Chapter 4

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Fenrir

I kept a careful hold on my little mate as I went through the portal. This one was particular, especially bespelled for me by Danyel, and it wasn't always willing to allow passengers. I hadn't thought to have him fix it, as I hadn't even considered having a mate before, but now that quirk needed to be rectified soonest.

Adora curled up in my hand, so small, so fragile, so precious.

What was I to do?

Her shock and mine would only last so long before we would feel compelled to consummate the mating, and what then?

Elianna's prophecies were nothing to sneeze at. If Elianna said that my mate would be killed by bearing our young, then unless we found a way around it, it would happen.

An unearthly wind swirled around us, threatening to sweep the flesh from our bones, and I tightened my hold, breathing out in relief as I stepped out of the portal into my bedroom. If it had been a normal mating, I would have taken my little mate to my cabin on one of the neighboring islands. There, I would have courted her in dragon fashion or as the humans did, coming to know the woman I would be spending the rest of eternity with.

I shook my head, dismissing the wistful thoughts.

Much as I regretted that we would not have that period of idyllic bliss now, there were more important things at hand.

"Lord Fenrir," Derek said, knocking on the door.

"Come in," I replied.

Adora sat up on my palm, looking around with interest.

Following her gaze, I tried to see my room from her point of view. I hadn't had it changed much since I bought the castle so many years ago, mostly because I had fallen in love with the furnishings as much as I had the castle itself. I did replace the windows with triple pane glass and had it rewired for all the modern amenities, but that was it.

The large four-poster bed with its bed curtains and hangings was warm and cozy even in the deepest winters. The dressers and vanity were carved out of the same ivory wood as the bed, the delicacy of the carvings rendering the immense pieces somehow elegant rather than hulking. A small fire crackled in the fireplace that was big enough to roast a suckling pig. Plush rugs in jewel tones dotted the room, contrasting with the polished white limestone floor.

"Oh," Adora crooned. "This is lovely."

I stroked the feathers on her back, luxuriating in the silken fluffiness. My mate was eminently cuddleable, something I had never thought possible of a dragon. Even if we were distantly related to birds via the dinosaurs.

"I'm glad you like the castle. It is the principal seat of my holdings and my favorite."

Derek walked in and bowed. "It is good to see you, my lord."

"Likewise, Derek. This is the Lady Adora, my mate. Please let Morna know that we should like to take tea in the den shortly." I looked at my mate. "Derek is my friend and seneschal. We grew up together and his father is seneschal to mine."

Derek's eyes widened before he gave a deep and graceful bow. "My lady, it is my honor."

Adora dipped her head with a small flourish of her tail that somehow managed to convey a curtsy. "My pleasure, Derek."

Derek bowed slightly again. "I shall inform Morna." A slight teasing note crept into his voice. "Brace yourself for affection, my lord."

"Is? So your father is still alive? And he's rather formal for being your friend, isn't he?"

"Yes, both my parents are still alive. It is likely you will meet them shortly, if I know Morna at all. She's the chatelaine and was my nanny when I was a hatchling. As for Derek, he's a product of our time, as am I. Some things you never quite grow out of, even after centuries, especially not when he has the weight of tradition to contend with. His father is also quite hale and he would have Derek by the ear if he caught him being impertinent, as he put it, no matter that we grew up roughhousing."

I considered her for a moment. "Would you like to take your human form?"

"Someone kidnapped me so quickly I didn't have time to grab my knapsack with my spare clothing," she said archly.

"I shall send Derek for it directly, along with your precious little bucket," I teased, remembering how careful she was about her tools. "In the meantime, perhaps I could rustle up something for you to wear."

"But first," I murmured. "Let me see what you sang forth from the lava."

She squeaked and jolted, the little tuft of feathers at the end of her tail coming up to shield her face, but she still raised her right front paw. Peridot and diamond glinted around two of her claws.

Interesting, that she could sing forth gemstones. Even more intriguing was the form the magic chose to take. The two semi-hoops were big enough for rings, but I had another thought in mind.

"No need to be embarrassed, Adora. You've done nothing wrong. If I hadn't Woken, then I would hardly have noticed anything amiss when I did Wake. As it is, I should congratulate you on a very pretty piece of work."

My mate smiled, so wide her eyes crinkled at the corners.

I dropped a kiss on the top of her head. "Now, let's see if I can persuade them into a form that you can actually wear, shall we?"

I chirped a short note, gratified when they started to take on a liquid sheen. As expected, the rings were mostly made of my magic, not hers.

I hummed the beginning of one of the songs of mating, and they slipped from her claws and rose slowly into the air between us. Another few crooned notes and one of the ends curled into intricate knots and the other narrowed enough that they could be threaded through her ears. I brought the song to a close and the earrings slid into place, bouncing lightly as her ears twitched.

"Oh." She sucked in a breath. "They tingle." One dainty paw came up to bat at the right earring.

"Yes. I've infused them with more magic." Along with a spell to safeguard my new mate.

She slanted me a reproachful look for stating the obvious, but then she wrinkled her snout. "That's impressive. I never saw someone sing magic into gold as easily as you just did."

"I drew on the excess magic drifting around us from the mating. Usually, I will have to use blood, cum, or tears just like any other. I will admit to cheating a bit - the mating magic is bound to the both of us, and the magic bound in the jewelry has not yet settled."

She nodded. And then, "I will remain in my dragon form. It will lessen the chances of falling to temptation. Later rather than sooner is preferable."

I couldn't resist the wry smile that tugged at my mouth despite my dismay. It was truly unheard of. Usually new mates would disappear in a frenzy of lust with everyone's blessing, whereas I and my new mate not only had to be careful not to succumb to our natures, but we needed to strategize the bedding in a way that probably hadn't been seen outside of the merging of royal bloodlines. And even then, not in centuries, as most royal houses had become fairly lax in recent years. There was something about the threat of going extinct that somehow mellowed out most of the purists.

"And a very pretty form it is," I crooned, stroking her again, unable to keep my hands from her. If I couldn't have my mate the way I truly wanted, at least there was cuddling. Although that was probably a slippery slope.

No matter. I was only an animal at heart, after all.

Still, I opened the door and strode towards the den. No need to make things harder than they already were. 

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