going on with her libido, she stood no chance of concentrating throughout the day until she dealt with it, and at this point in time, the jet nozzle in her shower was just the thing needed for dealing. After that, she would open up her laptop and see if she could discover more on the dragon thing getting Sam all in a lather.

Although seriously, the only dragon she was interested in was tattooed on her Harley hunk’s arm.

By the time she made it to her bathroom, the flush of arousal heated her whole body. Her nipples strained against the lace of her bra with wicked torment, and the friction of her panties on her folds made every step a delicious torture.

“Maybe I’ve got some kind of virus?” she wondered aloud, studying herself in the bathroom mirror. Her pupils were dilated. Her skin sheened with tiny beads of perspiration, a ridiculous fact given it was almost winter and her apartment was like an ice-box. “A sudden horny-on-the-cusp-of-an-orgasm virus? Wonder if I can take NyQuil for something like that?”

She undressed, biting her bottom lip at the hot pleasure licking through her with every scrape and rub of fabric on her skin.

“This is ridiculous,” she grumbled, dropping her bra to the floor. She toed it aside, all too aware of the trembles quaking her body.

Unnatural hunger ate at her. Scared her. Which was also ridiculous when it came down to it—who got scared about being unexpectedly turned on?

She returned her attention to the mirror, studying her reflection.

It had been a while since she truly thought about herself as a sexual being. That had something to do with her last boyfriend, she suspected, who’d dumped her without warning six months ago for a girl almost half her size.

Although dump might not be the most accurate word. Ghosting would be a better word, given one Thursday he just never arrived for their normal dinner and had never contacted her again.

She’d only found out about his new girlfriend when Sam showed her a picture of them both on Instagram, smiling at each other in a clichéd selfie. Him in the Thor T-shirt given to him by Jilly for his birthday only three weeks earlier. His new girlfriend in gym wear that showed off her perky, size-B boobs and six-pack tummy.

Since seeing that image, Jilly had turned her back on her own sensuality. It really was a farce, after all. The closest she came to allowing herself to indulge in sexual wants were her daily fantasies about the hunk on the Harley with his dragon tattoo.

Maybe that’s why she was so freaking turned on now? Because he’d looked her way? Perhaps her mind was so pathetic that the very hint of a possibility when their eyes had connected—even for only a microsecond—had awoken in her a neglected, deprived beast of sexual yearnings?

Jilly let out a ragged sigh and turned from the mirror.

This self-directed negativity did nothing to dampen the burning lust threatening to overwhelm her.

Shower time. Massage-jet time.

Biting-her-lip-as-she-made-herself-come time.

“Oh boy,” she huffed, reaching into the shower to turn on the water.

Someone knocked on her apartment door as her fingers curled around the faucet.

She froze and then twisted to stare in the direction of her door over her shoulder.

If she answered it, it would mean dealing with the interruption waiting on the other side of the threshold and not dealing with the building arousal smoldering through her. What if they didn’t go away?

What if it was Sam? He’d never made a move on her, but she’d known him since their college days, and a tiny part of her wondered if he had a thing for her. What if whatever this weird sexual affliction was flared up in her while she was talking to him and he got the wrong idea and she couldn’t stop herself and—

The knock came again, louder this time.

Jilly’s heart thumped hard into her throat. Her girly bits throbbed, contracting in anticipation…

Anticipation of what, though?

“Fuck it,” she growled, turning away from the shower and snatching a towel from the rack. “It might be my dream-guy Viking Harley hunk, here to make me come over and over.”

Liquid heat pooled in the junction of her thighs at the fantastical notion. Her nipples beaded again. Her breasts grew heavy.

She hurried through her apartment, wrapping her towel around her with snug pressure and tucking its end into the chasm of her cleavage.

If it was Sam, the guy might be in for the surprise of his life.

Poor bastard.

Reaching the door, Jilly checked the towel wrapped her with lock-tight security, drew a deep breath, shut out as best she could the aching sexual hunger consuming her, and then opened the door.

“Fire Mate,” her Harley hunk murmured, staring at her from the other side of the threshold.

Holy fuck.

The exclamation whispered through her head a heartbeat before he destroyed the small space between them, buried his fingers in her hair and crushed her lips with his.

He swept his tongue into her mouth, savage and possessive and completely as if it had every right to be there.

For a wicked, intoxicating, insane moment, Jilly surrendered to the sheer rightness of the kiss, the absolute perfection of it. A tsunami of raw pleasure flooded through her, bringing with it an exquisite heat beyond her experience. Her head swam. Her body quaked with urgent need. Light and shadow swirled behind her eyelids, flames of red and blue that reached for an endless blackness. What sounded like a hundred mellifluous voices sang in her head, a chanting intonation that echoed the pounding of her heart.

And then the reality of the situation smashed into her, and she tore herself free of the stranger’s arms. She staggered backward out of his grip, her stare locked on his face, her breath all but shallow pants.

“What the fuck?” she burst out, dragging the back of her hand over her lips.

The man followed her into her apartment, his strides purposeful, his nostrils flaring. “You’re not a dragon.”

The statement made Jilly blink.

“I’m not a what?”

He closed the door behind him without breaking their stare.

She jumped at the solid thud, and then bit back a whimper as another wave of sexual hunger swept over her.

“Dragon,” he repeated, stalking toward her even as she stumbled away from him. “You’re not a dragon shifter. But you are my Fire Mate. Explain.”

Gaping up at him—wow, he was tall. And gorgeous. And scary. And sexy as sin—Jilly tripped over her heel, failed to regain her balance and promptly fell on her ass.

He scooped her up from the floor before her brain processed what the hell was going on.

His hard chest molded to her body.

Muscles. His muscles are so hard. So hard. Holy fuck, he is so hot. So hot and hard and strong and—

“It doesn’t matter,” he declared, his voice husky and deep, his gaze roaming her face. “Neither of us can fight destiny.”

He captured her lips more with his. Once again, Jilly couldn’t fight the power of the kiss.

Fire razed her flesh, a million pinpricks of delicious heat. Her heart smashed against her breastbone. The chanting rose in her head again for that one second, as powerful as his kiss, as right and familiar as her own voice. Sang in her head…

In her head. Chanting in her head. What the fuck?

Jilly shoved at his shoulders. Hard. Hard enough to dislodge herself from his arms.

She tumbled to the floor, hitting it hip and elbow first. Pain sheared through her, but that didn’t stop her scrambling to her feet. She snatched at the edges of the towel before it could abandon her, glaring up at him. “What the hell is going on?”

He frowned.

Being this close to him for first time, she could see the mesmerizing colors in his eyes. They were the most incredible ice blue, with chips of green flecking through them. She could drown in those eyes. If he hadn’t appeared at her door going on about dragons and kissing her senseless, that was.

Wait. Isn’t this your fantasy? Without the dragon bit? And you’re complaining why, exactly?

Straightening her spine, she sucked in a slow breath. She needed to shut down the carnal desire to mount him and ride him like a…like a…

“Is this some kind of messed-up promo thing for that dragon movie?” she asked, fixing him with another glare. “’Cause I gotta tell you, I don’t even know the title of the movie, so if it is, it’s not working.” She shook her head, wriggling in her towel a little. “And it’s weird.”

Her Harley hunk studied her. That strange light burned in his eyes again. “You have no idea what I’m talking about when I say dragon shifter.”

It wasn’t a question. For some reason, however, an icy ripple tickled up Jilly’s spine, at once arousing and disconcerting. Dragon shifter? Why did the sound of those two words make her feel odd?

“Is the movie about people who change into dragons?” she asked, inching back a step when he took one toward her. “Like that guy who could change into a wolf in that old TV show about vampires?”

He threw back his head and laughed, filling her apartment with the sound of unadulterated delight.

It detonated a hunger in Jilly she had no control over. A soft, whimpering moan fell from her lips. Her belly clenched. Her pussy did the same.

His mesmerizing blue eyes returned to her, but this time she couldn’t mistake the emotion burning in their depths. Raw lust. Open desire.

“I don’t know how this is remotely possible,” he said, resuming his slow walk toward her. “But I like it.”

Jilly swallowed. “Like what?” she croaked. When had she stopped walking backward? Surely she should be attacking him? Or screaming? And what the hell was the chanting she kept hearing in her head every time he kissed her? What was going on? What—

“You,” he answered, as he reached where she stood motionless and hooked one finger over the edge of her towel. “Every delicious inch of you.”

Before her pleasure-fevered brain managed to offer a word in response, he tugged her to him via the towel, which promptly gave up its job of covering her body and pooled at her feet in a fluffy purple puddle.

*

Ari could think of no reason to explain how the now-naked goddess gazing up at him could be his Fire Mate. It was, to the best of his knowledge, impossible.

Dragon shifters and humans did not mate. Sure, sex between their species occurred often—and there was a group of humans calling themselves Riders who traveled the world seeking out dragon shifters to sleep with. Dragon-shifter groupies who courted death by fire and seemed to get off on it more than the sex itself. But a human being a Fire Mate? Impossible.

And yet this woman, this human woman, with her wide green eyes and confused feistiness was just that. His Fire Mate.

Ari would get to the answers later.

After he surrendered to the potent force of the mating fire and lost himself to the pleasure of her incredibly lush body, creamy pale skin and full pink lips.

The fact she’d answered the door wearing nothing but a towel to hide her beautiful curves only fed the mating fire blazing through him more. As did the raw, carnal way she responded to his kisses.

Holding her gaze, he smoothed his hands down over her hips, her flesh warm against his palms, and lowered his head to hers. He saw his desire mirrored in her eyes a heartbeat before he took possession of her lips. Fresh pleasure flooded through him.

A heartbeat before she drove her knee up into his balls.

White-hot pain exploded in his groin.

“What the fuck are you doing?” she yelped, scurrying backward.

Bent over, breathless, his balls and cock a world of agony, he watched her bounce away from him like a wired boxer.

His body reacted to the rise and fall of her incredible breasts. His dragon growled with hungry impatience and appreciation.

Pulling in a slow breath, he straightened to his feet. The pain faded, his body’s preternatural ability to heal itself already dealing with the collision of knee and scrotum. “You really don’t have a clue what I’m talking about, do you?” he asked, struggling with the need to throw himself at her, to take her in his arms, to bury himself in her sweet sex…

Feet now firmly planted on the floor, stance wide, fists raised—no doubt ready to strike at him if he drew close to her—the goddess glared at him. “I know I have no fucking clue who you are, and with the way you’re going on about dragons, I’m also hazarding a guess you’re on some crazy drug that’s making you fucking nuts. That’s what I know.”

Ari smoothed his hand over his jaw. Did he risk the punch she would swing at him if he went at her? She would surrender to the mating fire eventually. He didn’t doubt that at all. What happened during it would clearly mess with her head—a human would have little hope of understanding the concept of being engulfed in blue fire during a soul-deep orgasm—but she would surrender to the pleasure of it all regardless. She had no other choice. The joining of Fire Mates didn’t answer to choice, it answered to ancient magic. Destined force.

He took a step forward.

She didn’t retreat. Instead, incensed determination flared in her eyes. “Try it, buddy,” she snarled, balled fists clenching tighter. If it weren’t for the potent scent of her undeniable arousal, Ari would consider backing off.

Her scent, however, her pleasure and her need, threaded through his every breath. Stirred in him his own. Stroked the dragon that he was…

He took another step…and then stopped.

The reality of the mating fire, the magic of it, the flames…he needed her to know of it first, or at least, hear him explain it. He didn’t want her terrified when the blue flames engulfed them. He wanted her to give herself over to the beauty of it all, share with him the power of it as they came together.

“Tell me your name,” he said, watching her. Did she realize how delicious she looked standing there naked before him? Hell, just the sight of her neatly trimmed pubic hair—waxed into a thin strip he desperately wanted to stroke with his tongue—flayed at his sanity, let alone the rest of her. He could lose himself in her dips and curves and die a happy dragon.

She bared her teeth at him, fierce fight in her eyes. “Fuck you.”

He chuckled. “Shall I just call you Fuck? Or do you prefer Miss You?”

Her eyebrows shot up. “Oh, you’re funny as well as sex—”

She slapped her hand over her mouth, staring at him with wide eyes.

Ari laughed, even as the craving to take her, claim her, pleasure her, rocked through him.

Risking his jaw, he took a slow step toward her. “This is going to make no sense to you, but that undeniable ravenous desire you’re feeling right now? The desire to strip me naked and impale yourself on my dick? It’s called the mating fire, and it’s happening to you because we are destined to be mates. An ancient magic more powerful than any you could imagine has wrought its force upon our biology, and nothing but each other’s pleasure, bodies and desire will ever sate us again.”

She stared at him, lips parted, breath shallow. “Oh God,” she whispered. “I’ve fallen in lust with a psycho.”

Ari let his lips curl in a slow smile as he ever so slowly closed the distance between them. “No, you’ve fallen in lust with a dragon, and I’m going to make you fucking scream with pleasure unlike any you’ve ever experienced before.”

And with that, he curled his arm around her waist, hauled her to his body and took possession of her lips with his.

She fought him. For exactly half a heartbeat.

Her lips parted, her tongue finding his with savage ferocity and greed. His brain registered the fact her delicious breasts and belly were pressed against him, that his hand cupped the most exquisite ass it had ever been his pleasure to grip, and then his brain gave up trying to register anything and surrendered to the sheer heat of the moment.

He growled into her mouth, releasing his tenuous restraint on his desire.

She growled back, the sound wholly human and utterly arousing. He’d never partaken in human/dragon-shifter sex before, too aware of the possible dangers. One soul-shattering orgasm on his behalf and his human partner would be incinerated.

But Jilly was his Fire Mate. Human or not, she would survive, and they would burn in their mutual eruption together.

The realization was singularly the horniest fact he’d ever encountered.

With another growl, this one far from human, he yanked her off her feet, wanting her—no, needing her—closer to him.

She wrapped her legs around his hips, clearly on the same page. The heat of her pussy pressed to the lower plane of his abdomen detonated a rush of lust inside him and it was all he could do to not submit to the urgent need to ram her against the wall and bury himself in her sweet pussy.

He may be borderline delirious with hunger for her, but he had enough lucidity to know he needed to slow it down. Just.

She truly had no idea the incredible, momentous rapture about to happen to her, to him, to them both.

Better to have her balancing on the cusp of unadulterated pleasure before entering her. It would make what was to happen when they both came…easier.

Instead of driving her to the closest wall, Ari moved to the closest piece of furniture—a sofa—carrying her the whole way, unable and unwilling to drag his lips from hers.

Fuck, she kissed like a demon. No, a dragon. Wild, intoxicating and ferocious.

Bumping into the back of the sofa, he deposited her butt on its edge and raked his hands along the underside of her thighs.

She moaned, grinding her pussy against him.

His cock strained against the leather prison of his pants, eager for release. He denied it, knowing if he undid his fly he’d be lost.

Not yet. Not yet. Not until…

Tearing his lips from hers, he sucked in a ragged breath at her protesting whimper. “No…” she moaned, snagging his hair with fast hands. “Don’t stop kissing—”

The plea dissolved into a raw groan as he cupped her right breast and latched onto the dusky-pink perfection of her nipple with his mouth.

“Holy fuck,” she cried out, digging her heels into his butt as she arched into his carnal caress.

He drew deeper on her flesh, his body awash with a million pinpricks of heat.

“Oh my God.” Surprise threaded through the pleasure in her voice. “This…this is so good!”

Her delight and hunger sent fresh fire into Ari’s groin. Unable to be gentle, he cupped her other breast, squeezing and kneading the heavy bounty as he continued to feast on her nipple.

For every suck, she cried out, her panted words begging him to do it harder. Harder.

Head swimming with pleasure, Ari complied. He swapped breasts, biting and sucking on her smooth flesh, nipping at the edges of her areola before sealing his lips around her nipple and drawing it hard into his mouth.

“Fuck, yes,” Jilly moaned, snagging the long plait of his hair in a tight grip, holding his mouth to her breast. “Again. Suck it again.”

He did, her fierce demand flooding his cock with liquid steel. He hadn’t expected his Fire Mate to be so wild. But she was. Wild, hot and savage and demanding.

He couldn’t have wished for anything better.

“Oh God,” she ground out, scraping her nails over his shoulder. “Oh God, it’s so good. So fucking good.”

Such an understatement had never been uttered before. It was so good. Better than good. Perfect. Insane. Animalistic and powerful.

And he hadn’t even tasted her yet.

At the heady thought, Ari growled, raw need pooling in his groin.

Taste. He needed to taste her. Now.

Releasing her nipple with a loud, wet pop, he dropped to his knees, shoved her thighs wide and laved his tongue up the moist seam of her pussy.

His head swam with rapture. She tasted like molten fire and honey and life.

“Holy crap!” She bucked, ramming the soles of her feet to his shoulders even as she fisted her hands in his hair, holding on for balance. “Holy crap, don’t stop. Please don’t stop!”

Ari lifted his head from between her thighs, a low chuckle falling from his lips. “I’m not planning to. Not until you’ve come all over my—”

The door smashed open and a man barged into Jilly’s apartment.

A man Ari knew.

“Get the fuck away from her, dragon,” Samuel Garrison snarled, his furious stare locked on Ari. “She’s mine.”