Part 1: The Dragon's Hoard

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I poked Valentine in the chest.  “Valentine, we need to talk.”

The last few nights had been typical of South Dakota in the summer, hot and muggy, so I hadn’t worn much to bed.  I was tucked under a thin sheet in nothing more than a sports bra and a pair of Val’s cast off cotton boxers. The open window let in a meager breeze that smelled faintly of the dusty scent of wheat.

Valentine cracked open one eye to look at me. 

When he was in human form, he was devastatingly handsome.  At least to me.  I guess other people saw him differently.  Where my gaze lingered on regal, strong features, they found the sharp lines of his face full of cold, calculating menace.  I’d call his gray eyes smoldering, but they used words like penetrating, intense, and predatory.  We’d all agree, though, that he was long and lean and had wonderfully hard, pale skin, a color reminiscent of moonlight on alabaster, and deep midnight black hair.

At the moment, however, I could sort of understand where other people got their impressions.  His black shoulder-length hair was disheveled by sleep, hiding most of his face—except for a singular liquid silver eye, which stared at me, unblinking, like a lizard’s.  His voice was gravely and deep when he snarled, “Talk?  What topic of conversation could possibly be worth disturbing my slumber?”

You know that thing about sleeping dragons?


Anyway, I ignored the menace in his tone.  “Do you see anything wrong with me?”

“You’re awake.”  After a moment, he added coolly, “And talking.”

“Exactly,” I agreed. “Do you know why I’m awake?”

I could tell by the way his lips pressed together he held back a lot of responses that probably began ‘because you live to irritate me’ or some similar insult.  Instead, he finally blinked and let out a long sigh, “Perhaps you’d care to enlighten me?”

Sitting up, I showed him the problem.  All over my chest, stuck by sweat, were coins. 

There was a quarter on my shoulder.  A dime wedged itself into the hollow between my breasts.  Pennies covered my arms.  I think there was something large, like a Mexican peso or a half-dollar, on the inside of my thigh.  Peeling a nickel off my neck, I held it out to him.  “What is all this?”He snatched the nickel from my hand and shoved it under his pillow.  “Mine,” he said simply.  He flopped over onto his other side, turning his back to me, like the conversation was over.  “I sleep better with it.”

“Well, I don’t,” I said, pulling the coins from my body and dropping them, one-by-one, on to his head.

My rain of change didn’t even make him flinch.  In fact, if anything, the soft sound of the coins clinking together seemed to lull him back to sleep.

I nudged him again.  “Seriously, Val, you’ve got a hoarding problem.”

“Mmmm, a problem, you say?” he murmured happily.  Long-boned fingers picked up a few of the coins from his pillow.  He turned them over in his fingers for a moment, doing that thing magicians can do, rolling them somehow along his hand.  Lifting his massive frame, he turned around to face me, making the bed creak.  Capturing my eye in that alien gaze of his, he took a quarter in his finger and… licked it.

The way his tongue caressed the metal was sinful.

I was utterly mesmerized.  After he finished molesting the money, he stuck it to my arm.  He violated another with that long, wicked tongue of his—a penny this time—and pressed it to my stomach.  He smiled lazy at me.  Crooking his finger, he coaxed me down.   Reaching up, his hand cupped the back of my neck, pulling me close, my ear to his lips. Valentine’s deep voice rumbled against my eardrum, and sent shockwaves of pleasure to that secret deep place only he seemed able to reach, “You’re my greatest treasure, Alexandra Conner.  Let me lie atop you.”

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