Authors: Eris Sage
by Ice Copyright © 2015 by Eris Sage
All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, businesses, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination. Any similarities to real people, locales, businesses, or events are unintentional. This work is intended for mature audiences only. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
ane Graves is in trouble
If she doesn’t come up with a hundred thousand dollars, the person she loves most will have to deal with the consequences. It’s hopeless. Or so she thinks until ice dragon Exander Vale enters the picture.
Exander thought he was content, but one look at Jane sparks feelings he’s never had before. He’s curious, intrigued by the human but determined to keep his distance. But with each day, the call of her brave, giving spirit and her enticingly curvy body grows stronger.
Exander fights to deny their bond, but danger lurks, and if he doesn’t protect the woman he now knows is his mate, he might lose her forever…
ou did what
!” Jane Graves exclaimed as she jumped to her feet to glare at her sister Jewel, who sat with watery eyes big in her face.
Jewel gaped and then gave in to tears, sobs racking her thin frame, but Jane hadn’t missed the flash of hurt that had crossed Jewel’s features. So, bowing to the urge to comfort her sister as she always had, and ignoring the immediate guilt at having yelled at her, Jane sat next to her, pulled Jewel’s small body against her much larger one, and held her, rocking her gently and soothing her, something Jane had done countless times before.
Jewel broke away and buried her face against her snow-white sofa, letting great, heaving sobs take over. And Jane just patted her back, knowing it would be a waste of breath to talk to Jewel when she was like this. Instead, she looked at the couch, impressed that her sister had managed to keep it so pristine, but then figuring that it couldn’t have been too hard since she never let anyone sit on it, at least not Jane anyway.
That was how Jane had known something was seriously wrong. When Jewel had ushered her into the apartment and told her to take a seat on the couch, Jane had prepared herself for the worse.
She remembered then how Jewel had promised to repay her for the sofa and never had. But if what she’d said was true, the couch, the cars, all of it was small fries. Jane grabbed Jewel’s hand and squeezed, noticing that Jewel had calmed.
“Tell me again. Why did you borrow money? And what bank gave you a loan?”
Jewel blinked, her long, wet lashes fluttering over hazel-brown eyes that Jane had always admired, especially when she compared them to her own ordinary brown. It was something she tried not to do too often, having long ago recognized the futility of doing so. Jewel was beautiful, with delicate features and a perfectly proportioned body that made men drool. And Jane was just, well, Jane.
“I’m sorry, Janie,” Jewel said around the tears that now streamed down her face and thickened her voice, pulling Jane out of her thoughts. “I just…I wanted…”
Jane squeezed her sister’s hand tighter. “It’s okay, Jewel. Just tell me what’s going on, and we’ll figure it out,” she said, using her most soothing voice.
Jewel wept quietly for a few moments more, and then, finally, after a few more sad sniffles, she said, “I didn’t borrow money from a bank, Jane.”
Jane met Jewel’s eyes. “Please tell me you didn’t get involved with a loan shark, Jewel,” she said harshly, not caring when Jewel recoiled with surprise.
“I didn’t get involved with a loan shark,” she said, much to Jane’s relief.
Jane heaved a sigh of relief. “Thank goodness…those people are dangerous. So who did you…?”
Jane trailed off when she saw the way Jewel had turned her lips into a little frown. She recognized the expression that signaled more bad news was coming.
She’d seen it enough, after all.
“I got involved with a loan shark,” Jewel said, looking at Jane guiltily.
Jane dropped her hand, looked at her sister incredulously. “Jewel Graves, tell me this is a joke,” she said in her most stern voice.
Jewel sat silent, not denying it, which was as good as confirmation, and Jane’s heart dropped to the floor. She stared at Jewel, trying to process this latest disaster. “So you borrowed money from someone claiming to be a loan shark? Maybe he’s a fake who tried to scare you.”
“He’s real, Jane. Very. And I owe him.”
Jane scrubbed her hands down her face on a huge sigh. Jewel could be…headstrong, flighty, and Jane knew she was more than responsible for that. But Jewel never—okay,
never—lied. And even worse, she’d looked genuinely concerned. Afraid. Not like Jewel at all. She usually left the worrying to Jane.
“Why borrow money at all? You got that new job. You were doing so well,” Jane finally said.
Jewel looked down, fear now replaced with guilt. “You work so hard, and I know that you don’t have much. I just wanted to be on my own two feet. Prove to you that I could take care of myself.”
“So you borrowed money?” Jane replied, voice hard.
Jewel flinched, and Jane wished she could take the words back. But what Jewel had done hurt, disappointed her in a way she couldn’t quite articulate. Sure, Jewel had struggled making her way in the world; it only made sense. She’d only ever had Jane, and Jane knew she was no substitute for parents, for a family.
“Okay. So you owe money. How much?”
“A hundred thousand dollars.”
Jane couldn’t stop her sharp exhale, felt panic rise in her throat.
A hundred thousand dollars.
It might as well be a million for all the likelihood Jane had of earning enough to repay it. But she’d put on a brave face for Jewel.
“Okay. Okay,” she said, trying to calm her muddled thoughts. “When is it due?”
Before Jewel could answer, there was a knock at the door, a short, loud rap that filled the room, low and full with danger.
Jewel looked at Jane and whispered, “Today.”
on the front door should not have been so ominous, Jane thought.
But it was.
Especially since there hadn’t been a call from the front desk. Jane had insisted Jewel always live in a building with a doorman for exactly this reason. But maybe it was a neighbor, or one of Jewel’s countless friends come to visit.
, Jane said to herself as she stood and walked toward the door,
it’s just a friend come to visit. Not a chilling harbinger connected to Jewel’s crazy story.
“Wait right here, Jewel. I’ll see who it is, and then we can figure things out,” she said as she headed toward the door, passing through the marble-inlaid foyer, the can lights shining against the pristine floor.
When she reached the heavy wood door, she paused and then looked through the peephole.
Her heart sank.
This was not one of Jewel’s friends.
The man who stood on the other side of the door was medium height with a strong build, not particularly menacing on the face of it. But when Jane looked into his dark eyes, not able to see her but still seeming to track her every move, dread twisted her gut. She stepped away from the door, trying hard to catch her breath.
Whatever was going on, her baby sister needed her, and Jane wouldn’t ever let her down.
Jane swallowed, stood up as straight as she could, and then called, “Who’s there?”
“You know why I’m here. Open the door.”
“Now is not a good time. Can Jewel call you later?”
“Open the door. Now.”
The words dripped with the icy promise of retribution that had Jane’s heart fluttering. “Janie, open it,” Jewel said.
Jane jumped, hadn’t realized that Jewel had crossed the living room and now stood next to her. Her sister’s eyes were wet, wide, and showed the fear that had only recently begun to grip Jane.
Out of habit, Jane threw an arm around her sister’s waist, pulled her to her in a hug, sad not to be able to take a moment to tease Jewel about how she’d gotten all of the height in the family. But now wasn’t the time for that, so she held her sister, silently reminding her that no matter what Jane would always be there.
“I’m going to open the door,” Jane whispered. “But let me do the talking, okay?”
She lifted her eyes to Jewel’s, searching her expression, not looking away until Jewel gave her a grudging nod.
Then she pulled aside the chain, turned the dead bolt and door lock, and then opened it. But not completely. Just enough to come face-to-face with the man who stood on the other side.
He pushed past her and stepped into the apartment, his reptilian eyes making Jane shiver.
“Do you have it?” he said, turning his frigid gaze to Jewel.
On instinct Jane stepped in front of her sister, wanting to put herself between Jewel and danger.
“I need more time,” Jewel croaked but she went silent when Jane glared at her.
“An extension will cost you,” the man said, eyeing Jewel in a way that made Jane want to send her to the other room.
“How much?” Jane asked, stepping closer to him.
“Twenty percent buys you eight weeks,” he said matter-of-factly.
“Okay. Eight weeks,” Jane said quickly, desperate to get this man away from Jewel.
He turned his eyes from Jewel to Jane, and Jane did her best to stay still and not show the fear that ricocheted throughout her. It felt like he watched her for hours, but in truth only seconds had passed. But after that interminable period, the man nodded.
“Eight weeks,” he said. Then he left.
Jane stared at the still-open door, her heart thundering in her ears.
“I’m sorry, Janie,” Jewel said in a quiet voice.
But Jane didn’t really hear her, too preoccupied with figuring out how she was going to get her sister out of this mess.
wo hours later
, Jane had closed the door but was no closer to a solution. She quickly glanced at Jewel, who looked stricken but not panicked, something Jane counted as an improvement.
“Maybe I can—”
“No, Jewel. You’ve done enough. I’ll figure something out,” Jane said.
Jewel frowned. “It’s my life, Jane. I can take care of myself.”
Jane swallowed down the scream that threatened to emerge. Jewel clearly didn’t understand the gravity of this situation, and Jane wasn’t patient enough to explain it right now. After a sigh she said, “I know you can, Jewel, but I—”
Her voice died in her throat when another sharp rap sounded on the door. Jewel’s mouth dropped open and, as one, the sisters turned to face the door.
“Do you think he changed his mind?” Jewel whispered.
“I don’t know, but I’ll find out,” Jane said.
Heart pounding, she again walked toward the door, moving slower this time, not at all anxious for more visitors but equally reluctant to drag this out.
She didn’t recognize the man who stood outside, but the fact she didn’t recognize him didn’t stop her throat from running dry or her heart from starting to thud even harder, and not from the fear that had so gripped her moments ago. As distorted as he was through the fishbowl of the peephole, he was still utterly devastating, his pure masculine beauty shining through so strongly that some of her turmoil faded a bit.
Tall, brown-blond hair impeccably combed, shoulders wide enough to blot out the light of the hall, facial features as fine a beautifully carved statue’s. All of him covered in a suit that probably cost more than every article of clothing Jane had ever owned combined. Not even his impatience, given away by the tight clench of his jaw, could take away his undeniable appeal.
Jane swallowed, tried to gather herself. She and her sister were in the midst of a crisis, so she needed to be focused, not distracted by the man was on the other side of the door. He was probably just one of Jewel’s many suitors, the ones she met when she and her boyfriend Henry were taking one of their many “breaks.”
And whoever he was, he wouldn’t look at Jane twice, or even a first time.
“Jewel, your date is here. Should I send him home?” Jane called.
“I didn’t have a date, Janie,” Jewel said, face turning down in a frown.
“Jane Graves,” the man who stood outside the door called, his voice a deep rumble that she heard clearly even through the thick wood door, “I’m here for you.”