By: Leia Stone

Finally, I felt full consciousness come to me. I sat upright, startled, heart racing and head pounding with an ache that rivaled the one I’d got recently after my twenty-first birthday. I looked down at my body. I was wearing jeans and a flannel button-down shirt; my shoulder and ribs were wrapped in gauze and smelled of some weird earthy paste. My shoulder blade felt like it was on fire, and tears pricked the edge of my vision as I tried to move. Panic shot through me as I saw that I was locked in a steel cage. Just outside was a nearly-empty blood bag and an IV drip line that led to my arm. Oh God. Oh shit. With one yank, I ripped the IV out and looked around, panicked.

“Don’t be afraid. I’m not going to hurt you,” said a deep voice that made my body involuntarily flush with heat.

I looked up and was met with piercing green eyes that were surrounded by thick dark lashes. My hands went around the bars of the cage and I gripped them tightly.

“Says the guy holding me in a cage.”

He was the same guy who’d been holding the shotgun from the woods. He was at least 6’4, standing with his arms crossed, which made his large biceps bulge. His body was packed with tight, corded muscles, and he had a trimmed dark-black beard and shaggy hair. He looked like the spawn of a fireman, a boxer, and a professional model. Alright … not okay to be checking out my captor. Why did all of the hot ones have to be such psychopaths?

Get it together, Sloane.

“I couldn’t risk you running off, and I couldn’t babysit you twenty-four seven. I’ve been too busy making sure you didn’t carelessly lead them to us,” he said with a trace of annoyance.

Hah! I annoyed him? I was the one in a freaking cage! I noticed that he stood in front of a door that was ajar and looked like it led to set of steps. Looked like I was in a basement. Nothing good ever happened in a basement.

Anger flared inside of me, making the pain my body was feeling ebb a little. “Let me out!” I barked, shaking the cage. Was he a hunter? My brain struggled with recalling what had happened—those hunters … I breathed fire … and they almost killed me, but then the animals … the girl, she had changed from a wolf to a person right before my eyes. I would say it was ludicrous, but not after what I knew my body could do. Fear began to saturate my body as I stared at the blood bag and the cage. I was super freaking claustrophobic and had seen enough horror movies to know this ended with me raped or dead. Scales began to appear on my arms as my dragon started to take over, and the guys eyes bugged out of his head. He flew forward with his hands out.

“Stop that! Calm down or you’ll shift and tip off the hunters!” he growled, his pupils forming thin lizard-like slits. What the…?

His words shocked me, they actually shocked me enough to calm me down and the scales started to retreat. What he said … tipping the hunters off if I shifted. Oh my God! It made so much sense! Every time I had shifted to my dragon form, the hunters came! That must be what alerted them. This was crazy. How did he know about that? I took a deep settling breath, looked down, and was happy to see the scales fully gone.

The guy still looked like I had sprouted two heads; he was standing there, mouth agape.

“How do you know about the hunters? And shifting?” I asked.

He was shaking his head, looking off into the distance. “It isn’t possible. You’re not possible.”

Great, he was crazy to boot.

Any hope I had that this guy might be able to help me was dashed. I didn’t know how to respond, so I kept my mouth shut. The guy moved with the grace and speed of a leopard. One minute he was across the room peering at me like I was the most fascinating thing on earth, and the next he was in front of my cage, pulling keys out of his pocket.

I scrambled to sit up, excited at the thought that he might let me go. As he brought the keys into the lock I noticed his black and white checked flannel shirt was rolled up at the sleeves and he had an intricate sleeve of tattoos on his left forearm. In this closeness I could smell him; he smelled of freshly-fallen snow, and earth, of the woods and a campfire on a cold night. Heat uncoiled deep in my belly, bringing a pressure with it that had my legs throbbing. What the hell was going on with my lady parts? This guy was bad news. I needed to get the heck out of here, not be falling to pieces because I smelled him.

He put the key into the lock and then crouched down to meet my gaze, bringing more of his man scent with him, and I actually had to clear my throat to keep from moaning. “My name is Logan,” he said. “I’m going to let you out now, but don’t run. We need to talk, okay? I can help you.”