No way, Jose. Not even close.
She’d seen what happened to her parents—the acceptance that, by the time she was a young child, had turned into bored indifference. The apathy turning into contempt. The loveless existence of a forced bond, the emotional lashing out over a situation neither had wanted. The hate-fucking neither could deny or resist.
The resulting offspring both would look at with resignation and resentment, all too aware the life they’d always imagined they’d have was nothing like the one they ended up with, thanks to an absurd quirk of their kind…
Reece wasn’t going to live that life, that reality.
She refused to.
She’d studied the mystical bonding force most of her kind experienced at some point in their long, inhuman life and made herself an expert. She was certain the mating fire could be beat—with serious meditation, intense physical distraction and dogged force of will.
She could do it; when it tried to claim her, she could—no, would resist it. She was known for being stubborn and tenacious, and those traits would not go to waste.
Hell yeah. She had a plan and she was going to follow it to the letter. The second she started to experience the first signs—a prickling fire creeping over her skin at the presence of her Fire Mate—she would excuse herself from wherever she was, get her arse to a quiet, secluded spot ASAP and initiate the plan.
Deep meditation, followed by yoga, followed by deeper meditation, then if needed, some self-love to temper the sexual craving, followed by another yoga session and/or a ten-kilometer jog. And more meditation.
The archaic magical force wasn’t going to control her body, soul, or fate. Screw you, mating fire.
For decades, she’d been confident. Almost boastful of her ability to beat it.
Thanks to the plan.
Of course, the plan hadn’t counted on the freaking mating fire igniting inside her with a force so powerful, she could barely draw breath.
It hadn’t counted on the fire making her want to strip naked the man currently staring at her across the busy studio, so she could climb him like a pole and bonk him senseless.
Her plan was also contingent upon it not happening while she was only in her second week at her new job.
Hard to prove she was the best producer of breakfast news programs in the country when ruled by a sudden and dire need to scurry from the studio, panting like a horny teenager.
Holy shit, she was in trouble.
Breathe. Breathe. C’mon, remember the plan. Breathe…
Staring at the tall hunk of a guy walking toward her—no, strutting toward her, like she was prize he was more than willing to claim—she pulled in a slow, deep breath. Pulled all the air in the room into her lungs.
And let out a hitching groan at the distinct taste of honey and sulphur all dragon shifters exuded.
Oh crap, he smelled like life. Like sex. Like—
Stop it. No.
Driving her nails into her palms, she ignored the desperate urge to cross the floor, fist her hands in his shaggy hair, and kiss him.
“Mr. Donovan?” Hell, why did her voice suddenly sound as if she were ready and eager to commit the most debauched sexual acts known to mankind?
Because right now you’re more than ready to fuck a man you’ve never met before. Right here. In front of your new work colleagues.
The dragon shifter, her Fire Mate, drew closer, studying her with a slight flare of his nostrils.
Was he who she thought he was? Kellan Donovan? The firefighter from Newcastle here to speak about bushfire safety with Mike and Stacey in the next segment?
He couldn’t be. What kind of dragon shifter would be a firefighter?
One with a sense of humor.
She pulled in another slow breath, determined to ignore the prickling heat crawling over her body.
God, he smelled so good. Looked so good.
Six foot four at least, broad shoulders and chest, muscular and fit, with light gray eyes and dark, artfully messy hair that brushed the back of his collar at the exact length she found appealing. The exact length…
A hitching whimper vibrated at the back of her throat, and she pressed her thighs together.
The need to shift into her dragon form—a form she’d refused to take for over six months now, to prove just how much she was in control of her existence—slammed into her. How easy would it be to shift, smash through the ceiling, and soar to the clouds? He’d follow her, of course; all her studies of the mating fire said when one assumed their dragon form in the presence of their fated mate, the other would do the same without hesitation and they would begin their bonding in the sky.
Most of her studies had admittedly been of ancient parchments, written during a time when dragons in the sky weren’t unexpected, but still…
Shift. Change. Take wing and fuck him in the—
She drew in another slow breath, tasting him on the air.
Oh boy, the air tasted good.
A light gleamed in his gray eyes, and for a moment they almost appeared silver.
Her body responded, liquid heat pooling in the junction of her thighs.
Her dragon purred with approval and anticipation.
Reece bit at the inside of her mouth.
Get the hell out of here, Reece! Remember your plan. Get away from him. Go meditate. Now. Now!
A slow smile curled his lips, knowing and sardonic and far too sexy for its own good.
She dug her nails deeper into her palms and swallowed.
Get away. Why aren’t you moving? Go now! Before it’s too—
“What the hell, Donovan?” a male voice cut through the studio noise, frustration warring with anger in each clipped word. “You didn’t think it was a good idea to wait for me?”
A man stomped up to her Fire Mate, a glower on his face.
Well, that cleared that up. Kellan Donavan, Newcastle firefighter and next guest on her show, was her predestined mate.
Yeah, but you’re not going to succumb to the mating fire, remember?
Kellan turned his head a fraction, enough to acknowledge whoever the newcomer was, but not enough to take his gaze off her.
Were his eyes silver? They couldn’t be. When in human form, dragon shifters were one-hundred percent human in appearance.
Maybe if you got a closer look?
She took a step forward.
And stopped herself.
Yoga. Isolation. Meditation. That’s what she needed now, not an up-close-and-personal inspection of a stranger’s eyes.
Your Fire Mate’s eyes. The eyes you’re going to look into every day for the rest of your—
“I didn’t think a grown man would need me to wait for him, Ian,” Kellan answered the shorter guy, even as he still watched her.
Ian, whoever Ian was, shoved his hands onto his hips. “We need to have a talk about the way you and I should—”
“Excuse me,” Kellan said, lips twitching, as he walked away from Ian, heading straight for her.
Oh boy. Oh boy. Oh boy.
She stiffened. Sucked in a swift breath. Clutched the iPad she used to run the show’s production tighter to her chest. Damn near hugged it.
Run, you idiot! Now!
“Reece, do you have a second?” Fingers wrapped around her wrist, and she let out a little squeal.
Or maybe not a little one, what with the way the entire studio suddenly fell silent.
Face burning—from shame and from the freaking mating fire—she spun to her left, stare colliding on the stunning woman holding her wrist.
“Stacey,” she burst out, smile so wide it was a wonder her face didn’t split open. A distraction. Oh, thank God. A distraction was exactly what she needed to temper the rising sexual hunger burning through her.
Wriggling her shoulders in a jerky little dance, she smiled wider still. “The Stacester. Stace. Mistress Stace. Stace the Mace.”
Stacey Reed, the show’s female anchor—a woman who had more clout on the show than anyone else—raised an immaculately shaped eyebrow, curiosity on her beautiful face. Not surprising, given in the two weeks since Reece had started at the network, she’d worked hard to cultivate a serious, no-joking-about reputation, and now here she was, behaving like a bad Jim Carrey routine.
Good grief, she was in trouble.
“Sorry.” She let out a wobbly laugh and rolled her eyes, stomach churning. Stacey had the influence and power to get anyone on the show but her co-anchor sacked. “I’ve had too much coffee this morning.” Pressing her palm to her chest, she sucked in a slow breath and exhaled it with another shake of her shoulders. “What’s up?”
Stacey narrowed her and relaxed her grip on Reece’s wrist. “I just wanted to let you know Mike is going to run point on the Curtis Armstrong/Rhys McDowell wedding segment.”
“Oh, okay.” Reece nodded, her pulse pounding. Damn it, why wouldn’t her sex stop fluttering? Her body thrummed, eager and impatient for her Fire Mate to strip her clothes off and— “Okay okay okay. Sure. How freaking weird there’ll be two of us on set today. Reeces, I mean. Rhys and Reece. It’s the Reece show.”
Good God, she was babbling like an idiot.
A heavy pressure approached in her peripheral—Kellan, no doubt. Watching her. Studying her.
What was he thinking? What opinion was he forming about her, especially with the manic way she was currently acting.
What is he thinking? Do you really care what he’s thinking?
No, she didn’t. Because the mating fire had no sway over—
…hells bells, she’s…I can’t…
The disconnected thought slipped into Reece’s mind, knotting with hers. His thought. Unfinished. In her head.
Argh! She’d assumed the sporadic linking of minds between Fire Mates was a fabrication by lovestruck dragon shifters, but if she was hearing Kellan’s thoughts now?
Her stomach clenched, her skin prickled, and her sex constricted.
Shit, this was going to be trickier than she’d imagined.
Stacey lifted the other eyebrow. “You need to rethink your caffeine intake, Reece.”
Reece brayed with laughter, even as she struggled to keep her stare on her female anchor. To keep her hands by her side and not allow them to rip the clothes off the man silently observing her.
Oh boy. Oh man. How was she going to survive this? How was she going to—
“Commercial break over in one minute, Reece,” her director’s voice uttered in her ear via the small earpiece.
“Fuck a duck!” she yelped.
Silence fell over the studio again.
“My thoughts exactly,” Mike Bailey, the show’s male anchor, laughed from where he sat on the set’s sofa.
A deep chuckle rumbled on the air, sending liquid heat straight to Reece’s core. Crap, was that her Fire Mate’s laugh? That sexy, throaty—
…adorable when she’s flustered…
His thought whispered through her head, and she sucked in a swift breath, keeping her stare locked on Stacey even as her sex constricted again and her dragon purred with delight.
Stop it. Not now. She sucked in a deep breath and groaned as Kellan’s scent flowed into her being.
Her dragon growled, impatient for more than just his scent. Her body burned hotter, demanding she succumb to the mating fire.
Get out of here. Now.
“So I’m just confirming Mike taking point on the Armstrong/McDowell segment,” Stacey repeated. “You’re okay with that?”
“Reece,” her director piped up in her ear, “our firefighter for the bushfire bit is AWOL. He’s meant to be getting wired up for sound by now.”
“Donavan,” the man who’d berated Kellan earlier rushed up to where he now stood barely a foot away from Reece, “you’ve got to get mic’d up. The sound guys are waiting for you. I thought you were more professional than this.”
Kellan’s gaze ran over her. It caressed her skin. Her dragon could feel it.
Feel it…and liked it.
Her pussy throbbed. Grew damp. Her nipples beaded into hard points. Her skin prickled, the very clothes against her flesh suddenly like the kiss of foreplay…
She gasped. And groaned as Kellan’s taste, his smell, permeated her being again.
No. No no. Shaking her head, she took a step back. No. She had to get out of here. She had to—
“Good morning, Kellan. It’s been a while since you’ve been a guest of the show.” Warm delight filled Stacey’s voice and she touched Reece’s wrist again. “Reece, this is Kellan, the firefighter from Newcastle who’s doing the bushfire segment. You haven’t met him yet, I don’t think. He’s always a hit when he comes on. Kellan, this is Reece, the show’s producer. She’s new here, so be nice, okay.”
A low chuckle to her left sent a lick of liquid heat straight to her core. Her Fire Mate, it seemed, was enjoying the situation.
“Reece?” her director all but shouted in her ear, panic cutting his voice. “We’re back in forty seconds. Where are you? Where the fuck is Stacey? Is she with you? And where the fuck is the firefighter? He’s on straight after the break. Where the hell is—”
“Here,” she murmured, turning her head to look at Kellan. To meet his silver-gray gaze. “He’s here.” And oh my God, he is gorgeous.
Kellan’s lips curled and he dipped his head in a small nod of acknowledgement. “So are you,” he said.
His voice did it; pushed her control to the snapping point.
At the sound of the deep rumble of each word, the husky timbre of each syllable, concentrated lust erupted through her body, an inferno of raw need and indecipherable want.
Her Fire Mate was here, looking at her. A mere step away. One step, one kiss, and their explosive, unavoidable bonding would begin.
One step and one kiss…
“No,” she snarled.
Spinning on her heel, she pulled her earpiece from her ear, threw it at Stacey, and strode—no, ran—away from the studio.
Ducking and weaving through the cameras and crew.
Away from her Fire Mate.
Away from it all.
So much for being in control.