Rebel Dragon (Pearls of Desire Book 1)(6)

By: Anna Lowe

So — a destined mate? Who was he to judge?

Trust me. I know, his dragon insisted.

That made him snort aloud. His dragon had gotten him into hot water more times than he could count. A harmless prank here, a hot-headed reaction there…

His dragon grinned. That fireworks show we put on was worth it, man.

Connor sighed. Duct-taping grenades to footballs and launching them in the air might not be the usual way to celebrate the Fourth of July, but hell, they had just been working with what they had in Iraq. They’d made sure to do it far from any civilians, and a whole company of weary soldiers had been entertained. And if he’d aimed a little dragon fire at the footballs to add some sparkle to the show — so what? No one had seen him do it, so no harm done, right?

Of course, that little stunt had nearly earned him disciplinary action and a permanent mark on his record.

He frowned at the memory. That was just one little prank. When he’d eventually filed for discharge — honorable, he hoped — his commanding officer had sighed and flipped through a thick file of incident reports first.

Failure to obey orders…

He’d rolled this eyes at that one. Like he would obey an order if it meant leaving a fellow soldier behind. He’d saved three guys that day — men everyone else had given up on.

Conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline…

Another bullshit rule. The lieutenant who’d filed that complaint didn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground. He’d made a mess of assigning duties, so Connor had quietly reassigned them. Everyone was happy — except the lieutenant when he found out.

Delays in returning from field assignments…

Connor scowled. So he occasionally had to take off and let his dragon out. That wasn’t a crime, and he’d made damn sure never to cross the line into Unauthorized Absence territory. Of course, he couldn’t explain where he’d been. None of his commanding officers knew about shifters — except the few who were shifters too. And it was an unwritten rule of the shifter world to never, ever allow humans to discover their existence.

Connor huffed quietly. Written rules were hard enough to obey sometimes. Unwritten ones were damn nigh impossible to follow — but the one about keeping shifters secret, he knew.

The officer had wrapped up with a list of descriptors in his file. Loose cannon… temperamental…impulsive. And that’s from the men recommending you, son.

The officer had finally handed over his discharge — honorable, no less — along with a stern look in the eye.

Make something of yourself, Hoving. And help your brothers do the same. They look up to you, you know.

Connor sucked in a long breath. His mother had uttered almost those exact words when he’d first left home. But, hey — he was doing his best. And with this new job, he might actually reach his long-term goal: proving himself in the shifter world. Rising to a position he deserved.

But what about Jenna? his dragon muttered.

He curled his hands into fists. No matter how much the woman called to him, he had to resist.

Cannot fuck this up. Cannot fuck this up.

He’d been offered a dream job — one that would bring in much-needed cash as well as helping him climb a rung or two in the dragon world.

Goddamn snobs, all of them, his dragon huffed.

He held his breath lest it escape as a whiff of sulfurous ash.

Sometimes, he wished he were a regular human. No hiding his second soul, no trying to follow unwritten rules. In the human world, he was a battle-hardened soldier returning from successive tours of duty in the world’s most dangerous combat zones. A guy getting ready to transition to a new life. But in the dragon world, he was a rookie. A nobody without the benefit of a noble bloodline.

Well, he had his chance to make up for that now, and he couldn’t allow anything to foil that new mission.

Not even her? His inner dragon lashed its tail so furiously, Connor kicked the seat in front of him.

Definitely not her, he shot back, because a sunny California girl was bound to lead him astray. Sure, she had a problem of some kind. And yes, he’d love to solve it for her. But now was not the time to get involved. He had to focus on his mission. It wasn’t just his chance, it was a chance for his brothers too.

So he sat still as a statue across a stretch of ocean even the greatest dragon would be hard pressed to cross on his own, giving the mystery woman the only gift he could — six solid hours of rest. No one was going to bother her, not even the flight attendant. Sleeping Beauty looked like she needed every second of being blissfully checked out of her world. A couple of hours wasn’t enough, but it was a start. Maybe it would help Jenna clear her mind and shake whatever worry had chased her onto the plane.