Chapter 7

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Regret and self-loathing set in almost as soon as my blood cooled. What had I done? I'd lured my mate into laying with me, even as I knew what was in store. Even so, I couldn't keep my hands off my mate. Adora had tried to sit in another chair to eat and I'd allowed it for all of five minutes before I plucked her off the seat and plopped her into my lap. I needed her close, needed the warm assurance of her weight to remind myself that it wasn't too late yet. Wouldn't ever be too late for her, not while I still had magic in my veins.

A platter rested atop her thighs, filled with various tidbits the cook had thrown together. For the limited time we'd given her, Mary really had outdone herself. Rolls of lettuce wrapped around slivers of barely seared beef, cheese, and tomato. Tiny packets of basil with mozzarella and tomato cocooned inside. Golden crackers with foie gras and tiny garlic crostini with melted parmesan and gruyere. Miniature tacos filled with spicy pulled chicken, guacamole and Mary's secret salsa.

The tiered dessert tray on the table beside us held an assortment of tiny strawberry tarts, squares of chocolate cake, mini raspberry cream scones, and lemon curd cupcakes.

Mouth-watering, but I couldn't bring myself to do more than nibble.

Thankfully, my mate had no such issue. Adora sighed with contentment around a mouthful of cheesy bread, her head resting against my shoulder, and my heart sighed in turn at her happiness. Maybe I couldn't be the better male and keep her safe, but at least I could keep her well fed. My gut twisted at the stray thought, but I had nothing to refute it.

"Can I have your cook, please?"

"Your cook now too, my mate," I reminded her.

She tilted her head back and looked at me. "About that." The corner of her mouth quirked. "I really like your castle and everyone I've met here so far, but how are we going to deal with the fact that I'm my parents' heir?"

There was a challenge in those tip-tilted dark eyes, a gleam of something more than curiosity.

I nearly laughed. If my little mate thought that I would fight her on that issue, she was wrong.

"There are two sorts of dragon who go to Sleep," I mused. "There are those who Sleep because they are bored unto death, but not quite yet. Then there are the sorts who Sleep in hopes of Waking to their dreams."

Her expression shifted to wary curiosity. "And which one are you?"

"Can you not guess?"

A sweet smile curved her mouth and softened her gaze. "Both."

I smiled. Truly, she was perfect, to understand and believe that if I had cared anything at all for the usual trappings of power and what society dictated, I wouldn't have so easily set it all aside to go into Sleep. "Yes."

"So how much is Derek going to hate me for stealing Mary away?"

"Derek will be going with us, sweet."

"Doesn't he have... oh, I see."

I nodded. "Derek needed to stay here while I was Asleep, but now that I'm awake, he and I can work anywhere. Depending on what we decide, we can close up the castle, leave a skeleton crew, or arrange for us to be able to handle the affairs of the kingdom here."

She tipped her head back against my shoulder and exhaled slowly.

My heart twisted. "Sweetling." It gutted me that I didn't know how to make it better. My mate, gifted to me by the Universe after so long, and yet...

Her eyes opened. "Stop that. It was my choice." A slow, mischievous smile spread across her face. "Besides, the first time may have done the deed, but just think, every time after that is one more safeguard against the future."

That nearly teased a smile out of me. "That sounds like what the humans like to say: you can't get any more pregnant, after all."

She sniffed. "It's not the same at all and you know it."

I did, but a part of me rebelled at the notion of gaining any more pleasure when indulging in the once could result in her death. "I would have better served you to have kept us chaste."

"Not that again. Let me remind you, it was my choice." A little furrow gathered between her brows. "Your afterglow goes quick, doesn't it?"

I gave in and nuzzled my nose against her hair. "Yes. Fear does that."

She quieted. Then, softly, "Fenrir. Women have been dying in childbed for eons and probably will be doing so for longer still so long as we insist on carrying our children to term in our own bodies. And as I far as I can tell, the option of mechanical wombs isn't one that we dragons can choose anyway. So for as far as the eye can see, in either direction, women have been and will be risking their lives for their babies."

"Oddly, that is very paltry comfort if at all."

Her smile turned wistful. "Choose to take comfort in what we have, my mate. The Fates make no guarantees. If I should fall pregnant, then I choose to be happy, to love, and to do my utmost to remain at your sides regardless of what the universe wishes to throw at us."

I ran my nose against hers and then took her lips with a gentle kiss.

"You're right," I said, allowing myself a sliver of joy. I had my mate, I might already have made a child with my mate, and I was an Ancient soon to have in-laws who were also Ancients if I read the situation correctly. I would keep my beloveds safe, even if it meant bleeding every last drop of magic I had.

"When will you know?" I asked.

Adora swallowed a bite of strawberry tart. "Of what? If I'm pregnant? If the pregnancy is draining me too much? If the theories I have hold water?"

"Yes," I said simply.

"The usual way, I suppose, to answer the first question. Early detection pregnancy tests work just as well for my two-legged form as it does for the average human. As for the rest..." one delicate shoulder lifted in a shrug, "we'll know when I start trying to pull magic out of everything I touch.

"There is no grace period. I will have to start try the tank as soon as we find out if I'm pregnant or not. If that doesn't work, then I'll have to try to Sleep."

Bile rose in my throat at her unspoken words. If all that failed...

I swallowed and brushed her hair back, forcing a smile. "And in the meantime, I'll be drenching you in my cum as often as you'll let me."

Her gaze softened and heated and I knew I'd managed to infuse my tone with the appropriate amount of filthy heat. I leaned down and captured her mouth, giving in to the turmoil raging within. I wouldn't lose her or our child, and I would do anything to keep them safe. 

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