Rebel Dragon (Pearls of Desire Book 1)(7)

By: Anna Lowe


Every now and then, he glanced over and watched her sleep. Her facial muscles had finally relaxed, and a faint smile played over her lips. Was she dreaming? Wishing? Yearning? Her chest rose and fell peacefully, and she tucked her hands up by her chin.

Then he’d yank his gaze away before his dragon got carried away with anything. Like imagining there might be space for him to fit into her embrace.

His joints grew stiff and his back ached in the too-small space of the economy seat, until finally, the cabin lights flicked back on.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are preparing for our descent to Kahului. Please ensure you return your seat to an upright position…”

The announcement started the countdown to the end of his time with Sleeping Beauty, but it was almost worth it for the adorable way Jenna woke up. Her nose wiggled a little, and she blinked like a sleepy kitten — another image he banked away. Then she smiled, stretched, and—

He could see the exact second her troubles caught up with her again because she frowned, and the lines on her brow reappeared.

“All good?” he murmured, hoping that might help.

She smiled — a smile tinged with worry, but genuine all the same. “All good,” she whispered, looking out the window into the inky night. “Wow. Are we already there?”

His heart swelled at the we even as he mourned the idea of goodbye.

She didn’t say much while the plane landed or taxied, but when they finally had the chance to disembark, they both turned to each other.

“Connor,” she started.

“Jenna,” he said at the exact same time.

Then they both broke into grins that said so much more than nice to have met you or have a good trip. But Jenna did get one more word in when he finally dragged himself into the aisle and stood there, making space for her to exit first.

“Thanks.”

One little word, a big smile, and a hint of regret. Yeah, he knew just how she felt.

“Take care,” he managed, and when she slid past him, he inhaled one parting taste of her saltwater-and-sunshine scent.

After that, he kept his mouth shut and his eyes straight ahead. No use letting his dragon get tempted.

Already tempted, the inner beast grumbled.

Not going there, he ordered the beast.

The second they were outside, the humid scent of rainforest hit him, but that just seemed to complement the lingering goodness of Jenna’s scent. Maui smelled of sweet tropical flowers and lush mountain valleys. Of surf, ginger, and a little bit of brine. Like someone had taken everything alluring about Jenna and amped it up a hundred times.

He stayed two steps behind her all the way to baggage claim and waited, taut as a spring. Watching everyone, noting the way Jenna’s face darkened when she turned on her phone for new messages — and the way she brightened a moment later before turning it off. Apparently, no news was good news.

Another guy tried helping her haul her bag off the carousel — clearly out to impress a pretty girl, now that Connor had taken a few steps back. But Jenna took firm hold of her bag and swung it out of the man’s grasp.

“No problem. I got it. But thanks,” she said, rolling it away from that man.

Connor grinned — at the woman and at the bag. It was a big rolling duffle covered in a pink flower print, all cute and peppy. A lot like Jenna, especially now that whatever had bothered her was starting to ease up.

Then she looked back and gave him one last, hopeful smile. “Maybe we’ll see each other around.”

God, he hoped so, but it was probably better if they didn’t. Something about her made his mind want to switch off and float around a dreamy place, and he couldn’t afford that right now.

Still, he couldn’t resist a grin. “Maybe we will.”

She stood looking at him for a few seconds as if she might add more, then finally blinked a little and stepped away. “Bye.”

“Bye,” he whispered, watching her go.

Meeting a woman had never felt so much like a revelation, and saying goodbye had never felt so wrong.

Stay with her. Follow her. Protect her, his inner beast cried.

He was tempted, awfully tempted. But he couldn’t fall for his dragon’s pleas this time.

Want her. Need her, the beast clamored.

Right. Sure. His inner beast was his own worst enemy at times.

Luckily, his bag came out next, which let him keep her in sight all the way out to the sidewalk. Jenna waved and rushed toward a woman — her sister, judging by the way they squeaked and hugged. His eyes got stuck on Jenna’s legs — long, sculpted legs, like she spent half the day doing leg lifts — before he managed to drag his gaze away.

He gave himself a little shake. Mission accomplished. Sleeping Beauty was safe and sound. It was time to get started with his new life.

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